Today we visited the Cu Chi Tunnel system located north of Ho Chi Minh City, near the border between Vietnam and Cambodia. These tunnels were used by the Viet Cong to hide their troops and movements from the American troops, helicopters, and bombardment during the daytime in the war. We were fortunate enough to be able to go into some of the tunnels which were varying in size and see some of the rooms that they used for varying purposes such as a medical ward or a meeting room. Most of the tunnels I had to duck walk through, but the narrowest one required me to really squeeze into, and once I was in there I had to crawl because the ceiling was to low. The narrowest tunnel was so well hidden it’s no wonder we couldn’t find their soldiers so close to the city, because it took us a minute to find the entrance given the general area of it. We also got to watch a video that put the war into perspective from the viewpoint of the Vietnamese. They portrayed the people who killed the invaders as heroes and heroines who risked their lives for their country, which is very different than how I was taught to view these people in school. Seeing some of the different traps they used to kill anyone who was unaware of their presence made me wince at thinking of how awful being stuck in one of them would feel.
The idea that “history is written by the victors” is kind of twisted and distorted following the events of the Vietnam war. In past wars such as the American Civil War and World War 2 this was a pretty cut and dry concept, the winner of the war got to tell the story of how the war is viewed by the general public, being the Union troops and the Allied Powers respectively. However, in this war America got embarrassed by the cunning tactics and “feats of engineering” that were used by the Viet Cong including the tunnel system and building pipes to move smoke from fires away from their locations and out of sight from aircraft flying overhead. This was a war that seeing the conflicting armies on paper you would think that America wiped the floor with the Vietnamese, instead of the other way around and that is what seems to cause the gray area. America was much more heavily armed in the war and even though the North Vietnamese ended the war by capturing Saigon and enforcing their communist government in Vietnam, we had dropped so many bombs and chemicals on the country that they were left in a significantly weakened state. The effects of Agent Orange are still being seen in the new generations of Vietnamese to this day, so while America was militarily defeated, the Vietnamese took losses so profound that it’s told around the world from both viewpoints depending on where you are. From my experience with the younger generations of the Vietnamese they seem to take a different viewpoint on the war and America in general. They didn’t experience the war firsthand and as the trade relations between Vietnam and America grow they seem to see us as allies who are helping them develop into a better country. This opposes the viewpoints that Americans are nosy, invading, monsters, who are to involved in other countries business. This viewpoint of the younger generations is hopefully going to help the bond between the two countries grow even more and I personally look forward to it.