Today we took a break from touring agribusinesses to focus on the history of Vietnam. Vietnam’s “modern” history is ancient to us; the Vietnamese have been a people for over a millennia, whereas Americans as a group didn’t exist until around 1776. Modern Vietnamese history can be divided into four phases: (1) occupation by the Chinese, (2) occupation by the French, (3) occupation by the Americans, and (4) independence.
One of the museums that we visited, The War Remnants Museum, documents the occupation of the Vietnamese by the Americans during the Vietnam war.
It was a very emotional visit. One of the most sobering facts documented by the museum was in connection with Agent Orange. The intended use of Agent Orange during the war was as a defoliant to remove the jungle canopy so that the bombers could more effectively hit targets. We now know that Agent Orange is a multi-generational carcinogen that can cause birth defects 3 to 4 generations later. Literally generations of Vietnamese who were not even born during the war are bearing the scars of the conflict.
The War Museum is a sobering reminder of the unintended collateral damage of war.