Ly Tong

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Lê Văn Tống (September 1, 1945 – April 5, 2019), known as Lý Tống, was a Vietnamese American anti-communist activist. [1]

Vietnamese Americans are Americans of Vietnamese descent. They make up about half of all overseas Vietnamese and are the fourth-largest Asian American ethnic group after Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, and Indian Americans, and have developed distinctive characteristics in the United States.

Anti-communism political position

Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and it reached global dimensions during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an intense rivalry. Anti-communism has been an element of movements holding many different political positions, including nationalist, social democratic, liberal, libertarian, conservative, fascist, capitalist, anarchist and even socialist viewpoints.


Early life

In 1965 at the age of 17, he served in the South's Republic of Vietnam Air Force. He was assigned to South Vietnam's "Black Eagle" Fighter Squadron. [2]

South Vietnam former country in southeast Asia

South Vietnam, officially the Republic of Vietnam, was a country that existed from 1955 to 1975, the period when the southern portion of Vietnam was a member of the Western Bloc during part of the Cold War. It received international recognition in 1949 as the "State of Vietnam", which was a constitutional monarchy (1949–1955). This became the "Republic of Vietnam" in 1955. Its capital was Saigon. South Vietnam was bordered by North Vietnam to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, Thailand across the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest, and the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia across the South China Sea to the east and southeast.

In exile

In 1984 Ly was granted asylum to the United States and he received a letter from then President Ronald Reagan for his struggle to attain freedom from captivity in Vietnam. [2]

Ronald Reagan 40th president of the United States

Ronald Wilson Reagan was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Prior to his presidency, he was a Hollywood actor and union leader before serving as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975.

He earned a master's degree in Political Science at the University of New Orleans and has written a novel in Vietnamese.

University of New Orleans public university in New Orleans, Louisiana; part of the University of Louisiana System

The University of New Orleans, often referred to locally as UNO, is a medium-sized, metropolitan, public research university located on the New Orleans lakefront within New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. It is a member of the University of Louisiana System and the Urban 13 association.

He became good friends with former Republic of Vietnam Air Force Colonel An Vo. He also played a large role in the Vietnamese community in New Orleans.

First return to Vietnam

In the 1990s he decided to take up anti-communist activities, and in 1992, he hijacked a Vietnam Airlines airliner. Ly Tong's copilot claimed that he was forced to fly over Ho Chi Minh City so that Ly Tong could drop thousands of leaflets calling for insurrection against the communist government of Vietnam. [3]

Vietnam Airlines is the flag carrier of Vietnam. The airline was founded in 1956 and later established as a state-owned enterprise in April 1989. Vietnam Airlines is headquartered in Long Biên District, Hanoi, with hubs at Noi Bai International Airport and Tan Son Nhat International Airport. The airline flies to 64 destinations in 17 countries, excluding codeshared services.

Ho Chi Minh City Municipality in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, also known by its former name of Saigon, is the most populous city in Vietnam with a population of 8.4 million as of 2017. Located in southeast Vietnam, the metropolis surrounds the Saigon River and covers about 2,061 square kilometres.

He parachuted and jumped from the plane, but he landed in a swamp and was apprehended by Vietnamese soldiers and sentenced to 20 years. [3]

In 1998 the Vietnamese government released him as part of an amnesty program along with other democracy activists. [4]

Colonel An Vo from New Orleans is said to have gone back to help him become free.

First trip to Cuba

On January 1, 2000, he flew over Havana, Cuba, and dropped leaflets encouraging the Cuban people to rise up and revolt against the government of Fidel Castro. [5]

On his return to Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport in Florida, he was detained and questioned by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement but was released without charges. The Federal Aviation Administration suspended his pilots' license. [5] [6]

On his return to Florida, he was hailed a hero by some Cuban-Americans and there was a return parade for his flight over Cuba. [7]

Second return to Vietnam

On November 17, 2000, he and a copilot flew to Thailand, from where he flew to drop 50,000 pamphlets calling for armed demonstrations against the communist government of Vietnam over Ho Chi Minh City. [8]

In 2006 he was released by the Thai government and returned to the United States [9]

Hunger strike 2008

In February through March 2008, he conducted a hunger strike at San Jose City Hall, protesting efforts by city councilwoman Madison Nguyen to name a district of the city "New Saigon Business District" instead of "Little Saigon". [10] [11]

In South Korea

On August 26, 2008, Ly Tong rented a plane & pilot for travel. But a short time after taking off, Tong told the pilot to fly the airplane over North Korea so that he could spread anti-communist leaflets to the North Koreans. The pilot told him that due to the lack of fuel they had to return to Seoul to refill, whilst sending an emergency hijacking signal to the airport authorities. Upon landing, Tong was arrested and briefly detained by the airport authorities. [12]

Attack on Dam Vinh Hung

He was arrested again in July 2010 for a pepper spray assault on Vietnamese singer Dam Vinh Hung at a concert in Santa Clara, California. [13] [14] [15]

This singer was supposedly a singer supporting North Vietnam and its communist values. This concert took place in California where many Vietnamese object to the communist values they escaped from. Security was tight, as people figured there would be an assault against the singer. Ly Tong dressed up as a cross-dresser to escape security and pepper spray the singer in the face as he was being handed a flower on stage.

He was convicted of two misdemeanors—simple assault and resisting arrest—and two felonies, including using tear gas and second-degree burglary with the intent to commit a felony. On June 22, 2012, he was sentenced to 6 months in jail and 3 years probation. [16]


Tong died of lung cancer on April 5, 2019, at Sharp Memorial Hospital, in San Diego, California. [17]

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  1. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, PLAINTIFFS vs. LY TONG, DEFENDANT(S), Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, San Jose Facility, 2010-07-23, retrieved 2010-10-01
  2. 1 2 "The Last Action Hero". December 4, 2004. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  3. 1 2 "Vietnam dissident wins reprieve". April 3, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2019 via
  4. "Thais to deport protest hijacker". September 7, 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2019 via
  5. 1 2 "BBC News - AMERICAS - Row after Cuba leaflet pilot freed". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  6. "BBC News - AMERICAS - Vietnamese pilot under investigation". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  7. Phi Nguyen (April 9, 2007). "Anh LY TONG voi Cong Dong CUBA - Jan 2000" . Retrieved April 7, 2019 via YouTube.
  8. Brief taste of freedom for Ly Tong, The Nation, May 18, 2006.
  9. "Gulf Times – Qatar's top-selling English daily newspaper - Philippines/East Asia". September 15, 2012. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  10. May, Patrick (2008-02-20), "'Little Saigon' hunger striker: 'I'll continue until I die'", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  11. "Councilmen Help End 'Little Saigon' Hunger Strike", KTVU News, 2008-03-13, archived from the original on 2008-06-23, retrieved 2010-10-01
  12. "Dissident 'attacks' Vietnam star". July 20, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2019 via
  13. "VOVNEWS.VN - US police arrest Ly Tong for attacking Vietnamese singer - US police arrest Ly Tong for attacking Vietnamese singer". October 24, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  14. " - Giấy Phép Daily Saigon". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  15. "Dissident 'attacks' Vietnam star". July 20, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2019 via
  16. "San Jose: Despite pleas for leniency, judge sentences activist Ly Tong to jail". June 22, 2012. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  17. Mydans, Seth (April 6, 2019). "Ly Tong, Vietnamese Pilot Who Hijacked Planes to Fight Communism, Dies at 74" . Retrieved April 7, 2019 via