Wednesday, November 4, 2009

DMZ - Tour of the Demilitarized Zone

DMZ Vietnam

I went on a tour while I was in Hue to the DMZ (demilitarized zone, the Ben Hai River being the demarcation line between north and south during the war), the Vinh Moc Tunnels, Hien Luong Bridge, Khe Sanh, Ho Chi Minh Trail, Dong Ha Town, and the Rock Pile.

We went to see where one of the heaviest battles of the Vietnam War - Khe Sanh - was fought. Shredded pieces of American artillery and aircraft are still there, still lying where they were abandoned once the war ended. The bunkers have also been left just as they were. Vietnamese hawkers were walking around selling dog tags from both sides of the war, tags that they were still digging up around the shoveled mounds of dirt and grass. It was a bleak and depressing place and the lingering presence of dead soldiers haunted the bunkers and flattened hills.

The propaganda blitz from the south and north side of the demarcation line was interesting. Our guide told us that the south put up a large megaphone and blared propaganda to the north side of the river, so in response the north erected an even larger megaphone to out-do the south, until finally the megaphones could be heard in northern Quang Tri province. The same thing occurred with the flags, until the flags and poles were equally huge. Having had enough, the Americans decided to bomb the flag of the north once and for all, but missed the mark and by mistake, took our their own flag, killing a few of their own in the meantime.

After visiting Khe Sahn we went to the Vinh Moc tunnels, where the Vinh Linh people lived for up to 2,000 days, and where more than 20 babies were born. There was a hospital, along with apartments, kitchens, recreation rooms and deep underground bunkers. Life was lived underground. I began the trek inside with the others in my group, but very quickly it was so unbelievably narrow and confining that I got claustrophobic and backed out.

Later on, we were shown some craters in the ground that were approximately one hundred feet deep and fifty feet around, which were created from bunker buster bombs that had been dropped from American B52s, and when the bomb hit the ground it released another ingenious mechanism that chewed through the ground like a giant screwdriver, tearing up everything in its path. The area was dotted with these terrifying craters.

The tour was a trip back to the television set of my teenage years, where the images of American soldiers being taken out by helicopter was recreated over and over again.

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The tunnels

DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
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Bunker buster bomb craters

DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
DMZ Vietnam
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Hanging out with an interesting character. The hard work of the Vietnamese women is written all over them. The men went to fight the wars and the women did everything else.

DMZ Vietnam
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Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels
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Vinh Moc Tunnels

Vinh Moc Tunnels
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Ho Chi Minh Trail today

Ho Chi Minh Trail
Ho Chi Minh Trail
Ho Chi Minh Trail
Ho Chi Minh Trail