Name: Many, mostly unknown
Occupation: Spies, soldiers, nurses, etc.
Location: Vietnam, 1955-1975
As seen in: M√£n by Kim Thuy, brief appearance of a female sniper in the film Full Metal Jacket
In the book M√£n, by Kim Thuy, the narrator’s mother, known to readers as Maman, is chosen to become a spy for the Viet Cong. Though the way the narrator tells it her involvement was seemingly accidental ‚Äì Maman was essentially in the right place at the right time ‚Äì her experience deeply impacts both her own and the narrator’s lives. I was fascinated by this moment in the novel. After some research, I discovered that women played in integral role in the Vietnamese resistence; in fact, the only woman present at the global talk to end the Vietnam war in Paris was Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, a communist leader who negotiated the talk on behalf of the Viet Cong. Women played a huge role in all aspects of the resistence against American soldiers; they smuggled weapons, dug trenches, and like Kim Thuy’s Maman, they shared secret information with Viet Cong leaders.
Rosanna Ryan wrote an article for ABC highlighting the accomplishments of these women, and their figurehead Madame Binh. She quotes a Vietnamese man named Sixth Rice Field, who said to American writer Lady Borton: ‚Äú’Women are the ones who buy and sell. They carry our news.‚Äù Vietnamese women were the heart of the communication system among resistence leaders, and they were the suppliers of medical equipment, food, water, and weapons. A woman named Ninth Rose, interviewed after the war, admitted to having worn costumes to pass unnoticed by American soldiers, who assumed that only Vietnamese women in black clothing were part of the offensive; ‚Äúsome days she [Ninth Rose] would pretend to be a school teacher, while other days she dressed in the rags of a vegetable vendor.‚Äù
A woman named Second Harvest, also interviewed by Lady Borton, said the following of women’s involvement in the war: ‚ÄúWe did everything. We climbed mountains, we hid under rivers. We captured prisoners. We carried ammunition. We trained ourselves to use weapons. We guided the soldiers when they wanted to attack the American base at Binh Duc. We were the guides, we were the spies.‚Äù Women joined both the Viet Cong in the south and the Viet Minh in the north, and were accepted by Communist leader Ho Chi Minh as an important part of the cause. A women in the south named Nguyen Thi Ut Tich earned the title of Heroine of the Liberation Army for her skill in combat; she was a guerilla fighter who trained new recruits and planned and carryied out ambushes against American soldiers. At one point, she took an entire enemy base prisoner by befriending the commander and getting him drunk.
The role that women played in the Vietnam conflict is not forgotten by the Vietnamese. The man Sixth Rice Field said in an interview, ‚ÄúWomen were crucial in dong khoi [the 1960 uprising] and the Tet Offensive too.‚Äù Though many names were forgotten to history, the courage of the women who spied and gathered supplies for Vietnamese troops should be honored alongside the male soldiers who lost their lives on both sides. Women are often forgotten in retrospectives about wartime, but without their hardwork and commitment to peace, there couldn’t have been a Vietnamese resistence.
Girl Museum Inc.