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Tr?nh Th? Ng? (born in 1931), also known as Hanoi Hannah, is a Vietnamese radio personality best known for her work during the Vietnam War, when she made English-language broadcasts for North Vietnam directed at US troops.
Ngo. was born in Hanoi in 1931 in a rich factory owner's family. She recalls that she grew eager to learn English because of her desire to watch her favorite films such as Gone with the Wind without subtitles. Her family provided her with private lessons in English. When she was 25 years old she began reading the English language newscast for Vietnamís national radio station that was aimed at listeners in Asiaís English-speaking countries.
During the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s she became famous among US soldiers for her propaganda broadcasts on radio Hanoi (in fact, there were several "Hanoi Hannahs", but she was the senior and most frequently heard one). At that time, she made three broadcasts a day, reading the list of the newly killed or imprisoned Americans, attempting to persuade US GIs that the US involvement in the Vietnam War was unjust and immoral and played popular US anti-war songs in an attempt to incite feelings of nostalgia and homesickness amongst US troops. Although she used the alias Thu Huong, (Vietnamese: "the fragrance of autumn"), the GIs usually called her "Hanoi Hannah" or "the Dragon Lady". Few if any desertions are believed to have ensued from her propaganda work and the soldiers "hooted at her scare tactics", but were often impressed by her military intelligence, when she mentioned the location of their own unit (whereupon it was customary to "give a toast to her and throw our beer cans at the radio") and listed specific US casualties. There were exaggerated legends of her omniscience, with rumors that she would give clues about everything from specific future Vietnamese attacks to soldiers' girlfriends cheating on them at home or jilting them. In fact, most of her information came from publications such as the US military newspaper, Stars and Stripes Below is an excerpt from one of her broadcasts:
How are you, GI Joe? It seems to me that most of you are poorly informed about the going of the war, to say nothing about a correct explanation of your presence over here. Nothing is more confused than to be ordered into a war to die or to be maimed for life without the faintest idea of what's going on.
A January 1966 Newspaper Enterprise Association article by Tom Tiede described the program:
"Hannah's shows are invariably the same. After the news is an editorial denouncing U.S. escalation of the war. Then a recording by an Asian soprano who sounds as if she's having her ears pierced. Then, Mailbag Time ('write us for the truth, friends')."
According to war correspondent Don North's assessment:
By zapping the truth through an ostrich-like policy censorship, deletions, and exaggerations U.S. Armed Forces Radio lost the trust of many GIs when they were most isolated and vulnerable to enemy propaganda. It wasn't that Hanoi Hannah always told the truth - she didn't. But she was most effective when she did tell the truth and U.S. Armed Forces Radio was fudging it.
After the war, she returned to live in Ho Chi Minh City with her husband. Ngo was by then better known in the US than in her own country. She was offered a job on HCMC Television but instead stayed at home to take care of her husband who had suffered a stroke. She currently lives in Ho Chi Minh City with her family.
Ho Chi Minh City Journal; Hanoi Hannah Looks Back, With Few Regrets
By PHILIP SHENON
Published: November 26, 1994, New York Times
Not many calling cards list an alias, but even in Vietnam few people would know this slight, elegant 65-year-old woman by her real name, Trinh Thi Ngo.
The alias -- Thu Huong -- means Autumn Fragrance, the name she first used as an English-language radio announcer in the 1950's because it was easier for her non-Vietnamese listeners to pronounce.
"Fewer syllables," she said in the clear, nearly accentless English that helped her become a legend. And even that is not the name that millions of American veterans would recognize.
For a generation of American troops at war in Indochina, Mrs. Ngo was Hanoi Hannah, the silky-voiced announcer on North Vietnamese radio, the Voice of Vietnam, who tried to convince American G.I.'s that the war was immoral, that they should lay down their arms and go home.
"My work was to make the G.I.'s understand that it was not right for them to take part in this war," she said. "I talk to them about the traditions of the Vietnamese, to resist aggression. I want them to know the truth about this war and to do a little bit to demoralize them so that they will refuse to fight."
It was the Americans who dubbed her Hanoi Hannah, the Vietnam War's counterpart to Tokyo Rose.
"I only heard the name later," said Mrs. Ngo, whose propaganda broadcasts to American troops lasted from 1965 until the Americans left in humiliation a decade later. "Hanoi begins with an H; Hannah begins with an H," she said. "The Americans like nicknames."
After Saigon was overrun in 1975 and renamed for Ho Chi Minh, she moved here with her husband, a southerner who had been sympathetic to the Communists since student days. He is a retired engineer, while she still works in broadcasting, now at Vietnamese television.
Their home today is a simple, spotless apartment a few blocks from what used to be South Vietnam's Presidential Palace -- the "den of the puppets," as it was called by the North Vietnamese propagandists during the war.
Reared in Hanoi during the French occupation, Mrs. Ngo was sent to private tutors in the early 1950's to study English, a language that Hollywood had made her eager to learn.
"I always preferred American movies to French films," she said. "The French talked too much. There was more action in American movies. I remember 'Gone With the Wind' with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. It was so popular in Hanoi. I remember we took bread and sausages with us to the theater because it was such a long film."
Mrs. Ngo joined the Voice of Vietnam in 1955, the year after the Communists under Ho Chi Minh ousted the French and took power in Hanoi after years in the jungle. She was selected as an announcer on the radio's new English-language shortwave service, which was beamed overseas.
"I wanted to join the Voice of Vietnam because it was a good opportunity to help my country," she said, holding a silver-framed photograph that showed the staff of the Voice of Vietnam at a reception in 1967 with Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the army commander.
"I was not political. I was patriotic."
Her work did not take an anti-American turn until 1965, when the first American ground troops landed in Vietnam and the Hanoi Government decided to begin special broadcasts to them. Using scripts prepared by the North Vietnamese Army, Mrs. Ngo said, she was never tempted to alter a word, no matter how strident the tone.
"I agreed with these scripts," she said. "We were trying to make the Americans understand that it was not right for them to be in Vietnam, that they were an aggressor, that this was a problem for the Vietnamese to sort out."
Her 30-minute programs, which were repeated several times a day, were not known for their subtlety. Mrs. Ngo announced the names of the American troops who died in battle the previous month.
"We wanted to make them a little bit sad," she said.
She also read clippings from American newspapers and magazines about anti-war demonstrations in the United States -- "we thought if we used the American magazines, it would be more convincing" -- to remind the troops of how unpopular the war was back home.
Mrs. Ngo said her goal was always to project a soothing, convincing voice. She said she never felt aggression toward Americans as a people "except during the bombing" -- the 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi, when she and her staff were evacuated to a remote station 20 miles from the capital.
"When the bombs came, I did feel angry," she said. "To the Vietnamese, Hanoi is sacred ground. But even then, when I spoke to the G.I.'s I tried always to be calm."
And if she did once feel anger toward the United States, Mrs. Ngo insists that she put it behind her years ago. Like many northern Vietnamese, she expresses little but fascination today for the land of her former enemy, and she hopes someday to visit "New York, Washington, many places."
Her enthusiasm for things American also extended to music, she said. To entice the American troops to tune in to her show, the propaganda was intercut with music from records and tapes taken to Hanoi by visiting anti-war protesters from abroad.
"We had Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and I always liked Elvis Presley," she said. "He's 'the King,' yes?"
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