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Tran Luong Remembers a Vietnam War Childhood

Tran Luong was born in Hanoi in 1960. Like most Hanoi children, he was evacuated to the countryside during the war; between 1966 and 1972 he lived in eight different peasant villages. Here he recalls his childhood experience of the war.

There was no real school.  The older people just taught us informally at night underground by the light of a small oil lamp.  A few times, for short periods, I went to school with other children, but we never gathered in large groups during the day.  If you did, bombs would start falling in about fifteen minutes, and in the countryside there were no sirens to warn you or air strikes.  We just ran as soon as we heard the airplanes.  Sometimes the bombs fell just as people were starting to scatter for shelter.  And if you were walking near a factory or the highway you always had to ware a long straw shield over your head and back to protect you from shrapnel.  After bombing strikes we used to collect those little pieces of metal.  They were still hot.

For many years I had a lot of nightmares, but they’ve disappeared.  The most beautiful things still stay in my memory.  You know, children always look for something mystical or romantic.  I’m very thankful I had a chance to live the countryside.  The peasants were extremely kind and honest.  They taught me a lot about Buddhism and traditional Vietnamese culture.  If I’d grown up entirely in the city, I would have missed a priceless experience…

For all the pain I saw in the countryside, I wasn’t terribly frightened.  Adults were worried and scared, but for children wartime could be fun.  When we saw American pilots floating down from the sky, we ran after their colored parachutes.  We could recognize how high they were from the way the light changed as it shone through the parachute.  I don’t remember exactly how we did it, but we could say “Ah, that man is very high.”  But the wind usually carried the parachutes far away.  I ran and ran but I never got there in time to capture an American pilot…

Source | Christian G. Appy, ed., Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (New York: Penguin Books, 2003) 520-521.
Interviewer | Christian G. Appy
Interviewee | Tran Luong
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 | “Tran Luong Remembers a Vietnam War Childhood,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed August 21, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/979.

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