|THE TET OFFENSIVE, MY STORY
|Bác-Sỹ NGUYEN LE HIEU
Historians deal with historical facts day in and day out. Sometimes they even tie their personal life events to current ones. On the other hand,
at the national level, one can also ask an odd question: how well do we remember events of the past? For example, what were you doing exactly
at 12:30 p.m. on Nov 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated? A non-scientific study carried out in 1983-that is 20 years after the
tragedy-shows that the majority of people asked could give a precise answer. The same non-scientific survey repeated in 2003, 40 years after
the assassination, shows that only 30% could answer the question. Among seniors who were 40 years and older when the event occurred, and who
were then in their 80's, several did not remember or did not care to remember.
On the other end of the age-spectrum, the younger-than-40 replied: "I was not born yet." In the same line of thought, let us entertain another
question: "What did you see happening during the Tết offensive?" Many would say: "I was not there" or "I was not born yet." So events
sometimes need to be recalled and retold for future generations. This essay is a piece of oral history, in which I will quickly review the
chain of events in my lifetime up to the Tết Offensive; I will also touch on the effect of the media on my reaction to and feelings
about Tết Mậu-thân 1968; and how the same event was reported differently in different places. This is my personal story,
so let us start from the beginning.
I was born in the 1930's, a child of a colonized country. French Indochina was then organized into 5 "countries:" Tonkin, Annam, Cochin-china,
Cambodia and Laos. My father shared a similar status when he was born at the turn of the century. Some 20 years before, France had imposed
the Protectorate Accord in 1883 after the atrocious battle of Thuận-an. Conscious of our status of colonized people, in our family,
we cultivated our identity by studying Vietnamese humanities and history. We children were encouraged to read two books that were readily
available in the house. One was the Tale of Kiều, the national masterpiece of literature. It is the story of a beautiful and talented
young girl who met her lover on a spring afternoon. Unfortunately soon after, she had to give up this lovely happiness and to sell herself in
order to raise money to save her father from prison.
| Please read the rest of the story in THE SORROWS OF WAR AND PEACE.