South Vietnamese Veteran Describes Experience in “Re-education” Camp After Vietnam War

Hien Van Le spent 21 years in the South Vietnamese military. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was the Head of Military Intelligence of the South Vietnamese Marine Corps from 1970 until the Fall of Saigon on April 30,1975. In this segment from Iowa Experience: Vietnam, Hien Van Le describes his experience as a prisoner in a North Vietnam “re-education camp.” The panel discussion was recorded at Iowa PBS in Johnston, IA on September 10, 2017.


Hien Van Le: When you say re-education camp that's the term the Communist government used. For us it was truly a prison. In 1973 when the Americans withdrew from Vietnam we were in the battlefield. We already felt abandoned by our ally, we already felt that we didn't have enough artillery to fight the war, we didn't have enough supplies. We didn't have the support of the American government anymore. So when we got captured and sent to prison that validated our feeling about being betrayed. Suddenly, your ally withdrew from the war and now you are captured, you're in prison. The Communist government were not going to kill hundreds and hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers. They wanted to kill us slowly. The Americans signed the Paris Agreement with North Vietnam and South Vietnam signed it with the Viet Cong. The Communist government wanted us to die slowly in the prison camps. So that is why we felt very much betrayed by the American government at the time. We had to do hard labor, hard labor every single day for many hours. What did we have for breakfast? Corn, I counted 90 kernels for breakfast at one time. And we had to do hard labor for the Communist government days in and days out.

©2017 Iowa PBS


What is your Iowa pathway? Start your investigation by selecting a topic from the list above.

Media Artifacts

Navigation Tip:
Before digging in, check out how the page is organized. What are the main navigation buttons? What stays the same on every page?