Vietnam post war stories | Family stories.

Reflections.

“The last of America’s military forces in South Vietnam boarded crowded boats and aircraft in a desperate bid to evacuate the nation on April 30, 1975. North Vietnamese tanks smashed through the gates of Saigon’s Presidential Palace on the same day.

The palace served as the seat of the South Vietnamese administration, which was backed by the US and opposed by the North Vietnamese. South Vietnam’s president assured North Vietnamese officers that he was ready to hand up authority when they entered the palace. “You can’t give up something you don’t have,” they allegedly said.”

The consequences.

The cost of the conflict was enormous. Bombing and landmines wreaked havoc on the country’s infrastructure, while poisonous agents like Agent Orange devastated areas of the country’s normally verdant terrain. Two million civilians and 1.3 million Vietnamese soldiers died as a result of the conflict.

The majority of these soldiers were killed while fighting for or with North Vietnam. Despite the defeats suffered by North Vietnam, its government and friends in the south had reason to rejoice.

According to historian Christopher Goscha, they had “prevailed against all odds,” first defeating the French in a violent decolonization battle, then defeating the Americans in one of the most savage conflicts of the Cold War.”

 

Life After the War.

Life after the war was very difficult for many people, especially the southerners who had helped the Americans. The North enforced strict measures on the southern capital and quickly stopped any alternative ways of thinking.

According to the Paris peace accords North and South would work together to reunite the country in a constructive and non-threatening way.

The National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord will organize the free and democratic general elections provided for in Article 9 (b) and decide the procedures and modalities of these general elections.

The institutions for which the general elections are to be held will be agreed upon through consultations between the two South Vietnamese parties. The National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord will also decide the procedures and modalities of such local elections as the two South Vietnamese parties agree upon. Source: Read more at; Treaties.UN.org

Did it happen.

No, It did not, and I am going to share some personal stories from my Vietnamese family about their view on what happened after re-unification. Obviously I will not be using names as this is still a communist country and all must obey.

Short stories.

I have been living in Vietnam for fifteen years and am married to a Vietnamese lady and she and her family have shared these memories with me over the years. If you thought your upbringing was tough, the post war years were not easy for the Vietnamese. Doubly so for the Southerners.

Ho Chi Minh

Living with the enemy.

My Grandmother in law was once a very rich lady. She owned two properties and made a considerable amount of money by renting out rooms to the Americans throughout the war. She could speak English fluently and was well liked for her no nonsense attitude. There was no “hanky-panky” happening anywhere in her house. So she was respected and well-loved.

She also contributed to the community by providing rice and vegetables to her neighbors’. The love and respect from the local neighborhood was well-deserved. She lived through the events of 1975 as she was living in Saigon at that time. It is the one thing she will not talk about.

I have heard stories and read books about what happened through those days and it is pure luck she survived. I will tell you my favorite books later.

Betrayal.

Like people everywhere the locals wanted to “buddy up” to the new regime and started pointing fingers to those that supposedly helped the Americans. And even though she had helped so many, she was accused of aiding and abetting with the Americans. She was stripped of her property and, although she luckily did not have to go into a re-education camp, lost all her assets.

The story between then and now is best related in the next story about my wife as a child growing up in post-war Vietnam.

When I first met my wife to be, she took me “home’ to her mothers “house”. It was a three roomed concrete square with one room being a toilet. I will not and can not talk about the politics behind this but I was shocked.

The good news is that she is now living a comfortable life in a 3 story villa and is very contented. She is surrounded by her family and loved by all. She is a very special lady.

Surviving with ghosts.

“Ma” in Vietnamese means ghost. It is pronounced in a mid level tone ( Thanh Ngang ). It sounds like car. The Vietnamese have a very strong aversion to ghosts. It has been known for people to leave their houses and rental properties under the belief that it is haunted by a spirit. With what has happened in this country who am I to disagree.

My wifes’ story fills the gap between what happened to her Mother and where they were when we first met. Here we go.

Short story number two.

I first met my wife, to be, in a restaurant, she was the cashier. A position of trust in Vietnam. It took me a long time to “woo” her over and even longer until she started to share her stories about growing up in post-war Vietnam. She has agreed that I can share these edited versions of her life.

Post war Vietnam was very hard and probably even more so for that generation of children. They did not get much chance to be only children. They had to grow up very quickly and make money for the family to survive.

Com ( pseudonym: means rice in Vietnamese) had to start work at 7 years old while still attending school in the mornings. If you wanted to learn in the afternoon you had to pay. Her family could not afford that.

Small Snippets

These are snippets from what we have talked about. If I get comments saying you like this I will expand on this content.

  • Not many people had TV’s then and you had to pay 20cents to watch a neighbors’ television for 1 hour.
  • People used the insides of bamboo groves for a toilet, you had to make sure nobody had been there first.
  • Com used to bicycle for 1 hour to go to work when she was 11 and cook for 50 people.
  • Com used to run home at night because she was scared of “ma” and men.
  • There were no doors or windows on my house.
  • My father would hit me if I didn’t buy him drugs.
  • I had to work in the country away from my family

So if you want to find out more please leave a comment or visit my website. This is not about teaching in Vietnam, but it is one of the many experiences you will encounter in this amazing country.

My Favorite books about post-war Vietnam are;

“Perfect Spy” The incredible double life of Pham Xuan An. Written by Larry Berman and quoted as “an extraordinary read” by the Washington Post Book World. Kindle $8.99; Paperback $12.99

Buy it  ==> HERE <==

“The Headmasters Wager”. Written by Vincent Lam and quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle as ” Lam entertains and educates with fluidity and style, and that just might be a miraculous cure of the literary kind”

Paperback. $26.85

Buy it  ==> HERE <==

But please don’t expect sunshine and roses, this is “nitty gritty’ stuff that will make you think and keep you enthralled at the same time.

Final Thoughts.

All wars are ugly and it is the people who suffer, the soldiers, the civilians but never the politicians. Lets’ send them next time.

If you have enjoyed this or even made you think leave a comment and I will answer.

Stephen.

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Please support my website as I am trying to help those suffering in Vietnam due to the covid outbreak. We have had close on 300,000 infected in Ho Chi Minh City alone. In my “hem” ( small street) one person has died and we have one family who are all infected. The Government, I am sure, is trying to do the best they can. But the money promised to the Vietnamese is not being handed out. It tends to get to the local authorities and not much further. So with your support I can help a little. Thank you for looking. And blessings if you can help.

 

This is not my normal type of post as I try to keep my content related to teaching EFL or ESL in Vietnam, but these posts give you a bit more understanding of the culture. If you want to find out more about Vietnamese culture please visit my Website.

Peace and Love to all.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Vietnam post war stories | Family stories.”

  1. Wow, I believe your post is fantastic, and I thoroughly loved reading about Vietnamese culture. All wars are nasty, as you correctly stated, and if possible, we should send politicians the next time there is a war. Every post-war situation, such as the one in Vietnam, has the effect of forcing children to grow up rapidly and earn money in order for the family to survive.

    Reply
    • Thanks Lionel, Yes war is an ugly thing and it affects people for a long time afterwards as well. Both the combatants and the civilians. Thanks for the comments.

      Stephen

      Reply
  2. This post is terrific and timely. Although the content is sad, it is very thought-provoking, especially in the times we are living, when we are seeing an interesting, albeit horrifying, parallel between post-war Vietnam and post-war Afghanistan.  

    It is hard to be so far away from people who need so much help and to have very little ability to really do anything worthwhile.  Reading posts like this makes you really appreciate the things you have in life and, hopefully, makes some people realize they may not actually need all the things they do possess.  Maybe people can start to give that extra ‘excess stuff’ to people who could really use the help.  

    I really enjoyed reading the personal short stories and hope you will continue writing them.  All of your highlights would be very interesting to read in long form.  

    I will also check out these book recommendations. 

    Thanks again and prayers are with you and your hem.

    Reply
    • Thank you Ashley for your kind comments and prayers. I think you would find the books very enjoyable, they certainly made me think. And, yes, I will be expanding on those stories as well. You might be interested in my latest post that is written by my students and their feelings about technology and the future. You can find it here.

      Vietnamese Student Stories | The Future. | (vietnamesl.com)

      I am happy you enjoyed my short read. Although a bit sad it does show what life is and has been like for the people of Vietnam. Thanks again.

      Reply

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