Memories of the Vietnam War!
I go back to my memories of previous trips, and today they are dedicated to those of the Vietnam War, one of the most interesting aspects of this country. So famous in the annals of history for being the first great defeat of the United States.
Defeat by some people who with little means and I believe that military training decided to fight against the invader.
A war that lasted more than 15 long years, and had as a trigger to prevent the reunification of Vietnam under a communist government.
The death toll from the Vietnam War ranges from 1 million to 5.7 million people.
What a difference huh? The fact is that behind these numbers there are people, entire families, friends, neighbors … who had a life.
Less than 60,000 Americans were killed and missing.
I am one of those who thinks that war is a dirty invention that has occupied human beings forever and that I will never, never understand.
Also that the greatest responsibility is usually the one with the most resources and power to get into war, whatever it may be. Responsibility that translates into guilt for deaths and great suffering of other human beings.
With this I do not justify violent behavior on the “weak” side that entails suffering and deaths of the opponent. Nor that their cause is just in all cases.
As I just said, I condemn the war and all who enter and play an active role in it. Starting with governments and the arms industries. Because the guilt of the war is not the same for everyone, like almost nothing in this world.
Having said that… I am going to focus on the visits that one can make in Vietnam in relation to that saddest chapter in history.
Although not sought, the memory of the Vietnam War is present in many places.
From camouflage green cloth hats like those worn by the Viet Cong, which can be bought in many places, to the “relics” in the street markets. Objects from those years such as American lighters, or helmets.
You can also see the old hangars of Hue airport from the road. We have seen them many times in the photographs of those years and in the films that the cinema has brought us. It is more than easy to imagine the planes loaded with soldiers and weapons that the US Army carried there.
Furthermore, although Vietnam has been cleared of mines in these decades, many remain in the fields. And they generate accidents quite frequently.
That is why, according to what they told us, before building a house (let’s say you buy a plot of land), you have to call the Ministry on duty so that they check the land well. Because the normal thing is to find mines or bombs and it is not a matter of going crazy with the excavator. Regulations that have been established after many accidents, and still probably won’t prevent all of them.
The tunnels of Vinh Moc
There are others more famous and frequented by tourists, such as the Cu Chi tunnels , near Ho Chi Min, but I went to the Vinh Moc tunnels .
The main difference is that Vinh Moc’s are as they were. They have not been touched up, they have not expanded the height and width for tourists. They have only reinforced some entries so that they do not fall.
Located north of what they call the Demilitarized Zone , the people of Vinh Moc found themselves without eating or drinking it in the middle of one of the most heavily bombed areas.
The entire town set to work to create a place to shelter, live, and assist the Viet Cong in their fight. They dug with their field tools and hands for 18 months.
Hiding the land so that the Americans would not notice, they managed to build several kilometers of narrow tunnels with small habitats to make their whole life there.
When I say “all his life” it is true. The visit to the Vinh Moc tunnels is impressive.
Before reaching the accesses to the tunnels, the craters that the bombs left in the grove on the surface can be clearly seen .
Accompanied by a survivor
I remember it was a clear morning, full of heat and high humidity.
A man with an intellectual disability comes up the path and very smiling and friendly invites us to follow him. He is one of 17 children who were born in the tunnels.
He grew up in there and according to what we are told, he has never left that perimeter.
He lives in the shelter of another family, as his parents died long ago. With the money or gifts of the tourists the sustenance is procured.
The tunnels have 12 entrances of which seven face the sea. When they discovered them, the American ships docked in front of them. Those doors were constantly bombarded to prevent anyone from escaping through there.
In single file, you go through those tunnels where only one person can fit and not always standing. It is very hot and there is practically no ventilation.
The worst thing is that you hear the sounds of the outside very amplified because there is a powerful echo effect. That’s when you stop and think, how would the bombs sound here, day and night? Terrible.
The rooms where they slept, where they healed their wounds, cooked or gave birth, are tiny.
They have placed some dolls to give you an idea … and by the way give you a scare. The low lighting and their position do not allow you to guess them until you pass them. I admit that I giggled there, which is also a defense mechanism … humor, I say.
There are 3 levels of depth, between 12 and 23 meters. Deep down is where sounds from outside reverberate loudest. To go crazy.
It is then that you realize what we are capable of enduring to survive, of the strength and endurance that we have
On the surface there is a small museum where photographs of the Vietnam War are collected. Most showing young Viet Cong enlisted men in triumphant attitude / pose.
No, it is not objective. In fact, the Vietnamese state is not and has not been in all these years.
And it doesn’t surprise me, because all those missing people will always remain in memory. Almost a whole generation disappeared. Have I already told you that you don’t see many older people in Vietnam?
War Museum in Ho Chi Min
The other place I wanted to tell you about is the War Remnants Museum, in Saigon (now Ho Chi Min).
A visit, from my point of view, essential in your visit to this crazy and vibrant city.
Through several rooms the war unfolds before us. He does it from his point of view. Again, it is not an unbiased museum.
Keep in mind that it is a very recent war , with impressive photos and many objects.
You may have already heard that the Vietnam War was the first of the wars covered by the media, and especially television, almost live. The number of reporters and graphic testimonies were huge.
Then the US has portrayed her countless times in movies and TV series. From many angles. Especially since the pacifist cry that arose in the 60-70s when they saw that they were not going anywhere, that they would end up losing. And that it was being a carnage for them too.
Even so, I wonder: what have they learned, that they continue to vote for rulers who later have generated more wars and many have been applauded or have even served to calm revenge and pain for aggressions as brutal as that of 11- Yes? Did that pacifist outbreak, that protest serve any purpose?
What have we learned from World Wars I and II?
What is being learned from Afghanistan, Iraq …? Nothing, apart from new techniques and machinery of war. Nothing. Only death and destruction are achieved. Sorry, and votes at the polls, and enrichment of the GDP of rich countries with the arms industry.
In the outer courtyard of the museum there are tanks and planes used in those days. Also a reconstruction of a prison and the torture methods that the Americans applied to those suspected of belonging to or helping the Viet Cong (that is, all except those who collaborated with them), which were terrible.
There is a room dedicated to the victims of the chemical weapons that the US threw on the Vietnamese people, and the consequences of the same in the following generations. Children with malformations, incurable diseases … the very burns of the moment. Specifically, they used Agent Orange, which by the way seems to have been used in Iraq as well 🙁
There are people who leave there crying. It was not my case, but I was very impressed.
Another detail that has personally made me think and stir inside: many American tourists go, even former combatants.
We all know that many are ashamed (and it even has a name: Vietnam Syndrome). And that many suffered directly the consequences physically and emotionally.
That is why I understand that they want to go and visit places like this. But at the same time it surprises me. I do not know if I would be able to go and remove personal memories, or the memory of relatives who died in the war.
Thus, when cold, it becomes difficult for me.
But it is also that the war is very difficult for me.