Vietnam's Former Battlefields
||It has been nearly 3 decades since the American War ended in Vietnam, and 5 decades since the war ended with the French. Though Vietnam is rapidly developing into a major economic power in South East Asia, many of the historic battlefields and war vestiges can still be visited.
Almost every city has a museum dedicated to the Vietnamese Revolution, and contain dioramas, exhibits, and photographs detailing how their inhabitants contributed to the war effort, and which important events took place in their city.
The largest of these museums are in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi, is an important place to visit and understand more about Vietnam’s great leader, Ho Chi Minh.
Most of the historical remnants of the wars relates to the French conflict, because the American ground war was centered in the south and the center (extensive bombing was experienced in the north).
Dien Bien Phu
The Dien Bien Phu valley is where the French were defeated in 1954, ending their colonial rule over Indochina. Best reached by plane, you can also hire a 4-wheel drive vehicle and tour the far northwest, to Son La and Lao Cai.
A site of a Former French Prison, many visitors come here to see the museum commemorating the fiercely anti colonial fighters who were based in the region.
Hoa Lo Prison: Razed to make way for a towering office block, the prison is remembered by a museum that focuses on the activities there before 1954, when it was used as a detention center for anti French colonialists.
Ho Chi Minh Museum: More than a museum dedicated to the man who reunified his country, the Ho Chi Minh museum chronicles the Vietnamese revolution of the 20th century, and in an interesting stop for those interested in this phase of Vietnamese history.
Christmas Bombing in 1972: In December 1972, US President Nixon ordered the bombing of Hai Phong and Hanoi, which targeted power stations and other installations; some residential quarters were hit too. In Hanoi alone, more than 1,300 people were killed. Today, the area south of the Hanoi train station is where much of the destruction took place, and Kham Thien was the epicenter.
Central Vietnam was the scene of much fighting during the American war, and much of the vestiges here are related to that conflict, though a few places, like the Hai Van Pass, contain some remains of the French conflict.
DMZ and Dong Ha
The bridge at the DMZ over the Ben Hai river can be crossed on foot, and the Vinh Moc tunnels (like those built at Cu Chi) can be visited nearby. Tours can be arranged from Hue, or Dong Ha. The road north of Hue was dubbed, ‘La Rue Sans Jolie,’ or ‘The Road Without Joy’ by the French troops; who fought fierce battles with Vietnamese forces here.
Truong Son Trail / Ho Chi Minh Trail
As the major supply chain between troops in South Vietnam, the Truong Son Trail (or Ho Chi Minh Trail as it’s known in the west), named after the mountains of central Vietnam, was heavily bombed and strafed by American aircraft, trying to sever the artery that supplied men, weapons, and other supplies to the soldiers in the south. It is currently being developed into a tourist attraction by recreating the structures it contained and the methods used to carry weapons to the south, to aid in the war effort. A small section of the Ho Chi Minh trail can be seen after crossing the Dakrong bridge.
Khe Sanh / Con Thien Fire Base; Camp Carroll
Several former American army bases can be visited along Highway 9, between the Dong Ha and the Laotian border. Sites include Camp Carroll, Con Thien Firebase, The Rockpile, and Khe Sanh, where a fierce battle took place in 1968.
Hai Van Pass
Long used as a lookout for enemy troops, Hai Van Pass is littered with pillboxes and installations used to protect this vital link between north and south. Its about 350 meters high, and often is shrouded in mist. On a clear day, however, you can see northwards, to the Lang Co peninsula; and south, to the city of Da Nang.
Da Nang and China Beach
Often mistaken as the site where American Marines first came ashore in 1963, the event actually took place around the bay at Red Beach. China Beach was the site of a major Army base that came under attack by Vietnamese forces based around the Marble Mountains.
The South was the command center of the US forces stationed in Vietnam (Followed by Da Nang) though it still has a lot of history related to the French war. Not a whole lot of vestiges remain of the war, though there are some informative museums in Ho Chi Minh City and the Cu Chi tunnels shows the struggle the Vietnamese people endured during the war.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi tunnel system was built by Vietnamese forces who boldly tunneled beneath a major American Army Base. The tunnels can be visited today, often combined with a day tour.