Thursday, February 2, 2017

Visiting the War Remnants Museum

January 15, 2017

We began the day with brunch at a vegetarian restaurant in District 1. The vegetarian food was delicious and definitely livened up Samir. From there, we walked across a park. It rained for the first time during our stay in Vietnam, which made for a nice contrast with our usual sunny and dry days. You can see our group enjoying the rain and the beauty of the park in the photos below.

Walking through the park
We then visited the War Remnants Museum. Upon entering the museum, we saw aircraft, tanks, and helicopters used by the Americans during the war. Tourists wandered around and took photos in front of these remnant instruments of war.

Outside, near the military vehicles, was an exhibition of the island prison camps first built by the French but then used by the South Vietnamese government and then the United States. The exhibit displayed the inhumane treatment and torture of prisoners who were arrested for allegations of subversion. The museum certainly did not hold back on showing the macabre and repugnant conduct that took place in these prisons.

After seeing the outdoor exhibits, our group then entered the museum. On the ground floor were hundreds of photos and posters expressing international condemnation of the US-Vietnam war. There were pictures of mass protests, letters from world leaders, and various newspaper articles. In addition to these was a small section showing US-Vietnam relations today – included were several pictures from President Obama’s visit last year.  
An Anti-War banner
Our group then visited the second and third floors. There was an exhibit dedicated to photographers who risked their lives or even perished to capture images of the war. Over a hundred photographers were injured, killed, or considered missing as a result of their mission. However, their work lives in the photo gallery exhibition of famous, unflinchingly honest portrayals of the war. One image that particularly struck me was the image of a mother and her children fleeing through a lake to get to a place of safety. There was another image of an older brother laying atop his younger brother in a desperate attempt to protect him. There were many images of Vietnamese civilians taken right before they were killed.

Another exhibit was dedicated to the disastrous effects of Agent Orange, a form of herbicidal warfare that was hugely destructive and an undeniable egregious war crime. Photographs and videos showed airplanes spraying the aerial herbicide across the country. There were photographs of forests destroyed by the chemical however even worse yet, the effects on the civilians were even worse. Photographs displayed soldiers exposed to Agent Orange who suffered from many diseases as a result of the exposure. There was a gallery dedicated to showing the children born of those affected. In addition, Agent Orange resulted in many genetic mutations, some of them too severe that they considerably limited the capability of children to take care of themselves, inhibiting growth and even leading to death.

Spraying Agent Orange

Victims of Agent Orange
Overall, visiting the War Remnants Museum left us somber but also provided us with a deeper understanding of the tragedy of war. Its honest portrayal of the war’s destruction and its lasting effects gave us insight into the complicated history we share with Vietnam. The visit also offered the poignant reminder that many wounds from this war have yet to heal. Despite the horrors within however, a banner outside the museum expressed the importance of peace and hope for the future. I think this museum visit reinforced in me the need for understanding history so that we do not duplicate the mistakes and tragedy of the past.

After the War Remnants Museum, our group paid a visit to Bui Vien Street, a backpacker area with many pop-up shops. There were many tourists in this area and many of the storefronts catered towards a more international audience. We then had dinner at an indoor market before going to a café to finish our final presentations. Overall, today was very memorable and a day that will always remain with me and the other Cornellians. -Clara

No comments:

Post a Comment