Looking around more in the Virtual Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech University I came across a short English-language text from 1966 called Diary of an Infiltrator. It is not actually the diary of a single person, but instead, is a composite text made up of extracts from several hundred captured diaries.
This text is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating. It is fascinating to see some of the ideas and information in it, but it is frustrating to not be able to see the original diaries and the larger contexts in which the information extracted from them was recorded.
In any case, it presents information about the journey from the North to the South and about engaging in battle, and it shows the complex thoughts of soldiers. In what follows, I provide some extracts.
“Most of the men at Xuan Mai are draftees and frankly their morale is not too high. But cadres explain carefully that our mission is to help the South Vietnamese people fight the Americans and their henchmen and to liberate and unify the country. Most of us do our utmost to study and work, and have high sense of responsibility. Some of the draftees, however, are afraid of the sacrifice and the difficulties ahead and are bothered by family problems. Some have even sent in official requests asking permission to return to their home villages.”
“Vuong has received a letter from his daughter Tuyen in Moscow. One letter dated September 27, 1965 told of a demonstration of university students at the American Embassy in Moscow to protest the bombing of North Vietnam. The students were oppressed but showed fearlessness. All of them told a National Liberation Front representative in Moscow they were ready to return to Vietnam any time they are needed. She says life in Moscow can easily spoil and corrupt young Vietnamese. Young Russians do not like Vietnamese people and often mistake them for Chinese. . . The Russian people are not very revolutionary in nature and the young enjoy too much the American way of life.”
“Some men have written on their undershirts: Sanh bac tu nam (‘born in the north, will die in the south’).”
“Mountain people here are very superstitious. They killed pigs and buffalo when we arrived. Not for us, but as sacrifice to the gods in case we defile the earth, which they hold sacred. We have been instructed not to dig foxholes or other fortifications.”
“Laotians come trading food for things we are carrying. It is forbidden, but many of the men do it anyway. Today I was caught trading some clothes for rice and was reprimanded. Then I discovered that the sack of rice I had traded my last extra pair of pants for, was a sack of dirt with just a layer of rice on top.”
“Lower Laos. Terrible hardships. Paths again steep. Heavy rains again every day. Loads we carry very heavy. Five men have died of malaria. I didn’t think people died of malaria.”
“Stricken with malaria today. I was afraid this would happen. Malaria affecting many of my comrades. Orders are to keep going, even if we must crawl.”
“An incident took place because the Third Squad went to cut wood without telling anyone or notifying headquarters. Thus we thought it was the enemy approaching and opened fire. Four were killed and several others wounded.”
“I don’t know why I feel sad, discouraged, home-sick and worried about the future. My homesickness is worse at sunset.”
“A memo was read to us today saying that wounded and sick soldiers on the trail should not complain nor cause trouble nor make demands. Also, only cadres of company level and up are to be returned to the north in case of serious illness or wounds.”
“Crossed three streams today. Marched 24 kilometers. Stopped in forest area near village. Villagers seemed to accept as normal the arrival of our rather large contingent. Saw first Montagnards today. Many of the men were afraid of them.”
“Damn the Americans. They force us to sleep in the jungle with only rice and, if we are lucky, salt to eat. I am determined to fight and serve my people until my last breath.”
“Fear of hardships and the Americans has caused many desertions and surrenders. One of our companies had seven desertions last month (Feburary 1966). Southern Party officials do not realize the danger in the enemy’s Chieu Hoi program and that it must be massively opposed. Men surrender because they lack solidarity, class consciousness and because political indoctrination has not been sufficient.”
“The Southerners and even some Northerners who have been in the south for some time fear the Americans and their planes, artillery and strength and so try to avoid contact. They are willing to go on isolated guerrilla operations but find ways of evading concentrated large unit actions. They say we will be surrounded if we try to mount big operations.”
“The population at large is very much frightened by air strikes and the resulting deaths. For example, bombing of Boi Loi took a heavy toll of civilian laborers. Some bodies were buried, others were not and the stench of decaying flesh is unbearable. Relatives of these dead workers requested permission to go to the spot to bury their dead. They were told permission would have to be granted by a higher authority. The problem is that if their requests are not honored they will complain that their relatives lie stark naked unburied. But if they are permitted to go to the place the ghastly sight will dishearten them. This problem deserves our upmost attention.”
“We are not greeted as liberators in the villages. When we enter the people come and ask us to leave, saying that if we do not, the enemy planes will come and strafe the village.”
“Upon hearing that the units had gained victories at Thanh Mountain and Van Tuong, we were very high spirited. We took these examples to arouse the unit’s hatred of the Americans and to urge them to kill as many Americans as possible.”
There is then a detailed description of a battle and the lessons learned from it, and then at the end of the text is a poem entitled “I Will Lament for Ten Thousand Graves.”
When the war has ended and the road is open again,
The same stars will course through the Heavens.
Then will I weep for the white bones heaped together in desolate graves,
Of those who sought military honors for their leaders.
(Item Number: 10980104003. Title: Diary of an Infiltrator (18 pages) [December 1966])