Interview with Nguyen Van Tung by Don North
I had been at the Mekahn[My Cahn] Restaurant that Tung was talking about in his broadcast. The Mekahn [My Cahn] was a floating restaurant tied up on the Mekong River dockside in Saigon. The bomb went off about ten o'clock when it was full of customers, many of them Americans. A Claymore mine tied to a tree was detonated three minutes later aimed at the survivors of the first bomb as they clambered down the gangplank toward shore. I arrived about 45 minutes after the blast, just in time to see 40 mangled bodies being loaded into ambulances and the Saigon Fire Department washing rivers of blood off the sidewalk with fire hoses. Yes, Hanoi Hannah and her partner Nguyen Van Tung often knew how to invoke the images of war most painful to American in Vietnam."
The combination of his Peter Lorre delivery and the fact he hit the right buttons for me at the time in his psy-war commentary made him an enigma for twenty-five years. He didn't sound Vietnamese and many of the Special Forces Team listening that night guessed he was a turncoat Frenchman affecting an Oxford accent. I was to hear him many times during the course of the war, but never as clear as that night in An Lac and never with the same impact as that first broadcast.
I played the tape in Hanoi. They recognized his voice. Nguyen Van Tung was retired but known to be living in Hanoi. An address was found and I set off with my cyclo driver on a Sunday afternoon to face another voice from my past. If i had been a man from Mars dropping in for tea, Nguyen Van Tung would not have been more surprised. He turned up his hearing aid and I played the tape of his broadcast heard in An Lac 25 years ago. Do you remember making that broadcast? I inquired. "Yes, of course, I was an announcer at Radio Hanoi. We made special programs for American GI's, he replied in his carefully enunciated style."
Have you ever met any of your American listeners before? "No, sorry but I have not. It is a great pleasure to meet you here in Hanoi." His eyes glistened with tears. Who wouldn't wonder at a foreign stranger, an American in Hanoi, walking in playing back your words from a night broadcast 25 years in the past?
Nguyen Van Tung is 67 and in good health except for his hearing problems. He lives comfortably in downtown Hanoi with his wife and sons family. From time to time he teaches English to private students. He had studied French and English as a schoolboy in Hanoi and then his father arranged for him to study English at the prestigious St. Johns Boys School in Hong Kong, which explains the Oxford accent fighting against the earlier French.
Nguyen Van Tung remembers well the years when Hanoi was under siege and he broadcast daily to the enemy. Words of conciliation and forgiveness do not come easily to the old wordsmith who used to hector the American enemy daily during more than ten years of war.
Tung: "I escaped death many times in Hanoi...the planes, the bombs...the house next door to me was bombed out...even a room on my house was blown down. But my family escaped because they were out of town.
Don: "Mr. Tung, what would you say if you had the chance to broadcast again this night to American troops. Go ahead, say what you want."
Tung: "We were fighting for a just cause. All people want to be free and independent and to what they like. We know your history, Washington, Lincoln... great men. But those following them, well, we distinguish clearly between the American people and those who made the war. There is no reason the Vietnamese people and America can't be good friends. Our government changed policy and we are now glad to have friends cooperate in mutual understanding and benefit. However, the U.S. government has a responsibility to heal the wounds of war. We didn't make that war and I deem it reasonable that the U.S. government reconsider its policy and shake hands with Vietnam. There will be many benefits if we can be friends together on an equal basis. There is no reason to be enemies, the world should be in peace and we should enjoy our lives."