The next day in HCMC we took a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, a tourist version of the tunnels used by the Vietcong during the war to not only defend themselves, but perpetrate guerrilla warfare against American soldiers.
Before we arrived there however, we stopped at another factory/shop/rest area for tourists, but this one was about artisans who were victims of Agent Orange. It wasn’t evident in all the people who were working on various laquerware designs using egg shells and oysters, but one of the fellows in this set was congenitally handicapped. (I imagine that the effects of Agent Orange may not always be so obvious.) There’s a close up of the inlays that need to be cut, a vase up close and further away, artisans doing their work, the shop, and some dragon fruit…
Here are some displays of American weapons collected by the Vietnamese. The myriad uses of bombs was fascinating: exploded casings were used as shovels, picks, etc., and unexploded ordnance were dissected for their powder and other deadly contents to be used against the enemy – US. The anatomy and devastation of cluster bombs was shown, as well as the details of grenades and chemical weapons.
There were a variety of displays of varying effect. One showed the various booby traps used by the Vietcong with details on their design, note the bamboo spears and barbed iron spikes that were used to impale the enemy. Another showed one of many American tanks taken out by a ‘delay mine,’ and another showed the variety of mines used. Somewhat disturbing was the behavior of other tourists who wanted pictures of themselves on tanks and took selfies with booby traps.
We had several experiences with the actual tunnels. We poked our heads in a couple, then crawled or walked (hunched and struggling) through another, and looked at/into several others. Claustrophobia would have been a problem, ventilation another, and simply digging them a nightmare.
Here are some photos, mostly of the Vietcong in the process of digging the tunnels, living in them, engaging in the war, and taking care of their wounded.
The following is an odd collection of pix. A bust of Uncle Ho, bamboo growing out of a B52 bomb crater, a VC sweetpotato snack, rice paper (for spring rolls) production, a map of the region, a diagram of the tunnel network (there were 250 kilometers of tunnels), etc.
A stranger and perhaps more disturbing feature was the shooting range. Tourists could pay to fire guns (M15s, AK47s, etc.) at several dollars per bullet. In addition to pix of the shooting range, ammo, sign up desk, and affiliated gift shop, there are couple shots of replicas of US GI lighters (used for cigarettes and torching villages) and figurines of jeeps, jets, and helicopters made out of bullets or shell casings. It was loud!
A concluding note. I was angry, disgusted, and flabbergasted about at least five things:
- First, that the United States had gone thousands of miles around the world to kill other people in their homeland, ignoring the lessons of the French who’d also been defeated by the Vietnamese (and the advice of Eisenhower and his military advisers).
- Second, that around three million Vietnamese were killed, mostly by Americans in the name of our war on Communism (which we lost, but which doesn’t seem to matter now based on our trade with China, Vietnam, and now Cuba), and many by chemicals we dumped on their country by the thousands of tons, not to mention the damage done in many ways to people on both sides who were not actually killed.
- Third, that unsuspecting young Americans were sacrificed for this unjustified war of aggression, not only those who were killed, but those who were hurt, damaged, or left to question what they and their country had done, and why?
- Fourth, that the Military Industrial Complex perpetrated this evil, this unholy war, not only at the cost of lives but actual dollars, millions and millions of them paid by taxpayers – not for schools, infrastructure, healthcare, or the betterment of humanity, but the rampant destruction of nature, people, and social institutions on another continent.
- Fifth, that it is still happening today as if we have learned nothing from our mistakes.
- Research Cu Chi (see link above). What is interesting, compelling, or important?
- Research Digital History pages about the Vietnam War. What is interesting, compelling, or important?
- How should tourists behave at a place like this, where people lived and died in war?
- What is your reaction to my list at the end of the post?
- What makes you mad?