RANGER AGAINST WAR: Memory of the Army <

Monday, January 23, 2012

Memory of the Army

Statue inscription:
"Cemetery for the Memory of the Army"
(trans. by Phil Nguyen, Morrow, GA)

This picture of the Vietnamese "Cemetery for the Memory of the Army" was snapped in 1970, and Ranger has never seen the subject in any of the photo histories of the Vietnam War.

This cemetery was the Vietnam equivalent of our Arlington National Cemetery. Note the caretaker squatting at the left of the statue. There was also a religious shrine at the rear of the statue, on a hillock. It was located in Tu Doc on the road to Saigon, South of Long Binh and Bien Hoa. There is a military base to the right and rear of the highway.

Always one of my favorite photos, the cemetery was a scene that few U.S. soldiers saw or appreciated. The South Vietnamese lost many men in the "American War", and this burial place commemorated their losses.
I passed by often but rarely saw anyone visiting the grave sites.

Ranger has never seen a war memorial which features a sitting soldier. Does this symbolize the exhaustion of a nation which had been fighting for decades at that point? Is it a gesture of reverence?

I won't know, because fellow veterans returning to Vietnam as tourists report the graveyard has been bulldozed, and is now planted with fruit and nut trees.
The symbol and artifact has been lost to history; the bodies must still be interred there.

There are no bitter memories or hatreds associated with my experience in that foreign land. I have always wanted to share this view of the other side's trauma, which no doubt looked very much like ours when you get to the level of the dirt.



Anonymous Blackhawk said...

Jim, I wrote this many years ago to an ARVN website. Your post unearthed some memories I believe we both have in common....I choose to share this with you and your readers with great respect, Thanks

" My unit the 199thLight Infantry Brigade was headquartered in Long Binh. We were pretty unique in the fact that we were advised and fought alongside the Beit Dong Quan, The tough red beret wearing, 5th ARVN Rangers.

To this day I can never forget the heroism of the South Vietnamese soldier. Sadly in my country the blood of these hero's have been slandered in the media and 'popular' opinion in the United States.

Recently I attended a party for the American Veterans of the Vietnam war that took part in filming of the ' Learning Channel's' six-part television series. The media was heavily in attendance. There was a question and answer session that followed. Inane stupid questions followed endlessly.....I was very happy when it was over. As I got up I noticed five or six weathered Vietnamese in long-faded fatigues, standing alone amongst the crowd, and a older Vietnamese man with them, carrying a tattered manuscript that spoke English. I introduced myself to them and welcomed then to the party. They all to a man burst out great grins and we talked and joked for some time.

To my astonishment I found that these were the men of the Vietnamese Special Forces that were parachuted into North Vietnam as 'leave behinds', under the auspices of the CIA in 1962-63. Not one of the America's finest hours. I had heard of these men who for 19 years were held under the harshest conditions imaginable. I felt very honored and humbled to be among men such as these giants. I asked about the manuscript and the man in civilian clothes smiled, and replied it was a memoir of his 19 years in NVA prisons and he hoped to get it published someday."

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 8:57:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Wow -- thank you for sharing that story, and for your reverence.

How very sad to think of the long incarcerations of these men. I so hope he gets his manuscript published.

Amazing that no one was talking to them (?)

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 11:58:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

thanks for sharing.
Lisa and i recently met a former RVN Officer who worked with US SF and he spent 20 years in prison,and got to the states in 09.
he works as the cook in a VN restaurant in gainesville fl.
he rendered a hand salute from the position of attention when we left.
i returned the salute.
next time i see him i'll interview and photo him for RAW.
always glad to hear from you.
was the cemetery there when you were at Plantation?

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 3:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

would you send my essay to the VN website?
i'd appreciate it.

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 3:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I don't know if your men were SOG types but several years ago when they got out of prison we found out that the US side of the house lied and told their families that they were KIA.
they sued and were awarded the magnificent sum of 25,000$ each.
what a suck ass deal for them.

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 4:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blackhawk said...

Jim, My first unit which arrived in late '66' was adjacent to II Field Force. I often passed by that ARVN Memorial one of out Battalions was stationed in the old French fort you speak about in Tu Duc along MSR 1 .

As for the ARVN website, I'll look into it for you, as I posted some 15 years ago. I'm not positive the were the CIA trained Vietnamese SF troops, but it might have been, as the time frame would have been about right. The event was a invitation only affair for us 'Hero's"...lol

Joe Gallo (We were Soldiers) was one of the 'bright and shining' star guest speakers. He was full of himself, as was nearly everyone else, and yes, everyone in that room ignored the Vietnamese Patriots. The Ugly American. I don't know if that manuscript ever got published, but I'll never forget the shame I felt. I did come across a rare book written by a ARVN Officer who spent seven years in death camps after the South fell. My heart broke when he mentioned the communists murdering the people of Ho Nhi 'widowers village' that was located across MSR 1 from brigade.

I spent a lot of time in that coke can village of widows and orphans. I was told that their loss was compensated to the tune of about $50 US, in total. The the thought that they were murdered by the NVA because they refused to give up their Catholicism still haunts me.

And thanks Lisa !

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 5:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger jo6pac said...

The Ugly American

We haven't changed, thank you all for this insite.

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 7:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Carl said...

Suggested reading:
'The Sorrow of War' by Bao Ninh.

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 11:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blackhawk said...

Lost Years: My 1,632 Days in Vietnamese Reeducation Camps (Indochina Research Monograph 3) (Indochina Research Monographs, No 3) [Paperback]

Tran Tri VU

got it at Amazon

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 7:26:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

i read the SORROW OF WAR.

now that you mention it ,i remember the coke can hootches along the road.
to my knowledge ALL INDIG that were infiltrated N. were nva recruited by us. also they were ALL captured and turned as doubles, or more appropriately triples.
in 1954 most all the catholics left nvn and came south. few people attribute this as a religous war, but it sure had all the ear marks of one.all the people in my camp were catholic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 7:59:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger basilbeast said...

And from the other side, I'd recommend "Last Night I Dreamed of Peace", Dang Thuy Tram, a female VC doctor.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 4:47:00 PM GMT-5  

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