Viet Mother Tells of Life in VC Hamlet
By PFC. Yung Keun Kim
S & S Staff Correspondent
TUY HOA, Vietnam -- "Yes, that's the first apple I have eaten in my life," said Tran Thi Ngoi, 40.
Ngoi is one of the prisoners captured by Korean troops during their latest operation, "Eagle 70-1."
"I don't think now that VC in the mountains will win the fighting. I like it here better than in the mountains," said Ngoi, nursing her two-month old baby wrapped up with a big Korean towel.
Her first husband died from pneumonia ten years ago, and she moved into the Vinh Xuan VC hamlet, located in deep jungle, with her second husband, who is a VC radio operator.
There were seven VC families in the hamlet before Korean infantrymen came, she said. Everybody ran away but Ngoi and her baby.
When Korean soldiers reached the hamlet, only a tiny baby was waiting for them in a cradle hung below the ceiling.
Figuring that its mother would be around somewhere, Korean soldiers made the baby cry.
Mrs. Ngoi ran out of a bush toward her baby and embraced it. One Korean soldier ran and captured her, according to a Korean officer here.
Ngoi was immediately helicoptered into a Korean POW camp near the 28th Regt., ROK White Horse Div.
When an apple was given to her, she didn't know what it was, and started biting from the stem of the apple, according to a Korean officer.
She was getting medical treatment for malaria and the first stage of pneumonia.
Ngoi said that everybody in her hamlet had regular classes once or twice a month and had been taught that "all Allied troops will withdraw from Vietnam this year" because of strong protest against the war at home.
Ngoi also said that the instructor, the VC hamlet chief, had taught them that Vietnam will be under the control of the VC next year.
"But I think that most of them are tired and don't like to live in the mountains," said Ngoi.
Ngoi said that she thought most VC would rather defect than live in the mountains, but are prevented from doing so by fear. She said they are afraid of being spotted and killed by Allied forces if they left their hideouts.
If they were recaptured by VC, they would undergo physical and mental torture, Ngoi said.
Above all, many VC believed Communist propaganda that ralliers to the government were tortured for information and then killed, according to Ngoi.
"I became sure that their propaganda is all lies by living the last few days with Koreans here," said Ngoi.
Ngoi, with her baby, will be handed over to Vietnamese authorities in the near future, according to a Korean officer.