Posted by: hoz49 | March 20, 2008

War Remnants Museum

We were next driven back to Saigon for the city portion of our tour. I had the impression our driver was a little upset with the guide as we were evidently running about an hour late. There was some discussion back and forth in Vietnamese (which none of us understood) but I got the feeling our driver thought we should be further along the sights.

At the War Remnants Museum our guide explained there are displays in 8 separate buildings, besides the many tanks, planes, helicopters, big guns, bombs and other war material around the grounds. He left us to wander and make our own decisions about the museum, asking that we all rendezvous at the gate in one hour.

Fe and Lisa with an American jet.

The museum is from the Vietnamese viewpoint of course, and makes a logical argument that France and then America had no business involving themselves in Vietnam, it then documents the horror, and human cost of war.

Picnic on an American runway?

There is one especially moving display room that contains hundreds of pictures by photographers who were later killed in the war, some within days of taking the pictures.

Another building houses the infamous “Tiger Cages” used by the Saigon Government to incarcerate the Viet Cong. Nothing is mentioned of the “Hanoi Hilton” or other inhumane camps and practices of the Viet Cong on American prisoners. A French guillotine (Supposedly last used by Americans on Viet Cong) is also on display.

By chance, the day we visited was the anniversary of the MyLai Massacre, when an American company of soldiers, under the Command of Second Lt William Calley, swept through the village killing between 250 to over 500 civilians, including women and children. The actual number of dead will never be known as the massacre was covered up by the US Army. There is a small display about the village, now called Son Mai, and the memorial that has been built there. Many people from around the world, including American Veterans of the war, come to respect and remember the people who lost their lives there that day.

The final building houses pictures and posters from around the world of the anti-war movement. I recognized some of them from when I lived in California during the early 70’s. Like Yoggi Berra said, “it was deja Vu all over again.”

I was moved by the museum, and a little ashamed. But this is war, with all it’s irreverent and unholy actions. When the bombs and bullets are flying you do what you have to to survive. Still I couldn’t help thinking, we were lied to then. Even some of the most gung ho men who served in Vietnam now admit it was wrong. McNamara wrote a book admitting as much. And now we find the government has lied again, about the war in Iraq. Like the song “Where have all the Flowers Gone?… “When will we ever learn?”

The mood touring the museum is somber with most people shaking their heads at the atrocities that can be committed against our fellow man. The one exception was a group of Vietnamese school girls on a field trip. They had joyful smiles and giggles as they wandered through the Tiger Cage display. Not knowing the real horror that was depicted there it looked like a scary horror show. May their innocence always be unbroken.

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