Tran Thi My:
Before the Cedar Falls
Operation started, the enemy bombed and shelled the area
continually for three months. Artillery shells came continuously from
Dong Du. I said continuously because they never
stopped for more than one minute. And there were airplanes flying over
the Cu Chi area all the time.
There were the L-19s, the helicopters, the bombers, the F-4s, the F-5s
and the B-57s. They bombed and shelled so much that, in my case, for
example, a tunnel caved in on me and I had to be dug out. This was
before the operation actually started.
When the operation began, the enemy sent in two puppet
divisions to block Highway 13. As for the Americans, they came in in
several hundred tanks and armored vehicles. They used their base camp at
Bach Bap, it was just a little way from Ben Suc, as a place to park their
tanks. At that time, our Command Committee said that we had to open our
way out at any price and that we should not allow the men and women in
our organization to die in an illogical way. We had to maintain the
capitals for the future.
For this reason, we obeyed the order and got out of
there that night. At first we intended to head north. But later on we
decided that we really did not have to run away to any distance and that
all we had to do was to go around in circle, weaving our ways in between
the enemy's positions.
At that time, sometimes about thirty to forty tanks
attacked us. The tanks rolled over the whole area with the intention of
smashing our underground positions. They plowed one stretch of land at a
time day in day out. This was in order not to leave anything behind for
the Viet Cong to cling to the
area. It was in one of these mornings that five of us women we had lost
contact with the rest because of the way they rolled the tanks over the
area like that heard the rumbling of the tanks.
When we looked up we saw about thirty tanks we
actually could not make an exact count rolling toward us in a horizontal
line. We told each other to lie down in the old tracks of the tanks
since we knew that they would not roll over the same tracks again. For
this reason, the five of us lay flat there while the thirty tanks rolled
over our heads. And we were lying in between the tanks so we escaped
death. And in this way we clung on to the enemy, never leaving Cu Chi.
For fifteen days in succession, we did not have
anything to eat and drink. This was because when we first left each of
us had only a canteen of water. But we depleted our water supply soon
after that. And fifteen days later, with the tanks rolling over us like
that, we had lost contacts with all our sisters. We were in the forest
and hence it was very difficult to locate each other. Hence, on a
certain Friday, I was left all to myself. And so I walked all around
Cu Chi, managing to avoid
the Americans for fifteen days.
Now, Elizabeth asked me a while ago whether I ever
ran into the Americans personally. Well, at one point I was only one
meter from one, but he was looking the other way, with his back turned
in my direction. He was carrying a rifle, and I was hiding in a bush. I
was lying still and he just passed me by without noticing me. I played
hide and seek with them like this until the fifteenth day when I climbed
up a tree and looked toward the direction of the tank base camp and saw
that they were preparing to withdraw their troops.
I then climbed into a shelter in a burnt down house
and remained there until the enemy withdrew. After that I was the only
person who went back to our own headquarters. Along the way I saw that
the bulldozers had razed everything and that the helicopters were flying
as thickly as the automobiles are running along the roads here now. And
so I had to evade the helicopters and other dangers that only a very
determined and well-prepared person could manage to do. This was because
the enemy was all around you.
And I thought to myself that I would either break
through the enemy siege or never allow myself to be captured by the
enemy at all. If the enemy happened to capture me, I would find every
way possible to commit suicide. I would never allow myself to be
captured by the enemy. And if captured, I would not allow them to exact
information from me. But they were never able to capture me at all
although they were all around me.
There was a time when they just walked right in
front of me as I was lying there in a bush. Therefore, I thought at that
time that only my love for my country would keep me fighting against the
enemy like that. This was because the enemy was all around me at that
time: enemy planes were above me, enemy boats were in the river, enemy
artillery fires were in the middle and enemy tanks were everywhere.
Let me put it this way: After the Cedar Falls
Operation there was not a single house left standing. All that
were left of the houses were some of the columns. The roads, the paddy
fields and the orchards were all leveled and resembled the landscape of
a desert. Everything was now covered under a layer of dirt and sand.
There were many people killed in the tunnels and in the
bomb shelters. I am not even talking about the corpses which I found
along the way and which I buried very hastily. We had to dig many people
up from the tunnels. It was such a heartrending thing to see whole
families of ten or more members buried under the tunnels. A woman who
tried to protect her family was found frozen in this position when we
dug her up.
There were many children killed by the air pressure
created by the bombing. Talking about air pressure, we found a corpse of
a woman who got all of her clothes knocked off her body which got
compacted into a tender pulp, resembling pâté, of less than one meter
long although she had been a very big and tall person. For a couple of
months after that, we did not dare to eat minced meat at all. This was
because whenever anyone minced some meat, it would remind us of the
These were the sights that will never be forgotten. I
also saw a child lying dead in a bush because his arm had been severed.
If someone had found him, he would not have died. He had been wounded
and ran into a bush to hide and died there. These corpses and the whole
scene, as I can still see very vividly in my mind now, tell you of the
indescribable nature of the bombing and shelling at the time.
When we came back, we found out
that a member of our unit, Ms. Nguyen Thi Tu, had been killed. She had
been the president of the Women Organization of Saigon
. A number of male fighters and guards
were also killed. We had to bury them.
670, End slate.