A bike tour in Vietnam – day 6

After the visit to the My Lai Massacre Museum, the visit to the Heroic Mother Statue was a more uplifting exposure to the Vietnamese experience of the war. The statue and accompanying museum opened in 2015 to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the war. It honors Nguyen Thi Thu, whose 11 children and grandchildren all died fighting against the U.S., as well as the other “heroic mothers” of the war who fought in the war or otherwise contributed to the Vietnamese effort.

A bike tour in Vietnam – a sad day 5

When news of the massacre, investigation, and cover-up broke, it was a major turning point in galvanizing opposition to the war.

Note: Some of the photographs below are disturbing.
Leaving Tam Quan, we biked a few miles to what was in some respects the most significant stop on our tour: Son My, the district that was the site of the My Lai massacre. (Click on this link for a detailed Wikipedia history.) On March 16, 1968, soldiers from two U.S. Army battalions attacked a number of hamlets in pursuit of Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas with orders. Colonel Oran Henderson of the 11th Brigade told his officers to “go in there aggressively, close with the enemy and wipe them out for good.”  The orders, as transmitted downward, resulted in the command to consider anyone in the villages as VC members or sympathizers. Over the course of the next few hours, soldiers destroyed everything in the villages—homes, livestock, food supplies; killed somewhere between 347 and 504 civilians, including women, children and the elderly; and conducted an unknown number of sexual assaults.

The following are photographs from the memorial museum and the surrounding area.

The museum’s heroes:

Ronald Ridenhour, who reported the incident to Congressional members; Lawrence Colburn and Hugh Thompson, Jr. who rescued civilians by helicopter; Herbert Carter, who shot himself in the foot, allegedly to avoid taking part in the attack.

The museum’s villains:

Colonel Oran Henderson, Captain Ernest Medina, Lt. Colonel Frank Barker and Lieutenant William Calley, the chain of command for the attacks; to the right is Sergeant Ronald Haeberle, who took the photographs of the attacks. Also the American and South Vietnamese politicians responsible for the war, and South Korean “mercenaries.”

Some actions, some victims, and some survivors:

Outside the museum and in nearby fields, there are mass graves, as well as the foundations some of the houses that the soldiers destroyed.

A bike tour in Vietnam – day 4

Today was about rice and boats.

Our trip coincided with one of the rice harvesting periods in central Vietnam, so we saw lots of ripe fields and harvested rice being dried.

The Vietnamese typically dry their rice in the road, which is flat and warm—even, if that means having the occasional car or bicycle ride through it.

In case you want to see what a sea of rice plants looks like, watch this:

Other things we saw: a shrimp farm; boats; water plants; propaganda.

We ended the day in a village called Tam Quan, which is known for its fishing boat repair yard.

A bike tour in Vietnam – day 1 (and 2)

Recently, we rode through the highlands and central coast of Vietnam on a Grasshopper Adventures bicycle tour.

Our first day was spent cycling around the highlands town of Dalat and getting used to riding on the e-bikes we’d rented.

Our trip was only a few miles, during which we realized that if we hadn’t settled on using e-bikes, we would never have made it through the highlands: some of those hills were ridiculous.

Also, thank god for padded bike shorts. If I’d had those in Greece, my trip would have been a lot easier.

On the second day, we awoke to gray skies that turned to heavy rain about an hour after we started biking. We ducked into a coffee stand for a break, but we knew we had to continue, rain (and cold) or no. We reached the high point of our route at about midday, and then descended 1,500 meters to the coast through some occasionally intense winds; despite the buffeting, I broke 50 km/hour at one point and Abby, daredevil that she is, reached nearly 60 km/hour. (She also drives faster than I do.) Because of the rain on top of the hill, I didn’t take any photos in the morning or on the way down; and then I was so engaged in biking that I forgot to take any photos along the coastal road; so it was 50 miles without a single photo to show for it. Oh well.

Next: day 3, which involved no biking.