"Vietnam" as a Women's War

Title"Vietnam" as a Women's War
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsTurner, Karen G.
EditorYoung, Marilyn B., and Robert Buzzanco
Book TitleA Companion to the Vietnam War
CityMalden, MA

An accurate history of the war the Vietnamese call the “American War” must recognize Vietnamese women’s contributions to Hanoi’s victory in 1975. The material is so rich and women’s roles so complex that a full accounting is yet to come. This essay, has two main goals. First, it wants to correct the notion, largely the legacy of the post-war American media, that Vietnamese women simply responded, as hapless victims, to American aggression. To be sure, Vietnamese women had no choice but to make the best of a ten year bloody conflict fought on their homeland, and many lost their lives, their health and their hopes for a normal family life to the war. But women did not expect men to fight on their behalf. They chose in a variety of ways to take action against the enemy, motivated not only by intense propaganda campaigns to draw the civilian population into a total people’s war, but by a desperate need to protect their homes from annihilation. The second goal  is to show how the Vietnamese case challenges the enduring conviction that women’s presence in combat inevitably diminishes the morale and capabilities of their male comrades.

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