Saturday, October 28, 2017

Horoscope, My Shadow, and Horoscope As Used During the Vietnam War

copyright © Kim Roberts

I am getting old. Whatever I have in mind is either old-fashioned or outdated. So when I call up memories of the old days and wonder how things could have been done differently, usually they are very old events that not many people remember and others are too young to know. Folks out there, please join me if you're around my age! 

Recently, when Ken Burns and Lynn Novick did the Vietnam War series, I was glad to be reminded of a few things about that war. There were some testimonial pieces from former American officers who said, or perhaps implied, that they admired the fanatic North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers and wished those soldiers were theirs. They also mentioned with caution that the South Vietnamese soldiers fighting along with the Americans were not motivated, if not too laid back to fight.

Well, the filmmakers did not explain what led to that attitude. But I know the causes. I was a South Vietnamese who was familiar with both the American and ARVN military matters. We had always been more relaxed and easy-going people than Vietnamese from other regions. We were taught to believe in horoscope the moment we were born. So to us, everyone had a destiny, similar to a blue print, and everything would happen according to the chart. We must not fight against fate (cai so). Being driven was not our style. One must let things flow. If we planned major events such as marriages, buying new homes, funeral arrangements, we would choose dates and time when all the elements of water, fire, metal, earth, and wood were in a favorable alignment. We did not have "free will." When South Vietnamese soldiers went to the battlefield, they believed on a good day (ngay tot) favorable to their charts, everything would be all right. But, on a bad day (ngay xau) they could get killed.
1969. My sister and me (on right) in front of an American Battle Ship in Saigon
In Plato's philosophy, men who rely only on the evidence of their senses are similar to men imprisoned in a cave with their backs turn against the light coming in through the cave's mouth. As their eyes are fixed on the wall of the cave, they can only see the shadows of moving objects including their own shadow. These shadows, they regard as real, for that's all they know when in fact the real world is outside the cave.  For us, who allowed horoscope to dictate how we lived our lives, horoscope predictions were as real to us as Plato's cavemen believing in the shadows. Of course Plato's view goes further into the senses v. the ideas.  For Vietnamese, we're not that philosophical. We simply let the horoscope predictions lead the way into life.

I am not speaking of this belief, or trend, in my daily lives in the 1950s as a spectator or a research scientist. I am talking about my life as a victim of it. Fortunately, its impacts in my life were not all negative. Someday I will reveal the myth they told about me, a little girl from Sadec and how horoscope has affected my entire life. My sister witnessed what happened to me as she keeps telling my stories over and over. Do I believe in horoscope or myth? No, I don't. Definitely not! Nonetheless, I must say most predictions have been alarmingly closed and they affect me as if they were mind-control devices that suck into my brain functions and refuse to leave. Worse, my family members kept the control button. So, like a pair of magic red shoes, they kept me dancing against my will.

During the years I lived in Saigon I became acquainted with Duong Thai Bang, the celebrity Feng Shui Master and Destiny Analytics who advised only the top leaders in Saigon. Among his clients, President Thieu, ARVN generals, and the wealthiest Chinese business community in Cholon. He was an oracle, or a prophet, to his clients who offered him gold bars just to get his advice. I was a poor law school student, a starving artist, and Thieu's employee but Bang took interest in me as his pupil. He taught me destiny analysis, invited me to lunch, and eventually made me his protégé. That's how I knew about the influence of horoscope at a high level of military and policy decision-making in South Vietnam. In April 1975, the war ended. During chaos, each of us was getting out of Vietnam on our own. I lost track of Bang.

Several months later, in September 1975, I was standing in a food line at Fort Chaffee Refugee Camp in Arkansas to receive my lunch when an old gentleman in front of me suddenly turned around and looked at me. I thought I saw a ghost. He held my hands and I heaved up then my tears streamed out profusely. That was Duong Thai Bang. “You made it. No, we made it. How did you do it?” He asked. “I danced my way out,” I said and cried happy tears, “in the dark.”

After Ft. Chaffee, he joined his children in Texas and I went to California. He contacted me and visited me until he passed away years later. Among letters he wrote which I didn't open until after his death, he mapped out my life in an amazing way. I can't say he was completely right but he was close. I didn't read because I did not want his horoscope reading to become my self-fulfilling prophecy. Growing up, I had enough of horoscope as a shadow that followed me against my will. Nowadays, I am completely free from it but its impact lingers on.

That said, I will now reprint my Blog dated November 11, 2015. This is a true story of Vietnamese Horoscope and the way we South Vietnamese fought the war. I know all the main characters in the story when the influence of horoscope first surfaced militarily on May 1, 1970 then at the end of the Vietnam War, April 1975, when President Duong Van Minh refused to negotiate amnesty for South Vietnam.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Weapons at War That The Eye Cannot See: Fanaticism and Horoscope, Not Military Hardware

November 11th, 2015 is a nostalgic Veteran’s Day and, ironically, also my wedding anniversary. And that is an excuse for my somber writing mood. From the root of the root of my tree of life, I was born at war (Vietnam v. the French), and I grew up with the Vietnam War, beginning in Sadec, and was married to an American veteran who once fought the war in Sadec. My tree of life grows so deep and so high in my heart, soul, and mind that its shadow has enveloped nearly my entire existence. So here’s my most unusual kind of war story—one about fanaticism, horoscope, and military hardware in the war I know best, the Vietnam War.

“I'll be damned.  They’ll never believe this in Washington," said General Creighton Abrams, the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, to the commander of the First Air Cavalry Division.

General E. Benton, who planned and commanded the incursion into Cambodia on May 1, 1970, informed Abrams that General Do Cao Tri, the 3rd Corps Commander, had refused to command his 50,000 South Vietnamese troops in the incursion into Cambodia because his horoscope predictions prevented him from planning major military operations during the first four days in May.
A simple destiny Analysis Chart based upon 12 animals. 
The real Horoscope (Tu Vi) has more details arranged in a complicated formula.
To fight the Vietnam War, in addition to conventional military strategies and tactics, the North Vietnamese relied on their fanatic determination to win the war; the Americans, at that time, used military hardware and statistics (Westmoreland’s strategy of attrition); and the South Vietnamese—who always believe heavily in horoscopes—used horoscopes.

Again, on the last days of the war, in April 1975, General Duong Van Minh, the head of the South Vietnamese regime, could have negotiated with the North Vietnamese for an amnesty for South Vietnam.  But he did not.  His horoscope readings indicated that the time was not right—the sun, the moon, and stars were not in alignment.  

 Horoscope predictions, as Tam Pham, a former South Vietnamese officer, explained, "Figuratively speaking, if you have fire in your star, a battle on the day that has water, which can put out a fire, can harm you.  If you have wood in you, a day that has metal, which can cut wood, can destroy you."  

My dear friend Duong Thai Bang, a well-known astrologer and Feng Shui master in Saigon, told me in the early 1970s that he advised President Nguyen Van Thieu that the evil forces of the sculpture of a turtle in the fountain square across from Thieu’s residence in Saigon could, literally speaking, harm his presidency. 

"The turtle was then restrained when Thieu ordered a steel column to be installed on top of the sculpture to keep the turtle’s spirit from harming him," said Bang, when he told me how Thieu survived the war. Bang showed me many gifts he received from Thieu.

Unlike the South Vietnamese, the communist North Vietnamese were not known for their belief in religion or horoscopes. They trained young Viet Cong soldiers to build fanatic’s obsession in fighting thus increasing their devotion and fighting effort by observing strict standards and tolerating no contrary ideas, facts, or opinions. This was confirmed by my relatives and friends who went North to be trained in military tactics before Ho Chi Minh passed away in 1969.
Young North Vietnamese? or Viet Cong soldiers 
who were trained to fight as children. I found this in a propaganda
leaflet distributed by the VC and unsure of the copy righ
Personally, I am one of the South Vietnamese who believed in horoscopes because they gave me hope and comfort while facing fear, anxiety, and helplessness induced by the atrocities and horrors of war. Horoscopes gave us a sense of directions during chaos.  

Luong Van Nghi, a former professor I knew in Saigon who now lives in San Jose, attempted to lend legitimacy to horoscope.

"Horoscope reading —which is based on Chinese astrology—is a science," said Nghi.  "And many things that have occurred prove that the horoscope predictions are accurate."

In the past, I had sat at dinners a few times with President Reagan’s former horoscope teller, J. Quigley, and she too also considered astrology, or horoscope, a science.  “I predicted President Reagan would be shot but survived,” Joan said.

With respect to the accuracy of General Tri’s horoscope after Tri had refused to go into Cambodia in 1970: "Tri’s horoscope must have been off a little bit.  The following February, his helicopter was shot down, and he was killed," recalled general E. Benton when interviewed by Harry Maurer in 1988 for Maurer’s book, Strange Ground. 

Upon reflection, with all the tactical horoscope readings and military hardware that the South Vietnam and U.S. possessed and strategically maneuvered during the Vietnam War, it was the North Vietnamese fanaticism that won the war. It was true then. Could it positively be, speculatively speaking, true again in the war against terrorism?

END      copyright © Kim Roberts


  1. I appreciate for sharing your dreams and passion. I must say this is a great article as we all have dreams and determinations. Dreams are valid! all the best.

    1. Thank You so much for you kind and inspirational words.

  2. Thanks for the nice blog. It was very useful for me. I'm happy I found this blog. Thank you for sharing with us,I too always learn something new from your post. healing

    1. Thank you for your inspiring words. All the best to you, Kim

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