Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Tragedy of War

Parents: this post is about the Vietnam War, is somewhat violent and political, and is most likely not appropriate for kids. 

I’m not afraid to admit that I completely coasted through social studies in school. I had zero interest and less than stellar teachers, apart from my American Government teacher who knew how to help kids connect to social studies. Because of this, though, I knew very little about the Vietnam War. Fortunately, that changed yesterday during my visit to the War Remnants museum in Saigon. 

I knew going in that it was going to be an uncomfortable experience no matter my political views of the war. America has a pretty seedy history when it comes to the war. Of course the museum had a communist spin, but even looking past that I came out of the experience disgusted by the horrors that occurred in this country.

The museum walked us through the war from beginning to end with an expected slant toward the Viet Công and communism.  I learned a lot I didn’t know about the cause of the war and the momentous events that escalated the conflict. There were instances where I could tell certain viewpoints were being pushed, like in one case where they said the US made up an entire attack to justify a counterattack. This could be true, but the way it was written definitly stood out to me. 

What really got to me in this museum was the inclusion of many war photos and stories of photojournalists throughout the war. So. Many. Casualties. Many shown in the photos. 3,000,000 Vietnamese were killed over the course of the war. The killings were flat out grouseum. Photos of the remains of bodies being carried away after explosions showed bodies that were not even recognizable as human. The Americans didn’t view the VC as human. Villages were pillaged. People were shot, execution style. Children were captured and tortured. The stories of violence seemed to be endless and more and more graphic as they went along.  I don’t care what the reason for war was, the brutality that was used against the Vietnamese was disgusting, inhumane, and unacceptable. This poster was hanging in the museum and, I felt it captured the attitude of what occurred.

In addition to the photos and personal war stories, the Agent Orange exhibit was horrifying as well. I was aware of the spread of chemicals, but not sure why. Finding out that they so nonchalantly spread toxic chemicals in and around villages with the understanding that it would have detrimental long lasting effects was awful. I also hadn’t realized the purpose of agent orange - to destroy the vegetation, making it easier for the US soldiers to find the enemy in the jungle. So basically these chemicals were destroying the environment and causing serious diseases and genetic defects in people for generations.....still continuing to this day. 

I really thought the juxtaposition below of the photos with a quote from our Declaration of Independence was an interesting commentary, especially knowing the background of the war now. 

The final exhibit of the museum was to honor the protest that occurred worldwide in hopes of getting America out of Vietnam. It was a powerful way to end the museum, especially because they included photos of protests within the US. 

While I’ve always had a strong opinion about war, experiencing it in this context solidified that opinion. The devastation was inhumane and the effects are still being felt today. This was a good way to me really mentally prepare myself before moving on to an even more gruesome history in Cambodia. 


  1. Thank you for sharing your impressions from the War Remnant Museum. I have read that it is extremely powerful and provokes emotional responses from many of its guests. I'd be curious to know more about the 3 million deaths data as I've read many conflicting accounts of numbers. Some of those numbers include the 58,000+ US military deaths, others do not. Nevertheless, the death toll is both staggering and painful. Safe travels!

    1. I plan on doing some additional research on the war once I get home. The museums were strongly propagandized. The photos were extremely powerful, but some of the facts and statistics seemed iffy....