Captured by the Viet Cong - war survivor tells his story to American Legion

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bg. General Ben Tran
Text and photos by Jerry Pickard

On Tuesday January 3, 2017 the American Legion Post 227 held its monthly meeting at the American Legion Hall in Shoreline.

The featured guest speaker was Bg. General Ben Tran of The United States Volunteers.

General Tran related his experiences growing up in South Vietnam and his military life.

He was born in 1947 in South Vietnam and grew up there. When he finished school he was drafted into the South Vietnamese military forces.

He applied to become a pilot in the South Vietnamese Air Force. Everyone was required to speak English in the military so he studied and learned English.

The flight instructors were civilians and had a zero failure rate. If the student pilot failed, the instructors lost their job. Gen. Tran said he had a hard time learning to hover his helicopter at first but passed all his check rides. Upon graduating from flight school he was assigned to fly a gunship.

After his certification as a Gunship Pilot he was sent to Survival School. Upon completion of Survival School he was promoted to Warrant Officer in July of 1970 and was assigned to a Squadron as Second Pilot.

Captain Tran and his aircraft with his support crew
and his co-pilot on the far right. 
Gen. Tran said that some of his most dangerous missions were flying insertions of Special Forces units into enemy territory. He qualified for and was promoted to Command Pilot as a 1st Lieutenant.

In 1973 he was promoted to Captain and assigned as a Flight Leader. In 1974 he was promoted to Major as served as pilot to the President of South Vietnam.

In 1975 Saigon fell to the Viet Cong. 

Tram went into hiding but was captured by the North Vietnamese a short time later.

He suffered severe beatings in the re-education camp where he was interred until his escape in 1980.

He fled through Cambodia and into Thailand. He traveled using false papers until he was able to reach the American Consulate in Thailand. Someone at the consulate identified him as having been a barracks mate from his Lackland Air Force Base training days.

Members of Bg. Gen. Tran's United States Volunteer Unit were guests of Post 227.

Upon having his true identity confirmed he was granted refugee status and flown to America to start a new life.

When he arrived in America he had to go to school to learn a trade. He studied to become a salesman, saved his money and bought a store. As the store became successful he bought several more stores.

Due to an economic downturn he lost his stores and went bankrupt.

Back to square one, he studied real estate and through hard work became a successful realtor. He has offices in Bellevue.

After his lecture he showed slides of his Helicopter and his life as a Pilot. Post Commander Richard White (right) and Chaplain Larry Fischer (left) present a Certificate of Appreciation to Bg. Gen. Tran after he completed his lecture.


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