We took another day trip today to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was our first visit to a Vietnam War site, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience. The tunnels were an underground network used by the Viet Cong during the war. The soldiers were able to use this tunnel network to effectively camouflage during fighting. The tunnels had everything needed to survive including beds, food, and hospitals, so they were able to stay underground for long amounts of time without needing to come up. The openings to the tunnels were so small that they were camouflaged very effectively. Our tour guide asked us to find the entrance to the smallest tunnel that we entered today, and even knowing the general area, many of us had noticing the entrance under the leaves and dirt
As soon as we arrived, we first saw the extensive resources that the United States used during the war, including large planes and other vehicles. I was wondering how it was possible for the US to lose the war when we had such extensive resources and money. However, once we saw the tunnel system, it was easier to understand the magnitude of the perseverance of the Vietnamese people to regain control of their own land. Living underground for such long amounts of time must have been very difficult physically and emotionally, but it was definitely an effective way to hide their whereabouts from the opposing military.
As I was walking from tunnel to tunnel, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to fight a war on these grounds. Whether you were American or Vietnamese, being in that environment fighting for your life must have been scary. After being in the area for less than two hours, I was sweaty, covered in bug bites, and ready to leave. I cannot even imagine how difficult it must have been to stay in the area for an extended amount of time.
Most of the knowledge about the Vietnam War that I have comes from the history classes that I took in high school, and we usually only had time to do a brief summary of the Vietnam War. We learned why Americans fought the war and about the hardships they faced during the war. However, hearing the history from the Vietnamese perspective was very different. Americans have the luxury of trying to smooth over the war, almost pretending that it didn’t happen. However, being in Vietnam, where the war was fought, the history lives on to a more significant extent. After we left the tunnels, we first visited a cemetery, where we saw only a fraction of the vast amount of people killed. After this, we went to a craft store where many of the workers suffer from birth defects caused by Agent Orange. Many of the people that we have interacted with since arriving were alive during the war or born soon after, so the history is prominent in their lives. Hearing the war described from the perspective of the people that were so devastated by the effects of the war certainly brings about feelings of guilt as an American.
I am still shocked that despite the recentness of the war, none of the Vietnamese students that we have spent time with have acknowledged this . The references that they have made to their knowledge of America have been about TV shows, movies, and the fun they have had with Pitt students in past years. It seems like the younger members of the country do not really hold a grudge towards the United States.