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War Remnants Museum

VIETNAM | Saturday, 5 October 2002 | Views [1807]

There were arranged tours going to the War Remnants Museum, but I figured the museum would be an easy thing for me to visit on my own.  It turned out that going alone was the best thing I could have done.  The museum was incredible, though not a good incredible.  It was, of course, biased in the Communist post-war point of view, and it was very gruesome and disturbing to see some of the things our “advanced technology” did to the Vietnamese people.  There were so many photos of maimed men, mass graves, American soldiers with sick captions, and of deformed children.  These were the most moving.  The children are deformed from birth as a result of one or both of their parents having been exposed to Agent Orange.  Agent Orange was the only defoliant that the US used that had Dioxin, which is highly toxic and carcinogenic.  The adults exposed are rarely affected, but their children always have defects.  There were pictures of children born with gigantic heads, no eyes, missing or malformed limbs, muscular problems and mental retardation.  It was so sad to see those pictures and the video, and I wish there was something I could do, but it is so hard to know what would help.  Money is what they need, but I am a little short on that by US standards, even though I am filthy rich by Vietnamese standards.  I definitely left that museum with even more of an overwhelmed feeling that I did in Hiroshima.  The two are no different in the tragedy of the situation, but the Vietnam War was so much closer to my time and I know some people who fought in it, so there’s more of a connection to Vietnam for me than to Japan and WWII.  There’s so much we’re not taught about the Vietnam War in our cozy American schools; there’s so much that’s still unknown about it as well, which I’m sure makes it difficult to teach. But I definitely learned some things they would never dare teach us in America. 

It was also very disturbing to see pictures of American soldiers holding pieces or heads of Vietnamese soldiers with captions like “Here an American soldier laughs victoriously as he mutilates a Liberation soldier,” and “…all they want to do is fuck people over…like the lifer (E-6) in this photo who must really enjoy this kind of shit…”  To my American eye, these captions are ridiculously skewed.  In one, you could only see the soldier from the nose down (his hat covered his eyes) and his mouth could not have been laughing.  How could anyone laugh while carrying the mutilated corpse of another human being?  I know some people probably did, but this picture did not depict laughter whatsoever, and I almost cried for that soldier right there in the museum.  Yes, I came out of there with a new understanding for what the Vietnamese went through at our hand, and it will cause me to wonder what kinds of things we really did do in wars like Desert Storm, Korea, and now Afghanistan.  Who knows…?

Tags: musings, vietnam



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