Vietnam War > THEN THE AMERICANS CAME > Mrs. Truong My Hoa
THE WAR ENDED fifteen years ago in victory for our people, but the country remains devastated. We
say that victory cannot match our suffering. After all, the United States sent their troops over here
with the intent to destroy all, burn all, and kill all. They destroyed the land.
In the South, the Americans burned villages and herded the women and children into camps
surrounded by barbed wire. South Vietnam became an enormous prison. Many children couldn't go to
school, people weren't free to work their land. They killed brutally, indiscriminately. You remember the
massacre at My Lai, in Quang Ngai province. There were many other villages where the people were
massacred. My Lai was only the worst.
Women everywhere were raped, killed, arrested, beaten. Pregnant women's bellies were cut open and
their unborn babies thrown into burning houses. Thousands of women were imprisoned. Some were
suspected V.C., some were real fighters, many were just ordinary people who were arrested and jailed
for no reason. There were prisons all over she South. There were central prisons and provincial
prisons and district prisons. Mothers with babies and pregnant women were arrested. They
arrested old people and children and even handicapped people. I remember in Con Son prison there was
an old blind woman, Mrs. Sau. She was kept in a tiger cage, with five or six people, all in a cage,
covered by iron poles.
I was imprisoned in Con Son from 1964 to 1975. I had been a student in Ho Chi Minh City-Saigon at
that time. I attended meetings and went to demonstrations to demand freedom and democracy. The
South Vietnamese arrested me when I was nineteen, and I was thirty by the time I was released. All
my family was active in the resistance for fifty years, and we each spent a long time in prison. My
husband, too, spent fourteen years in jail, longer than me.
We were beaten and tortured. They had all kinds of sexual torture for the women. And we were so
hungry. When I was kept in the tiger cage at Con Son, I was given only a small tin of water and a
little bowl of rice each day. There was a lot of sand, and when the winds blew, the sand covered our
rice bowls. And flies, flies everywhere. Con Son was filthy and cold, a stone prison on a cold, windy
island. We had one set of clothing a year. We never went outside, never bathed. We tore
rags off our clothing for our menstrual periods, so that we were left with practically nothing to
cover our bodies. There were all kinds of disease-dysentery, typhoid, cholera, malaria, small
pox. Every morning we woke up wondering who had died in the night. There was no medicine. they
said we could only have medicine if we would salute the South Vietnamese flag. We always
refused. Many of my comrades died of disease, of hunger, of torture.
I spent a year in the tiger cage. On top they kept limestone and a water pot. If prisoners talked
to each other they poured water and limestone over us, and if we cried they beat us with sticks, and
then let the limestone burn our wounds. You can see right here, my forehead is scarred. They stuck sharp
pins in my head. That was excruciating torture. I still have the scars. Many women never recovered.
The interrogators were always puppet troops. The Americans were the advisers. Sometimes they came there.
We liked to say that the Americans had to change the color of their bodies. Too many of their soldiers
were dying, so they had to use Vietnamese to kill Vietnamese.
Children in the South suffered terribly, and still suffer. They were left orphaned, with no homes, no
food, no schools. They became beggars, dope dealers, thieves. We have orphans, and widows and
grieving mothers. We sing songs that tell the suffering of women who sent their sons to battle.
And there are many women who never married because so many men in our country were killed. That's always
the case in war. Whole families of women are left without men.
You must know about our "long-haired army" in Vietnam. The women operated on three fronts: political,
military, and mobilization among the enemy troops. They were very effective in enemy territory.
Women made great sacrifices. We know of mothers who suffocated their babies so they would not cry, in
order to protect the troops. They sacrificed one life to save many.
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