The Vietnamese navy fought its two most glorious and decisive battles in the Bach Dang Estuary, east of Hai Phong. The first, in 938 AD, marked the end of a thousand years of Chinese occupation when General Ngo Quyen led his rebels to victory, defeating a vastly superior force by means of a brilliant ruse. Waiting until high tide, General Ngo lured the Chinese fleet upriver over hundreds of iron-tipped stakes embedded in the estuary mud, then counter-attacked as the tide turned and drove the enemy boats back downstream to founder on the now-exposed stakes.

History repeated itself some three centuries later during the struggle to repel Kublai Khan’s Mongol armies. This time it was the great Tran Hung Dao who led the Vietnamese in a series of battles culminating in that of the Bach Dang River in 1288. The ingenious strategy worked just as well second time round when over four hundred vessels were lost or captured, finally seeing off the ambitious Khan.

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