Today we didn’t have any class or a site visit. Instead, we took a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnel System. The tunnels were originally built by farmers who were trying to hide from French attack and they were used extensively by the Viet Cong soldiers and guerrillas of the Vietnam War. The tunnels were used to hide, flee, travel, and stage surprise attacks near Saigon. The tunnels go up to 10 meters deep and make up 250 km in length. Inside the tunnels there were meeting rooms, infirmaries, kitchens, and more. Although the tunnels were simple and made of stone and dirt, they were designed marvelously. Their simplicity made it so that they were hard to identify. The tunnels were small and difficult to navigate unless you knew where you were going. It would be hard for most Americans to fit through the original tunnels. The outside openings were either lids covered with foliage or were concealed by plants. To provide air flow and an exit for smoke, small holes were made in the ground.
We left the hotel early in the morning and headed to the tunnels first thing. The jungle was beautiful and we saw so many bugs! The tunnels were small and dirty, but manageable. I believed that the tunnels would involve practically lying in the dirt, but every tunnel was relatively easy to crawl through. It was very interesting to think about the history that had occurred in the very same tunnels less than half a century beforehand. It was also sad to think about the people who had died in or around the area. When we visited the war cemetery, there were so many graves and yet the number of graves there was nowhere near equal to the actual amount of lives lost in the war.
The Vietnamese government portrays the Vietnam War as a foreign invasion of Americans who were hindering Vietnam’s quest for independence. They refer to the “American Devils” in propaganda and distributed awards for killing Americans. People often say that history is written by the victors and that is obvious is the Vietnamese government’s portrayal of the war. They often represent Americans as intrinsically cruel and vicious. However, the Vietnamese government is not overly biased. Older propaganda is, but most modern descriptions of the war are simply factual and honest. Many young people today do not think negatively of Americans. This may be due to the widespread nature of American pop culture, but it also may be due to the economic support America has given Vietnam or the instability of the current government. Today I talked to one of the Vietnamese students about her opinion of the government, and she believes that Vietnam is still an unstable country.