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.

“This work will make a valuable contribution to women’s and military history.

—H-Net Reviews

“This is an important book on the role of women on the Communist side in the Vietnam War, especially the ‘long-haired warriors’—those who actually took up arms against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and U.S. forces. The book fills a niche, as most general histories of the conflict contain little on women and the part they played.

—The Historian
See all 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.

About the Author

Sandra C. Taylor is professor of history at the University of Utah and author of Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series