The Vietnam War may be fairly regarded as one of the most inhumane wars in which both parties subjected each other to massacres, bombings, and mass annihilation. The strength, independence, and pride of the Vietnamese turned into the weakness of Americans; the poor and undeveloped nation managed to maintain its independence for all conquerors and fought relentlessly for its right to live on its own. The majority of Americans and Vietnamese remember the fatalities of the Vietnam War with horror and anguish. Therefore, the consideration of the war from an alternative viewpoint, the angle of a young Vietnamese doctor, can offer an unexpected perspective on the Vietnam War, its reasons, and its consequences.
Many lessons can be learned from the diary of Dang Thuy Tram Last Night I Dreamed of Peace; it was written by the young, 23-year-old woman, who went to the front for the sake of her nation’s liberation, and who grew up very quickly, seeing violence and deaths, helping wounded soldiers every day, and struggling to retain her optimism and hopes. The most striking lesson coming from the book is that war can also be the place for romance, naivety, and optimism. Dr. Tram was not a light-minded girl; she was a mature woman saving lives every day; however, at the same time, she managed to see the beauty of nature, and saw good sides in all people around her. She expressed genuine feelings of brotherhood and admiration towards Vietnamese soldiers, and her belief in the just ending of the war was so bright and intoxicating that experts can easily identify the reason for Vietnam’s victory over powerful enemies. It is patriotism and selflessness of the struggle that can help one person fight against a dozen, and win.
Dr. Tram is a unique example of a woman who did not get tough and inhumane due to the front horrors; even seeing dozens of wounded, dying soldiers every day, she managed to feel compassion and pity for each of them. As she informed the reader at the beginning of her diary, “even though his appendix had not ruptured, I was very sorry to find an infection in his abdomen” (Tram 4). Dr. Tram was the daughter of her nation, and she perceived herself as the natural element of the ecosystem called Vietnam. Thus, she felt no boundaries between herself and the soldiers and felt sister-like feelings to them. In the fragment when the hospital members saw soldiers off, Dang Thuy Tram noted, “be on your way brothers! I’ll see you again one day in our beloved North” (Tram 5). A bit later, she described her pity about the wounded soldier with genuine care of a mother or a sister,
“oh, you young, brave wounded soldier, my love for you is as vast as it is deep; it’s a physician’s compassion for her patient; it’s a sister’s love for her sick brother…; and in admiration, it is a love special beyond others” (Tram 5).
As one can see from the notes of Dr. Tram, she did not focus on hatred towards her enemies but rather emphasized the love of all Vietnamese towards one another that united them and made them a strong military opponent. Nowadays one can see the role of people like Dr. Tram as inspiring supporters, nurturers, and spiritual leaders of the war. However, it is the love towards the native region, the familiarity with the jungles and tropical forests (in which the Vietnamese conducted their most successful partisan activities that finally contributed to their victory) that helped the Vietnamese to stand their ground and not to subdue to the American expansionism attempts.
Unfortunately, Dr. Tram died long before the end of the Vietnam War; nevertheless, she spent four years at the front, and she learned many things from that life. She loved her nation and her land so much that she did not see any barriers to their victory. This joint spirit can save many nations – the dilution of state values starts from neglect towards one’s own culture, which makes the state weak and attractive for neighbors in terms of conquest and subordination. Nevertheless, in case the country is unified and strong, it can defeat even a stronger and more powerful enemy, which is the inspiring social morale.
Tram, Dang Thuy. Last Night I Dreamed of Peace. New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2007. Print.