‘The Sea Rebel’
” Guam To Saigon:
Ghosts of War
Following my visit to Korea the Pacific Princess sailed to two ports in China, but I will talk about that in my next article. For now, I would like to finish the Ghost of War series by talking about my visit to Vietnam.
World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War – America became heavily focused on the Pacific during the 20th century. My ship was making two stops in Vietnam. The first stop was at Cai Lan, gateway to Halong Bay. The second port was Phu My, gateway to Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam is a communist country today. Whereas World War II was a great victory in both Europe and the Pacific for the U.S. and the Korean War can only be looked on as a stalemate by the most pessimist among us – the Vietnam War was a defeat.
When I was growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, the Vietnam War was going on. When I was at Encinita
Elementary it was going on. When I was a student at Muscatel Middle School it was going on. When I was a student at Rosemead High School it was still going on.
Even today, taking about it stirs up passions about what we should or should not have done during that war. World War II does not stir up those same emotions, nor does the Korean War. The reason – Vietnam is a communist country today.
Vietnam is slowly changing. Since the mid 1990′s Vietnam has sort of followed China’s lead on how to be a communist nation yet pursue a capitalist economy. A boat ride in Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful in the world and is recognized by UNESCO. It was interesting to note that in Cai Lan the pier was in reality a rusted old ferry and not a modern pier. At Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) things seemed much more similar to the other counties that I visited till I noticed something. I was told there is not one McDonalds in all of Vietnam – not one.
In Ho Chi Minh City I went to see the Presidential Palace. Today, the Vietnamese consider the spot where a communist tank broke the wall there to have been the moment of end of the war. I had my picture taken there at that spot. Not as a communist victory – but as the place the Vietnam War ended.
During the 1970′s, I registered for the draft but fortunately for me the draft ended before my name had been called. My mom always said that there were two people that I had to thank because their actions ended that war for the United States and saved me for having to serve in Vietnam. Two very dissimilar figures except that they were both controversial, both then and now – Muhammad Ali and Richard Nixon. Ali because he protested the war when he didn’t have to and Nixon because he pulled us out of a war which his predecessors would not. If not for them I could very easily have found myself in Vietnam many years earlier and in a very different situation.
During one of the tours in Vietnam my guide talked to us about the war and how he had had uncles fight on both sides and that he had lost relatives that he never saw again. He separated himself from the group momentarily but I followed him and saw why he had left – he was crying and he didn’t want anyone to see. Peace is better than war.