No, the people didn't really view the Saigon
government as a Vietnamese government. I mean they, they saw the, they saw the Saigon
officials as people that were really victims of the war. They had to, perhaps, do what the Americans wanted them to do in order to survive. But, their heart often wasn't in it.
And, they, and even these corrupt officials would, would say that to you themselves. I remember some very high officials in Quang Ngai even confessing, because we spoke Vietnamese, right in front of their American advisors, they would say in Vietnamese. "Boy, I can't wait until these people go home and we can begin to establish our own government, our own way of life as it used to be."
And, so, ah, the liberation forces ah had a, control of almost all the area around the city of Quang Ngai. It was as if there was just this little center that, where the Americans were and the, you know, few government buildings that remained within the government control the whole time that I was there from '71 to '73, but in our back yard, ahm, at night the PRG officials, people, came in quite freely.
And, certainly, for instance you'd go down ah out of the town a few miles and we'd be there visiting a, a patient. Ah. We did a, social work follow up on some of our patients, tried to get them money to get re-established in their life and it'd get to be about 3:30, four o'clock, and people would say, you know, it's getting late in the afternoon. You better go home because the government's going to change and literally the ah Saigon
government closed up and went home and ah the PRG people would come in, help the people, ah, maybe even work at night. You know, helping to ah sift the rice or put it in, in bags, talk to the people, bring them movies ahm or just visit.
They could, because, of course, the PRG in the area were not, as people thought, North Vietnamese that had come south, but were really the ah the people themselves. The brothers and sisters of the, of the people in the hamlet. The Americans were fooled. I mean, they, really, the whole time we were there, they were afraid to go out of the town.
When they traveled, they traveled, you know, with all of their visible role as a military people and with their weaponry and they traveled in jeeps. Only on the, on the highway they they couldn't get off the road and they didn't speak the language, but they were afraid to, to talk with the people, and so they were were protected and they were quite ignorant.
One of my favorite stories was about...little kids used to hang around in front of the American compound and the GI's would come out or, or the officials to the police advisors and they'd goof around with these kids and give em a little candy and they'd say “Oh these kids are really friendly, they just love us, and the kids have taught me to count to five. Dai, dah, doh, quok, me." Which means overthrow the American imperialists, instead of one, two, three, four, five as they thought they were learning in Vietnamese.
It was typical of the irony of the Vietnamese. You know, even the kids they're finding a way to express their hostility to, to these ah big, ah friendly Americans. Ahm. Their, their subtle way of getting, getting back at them. But, when, when we'd travel out into areas ah to visit patients we often traveled into areas ah that were controlled by the PRG.
And, in fact, it was much more pleasant in many ways to go out there because in the town of Quang Ngai itself, being so close to, to My Lai there was tremendous hatred for Americans and they would call me, as a woman, "Bah Me," which means Mrs. America, and ah, if I went into a refugee camp, til the children knew who I was or the older people, there were rocks thrown at us. There was this constant taunting, taunting, taunting, ah, "go home, go home, Mrs. America," and ah, I didn't like it.
I mean, it was a very, you'd sort of stiffen your back up because you were ah feel that a rock might be thrown at you and there was all of this hatred that you, that you felt for, partially, because we were the ones that were exposed. We were the ones that went out into the camps because the American officials, uh didn't do ah that.
But, if you went into the liberated area, somebody would explain to the children, look these are ahm Americans that are here to help the Vietnamese people. And, you know, they're treating people regardless of their political preference, their religious ideology or whatever and they're friends. These are, are, are people that we, that we really ah want to be kind to.
And, you see the kids. They looked healthier. They uh were treated often. You know, there was a whole network of medical clinics. The PRG, in fact, offered very good services to the people as far as the education and medical care in the ah areas that they, that they controlled. So, the people were friendly. It was really pleasant.
And, you had the less, uh awful signs of the American presence. There was less barbed wire. Ahm. Ah. People were able occasionally to, to actually be, not in their own homes, but perhaps, in some kind of simple structure that they were able to, to build, and so there was a real pleasantness to, to life in these areas.