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Date With the Wrecking Ball: The Last Transmission From Dai La

In the southern reaches of the Vietnamese capital, a French villa will be demolished in the coming months following a decision by the Hanoi People’s Committee to construct a new ring road. The elegant, two-story house at 128C Dai La Street features archetypal red roof tiles, egg-yolk facades and is of significant historical importance.

Once the French radio transmission station, the villa was the first home of radio station The Voice of Vietnam. On September 7, 1945, its first broadcast proclaimed its own birth, as well as the independence of Vietnam: “This is The Voice of Vietnam, broadcasting from Hanoi, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”

At 11:30am, Duong Thi Ngan read out the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence given by Ho Chi Minh at Ba Dinh Square just five days before. This announcement, which reached all people throughout the country, and even many countries worldwide, began with the phrase “All men are created equal...”

An old photo provided by the villa's current residents.

The book 60 years of the Voice of Vietnam notes that, at 8pm on December 19, 1946, Ngan and Nguyen Van Nhat, who was posthumously awarded a 1st class Independence Order, took turns to read an appeal calling on the entire nation to rise up in the resistance war against French colonialists.

“Compatriots throughout the country…The hour of national liberation has struck! We must sacrifice to our last drop of blood to save our country. Whatever hardships we must endure, we are ready to endure them. With the determination to sacrifice, victory will be ours! Long live an independent and unified Vietnam!”

In February 1947, however, government officials had to retreat further north, to the Viet Bac safety zone, where they engaged in conflict for another nine years before successfully defeating the French. Throughout this first Indochina War, hidden transmission stations north of Hanoi encouraged citizens to continue fighting for independence. After victory over the French, all government organizations returned to the capital in October 1954.

An ariel shot of the building, now surrounded by concrete structures.

During the Second Indochina War, known to Vietnamese as the American War, the villa became home to announcers giving war news. Yet in 1976, The Voice of Vietnam no longer used this house as its headquarters, and it was given to the family of Ly Van Sau (former editor-in-chief of Central Television and The Voice of Vietnam) and to the family of Nhat (former deputy head of the Radio and Television Commission). These two families have been living in this house since.

Ly Van Sau was the advisor and spokesperson for the delegation of the provisional revolutionary government of South Vietnam at the Paris Peace Accords (1968-1973). Sau formed part of the diplomatic struggle, while further political conflict took place under the leadership of Le Duc Tho. Their counterpart was Henry Kissinger who, alongside Tho, was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. Tho refused to accept the award, claiming there was still no peace in Vietnam. 

After national reunification in 1975, Sau was appointed Deputy Director of Ho Chi Minh City Television. He then returned to the north to undertake an executive role at Vietnam Radio and Television. In acknowledgment of his valuable contributions to the nation during the two resistance wars, the Vietnamese government conferred many high distinctions on him, including an Independent Order, second class.

The house’s current residents warmly invite people to visit and take photographs, and thank everyone whose concern and sentiment for the villa and its history keep the memories alive.

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