It took a while, but I finally decided I would visit the War Remembrance Museum. I had already taken in the Presidential Palace, and with it, a fair amount of historical references to the Vietnam War, but the displays there were only peripherally related to the war itself, like the president’s bunker and radio room, and displays showing receptions of various American dignitaries entertained over the years.
Getting there and entry are easy. Close by and only a few dollars. Once inside the gate, there are displays of vintage American material: F5, a Huey, a Chinook, howitzers, and a couple of tanks. The display of various bombs set the stage for what was inside.
I’m old enough to remember watching nightly news broadcasts that covered the war, often with imagery of soldiers marching, helicopters and planes flying. It was always shown as a war to curb communist aggression and expansion. At the time, I believed wholly in what I was told by my government. It’s been a process that started in high school, but I’ve since figured out one side’s story is not the only story, or even wholly correct. I visited this museum knowing that I would be witnessing the diametrically opposite side of the story, and that this version wouldn’t be the only story, and not the wholly correct version either.
Even so, the middle ground between the “sides” is where people died. Horribly, violently, and, in far too many cases, needlessly and maliciously. I think of what’s going on in Ukraine, and can’t fathom the depths of suck the people stuck in the middle must be enduring.
The images displayed at the museum were…disturbing. Moving. Thought-provoking. They made me think of just how thin the veneer of civilization really is, and that, given enough stimulus, many decent men will do indecent things. I know I had nothing to do with any of it – being only 12 when the USA pulled out in 1975, but as an American, I felt guilt for the atrocities. Guilt feels like shit, and guilt by association feels just as shitty.