"HANOI- A lost wartime diary by a female doctor that tells of love, loneliness and death on the Ho Chi Minh Trail has become a best seller in Vietnam, bringing the war alive for a new generation of readers.
The journey of the diary itself has given it a special postwar symbolism for people here. It was returned to her family just last year by a former American soldier who recovered it after she died on the battlefield in 1970.
The writer, Dr. Dang Thuy Tram, was killed at the age of 27 in an American assault after serving in a war zone clinic for more than three years. Among her intertwining passions are her longing for a lost lover and her longing to join the Communist Party…
…The visits to Hanoi of the American soldier who saved her diary, Fred Whitehurst, have drawn wide attention and he has been welcomed almost as a member of the family by Tram’s mother, Doan Ngoc Tram, 81, and three sisters.
Speaking by telephone from North Carolina, Whitehurst, who is now a lawyer, said he had been a military interrogator whose job also included the sifting of captured documents and the destruction of those that were of no tactical value.
He said he had come to feel that his discovery of the diary linked him and Tram in a shared destiny and he now calls her "my sister and my teacher."
"We were out there at the 55-gallon drum and burning documents," he said, describing that moment, "when over my left shoulder Nguyen Trung Hieu said, ‘Don’t burn this one, Fred, it already has fire in it.’"
In the evenings that followed, Hieu, his translator, read passages to him from the small book with its brown cardboard covers and, Whitehurst said, "Human to human, I fell in love with her."
According to Tram’s account, two earlier volumes were lost in a raid by U.S. troops, which means the published diary begins as abruptly as it ends, as if in mid-conversation.
Last year, after keeping it for decades at home, Whitehurst donated the diary to the Vietnam Archives at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Within weeks, Tram’s family was located in Hanoi and last October her mother and sisters were brought to Texas to receive the diary…"
The New York Times
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Photo: "The War from the North" BBC