We called her Hanoi Hannah. She called herself Thu Houng, the fragrance of autumn. But her job was to chill and frighten, not to charm and seduce. (Hanoi Hannah, 16 June 1967)
The wartime words of Hanoi Hannah, part of the loud soundtrack for the Vietnam War. It may have been the first war fought to a rock n’ roll background, but for American GIs, along with the beat came the message: disinformation from the enemy in Hanoi and misinformation from the US Army in Saigon. Even so, radio brought music and messages with a familiar sound to soldiers who thought the war was the end of the earth, and to many it didn’t matter who was broadcasting; Radio Hanoi or US Armed Forces Radio.
It was my first return to Vietnam since the war and mixed into the list of economists, generals and journalists I asked to inter\ view was Thu Houng, the lady we knew as Hanoi Hannah. The meeting was arranged. We would meet on the roof cafe of the Rex Hotel in Ho Ville for coffee at ten.
As an ABC News correspondent during the war I tuned into her broadcasts regularly. Like attending the five o’clock follies (USMACV’s daily briefing) Radio Hanois broadcasts in English were just another source of information or disinformation to be checked out and sorted in the communications pudding of the Vietnam war. Some days on Radio Hanoi you just might hear useful information like a message from a US POW or the first hint of a policy shift in Hanois Politburo, but mostly it was highly exaggerated reports of the war and curious messages to American GIs from Hanoi Hannah. Not much news worth reporting.
“American GIs don’t fight this unjust immoral and illegal war of Johnson’s. Get out of Vietnam now and alive. This is the voice of Vietnam Broadcasting from Hanoi, capitol of the Democratic republic of Vietnam. Our program for American GI’s can be heard at 1630 hours. Now here’s Connie Francis singing “I Almost Lost My Mind.” (Hanoi Hannah, 12 August 1967)
In Vietnam you habitually tuned into whatever newscasts your transistor radio would pick up. It was reassuring to know that you were not missing a big offensive somewhere in the next Province and that you could spend another few days on that elusive pacification story in Xuan Loc. BBC was the first choice for radio news and most reliable, but often hard to pick up. On US Armed Forces Radio even a major battle could sound like a minor skirmish if it didn’t favor US or ARVN forces, but you learned to read between the lines of their newscasts.
Sometimes you would hear your own TV or radio reports from Stateside broadcasts, picked up and rebroadcast over US Armed Forces Radio, as long as they didn’t mention American setbacks or were critical of Washington policy.
Radio Hanoi could be heard in most areas of South Vietnam, particularly at night and I would often join groups of American GIs around 10:30pm having a few beers before bed and setting the dial for Hanoi Hannah for a few laughs.
The GI’s radio was, after his rifle, his most valued possession. Like his rifle butt, the radio was usually wrapped in frayed black tape for protection. GIs would laugh and hoot over Hannah’s attempts to scare them into going home or her suggestions to frag an officer. If their unit was mentioned a great cheer went up and they pelted the radio with empty beer cans.
We would ask each other how the hell she could know what she did. Inevitably, the stories of her insights and military intelli- gence grew with each telling and she was often credited with broadcasting Viet Cong offensives in advance and within hours of battle knowing the names and hometowns of dead American soldiers. “Now for the War News. American casualties in Vietnam. Army Corporal Larry J. Samples, Canada, Alabama.... Staff Sergeant Charles R. Miller, Tucson, Arizona.... Sergeant Frank G. Hererra, Coolidge, Arizona....” (Hanoi Hannah, September 15, 1967)
Other Reasons for AFVN -- Hanoi Hannah and Ngyuen Van Tung --
Taken from an article by Don North, ABC Corespondent and published in "Vietnam Generation," Vol 3, No. 3, November 1991.