Thirty-five years have passed since the end of the Vietnam War–which divided nations in the East and West and defined a generation.
RFA is looking back at this time, speaking to Vietnamese communities around the world, and discussing what they know as the “American War” — and it’s also, just as importantly, looking forward as this young, dynamic country takes its place in the region and the world.
I traveled through Vietnam in 1994, driving from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. And even at that time there were very obvious reminders of the war. These ranged from the somber–war graves and the site of the My Lai massacre–to the hopeful, albeit sometimes in a strange way.
Perhaps the oddest and most innovative example was near the former DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam.
Villagers would go out into the zone to find unexploded ordnance. They would defuse it, sell the metal for scrap, and use the explosives to make fireworks in little cottage businesses that usually involved the whole family.
Much of the money they earned they invested in children’s education. It is through this foresight that Vietnam has a more than 90 percent literacy rate.
For some people the memory of those times is still overwhelming. Khiem Tran spent much of the Vietnam War as a correspondent for U.S. television networks. But for 35 years, he’s kept one stash of photos to himself.
In an interview with RFA he talks about the photos of the chaos and terror let loose in late March 1975 as North Vietnamese forces began their invasion to take control of South Vietnam.
Tran, 78, kept these photos private to avoid embarrassing the fallen government and those he photographed. But his stunning images are now available on RFA to allow a seldom seen glimpse of the immediate aftermath of the war.