Exhibition titled “Finding Memories” to open on March 21, 2019, at War Remnants Museum


 

To celebrate the 88th anniversary of the founding of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union (March 26, 2019), the 46th anniversary of the release of the last U.S. prisoner of war in Hanoi (March 29, 2019), the 44th anniversary of the liberation of the South and national reunification (April 30, 2019), the War Remnants Museum, in collaboration with the Hoa Lo Prison Historical Relic, is organising a special exhibition titled “Finding Memories.” The exhibition will feature 200 photos, documents and objects covering four topics: Facing B-52s, Ha Noi - Hilton, Coming back home, and Building the future.


Facing B-52: President Ho Chi Minh once said: “Ha Noi, Hai Phong and some other cities and companies may be blown to pieces. But the Vietnamese people are definitely not afraid. Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom. When victory comes, our people will build a more affluent and beautiful country.” This will was affirmed during the last 12 days and nights of “facing B-52s” in December 1972.


Bombs rained down on the capital Ha Noi and Hai Phong city, shaking the ground, breaking roof tiles and crushing bricks. But with their enormous love and unshakeable faith, soldiers and civilians in Ha Noi and Hai Phong were determined to cling tightly to their land, their home and every single trench to “make every neighbourhood a fortress, and turn every citizen into a soldier.” Looking back to those days in Ha Noi and Hai Phong, there clearly existed a belief in a final victory though people were experiencing pain, sorrow and loss. It was the enormous love and devotion that wove an epic that overwhelmed the sounds of bomb explosions.


The “Ha Noi - Hilton” section brings surprising and humane wartime stories for the benefit of those who have never had experience of war, especially about those who guarded U.S. pilots in Hoa Lo Prison, intertwined with the accounts of some U.S. pilots imprisoned there such as Navy Lieutenant Commander Everett Alvarez Jr., the first U.S. pilot to be downed in North Viet Nam and who served the longest term as a prisoner of war at the “Ha Noi - Hilton”, Navy Captain Walter Eugene Wilber, Non-Commissioned Officer Robert P. Chenoweth, and Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Edison W. Miller. They were among the GI’s who had an accurate perception of the war they fought in. Navy Lieutenant Commander John Sidney McCain and Air Force Captain Douglas Brian ‘Pete’ Peterson were among the significant contributors to the development of Viet Nam - U.S. post-war relations. 


Between 1964 and 1973, a part of Hoa Lo Prison was used to detain American pilots, most of whom took part in an air raid known in Viet Nam as “Dien Bien Phu in the air.” For the captured American pilots, daily life played out behind the concrete walls of the “Ha Noi - Hilton”. Their B-52 aircraft and carpet bombings were things of the past, and they were now contemplating their past experiences and the humane treatment they received at Hoa Lo Prison. 44 years after leaving the “Ha Noi - Hilton,” Lt. Col. Miller, 87, said: “I did not have any problem. I knew that your country was still poor and I usually had vegetable soup in the morning. In the afternoon, I was not surprised to receive a bowl of soup. One time, a Vietnamese officer talked to me and I asked if they could add some spices to the soup to make it tastier... and I felt great when they did it... I was also very surprised when they gave each of us three cigarettes a day. Every morning, four people came to give us cigarettes and I liked the time when I smoked... I used to tell everyone I knew in the prison to do exercises, and I too exercised every day.”


“Coming back home”: The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973. Both the Vietnamese and U.S. governments released their detainees. Their happy and teary faces when returning to their families became unfading memories. Every photo and object in the “Coming back home” section tells a moving story about love between spouses or parental love after several years of separation for Vietnamese political prisoners who were released by the U.S. and South Viet Nam administrations at Quang Tri Province’s Thach Han River and for American pilots at Ha Noi’s Gia Lam Airport.


“Building the future” brings the exhibition to a close by expressing Vietnamese aspirations for peace because the nation understands the value of peace better than anyone else. Since 1973 onwards, the Vietnamese government has been actively seeking and returning the remains of American servicemen missing in action during the Vietnam War. In 1989, the U.S. government started to work collaboratively with its Vietnamese counterpart in this quest. These “homecomings” are not yet complete, but help relieve somewhat the lingering sorrow of war. Today, American veterans return to Viet Nam to reclaim indelible memories of their military life and Hoa Lo is part of those memories. All these activities are aimed at cultivating good relations between Viet Nam and America.


“Finding Memories” offers Vietnamese people and American pilots respectively an opportunity to feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments in the 20th century and the chance to recall their incarceration period, and enables each of us to learn more about the brutality of war and contribute to the efforts to build a peaceful world.


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The exhibition runs from March 21, 2019, at the War Remnants Museum.

      We are honoured to welcome you to the exhibition.

 
   
  Date 04/03/2019  

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