Hanoi girls taking part in Dien Bien Phu Campaign

Hanoi girls taking part in Dien Bien Phu Campaign

These are the stories of “young ladies” from the Hanoi Capital City, who were ready to leave the lecture theatre and stop their academic activities to join the army and take part in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign. Those young ladies often came from well-off families, in response to the sacred call of the fatherland, without any hesitation and worry, left everything behind: family, peaceful life and bright future to fulfill their lofty duty – taking part in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign.

Who were they? They were white-blouse fighters – nurses in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign who feared no dangers in the fierce battlefields and are historical witnesses in the Exhibition “Memory of Dien Bien”. They are Nguyen Thi Mai Tam; Ngo Thi Tuyet An; Pham Thi Tin, Tran Thi Luat, Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, and Ngo Thi Thai Nghiem, etc.

A common feature of these young women fighters is they were very young, just about 20 years of age and students of the Hanoi Medical University. Their familiar image at that time was: they wore hats covered with camouflage nets on their heads and rubber sandals on their feet and carried a belt-like rice bag around their waist and handbags full of cotton, bandages, medicines and medical equipment on their shoulders with their backpack full of clothing, mosquito net, raincoat, and other personal belongings. During serving the Campaign, although having to travel long distances, they managed to pass many high passes and cross deep streams to catch up with their units. In the daytime, they took shelters in thick jungles and at night they continued their operation, traveling like this for months. Sometimes they had to stop over to provide first aid and surgical services to wounded soldiers. During their operation, women medical fighters also had to encounter personal problems, particularly during their monthly periods. Without having time for personal hygiene and rest, many of them could not walk.

Ms. Ngo Thi Tuyet An, a young lady from Hang Non-Street, Hanoi who was a nurse in Treatment Team 6, was very moved recalling: “We conducted our operation with great hardship, particularly for women during their menstruation. I still remember that during the Hoa Binh Campaign, when crossing a stream, I did not know how to swim and thus had to hold on to a pot for army cooks to push me to the other side”.

Nurse Ngo Thi Tuyet An, Treatment Team 6, taking a photo with General Vo Nguyen Giap  
 For Nurse Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, 20, a university student from Hanoi became a woman commissar of Treatment Team 2. 60 years later, everything is still fresh in her mind: “The most seriously wounded soldiers were under our squad’s charge. Once, a soldier whose hands were injured asked me to help him urinate. Unfortunately, I was too young, unmarried, and ashamed. Therefore it took me a while to clumsily manage to help him. Then I tried to consider him my brother who was unable to care for himself, thus needed my help”.
Nurse Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, Treatment Team 2
Ms. Hong Minh and her husband, October 1954 
For her part, Nurse Tran Thi Luat, Treatment Team 3, 21 years old, left Hanoi Capital City to join the resistance with her inner wishes: “My greatest happiness is to contribute my energy to the Motherland”. She recalled: “Treatment Team 3 was in the front line, 2 km from Muong Thanh and gave medical treatment to wounded soldiers in underground trenches, very muddy when it rained and we were all dirty. Being in shortage of instruments, I had to weave diapers with bamboo splints lined with leaves and cut bamboo tubes for wounded soldiers to relieve themselves. Although it was difficult, we tried hard to keep hygiene for wounded soldiers”.
Nurse Tran Thi Luat, Treatment Team 3
Nurse Nguyen Thi Mai Tam, 19, from a bourgeois family in Hanoi left her luxurious life for the battlefield. Recalling those days, she still felt regret: “In 1954, the battle in Dien Bien Phu was extremely fierce with many wounded soldiers. A seriously wounded soldier continuously cried for water as he was too thirsty but in thick jungles, there was no water. I picked some palm leaves to squeeze them to get drops of juice into an empty condensed milk can for him to drink. Seeing him in great pain, I stretched out my arm for him to lean his head on, his mouth murmuring: “Sister, I am dying gradually” then he breathed his last. What made me painful and regrettable until now is that he had passed away in thirst.”
Nurse Nguyen Thi Mai Tam (5th from left)
Sixty years have passed young women from Hanoi Capital City who took part in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign are now very old. For their children and grandchildren, they are addressed, grandmothers and great grandmothers. But for us, those nurses are still full of energy and enthusiasm of young fighters. In the land of Dien Bien, they are like ban flowers, very pure and fragrant. And for our nation, they have made great contributions to the bright landmark – the Bien Bien Phu Victory that resounds all over the globe.

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