The Paris Peace Conference started in 1968 and ended in 1973, with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords for a settlement of peace in Vietnam.
The conference was held at the International Conference Hall on Avenue Kléber, Paris every Thursday. A Military Intelligence Team and a Signal Team were attached to the South Vietnam Delegation, which was located on Avenue Raymond Poincaré, Paris.
In March 1970, as a Major, I was assigned to work at the Office of the South Vietnam Delegation as a team chief of the Signal Team for a term of six months. My job was to maintain the communications systems between Paris and Saigon. The Teletype and telephone communication links to Saigon (the Presidency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Joint General Staff) were set up with the help of the Communications team at the American Embassy in Paris. They followed a convoluted path:
Paris to Germany: France Telecom cable
Germany to Hawaii: satellite
Hawaii to Philippines: submarine cable
Philippines to Vung Tau: submarine cable
Vung Tau to Saigon: UHF
Every day, I personally checked the status of the links by talking to the distant ends with the Chief of Cabinet at the Presidency or the General Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
My job was running smoothly until something odd happened on Wednesday, one day before the weekly Conference. The Ambassador Chief of Delegation couldn’t talk to the President! He needed advice on the issue of North Vietnam sending their regular combat units to South Vietnam, something the North Vietnam Delegation always denied at the Conference. The proof was a list of names and addresses of the Northern soldiers captured on the battlefields.
I got panicked because I’d checked the voice links early that morning, so firstly I tried to convince the Ambassador that the system could be restored soon. I then contacted the American Communications Technical Control team in Paris who had helped set up our system for assistance. Thursday came and the communication system wasn’t back on, so the Ambassador had to adjourn the issue to the following session.
On Friday, I got a report from the Tech Control team, stating that the anchor of a fishing boat had damaged the submarine cable near the Subic Bay in Philippines, so the link must be rerouted to an alternate route.
I couldn’t forget the incident. At the time I felt frustrated as the Conference hadn’t progressed so well, let alone the delay in the communication fault.
Finally, the Peace Accords were signed in 1973 with the support of the United Nations, but two years later the North violated the Accords by launching an overall attack to occupy the whole of South Vietnam in April 1975.
Snow falling, falling, covered Paris in white…
A homesick officer, the snail-paced Peace Talks…
Accords signed, ceasefire put in public limelight
For two years since, the world’s eyes were out on stalks
The North then carried on offensives outright…
The North Nobel laureate had talked the talks!
But the North Government failed to walk the walks!