Reeducation in Postwar Vietnam: Personal Postscripts to Peace Edward P. Metzner, Huynh Van Chinh, Tran Van Phuc, and Le Nguyen Binh
When helicopters plucked the last Americans off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1975, countless Vietnamese who had worked for the Americans remained behind. Many were arrested and sent to "reeducation" camps, where they faced forced labor, indoctrination sessions, and severe privation.
For a decade before the fall of Saigon, Edward P. Metzner served as an advisor among the people of the beautiful and hotly contested Mekong Delta. After the war, he diligently sought news of the close friends and comrades he had made among the Vietnamese military officers. Many had died; others could not be found. When Metzner eventually located a few, he believed their stories should be told. Three agreed to do so, and their accounts form the core of Reeducation in Postwar Vietnam.
Huynh Van Chinh and Tran Van Phuc, who had been colonels in the Army of Vietnam, lived through the deprivation and torture of the camps and eventually found freedom in America. Le Nguyen Binh tells a different story: that of his dangerous escape from Vietnam, with some of his junior officers and enlisted men, in three overloaded fishing boats.
The matter-of-fact, even stoic stories of these survivors stand as a testimony to their endurance and persistent desire to return to a life of freedom.
EDWARD P. METZNER, who lives in Salinas, California, is a retired U.S. Army colonel who served as an advisor to South Vietnamese military commanders, from district and province levels to the Vietnamese Joint General Staff. He has told the story of his own experiences in More Than a Soldier's War: Pacification in Vietnam, also published by Texas A&M University Press. HUYNH VAN CHINH, TRAN VAN PHUC, and LE NGUYEN BINH were all colonels in the Army of Vietnam. All three now live in the United States.
Number Seventy-five: Texas A&M University Military History Series