A South Vietnamese Woman Recalls Her Experience in the Diem Regime

Le Lieu Browne, a Vietnamese woman educated in France and married to an American journalist, recalls her mixed feelings about her experience working for the Diem regime.

I grew up in Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta, which was reputed to be a stronghold of Communist sympathizers. The French controlled big towns while the Viet Minh controlled the countryside. When the French tried to occupy Ben Tre with their legionnaires and Moroccans and Nigerans they were brutal. But so were the Viet Minh. If they found civil servants or "progovernment elements" they took them away and we never heard from them again….

About half the students in my high school were pro-Viet Minh. They organized demonstrations and strikes which constantly closed down the school. My mother worried about our education and decided to send me, along with my twin brothers, to France….

When I returned in 1959 I worked for the Ministry of Information….I worked there for three years but I wasn't happy and wanted to get out….I strongly believed in freedom and suddenly we were ordered to wear uniforms to work and go to political meetings. It sounded to me more like Communism than democracy….

After the coup against Diem, the military generals competed with one another to take power and there was one coup after another. These Vietnamese generals had no experience in administration. They were even more corrupt than Diem…It wasn't good to have generals as presidents. They gave me no hope. But the American buildup also left me skeptical. If the French who colonized our country for a century could not win our support, how could the Americans, the newcomers with a different culture and language, hope to win the war against the Communists? We seemed to return to the situation in the fifties in which the government controlled the cities and the Viet Cong controlled the countryside. Corruption and police harassment made people distrust the government and sympathize more with the Viet Cong. But still I didn't think the Viet Cong would win. I just thought that the war would go on forever.

Focus Questions

Why was Browne educated in France?

Why did Browne change from supporting to opposing the Diem regime?

According to Browne, what challenges did Americans face in trying to defeat Vietnamese communists?

Source | Christian G. Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides (New York: Penguin Books, 2003), 72-75.
Interviewer | Christian G. Appy
Interviewee | Le Lieu Browne
Rights | Used by permission of Chris Appy. For on-line information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see the Internet website at: http://www.penguin.com.
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | “A South Vietnamese Woman Recalls Her Experience in the Diem Regime,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 23, 2014, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/958.