Two things to know about me: I don’t like small spaces, and I hate bugs. Today, I walked through a jungle filled with large centipedes, spiders, and beetles, and voluntarily lowered myself into holes I barely fit into so that I could explore some of the vast 200 km tunnel system known as the Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels were used by the North Vietnamese during the war. The soldiers could use these underground passages to appear and disappear quickly, ambushing the American soldiers. The tunnels also have rooms that were used as infirmaries, kitchens, and meeting rooms, allowing the soldiers to live and meet undetected by US soldiers.. The tunnels also helped the Vietnamese by protecting them from Agent Orange and bombs. The jungle was filled with bomb craters, but the tunnels were unaffected because of how deep they were.
The saying “history is written by the winners” was reflected in the short documentary we watched before going into the tunnels. The movie made the American soldiers out to be evil people trying to stop Vietnam from unifying. The video seemed to gloss over the fact that the Americans fought alongside the South Vietnamese. Efficient North Vietnamese soldiers used the tunnel system to ambush Americans and were praised as “American killers”. Although it’s clear that the North Vietnamese, or the “winners” of the war, control the history in Vietnam, the War Remnants Museum and the tunnels paint a very different picture than what we learned about the war in school. I think that both sides of the war tell their own story, and getting both perspectives is what allows us to see a clear picture of the war.
Talking to the Vietnamese students, it’s obvious that they do not share the position that the government has on Americans and the war. The younger Vietnamese generations tend to look forward to the future instead of dwelling on a past that they did not experience themselves. The war does not seem to have a large influence on their lives, even though some had relatives who were involved in it. Instead of being wary and distrusting of Americans, the Vietnamese students I’ve met have all loved Americans and our culture. This is evidence of globalization, because the spread of our culture was enough to overcome any influence the government or older Vietnamese had on the students regarding Americans.
Overall, this was an extremely interesting and educational day. I’ve never been able to learn history in such a hands-on way and I rarely have the opportunity to push myself to do something like this. On the way to the tunnels, I was convinced I would only be able to go through the first tunnel. The first two tunnel entrances were widened for tourists and the tunnels themselves were much shorter than the last one. The third tunnel was much longer and went down to the second level of the system. Even after encountering centipedes and a bat in the first tunnel, I ended up going through all three, and I’m so glad I did!