Battle of Hoang Sa 1974
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Battle of Hoàng Sa was a sea battlte between the Republic of Vietnam and the People's Republic of China from 17 to 19 January 1974 at the Paracel Islands. After French withdrawal from Indochina, the Republic of Vietnam controlled the islands. After the battle, the China controlled the region until now.
Before the battle
The Paracel Islands composes of two main groups. When they were controlled by the Republic of Vietnam, the islands are named Hoàng Sa and the groups are called Nguyệt-Thềm (Crescent group) and Bắc đảo or An Vĩnh/Tuyên Đức (Amphitrite group). There existed a meteorolgical station, built by the French, which was then part of institute of meteorology of Đà Nẵng and was protected by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. When the Vietnam War was near its end, the military strength of the Republic of Vietnam here was reduced to a small local army protecting the Nguyệt-Thềm islands group.
In 1956, the People's Republic of China started invading Woody Island which belongs to the Bắc đảo group.
In 1958, the People's Republic of China announced its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa , Macclesfield island, and Pescadores Islands. 
On 22 September 1958, the Nhân Dân newspaper in Vietnam showed a letter sent by the President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Phạm Văn Đồng, to vice minister of foreign affairs of People's Republic of China, in which Phạm Văn Đồng recognized the claim of China on 4 September of 1958. 
In 1961, the Republic of Vietnam reaffirmed its claim of sovereignty over Hoàng Sa as part of Quảng Nam Province of Repbulic of Vietnam.
From 1964 to 1970, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Vietnam had several small battles in the region of Hoàng Sa, without casualty.  During this period, Republic of Vietnam also established a small air field at Hoàng Sa.
In 1970, the United States and Japan signed the Okinawa Reversion Treaty which reverted sovereignty of the Diaoyu islands (also known as Sento Shosho or Senkaku Retto in Japan) to Japan, receiving the protests from Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. In the same year Elmo Zumwalt, at a news conference in Guam, annouced that Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa were not the priority in United States military strategy in the region. From the view of the Republic of Vietnam, these were exchanges between United States and China, which presented a danger for the Republic of Vietnam in protecting Hoàng Sa. 
In 1971, the People's Republic of China and Republic of Vietnam continued having military confrontation in the region of Hoàng Sa. 
In 1974 the Republic of Vietnam decided to build a larger air base on Hoàng Sa islands which could support C-7 Caribou for better protection of Nguyệt Thềm. When a group of Army of the Republic of Vietnam started preparing the construction, they discovered the presence of the Army of the People's Republic of China; the battle started right after.
Comparison of military strength
On the Republic of Vietnam side, they had 4 gunships Trần Bình Trọng (HQ-5), Lý Thường Kiệt (HQ-16), Trần Khánh Dư (HQ-4), Nhật Tảo (HQ-10), and 3 groups of armies stayed on the Hoàng Sa island.
On the People Republic of China side, they had 8 gunships No. 274, No. 271, No. 389, No. 391, No. 282, No. 281, No. 402 and No. 407 with 4 groups of armies.
On 16 January 1974, a gunship of Repbulic of Vietnam, Lý Thường Kiệt (HQ-16), when surveying the Hoàng Sa island for the construction of a new air base discovered the gunship No. 402 and No. 407 of People's Repbulic of China near Cam Tuyền island, and found that Chinese army was in the process of setting PRC flag on Quang Hòa, Duy Mộng and Vĩnh Lạc islands.
After urgently communicating with Đà Nẵng, HQ-16 used flash to demanded the Chinese ships to leave Vietnamese sea. The gunships of People Republic of China did not leave and also used flash to require Vietnamese ships to leave Chinese sea.
On 17 January, 1974, gunship Trần Khánh Dư (HQ-4) arrived in Hoàng Sa with two groups of armies to destroy Chinese flag on Cam Tuyền island. When the groups had finished destroying the flag and about to leave, two gunships No. 274 and No. 271 of People Republic of China arrived.
On 18 January, 1974, Lâm Ngươn Tánh urgently flied from Saigon to Đà Nẵng to command the battle. He ordered restoring Cam Tuyền, Quang Hòa, Duy Mộng and Vĩnh Lạc islands to Republic of Vietnam's control. Two more gun ships were sent, Trần Bình Trọng (HQ-5) and Nhật Tảo (HQ-10). At the time, HQ-10 had one engine failed, running on the only one left.
On 19 January, 1974, HQ-5 arrived with two army groups on the south of Quang Hòa island while Army of People's Republic of China arrived on the north of the islands. After a short combat, 3 Vietnameses were killed and 2 injured. The Vietnamese force was outnumbered and had to leave by HQ-5.
Right after, gun ships of the two sides started engaging around Quang Hòa island. Gunships of Republic of Vietnam fired fisrt. The firing last about 30 to 45 minutes. During the battle, Republic of Vietnam received a warning from United States: radar of the U.S. Navy had detected that a guided missile frigate and a MIG were on their way from Hainan to Hoàng Sa. Republic of Vietnam demanded an intervention of the United States, however the United States refused. All Vietnamese gunships were then ordered to withdraw. 
From the sources of Repbulic of Vietnam, on the Chinese side, No. 274 was hit and was out of combat; No. 271 or No. 389 was sank; No. 389 and No. 391 was heavily hit. On Vietnamese side, HQ-10 was sank, HQ-16 was heavily hit, inclined 15 degree, HQ-5 and HQ-4 was slightly hit. Nearly 50 Vietnameses including Ngụy Văn Thà on HQ-10 were sank with the ship. On HQ-5, 3 killed and 16 injured. Two days after the battle, 20 January, the Netherland ship "Kopionella" saved 23 men of HQ-10 who at the time floating around the region. Nine days after, 29 January, Vietnamese fishermen found a group of 15 Vietnamese army members near Mũi Yến (Qui Nhơn), who had participated in the combat on Quang Hòa islands, and escaped on small boat. 
From the Chinese source, on the Chinese side, all No. 274, No. 271, No. 389 and No. 391 were hit, No. 281, No. 282, No. 402 and No. 407 were malfunction; on Vietnamese side, HQ-10 was sank. China captured 48 prisoners, including 1 American. China after released the prisoners at Hong Kong through the red cross.
People's Republic of China controls the whole islands after this battle. Republic of Vietnam and later the unified Vietnam continue to claim their sovereignty over the group of islands.
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• Document of Republic of Vietnam 
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