Corvée labor under the Diem Regime

SR 2084
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Roll 84, Vietnam Project
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613 TAKE 1
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Interview with Le Thi Ma woman of 34
I know you were a little girl, but what was life like under the Diem regime?
Le Thi Ma:
During the Diem regime, I was only a girl of twelve or thirteen and was going to school. The treatment of the Diem regime was bad. They forced the inhabitants to do corvée labor, building up Route 15 over here. Therefore, members of my family also had to do corvée labor. As a girl going to school, all they taught me was their national anthem which was sung every time we had to salute the flag. That was all that they taught us.
Did your father work because he had been a member of the Resistance?
Le Thi Ma:
He was forced to do corvée labor...I was still a little girl at the time. My father, during the nine year Resistance, did participate. But after the war, during the Diem period, I was still a young girl and was going to school then. After classes I had to hire out my labor, doing any kind of work at all, in order to help my parents out and to help feed my family. We were very poor at that time. At that time the general treatment by the Diem regime of the population, my family included, was bad. They forced the people to do corvée labor, building roads for them. This was the type of treatment by the Diem regime towards the inhabitants of Cu Chi.
614, on the end

Combat in the Cedar Falls Operation

Could you please begin again?
Le Thi Ma:
During the Cedar Falls search and destroy operations, the Americans sent in their tanks and armored vehicles to destroy this area. The technique employed by the inhabitants of Cu Chi was to use unexploded American bombs we unscrewed the detonators first of all, used a saw to cut the bombs in halves, scraped the powder into two large cauldrons bigger than this one here, melted the powder down into a thick liquid, poured the thick substance into a container like this one until it is completely filled, then we made a detonator and inserted it here, and then placed these mines along the routes we knew the tanks were going to take.
When the tanks ran by, they would hit this thing here and cause the mine to explode, causing them to turn over and become demobilized. So the technique was to use unexploded American bombs and American gunpowder against them. So, in preparing for the battle, we made use of these mines. When the Americans poured in their troops, bombs and artillery shells softened the whole area first. The bombers and the artillery poured down bombs and shells like rain. Along the Song Be, or the Saigon River, the enemy used boats to bring in their troops.
When the troops swept into the village, they began to destroy, to burn down all the houses, to raze the orchards, and then to herd the population into a certain area. As for the guerrilla fighters, they went down into the tunnels in order to avoid the bombs and to fight the Americans at the same time. After that, they relocated the entire population to Thu Dau Mot, which used to be called Binh Duong and which is a part of the present Song be province.
They relocated the people into their strategic hamlets. Only the guerrilla fighters stuck it out by living in the tunnels. At that time, when they were herding the population, bombing and shelling the area, and shooting wildly, a number of civilians died. But I don't know how many died. There had to be civilians killed because these people were frightened and ran out into the open and the American troops who came ashore from the boats shot and killed a number of them. Those who remained in the area had to live in the tunnels to cling on to the enemy and fight them with explosive devices like this and with grenades.
These people followed the Americans closely and then threw the explosives and grenades at them. The guerrilla fighters also used rifles to shoot at the enemy. We would take pot shots at them. There were so many ways to fight. If you could not fight pitched battle then you can fight them in small ways, killing a couple of guys at a time. During this search and destroy operation, they relocated the entire population and stationed their troops here for twenty days. This was from January 7 when they first poured in their troops and then occupied this place for twenty days.
After they had removed the population, they used tanks to bulldoze the whole area clean. This is to say, they plowed everything to the ground. Everything was razed. Nothing was left on the ground. After the operation, the population which had been removed, started to come back to their old land. This was twenty days after the start of the operation and just about the time the enemy troops were with drawing from the area. Those of us who remained behind, stayed in the tunnels. We did not have any food supply then.
We had to dig manioc to eat. Sometimes we cooked this root, but most of the time we had to eat it raw. We also had to eat leaves in order to survive during those twenty days. After the enemy withdrew from the area we still clung on to the area but we lived in the tunnels. We dug a square shelter which looked that the one over there and placed logs above it and covered it completely.
We placed boards at the bottom of the shelter and lived down there in order to avoid bomb and artillery shells when the enemy troops were not around. We also dug tunnels leading away from the shelters so that when the enemy troops came we could run out of there. This was both to evade the enemy and to fight them. When the enemy poured in their troops we would try to evade them and getting into the tunnels. But when we knew for sure where they were going to put down their camps, we would then cling to them and attack them. There were several ways to attack them by mines and by grenades.

The resistance's mine warfare

616 TAKE I
Please go ahead and describe it.
Le Thi Ma:
The way to make this mine was like this: There were unexploded American bombs. We took out the detonators by unscrewing them from the bombs round here. We had a special team which we called the "workshop" section which specialized in doing this. We then sawed the bomb in halves and used sticks to scrape off the gunpowder into two cauldrons or pots. We then melted the substance down by stirring it with a stick like this. When the substance thickened, we poured it into this container here at the base until it get completely filled.
We then closed the container and allowed the substance to congeal and harden. Each device like this weighed about five kilograms. After it hardened, we then made charges like this and placed them here. When the tanks were coming, we would go out there to see where the tanks might be rolling in and place these devices along that route like this, camouflaging them with leaves. When the tanks rolled over these devices, the weight of the tank would knock out this cone here and cause the device to explode. The amphibious tanks would then explode along with it.
Was there any battle in which you fought with the Americans personally?
Le Thi Ma:
There was a battle which I was personally involved in fighting the Americans. It was under the tunnel. At that time there were foxholes constructed down there. We lay down there in the foxholes. And when we heard the coming of the Americans, we would place a mine... For example, the foxhole is here. We dug a hole so many meters long from the foxhole to the high way. Then we would attach a wire to the mine, which was several meters away. In our foxhole in the tunnel there was a hole through which we could see the Americans march by. When the Americans got to where the mine was, we put the wire to a battery and caused the mine to explode, killing the enemy. This was how we fought from the foxholes in the tunnels.