Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Soat, legendary pilot of Vietnamese air force

(VOVWORLD) - Hero of the People’s Armed Forces Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Soat, is a legendary pilot. Flying a MiG-21 aircraft, Soat shot down at least 6 enemy planes during the war. Only three Vietnamese aces shot down more than that. 

Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Soat, legendary pilot of Vietnamese air force - ảnh 1Hero of the People’s Armed Forces Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Soat. (Photo: Le Phuong/VOV5)

“Oh, my blue sky. For me, you’re my everything. You will accompany me throughout my military career,” was what a young Nguyen Duc Soat wrote in his diary eight months after he joined the Vietnamese People’s Air Force.

Young and ambitious, Soat nurtured a dream of flying during his military career. He said, “I’ve always loved the vast sky and wanted to do all I could to defend our peaceful air space. I had worked for the air force for 37 years. It’s my great love for the sky that helps me fulfill my duty.”

Nguyen Duc Soat was born in 1946 in Phu Xuyen district, now part of Hanoi. He joined the army in 1965 when he was 19 years old. Soat was one of 60 Vietnamese sent to the Soviet Union to learn to fly the MiG-21 – the Soviet Union’s most modern fighter jet at that time. After 2 years of training, he returned to Vietnam and flew the MiG-21 during the American war. 

In 1969, young Soat shot down his first unmanned American aircraft. Soat said 1972 was another memorable milestone for him.

“On May 23, 1972, I flew from Gia Lam airport to defend Nam Dinh city. In 15 minutes, I had managed to shoot down an A-7 American attack aircraft. One month later, I and my comrade Ngo Duy Thu launched an attack on a US squadron of 24  F-4 aircraft which were planning to bomb Thai Nguyen city. Each of us shot down a US aircraft. Several days later, I shot down two more US planes, including one belonging to the US Marine Corps,” he recalled.

On October 12, 1972, Soat shot down his sixth US aircraft.

In 1972, the US launched “Operation Linebacker II,” a series of massive bombing runs against targets in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Thai Nguyen, Lang Son, and several other northern provinces using B-52 strategic bombers and tactical aircraft. It was the fiercest bombing campaign of the war. Nguyen Duc Soat and his comrades fought for 12 days and nights defending Hanoi’s sky.

“Hanoi was under attack. Three B-52 bombers appeared, each carrying 122 bombs. If they dropped that number of bombs on the city, the damage would be devastating. My comrades and I were determined to stop those bombers from killing innocent civilians,” he said.

During a period of 12 days and nights the US Air Force dropped more than 36,000 tons of bombs. With almost no time to rest, Soat and his brothers in arms fought with great determination to protect their homeland.

“On the first night of the 12-day-and-night campaign, US aircraft dropped bombs on seven Vietnamese airports. At that time, I was the head of Company 3 of the 927th fighter regiment. On December 22, 1972, I was the first one to take off to defend against the US attack. It was a desperate time. A US squadron of 16 F-4 aircraft were conducting a bombing run. We tried to shoot down the enemy aircraft. In 12 days and nights, our regiment managed to shoot down 5 aircraft, including one B-52,” said Soat.

Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Soat, legendary pilot of Vietnamese air force - ảnh 2The diary of Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Soat reflects many historical events. (Photo: VOV2)

Nguyen Duc Soat was awarded the title “Hero of the People’s Armed Forces” when he was 27 years old. 

During his 44-year military career, Soat has held several high-ranking positions, including Commander of the Vietnam People’s Air Force, Commander of the Air Defense Air Force, and Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People's Army.