Hanoi (VNA) – Female drivers on the legendary Truong Son Trail , an artery connecting the North and the southern battlefields , overcame a raft of dangers to complete their tasks and return home after the war.
Not afraid of bombs, just fearful of ghosts
To stay safe and hidden, the Female Drivers Unit drove at night, and hid their trucks in the bushes during the day. Only one light beneath the truck was turned on, just enough to light up about one or two metres ahead. The drivers felt better driving in moonlight. The roads were treacherous, one side a steep cliff and the other an abyss. They could have been bombed by enemy aircraft at any time, according to Nguyen Thi Hoa.
"We also had to learn how to fix the trucks. It was hard to change tyres because we weren’t as strong as men. Sometimes we felt angry and cried because of helplessness," said Vu Thi Kim Dung. She broke two front teeth with a wrench while she tried to fix the truck.
The female drivers had to use their mouths to suck the petrol out when they hid the trucks. If not, the trucks may explode if they were hit by a bomb.
"Petrol was very precious. We sucked gasoline out and put it in a barrel, then poured it into the trucks again from the barrel when we were ready to go. Sometimes we accidentally swallowed the liquid, which is very toxic,” Dung said.
In their twenties, the girls were not afraid of bullets and bombs, but they were fearful of ghosts and wild hog sounds at night.
Dung recalled the day when one light of her truck was broken and she was left behind by the unit. Dung and her comrade Bui Thi Van had to stop and waited for the moonlight to continue their journey. The two girls didn't dare to get out but stayed in the stuffy and hot cabin.
“Both of us held our breath when hearing a long howl, then Van was so scared and burst into tears. Although I reassured Van, I was actually trembling with fear," Dung said.
The hardships increased when the women got their periods.
"When we got our periods, we went down the stream to wash, then put the cloth and clothes under the bonnet for the heat to dry them so we could use them again," Dung said.
The rainy season in Truong Son lasted from June and till the end of the year, bringing with it mosquitoes, yellow flies and other insects.
Meanwhile, during the dry season, the female drivers faced a shortage of water, brutal heat in daytime and cold nights and fog.
In such circumstances, they still stayed firm, carrying cargoes and wounded soldiers.
Female forest warriors
Major General Nguyen Ba Tong, who is hero of the People's Armed Forces and former deputy political commander of Army Corps 12, wrote about the Female Drivers Unit in his book, calling them female warriors of the Truong Son Mount.
On the night of December 30, 1969 when a convoy of 30 trucks was about to pass an underground section of road 20, enemy planes dropped bombs. Twenty-five minutes later, the scene was a mess, with a magnetic bomb underground. Forces decided to use cargo trucks to clear the road.
At that moment, a girl from the North volunteered to take on the mission, Tong said.
"At that time, we were all depressed as we would lose a comrade," he reminisced. "Her truck separated from the unit and slowly moved ahead. Then the truck suddenly sped up and it was followed by a massive blast." Luckily, the driver survived.
Le Thi Hai Nhi still remembers the day when she carried four seriously injured soldiers.
On the way, one soldier told her to sing any song she knew. Nhi tried to sing because music may sooth the pain of the soldiers. She sang many songs, from lullabies, quan họ (love duets) to patriotic songs. When they reached the shelter, one soldier died. His friends told Nhi that her singing consoled him in his final moments. Nhi burst into tears. She never forgot that day.
Driver Pham Thi Phan from the northern province of Thai Binh did something extraordinary. She was one of the first two female drivers of the army to surpass High Point 050 in central Quang Tri province of which even experienced male drivers were afraid.
The night was so dark and the vehicle was just inches away from the edge of the cliff, but she remained calm and followed the route. Her bravery was highly appreciated. President Ho Chi Minh gave Phan and her comrades a watch as a gift. Recently, she donated this watch to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum.
Despite the fragile border between life and death, all the female drivers survived and went home after the war. When the country was at peace, the female team drove in the parade ceremony at Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi./.
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