Lake Charles American-Press from Lake Charles, Louisiana on May 31, 1964 · Page 47
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Lake Charles American-Press from Lake Charles, Louisiana · Page 47

Lake Charles, Louisiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 31, 1964
Page 47
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MADAME NHU: DEAD END FOR THE DRAGON LADY? In a glare of publicity, Madame N 7 hu, right, and daughter visited her father's AMERICA, I was harassed like a wild beastl" Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu cried recently. Her mouth was bitter, her brow furrowed as she denounced her "enemy" from a furnished apartment in Paris, where she now lives with tier four children and four servants. "Every night strangers came and woke me to tell me that a bomb was going to explode in my hotel," she said. "I was forced to pass through *ows of demonstrators who booed «ne and asked insidious, stupid, nasty questions." The *iard glitter in her eyes softened for a moment as her youngest daughter, four-year-old Cue <Juyen, ran into the room. "This is the only one of my children who resembles me," Madame Nhu said fondly as she glanced at the little girl in 'black pants and a red ipullover. "As little as she is, she has been marked by world -events. 'Only this morning she told me she dreamed her father was at war and that he asked her to come and fight against the Americans." Madame Nhu's bitterness toward the United States has grown steadily greater in the seven months since the South Vietnamese overthrew the regime of her brother-in-law, President Ngo Dinh Diem, and killed 'him and her husband. Supporting her daughters, ILe Thuy, 18, and Le Quyen, and her sons, Trac, 15, and Quyhn, 11, is a problem (thousands of dollars in bills from her U.S. trip remain unpaid). One way she hopes to raise money is by selling her memoirs; most of her hours are now devoted to writing them. In these writings, the violence of this tiny woman lives again through such fierce statements as: "Americans say to me, 'Now you've been beaten'. . . but I will never be beaten! I will take revenge!" The tragedy of Madame Nhu—once the roost powerful woman in Southeast Asia—lies not only in the death of her husband, Ngo Dinh Nhu, and in her exile from her country but in the divisive bitterness that destroyed her family ties. I began to realize this in 1963 when I first met her father, Tran Van Chuong. the former Vietnamese ambassador to the U.S., who resigned in protest against what he considered the oppressive policies of his daughter and her husband's family. A flair for the Dramatic Chuong and I were in New York City discussing an article for FAMILY WEEKLY at the very moment teletype machines flashed the news that Madame Nhu, accompanied by a crowd of reporters and photographers, was dramatically pounding on the door of her father's Washington, D.C., home. "She says she is unloved, but she really knows better," Chuong had just finished saying when I handed him the news report. His small hands were tense as he read it. "You see," he said, almost in tears, "she is not sincere. I am here, and she goes to my home with an army of photographers and newsmen. She only wants to change her image to look like a good girl, a good daughter." He shook his head sadly and barely whispered, "I cannot be a party to this comedy." Yet when the Diem dynasty collapsed, the 65- year-old diplomat immediately put aside family differences to visit his daughter in Los Angeles and comfort her. "As soon as I learned of the tragic events, my heart was very near my daughter," he later told me. "We spoke only of ourselves and of our family." Newspapers hinted that one silver lining in this family's misfortunes was the reconciliation of father and daughter. But Chuong told me this couldn't be further from the truth. "You see, human beings are basically selfish," he said, "and at the time she only thought of herself. I knew she had loved her husband, and I went to her because I knew that she was grieving. But there was no reconciliation. I do not even know where she is now. She knows my address, but she has not written a word to me or to her mother." Perhaps a look into the background of this oriental family will provide a clue to the strong differences which neither tragedy nor an open gesture of parental love could overcome. Tran Van Chuong was the son of a wealthy mandarin family. He went to Paris for his doctorate in law, then returned home to hold key government jobs. Soon he married the lovely daughter of a princess of the former imperial family. Madame Nhu's maiden name was Tran Le Xuan, which means "Beautiful Spring." She was second of three children and, as often happens, was caught between an older sister she felt she had to respect and a younger brother who received more attention. Raised in Hanoi (now in the Communist sec- ilu Weekly, May S1,1SCJ,

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