Tunnel Vision (Day 7)

Being somewhat of a history nerd, I’ve always had a great interest in geopolitical affairs throughout history, particularly within the cold war, meaning that the Vietnam War has always intrigued me. It fascinates me just how passionate people were about ideologies, and that these belief systems seemed to matter more than human lives. This is most exemplified in the Vietnam War, a war between communism and democracy, that had devastating effects on Vietnam. Thankfully, I have been able to witness this country in a time of peace and growing prosperity, and can visit military sights without having to lay down my life in doing so.

In order to get a greater understanding of the war, particularly in how the Viet Cong were so successful against the United States military, we ventured to the Cu Chi tunnels to see firsthand how the Viet Cong went about their military operations to counteract the barrages of napalm and Agent Orange from the Americans. Seeing the tunnels in person was an incredible experience, and it was interesting to learn about how the Viet Cong used them in order to be safe underground from American attacks, as well as a form of ambush. The Viet Cong utilized several types of traps as to lure American soldiers into fake tunnels that ultimately contained spikes, fishing traps, or other things of the sort. The tunnels were not very spacious, yet gave way for larger rooms used for a variety of purposes, since the Viet Cong would often have to stay below the ground for long periods of time. The tunnels had openings that were concealed by leaves, making them quite difficult to find.

The tour, although very wonderful and welcoming in most aspects, didn’t contain the most objective explanations of events. In other words, the video we watched as part of the tour described Americans as “evil”, while praising the killing of American soldiers during the war, even displaying a 12 year old girl who was awarded for killing many Americans. As it is called the “American War” in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese government, having one the war, have written a war story of American atrocities ended by heroic effort from soldiers and farmers alike. Although history is said to be written by the victors, nobody truly wins in wars, as there were countless casualties, atrocities committed by both sides, as well as horrific reeducation camps carried out by the communist government after the war to prepare the south for a communist rule. It seems that the younger students seem to be less affected by the government’s propaganda about the war, as they are more aware of western culture, and tend to not discuss it too much. I believe wholeheartedly that because of globalization and the pressing issues threatening the world as a whole, that the majority of people and nations worldwide are seeking to put aside their historical differences and quarrels in order to make the world a better place.

After the tunnels, we went to a cemetery for Vietnamese soldiers, and I couldn’t help but think how it must have been to fight in the war as a solider, from both perspectives. From the American point of view, the soldiers were brave men who put their life on the line, yet it was for a government fighting a war that it truly did not need to fight. In terms of being a Vietnamese soldier, I imagine all the hardships of being invaded, and having bombs explode around the country that they grew up in, while seeking to make an independent country for their families to live in. Our tour concluded with a stop at a market in which the government provides victims of Agent Orange with a place to display their creativity, with hundreds of artisan-type items available for purchase. The market was perfect to find a Mother’s Day gift for my mom, which added some happiness to a day that was filled with profound eeriness that surrounded a ground once littered with horrific sights.

I have truly learned so much about Vietnam over the past week from all aspects, and I have grown much both personally and professionally by being in an environment that is completely out of my comfort zone. We are heading to get some Vietnamese pancakes for dinner tonight, and I cannot wait to have some incredible food as an ending to an incredible day.

Leave a Reply