This morning, we were able to make the trek both to and within the Cu Chi tunnel system – an elaborate underground tool used by the Viet Cong during the war with the U.S.
In their time of use, the tunnels served as an escape, hideaway, and boobytrap site to the Viet Cong. These incredibly closed-in, lengthy, dark and humid underground roads were a prime example of utilizing the home advantage. They were well hidden within the jungle, and allowed for the soldiers who used them to maximize their guerrilla techniques by both sneaking up on the enemy and effectively escaping attack.
What has proven to be most interesting to me is the portrayal of the war from the Vietnamese perspective. It appears that, aside from referring to U.S. soldiers as “American devils,” they hold no grudges over the violence they endured. Instead, they show pride in their victory and the methods used to attain it. The war is portrayed as such by the government – a feat of the country and evidence of their resilience and determination. As far as the phrase “history is written by the victors” goes, it might apply to this case only as far as that they speak often of their victory while you hear much less about the war in America. Other than this, there were negative views and mass disapproval of America’s involvement in Vietnam all around the world, even within the U.S. itself. So, in a way, the victors didn’t have to tell the story, and if they did, they wouldn’t put America in as bad of a light as its own people do.
The Vietnamese citizens that I have interacted with, specifically the students, seem more saddened by the war than proud of it. This might be, even if only a little, because they have new sources of pride – such as their rapid development and hard work put in to achieve it.
After crawling through the Cu Chi tunnels (all three sets!), eating some squid, and stopping at the war cemetery to pay respects, we headed back “home.” It feels more that way. I keep mentioning in my posts how much I love the people with me on this trip; they feel more like family each day, too.
Some of my family (Hanna, Blaise, Clay, Dan, and Peter) finished the night with a water puppet show, some more street food, fancy ice cream, and a walk around Ho Chi Minh. I was right so far, I can say today was my new favorite day.