Hong My: The Unbelievable Life of a Vietnamese Soldier

During the war, Hong My shot down an American fighter pilot. He was later shot down by a different American fighter pilot. Now he’s befriended them both. Read on or click here to discover more of Hanoi’s fascinating characters. 

If it’s your first time visiting Hanoi, you can be excused for feeling as though the Vietnam War never even happened. The capital city is growing rapidly. New buildings are shooting up seemingly every day. Down hidden alleyways and sitting in secret pockets of the city, however, you’ll find unique slices of history, reminding us how fresh these wounds are.  

In a house on the side of the Red River, surrounded by his family, you’ll find Hong My. He’s got a strong build, a trademark gold necklace, and an unswerving kindly manner. He’s an example of Hanoi’s unassuming nature, brimming with secrets and overflowing with history.   

Hong My is a hero of the ‘Vietnam War,’ or ‘American War,’ depending on whom you ask. He was the first pilot to shoot down an American fighter jet. He retired from the war with two broken arms and a series of accolades. When visiting Hong My, you’ll find him to be an open book, full of tales from the war, and his experience in its aftermath.   

He’ll regale you with the intrepid story of his dogfight. His fearless behavior earned him a reputation as the first pilot to shoot down an American fighter jet.

Although running out of fuel, he decided to ignore the advice to return to base, pursuing and shooting down an American fighter jet. Following his return to the airbase, Hong My was informed that he would have crashed if he’d waited another minute to land. His victim, the American pilot John Stiles, lay amongst the trees awaiting rescue.    

Throughout America’s history, Hong My isn’t known for his brave flying for North Vietnam. Instead, people know him as the victim and new friend of the famous US Major Dan Cherry.    

Their story began 30 miles southwest of Hanoi. Hong My’s squad were acting as bait for three American fighter jets. Hong My, in his camouflaged plane, was meant to take them by surprise. Hong My was closing in fast when Dan Cherry took him on. The last Cherry saw of Hong My was his open parachute drifting off into the distance.  

Over the last 10 years, in a strange twist of fate, Hong My has befriended both Stiles and Cherry. He even visited Cherry’s home town of Bowling Green. The Governor of Kentucky conferred on him the honorary rank of Colonel, and his photo was put on an American stamp.   

You’ll find Hong My residing in a small house in Hanoi. He lives on a meagre monthly income of 200 USD a month, provided by the government. He spends his days surrounded by his grandchildren, which he attributes to his contagious happiness.   

A trip to visit Hong My is a serene voyage into history. You’ll sip tea in his home, or head to his local bia hoi to try the unique Vietnamese beer (which is inside a former military base).  

Trips to see Hong My are always unique, where you might be shown around Hanoi Hilton and military museum. This is the same journey he gave his friend Dan Cherry. Be it historic tours, or drinking tea or beer, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve experienced a trip into the past. 

 

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Want to get in contact with me?

Leave your email address below: