Much like the United States, Vietnam remembers the cost of war. In all the major cities, streets bear the names of war heroes (particularly Nguyen). Statues depicting heroic soldiers cover many of Vietnam’s city parks. Throughout Vietnam, people can find museums, temples, and cemeteries dedicated to North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) dead. Memorials and cemeteries sit alongside the highways of Vietnam. Much of these sites reflect Vietnam’s strong Buddhist influences. In this post, the selected sites show the rather wide range of memorialization found across Vietnam.
Cu Chi Temple
The Cu Chi temple is dedicated to all the VC whom perished in and near the tunnels. At first glance the temple seems like a typical Buddhist pagoda, yet instead of Buddhist symbols, communist and nationalist items adorn the structure. A large statue of Ho Chi Minh, located at the center of inner temple, is flanked by walls of plaques bearing their names and dates of death. With over 50,000 confirmed VC dead, the is little blank wall space. Out of the temple are murals depicting the victory of the Vietnamese people over the French and the Americans. In the temple gardens sits a tear-drop statue, dedicated to all the mothers whom lost their sons. The entire complex, while blossoming with Vietnamese nationalism, is humbling.
Unfortunately my camera’s battery did not properly charge the night before visiting Cu Chi and thus I do not have any pictures. However, I am waiting on obtaining some photos from fellow travelers. Anna, thank you for letting me use your photo!
Long Hung Church
Once a Catholic Church, this building at Long Hung is now a burnt out structure left as a reminder of violence of war. Destroyed during Tet ’68, the government in Hanoi dedicated Long Hung Church as a memorial to all the people who died during the American and South Vietnamese attempts to re-take the town. It is important to note that since North Vietnam won the war, Hanoi gets to write the official Vietnamese history of the conflict. Hopefully most people outside of Vietnam know that North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam and brought the war to many Vietnamese civilians.
Not to far from Khe Sanh is a sprawling NVA cemetery. At the entrance of this well-kept cemetery are two large statues extolling the virtues of Communism and the sacrifices of the Vietnamese people. Organized in a multitude of sections, each NVA unit’s dead are left together. Thus even in death, the cadre’s cohesion is maintained. A number of statues depicting the heroic acts of both male and female NVA soldiers greet arriving visitors. There are also shrines were people can burn incense to honor the dead.
Old Border Crossing
Despite the unification of Vietnam, a crossing point between North and South Vietnam remains. Functioning as a window into the country’s turbulent and divided past, the crossing is now as a memorial to war dead. On the side of what was the Republic of Vietnam, a large memorial to grieving mothers faces travelers arriving from the north. On both sides of the river, visitors can spot old defense structures and speaker systems.
After a busy semester, here is the final segment of my three part series on my trip to Vietnam this past summer. I apologize for taking so long to get this piece posted.
Inspired by the name Kraftwerk, but instead of music think history. The purpose of Thompson Werk is to present the musings of a Modern U.S. History doctoral student. With a focus on the American war in Vietnam, discussions usually center on pacification and diplomacy.
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