A perspective from David’s eyes….
In the lead up to America (and Australia) entering the Vietnam War (known as the American war in Vietnam and surrounding countries) the the then US Secretary of state publicly stated that (in his words) that if North Vietnam ‘did not step back’ that America would ‘Blast them into Oblivion’!
The rest is history so they say but being in Vietnam you certainly get a different version of history than the one I’ve heard all of my life.
Up front I need to say that it would be hard to convince me of any good reason to go to war and I find the attitude even today of the militarily ‘stronger’ nations of the world including America (with Australia sadly as its back-up), Britain and Israel as standouts to be arrogant and destructive to world peace (irrespective of what they say) and the effects of this live on in Vietnam 24 years after the war ended.
Part one of our war history lesson started on our first day in Vietnam when we did a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City. Especially interesting was the war remnants museum (Originally called “The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government of South Vietnam”) which consisted largely of photo’s of the war itself as well as the media’s reflection of the war from around the world. It’s fair to say that the museum was strongly angled from the Communist Vietnamese Government perspective but a picture tells a thousand words so hundreds of pictures of torture, burned villages, maimed and destroyed bodies (more civilians than soldiers) plus more stories about the atrocities and results of the war on the Vietnamese people left me shocked and bemused that any nation could impose such brutality on another…..sadly when reading about the Vietnam war there were too many similarities to the present Iraq war so not only have we done it once, but now again and again!
The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities, including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides (about three quarters civilians), 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians (all civilians), and 58,159 U.S. soldiers (plus 500 Australians).
Our war re-education wasn’t complete there however and the next day we headed towards the Cambodian border to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Cu Chi district is located 50km from Ho Chi Minh City and is now considered a heroic district for its role in the anti-American war. It is legendary for its tunnels system of approx 250km which was once a ‘Free Target Zone’ (anything that moves is considered enemy and can be killed).
At the Tunnels site we were able to walk around (and through) the original tunnels (40 cm wide by 100cm high) which were built in three layers and operated often right below American troops stationed in the area.
Here are a couple of photo’s from our Visit to Cu Chi:
While America had the military dominance over the North Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese Army and Navy carried out a somewhat conventional war whilst the Viet Cong waged Guerrilla war using anything at their disposal to protect their land and their nation. They built crude but effective ‘traps’ to catch out roaming American units, they dismantled unexploded bombs and ‘re-made’ them into smaller grenades and bombs to use and they recruited everyone they could (they even had women in the tunnels who sewed uniforms). We saw the ability of the Vietcong and North Vietnamese to defend themselves and their values and in doing that to unite Vietnam into one nation (rather than North and South) and while not everyone may agree with the communist ideology, their dedication to the cause was clear and the result was that in April 1975, North Vietnam captured Saigon. North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.
Vietnam is a different place….people have a different outlook on life, maybe from knowing and experiencing that it can all be blasted to oblivion so easily but it is clear that the ‘American’ war is still and probably always will be an indelible scar and yet also a badge of honour on the psyche and spirit of the Vietnamese.Ho Chi Minh City, Travel, Vietnam, Tag Index