Nguyen Thi Tham
“I joined Biet Dong, the resistance force in the cities of the south, in 1966 when I was 16. As a cover, I worked in Da Nang as a housekeeper for a family that owned a construction business. I cleaned the house and took care of the children. But my real mission was to dig bunkers in safe houses to hide weapons I smuggled in along with other girls in Biet Dong. We guided soldiers into Da Nang and found bunkers for them to hide in. The family I was housekeeper for did not know of my work for Biet Dong. After a year I had to tell them the truth: that I had joined the army to fight for liberation. They had suspected something was wrong, with so many people coming and going all the time. I asked them to support my mission and they agreed.
Before Tet in 1968, the police suspected me and I was arrested on the street and held for 15 days. They questioned me but I told them I was just a housekeeper and didn’t say anything about my real work. I was tortured but told them nothing.
On the morning of December 26, 1968, I was at the house of Mother Nhu in a bunker under the floor. A spy had denounced Mother Nhu and police surrounded her house. They broke in, arrested her son and beat him. He didn’t say anything and they took him away. Then they arrested and beat Mother Nhu. She also revealed nothing about her activities for Biet Dong. The police shot her in her home.
I was hiding in the bunker with two other soldiers. We could hear everything that was going on upstairs. After they killed Mother Nhu we burst out of the bunker and threw grenades at the police. Some were killed immediately as we fled the house. There were many police in the area and a helicopter overhead told us to surrender. The police shot tear gas to try to capture us but we fired our weapons at them. American soldiers began to chase us too.
While we were running, one of my comrades was badly wounded. We tried to carry him but he said he couldn’t move. He asked for two grenades and we left him. As the police and soldiers approached he detonated the grenades killing himself and several soldiers.
The whole area was surrounded—they wanted to capture us alive. As it grew dark, I covered myself head to toe in mud and leaves. My hair was long then and disturbed me while I was fleeing so I cut it off with a knife that I found in someone’s abandoned home. A few pieces of shrapnel from an M79 grenade landed nearby and struck me in the head and rear end. I used mud to stop the bleeding. Along with my remaining comrade I crawled slowly on the road to the cemetery. Soldiers ran right by but didn’t notice us. It took from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. the next day to escape.”