Northwood University

The Northwood University Study Abroad Blog


War Remnants Museum

For Americans, the name Vietnam invariably conjures up images of one of the most horrific chapters in the history of the U.S. military. We have heard the stories of the vets who returned with post-traumatic stress disorder, without the use of limbs, and oftentimes, in bodybags. The least patriotic among Americans would hope our side is always aligned with the side of morality. In visiting the War Memorial Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, this harsh fact was presented: the line between right and wrong isn’t always clear. War is tragic, and has been since man first learned he could serve his interests through force. This was never more clear to me than when I saw the displays of photographs and re-creations depicting treatment of prisoners during the war. On both sides, there were rules broken, both in violation of any moral code, as well as international law. We were able to witness the collateral damage caused by the American military’s use of Agent Orange. I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the locals I had seen walking the streets with a missing limb or noticeable physical impairment were veterans of the side I hadn’t heard about as much. We find ourselves today in a blossoming trade partnership with the Vietnamese people, yet haunted by a mutual history that we cannot soon forget, and nor should we. Relationships can recover, between people and entire regions. The key to prevention of the same tragedies are places like the War Memorial Museum. To know the past and whether or not the methods once used were successful is to know which ways can work in the future, and to know how to make this world better and better by never being fully satisfied with the status quo. To never stop improving.