Nguyen Thi Dung
Nguyen Thi Dung joined the revolution in 1949 at the age of 17. Dung joined the Cu Chi District Women's Salvation Association because, being a woman, she decided it was her duty to help liberate women. After the Geneva Agreement in 1954, while others in the resistance were regrouped to the North, Dung was asked to remain in the South and organize in the city. She mobilized demonstrations against taxes and the demolition of homes to build military bases.
In 1959 the National Liberation Front began preparing for armed resistance. Dung traveled back and forth between Sai Gon and the jungle, giving education classes to women and assigning them tasks for the resistance movement. Her comrades gave her the pseudonym Sau Keo, meaning Sixth Candy, because when she returned from the city she always brought back candies. Dung was arrested in March of 1968 when someone informed on her.
Dung suffered constant torture during the first month. "They used all kinds of torture: pouring water down our throats, pounding nails in our fingernails, electric shock. They made me stand on a beam of wood then they hung me and kicked the wood from under my feet. I would just dangle until I was exhausted. They would put me down and give me a little massage just to keep me alive." Dung was among a group of women prisoners sent to Con Dao Prison in 1969. She was released in March 1974.
We discovered Dung through a photograph of women prisoners exhibited at the Women's Museum in Sai Gon. A friend recognized Dung's mug shot and arranged the interview. Initially we thought the mug shots were taken after the prisoners had been tortured to death. But Dung told us why they appear deathlike in the photos: “When we went to trial, they could not figure out who we were from the photographs taken of us when we were arrested. It was hard to recognize me in the crowd of prisoners, so they had to take individual pictures of us. We decided to protest. The guards took photos of us with them behind us making us straighten up. We closed our eyes, some opened their mouths and some scrunched up their faces so the photos could not identify us.”