It has been several years since I read LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE, The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram, but her story continues to haunt me. Dang was twenty-two when she graduated from medical school and turned down her opportunity for higher education in her field. She chose instead to serve as a field doctor for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam conflict.
Tram wrote of her homesickness for her family and for her high school sweetheart with whom she had fallen in love. She wrote of her fears for her loved ones, her patients, and herself. Dang Thuy Tram described the horrors of war and her deep sadness when she lost a patient. She was intensely loyal to her country and to the Communist party.
Always on the move to avoid discovery by the enemy (the American troops), Thuy lived in constant fear. Dang Thuy Tram and her comrades built clinics hidden from the Americans in the undergrowth. Often there was neither enough medical supplies nor food for the patients. Thuy regularly did without sleep and was continually aware of the danger. She patched up the wounded and sent them back into action only to have them return wounded again, or worse. Through all of this, she made many friends and remained faithful to her family and the service of her country.
An American soldier whose orders were to destroy all documents that were of no value to the military, found the diary and kept it on the advice of his Vietnamese translator who urged him not to burn it saying “It has fire in it already.” The soldier kept the diary and thirty-five years later tracked down Thuy’s family and returned the diary to them. Published in Hanoi in 2005, LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE became sought after especially by the young, those born after 1975.
Many of us overlook the pain and fears of the enemy. Thuy’s diary confirms that, in war all suffering, fear, pain, and death cross enemy lines.
I highly recommend LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE, The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram.