Today we had the opportunity to visit a historical site of the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi tunnels. Upon arrival, we are greeted with a presentation of old war machines left behind by the Americans or taken by the Vietnamese soldiers. Seeing these machines sparked the conversation of how amazing it is that even with the machinery and tools of the US, Vietnamese farmers and townspeople were able to destroy and capture them. This was a point I had never thought about before and since the province of Cu Chi was a peaceful civilian town, they were even less equity to combat the incoming United States bombs. Before crawling down into the tunnels, a video was shown of the war that portrayed how the Vietnamese government views the war. The video very much showed the US as an aggressive enemy toward this peaceful town who only wanted to farm. It was mentioned several times the number of innocent women and children were killed because of the guerrilla tactics and dioxin. Several times in the film, US troops were called the devil’s men, evil men, or other names alluding to cruelty. In order to survive such massive attacks and bombings, the Vietnamese built these 125+ kilometer tunnel systems to escape to safety and fight without being seen after the destruction of the forests from dioxin. There were also several defense mechanisms put in place to protect the tunnels from being found and infiltrated by the US troops that included anything from buried land mines to trap doors. The tunnels themselves were dug up and built using only a small hand held tool resembling a garden hoe and a leaf woven basket to transport the excess dirt. The incredible difficulty of creating underground systems strongly depicts the strong will to survive and resilience of the Vietnamese people.
The way the war is viewed by the Vietnamese government, as shown in the video, is not surprising when considering the mass destruction caused by our American troops, but was also slightly unexpected because of the way the Vietnamese have interacted with our group on this trip. Most of the people we’ve been interacting with are of the young population which shows how great of a change there is in the relationship between the two countries. It has been stated several times on this trip by the Vietnamese professors and students that they will not dwell on the painful past, but grow and continue to move forward to a better future. These attitudes along with the work the US consulate does to repair our relationship, make the video at the tunnels even more striking. Although the citizens do not act or seem to have any hatred toward the United States, the Vietnamese government still officially views the war from an anti-American standpoint. Furthermore, the way we were taught and what we were taught about the Vietnam war in the US is completely different than the way the government feels in Vietnam. From what I remember in school, the United States was shown as more of a helpful aid than an enemy in all cases. Although we did greatly aid with supplies and funds, the terrible destruction and their lasting effects were not emphasized as much as I believe they should’ve been. This comparison between how our two countries view this war is a perfect example of the ways governments control what is perceived by their citizens. Luckily, for the benefit of both Vietnam and the United States, our relationship has become more positive in the younger population which helps the country grow to a better future of peace.