Interview With Ba Nguyen

Interview With Ba Nguyen

Ba Nguyen recalls life during the Vietnam War, discussing how her father served as a spy for the communists during French rule, which made her family comparatively more affluent, such that she was able to pursue her education and later serve as an administrator for a government garment factory, unlike most of her female peers.

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Ba Nguyen recalls her childhood in a relatively wealthier family, such that she did not have to work and could concentrate on school. Traditional gender norms were not impressed upon her. As her father was a Communist spy working within the French police, the family was misunderstood as being part of the enemy for owning land. This changed when her mother died. She had to work in a government factory making uniforms to take care of her sister, eventually becoming a factory administrator. At 18, she tried to apply for membership in the Communist Party to improve her access to job opportunities and career progression, but was rejected. She settled for a position in the Youth Union. However, her stepbrothers eagerly stepped forward to serve. Much of her moral education came from the Party’s values. She no longer participates in veteran activities, but the state recognized her for her service and later clarified her father’s role in the French War. Her recollections provide a contrasting view of more affluent, educated women’s experiences of the Vietnam War.

Born into an affluent family in the Nam Dinh City of North Vietnam in 1950, Ba Nguyen’s first memory of the Vietnam War was seeing the French military withdraw from the North after the Geneva Treaty as a four year old. Before the Communist regime rose to power, her family was wealthy enough to own land. Her father was a Communist spy within the French police force, and her mother ran a business. As such, Ba Nguyen did not need to work in the fields, and only had to focus on her education. Her family was also not very religious, and while they had an altar for ancestor worship, they did not perform any prayers except on special occasions. Her family never lacked food in her childhood, and poorer families came to them to borrow money. However, this led to the family being misunderstood as enemies. Her parents did not really instill traditional gender norms in her, and gave their daughters more freedom than their peers, but they strongly emphasized the importance of education and encouraged their children to pursue it.

At school, she studied various subjects, but not French. She was taught nationalistic songs, but did not become familiar with Vietnamese national heroes. A notable difference she remembers between the French and Vietnamese education policy is how the French required students to be segregated by gender, while the Communist regime permitted co-education classes. She did not adopt the culture of gifting teachers, but remembers her teacher helping a poor student to buy a pencil. After school, she would fetch water from the well, and be taught to cook at home. 

When she was seven, her mother died of cardiac arrest, and the family began to face hardship. As their situation deteriorated, they did not have the time or ability to uphold religious traditions. At age 16, she took on a job at a government garment factory to take care of her younger sister. Working for the state gave her both a stable salary and food stamps that entitled her to rice rations. She recalls fondly that the factory employees enjoyed a strong sense of camaraderie. Being one of the better educated staff, she was eventually promoted as an administrator. This role required her to stay in the city to manage the production line even during air raids, as her factory was producing uniforms for the military. Hiding in bunkers when planes flew past, and then immediately resuming work when it was declared safe became a normal routine.

Aged 18, she applied for membership in the Communist Party to improve her access to job opportunities and career progression, but was rejected because her father worked for the French police. Instead, she joined the Youth Union, where she was trained in basic weapon handling, but never experienced a combat situation. Much of her moral education also came from the values of service to the nation that the Party promoted amongst the populace. Her stepbrothers, too, enthusiastically stepped forward to serve in the military, with one brother even writing an appeal letter to enlist at 16, earlier than was required.

After the war, Ba Nguyen, like many of her peers, was honored for her wartime service by the state. She also continues receiving a pension for having worked for the government. However, it was only in 2000, long after the war, that her father’s former boss wrote a letter to the authorities clarifying that he was not an enemy but merely working undercover for the Vietminh during French rule. Yet, it came too late for Ba Nguyen, as she was already late into her career and could not expect much further advancement at her age. Her recollections provide an alternative view of women’s experiences of the Vietnam War, given her better-endowed background.

Transcript 12: Ba Nguyen

The interview took place in her daughter’s store in Tay Ho district at the 11th of August, 2020. After all the introduction of what the purpose of the interview, her rights to pass any questions she does no feel comfortable to answer and to not reveal her identity, and other small chats. The interview begins as follow. The following conversation is, however, only the English version one, meaning it is the info the translator interpreted and/or translated based on the questions I ask the question and the answer the interview gives. In this transcript I refer to the translator as “TSL” and myself as “TN”.

TN: First interview with Ba Nguyen. August 11,2020. What is your full name?

TSL: Tran Nguyen 

TN: So, are you originally from the South, North, Central Viet Nam?

TSL Nam Dinh, North. 

TN: She was not married by the time of the war yea?

TSL: After 

TN: Do you remember how your life as a daughter at that time look like? As a teenager

TSL: She remember. She was born in 1950. French moved out of Viet Nam. So, when she was like….1954..when she was 4 years old she saw the soldiers carried the guns. French..French soldiers. At that time when the French soldier moved out from the city..from Viet Nam. 

TN: Is it the same city as she is living now?

TSL: Yes. Nam Dinh. And Nam Dinh city was the main city when French here. They built very big, the biggest factory. 

TN: What factory?

TSL: Clothing. It’s very big system French have in Nam Dinh city. 

TN: Do you still have that factory?

TSL: Abandoned already. but the building is there. She worked there. All Nam Dinh city work for that factory. It’s big. Even after the war. The biggest factory in Viet Nam. 

TN: Is it common for women of her age to work in the factory?

TSL: Yea. But no, this is long time ago after she graduate 

TN: Okay. What’s the name of the school?

TSL: She said at that time her parents had to lock the door because they are scared the soldier will break into the house and do anything before they move out of Viet Nam. So, the lock the door very well. They only go to second floor, to the balcony to see all soldiers moving out of Viet Nam. 

TN: Did anyone get hurt that day?

TSL: No. they just make a line

TN: Okay. so when she was teenager what her life as a woman looks like? May be cooking...

TSL:  She went to school.

TN: And the rest of the day?

TSL: Actually she is from rich family. So she is not working in the farm. Her mom is the business woman and they have a lot of land. Actually they are land owner. Very rich. So that is why they sent her to school. She just go to school, come back home like to get water from the well outside. That is it. Stay home, cook. 

TN: But she learnt to cook as well?

TSL: yea. Actually her mom died when she was 7 years old. .heart attack. From that her life down. 

TN: So, she had to work?

TSL: Actually she worked by 16. Looking after the younger sister. Actually that one, her sister is the one that go to the war. Her younger sister. 

TN: Is she still alive?

TSL: Yes

TN: Okay. What about the land?

TSL: Land….government…after…you know when communist came all the rich people like landowner, they call them like…on the opposite side. So, they collect all the land, all their property from her family. 

TN: Oh. Wow. for what?

TSL: Because they believe that they are rich…you’re rich and so you collect all your property from poor people. Now, it’s communist. Communist is about equality. So they collect all the land and give it to everyone. 

TN: Oh. Wow. So everyone in Nam Dinh at that time got a land?

TSL: Yea... After that they call her dad…is a spy for communist. 

TN: So, you are not enemy?

TSL: No. Her dad is like…. communist sent to work …like police for French government. So, he’s like the staff of French. But actually he’s communist. He is communist. So he was spy there to get information to send to communist. You understand?

TN: yea. Wait, when she was 4 years old the French already got defeated and left the country. So her dad worked for the French from before?

TSL: Yea. That is why. The dad work like police. His salary from French. So, the wife used the money to do business and that was the time they have her. 

TN: The business was buying the land?

TSL: Yea. He sent money to home, to his hometown to buy land. Because the husband work in secret. So none know that he is communist. None know that he is spy. So after the government, the communist win, after 1953…1954 they now think her family like “you work for French before. You are the opposite; you are enemy”. So they collect all the land, all property at the hometown. They lost everything.

TN: But. None in the Vietminh knows?

TSL: None know. I remember only when…after …how many …. after he died when …. he died 10 years. 10 years after he died, the one worked with him, his boss, the one that knows he is working for Vietnamese, the Vietminh boss now wrote a letter sent to the government, to the hometown, to say that he is not enemy. They gave it to me and I read it. To clear the name. to tell people that he is Vietnamese. After that, when he moved back to hometown, they will talk to him nastily like “you work for the French” and racist to the family. When I am 10, it’s means like she is 40, so for a long time people don’t like the family. They work like a a secret team. So he work with them. But, they lost each other.  They...for long... the one work with him, the one work for the organization for Viet Nam….so after long he moved back from France. He moved back to look for him to know that he died, to know that all info that...they still not clear...that he is like the opposite, the enemy. So, she wrote a letter to say that he is Vietminh. He works for her. She the one that work in the government office. Her letter is very important to clear everything. 

TN: Yea...yea...

TSL: When she is 18 years old, she want to become communist like she want to join communist organization. You know it is very important like the job and the Communist Party in Nam Dinh in the place that she is working.

TN: What’s called again?

TSL: Communist Party. She wants to become member of the party. At that time is very important, like.. you know communist is the most important. They try to get to be the member of the party. Everyone wants to. .and she work for government..

TN: She works for the government at 16?

TSL: Yea. That factory is government company. 

TN: Okay. 

TSL: But, because of the affects her like by 18 she want to join, so you have to write all about your mom, 

{Interruption from a customer]

TSL: To become the communist member you have to write down your da, your mom, have to be good person, not work for enemy or anything. 

TN: What do you mean by good person?

TSL: Good person like communist...politically you have to show about your family that love the country and because of her da like the story before, so when she write down that there is one, there is time that the information about him is not clear. That is the time when he work for the French. They know that he work like spy because none that prove for him. So it affects her. They didn’t allow her to become member. 

TN: Okay. But, what’s the benefits from joining the party?

TSL: When you join…even right now, when you join them you can be higher. That in a group know at that time to become communist is something like wow and all your friends become communist member and you are out of it. it means you are something else. You are out of the group. It even have…like if they want to give you work, if you want them to give you anything, you have to become communist member. 

TN: Okay

TSL: Very important at that time. 

TN: And it’s easy to get job if you are a communist?

TSL: No, you just need to graduate 

TN: Wait, do you need to be rich to go to school?

TSL: In her hometown, they don’t go to school and women go to work, they only go to farm, stay at home. 

TN: She was lucky then 

TSL: Yea. She was lucky that her dad…actually her dad is educated. That is why he can work for the French because he educated. So with her, he wants her to be educated too, not even because of rich or not. She does not know. But she said she is lucky that he sent her to school and she can learn. The ability of her is that she can learn. She continue the learning. Her sister not finished school, not finished high school. She not learnt well. After that, because she is not learn well, so after that she went to the war. But, my mom still learning and learning. That is why she get the job. The government give her job after she graduate at 18…16. She go to work for government already. 

TN: What is her position at that time?

TSL: she records 

[interruption from customer] 

TN: She joined Thanh Nien but could not join Communist Party. This the process if you want to join Viet Nam Communist Party; you have to apply, it’s the same, you have to write an essay why you want to join, you have to proof about your knowledge of Communist Party, your family background. They have to see that oh...your family background is communist, that you want to join communist to build Communist Party to become bigger, you love. and then they will read everything you write to decide if you can join or not. But the key is your parent. 

TN: Does your education matter?

TSL: Education is not matter. But you have to have …your political thinking, you have to follow their thinking, their political, everything. So not education, but the person that parents work for enemy, like opposite side before, they won’t, they can’t get in. and when you can’t get in, you career won’t be successful. 

TN: But she’s got a job?

TSL: Yea.she got a job already. her career is not advancing. You can’t become a boss, you can’t become the leader, the head...

TN: Okay. But after that letter from the Vietminh boss clarified everything?

TSL: She got to 50. She almost retired so it’s no’s nothing. 

TN: Alright. I know that she works in the factory, right? Administration stuff? No. 6

TSL: No. It doesn’t apply.

TN: What about that land that the government took?

TSL: The land, they give it back a little after she moved…that it’s not from…because you get it from poor people. . that you buy from your money, so they give it back a little bit. 

TN: Okay. next question, she has only a sister right, no brother?

TSL: Actually she has step brothers

TN: Okay. did they join the war?

TSL: yea

TN: Okay. Then this question is a not for her. Next question, do you remember any notable people maybe teacher, like that in your area?

TSL: she know ...actually that guy become the chairman, the co-worker with her. He travelled to Russia to learn, he worked with her in the factory and after that he become the chairman. 

TN: Okay. what about when she was younger, did she know anyone like that and how they behave?

TSL: No, because she lived in place where everyone is the same. Do business. 

TN: Okay. the next question then. Did you ever bring any gift, cake, to your teacher?

TSL: NO. actually the teacher was nice. She gave money to a boy who don’t have pencil. 

TN: Number 11

TSL: No 

TN: Alright. Number 12. Do you remember your parents telling you about ...well that you’re middle class, that you’re woman, how to behave based on your class and as a woman?

TSL: Actually the dad is modern. So..he works for French so his knowledge is open that people in the village. So, he is open with her. She only have to learn, how to have knowledge. He is easy. 

TN: Okay. how does it make her feel at that time?

TSL: she feel free and very confident 

TN: Okay. Did she think life as a woman was difficult?

TSL: She feel it’s easy. But her friends in the hometown, the village that not go to school, marry early, their life more difficult than hers. That’s what she feel. She feel lucky. Like her cousin married at teenager like 15, 16. Marry and then work in the farm has difficult life more than her. That’s what she feel. 

TN: How does she think of when it comes to religion? does she think of life difficulty as a result of karma, or you know just part of life, that kind of thing?

TSL: she doesn’t compare. She does not think of it like that. 

TN: Okay, when she was teenager, did she experience any lack of food?

TSL: she is not. But she sad people poor. Even poor people came to her family to borrow money. Actually she grow up in the rich family. after that she works in the government. So, she is not experiencing lack of food. 

TN: Okay. 15, 16 is not for her. Does she read, or write any poem? Maybe in French

TSL: No, only in Vietnamese. Older people like my dad who studied French because my dad is 10 years older than her. He was born in 1940. At that time, she grow up, she was 17, grade 1- 4 is free. But at that time they separate men and women. They follow the French culture. but after grade 4, Vietnamese now changed the system, they mix together. 

TN: When did they learn in that school? Math, Geography?

TSL: Yea. Normal subjects. But not in French. 

TN: Okay. number 18. Did you read, write poem? 

TSL: Yea. But all about communist 

TN: Does she still remember one of them? the title 

TSL: She doesn’t remember 

TN: What about song?

TSL: “I like Ho Chi Minh… Uncle Ho”. Even I know. It’s about the war. She said those in the village who don’t go to school will go to the war. 

TN: Only those who don’t go to school go to fight?

TSL: Yea because she go to school, she has ability she doesn’t need to go waste her life to fight. They choose to stay to build… in the office, to build the country, the people not learn. They ask them you have to go to the war. But you know they are training your brain from kids so you will follow. You know it’s like Korean, not Korean. 

TN: Okay. do you know any book, newspaper from the war time?

TSL: Thanh Nien, Nhandan, Lao Dong. 

TN: Do you still have it now?

TSL: Yea, about labor, they are all communist for labor, worker. 

TN: Did her parents tell her to work hard, be rich?

TSL: She work for the government to get salary. That’s all. She is not in business field. Not to be rich. But after her mom’s time, everyone has to work for the government. They don’t allow private company. But working for the government is the only choice or you have to be farmer.

TN: was it better to be farmer?

TSL: No for her. Working for government is better. It’s stable. The government will give you food, you have stamp. 

TN: So beside your salary, you get a stamp? It’s lunch, or rice?

TSL: Rice. She said at that time, at the war when Americans bomb the city. she has to stay when people run out from city because you know that is main factory. So, that’s the place that Americans will bomb to destroy. But she has to stay. 

TN: In the factory? 

TSL: In the city.. to run the factory because that factory is giving clothes for people in the war. 

TN: Oh. Uniform

TSL: Yea. uniform. It’s important. 

TN: What do you mean by running the factory? Taking care of the machine, or?

TSL: No..because she is the one in charge of administration like run…she is …you know the factory is the biggest in Asia at that time or in East Asia at that time. It’s like she work for the electricity. That electric will provide the electric for the sewing machine and other parts. It’s electricity, so it is very important. So she has to work. 

TN: Right. Was she alone, or?

TSL: With her co-worker. But she only feel that time is difficult’s war. When people run out like that time when they know that Americans will bomb the city. They take people out. But she still have to stay and her place she lived got bombed. 

TN: were there soldiers to protect them?

TSL: She said they have to fight, the workers, the people in the factory. They will get a like spy .the communist have the spy in American soldiers so they will tell them like “ we will bomb a lot” , they will bomb where.

TN: Yea, so they will run away?

TSL: Runaway, but the important people will have to stay and they have gun

TN: So she had gun?

TSL: Yea. To protect. They are training them. They learn how to…one time per week, they learn how to shoot, how to crawl, to protect her. 

TN: Like military training 

TSL: Yea

TN: Did they also use traditional weapons?

TSL: Yea..haha...ha..ha..she is young so she will go to learn how to shoot, to learn how to protect the ones that friends, or old, or have kids. She was not married at that time. So she will stay. The people that are weak, they will send them out of the city. They, Vietnamese, communist, will dig the holes to…. whenever they bomb, they will just run inside. They will jump inside, cover themselves to protect yourself. 

TN: Did she ever witness somebody got killed during that time?

TSL: She only know the person who died because of bomb. Not because of shot. That time she still go to school. That time she stayed in peace place, to learn. 

TN: Okay. 22. Did your parents ever tell you about being selfless, sacrificing yourself for the country, that kind of thing?

TSL: Yea. She said only in the party. 

TN: You mean in Thanh Nien? Because she didn’t join the Communist Party. 

TSL: Thanh Nien and she said they were very active at that time, not like now. .like work hard, the thinking is very strong for country to go to war, work to build the country.

TN: Thanh Nien member got that every day, or how? 

TSL: Because her parents go to war. They want to build independence. They went for the country to be better so they work hard. They don’t think of themselves. 

TN: Right. Most people at that time are like that at that time?

TSL: Yea, the same. 

TN: 23. Well, not for her. 24. Do you remember having to encourage your brothers to join the war?

TSL: They joined by themselves. it’s automatic in their mind that it’s their responsibility. At that time the young people, they believe that that is their responsibility, have to go to fighting. Her younger brother even write a letter. 

TN: To who?

TSL: You know; you need to be 18 before going to the war to fight. But he just, maybe, 16. So he write a letter that I want to join, that I want to be part of it, that I can do anything. 

TN: To who that letter is addressed? 

TSL: The government, the Communist Party. So they accept him, giving him the job that is suitable. 

TN: How many brother she has?

TSL: two and the other one is even join younger than that

TN: Younger than that?

TSL: Yea. Because the dad go to war with French already. so they think that they have to continue the responsibility. 

TN: Did she really want them to join the fight though?

TSL: Yes, she feel normal because everyone did the same. She doesn’t worry or anything. Just say goodbye. All the country the same. 

TN: Okay. but they were gone. Does she had to work for the whole country or she work only for herself? 

TSL: No, herself. 

TN: Okay. have you ever heard of Tam tòng, tứ đức 

TSL:  She heard. But her family doesn’t follow this. She doesn’t need to follow this. 

TN: Not even when she got married. 

TSL: No 

TN: Okay. 28. Do you have a special place at home or in the garden to pray?

TSL: Yes. She has but only to pray for the ancestor. Not for Buddhist, or …no religion 

TN: Yea. But during the war, did you use it to pray for protection, safety form the war?


TN: Okay. if you have it for ancestor, did you use it every day, every week? Provide offerings

TSL: Only Tet Holiday, or the memory of the ancestor died that they do pray. Not even monthly or, that’s it. but she said in the war they are poor. So they don’t think about that. 

TN: So, then the next question. Do you remember seeing rituals in the village?

TSL: No 

TN: Okay. this one, 30-31 Cao dai , Hoa Hao, Nguyen Anh Nin?

TSL: No. This one is in the French

TN: How did you get involved in Thanh Nien? Number 32. Applying, or? 

TSL: She has to behave good, you have to have the person in the party introduce you, you have to apply, the same process as the Communist Party. 

TN: 33, no. Number 34- 35. 

TSL: Yes. She trained in the city and she only joined Thanh Nien. 

TN: Did she got training after she worked in the factory?

TSL: No. in the Thanh Nien

TN: Okay. in the Thanh Nien. Does it involve how to shoot? And what else? 

TSL: How to crawl, how to run, how to protect yourself, how to hide, first aid. 

TN: Who taught that?

TSL: The leader. They sent them to train with soldiers and they will be back to train another friends... they train each other. 

TN: Was it woman or man?

TSL: Man 

TN: Skip. No. 36. What kind of stories about enemies that you heard? 

TSL: She doesn’t know. She doesn’t have experience with that

TN: Okay. what about Vietnamese who got killed, something like that? 

TSL: friend. Her friend got killed. She has a friend that go to the field. You know they graduate with her, but they still write the letter that they want to go to the field. So, her friend’s name, Thao…man, maybe go to Laos. She heard that friend be killed. They even cut the tummy. Another one got fever and on the way to come back, got sink inside the river. They found the body. 

TN: How did it make her feel?

TSL: She feel sad, she still remember them. that the man named Thao. She still feel sad about that. 

TN: So, number 42, you told me already. 43, what do you remember the most from the training?

TSL: How to shoot. 7 rules, they write a poem about that like “1 hold, 2 put on your shoulder and then 3 shoot”, they make rule. 

TN: 44, no. and she heard Vietminh and Viet Cong?

TSL: Yea. Vietminh is her father, like communist side. This one is used in her dad’s time. Viet Cong is the same as Communist Party. 

TN: The 46. Already answered. Okay number 47. 

TSL: Actually, at that time everyone is the same. You good for the country, your country will be better. But now is different. Some teenager, they don’t care about that. 

TN: Okay. 49. 

TSL: Not apply to her. 

TN: Okay. 50.

TSL: It’s normal, whenever you see airplane fly, you hide. You run down the hole and they have alarm for the whole city. So when they see the airplane is coming, they will just hide somewhere. When it’s gone, you start working again. 

TN: Next one. Do you remember your life as a wife was difficult?

TSL: yes. She feel difficult. As wife, but she got married after the war. So, no need this question. 

TN: Okay. next one. What were Vietnamese women like during your time in the war? 52. 

TSL: They have the word for the women that time, that you work hard, be good, you are good at your place- at home, you raise your kids good, you become good woman at home. They have a word to become good woman at that time. 

TN: Did she thinks women at that time smart? In what way?

TSL: women is doctor ...even get to university. 

TN: Were they strong mentally and physically?

TSL: Yea.. in the war, to pass it means they were strong 

TN: What about domestic life? they know how to cook, ee...?

TSL: Yea, they take care of their house. They have to. 

TN: So do they have to speak calmly, softly?

TSL: They stricter rules to women than now. She no smoking, not normal.. only one or two. But they will see that women as bad person. 

TN: Does women in her time have to encourage her husband to join the fight?

TSL: Yea. You know..the husband goes to fight. So the woman has to go to work or farm, take care of the farm or her job at the government. Every woman was the same. It’s their responsibility. 

TN: Did some of them have to join the fight?


TN: But, did the government tell them to be ready in case they have to go?

TSL: Yes. She is ready too. But, the war is not to her place. Nam Dinh is not the main field of fighting. The field for war is Hue, Quang Tri. Not here. Here, they only bomb. They don’t put soldiers to fight. Only bomb and bomb... 

TN: So, main jobs for women in Nam Dinh were taking care of family and go to work. 

TSL: Yea. Some still go to the field. But, not in the Nam Dinh. So they left Nam Dinh to fight. 

TN: number 55 now 

TSL: Not care about beauty

TN: Okay. What about beauty for her?

TSL: You wear earing. At that time, they don’t make up. 

TN: number 57- 62, no. Okay. What is Viet Nam war to you?

TSL: she feel it’s very hard, hurt, killed. A lot of people died. She feel that Viet Nam is in the right side... like the American or French came to colonize Viet Nam. It is her right to fight. 

TN: No need number 2,3. Okay, number 4. What did you like the most about your responsibility? Taking care of the factory.. 

TSL: She said the people there. she likes the most is…they love each other..they were strong. At that time people like each other, work together. Not selfish. 

TN: What’s the scariest experience at that time?

TSL: No. She doesn’t scarred. 

TN: What’s the benefits of she doing her job, she thinks?

TSL: She get salary?

TN: What do you think o DRV army or Vietminh army?

TSL: She feel happy when Vietminh won the American

TN: Number 8. Was there any elderly in the village that you admired?

TSL: Yea. She adore people who write letter to go to the war. They go to place to die, but they still go because they choose to die for country. 

TN: Does she get involved in any veteran activity?


TN: Did you get any thank you from the government in any forms?

TSL: She has the award for what she did for the company. Medal. Actually at that time all the people got medal because they work during the war. 

TN: What about money?

TSL: She got a little bit money. Only one time.

TN: Did you ever visit Hoa Lo museum?

TSL: She wants to go. I will take her there. She heard about it a lot. Hoa Lo is actually for her father. Hoa Lo is famous in the French time that they keep communists there. But, in her time when communist had Hanoi already, they keep American soldiers there. 

TN: Did you ever tell your war time stories to your kids?

TSL: yes. She told me

TN: Okay. How’s your life now?

TSL: Normal. Old people. No work. she has pension because she works for government. 

TN: That’s it. We’re done. Thank you very much.

Interviewer: Tini

Interviewee: Ba Nguyen

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Transcript Notes


  1. Discuss the unique aspects of Ba Nguyen’s experience of the Vietnam war, given her relatively privileged background in her early life.

  2. What does the rejection of Ba Nguyen’s membership application by the Communist Party suggest about the nature of the Communist movement in North Vietnam? How does it destabilize traditional understandings of the Communist Party?

  3. How did the Cold War conflict shape the notion of citizenship for Ba Nguyen (and other Vietnamese like her)? Consider also how the various intersectionalities (gender, socioeconomic status etc) influenced this process in her experience.

  4. What new perspectives does the recollections of non-combat military staff such as Ba Nguyen reveal about the nature of the Cold War in Vietnam?

  5. How significant were ideological motivations for mobilizing the Vietnamese youth for the war effort? How do they compare against cultural or pragmatic reasons?