Vietnam: War memorials

Jul 11th, 2004, 07:54 AM
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Vietnam: War memorials

I am going to Vietnam for 2 weeks in January and was hoping to visit some interesting sites from the Vietnam war. Could anyone please recommend where we should go to have the best experience for this. We are planning on going to Saigon and Hanoi, but probably the best sites are closer to the DMZ. Thanks very much for your help with this.

Schweiz is offline  
Jul 11th, 2004, 09:41 AM
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As one who has traveled from the Delta all the way north to the Chinese border, I am sorry to bring you news that you will find very little to prove that there ever was a war in Vietnam. Yes, there are many, many grave sites for the Vietnamese fallen. You can hardly find even a tiny village that does not have its well-tended cemetery. But the average age of living Vietnamese is 15 -- and they have no memory of the war. The jungle has reclaimed the scarred landscapes. And since Vietnam already had many, many ruins from past wars and past civilizations, you can't tell the difference one from the other. My best suggestion would be that you spend some time in Hue and explore its huge citadel, site of much fighting during the l968 Tet Offensive. Lots and lots of rubble as well as a lot of rebuilding of the ruined temples and palaces. A lovely place beside the Perfume River, a very hospitable city, and much local color to observe. Danang has been completely transformed or overgrown. Marble Mountain has some caverns. The Cu Chi tunnels outside Ho Chi Minh City have become a bustling tourist trap and bear little resemblance to the narrow tunnels used by the VC. But if you are seeking reminders of the many wars Vietnam has suffered, you will be disappointed. Vietnam today should be seen for what it is -- a land of charming and hospitable people, great food, abundant and distinct culture, and no bitterness whatever. It is too busy just getting by and working toward its future.
USNR is offline  
Jul 11th, 2004, 09:53 AM
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What is referred to in the US as the Vietnam War is referred to in VN as the American War. A couple of remnants that may interest you: the remains of the "Hanoi Hilton" the POW prison where a number of American flyers were held. Also in Hanoi, I'd suggest visiting the Museum of the Revolution. (It's across the street from the History Museum.) It is a view of the war from the perspective of the North Vietnamese Propaganda machine (just as the news we got in the US was mostly a product of US propaganda). It's a fascinating perspective, in which the war was viewed as esentially a war against the imperialst invaders. The South Vietnamese fighting against the North are mentioned only peripherially as in the frequent phrase "the Americans and their lackeys." Perhaps half of the meseum has to do with the war against the French, as the revolution is seen as one long war agianst first the French and then the Americans. We were the only visitors when we were at the museum. It was an eerie sort of a time warp.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 11th, 2004, 12:35 PM
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Kathie points to an interesting relic, what is left of the Hanoi prison of Hua Lo, otherwise known as "The Hanoi Hilton." A grim, grimy, humid, oppressive place. Lots of photos (including John McCain's and a caption telling how well he was treated (!!!!)) as well as a guillotine used by the French. Lots of leg irons and remains of prison barracks as well as individual cells. The funny part comes when you learn what you see is but a fraction of the original prison. The rest of the prison was torn down and replaced by (are you ready?) a glitzy "convention center"!
USNR is offline  
Jul 11th, 2004, 01:07 PM
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Thanks very much for your feedback. It sounds as if we go to Hanoi, Hue and Saigon, then we will get as much as we are going to. Thanks again for your valuable insight. By the way, I really am interested in the Vietnamese' opinion. As I am Swiss, but raised in the US, I would like to learn as much as I can about them and their culture. So again, thanks for your assistance
Schweiz is offline  
Jul 11th, 2004, 03:54 PM
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There's a War Crimes Museum in Ho Chi Minh City - I think they've now changed the name to the War Remnants Museum (?) as a concession to American visitors.

There's also a poignant memorial to the My Lai Massacre in the south-central-coast province of Quang Ngai. The nearby hospital was funded by American vets.

As far as I know there are no official war graves for soldiers of ARVN, the Army of the Republic of (south) Vietnam. History is written by the winners.

In many rural areas you'll see stands of fast-growing Australian eucalypts, planted (I was told) to suck the traces of wartime defoliants from the soil. The bomb craters are mostly ponds now.

Of course the war wasn't a straight north-south fight. The National Liberation Front and its military arm, the Viet Cong, were largely made up of southerners, albeit under the overall direction of the Hanoi government and its redoubtable general Vo Nguyen Giap. Giap earlier fought against the Japanese in WWII and directed the successful operation against the French at Dien Bien Phu.

Like all civil wars it was messy and cruel. The government of the Republic of (south) Vietnam was an American creation, a product of the Cold War belief that all communist movements were part of a monolithic plan for world domination, in this case directed by "Red China". In fact the Vietnamese had been fighting the Chinese for centuries, and within a few years of the end of the "American War" were battling them again. (In turn, in 1949 the Chinese communists received no support from the USSR, as Stalin considered their revolution ideologically unsound and bound to fail.)

In fact Ho would have preferred a non-aligned position with American support. For their part Ho and his colleagues became convinced that the US aim was to supplant the French as colonial rulers of Indo-China. Just one of a long line of costly blunders engineered by people who didn't pick up a history book.

As USNR says, after almost 30 years of peace, most Vietnamese see the war as ancient history and are focused on making a good life for themselves and their families. It's still a poor country, but in no way disheartening -the energy and cheerfulness of the people see to that.
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