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11.3 - “WOT—O mmfiu UhOmfloh Ho UH.—.Bd m5 Eva...

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Unformatted text preview: “WOT—O: mmfiu UhOmfloh Ho: UH..— .Bd. m5 Eva: cosumuoa 39338 US uumfism m5: mg >mE so» 3 fitmumE mE“ we CODBEDEEGU Lo mciaou ngte mad. 43% m5 Etc: Emtmaou B gumfism 8 $5 cosmuEsEEB 25 E @3me mg: . ‘ \ H 02.x was mm? 6.,» @3238 23 E m? ”Ema B Emsflsa mEDOEmE who fizflmic: mfi no tmzmfi co Lo mg: no...“ 3 tau—muEsEEou wcm Umusuoam: cmmg mm; ECEmE mwrt. mammhmg mwm m mtonmqnqu waging,» <3§Hmnd LO IFIEQ EZOE ZOO cm ‘ _ m .ma $8 $2 deéumafmm 5395» E; nszwm wave 9:859; < mnzfim 9:?» E 86:0 mLmEmzaQ < “.55 SEE; 2: 35 $952 :6»sz 2:2sz USF Centerfor thefacificfiimw , Memory and the Vietnam War: A Daughter’s Choice in Yung Krall’s A Thousand Tears Falling by Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen Abstract This article examines the representation of memory and loss in Yung Krall‘s .- l 'i'lmnsnnrl Tents Falling: Tina 'i'l‘m- Stun: of}! i’irtmnnr.~c i‘nnn'ly 'llnn xlpnrt by Min; Cunnnnnism, and tin: CH 1 NUS). The Vietnam War split this particular family along geographical and political lines. Krall's account narrates her observations, as a female child, of the. hardships suffered by her mother and siblings in South Vietnam after the. departure ol her father and older brother for North Vietnam in 1954. Her story articulates and reconstructs a past framed by the war and the trauma and family division it engendered. Although she never stopped loving her father, Krall gave her allegiance to South Vietnam, working for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), marrying a US Navy pilot and eventually becoming a spy for the CIA. Her narrative is an extraordinary account of the opposing choices that she and her father (a highly—placed olticial in the North Vietnamese hierarchy} made with regard to the. war and to Vietnam. He didn ’t know that no' problem find never been (l' lack of memories. but too many memories: my mind was like an endiess movie. now (i dot-nnieinm'y. now (l tragic drama in which niyfmnih' ‘s scattered members were the unwilling and nnforrnnme actors. Yong Kralll These words by Yong Krall, in her autobiographical narrative A Thousand Tears Falling: The Trric Story 0ft? it"i'ctnmn- csc Fondly Torn Apart in; litter, Communism, and the CIA (1995), refer to the workings of her memory and the recurrent and haunting images of the past that it conveys. Her story is a means of articulating and reconstructing this past, a past framed by the Vietnam War and the trauma it engendered. While traumatic memories are fragmented and ”encoded in the form of vivid sensations and images” (Herman 1992: 38), Krall imposes a coherent shape and structure on hers. Her narrative is orderly and linear. lt unfolds like a roll of film, with vivid and detailed images stretching from Vietnam in the late forties to France, England and the Uni-ted States in the seventies. Krall’s family, like many others, was split along geographical and political lines by the war. Her account narrates her observations, as a female child, of the hardships suffered by her mother and siblings after the departure of her father and older brother north of the 17th parallel in 1954. The partition of Vietnam into North and South following the Geneva Agreement led to the sundering of Krall’s family into two separate units, the father and eldest son in communist North Vietnam and the mother and six younger children in non—communist South Vietnam. This separation was not only Asia Pacific: Perspectives - May 2004 geographical butpolitical. Although she never stopped loving her father, Krall gave her allegiance to South Vietnam, working for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), marrying a US Navy pilot and eventually becoming a spy for the Ctr-‘5. Her narrative is an extraordinary account of the opposing choices that she and her father fa highly—placed official in the North Vietnamese hierarchy} made with regard to the war and to Vietnam. A Thousand Tears Milling forms part of a growing body of diasporic narratives by Vietnamese women} Krall’s account is distinctive for the following reasons: firstly, her perspective. is that of a woman, a Southerner, and a civilian; and secondly, her personal journey is a rare and unusual one that led her not only to oppose her father and support the cause he fought against, but to become a successful operative for a foreign agency. Her story provides another dimension to a war whose representation has been dominated by the experiences of male combatants.‘ I ler narrative is a valuable contribution to the collective process of remembering and recording the war. It expresses loss and mourning 7 for parent and sibling, for country — but also reveals the fashioning of a new life and purpose in a new country. Krall’s greatest loss was that of all the. men in her imme— diate family: her father and two brothers. Her father's departure for the North signalled his official disappearance from his family’s life. He was a Vietminh senator and, like many others, changed his name after going north for ”re— grouping" in 1954, becoming known thereafter as Dang Quang Minh. He achieved a prominent position as the National Liberation Front (NLF) ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1965, arriving in Moscow in April of that year to head the largest NLF mission overseas:l “The NLF delegation presented its “credentials" to the chairman of the Soviet Afro- Asian People’s Solidarity Committee on April 30, 1965. An interview with Dang Quang Minh appeared in the Soviet publication New Times, in the edition dated May 26, 1965.” Krall narrates that before leaving, her father destroyed the family photographs so that the authorities would have no documents to link him with his wife and children. For Krall, who was eight at the time, the damage was potent because with the photographs, all material traces of her link with her father were gone. Photographs of herself as a child had included him and were all destroyed, eliminating not only records of her own childhood but of that childhood in conjunction. with her father. If modern memory, in Pierre Nora's words, ”relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the word, the visibility of the image” (1989: 13), then 'Krall’s only means of conveying these early memo- ries is through the written word. There are .no photographic records of herself as a child to accompany her narrative. The significance of the father’s departure for a political cause is underscored in the following episode. Among the destroyed pictures was one of Krall and her younger brother Hai Van with the revolutionary leader Le Duc Tho." Krall recalls: “My mother took the photo and a pair of scissors and carefully cut me away from him; she then trimmed Hai Van away from the other side. She handed what was left, just the skinny body of Le Duc Tho, to my father and said, ”Here, you lily? :L/www.pacificrim.usfcaeduiresearchg )EI’SQQQEWES Memory and the Vietnam War / Nguyen - 31 tlSF Centerformthe Pacific lilim can have your comrade"t6). 'l'he mother’s gesture is heavily symbolic, sinte it underlines to her husband the fact that he chose the communist party over his own children and that by leaving them, he was cutting himself away from them. It also signified the severance of the children from the aims and ideals of the party. Other photographs survive: pictures of Krali’s siblings and mother, and of her father on his own, but Krall’s early years in the Mekong delta live on only in the memories of surviving family members and in Krall's narrative. it is perhaps for this reason that her descriptions are so detailed. Her writing not only evokes the past: it is an affirmation of her identity. The act of writing, in this context, serves a therapeutic function by shaping traumatic memories into words and giving .form to vivid and iconic images of the past (Henke 1998: xviii). Krall’s narrative reveals that her father remained faithful to the party and that, to the end of his life, he put politics before his family. In that sense, he was always “lost" to his children. Krail made a number of fruitless attempts to reintegrate him into the family after the end of the war. She did not see her father again until 1975, the year that saw the fall of South Vietnam and Krall's induction into the CIA. Father and daughter were briefly reunited in Tokyo, after a separation of more than twenty years. Dang Quang Minh was there as part of a delegation to attend the. Ban-theeBomb rally in August of that year. Krall flew to Tokyo with her son to see him, and informed the CIA that this visit was an entirely private family affair. Krall’s narrative illustrates the fact that the attachment between her father and herself remained steadfast despite the gap of years, experience and political beliefs. She gives a moving account of her first telephone conversation with him: ”Allo?" a voice said in sort—of—English, sort-of—French. i don't know how i knew immediately who it was, but I did. 1 wanted to call out "Father!” so badly i thought I would burst, but [ also wanted to be cautious. ”Are you Ambassador Minh?” i asked formally. ”Yls, i am. May I ask who is calling?" His voice was soft and clear, and somehow I could tell he was smiling. “You were once Mr. Dang Van Quang, the senator from C an The before 1954, is that correct?” I asked. I heard a little cascade of laughter, and in a friendly voice he replied, "That is correct. Now can you tell me how you know me that well?" "I used to live in Bien Hoa, near Aunt Khue," I told him, using the term "aunt” in the polite way Vietnamese refer to older persons, not in the sons: of an actual relative. ”She is my sister! You must be one of the overseas students who came to meet the delegation at the airport when] arrived.” Icouldn't hold it in any longer. With a sharp intake of breath i blurted out, ”Papa, it is me, your daughter My Yong!” There was a terrible, long silence on the other end of the line. "Papa, are you there? Are you all right?" I waited, and then http :jlygww. gagiflcrimnsfca . eduflsearchfipflspectives Ase. Esciti<2=___.£erseestives - tiarfls heard the "l’hu nk” of the phone being dropped on a hard surface, perhaps a table. A few seconds passed, and there was a fumbling with the receiver as he picked it up again. ”My God.I [t is my daughter," and then he couldn’t tall: for a moment] could hear him weeping (237). The years of separation and of silence resulted in her delaying the moment of identification and seeking objective confirmation that it was indeed her father that she was speaking to. Instead of identifying herselfimmediately, she \\ aited for him to confirm the name he was born with and his pie-1954 political appointment. She made sure of his identity before admitting her own. The mention of his answering the telephone in ”sort—of-finglish, sortuollFrench" provides an international dimension not only to their encounter, but to the lives of father and daughtei'khe as an official representative of the communist regime, she as the. wife of an American and now a CIA operative. 'I'hey were total strangers to each other’s lives and had not met for over two decades. Yet the sense of familiarity and intimacy is conveyed from Krall’s point of view: "i don't know how I knew immediately who it was, but I did.” Of course, she knew it was him, while he had no idea that his daughter, whom he’d last seen as an eight year—old child in South Vietnam, was inJapan. From their subsequent encounter in his Tokyo hotel and the arguments that erupted between father and daughter, Krall's narrative makes clear that although the love between them was undiminished, they were poles apart ideologically. Krall arranged for her parents to meet in Paris in 1975, and again in London in 1977, but her father refused to join his wife, children and grandchildren overseas, deeming it a betrayal of the party. Krall recounts his reasons for doing so: “i want the same thing you want," he insisted. “My needs are not different from yours or your mother’s. You have my love, your mother has my loyalty, my faithfulness from a husband to a wife. But what you ask me i can't deliver, for I'll not walk away from my party" (383). Krall’s revelation of this divide between her father and herself underscores an already painful process of remembering. ”Writing about a parent is never easy,” as Ursula Owen points out, “our parents lie at the heart of our innermost feelings, and are part of our innermost debates. l’or daughters writing about fathers, this difficulty seems to be acute” (i 983: 10). A difficulty that was reinforced, in Krall’s case, by political division and lifelong separation. The war also set Krall's brothers on opposite sides. Her older brother Khoi was an officer in the North Vietnamese army {PAVNY and Went to the Soviet Union for training in 1966, while her younger brother Hai Van joined the South Vietnamese air force and went to the United States for training in 1970. Krall’s book juxtaposes photographs of her brothers (in uniform) on the same page, a feature that brings into relief both their close family relationship and the political gulf that set them apart. Krall did not see her older brother Khoi during the war, but she grew up with I-iai Van and was devastated when he died in January 1971 in a training accident in Georgia. He was twenty-one. Krall records her shock at this unexpected loss: “it can't be, i screened in my Memory and the Vietnam War / Nguyen - 32 9.5.5 seeterforsre .Peciflfilllfl‘ head. Not him, not a twcnty-oneryear—old young man who hadn’t even had a chance to fight for his country },'etl"(2t13'). Over twenty years later. her anguish is still patent: "How can one be "strong” and "take it well" when a little brother dies? I am still bitter about his death, still angry, and l miss him ime mensely” (204). Her brother's death is inextricably linked to the war, the division of her family and the loss of her country, and remains one of the most traumatic memories of the Vietnam War for Krall. in an article in the Atlanta lom'imh Constitution, [Elizabeth Kurylo writes: “His death still haunts Krall, whose stoicism crumbles as she talks about him. [...1 “When people say "I know you r pain,” they really don’t, But the pain I carry from losing my brother taught me about other people's grief and the loss of their sons and their husbands and their fathers. ’l‘hatwas the hardest thing in my life" (1998: Di ti}. Krall’s representation of i-vartime Vietnam is defined by her father’s absence and the damaging effect of politics and war on family cohesion. l-ler brother's death crystallized this divide and made his loss even harder to beat as a result. Krall’s life story presents the construction and reconstruo tion of her identity through years of war and displacement. l-ler father’s departure not only signified a personal loss, but led to the falsification of her identity. He instructed his wife to have false birth certificates registered for their children, with the father listed as ”missing,” which in legal terms meant that he was "unknown,” so that they could not be linked with him. It is clear that these measures traumatized Krall and that she felt that she had lost an essential part of herself in the process. As she writes: My mother stood before a judge and swore to the ”truth” regarding her ”missing husband,” and the children of Dang Van Quang became children without a father. "to complete the illusion, l-lai Van and i got new names. I became Tran Ngoc Yung 1..1 For days after that brief appearance. in court, though, l felt is ifl had lost something very precious, very personal, and very powerful — my identity [...1 That miserable paper that said I was a bastard child was important — important to the Diem regime, to the society we lived in, and worst of all to me, because it tore me to pieces and I couldn’t tell anyone or complain to anyone about the lie l was forced to live (tit). The falsification of Krall's details and the obliteration of her father’s presence were compounded by her name change, which signified a denial of her own identity. The ”lie” that Krall was forced to live as a child was an official reality since these were the papers under which she, her mother, and her siblings, were recognized by the state. She was the daughter of a prominent communist, but this was a hidden reality, submerged under the daily exigencies of life in wartime South Vietnam. Against this context of war, Krall’s problem— atic bond with her absent father allowed for no middle ground: she was either for or against what he represented. Her political convictions were shaped by her years in the South, by the anger and trauma that resulted from seeing civilian victims of insurgent terror and having classmates die in combat. Her narrative records her struggle to separate herself from her father's politics and to separate her father in turn from his politics. She tried to explain her feelings to others: "I tried to make her understand that I love my father Asia Pacific: Perspectives . May 2004 more than anyone else on this earth but I could not share his cause"(174]. 'l'his dichotomv between loving her father, and hardening her opposition to the ideals and actions of the communist regime runs throughout her book. Ten years after her father departed for the \lorth, her opposition to his cause took concrete form: at the age of eighteen, Krall applied to work for C75, a propaganda and communications section under the command of Fourth Corps of the South Vietnamese army (AIR-3N). Krall’s job \‘x as that of a news writer for the radio program run by (1—5, which broadcast news to the troops and any others listening in. It was a venue that allowed her to to speak out against the National Liberation Front while remaining undetected by her communist rela— ti ves: "no i-vrilers’ names it ere mentioned on the ’Voice of the ARVN’ radio program” (LES). it was the closest thing she could manage short of enlisting in the army. She told the chief of (3-5, Captain \lguyr-n Dat 'l‘hinh, the truth about her family background. His response underlines the internecine nature of the Vietnam War, which pitted father against son and brother against brother. He puffed on his cigar and looked at me for a moment. Then, calmly and quietly, he said. ""rVe have one thing in common from the start. i have two yr iunger brothers who are officers in the North Vietnamese army.” Thinh was one of 800,000 North Vietnamese who went south in 1954. His two brothers remained in the North (133i.H Krall forged a new identity for herself as a loyal citizen of South Vietnam, and this allowed her at last to break with her father’s politics and follow her own convictions. l<rall refashioned herself anew when her circumstances changed again. She met and fell in love with a US Navy pilot in 1967 and moved with him to the States in 1968. She married and her son was born there, but the experience of leaving her country proved traumatic and resulted in marked feelings of displacement and disorientation. She has little recollection of either her marriage or her first months in the United States,9 and this is reflected in the sparseness of details regarding this period of her life. She writes, “I wasn’t doing very well at all. I had dreams and nightmares of home almost every night: I dreamed of Viet Nam, of Sai Con, I heard Vietnamese music, I dreamed of Viet Cong trying to break up my marriage”(202). Krall’s revisiting of Vietnam, familiar people and places in dreams parallels that of many Vietnam- ese refugees and migrants.” Such vivid dreams and night- mares are a means of reconnecting with a lost homeland and are common to displaced people (Thomas 1999: 177). Kralt’s most dramatic reinvention was that of a spy for the CIA. l-ler successful work in espionage was in response to a series of factors allied to her displacement fro...
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