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Part 2. The War of Resistance

Luan, Nguyen Công Indiana University Press ePub

When a company-sized unit of French soldiers arrived in Nam Định City not long after the March 6 agreement, the city population was nervous but not in a panic. Neither side concealed its hostility. However, there were no organized firefights. Every week, newspapers reported sporadic exchanges of fire by small units in the three largest cities of North Việt Nam (Hà Nội, Hải Phòng, and Nam Định). But the joint control teams quickly halted them.

Tension rose. In late November and early December, the French soldiers in my city consolidated their defense in the large concrete building of the former Indochina Bank, situated on the main street, and in the silk factory nearby. Street fights between individual soldiers took place more often. The government once again advised people who had no job in the city to move to the countryside, and ordered the military to be ready to confront any threat by French forces.

On the morning of December 19, 1946, French soldiers became more aggressive. They used their half-tracks and armored cars to clear redoubts, breastworks, and barricades that had been erected on most of the streets by the city’s self-defense corps. With little provocation, they opened fire on Vietnamese militiamen and civilians. At noon, my mother, my father, my cousin, my sister, and I left the city for our home village with what we could carry by hand.

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Part 1. A Grain of Sand

Luan, Nguyen Công Indiana University Press ePub

It was a cool summer morning in 1951 in my home village, a small and insignificant place on the Red River delta, some sixty miles south of Hà Nội, in the north of Việt Nam. Under the bright sunlight and the cloudless blue sky, the green paddy in front of my grandma’s house looked so fresh and peaceful. It would have been much more beautiful if there had not been war in my country.

I was surprised that I was still able to perceive beauty when the whole village was filled with horror. At about 5 AM, African soldiers of the French Army arrived, took position in the pagoda area, and began searching the village houses at sunrise.

Sitting by the doorway of our brick house beside my grandma and a cousin, I was waiting for the worst to happen to me. The village was very quiet; even birds seemed to be aware of impending dangers. At that hour of a day in peacetime, the air would have been noisy with voices, children babbling, birds chirping, and the rice fields active with farmers working.

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Part 4. Victory or Defeat

Luan, Nguyen Công Indiana University Press ePub

The last days of January 1968 marked a communist large-scale campaign against South Việt Nam that turned the war in an unexpected direction. The communist supreme command named the campaign “General Offensive and General Uprising.” It was launched on January 29, 1968. It was Tết’s Eve, the first day of the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Monkey. So it was generally known as the “1968 Tết Offensive.”

In the last weeks of January 1968, at least ten new defectors in Chiêu Hồi centers reported that communist units had secretly purchased a lot of ARVN camouflaged field dress and field police uniforms to prepare for an offensive. The interrogation section under my command was instructed to pass the information and the sources to the Vietnamese and MACV intelligence services.

However, I wasn’t worried. I guessed that what the enemy could do in the cities was some assassinations and bomb attacks. The big party to celebrate Tết for 600 defectors and 300 guests at the National Chiêu Hồi Center went on beautifully.

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Preface

Luan, Nguyen Công Indiana University Press ePub

In my early childhood, “war” was one among the first abstract words I learned before I could have the least perception of its meaning. It was when World War II began. When I was a little older, I saw how war brought death and destruction when American bombers attacked some Japanese installations near my hometown. But it was the wars in my country after 1945 that resulted in the greatest disasters to my people.

Particularly, the 1955–75 Việt Nam War has been the most destructive in Việt Nam history and the most controversial in the United States as well as in many countries in the world. The debate seems endless, the arguments contradicting.

Before and since April 1975, there have been conferences, teach-ins, books, reports, and movies about the Việt Nam Wars after 1945. I realized that many of them contained incorrect and insufficient information, one-sided and superficial arguments, and erroneous figures. There have been conferences held outside Việt Nam about the war, but among many hundreds of participants, there was not a single Vietnamese from either side.

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A Note on Vietnamese Names

Luan, Nguyen Công Indiana University Press ePub

Vietnamese names generally consist of three parts: family, middle, and given, used in that order. In writing or speaking, a respected old man or a despicable bastard is referred to by his given name, and this is correct in any case, be it formal address or colloquial dialogue.

Highly respectable men of celebrity who are considered old are referred to by family name, as a mark of respect. For example: Phan Bội Châu, a revolutionary, was called Cụ Phan (Cụ = old Mr.), and nobody called him Mr. Châu. Usually such men were born before 1900. This rule is applied when the person cannot be mistaken for another in a text or a speech. If that is not the case, the full name must be used instead. Hồ Chí Minh was called President Hồ or Mr. Hồ because he was the only famous person who carried the family name Hồ. Nguyễn Tường Tam, the famous writer and a Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng leader, was not called Mr. Nguyễn because there are other famous personages with this very common family name. Instead, he went by a pen name, Nhất Linh. A pen name is usually a two-word noun and inseparable in any text or speech.

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