A month after the peace accord was signed in early 1973, a colleague, David Greenway of the Washington Post, and I crossed the lines of the Vietnam war to meet the soldiers and cadres of the National Liberation Front (NLF)–their leadership since 1969 known as the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG). These are the people Americans have known as the Viet Cong. It had occurred to us that we were the first Americans to walk through that region of the Mekong Delta–Chuong Thien province–without orders to kill. The PRG had a strong military force in the area, and the fighting had been almost constant since the cease-fire. As we walked from the road controlled by the Saigon regime (the Government of Vietnam–GVN) into the countryside, we could see GVN helicopters and tactical jets bombing and strafing a few miles away. We eventually found the local guerrillas, and, after some hesitation, they received us with courtesy. After darkness fell, a squad of them accompanied us through a forest and up a river to the headquarters of Ba, the PRG commanding officer for the area.
We are aware of the Vietnamese War, but what is the Vietnamese Struggle? Frances FitzCerald’s second ATLANTIC article based on her ten months in Saigon slices through the cultural barriers which force most U.S. reporters to view Vietnam through American eyes, to show how deep and dangerous are our misconceptions about the Confucian-based politics and psychology of the Vietnamese.
This report on the life and half-life of the cockpit city of South Vielnam marks Miss FitzGerald’s farewell to Saigon. For the last ten months she has lived there, writing articles about the war and its side effects which have appeared in the New York TIMES Sunday Magazine and New York’s VILLAGE VOICE.She is twenty-six and a graduate of Radeliffe College. Before going to Vietnam, she wrote for the New York HERALD TRIBUNE.