THE IL-18 leaves New Delhi and reaches an altitude of 22,000 feet. Left behind was Fidel’s participation in the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Algiers, while concern is still fresh following the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. After a flight of five hours and 40 minutes, the plane arrives in Hanoi, in Vietnam.

It is September of 1973 and as the aluminum gull flies over the Red River, it looks immense, swollen by recent rains, as it flows through rice fields and by typical settlements.

Fidel is received in the country’s north by central party and government leaders. He completes a full agenda in Hanoi and its surroundings. The press delegation accompanying him leaves early to the port city of Hai Phong on the Red River delta, to await his scheduled arrival. He never appears.

Precisely at that moment, Pham Van Dong is discussing with Fidel the situation in the south and the proximity of a typhoon in the area, which could make the trip risky. Fidel decides to go regardless.

A partially cloudy sky welcomes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam Air Force AN-24, heading toward Quan Binh. To be seen below are craters left by the 500 pound bombs dropped by the United States and Fidel’s trip to the liberated zone begins - to a province where the enemy dropped a million bombs and 60 villages were destroyed.

Fidel is visibly moved. A battalion officer from the People’s Liberation Armed Forces, who fought for 82 days, places the flag of victory in his hands. He waves it to the applause and cheers of the troops, and says with emotion, “Take this flag to the farthest corner,” adding, “Only the sight of it can capture the magnitude of the crime committed against this heroic people.”

This is the first time a head of state visits the liberated zone, and Fidel does so exactly two years before the Yankee occupation forces scramble to escape Vietnam.

The unprecedented presence of Fidel in recently liberated territory is a great source of encouragement to Vietnamese combatants.