From the beginning I knew that our time in Hanoi would be enlightening experience. We would explore the capital of the heavily demonized enemy and see the face of the fierce enemy who killed and were killed by so many American service people. I was not disappointed in my desire to see the Vietnamese war from point of view of the victor.
On our 3rd day we visited the “Hanoi Hilton” where US service personnel were imprisoned during the war. We saw pictures of John McCain laying on his back with broken legs as well as groups of men decorating the chow hall for Christmas and playing basketball. All this I expected. The story of the prison has been told to me many times from the American perspective. What I did not know is that this same prison was used by the French colonial administration to lock up Vietnamese dissidents who advocated an independent state. Men were chained together in long lines with one ankle being shackled to the stone floor. Women were confined in small rooms with their children. Babies were born and raised behind the steel bars.
The Vietnamese Military Museum was also a much needed eye opener. Growing up around military bases, I was accustomed to seeing Soviet and Iraqi war trophies displayed prominently on the front lawn of most instillations. Here in Vietnam however, instead of T-54 Korean Tanks and Soviet Mig jet fighters there were American vehicles. Helicopters, howitzers, and Half-tracks were all exhibited on a large alter to the victory of the Vietnamese people. This image really burned into my mind that we truly lost the war.
I think it would be good for anyone to come to Hanoi and see the rapid and sustainable development that the Communist party is accomplishing here. Vietnam of today is very much different than that of the Ho Chi Minh era. The wounds of war are healing and a prosperous nation is coming alive. It's something I am glad I experienced and something everyone should aim to do.
(Article by Reed)