In Vietnam, we call it the ‘American War’.
For most of us it is history – over two thirds of Vietnam’s population was born after the war ended in 1975. However, those who lived through part, or all, of that terrible time look back in sadness, not anger or rancour – even those who lost children and loved ones, or still suffer from war injuries or the effects of napalm and chemical weapons.
Many American citizens come here fearful of a hostile reception and are amazed at the warmth of the welcome they receive. For us, the war is in the past – we're looking forward to the future.
The events of the war
The American War is a study in itself. The tactics and strategy, the battles and engagements, the ebb and flow of the conflict, are the stuff of military history, and there are already many books, films and documentaries detailing what occurred from various viewpoints. Most guidebooks contain good synopses of the war years, so there is little point in duplicating their content here.
Not just the usual Vietnam War tour!
Most ‘War Tours’ consist of visits to various battle sites in what was the Demilitarised Zone, and elsewhere, perhaps with excursions to sights of military interest, such as the Cu Chi tunnels, near Ho Chi Minh City. Although such a tour is fascinating, especially for those who were involved in the action, at Haivenu, we prefer to add a Vietnamese perspective to what took place.
A Vietnamese perspective
For the many Americans who fought and died here, it was sometimes difficult to be clear about the purposes of the conflict. It must be even more difficult to understand the motives and actions of the Vietnamese who, in most popular media accounts of the war, are usually referred to as 'gooks', 'Charlie' or simply ‘the enemy’.
Most of the dozens of films about the war are from the US. Nearly all are introspective studies of the effects upon the GI’s, gung ho ‘action’ movies, or more developed attempts to try to capture the horrors of the war from a Western viewpoint. Perhaps understandably, very few feature the Vietnamese as more than an anonymous cipher or a stereotype.
The war today
The traumas of the war are still with us. Accounts of children and adults being killed or maimed by unexploded ordnance, deformities caused ‘Agent Orange’, by the chemical herbicides used to deny the Viet Cong cover under foliage, and repatriation of bodies from remote areas feature regularly on television and in newspapers. The devastation wreaked upon many historic sites, such as the Hue Citadel and My Son Sanctuary (now UNESCO World Heritage sites), by US blanket bombing are continuous reminders of our cultural losses.
A different view
However, that was then and this is now. Apart from trying to show you the conflict through Vietnamese eyes, using people who were there at the time, we also want to show you our successes. You’ll see the restored buildings in Hanoi, the new Ho Chi Minh trail (now a modern trunk road following part of the route of the original Viet Cong supply line from the North to the South), and the many major infrastructure projects replacing the bridges, roads and viaducts battered by the war.
Most of all, we want to show you the future - our optimism and the desire to make up for the lost years. You'll see it in the enthusiasm of the young and the friendliness of their elders, and feel it in the buzz of energy that pervades our towns and cities. We will never forget the war, and the millions of our people who paid the price of peace with their lives, but we know that just remembering isn't enough. As citizens of the new Vietnam, it's our responsibility to make their sacrifices worthwhile.