Vietnamese Women at War
Fighting for Ho Chi Minh and the Revolution
Sandra C. Taylor
For as long as the Vietnamese people fought against foreign enemies, women were a vital part of that struggle. The victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu is said to have involved hundreds of thousands of women, and many of the names in Viet Cong unit rosters were female. These women were living out the ancient saying of their country, "When war comes, even women have to fight."
Women from Hanoi and the countryside fought alongside their male counterparts in both the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese military in their wars against the South Vietnamese government and its French and American allies from 1945 to 1975. Sandra Taylor now draws on interviews with many of these women and on an array of newly opened archives to illuminate the motivations, experiences, and contributions of these women, presenting not cold facts but real people.
“Taylor greatly enhances our understanding of the contributions of Vietnam’s women, providing vivid accounts of training, deployment, strategy and tactics, propaganda activities, support services, imprisonment and torture, and other aspects of their involvement in the war. Recommended for all levels.”
“From the ‘long-haired army’ that carried provisions through the jungles at Dien Bien Phu to the female ‘tunnel rats’ at Cu Chi in the South, women were the unsung heroes of Vietnam’s war of national liberation. Here, in this sympathetic and sometimes gripping account, is their untold story. Recommended.”
—William J. Duiker, author of Sacred War: Nationalism and Revolution in a Divided Vietnam
“It was common knowledge among American soldiers in Vietnam that women were sometimes brave and even ferocious fighters for the North. Now at last in Sandra Taylor’s fascinating Vietnamese Women at War this story has been told in depth. This book is a necessary piece in the complex puzzle of the Vietnam War.”
—Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
“I am pleased to see more voices from Vietnamese women telling their own stories. As Sandra Taylor reveals, we don’t see ourselves as victims but rather as victors and survivors, following in the footsteps of our ancestors and honoring a tradition that is 4,000 years old.”
—Le Ly Hayslip, author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace
“A thorough and thought-provoking account of one of the least-known chapters of the Viet Nam War. Taylor’s study of the ‘long haired warriors’ is an essential introduction for students and promises to set the standard for years to come.”
—Robert Brigham, author of The NLF’s Foreign Relations and the Vietnam War
“A very valuable book for courses on the Vietnam War and in women’s studies.”
—Marilyn B. Young, author of The Vietnam War, 1945–1990See fewer reviews...
These women were the wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of men recruited into military service; and because the war lasted so long, women from more than one generation of the same family often participated in the struggle. Some learned to fire weapons and lay traps, or to serve as village patrol guards and intelligence agents; others were propagandists and recruiters or helped keep the supply lines flowing.
Taylor relates how this war for liberation from foreign oppressors also liberated Vietnamese women from centuries of Confucian influence that had made them second-class citizens. She reveals that communism's promise of freedom from those strictures influenced their involvement in the war, and also shares the irony that their sex gave them an advantage in battle or subterfuge over Western opponents blinded by gender stereotypes.
As their country continues to modernize, Vietnamese Women at War preserves these women's stories while they remain alive and before the war fades from memory. By showing that they were not victims of war but active participants, it offers a wholly unique perspective on that conflict. It is a rare study which reveals much about gender roles and cultural differences and reminds us of the ever-present human dimension of war.