Memories of an announcer
Monday, September 15, 2014 - 14:33:59
(VOVworld) – This is the Voice of Vietnam, broadcasting from Hanoi, capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This announcement against a background of the song Smashing Fascism has opened numerous radio programs and is one of my unforgettable memories.
I was born and raised in Hanoi in a nationalist bourgeois family. I studied in French schools and after university graduation I attended a 3-year English course with a private English teacher, Madame Lucille Ha Van Vuong. After Hanoi was liberated, through Ms. Thi, a friend of mine, I became aware that the Voice of Vietnam was recruiting English announcers. I thought it was time for me to do something to contribute to the revolution, so I volunteered to work at the Voice of Vietnam.
I was among a number of VOV employees who were lucky enough to meet Uncle Ho a few months after VOV moved from the Viet Bac resistance zone to the capital Hanoi. One evening, while I was rehearsing for the first English program, I was informed that Uncle Ho was visiting VOV. He was sitting behind a desk in a room at 58 Quan Su street and VOV’s Director Tran Lam stood next to him. Uncle Ho suddenly looked up, saw me, and asked: “Who is the girl in the long dress standing there?
Mr. Lam replied: “That’s a Hanoi student who has been collaborating with VOV”.
Uncle Ho nodded and continued his conversation with the VOV staff. On April 14, 1955, I was honored to present VOV’s first English program broadcast from the capital Hanoi. The studio was at 58 Quan Su and later moved to Ba Trieu street. It took me and Mr. My Dien (from the Foreign Ministry) a couple of hours to record a 30-minute program because the machines were old and the microphones broke down very regularly. Sometimes we had to broadcast live. Radio broadcasting was new and interesting to me because I liked English very much. Thanks to the support and training of Australian veteran journalist Wilfred Bunchett (who has died) and Australian experts, I gradually improved my professional skills. My first trainers in radio broadcasting were an Australian expert Dick Diamond and his wife Lilian Diamond. In 1965, when American soldiers swamped southern Vietnam, VOV cooperated with the Department for Propaganda of the Defense Ministry to broadcast a program particularly for American soldiers in southern Vietnam. I was tasked with presenting this program along with several other announcers. A few days after the first broadcast, we received feedback from the Voice of America about this program, which was recorded and provided to us by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The information cheered us up and made us more conscious of our mission. The first story was “A small talk to American GIs”. This 5-6 minute story was part of the daily English program. It was then later lengthened to 15 and then 30 minutes and later developed into a complete program with American music for American soldiers. Late Prime Minister Pham Van Dong visited VOV and asked about the programs for American GIs. He praised the program and encouraged me to present it better. On the air, I often introduced myself: “This is Thu Huong calling American Servicemen in South Vietnam.” But American soldiers called me Hanoi Hannah. Many foreign reporters asked me about that name and I said: “Maybe because the program was broadcast from Hanoi. Hannah is an American woman’s name that starts with the letter H and my name Huong also starts with the letter H. American soldiers liked word games. I didn’t care what American soldiers called me. What mattered was that they listened to our radio programs for which they were the target audience.”
In 1967 I was part of a delegation led by Director Tran Lam to visit the Presidential Palace to congratulate Uncle Ho on his birthday. I was given a rose by the President and photographed with him. I still treasure this photograph as a sacred memorabilia. The US air force was bombarding northern Vietnam at that time and the staff of the English program had to move our work place very often. We had to divide our forces. Some stayed in Hanoi, others had to evacuate to other places. Strangely, all of us wanted to stay in Hanoi despite the danger. I personally saw an American bomber hit by our rockets. We heard the siren sound. We were sitting outside the studio and looked to the outer yard (the window had been removed for repainting) and we cheered in great joy.
Saigon was liberated. I was the first person to enter the studio and read the news of victory at 5 PM. Because of my contributions to VOV, I was awarded by the State the anti-American Resistance War Medal, first class, and the title Emeritus artist in 1993.
After the liberation of southern Vietnam, I went to Ho Chi Minh city to reunite with my family and worked at the Ho Chi Minh Television Station. It was a big sacrifice for me to leave the work I had been doing with all my enthusiasm and faith. I said goodbye to my colleagues and will never forget my colleagues at the English program seeing me off at Hang Co railway station. Whenever I remember this moment, I can’t help crying.
I would like to end this flow of my memories with a sentence from a song written by musician Hoang Hiep: “No matter where I go, my heart will turn to Hanoi.” Hanoi, the beloved capital where the Voice of Vietnam echoes everyday for friendship’s sake will forever remain as the most beautiful memory in my life and career./.