Memories of war showcased at Hoa Lo prison

(VOVWORLD) -An exhibition called “Finding memories” is underway at the Hoa Lo Prison relic site in Hanoi. It marks the 45th anniversary of a victory dubbed “Dien Bien Phu in the air”, in which the Vietnamese army and people shot down dozens of American aircraft, including a number of B-52s, and imprisoned their pilots at Hoa Lo Prison. 
Memories of war showcased at Hoa Lo prison - ảnh 1Letters that American servicemen sent home are on display  (Photo: Viet Anh/VOV5)

 “Visiting the exhibition and the whole Hoa Lo relic site, I felt thoughtful. I ‘ve read a lot of information about the war with the US and this helped me understand the historical background.”

That was visitor Nguyen Hoa Ly, a resident of Dong Da district, Hanoi. Touring the first exhibition hall themed Facing B52, Ly viewed pictures of the devastation of Bach Mai hospital, Kham Thien street, Yen Vien township, Thai Nguyen province, and Hai Phong during the 12 days and nights of bombardment by US planes. Rough walls blackened by smokes and personal shelters covered with straws are shown.

At the Hanoi-Hilton Hotel exhibition hall, American veteran Steve Krenz, who fought in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966, was moved by the stories of the prison guards, who took care of detained American pilots, including Everett Alvarez Jr, the first to be show down in northern Vietnam, and Walter Eugene Wilber, whose F-4J was shot down in Nghe An province in 1968. War veteran Steve Krenz told VOV: “There are different perspectives: your perspective and ours. But today, it’s interesting to view history from your perspective. As time goes on, our wounds are healed. So we are much closer now. There are a lot of American companies investing in your country. So things are moving in positive direction.”

The third exhibition hall, themed “Coming back home”, features photos and objects related to the exchange of prisoners of war by the governments of Vietnam and the US, after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973. Tears of happiness and cheerful faces marked the Vietnamese POWs repatriated by the US-backed puppet government on the bank of the Thach Han river in Quang Tri province and then reunited with their relatives back home. David Burley, who served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967, said: “My dad fought in Vietnam and the story we were told was not exactly the same story that is evident around here.”

The last exhibition hall, “Building up the future”, illustrates Vietnam’s aspiration to close the past and look to the future. Since 1973, the Vietnamese government has located and returned the remains of numerous American servicemen missing in action. In 1989, the US government began working with Vietnam in these search activities, which, though painful, have helped ease the wounds of the war.

Nguyen Quoc Thinh, a visitor from Ha Dong, told VOV: “My friends used to be prison guards here. American POWs were treated kindly, so they are now full of admiration. This exhibit illustrates the leniency policy of the Vietnamese government. That’s why Vietnam-US relations are good now.”

The exhibition’s 250 photos, documents, and artifacts recall the fierce 12 days and nights of the US bombing attacks. It shows the destruction and the struggle of the Vietnamese people and their hope for a better future, when Vietnamese and Americans will work together for peace and happiness.