Towards the 40th anniversary of the Dak To-Tan Canh victory: The ancient battlefield – memories of forty years

[Tin Kon Tum] – “During 16 years as a guide for many domestic and foreign groups to learn about history and culture in Kon Tum. What left me with many unforgettable emotions, sometimes a feeling of suffocation, was when I was assigned to guide groups of American veterans to visit the old battlefield in Kon Tum. I always feel that there is a memory in them. It is the memory of a land, of people, of pain, loss, and repentance that makes them inconsolable even though the battle on the battlefield has actually ended a long time ago.” That is the confession and feeling of Mr. Nguyen Do Huynh, former tour guide, Kon Tum Tourism Company about his feelings after many years of guiding groups of American veterans who fought in Vietnam. gateway to the Northern Central Highlands or their wives, families, friends, and relatives following the program to visit the old battlefields: Kleng Airport – High point 601 – Dak To – Tan Canh – Phoenix Airport – Charlie Hill (E42) – Plei Kan – Ben Het – Legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail, organized by the Company.

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“Normally when going on a tourist tour, guests are always excited and cheerful because it is a time to rest and relax. When they arrive at the sightseeing spot, they ask the guide lots of questions about the culture and history of the land. there. But when guiding a group of American veterans, on the contrary, after the usual social greetings there is a silence that lasts for hours, sometimes making the guide confused because he doesn’t know where to start. “There were groups that when they arrived, they couldn’t get out of the car to visit because they were emotional. I had to ask the driver to drive a bit, then turn back.”

Later, when I had contact with many delegations, I understood through the very brief information exchanged in that silence. First of all, it is the feeling of guilt and endless regret. 40 years after the Americans were defeated at the Dak To-Tan Canh battlefield, they feel guilty about the crimes they committed against the people of this land. Not only did it cause separation between husband and wife, children without fathers, elderly parents with no one to rely on, but it also spread the pain of Agent Orange to the entire Vietnamese people for many generations to come. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on the screen. Those experienced faces were filled with tears, sometimes sobbing or crying loudly when they learned that in the Sa Thay and Dak To areas, there were the most children with sequelae of Agent Orange in the country.

Next is anger because of the feeling of being deceived and sold out during the war in Vietnam, this was also stated by the former US Secretary of Defense in his comments, in the memoir titled : Looking back on the past: The tragedy and lessons of Vietnam: Memoir by Robert S. Mcnamara – National Political Publishing House, published in 1995: “During the long period of fighting in Vietnam for what was believed to be right and just, seeking to protect America’s security and prevent the growth of communism and promote political democracy with individual freedom. Heeding the calls of the Kennedy administrations, Johnson and Nixon made decisions that, by those decisions, called for sacrifice, dedication, and, indeed, enormous suffering under the name of those purposes and values…”.

The children, wives, and mothers of American veterans are the ones directly suffering, waiting anxiously for news of their fathers, husbands, and children half a world away. That agonizing pain was broken, sobbing when receiving the body or a few short lines reporting that he was missing on the battlefield in Vietnam. Where their loved ones were blindly guided by lies and false truths and then when they discovered the truth, it was too late. “There are many relatives of American veterans who have come here with memories that have haunted them for 40 years of that unjust war and they have seen in the Vietnamese people the desire and determination to fight for freedom. freedom and democracy for our people, not expanding or threatening the security of any country as called for.”

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After many years, I come back to visit Dak To-Tan Canh, or visit anywhere in Vietnam. Their first worry is that the Vietnamese people have not forgotten the war and do not accept them because the war was too cruel. This has haunted many American veterans, war allies, and even their relatives. But when they came here, they were really surprised because the Vietnamese people welcomed them warmly, with tolerance and generosity, accepting them along with the war and not wanting to remind them of the past. They saw the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for ideals and values ​​that they once underestimated.

There are many American veterans who suffer from post-war syndrome as if they feel meaningless and they are really hurt and shocked because they don’t know what to do to atone for that mistake. “I once witnessed an American veteran after when revisiting the bomb craters inside Phoenix airport, at the foot of Charlie Hill. After a few minutes, he knelt down next to the bomb crater and prayed for his friend who died in the war from April 21 – April 24, 1972 of that year. He suddenly rolled around and writhed, then vomited and vomited. Seeing that, I immediately advised him to look forward, to look at how our nation has stood firm after the war. We Vietnamese people do not forget the past but must know how to accept it and live on, living meaningfully. more meaningful, loving, supportive, more united and if you want to ease that pain, please join hands with us to do useful things for the victims of the war…”.

“In the past, there were nearly a hundred foreign tourists booking tours to visit this route every year, not including domestic tourists such as young people, students and different classes and classes who followed the program on resources to learn about history. history, the heroic spirit of our nation in the struggle for independence. As time went on, the number became less and less because a part of the old American veterans had grown old and died, while others had wounds from bullets and bombs on fierce battlefields that were always painful and painful every time the sun changed. , not only that, the pain torments the mind, the sense of guilt, the regret of having been deceived by our own governments and pushed into the battlefield for an unjust war. Nowadays, there are very few tours like this, only a few veterans or relatives come here to look back at this cruel area in the past one last time before their health cannot allow them to make long trips…” .

At the end of the story, he suddenly asked: Do you know why America lost and failed miserably in Vietnam? “Because the US underestimated the opponent in both the purpose and ideals of the war, especially the US lost because it did not understand the patriotic tradition and national culture of Vietnam. That is the great strength and extremely dangerous weapon of our people in war.”

Thank you and farewell after a beautiful mid-April morning. I circled around Dak To town filled with flags and flowers. In a few days, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Dak To-Tan Canh victory and celebrate the 37th anniversary of the complete liberation of the South. Here, plowed bombs, trenches, and fierce fortifications of ancient battles have now been covered with a lush green color. Life has been reviving very strongly every day on this fierce battlefield.

This will ease the painful memories of relatives of American veterans as well as those who participated and cared about that Red Summer of 1972.

Tuong Lam