Kolesnik was deployed to Vietnam as part of the first group of Soviet missile officers. They came to the Southeast Asian nation in the spring of 1965. The 22-year-old sergeant was tasked with training soldiers of the 236th and 285th surface-to-air-missile regiments of the People's Army of Vietnam. On August 11-12, Kolesnik took part in the second missile fight with US warplanes. His regiment shot down four aircraft.
"Photographs for the exhibition came from archives of Russian servicemen, veterans of the Vietnam War. The exhibition's goal is to remind the younger generation how extreme America's aggression against the Vietnamese people was, how much courage the Vietnamese displayed while protecting their motherland, and how massive our support to Vietnam was," he told Sputnik Vietnam.
The Soviet Union's military and technical assistance played a major role in Vietnam's victory. Moscow deployed 2,000 tanks, 1,700 armored vehicles, 7,000 artillery weapons and mortar launchers, more than 700 combat planes, 158 surface-to-air missile systems and nearly 8,000 missiles to the Southeast Asian nation.
Approximately 11,000 Soviet troops, including privates, officers and generals, took part in combat operations in Vietnam from 1965 until 1974. More than 2,000 of them received Soviet medals for their service, while more than 3,000 people were decorated by Vietnam.
- Soviet experts inspect the fragments of a B-52 bomber shot down over Hanoi in December 1972© Photo : An exhibtiion of photos taken during the Vietnam War
- US pilots taken prisoner in December 1972© Photo : An exhibtiion of photos taken during the Vietnam War
- A downed US plane© Photo : An exhibtiion of photos taken during the Vietnam War
- Phi công Mai Văn Cường, a pilot trained in the Soviet Union, shot down five US planes© Photo : An exhibtiion of photos taken during the Vietnam War
Faded photographs, exhibited in Moscow, show the Russian missile officers and pilots who trained their Vietnamese counterparts, as well as soldiers of the People's Army of Vietnam, self-defense forces and Russian experts posing next to downed US planes.
Several images display prisoners of war, including US Senator John McCain. One photo shows McCain standing near a plane before an assault on a power plant in Hanoi. Another one depicts locals pulling McCain out of the Hanoi Lake. Another one was taken while he was examined by a Vietnamese doctor. The last one shows McCain standing near a plane at a Hanoi airfield before returning home after spending five years in captivity.
The opening of the exhibition attracted large crowds, with veterans of the Vietnam War, their children and grandchildren, as well as Vietnamese diplomats present.
Vietnam's Deputy Defense Attaché to Russia Vuong Dat Thang, who was born after the war, told Sputnik that the exhibition serves as an important reminder of what happened in Vietnam five decades ago.
"These photographs are precious historical documents dating to the time that became a firm foundation of the current friendship between Vietnam and Russia," he said.
Vietnam's charge d'affaires a.i., Lai Ngoc Doan expressed hope that Hanoi will also hold similar events more often.
"I was happy to receive an invitation to attend the exhibition. I view the event as a confirmation of genuine feelings of Russians toward the Vietnamese people and vice versa. I am convinced that such events help both countries learn more about each other. The more often such exhibitions are held, the better. I hope that Vietnam will also hold exhibitions on Russia and the friendship between our peoples more frequently," the diplomat said.
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