February 20, 2014

Francis Parker - Vietnam 2014

Day 10 Photo Highlights

In the morning, we briefly visited a pagoda that blends the religions of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. We saw people burning incense in front of shrines of the Buddha or a renowned Confucian scholar, while Taoists brought turtles to put in the pagoda's pond in order to atone for their sins.

After the pagoda, we proceeded to the War Remnants Museum. Outside the museum were tanks, missiles, and planes used by the American military in the Vietnam War. These were not as startling as the exibits inside the museum, especially since we saw several similar Russian-made tanks (used by the Viet Cong) later in the day at the Presidential Palace.

 The first exhibit showed posters from solidarity movements all around the world that were protesting the Vietnam War.  For instance, we saw posters from Finland (as seen above), all over Western Europe (Italy, Germany, France, etc.), Japan, Cuba, and of course from Berkeley. Many of us had previously thought that the Vietnam War was an unpopular war only in the United States (a very limited point of view), so it was eye-opening to learn that it was unpopular all around the world.

In the American War Crimes Exhibit, we saw pictures of the results on the Vietnamese of dioxin poisoning (most significantly Agent Orange), phosphorus bombs, and massacres of entire Vietnamese families in the name of rooting out the Viet Cong. We saw the plaque shown above in the same exibit, and it resonated and shocked us because it used our own words to denounce the atrocities our soldiers commited in the War.  The extent to which the Americans were desperate to root out the Viet Cong shocked us again was we read this quote from an American bulldozer operator: "From now on, anything that moves around here is automatically considered VC and bombed or fired upon."

We followed that visit with a tour of the Presidential Palace, now known as Reunification Palace, which is most notable for hosting the American-backed Diem regime. The palace featured lavish rooms used for receiving foreign diplomats and the president's living quarters.  We ended our tour with a walk through the bunker underneath the building, where we saw a map room by Diem's and America's generals.


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