Reunion of the First Generations

On the afternoon of the 07th June 2018, a warm reunion took place at the house of Professor Le Tam – the first Dean of Faculty of Civil Engineering. Prof. Le Tam’s real name is Nguyen Hy Hien, born in a traditional Confucius family in Niem Pho, Quang Dien, Hue. He was an excellent student at Khai Dinh school and graduated in first position in two baccalaureate degrees in Mathematics and Philosophy, which net him the only scholarship for the most excellent students in all Regions: Northern, Central and Southern to study in France. In Paris, he made good friends with Pham Quang Le (a.k.a. Tran Dai Nghia), Tran Huu Tuoc, Nguyen Khac Vien, Pham Huy Thong, Le Van Thiem. Also in Paris, he came across document on German V1, V2… missiles which later, when he came back to South Vietnam, enabled him to manufacture SS guns (Sac forest guns) that are similar to bazooka or SKZ of Mr. Tran Dai Nghia in Viet Bac.

Prof. Le Tam – the first Dean of Faculty of Civil Engineering

When the delegation of Vietnamese government came to join the conference at Fontainebleau, Prof. Tam expressed his will to come back to Vietnam and serve the revolution. Prime Minister Pham Van Dong personally wrote a special recommendation letter for him to leaders of the Southern Revolution Bureau. It was in this period that he took up the name of Le Tam to avoid affection to his family members who are still living in temporary occupied zones.

As the National Revolution happened, the talented and enthusiastic group of scientists left Paris one by one to come back to Vietnam and shared the difficulties with their fellow countrymen. Prof. Le Tam did not join the same trip with Prof. Tran Dai Nghia since he received a mission from PM Pham Van Dong to go to Italy and learned how to control the River Po.


Engineer, Colonel Le Tam (middle, bright-color shirt) with Lieutenant-General Nguyen Binh (on the right, wearing black glasses)

Due to difficulties in movement, Prof. Tam stayed in Southern military zone in 1949, and was one of the first seven officers to receive the title of Colonel. He was tasked with supervising the military workshop of the Southern Command Center, which consisted of thousands of soldiers. In such challenging environment, Prof. Tam successfully manufactures SS guns which had the same destroy capability as cannons while only weighed 5-10 kilograms for portability purposes. This type of gun was able to employ regular powder of mortars to fire concave shells, and was also capable of eliminating much of the reaction forces. According to French document, all SS are able to destroy tanks and ships. Theoretically, SS shells are the same as those of bazooka; however, due to the lack of materials in the South, Prof. Tam had to adopt timber and cast-iron for availability.

MSome types of SS presented at Military Region 7 Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

(Photo of Prof. Le Tam at the back)

In 1952, mobilized by the Central, Prof. Le Tam walked continuously for six months from the South to Viet Bac, accompanying Mr. Le Duan. He joined in the tasks of opening paths and preparing for Dien Bien Phu campaign (in particular, the group directed the construction of one of the two lanes for trucks along Vietnam – China border).

After the victory in Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Prof. Tam was mobilized back to Hanoi and assigned with the position of Vice-Director of Department of Railroad Engineering. He participated in directing the restoration of railway routes such as: Ha Noi – Muc Nam Quan, Ha Noi – Vinh. Subsequently, he was appointed Dean of Faculty of Civil Engineering, Hanoi University of Science and Technology, then Director of Department of Measurements, member of the State Commission of Science and Technology (now Ministry of Science and Technology), Editor-in-Chief of Scientific Activities Journal, and many other positions.


General Vo Nguyen Giap talks with Prof. Nguyen Xien (right) and Prof. Le Tam (middle)

In 1996, Prof. Le Tam received the Ho Chi Minh Award in the 1st Phase thanks to the project of “Some special weapons in the revolution against French colonists (1945-1954)” which included the SS guns he manufactured in Sac forest.

Since the first days of establishment of Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Prof. Le Tam held the position of Dean of Faculty of Civil Engineering. The Vice-Dean at that time was Prof. Nguyen Sanh Dan – who later became the first Rector of National University of Civil Engineering (NUCE).

Above are brief information of the autobiography of Prof. Le Tam.

Thanks to the connection of Mrs. Nguyen Phuong Nha (Lady of Prof. Do Quoc Sam), Assoc. Prof. Pham Duy Hoa – Rector of NUCE was able to arrange and organize a small yet cozy and meaningful reunion at Prof. Le Tam’s house with the participation of some generations of his students.

Present at the reunion, there are Mrs. Nguyen Phuong Nha; Prof. Nguyen Nhu Khai, former Rector of NUCE; Prof. Ngo The Phong; Prof. Dang Huu and his Lady, Mrs. Chu Anh Dao; Dr. Pham Sy Liem – former Deputy Minister of Ministry of Construction; and representing the next generations of students is Assoc. Prof. Pham Duy Hoa – Rector of NUCE.



From left to right: 1. Mrs. Chu Anh Dao, Lady of Prof. Dang Huu, 81 years old; 2. Mrs. Nguyen Phuong Nha, Lady of Prof. Do Quoc Sam, 82 years old; 3. Assoc. Prof. Pham Duy Hoa; 4. Prof. Nguyen Nhu Khai, 80 years old; 5. Prof. Ngo The Phong, 80 years old; Dr. Pham Sy Liem, 87 years old; Prof. Le Tam, 99 years old; Prof. Dang Huu, 88 years old

The reunion is warm and full of memories, as it is a reunion of lecturers and students, of colleagues after exactly 60 years. Although all of those who presented at the reunion are old, and their health is no longer at top condition, the discussions are lively and energetic.

Prof. Nguyen Nhu Khai – Alumnus of the 1st Batch, former Rector of NUCE, who is 80 years old, is extremely thrilled to see his former lecturer again. In additional to being his lecturer, Prof. Tam was also a colleague of Prof. Khai’s father. Prof. Le Tam, who has celebrated his age of 99 and though with difficulties in movement, still recognizes all of his favorite students.

               Prof. Nguyen Nhu Khai is thrilled to see his former lecturer

The reunion dragged on as no one wanted to say goodbye. The author wishes great health to Prof. Le Tam so that he would accompany his family and students for as long a period of time as possible. Hopefully this would be the first of many future reunions between the first generations of NUCE.