While the area has been inhabited for at least 4000 years, it was in the 18th century that Vinh came to prominence. Leaders of the Tay Son rebellion aimed to set up ‘Phoenix Capital City’ here during their short-lived rule. In 1930 it was the site of a brutally suppressed May Day demonstration, where police fired on marchers, killing seven. Revolutionary fervour spread, with Vinh’s various Communist cells, trade unions and farmers’ organisations earning it the appellation ‘Red-Glorious City’.
From a pleasant citadel city, it was reduced to rubble in the early 1950s as a result of French aerial bombing and the Viet Minh’s scorched-earth policy. Later, a huge fire finished off anything that was left standing.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail began in Nghe An province, and many of the war supplies sent south were shipped via the port of Vinh. The US military’s response was to once again obliterate the city in hundreds of bombardments from 1964 to 1972, which left only two buildings intact. Casualties were high on both sides – more US aircraft and pilots were shot down over Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces than over any other part of North Vietnam. The heavy loss of planes and pilots was one reason why the USA later brought in battleships to pound North Vietnam from a distance.