Hoàng Thi Nơ, 61

Hoang Thi No, photographed in her bedroom in Hue, Vietnam with her helmet from the American war. July 2010.

I was born in 1949 in the countryside outside Hue, where I lived with my parents.  I joined the war when I was about 15 years old.  At that age, I could understand, could see that the Americans had come and were trying to control and take my country.  At that moment every woman and man joined the war, and I wanted to as well.

When I joined the war, I joined the group that gathered information. We would go around and see what the Americans were doing, and then we would send that information to the leader.  A bit later, I joined the group that rounded up other women to join the war.

I worked with many other women during the war, and men and women were treated the same.  It was the same war, the same thing.  There are a lot of common things among them, so there was no need for things to be different.

During the war, I shared a small room with ten other women.  We eleven became very famous after the fight in Hue, in the spring of 1968.  At that fight, the others and I fought to free Hue.  After this fight, my group received many certificates and took many photos with Ho Chi Minh.

At the time, all the women and I were very young, and we didn’t know really about the war and its plan.  We just had to believe in the government, that everything would be okay.   If we had any problems, even though we didn’t really know the grand plan or the next step, we were always happy to be fighting for our country.  We were ready to die.

After the war ended in 1975, I came back to Hue where I now live with my husband.  My parents live nearby. I have two daughters – both are married – and one lives near here.  I now have two grandchildren as well.

After the war I was very happy because freedom ruled over my country, and because I didn’t lose anything in the war.  While some of my friends may have died, my family was safe.  My parents, my tribe, my husband were all still alive.

I sometimes talk with my daughters about the war.  But because the ten other women and I were very famous, many people have come to our house to talk with me about the war, so my family knows very well my success in the war.  There was little need to talk with my daughters, because they knew a lot about the war already.

Also, I never wanted to talk a lot about my success in the war or about my history with my daughters.  Maybe my children are proud about me, but I didn’t ever want to emphasize that I am famous or successful.  I wanted them to grow up better, to not to simply follow my achievement in the war, but instead to become different people.

When I do talk my daughters about the war, I talk to them about how to love and trust other people.  The past time in the war, yes there were many difficulties.  Everyone was very poor, but everyone loved each other and tried to trust each other.  Now, we have freedom, maybe life is easier, but money controls many things.  I tell my daughters how people followed the laws, the rules of the government during the war.

The women in each family are the most important – they have to work very hard, because they have to finish all the housework and take care of the children, but then also have to work hard in society.  So to become a good woman is very difficult.

As a daughter to your family, you should live with all your heart and your mind to take care of your parents.  Not because they took care of you before, not because they are your parents, but because of the way people should care for each other.  If you are a mother, then you know that everybody is sacred because they love their children.

Hoàng Thi Nơ, born in 1949, served as a spy and a militant from 1964 to 1975 for the North Vietnamese Army during the American War.


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