During our people’s great resistance war against the US to save the country, to provide weapons and equipment for the southern battlefield and the Ho Chi Minh road on land, in July 1959, according to the Directive of the Politburo, the Central Military Commission decided to set up Delegation 759 to organize a shipping route named “Ho Chi Minh Route on sea”. This is one of the extremely important and strategic tasks in the struggle for the liberation of the South. Especially in preparation for the Offensive and Uprising in 1968 Tet, the Navy Command directed the 125th Division to prepare the ship C235 to be ready for duty. The ship C235 consists of 21 officers and soldiers led by Lieutenant Nguyen Phan Vinh as captain and Lieutenant Nguyen Tuong as a politician and commander. However, when starting a mission, a soldier fell ill, so he did not participate in the final battle of the historic C235 Ship.
Before Mau Than Tet in 1968, on February 6, 1968, the ship C235 carrying 16 tons of weapons left the port of base A2 and entered Hon Heo wharf (Dam Van hamlet – currently known as Tay hamlet, Ninh Van commune, Ninh Hoa town). On February 10, while still 38 nautical miles from shore, C235 was discovered and followed by enemy ships and aircraft. At 12 o’clock on February 11, the headquarters ordered the ship to return to port A3. At A3, the ship was camouflaged and ready for its next mission.
On February 27, 1968, the Ship C235 left the berth from position A3. At 6 p.m. on February 29, when passing through Nha Trang sea, the C235 was detected by enemy reconnaissance aircraft. At 23:30’, all the lights of the enemy ships went out, they ambushed and tracked our ship with radar. Faced with that situation, Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh cleverly maneuvered Ship C235 to wriggle through the enemy’s formation and reached the berth at 00:30’ on March 1. Not meeting the comrades at the wharf to pick up the goods, Comrade Vinh ordered his teammates to urgently put the goods into the water so that the comrades at the wharf could pick them up later.
About an hour later, the goods on the ship gradually decreased. It was 1:30 am on March 1st. Outside, 3 puppet warships with the codename Ngoc Hoi, HQ 12, HQ 617 of Coastal Region 2 and 4 other ships of their 25th Coast Guard were immediately dispatched to the waters north of Nha Trang to close the encirclement with the intention of plan to capture the sailors on board.
After releasing the goods, Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh wrote a telegram to report to the headquarters, and at the same time let the ship sail down the coast to Dam Van (currently known as Ninh Van commune) for about ten nautical miles, for the purpose of keeping the location of weapon drop secret. Enemy ships immediately chased, turned on their headlights and gave each other the telegram that any ship not turning on the lights was the “Viet Cong” ship. The hunt for the C235, which the enemy later called the “ghost” ship, was very fierce. They fired fiercely and then called for planes to drop flares and fire rockets. In the fire, Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh calmly commanded the brothers to fight and steered the ship to run close to the shore.
The battle was getting fiercer every moment. The enemy’s fire continuously shot at our ship. Five officers and soldiers on board died; two were seriously injured; 7 people were slightly injured. Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh was hit in the head by shrapnel. He bandaged himself and remained in the cockpit encouraging everyone to fight. He intended to break the encirclement because it was easy to maneuver offshore, if necessary, close to the enemy ship and blow up the ship to destroy the enemy. But unfortunately, at that time the train engine was badly damaged. The attempt to break the siege failed. The plan to destroy the ship was determined by the crew on the ship.
The captain directed the ship to move close to the shore. It was about 2:20 a.m. When the ship was more than 100 meters from the shore, the captain organized to bring his dead and wounded comrades ashore, then prepared to set fire to the ship to explode. Comrades Vinh, Thu and An installed detonators in the engine compartment, other positions were held by Comrades Khung, That, and Mai. After the inspection, Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh and comrade Thu blew up the ship.
At 2:40’, on March 1, the ship caught fire, a pillar of fire broke out and exploded violently, shaking to Nha Trang. The destructive power of the explosives caused the ship C235 to break in two, half sinking into the sea, half splashing halfway up Ba Nam cape (Ninh Van commune).
At this time, officers and soldiers of the ship C235 withdrew to the shore, and the enemy continued to attack. Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh and mechanic Ngo Van Thu firmly fought back, beated back many waves of enemy attacks. Their strength was exhausted, their wounds were getting worse, their guns were no longer ammo, they all died. At that time, Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh was only 35 years old. The sacrifice of him and his teammates has become immortal in the Navy, military forces and people of the country.
14 officers and soldiers of the ship C235 heroically sacrificed themselves; the rest of the team were all wounded. They tried to help each other move around the rocky area of Hon Heo to avoid the enemy’s pursuit and find guerrillas at the wharf. Eleven days in the sun, without food, without water, the soldiers of the ship C235 were exhausted. On the 12th day, the officers and soldiers were able to contact the guerrillas at the wharf and at this time there were only 5 comrades left. After a period of treatment and rehabilitation, they crossed the mountain, crossed the great Truong Son mountain back to the North to continue receiving new tasks.
On August 25, 1970, Lieutenant, Captain, martyr Nguyen Phan Vinh was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the People’s Armed Forces by the State. Truong Sa archipelago has an island named after him - Phan Vinh island.
In 1993, the Navy Brigade 125th and the local government built a memorial stele for 14 officers and soldiers of the ship C235 at Ba Nam cape, Ninh Van commune, Ninh Hoa town. The front is the sea, the back is surrounded by mountains and forests. The front side is briefly engraved the content of the event of Ship C235. The back shows the names, years of birth, military ranks, positions, hometowns of 14 cadres and soldiers who died. To the right of the memorial there are some fragments of Ship C235. Every year on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, on March 1, Invalids and Martyrs’ Day on July 27, at the ship C235 memorial site, representatives of local authorities, departments, unions, students and the Naval Academy conduct the memorial ceremony with dignified and solemn rites.
In 2011, Ship 235 was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the People’s Armed Forces by the State.
With typical values of history, military, fighting and heroic sacrifice of the officers and soldiers of the ship C235, in 2014, the memorable location of the ship C235 (Ho Chi Minh route on sea) was ranked as a national historical relic.
In 2016, Khanh Hoa Provincial People’s Committee had a memorial area built at the ship C235 memorable site to honor the sacrifices of the heroes of the land of frankincense and sea of bird’s nest. With the potential and advantages, in the future the Ship C235 Memorable Relic will become a red address (a historical location related to revolution) of tourist destination of Khanh Hoa province.