I ate cold rice gruel, made with leaves.

NVA posterThat title is from the poignant diary of a fallen soldier of the Vietnam war. The man was a North Vietnamese regular in the 21st Regiment, and he began his move down the Ho Chi Minh trail on 11 August 65. He wrote a diary — something forbidden to PAVN soldiers, but very widely done — and intended to share it with his family when he got back.

He never got back. He was killed by US Marines in 1966 while manning a heavy machine gun. The gun, and his wounded and slain compatriots, were all dragged off, but his body was left in the gunpit with the expended brass and belts. (UPDATE: 

And his body was left lying with the diary on his chest — no one knows why. A young Marine picked it up, and kept it for years, until he, and the widow of a fellow Marine, brought it to PBS’s History Detectives. Objective: return the diary and the other documents and photo found with it to the family of the lost soldier.

His hardships will ring true to any soldier. Climbing mountains, pouring with sweat, bad food and not enough of it. And fear.

The last entry in his diary is 21 March 66, in Quang Ngai province in southern I Corps:

Twelve helicopters arrived with the enemy. Then my unit fought all day.

The next hand to open the diary, a week later, belonged to an enemy, from the unit that killed him; a man who could not read his story. And there his story stayed, until 2013.

This is definitely one to watch.


Note that PBS does not keep History Detectives shows online indefinitely, so at some time, that link will go tango uniform.


1 thought on “I ate cold rice gruel, made with leaves.

  1. Y.


    Pity they had to show a politician in it. And that it was made into a fucking photo-op.

    And also, hearing the words ‘continued healing process’ used in this context induces rage, at least in me.

    Using the same language as is used in personal context seems to cheapen and diminish the true horror of that war and it’s effects.

    A war with millions of dead is in no way comparable to, say, death of one’s parents. The latter is inevitable and part of life, the former is something completely different.

Comments are closed.