By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune
The battle at Quang Tri in South Vietnam in 1972 continues to be echoed in 2022 by a contentious struggle over the controversial monument intended to honor those who fought and died in that conflict.
At Wednesday’s typically-long meeting of the Westminster City Council most of the evening was taken up with lengthy public comments and discussion on the two intertwined issues of the design and depiction of the monument and its location within the city.
After nearly two hours and some on-the-fly negotiations, the council eventually decided in favor of accepting – with some modifications – the proposal from the Quang Tri monument committee. The vote was 4-0 with Councilmember Chi Charlie Nguyen abstaining.
Over the course of the discussion, objections were raised about the site, height and historical accuracy of the monument and at one point, at least two members of the council – Mayor Tri Ta and Councilmember Carlos Manzo – supported sending the issue back to the committee in an attempt to work out differences among members of the committee,
“This has turned into something we didn’t intend,” said Manzo. “It’s created division in the community.”
Quang Tri committee member Bob Harrison, despite raising historical accuracy issues about the monument, finally agreed to accept the design provided that badges representing U.S. Marine Corps helicopter squadrons as well as military advisors are included.
Kenny Hoang, vice chair of the committee, initially withheld his support for that change, until Councilmember Kimberly Ho said to Hoang that if agreement couldn’t be reached it would further delay approval of the monument, first proposed in 2020.
He finally gave his assent and the council voted.
Later in the evening the council finally decided just before midnight to defer to the next meeting – July 27 – the question of the location for the Quang Tri monumen.
The proposed Quang Tri Citadel monument would observe the victory of South Vietnamese forces – with some American assistance, including air support – over North Vietnamese troops in a battle that lasted from June 28 to Sept. 16, 1972.
That struggle is also known as the Second Battle of Quang Tri. The first took place during the Tet Offensive of Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 1968. That was also a victory for American and South Vietnamese forces, but the persistence of Communist forces in mounting major attacks all across the Republic of Vietnam is considered to be a turning point in American popular support for involvement in the war.