I grew up in the USA after the Vietnam War ended but the chill from its shadow was long. Many Americans remembered this war with anger and bitterness for a variety of reasons – veterans who served felt their efforts were not appreciated and civilians who felt the USA should never have been in the war. Having left Vietnam in 1973, memories seem to have faded in the intervening 45 years. We have a US administration whose default posture seems to be an aggressive warlike stance which many Americans don’t want.
Vietnam itself has bounced back as a desirable tourist destinations with almost 13 million tourists in 2017. Among the many great things to do in Vietnam are visit Halong Bay, cruise the Mekong Delta, hang out on the beautiful beaches and eat pho in Hanoi. I would suggest that you add these 5 Vietnam War sites to your itinerary in order to understand Vietnam’s relatively recent bloody past.
Why Visit Vietnam War Sites?
Here are some sobering statistics on the Vietnam War:
- Nearly 60,000 Americans died during the war and another 75,000 Americans were left disabled. The average age of an American casualty was merely 23 years old.
- Nearly 70% of the current population of Vietnam was born after the Vietnam War ended. The loss of men during the war means there are still significantly more women than men in the country.
- About 2 million Vietnamese people became refugees from their country after the end of the war.
Our first nanny when the twins were babies was such a Vietnamese refugee. She and her sister fled on a boat, was rescued by a ship at sea and then processed as refugees. She was accepted for entry by the United Kingdom and her sister was sent to the USA. She was excellent as a baby nurse and spoke wistfully about the fact that she never had her own children.
All of these people affected by the Vietnam War deserve to be remembered and the world needs to ensure we don’t get embroiled unwittingly in a similar disaster.
5 Vietnam War Sites You Should Visit
These 5 sites show different aspects of the Vietnam War. Obviously there are more sites to visit in Vietnam but this will give you an overview of the war as waged in this country.
Son My Memorial
The Son My Memorial is a sculpture of a defiant elderly woman meant to represent the unyielding will of the Vietnamese.
The Son My Memorial commemorates one of the worst atrocities of the war. An American unit massacred almost 500 civilians in the village of My Lai in March of 1968. The photos of this massacre was instrumental in shifting public opinion on the Vietnam War in the USA
Hoa Lo Prison Museum
The Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi was built by the French in 1896 during their colonial rule. During the Vietnam War, it became nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by its American prisoners of war. One of its famous former POW’s is Senator John McCain who ran for the presidency of the USA in 2008.
Although most of the prison has been destroyed, a gate house remains and is a museum.
Vinh Moc Tunnels
The Vinh Moc tunnels were used by civilian Vietnamese as bomb shelters. The village of Vinh Moc had the bad luck of being on the North and South Vietnamese border and faced heavy military action.
So 60 families moved underground carried on with ordinary life – eat, sleep and even have babies. Over the course of 6 years, tons of bombs were dropped on the villagers but no one died. It’s an impressive testament to the human instinct to survive and to adapt.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi tunnels are thousands of miles of tunnels created by the Viet Cong to conduct guerilla war against the American troops. The Viet Cong used the tunnels to hide as well as a base from which to conduct war. For example, the Cu Chi tunnels held hospitals and living quarters.
The American troops knew about the tunnels but they just couldn’t eradicate them. Not only were the Cu Chin tunnels hundreds of miles long but also booby-trapped. These tunnels were instrumental in adding to the American troops’ frustrations, casualties and costs.
War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) is definitely Vietnam government propaganda. The name may have change from the American War Crimes Museum but that’s about as even-handed a treatment of the war as it gets!
This museum is useful though as a testament to the horrors of war, including exhibits of military equipment, unexploded bombs and photographs of victims affected by napalm.
Whatever your opinion of the Vietnam War itself, you can’t walk away from the War Remnants Museum Saigon without thinking war itself is just a bad idea.