Interview with Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong, 1982
Writer Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong describes the events of the Hue uprising. While he recalls that it was considered a victory, he notes that the Americans retaliated harshly. Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong describes the “Nine Tunnels” where communist supporters were held and states that Ngo Dinh Diem forced all Buddhists to convert to Catholicism. This led to the Buddhist uprising and citywide protests, which eventually led to the end of the Ngo Dinh Diem regime.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975, United States--History--1945-, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, Vietnamese, Vietnam--History--1945-1975, Hue, Battle of, Hue, Vietnam, 1968, War--Religious aspects, Bombing, Aerial--Vietnam, Colonization, Propaganda, American, War crimes, Civilian war casualties, United States--Politics and government, Vietnam--Politics and government, United States, Vietnam, Ngo, Dinh Diem, 1901-1963
Propaganda of casualties at the Battle of Hue
Roll 69 of Vietnam Project, Feb 29, 1982, 512, Take 1.
Interview with Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong, writer.
Roll 69 of Vietnam Project, Feb 29, 1982, 512, Take 1.
Interview with Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong, writer.
Could you describe the events of the Hue uprising and particularly relating to the massacre since he was there?
Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong:
It was a gigantic victory of the people in Hue. But then the price for this victory was an unprecedented retaliation by the Americans and the puppet troops which followed. (You don’t have to...provide the translation right now?) And so the inhabitants of Hue had to pay the highest price of all the urban populations in our country. This was because nowhere else had the American suffered so much physical and political losses as in Hue.
The retaliation was extremely horrible. But in my opinion, the opinion of a person who had gone through the resistance period against the French and the period of war against the United States, the neocolonialists were more intelligent than the colonialists. Or in other words, I usually said that the colonialists were much more crude than the neocolonialists. And this was certainly true with the situation during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
This was because all the crimes committed by the United States were turned, as far as the outside world was concerned, into crimes committed by the revolutionaries against their own people. I am referring to the massacre which the United States used as a kind of special weapon at the negotiating table in Paris in order to smear the Vietnamese revolution. This was something I knew very well because I was a witness.
And I will tell you the whole thing in a very objective way. First, as far as the people who were killed were concerned, there were certainly people who had been killed by our troops because when we came to their house and asked them to surrender, they shot at our soldiers and wounded them. So these people had to be shot on the spot. Among these people was the deputy province chief who was living in Hue at the time.
He shot down at the soldiers from the second floor of his house and refused to surrender. But there were not many people in this category. In some other cases, some people were killed for having tortured the inhabitants and caused whole families to be imprisoned and exiled to the penal island. And so when the revolution came into the city, the inhabitants went around and searched for those despots to get rid of them just as they would get rid of poisonous snakes who, if allowed to remain alive, would cause further crimes in the war.
And so, even though our policies were only to re-educate and never to kill anyone who surrendered to us, when the city inhabitants took justice in their own hands there was little our revolutionary commanders could do to control the population during the period when the fighting was raging. But I must tell you that each of those despots had killed at least ten persons who were members of the other person’s family.
And so, for any person who had followed the war situation at all, this was indeed a very light revenge. And, in my opinion, you have similar things in every revolution. This is because this was a war in which there was an extreme imbalance in terms of material and military strength. Our population did not possess the kinds of weapons the US imperialists had, and so the way they carried out their justice was extremely light.
But the majority of the people who surrendered and detained by us were taken to the re-education camps in the jungle. Almost all of them were subsequently released. Only a few of those people got sick because they were not used to the climate in the jungle. But there was nothing to it. They were all returned to their families. But people did get killed.
The majority of these people who got killed and buried in this city and were subsequently exhumed by the Americans and the puppet government in order to make their films were, first of all, people who had been killed by the American bombing and strafing during the counterattacks. For example, the Americans dropped a bomb smack into a hospital in the Dong Ba neighborhood, killing and wounding over 200 persons.
I walked through the streets at night at that time and I thought I was walking in the mud. But when I turned on my flashlight, I saw blood all over the neighborhood. The whole neighborhood had been bombed down by the Americans. And so, during the last days when we were withdrawing from the city, the enemy collected these bodies of bombing victims and buried them. Secondly, there were many families whose members participated in the revolution.
There were many people who followed our forces into the jungle after the Tet offensive. And so when the enemy came into the city, they killed the members of these families and had them taken to the communal graves. Bodies of Liberation soldiers whom we did not have time to retrieve were also taken to the mass graves. In addition the young people and the prisoners of war who walked with us into the jungle were killed by the American planes along with our cadres.
During the period from 1975—1977 when we dug canals and irrigation ditches, we discovered that in the mass graves of the so-called massacre victims there were full of people who were wearing the lotus-shaped hats (Liberation forces) and wearing Liberation forces’ uniforms. This was indeed the devious trick of the neocolonialists. They killed two birds with one stone. First, they managed to hide their crimes.
And second, they heaped all their crimes on the heads of the revolutionary troops. This is something I witnessed. And an American historian who visited Hue after that said publicly that he thought that it was a big propaganda campaign by the Americans—a campaign of strategic proportion—which cost the Americans a lot of money and which was approved by Kissinger himself to smear the NLF on the Hue situation of Tet 1968.
Another thing I would like to emphasize is that the whole American propaganda machine in the world was utilized in this effort to turn white into black on the Tet incident in order to deceive the whole world. It is true that a number of the despots was killed by the angry population. But this number is small compared to the large number of people who survived the Tet incident and fled abroad and who are now slandering and organizing against the Vietnamese revolution. But you must understand that although we had support from all around the world, when we fought against our enemy it was only our people who were standing in front of the muzzles of the enemy’s guns and shedding our blood.
And during this struggle, we had to carry out justice against the arch-enemies of our people, those people whom the world had recognized as war criminals. The Bertrand Russell tribunal, for example, had to concede that if there had been a Nuremberg-type of tribunal then thousands of people whose lives were spared during the Tet Offensive would still have deserve to be hanged after the war was over.
But, as Bertrand Russell also stated, this justice would never be carried out. Therefore, an American soldier such at Lt. William Calley who killed many people in Son Mai is still not hanged.
And in order to diver people’s attention from this kind of crime, they faked the Tet massacre in order to do a smear job on the revolution. This proves that the United States never paid any attention to the question of honor of a big country fighting against a small country. The American administrations have lied about...
513, Take 1.
Ngo Dinh Diem as fascist
Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong:
Ngo Dinh Diem was truly a fascist. I lived here throughout the Ngo Dinh Diem period. And I realized that Diem wanted to become another king. Formerly Diem had been a high court mandarin. For example, Diem’s family, which lived hear the Phai Cam bridge here in Hue, forced all the intellectuals, bureaucrats, and university professors to wear ancient garb to come to the courtyard every year on the occasion of Tet and (unreadable) there, chanting New Year’s wishes and Long Life to Ngo Dinh Diem, his mother and other members of his family.
His mother was sitting on a golden throne observing all the rituals. This alone shows you what Diem meant by democracy. In fact, you can say that there was no such thing as democracy. There was only a feudal and fascistic system. This was what his family was like. As for his (Diem’s) policies, he strived to eradicate all the democratic freedoms of the ordinary people. For example, he issued a law code called...
His aim was to annihilate all the Communists. And this was what the Americans wanted him to do. SO he had to get rid of all the influences of the August Revolution in this city, a city which brought down the monarchy and hoisted the banner of the August Revolution. And so all the families whose children had been regrouped to the north (after the Geneva Agreement) were one by one imprisoned, exiled and tortured until they denounced their loved ones.
After that, there were many families who tried their best to hide the fact that they had children and relatives who were now regrouped to the north. This was the kind of anti-Communist which forced the population to forget the color of the banner of the revolution. From then on, the repression went full speed ahead and every possible means was used. One of the means was that women whose husbands were now regrouped to the north and who were pregnant were kicked in the bellies until they aborted.
The torturers said that you could not allow even a single drop of Communist blood in the belly of any woman in the south. This and other means were employed through the use of the Law Code no. 10/59 which Diem had decreed. In Hue at that time there was a very infamous place for imprisoning people called the “Nine Tunnels”. Patriots were kept there. When the Diem regime was toppled we went into those tunnels to rescue the prisoners and saw that most of them were like jungle people.
That is to say, they had long beards and hair and just skin and bones. These prisoners had to sit on platforms where rain water leaked down and where their feet were soaked in water year in year out. They could only sit up, and their behinds and backs were all infected. They did not look like human beings anymore and they were put there until they died. This was the very infamous “Nine Tunnels” where unprecedented repressive means were carried out against those considered to be Communists.
I don’t know how cruel Hitler was, but I can certainly say that there were no crimes against human beings which resembled the crimes committed by the Diem regime here during the post-Hitler era. As far as religious freedoms were concerned, Ngo Dinh Thuc, Diem’s brother and the archbishop in charge of this area, forced all Buddhist and all non-religious people to worship as Catholics. On Buddhist anniversaries they forbade all Buddhist banners to be put up. This led to the Buddhist uprising and, subsequently, the city-wide protest which led finally to the downfall of Ngo Dinh Diem.
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