Known as VC
Like two blows from a hammer,
Spinning me ’round and ’round,
Both fires fierce, in my body,
Lying face down on the ground.
Then, as I crawl to a tree,
Clutch at the pain in my chest,
My life flicks fast before me,
Ahead, eternity’s long rest.
As a young boy, I rode bareback,
On a plough without wheels;
My family toiling nearby,
Planting rice in our fields.
Brothers, sisters and Ma-ma,
I can see clearly her face;
Lined, drained but still lovely,
A few miles from this place.
Comrade bearing grave message,
She’ll again have to mourn;
First a father, then husband,
Now it’s her eldest, who’s gone.
Grandpapa was cut down,
Fighting the French in Tonkin;
A ‘tiger cage’ for Papa,
A guerrilla Viet Minh.
And that girl in my village,
I’ll not see her, any more,
Nor enjoy what we’d planned,
At the close of this war.
Those dreams that we’d shared,
Of when she’d be my wife,
Will have to wait till we meet up,
In some here-after life.
Inflamed passion, from the cadre,
I remember clearly that night,
Huddled ’round crude oil lanterns,
Discussing this upcoming fight.
’Twas now time to remove them,
Foreign troops from Phuoc Tuy;
I’d gladly joined this new cause,
Becoming known as VC.
* * *
Our jungle bases set up,
On Nui Thi Vai and Long Hai;
In cells of three we’d move out,
Most nights to ambush or spy.
Our religion as Buddhists,
Prepared us well for extremes;
Better to die than to live,
Under any brutal regimes.
To avoid fire from the sky,
On time and stealth, we relied;
In caves in the mountains,
And tunnel systems we’d hide.
Where days turned to nights,
And there wasn’t much room,
In fear of surroundings being bombed,
And so becoming our tomb.
All supplies hidden or buried,
Scrounging whatever we found;
Setting up deadly devices,
Like punji stakes in the ground.
Living off land known well,
Using skills learned as a boy,
‘Hit and run’ searching patrols,
Of these famed Uc-dai-loi.
Trapping fish in the rivers,
Picked wild fruit from the trees;
Friendly donations of rice,
Often embellished with these.
Small clearings in the jungle,
Where we grew a few crops,
Built crude palm huts for shelter,
Used during overnight stops.
To finance operations,
We had to tax for support,
And be tortured and ‘re-trained’,
By the ARVN if caught.
Re-take Nui Dat, ’twas our plan,
Then our land would be free;
Harassing as guerrillas,
We were known as VC.
* * *
Probing and sniping, our task,
Soon the war would be won;
Check out their camp ‘round that hill,
Locate pit for each Gun.
Along with all in my regiment,
And those in the 274th,
Well-armed with AK.47s,
From our comrades up north.
Supplies had been carried here,
Some by ox-carts, overland,
2,000 assembled this August,
Just north of Long Tan.
A bait set, when we mortared,
Their grid reference on our map;
Retreating to this plantation,
Luring them back, to our trap.
’Twas an old tactical ploy,
Requiring cunning and dare;
Entice the lion from its mountain,
And those ‘tigers’ from their lair.
That plan had worked well,
Drawing out a company patrol;
Heading east to this ambush,
Surrounding them, ’twas our goal.
And I can now see their faces,
As they advance towards me;
Lead scout aims rifle, once more,
As he goes down on one knee.
Smoke plume floating, like a mist,
Slow motion scenes, one by one;
Invisible force at high speed,
Propelled at me from that gun.
Oh how the pain hurts, yet no sound,
Before the bullet rips through;
Only mere seconds remain,
My skin’s a grey shade of blue.
As life drains from my body,
Propped against this rubber tree,
I see green blurs chasing comrades,
Who were known as VC.
Known as VC
VC prisoner after the Battle of Long Tan
(courtesy Army Public Relations & AWM)
The Vietnamese Communists (VC ) operated in South Vietnam between 1960-1975 as the military wing of the National Liberation Front (NLF). This latter body was intent on the overthrow of the autocratic regime that had been set up in Saigon after the 1954 Geneva Convention, which had temporarily divided the country into North and South. The Viet Cong saw themselves as the inheritors of the role carried out by the victorious but then disbanded Viet Minh who had fought the French occupation of Indochina throughout 1945-1954.
Being an outlawed organisation and lacking the economic backing that the South Vietnamese forces (ARVN) enjoyed via the ‘generosity’ of their allies, the Viet Cong waged a prolonged war of attrition by operating from bases deep in the jungles, using mountain hides, caves and tunnels. They had widespread support from the peasant rural population and supplemented their existence by living off the land, taxing the locals, initially using make-shift weaponry and liaising with the North for armaments, food and medical supplies. These were brought to them overland via the Ho Chi Minh Trail and by a sea route from Hanoi around to ports in Cambodia and isolated coves along the South Vietnamese coast.
Militarily, the VC often operated independently but also at times in conjunction with the North Vietnamese forces (PAVN or NVA). In 1975, the Communists claimed victory and united the country into one Vietnam. Credit for the victory was given to the NVA forces, the VC having been marginalised and absorbed. The NLF, as a political force, was purged and reduced to an impotent rump of no consequence by those then in power from North Vietnam.
This poem attempts to give an insight into the life of a Viet Cong soldier operating in Phuoc Tuy Province back in 1966.
“If I were a lad of 18 faced with the same choice - whether to support
the [corrupt] ARVN or the NLF - and a member of a rural community
[being exploited], I would surely choose the NLF!”
- John Paul Vann (U.S. Lt. Colonel), 1965 in Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie, 1989.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man!
And those who have hunted armed men never care for anything else thereafter!”
- Ernest Hemmingway.
“Officially we [Hanoi and the NLF] were separate but in fact we were the same
thing ... a single party; a single government; a single capital; a single country!”
- Huynh Tan Phat (Secretary-General of NLF), in Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie, 1989.