Ever wondered who the Vietcong were?

Eddie Adams

Eddie Adams photo 1968

Last night I came across a thrift store book I’d never gotten around to reading.  One of those ‘last resort’ books set aside again and again.  A backup for a time when I would be desperate for anything besides the labels on sardine cans.

But as I thumbed through it I was abruptly captured.   When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace, by Le Ly Hayslip.

Here’s a woman born in 1949 in a Vietcong controlled village near Danang where her family’s spent the previous generations fighting, first the French, then the Japanese, then the French again.  As a small child she watches relatives and neighbors in her village raped and slaughtered by French mercenaries.  Then:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Ly_Hayslip

“Hayslip was born in Ky La, now Xa Hao Qui, a small town in central Vietnam just south of Da Nang. She was the sixth and youngest child born to farmers. American helicopters landed in her village when she was 12 years old. At the age of 14, she endured torture in a South Vietnamese government prison for “revolutionary sympathies”. After being released, she had fallen under suspicion of being a government spy, and was sentenced to death but instead raped by two Viet Cong soldiers.[2]

“She fled to Saigon, where she and her mother worked as housekeepers for a wealthy Vietnamese family, but this position ended after Hayslip’s affair with her employer and subsequent pregnancy. Hayslip and her mother fled to Da Nang. During this time, Hayslip supported both her mother and an infant son, Hung (whom she would later rename Jimmy), while unmarried and working in the black market, as an occasional drug courier and, once, as a prostitute.

“She worked for a short period of time as a nurse assistant in a Da Nang hospital and began dating Americans. She had several disastrous, heartbreaking affairs before meeting and marrying an American civilian contractor named Ed Munro in 1969. Although he was more than twice her age, she had another son with him, Thomas. The following year Hayslip moved to San Diego, California, to join him, and briefly supported her family as a homemaker. In 1973, he died of emphysema, leaving Le Ly a widow at age 24.

“In 1974 she married Dennis Hayslip. Her second marriage, however, was not a happy one. Dennis was a heavy drinker, clinically depressed and full of rage. Her third and youngest son, Alan, was fathered by Dennis and born on her 26th birthday. The couple filed for divorce in 1982 after Dennis committed domestic violence. Shortly thereafter, he was found dead in a parked van outside a school building. He had established a trust fund, however, that left his wife with some money, and he had insurance that paid off the mortgage of the house.”

So here’s a woman, a real, no-shit Vietcong, tortured by the South Vietnamese, suspected of being a traitor by the Vietcong and sentenced to death, raped and escaped.  Married a US civilian and became a US citizen.

Probably a person couldn’t be more caught-in-between from birth than she was.  Surrounded by hundreds, thousands of other peasants caught in-between.  Trying to dodge the steamrollers of forces they didn’t understand, South Vietnamese and US rifles pointed at them daytimes, Vietcong rifles pointed at them nights.

Yep, this lady is one of the people the guys with Vietnam Veteran caps walking around mining for praise and ‘Thank you,” spent their tours in Vietnam trying to kill.

Damned book ought to be required reading for anyone buying a SUPPORT OUR TROOPS sticker.  Because at a foundation level, SUPPORT OUR TROOPS isn’t about the troops.  It’s about people who are being defined as ‘the enemy’ those troops are going to do everything in their power to ruin the lives of.

People in US government who couldn’t locate the place on the map defining one side as ‘the enemy’ and the other side as ‘friends’.

Old Jules

Grandkid:  Granpaw, what did you do in the Vietnam War?

Old Vet:  I helped Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon kill a lot of people who didn’t need killing, helped destroy a country that didn’t need destroying, helped get a lot of GIs killed and maimed in the process.  And I’m damned proud I did.

Grandkid:  Oh wow!  Thank you Grandpaw!

22 responses to “Ever wondered who the Vietcong were?

  1. Thanks for this reminder.

  2. A proud tradition of bullshit that is carried on to this very day.

  3. Great observation. When I was going to college in a Midwestern city, married with a young daughter and working 35 hours per week in a corporate grocery store, I entered the business school with one male friend that had avoided the draft by sticking raisins down his ear and one girl that didn’t have to. All other students were Vietnam vets on the GI Bill. Thanks to Kennedy I was 3A—married with child.(I’ve been a Kennedy fan ever since) Anyway, I never met any vet that didn’t tell me to move to Canada or just go to jail if they ever changed my status.

    • Hi Tom: I count myself lucky to have gotten out of the army in 1964 instead of facing the draft in ’65. I don’t know whether I’d have had the wisdom, or the courage to go to Canada. Gracias, J

  4. It’s never about the people, the individuals, is it? This old cynic figures it all harks back to the same thing… money, power or both.

  5. Blind patriotism makes us all prisoners of war.

    • 8thday4life: It’s probably not reasonable to expect people serving in government, elected, appointed, or hired, to behave and believe any better than the rest of us. Anyone who senses a mistrust of anything government’s doing ought to trust the mistrust. Gracias, J

  6. I like that: Blind patriotism makes us all prisoners of war.
    Well nowr, nowr I expect that signing up turned out to be a whole different critter than they believed it would be.
    Hell of a difference between nobly fighting the communist hoard to protect the helpless civilians and randomly murdering civilians and destroying the countryside in a mad race to achieve an ever greater body count and sure up the inept and clearly failing regime of our friend the capitalist dictator. Raping and pillaging your way across Southeast Asia was bound to create some moral drama and mind-fucking trauma.

    • angrymanspeaks: They’re all volunteers now. Something to be said for a new response to “SUPPORT THE TROOPS” bumper stickers and ribbons and the people who display them. Gracias, J

  7. A voice of reason.

  8. I ask this question all the time. “So what is war good for?”

    • LCTC! It’s good for the military and the weapons salesmen, good for the Chinese US flag and bumper-sticker manufacturers, good for the feel-good of needy people who have nothing but affluence and a wish to keep theirs to bolster themselves into a condition simulating ‘life’, I reckons. Jack

  9. For another take on the Vietnam conflict from a different point of view, you might wish to investigate the works of Thich Nhat Hanh. Here’s a starting place: http://new.plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/ …Just a recommendation, that’s all.

  10. Powerful, and timeless Jules.

  11. I find it disappointing that since I served in Nam, you condemn me for lots of things I did not do while over there. Here in the states I have met a few Vietnamese folks who lived in South Vietnam that have told me that we did some good while involved over there. It was still a war about money for the politicians but we did help many to a better life.

    • Old fat man: If bringing Vietnamese to the US to make their lives better had been the object a case could be made you improved some lives, though at considerable cost to those left behind. The engine parts, the rotary wings, the instruments and controls on a helicopter are all part of what the machine does. A pilot, a company clerk, a rifleman, a remf in saigon and a radio technician in Danang were all part of the US machine in Vietnam destroying villages, food crops, people, dropping agent orange. None of what the US did in Vietnam weighs in as ‘good’ beginning the day the US troop left.

      Those of us who were part of the US military of those times can lie to ourselves and pretend we’re somehow exempt, but the lies are trumped by reality. If we’d had the courage and wisdom to go to Canada we’d have been part of the ‘other’ machine. That machine actually attempted to ‘do some good’ by refusing to be part of it, lost as badly as you and others who went there and did what you did. But they’re not wearing caps and bumper stickers asking for praise. And nobody’s saying ‘thank you’.

      If you are disappointed seeing the truth there’s nothing to keep you from keeping your eyes closed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s