Nguyen Thi Hong Phan
Nguyen Thi Hong Phan was a member of an all-women's brigade of the National Liberation Front. Phan was born in 1949 to a poor peasant family just outside Hue: "Half of the area belonged to the other side and half belonged to our side. I joined the revolution when I was very young. During the day I worked in the fields and at night I joined the guerrillas."
Phan says she joined the revolutionaries because she witnessed the brutality of the ARVNs (the South Vietnamese army that was allied with the U.S.). Her first assignments from the guerrillas were to collect news in the village. She did her job well and they decided to keep her operating in the village. Phan was arrested twice for her revolutionary activities. She was beaten and tortured, and each time she had to leave her village. "During Tet of 1968 I decided to go back to my village to visit and celebrate the New Year with my family. That was during a big operation of the National Liberation Front (the 1968 Tet Offensive) and I had a chance to meet with the leadership and soldiers on our side. I decided then to join the Army."
The all-women's unit was founded in the spring of 1968. Only four of the original eleven members of the unit survived the war. The unit was sent to the jungle where they learned military strategy and politics. Phan says it was unusual for an all-female brigade to be trained as an offensive unit. She carried an AK-47 weapon which she says was "suitable and convenient for women."
"As women we suffered more. We only received one set of regular clothes each year, not even military clothes. It was very difficult for us to walk in the jungle with such clothes. No rice, no soap, nothing. We were chased by B-52 bombings and we lost a lot of comrades. We had head lice and we suffered from malaria. I almost died because of a lack of salt. I was lucky to survive."