A memorial built in memory of 64 Vietnamese naval soldiers who were killed defending the country’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago against Chinese invaders in 1988 was inaugurated on Saturday in south-central Khanh Hoa Province.
The VND150 billion (US$6.61 million) memorial park was built in over two years, starting March 13, 2015.
On Mar 14, 1988, a fierce sea battle initiated by invading Chinese warships took place around the Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef, which is part of Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago off the coast of Khanh Hoa Province.
The clash left three Vietnamese ships destroyed, three Vietnamese combatants dead, 11 soldiers injured, and 70 others missing, according to a media note issued by the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL), which oversees the memorial park’s construction.
China later returned to Vietnam ten prisoners of war, while 64 Vietnamese naval soldiers have since remained missing and are considered as having perished in the battle, the note read.
During the battle, many Vietnamese soldiers stood in a circle around the fatherland’s flag to protect it as an action to affirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over the archipelago.
The fearless circle of soldiers has since been respectfully referred to as ‘the immortal circle’ by the Vietnamese media and public, giving inspiration to the design of the memorial.
According to VGCL, construction of the memorial park, which cost a total of VND150 billion ($6.61 million), was funded by donations from members of labor unions across the country.
The memorial park is built over an area of 2.5 hectares in Thuy Trieu Town, Nam Hai Commune, Cam Lam District in Khanh Hoa Province.
At the center of the park is an ‘immortal circle’ statue featuring an arch towering 15.5 meters high, with nine smaller statues in the middle depicting the indomitable spirit of Vietnamese naval soldiers.
The memorial park also includes an exhibition area where artifacts of 64 soldiers who were killed in the historic battle are displayed.
An underground museum is built underneath the park, storing and displaying more items about Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty and the life of Gac Ma heroes are stored and displayed.
The park’s main square overlooks the East Vietnam Sea, where 64 Gac Ma heroes forever rest.
Saturday’s inauguration ceremony was attended by veterans who fought on the same warship as the fallen soldiers, as well as Dang Ngoc Tung, former VGCL chairman who initiated the idea of building the memorial park.
An arch symbolizing 'the immortal circle' at the Gac Ma heroes memorial park in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A file photo of HQ-604, a Vietnamese warship that fought in the sea battle defending the Truong Sa archipelago in 1988, is displayed at the Gac Ma heroes memorial park in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Photos and information on 64 fallen Vietnamese naval soldiers are displayed at the Gac Ma heroes memorial park in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The Vietnam flag is surrounded by 64 flowers at the Gac Ma heroes memorial park in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Widow of a fallen Gac Ma hero cries as she touches the photo of her husband displayed at the Gac Ma heroes memorial park in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A panoramic view of the Gac Ma heroes memorial park in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre