A group of veterans who served the Vietnamese revolution until national liberation in 1975 lightened up while recalling their time working in the forests with innocence and pleasure.

Today, hundreds of the veterans join a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on the occasion that the Central Committee Office for South Vietnam – the agency in charge of making policies and planning in the region during war – will be officially awarded the title of Hero of the People’s Armed Forces.

Replacing the Regional Party Committee of South Vietnam established in 1954, the Central Committee Office for South Vietnam started operations in 1961 and worked until 1975.

It was far too joyful

Veteran Tran Minh Tam

Veteran Tran Minh Tam, who also goes by Quan, smiled broadly many times while recalling the period during which he followed his father and older brothers into the forests to work for the revolutionary movement in the south of Vietnam.

Quan was initially taken to a revolutionary base in the forests in Tay Ninh Province, just 100km from Saigon, when he was 13 years old.

“In the forests, I had just rice and dried fish for daily meals, although sometimes we had wild chickens or animals hunted by soldiers. Once, when I was given a big bowl of meat, I told the other soldiers that it made me far happier than living at home,” Quan said.

After staying there for several days, the base, which accommodated almost 500 people, was relocated to Ma Da, or Base D, in the forests of the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong. Quan began to face challenges as he suffered malaria, painful and strained muscles, and indigestion from the unfamiliar food in the forests.

It took young Quan two months to walk to the new base, he said.

“Soldiers assigned doctors to go with and care for me and treat my diseases. At the time, the Ma Da forest was called ‘the mountainous shelter of all heroes’. I was so proud then.

Army doctor Nguyen Thi Man

“At nights, soldiers organized music shows. They even had a cine-projector to screen Charlie Chaplin films that had been taken from the enemy. I was assigned to keep the device and operate it to entertain soldiers,” Quan added.

“I am still crazy for it now,” he said smiling.

During the talk, the eyes of the veteran still glittered happily while a fresh smile lit up his face upon recalling stories from his time of service.

Another veteran, Tran Quang Duc, was a ‘famed’ artist in the forests for his talent of singing and performing comedy.

“It was so joyful and amusing that I nearly left the base as a typewriter to join a cultural and artistic troupe of the army,” Duc admitted.

Army doctor Nguyen Thi Man agreed that her time in the Tay Ninh base was the happiest period of her life. A common point easily recognized by talking with the veterans is their optimism. It is true that they led difficult and dangerous lives with abundant hardship in the forests, but they had joy and knew how to create happiness in difficulty.

A test of life

By studying a notebook with pages full of diagrams and drawings of electric circuits as well as radio techniques, Quan learned on his own and is now so skilled with electrical systems that he has been invited to give lectures to students.

He said he taught himself in the forests from documents provided by Russia, though he had finished only the third official class before entering the revolutionary bases. After his initial period on the base, Quan worked as a messenger before being assigned to study radio and electricity techniques.

“In the forests, we sometimes faced starvation. But you know, it was easy to find something to eat, and we didn’t go hungry for too long,” he told Tuoi Tre in HCMC recently.

Madame Dang Hong Nhut

Typewriter Duc said that every veteran can still remember their military principles in bases: ‘Absolutely confidential, precise, ready and urgent’.

“Even when I was brutalized by a fit of malaria with both fever and cold, I had to brace myself to be sound in my mind to complete the typewriting,” Duc said.

Madame Dang Hong Nhut, a veteran, recalled that she was the only woman in the Ma Da base, and as a result, “I had to become a nightingale [a singer] because of the tricky circumstance.”

“In the jungle, rain can last for many consecutive days, and all the wet clothes could not dry. So, the men had nothing to wear and I had to alert them of my presence by singing out loud so that they could get out of my sight.”

With her music skills, she later composed the song “Giai Phong Mien Nam” (Liberation of the South) which was selected to become the theme song of Giai Phong (Liberation) Radio.

Source: Tuoi Tre/ VOV