“Our Bodies, Ourselves”

“Our Bodies, Ourselves”, Experiencing the Impact of Roe v. Wade

By Jade Heenehan

“Women had finally won control of their bodies in the crucial realm of reproduction” (H. W. Brands, American Dreams, p. 180)

Pro-abortion potests

Pro-abortion protest outside of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. on May 2, 2022 (Photo by Alex Brandon, AP Photo)

For the past few nights, pro-choice protestors have been flocking to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. They were reacting to a draft majority opinion from the Court that was leaked on May 2, 2022. The leaked preliminary opinion would overturn the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade (often shortened to Roe) decision. Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the preliminary opinion, claims Roe “was egregiously wrong from the start.”[1] At least four out of eight other justices agree with Alito. Many women are remembering the debate, and backlash, over being given control over their own bodies nearly 50 years ago when Roe was decided and abortion was legalized throughout the U.S. These women that have experienced the ruling are now, 49 years later, watching the possible overturning of Roe

When Roe passed in early 1973, my mother, Roxanne M. Rudy was 17 years old and living in Hartford, Conn. Briefly mentioned in H. W. Brands’ book, American Dreams, the Roe decision was seen as women finally gaining control over their bodies.[2] However, as Brands mentions, there was controversy about this decision that continues to this day.[3] There were many protests against abortion and reproductive health clinics like Planned Parenthood in Hartford. While growing up, she came to believe women should have a choice over their bodies. Rudy didn’t understand why “nobody else had seen the light.”[4] Despite being a liberal city and the state capital, not every Hartford resident agreed with the Roe decision. Rudy recounted how after the decision; her Catholic high school had tried to have “everyone sign a petition saying how awful Roe v. Wade was.”[5] The Roman Catholic Church, and thus Rudy’s school, has long taught abortion is a mortal sin. Rudy quietly did not sign the petition, and no one noticed, but many other students did.[6] Although many girls would later benefit from the Roe decision, they were still signing the petition, perhaps due to how they were raised, or from the pressure from their teachers and/or peers. 

Estelle Griswold in from of New Haven Planned Parenthood

Estelle Griswold in front of Planned Parenthood in New Haven, CT (Photo courtesy of New Haven Register)

Like Rudy, there were those who supported women being allowed control over their reproductive systems. A year before Roe, a Gallop Poll found that 64% of Americans believed “the decision to have an abortion should be made solely by the woman and her physician.”[7] In the 1960s, many organizations were trying to decriminalize abortion. They were fighting against statutes enacted by legislatures, many over 100 years old.[8] A national movement had yet to develop, but four states – New York, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington – had begun to repeal their abortion laws.[9] But these four states represented only a small portion of the nation’s popular opinion.  

There were times when the two sides over reproductive rights came to a clash. The polarization over the Roe decision has helped to split parties and the country even further apart. Nearly 40 years after the Roe decision, David Brooks, a conservative New York Times columnist, claimed the decision’s author, Justice Harry Blackmun, “did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American.”[10] There were anti-abortion protesters calling for Planned Parenthood to shut down. Despite the other family planning and women’s health resources, Planned Parenthood provides, “it was seen as the group that brings abortion into your community.”[11] There have been many disputes between Planned Parenthood and Republican-controlled state governments. Republicans often tried to cut – and often succeeded in cutting – funding to Planned Parenthood in an effort to shut it down.[12] Republicans, like President Donald Trump, declared “I want to defund [Planned Parenthood] because of the abortion factor.”[13] However, closing Planned Parenthood removes access to other reproductive and healthcare benefits like access to oral conception, pap smears, and “just anything that had to do with women’s health.”[14] Although abortion is one of Planned Parenthood’s services, many detractors see it as the only service it provides.  

A year after the Roe decision, Rudy attended a counter-protest to keep open Hartford’s Planned Parenthood clinic. After the Roe decision, Planned Parenthood “angered people” and the efforts to close Planned Parenthood increased.[15] Threats were sent to Planned Parenthood workers daily and screamed at when they entered and left work. “Murderer” can often be heard being yelled at by protestors at Planned Parenthood workers and visitors. At the protest, Rudy recalls being “scared out of my mind.”[16] The atmosphere was tense, and nerves were on edge. Many people were screaming and shoving. The fear Rudy felt that day makes her think that “even though they said they really respected life, … if they could have, they would’ve hit any one of us with a two-by-four across the forehead.”[17] The atmosphere was hostile and threatening, and while rocks and paint were thrown at opponents, the violence was minor and no one was injured. 

Words were not the only way to express people’s beliefs at the Hartford protest. Many people wielded signs to further their cause. Some anti-abortion protestors “have these pictures of [what they claimed] an aborted fetus looked like but the kid looked like he was ready for kindergarten.”[18] Rudy didn’t carry any signs but many others did to further support their cause. Pro-choice members chanted “our bodies, ourselves,” taken from a book title[19]. Written in 1970 by the Boston Women

Anti-abortion protest in 1973

A priest and fellow anti-abortion protestors outside the Reproductive Health Services in Missouri (Photo courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves mentions many female reproductive health topics like menstruation, pregnancy, and even abortion.[20] Similar to the chant used today, “my body, my choice,” this saying was used to support the idea that a woman should be in control of her own reproductive system, often against anti-abortion groups. 

The Hartford protest was mostly peaceful but things were still thrown. Rocks were thrown from both sides as emotions ran higher during the anti-choice protest. It further escalated when anti-abortion protestors threw paint at the pro-choice demonstrators. Rudy quipped that “paint stores did really well in their red paint [sales] for the weeks to come.”[21] The paint represented the blood of the fetuses killed by abortion. Anti-abortionists “would throw red paint, [say] ‘you’re murdering,’ ‘murder,’ ‘blood on your hands,’” Rudy recalled.[22] Emotions and anxiety were running high between the two sides and continued to until the Hartford Police came and told the crowd to disperse.[23] 

Now 66, Rudy is watching as control over her – and now her daughters’ –  reproductive rights are being decided again. Pro-choice protests have been happening more frequently as anti-abortion laws are passed in areas like Texas and Missouri. There were also Women’s Marches that began in January 2017, when President Trump took office, to protest his victory in the election. During these Women’s Marches, Planned Parenthood volunteers and workers often marched and waved signs to show support for women and pro-choice laws. Although Rudy has not been a volunteer with Planned Parenthood for over 20 years, she still vehemently supports their cause. Seeing the right to abortion being discussed once again, Rudy believes “we are going to see a lot of tragedy.”[24]

Anti-abortion and pro-choice protestors clash

Anti-abortion and pro-choice protestors clash in front of the Supreme Court, 2016 (Photo courtesy of CNN)

 The importance of Roe v. Wade is briefly touched upon in Brands’ book. The controversy Brands foresaw is truly being seen now as political parties are even more polarized than before.[25] The split between them is making abortion more a fight between parties than beliefs. This division has increased tensions and led to more intense violence during protests. In the 1970s, Rudy “pretty much knew [anti-abortion protestors] were going to call me names, yell, and throw paint at me, maybe a rock or two.”[26] But recently there has been an “upsurge in violent crimes, in people driving their cars into groups of protestors, the proliferation of handguns.”[27] Rudy says that she “would think twice” to protest but fears the nation will be going back in time.[28] Showing public support for pro-choice laws to state legislatures and the Congress is necessary to defend – and perhaps soon, restore – women’s rights to their bodies. 

Fifty years later, as reluctant as she might be, Rudy might have re-fight a battle she, like so many others, thought was won and settled long ago. Now she is looking to once again return to protest against anti-abortion groups to help keep choice an option. Or to restore it for many women, if the Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe, as is widely expected. 


[1] Gerstein, Josh, and Alexander Ward. “Exclusive: Supreme Court Has Voted to Overturn Abortion Rights, Draft Opinion Shows.” POLITICO, May 3, 2022.
[2] Brands, H. W, American Dreams: The United States since 1945 (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2010), 180.
[3] Brands, American Dreams, 180.
[4] Roxanne Rudy, in-person interview, audio recording, April 23, 2022.
[5] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[6] Roxanne Rudy, email interview, May 12, 2022
[7] GREENHOUSE, LINDA, and REVA B. SIEGEL. “Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New
Questions About Backlash.” The Yale Law Journal 120, no. 8 (2011): 2028–87.
[8] “Roe v. Wade: Its History and Impact – Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood, 2014.
[9] “Roe v. Wade: Its History and Impact – Planned Parenthood”
[10] GREENHOUSE, LINDA, and REVA B. SIEGEL. “Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions About Backlash.”
[11] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[12] Lawrence, Hal C., and Debra L. Ness. “Planned Parenthood Provides Essential Services That Improve Women’s Health.” Annals of Internal Medicine 166, no. 6 (2017): 443.
[13] Watson, Kathryn. “How Trump Is Doing on His Campaign Promises as He Launches His Reelection Bid.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, June 18, 2019.
[14] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[15] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[16] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[17] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[18] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[19] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[20] Pingolt, Maggie. The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, June 21, 2013.,the%20original%20pamphlet%2Dstyle%20publication.
[21] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[22] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[23] Email interview with Roxanne Rudy
[24] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[25] Brands, American Dreams, 180.
[26] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[27] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy
[28] In-person interview with Roxanne Rudy

Interview subject

Roxanne Rudy, age 65, retired ESL and special needs teacher. A former volunteer at Planned Parenthood in Fort Worth, Texas during the 1970s.

  • Audio recording with Roxanne Rudy, Madison, NJ, April 23, 2022

Q: What was it like growing up in Hartford, Connecticut? 

A: At that time, in the 1960s, 1970s Hartford was, and obviously still is, the capital of Connecticut. It was, as I recall it, a great place to grow up. There were neighborhoods that were very distinct. There were neighborhoods where a lot of people were immigrants. It was a town of growing immigration. There were Ukrainians, which is what I [am]… It was very much a city dominated by [Catholics]. Most of the people I knew, the mothers stayed home, and the fathers went to work. A lot of people were blue collar workers, some were white collar workers. But generally speaking, it was, what we consider to be a traditional neighborhood, traditional families. 

Q: So, you talked about how Hartford, Connecticut was conservative. How do you think that played into Roe v. Wade after it occurred? 

A: Well for a lot of people it got them very worked up because suddenly women could have abortions, which didn’t translate as something that could potentially save a woman’s life or save whatever. It was “oh my gosh, women have now been on this rampage to the women’s movement. Now they have the pill and now they have an abortion. Oh my gosh, everything that has been considered proper is going to fall apart.” However, in my family, it was not that way. As I look back, my family was probably a little bit different… My mother in many ways was a traditional woman, she was very religious… [But] she said, what had always bothered her was at that time, women’s worth was what their uteruses could produce. She said that’s a bunch of nonsense. My grandfather was absolutely determined that his daughter would have a college education, which she got, and he made certain from the day that my sister was born, and a few years later, when I was born, that he had set up a bank account to make sure that at least some money would be set aside for our college educations.  

Q: So that’s your personal experience. How do you think your community’s experience was? 

A: My community’s experience was not good, as far as I was concerned. The experience was not good, as far as I was concerned, as far as I knew I should say. In 1973 I was in high school. I went to public schools for elementary school but … I went to a Catholic high school and when Roe v Wade came out, shortly after there was this activity or whatever in the high school to have everyone sign a petition saying how awful Roe v. Wade was. I thought “wait a minute, I’m not going to sign this”, and I didn’t. 

Q: Was the topic abortion, even before Roe v. Wade, a taboo topic that wasn’t discussed? 

A: Oh absolutely, yes. That was a taboo topic, sex was a taboo topic. In 1966, … there was no such thing as planning your children. At that time, it was not uncommon that some of my classmates had 9, 10, 11 siblings. 

Q: After Roe v. Wade happened, now that abortion was brought under public scrutiny, how did Hartford react? 

A: There were a lot of Catholics, and birth control was absolutely forbidden. Yes, we had a couple of colleges there, which you would’ve thought added to the progressive attitude but even when I got to college, in 1974/75, [abortion] was still whispered about… You had the law, but in my opinion, 85% of the community was still astounded that sex could be discussed. 

Q: After Roe v. Wade happened, do you think there was more push to close Planned Parenthoods? 

A: Oh, definitely! The whole idea that Planned Parenthood was coming into communities [angered people], it didn’t matter that it offered any other number of reproductive health services from pap smears to just anything that had to do with women’s health. It was seen as the group that brings abortion into your community. 

Q: Which Planned Parenthood did you do your counter protest at? 

A: In Hartford, when I was a freshman in college. One of the women that I worked for, her daughter, several years older than me, was a nurse at a Planned Parenthood. I remember that this women, on several occasions, was extremely worried for her daughter’s safety. They would regularly get phone calls [saying] “you’re going to be bombed”, “you’re going to be burned down”, “all you murders are going to die today”. 

Q: At your counterprotest, did you see anyone that you recognized? Either protesting [against Planned Parenthood] or counterprotesting? 

A: I didn’t no, mostly because I was scared out of my mind. The protesters looked really mean, they looked like they really wanted to hurt us. Even though they said they really respected life, I think if they could have, they would’ve hit anyone of us with a 2×4 [plank] across the forehead and not cared if we died. It was truly scary. 

Q: What were some things that the protesters were saying to your counterprotest or just Planned Parenthood in general? 

A: Murders. [Also] that Planned Parenthood encouraged sluts; they might have said encouraged loose behavior… If you were going to Planned Parenthood, supported Planned Parenthood, believed that it should exist, you were a murder. It didn’t matter, we needed to be stop. Even the idea of birth control, the idea that you could prevent a pregnancy so that abortion wouldn’t be needed was wrong.  

Q: So, you said you were scared, and it was terrifying. Did anything ever get thrown? Were there signs? 

A: Oh yes! They would have these pictures of [what they claimed] an aborted fetus looked like but the kid looked like he was ready for kindergarten. It was ridiculous. But it didn’t matter because emotions were running high. Yeah, they threw things. They threw rocks, paint. That was a big thing, the paint stores did really well in their red paint for the weeks to come. They would throw red paint, [say] “you’re murdering”, “murder”, “blood on your hands”, “when you stand before the throne of God, you’re going to have to answer for you standing in front of Planned Parenthood doors”. It was really emotional. It was emotional and vicious… [The protestors] would grab you and shuffle you. I remember a woman walking by on the street and they grabbed her. She was like “what are you doing?! I’m going to work”. She wasn’t even trying to get into Planned Parenthood. That is how high the emotions were. There was no logic and reason. 

Q: You were so vehement for pro-choice due to how you were raised. Do you think this is just how people were raised? 

A: I do, absolutely. It really is because I think it becomes part of your identity. For some people I suppose it was some sort of Heaven-sent crusade. But I think a lot of people, like my friends in high school, ever gave it much thought. They were taught that it was wrong, and it was wrong.  

Q: Since Roe v. Wade has been an impact in the states so much, now that areas like Texas and Missouri, are putting their own laws on abortion, how do you think this will impact society? 

A: I think we are going to see a lot of tragedy. I think we are going to go back to the day of self-induced abortions, which is never a good idea. I think we are going to see an uptick in young women, mid to late teens, having children and trying to raise them when they are in no position to raise them much less finish school themselves. I think we are going to see an uptick in children being raised in single family [homes] or poverty which is going to affect us for generations to come. I think we are going to go back in time. 

Q: Do you think that the fear and terror you felt when you were protesting will be replicated with the new youth now after anti-abortion laws are passed? 

A: Yes. I think we’ve reached a point in our society where extreme violence is the norm. When I stood in front of the abortion clinic in 1973/74, I pretty much knew they were going to call me names, yell, and throw paint at me, maybe a rock or two. But I never thought anything worse was going to happen, even though they kind of looked like they wanted to when I look back and I was scared. Nowadays, I have to say, I would think twice. With the upsurge in violent crimes, in people driving their cars into groups of protestors, the proliferation of handguns. I fear for this. 

Q: You said your chant back in the mid-1970s was “our bodies, ourselves”, how do you think it has changed to “my body, my choice”? 

A: I think it is basically the same. It is a little bit different but still the same. My body, my choice. If I want to have this baby, I will. If I want to prevent a pregnancy, I will. If I want to have sex, I will. I will make an informed decision, I am not incapable, I am not a child, and I know what to do. I think it is about time that everyone realize that. 

  • Email interview with Roxanne Rudy, May 11, 2022

Q: Were there any repercussions since you did not sign the petition for your school? 

A: I don’t think so. It was passed around in class, so I sort of just handed it on to the next kid without signing it. No one noticed that I didn’t! If I was Roman Catholic and it was passed around in Church, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get away without signing it. But no, no one noticed that I didn’t sign it, so nothing happened.  

Q: How did the protest in Hartford end? 

A: Eventually, after a few hours, the police politely told everyone it was time to call it a day and that we needed to disperse. Which we did.  



By Long Bui

Map of battles and attacking directions by the communists during the Tet Offensive incident.

By the year 1967, the Vietnam war escalated to a scale that had never been before. Almost 400.000 American troops and 750.000 Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s (ARVN) soldiers operated across Southern Vietnam’s rural regions to conduct massive campaigns against further communist expansion by the Viet Cong (VC) and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN). [1] Khe Sanh became the climax of this confrontation which a hundred thousand tons of bombs and artillery rounds were fired from the defense base every month. [2]  However, on the home front, an impending disaster was secretly approaching the US and its allies that would later disrupt the Pentagon’s strategic calculation of the war and weakened US public support for the conflict, later known as the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The author of American Dreams, H.W.Brands, indicated that the Tet Offensive severely paralyzed the US strategy in Vietnam since the campaign had successfully “revealed a capacity for command and control among communists that American officers and civilian officers hadn’t suspected.” [3] Specifically, the reminiscence of former communist Vietnamese lieutenant, Bui Ngoc Minh, will provide further descriptive insights into how the VC and PAVN infiltrated into southern urban areas and coordinated with each other to launch such a surprise attack. Although Brands stated that the Tet Offensive proved to be “a psychological and moral triumph” [4] for the communist camp, from Minh’s perspective, the brutality and bloodshed during the campaign left haunting memories not only for Americans who witnessed the incident but also for the communist soldiers who participated in this campaign, reflecting the desire for an end to a decades-long conflict from both sides. 

In the summer of 1967, captain (his rank at that time) Minh was then working as a platoon officer in the VI Artillery Regiment of the 6th Division which frequently operated along the Ho Chi Minh trails. Surprisingly, he received an order to infiltrate Hue, Southern Vietnam. “At that time, I was a little bit shocked that a technical engineer like me was ordered to be an undercover agent”- Minh recounted. [5] However, neither did Minh know that he was participating in the most elaborate and influential campaign in the war. In fact, even the MACV commander, general William Westmoreland and his staff, acknowledged that the communists were adjusting their grand strategy but never thought of such a magnitude would be unleashed right inside their heartlands. [6]

According to the plan, captain Minh would lead his platoon along Ho Chi Minh trails to Svay Rieng, Cambodia, and then intrude into the Southern Vietnam border. After five years of special operations, Vietnam’s rural areas had been severely destabilized, creating massive refugee caravans in the region. Captain Minh described: “The refugee caravans were chaotic, running from the warzones and as far as possible. Some moved to the city; some went to foreign countries; and some just wanted to run away”. [7] Therefore, he stated, “This made us easily infiltrate into the system since American troops hardly ever took serious concern about the refugees due to the human rights crisis”. [8] Taking this advantage, his team gradually walked along the HCM trails, to Svay Rieng, and then arrived at Hue just after one month. [9] 

“The Terror of War”, also known as the “Napalm Girl”, is a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken by photojournalist Nick Ut, a Vietnamese American photographer who was working for the Associated Press at that time. The picture depicted children were running away from bombarding areas in a countryside of Southern Vietnam.

Thanks to the lack of attention to the urban espionage process, Minh successfully joined the communist intelligence network in Hue in a short matter of time. Arriving at Hue, he followed the order to wait under the Da Vien bridge. After five hours of waiting, a child suddenly approached Minh to give him a small bag, and then the kid ran away. Looking inside the bag, he received his fake ID, other legal papers, money, and a coded letter that had his next mission. “My next task is to decoy as a man named Tám who owned and operated a small firework business and then won a bid for a firework slot in North West of Hue”- Captain Minh recalled. [10] The unstable and corrupted condition of the Southern Vietnam government made the deception easier for him to complete this goal. Through intelligence assistance and bribery, Minh quickly approached different local officials in the district. However, as long as he got in touch with these people, he realized that they almost all came from the same family. He indicated: “You do not need to corrupt them, they were corrupted in the beginning”. [11] In fact, the instability in the South had become an intriguing problems that according to historian James H. Willbanks, there are evidence that “weapons arrived in trucks loaded with flowers, vegetables and fruits destined for the holiday celebration (Tet)” and some VC soldiers even “dressed in ARVN uniforms to mingle with crowds of South Vietnamese cilvilian” before the incident. [12] Therefore, taking advantages of the situation, he successfully won a firework-operating slot in North West Hue along the main road of Tang Bat Ho. 

The battle of Hue 1968. Although the Red arrows indicates attacking directions of communist forces, there are still communist infiltrations before the battle that the picture does not include. Captain Minh and his platoons were fighting in the furtherst NorthWest arrow.

Although People in Minh’s team were not firework operators but instead, anti-air artillery operators, they gradually realized the decision behind deceiving the firework systems. He demonstrated: “Once we got in touch with fireworks, we discovered that fireworks and guns all originated from gunpowders and made the same sound”. [13] Then, he continued: “We then find a way to make the fireworks explode as long as possible to create a decoy for gun sounds abrupting when our comrades attacked the city”. [14] In the end, they came up with the plan of interleaving the gun sounds and the fireworks abruptions with each other so that the enemies could not be aware of the attack.[15]

Execution of a VietCong soldier by a Southern Vietnamese brigadier during the Tet Offensive in the street of Saigon. The photograph would later become one of the most influential catalyst to anti-war movements in America. (Video:

The night fell. At midnight the fireworks started and these fireworks lasted longer than any years before. As captain Minh indicated: “I was amazed how synchronized these fireworks happened in every district at that moment. At that time, I couldn’t believe that our comrades were literally everywhere in the city.” [16] The sound of fireworks and guns step-by-step became more mixed with each other and harder to identify. The fight became more extreme, spreading across the city. Guns and explosions became more astonishing than the sounds of the fireworks. In the street, many VC and VPA soldiers formerly dressed as civilians regrouped and occupied strategic buildings. Unable to identify the enemies, Hue’s police cadets were confused and acted violently. [17] They started to shoot any suspects including many civilians in the street, creating a bloody and chaotic scene in Hue. Captain Minh, with his team, ran into a building to find a shelter between the merciless fires from both sides.[18]

The street came into chaos and behind gun dust and shootings, a man wearing a VPA’s uniform with an AK-47 in his hand approached him and asked: “Are you captain Minh of 3rd battalion under 6th regiment, comrade?” Realizing the three stars in his epaulets, he understood that he was meeting with general Tran Do, the leader of the 6th regiment, then he stood straight and saluted the general, answering: “Yes, I am, general”. [19] Then, general Do greeted him and his men for their success and asked them to regroup with the remaining people of the battalion who were fighting in the district. In just several hours, they captured the main road of Tang Bat ho and the surrounding area. The Southern army in Hue and the local forces were stunned by the attacks; they were dispersed across the city to stay with their family and the sudden attack made them unable to regroup and resist the attack. [20] “Hardly any American troops are being seen in the city”- Captain Minh recalled. [21] In fact, many of them were encamped several miles South-East of Hue in Phu Bai airbase and had not been informed fast enough of the sudden attack.[22] According to captain Minh, the attack on Hue was a race. He explained: “If we were able to take most of Hue when the sun came in, the US would not be able to use their air superiority and bombard the city since the city had many historical sites”. [23] Therefore, in the morning, the VPA and VC had been able to capture most of the city and by dusk on the same day, the Communist flag waved on the top of the Imperial Citadel, marking the total collapse of the ancient capital. 

After the capture of the city, general Do organized a meeting consisting of captains and lieutenants to congrats on the victory. However, he stated that this was not an ultimate victory and we still had more battles to fight. Then, he took out a paper that consisted of names that he condemned as “cruel tyrants and reactionary elements” which should be exterminated. [24] In the beginning, everyone agreed with these decisions but “generals were not executives”-captain Minh insisted. [25] There were no real trials and the problems of whether their families would take revenge or fight against the newly established regime in Hue became an intriguing question for the top military commanders. As a result, many decided that the victims and their family members would share the same fates with them to prevent further security threats. Once blood is spilled, more blood will be spilled. The universal acceptance of executions became popularized and soldiers began to execute other people for different reasons from personal conflicts to lynching. Consequently, this never brought any peace and the communist forces were being pushed out after 3 weeks of occupation.

Reflecting on the incident, he stated: “Now remembering the war, we usually blamed Americans for their imperialism. But many of us have forgotten how we, ourselves, did horrible things to our own people”. [27] He continued: “But you know, the point of that war was to kill and exterminate people who just believe things that are different from you. Was there really a legitimacy for the war from the start ?” [28] The soldiers witnessed these atrocities and the high-ranking officials heard about the statistics and reports. Although the discussion about peace in the North was long forbidden, it was clear that in many communist top officials’ perspective, de-escalation was necessary and a peace negotiation was vital. Similarly, in America, after the incident, major protests broke out across the country to stand up against the ongoing conflict, forcing US officials to reshape their approaches to the war. On March 31, president Lyndon B. Johnson addressed the American people: The US is ready to “discuss the means of bringing this ugly war to an end.” [29]   Although the US retrieved its army from Vietnam 5 years later, as Brands indicated, the Vietnam War had “seared itself on the American mind, replacing the Munich Syndrome with a Vietnam Syndrome”. [30]

“Little Tiger”-a 10-year-old soldier in Southern Vietnam’s army during the Tet Offensive.












[1]:  James H. Willbanks, The Tet Offensive: A Concise History, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 7.

[2]: Athony Tucker-Jones, The Vietnam War : the Tet Offensive, 1968, (South Yorkshire, England: Pen & Sword Military, 2014), 99.

[3]: H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 156.

[4]: H.W.Brands, 156.

[5]:  Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 24, 2022.

[6]: James H. Willbanks, 27.

[7]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[8]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[9]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[10]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[11]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[12]: James H. Willbanks, 26.

[13]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[14]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[15]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[16]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[17]: Athony Tucker-Jones, 111.

[18]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[19]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[20]: Athony Tucker-Jones, 111.

[21]:  Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[22]: Athony Tucker Jones, pg. 112-113.

[23]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[24]: James H. Willbanks, 45.

[25]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[26]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[27]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[28]: Interviews with Bui Ngoc Minh, April 30, 2022.

[29]: H.W.Brands. 158.

[30]: H.W.Brands, 175.

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Interview subjects

Bui Ngoc Minh, age 86, retired VPA lieutenant who participated in the Vietnam War as an operative officer in the Ho Chi Minh Trails and intelligent officer during the Tet Offensive.

Zalo, April 30, 2022.

Selected Transcript

Q: Did you remember the Tet Offensive? I knew that you were a spy during that campaign but previously, you were an operative officer, so how could the infiltration process happen so quickly ?

A: The instability in the South made the espionage expansion more effective. After the (1963) coup, the South became increasingly destabilized with regional military factions and corrupted government officials. However, the US military intervention made it worse. The Seek and Destroy Operation devastated the rural areas and created huge swarms of refugees moving into cities and Cambodia. The refugee caravans were chaotic, running from the warzones and as far as possible. Some moved to the city; some went to foreign countries; and some just wanted to run away. This made us easily infiltrate into the system since American troops hardly ever took serious concern about the refugees due to the human rights crisis. I took the order with my comrades, following the refugees to Svay Rieng (South East Cambodia) and then re entered Vietnam and just after a month, I had completed my trip. 

Arriving at Hue, I disguised myself as a businessman who owned a firework company and then with some help from the inside, we were able to bribe the government officials to organize that year’s firework celebration in a part of Hue.

Q: Well, my high school teacher also mentioned him once. However, I am still wondering why the government officials did not suspect you ?

A: They thought it was just companies trying to compete with each other and the officials at that time were extremely corrupt so they just considered bribery as normal. 

Q: The plan seemed to go on very well. But you remember how the campaign officially started? 

A: So when the moment transitioned from the old year to the new year, also the time when we had to shoot fireworks, I ordered my team to place fireworks in the populated areas. Many simply thought we just wanted to attract attention and advertised our company. However, we really want to distract citizens from the guns’ sounds that the LSAV attacked in the middle of the night. The plan was a resounding success! This was the most unforgettable moment for me…..*he laughed*….. The moment that fireworks were shot around every city and every corner of every city, I knew that we would win this war. We had the legitimacy and I understood that if the Americans wanted to achieve their goals, they had to kill every single Vietnamese. Later, after the war, I acknowledged that this event was broadcasted everywhere. The scenario in which a well-equipped US soldier fought against a peasant with an AK  made the people in the world think of the US as invaders and us as heroic fighters for independence. 

But I could not held my happiness for long, the enemies soon realized that there were communist soldiers in the city. Even just a small number, they created more chaos in the street, shooting everyone they assume as communists. Many of my comrades fell down that moments. However, the majority of the enemies troops did not respond fast enough and could not regroup on time to counter the attack. Luckily, Hardly any American troops are being seen in the city.

At that time, a general met me and ordered me to regroup with my division and continued the fight. The attack was a race of time. If we were able to take most of Hue when the sun came in, the US would not be able to use their air superiority and bombard the city since the city had many historical sites. We advanced from columns to columns and buildings to buidings. At 12, we successfully captured majortiy of the Imperial Citadel. 

Q: I heard that the main goal of this campaign was to invoking a general uprisings among citizens in Southern Vietnam. Have you and your comrades achieved that goal after capturing Hue ?
A: No, much worse than we thought it could. We decided to build a new government in Hue. A new La Commune de Paris. But generals were not executives. As you know, the Hue Massacarce….. Now remembering the war, we usually blamed Americans for their imperialism. But many of us have forgotten how we, ourselves, did horrible things to our own people. But you know, the point of that war was to kill and exterminate people who just believe things that are different from you. Was there really a legitimacy for the war from the start ? The war I have witnessed was entirely different from the war with France. This war made soldiers became killing machine. This war was ugly.