Today, we visited the Chu Chi Tunnels, a series of tunnels located Northwest of Saigon, where war raged between the Viet Cong and the American Army. The Viet Cong dug these sets of tunnels so that they would be protected from American aircraft above the surface. In them they built sleeping quarters, kitchens, hospitals, meeting rooms, ammunition storage places, and bunkers for attacking their enemy. Methods used to avoid detection included filtering out smells from the kitchen far away from its actual location, camouflaging entranceways, and making entrances and exits small.
The Vietnamese government does portray the Americans as the enemy when talking about the war, referring to the soldiers as “devils” and praising NVA soldiers who killed many Americans. Their animosity was really in our faces at times, in a typical communist fashion. Still, it is good to keep in mind that while America was in Vietnam, we killed somewhere around 3 million Vietnamese, and also dropped thousands of bombs, including napalm, referred to in Vietnam as “agent orange,” a chemical fire weapon that still causes birth defects in some of the citizens through genetics or contaminated soil/water.
Today made me come to terms with America’s failures in Vietnam. I wish we could have gotten out of the “quagmire” conflict sooner, so lives would have been spared on both sides. We Americans should be proud of the sacrifices our brave young soldiers made in Vietnam. At the same time, the Vietnam war is a classic example of “war is hell,” and the history of it will hopefully make American leaders think twice before getting involved in another, potentially drawn-out, conflict abroad.
Surprisingly, the young Vietnamese I have met do not have any grudge with Americans. My friend Bunny from UEF actually loves the American military because she has some pen pals who serve in the Marines. She also has expressed her irritation towards excess communist propaganda. I think people like Bunny represent a brighter future for Vietnam. Years from now, they may be able to open up conversations on more issues like freedom of speech and allowing for more free market characteristics of the Vietnamese economy.