Bidding final farewell to VOV’s legendary announcer

(VOVworld) - Trinh Thi Ngo, the legendary announcer of the English service, Radio the Voice of Vietnam (VOV), has passed away in Ho Chi Minh city at the age of 87. Her voice has remained in the mind of the generations of VOV listeners, including foreign friends and former GIs in Vietnam, who admirably called her Hanoi Hannah.

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Trinh Thi Ngo was born in 1930 in Hanoi

In 1955, student Ngo was admitted to work at VOV, who was in need of an announcer of English broadcast, through a friend’s arrangement, and she thought of volunteering to do something for the revolution. Ngo studied and loved  English through music and movies, including “Gone with the wind”. Becoming an announcer was actually a turning point in her career. She began to practice how to present news in English so that listeners could understand the message delivered. Ngo said: “Already having a good command of English, I could work comfortably at VOV. But the training played a great role. Experts taught me how to pronounce correctly and properly. The way we present news should be different from presenting commentaries or stories.  Some Vietnamese who are good at English but foreigners don’t understand what they said because of wrong intonation".
Listeners from Southeast Asia and Northern Europe very much loved VOV’s  English broadcast and loved the voice of announcer Trinh Thi Ngo (Thu Huong).

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Trinh Thi Ngo on an American newspaper in 1966

In 1965, when the large number of American troops were sent to southern Vietnam, Radio the Voice of Vietnam cooperated with the Department for Propaganda of the Defense Ministry to broadcast a program particularly for American soldiers. “A small talk to American GIs” gave them a correct insight into the war in Vietnam waged by the US. Since then, Trinh Thi Ngo’s fame was associated with this program, which was broadcast at night after a long day of fighting. The opening sentence was: “This is Thu Huong, talking with American soldiers in southern Vietnam…” Initially, each program had been 5-6 minutes long and broadcast twice a week before it was extended to 30 minutes and broadcast three times a day. So each day, Ngo spent 90 minutes to have her voice broadcast to hundreds of thousands of American servicemen. While talking with them, Ngo used the alias “Thu Huong”, but the American GIs called her “Hanoi Hannah”. Ngo explained: 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.”

What came into the mind of American servicemen who listened to “A small talk to American GIs” was that Trinh Thi Ngo’s voice “makes them hate and fear but cannot resist.” Many of them, after listening to Ngo’s talks, sought ways to oppose the unjust war and come back home. Ngo said: “My motto is that presenting news should be persuasive, not too intimate and not too tough. Wording should be appropriate. Addressing American servicemen in southern Vietnam, I didn’t call them “enemy” but  “adversary” instead. The military staff wrote the news in Vietnamese and I translated them in English. When mentioning the war’s developments, I often quoted American newspapers to make the information more objective. The message that I wanted to send to each American soldier is "You are fighting for an unjust war and will die in vain.”

When the war ended, Ngo’s program ended as well. But many American journalists came to Vietnam to talk to her and many war veterans kept records of her radio programs.

On April 30, 1975, Trinh Thi Ngo was the first person to read the news in English announcing to world Vietnam’s historical event: “Saigon is liberated, Vietnam is completely  independent and unified.” After the liberation day, Ngo accompanied her husband to move to the south to live. And she worked at the Ho Chi Minh TV Station until her retirement.

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Trnh Thi Ngo and her husband on her 77th birth anniversary

Ngo impressed people with her resolute, strong voice hidden in gentleness and softness characterized by a Vietnamese. She said: “Reading English is my passion. As time goes by, I have come to realize that I chose the right job. I love my job, which brings joy to me. If there was a second life, I would choose to be an announcer of Radio the Voice of Vietnam.”

In the history of Radio the Voice of Vietnam, announcer like Trinh Thi Ngo helps make  information more powerful and introduce Vietnam to the wider world. During her 87-year lifetime and 20-year dedication to radio, she set a bright example to the younger generations, including staff of Radio the Voice of Vietnam’s world service (VOVworld).  



Nguyen Ngoc Thuy

I had the honor of working in the English section with the Chi Ngo at the Radio from 1972 when the air war was raging in North Viet... More

John Cooper

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