[Marxism] War Child (fwd)

John Enyang x03002f at math.nagoya-u.ac.jp
Sat Oct 8 07:45:17 MDT 2005

War Child

By David McNeill

Over 35 years since returning home from the Vietnam War, a former US
soldier has returned a poignant diary he recovered from a young Vietcong
military doctor. The diary has sparked a patriotic revival in Vietnam,
turning the two former enemies into national heroes.

"I had to do an appendix operation without enough medicine. Only a
few tubes of Novocain, but the wounded young soldier never cried out or
yelled. He continued to smile to encourage me. Looking at the forced smile
on his dry lips, knowing his fatigue, I felt so sorry for him...I lightly
stroked his hair. I would like to say to him: 'Patients like you who
I cannot cure cause me the most sorrow, and their memory will not

So begins the diary of Dang Thuy Tram, an army doctor who fought Americans
in the Vietnam War and died defending her hospital from a US attack. Since
its reemergence this year after 35 years in the hands of a US veteran, the
diary has become a phenomenon, selling over 300,000 copies, generating
numerous translations and a television show, and sparking a wave of
patriotic nostalgia among young Vietnamese.

Those who have read it say it is the most compelling, honest account yet
of a conflict that killed an estimated two to three million Vietnamese and
other Asians, as well as 58,000 Americans. "She was my enemy but her
words would break your heart," says Fred Whitehurst, the ex-soldier
who saved the diary from the incinerator. "She is a Vietnamese Anne
Frank. I know this diary will go everywhere on planet earth."

The daughter of a prosperous family of doctors, Dang volunteered for duty
in a military hospital in the killing fields of Quang Ngai Province in
central Vietnam in 1967. The diary begins there the following April, just
after the Tet Offensive; a turning point that convinced many Americans
that the war against the Communists was un-winnable, and an event that was
instrumental in forcing Lyndon Johnson to abandon plans to run for a
second term. Nevertheless, President Richard Nixon would widen the war by
the 1970 attack on Cambodia and it would not end until 1975.

As the bombing edged closer to her hospital, the diary records the
mounting horrors that Dang witnessed in prose that is by turns worldly,
compassionate, and enraged. Worn out treating badly wounded comrades with
aspirin and bandages, she writes in June 1970: "The dog Nixon is
foolish and crazy as he widens the war.... How hateful it is! We are all
humans, but some are so cruel as to want the blood of others to water
their gold tree." In another entry, she writes "death was so
close" as the bombing "stripped the trees bare" and
"tore houses to pieces."


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