‘Vietnam War’ – what Vietnamese people think of the conflict

There are always two sides to a story, and if the story is about a war, surely it has various dimensions. For a historian, it is not an easy task to keep track of the motives and intentions behind certain acts of war. There are no two opinions about investigating the causes and effects of a war. However, the insight one could get from those who lived through a war has a distinct position above all other tools of inquiry.

Any professor of history teaching in the United States would tell you that ‘Vietnam War’ took place to protect the ‘good folks’ of the south from ‘bad people’ of the north.  Despite losing more than 58,000 troops, and withdrawing after a humiliating defeat in Vietnam, the United States still considers the war in Vietnam as ‘just another mistake’ in the Cold War.

Nevertheless, America’s campaign in Vietnam, which lasted more than a decade, had a profound impact on millions of Vietnamese. For these people, this war is not the Vietnam War: they call it the ‘American War’.

There is a whole generation of people with vivid memories of days and nights of war. For a large number of Vietnamese, the war was just another USA campaign, to serve its own interest. People still remember the times when there were non-stop radio broadcasts about how ‘American Wolves’ were tearing apart their beloved land.

The Vietnamese people lived under war and oppression for a very long time. When asked about their opinion on the war, a common question that comes from many Vietnamese is ‘which war?’ There is sill a whole generation of people who spent their childhood learning about the atrocities committed by the French, when Vietnam was a colony of France.

The dispute with the French ended with a split of the single Vietnam into South and North units. However, different political affiliations of the governments of the two units paved the way for another war, a more deadly war – the ‘American War’. And then after 15 years of hell, a border dispute with China brought another war for the Vietnamese people, The Atlantic reports.

Although Vietnam is not the only nation on this planet to have been profoundly shaped by wars and chaos, the impact of war on the lives of people was incredible and long-lasting. Caught in a tussle between Communist North and Capitalist South, the common Vietnamese had absolute no idea what were they paying for.

The current generation of Vietnamese youth has very little interest and time to invest in war memories from their parents and grandparents. One primary reason is the mental fatigue after hearing about the war throughout their childhood and teen life. After America had pulled its troops out of Vietnam, the invasion from the North ensured the re-unification of the country. Though the Vietnamese government system is still predominantly communist, it has allowed foreign investments at all levels. Vietnam is currently among the fastest-growing economies of Asia.

The truth about the war is always found in the hearts and minds of those who endured it. The ‘American War’ for the Vietnamese is still a haunting reminder from the past. A Vietnamese war veteran once said to a journalist that what really hurt him is the fact that the media still show pictures of US soldiers hugging North Vietnamese soldiers, but he has never seen a picture of a South Vietnamese soldier hugging a North Vietnamese soldier.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE