It numbed a part of my mind. The moment I visited the War Remnant Museum, Saigon. Sure, I have read tons of literature, spent sleepless nights watching movies on the Nam war and felt the terror. And not lived in it.
For when Copolla had filmed the Napalm bomb razing over the swaying palm trees on Vietnamese coastline, I retreated back to my safe and privilege abode in Bangalore, India. Life would be the same next day for me, with a job, cooked food in fridge, a movie over the weekend, salary credited to bank account end of the month.
I could, however, relate the horrific stories my grandma had told me as a displaced refugee, running for shelter, leaving behind her homeland during the trying time of partition in Indian subcontinent.
What Saigon’s war museum will show you will surpass the pain, will press you to the wall and limn bright as a catalyst of the whirlpool of emotion. I visited war remnant museum only at the end of the Vietnam trip. And I thank my stars for doing so. “I tasted blood in my mouth.” Lest it be a typical War remnant museum review, I tried to capture the essence of the visit with multiple images.
Here is a collection of the photographs from the museum that stands witness to massive toll the Vietnam War took on the citizens of the world. Of course, the temples of My Son were dilapidated. Of course, the country was divided for long and colonial rules thrived. The river Saigon tells history. You just need to learn to decipher her whispers.
Love from different parts of the world
I found people all over the world writing the messages of love and peace, barring boundaries of religion, nationality and race. I saw women clad in Saree protesting on the roads on Kolkata, captured in a timeless photo frame. A moment of proud for me, because it could be me from another life.
I found rays of hope when a Palestine national writes about strength and victory on the visitor’s note. “And when the planes crashed on the twin towers, all the massages spoke of love.”
Quotes on Vietnam war from contemporaries
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”
― Muhammad Ali
“The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as the Westerner. Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient, and as the philosophy of the Orient expresses it, life is not important.”
– General William Westmoreland, interviewed for the documentary Hearts and Minds
I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA, Apocalypse Now
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
– Time magazine editorial about Roger Allen LaPorte, an American pacifist who set himself on fire in protest of American policies in Vietnam, 196589
In World War One, they called it shell shock. Second time around, they called it battle fatigue. After ‘Nam, it was post-traumatic stress disorder.
JAN KARON, Home to Holly Springs
“As a child, I thought that war and peace were opposites. Yet I lived in peace when Vietnam was in flames and I didn’t experience war until Vietnam had laid down its weapons. I believe that war and peace are actually friends, who mock us.”
― Kim Thúy, Ru
“The Vietnam War was definitive in the lives of those who served. But those who made it home, never fully returned. My story was an attempt to find that part of me who remained in-country. Upon the story’s completion, I realized the part I left behind, was perpetually lost.”
― Joseph M. Puglia
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff… maybe I’ve seen too much. I see most humans in a bad light because I’ve seen what they can do, how evil they can be… I’ve seen the Holocaust and I’ve seen Jonestown, I’ve seen the Vietnam War and I’ve seen Hiroshima… I’ve seen the Chernobyl disaster… I’ve seen the World Trade Center attack… I’ve been alive too long, over a hundred years is a long time to be alive,” Alecto sighed, staring at the cigarette he was holding.”
― Rebecca McNutt, Smog City
“Funny that the people who aren’t doing the fighting are the most tired of it,” Evan said. “We never knew anything about people being sick of it, or protests, or people thinking we were the bad guys. All our news was censored. We thought everyone would be proud of us, like they are of our dads. We were out there, putting everything on the line every day because that’s what our country told us to do, under conditions that would make a saint afraid to look God in the face, and we were doing our best. I knew there were a few anti-war protests before I left, but I never expected it to be like this…”
― Sabrina Fedel, Leaving Kent State
“Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to row the boat.”