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Time passes

Hanoi, Vietnam. October 2010

Apparently, it takes about a third of a century for the remains of a B-52 that fell into a lake after being shot down to turn into an interesting piece of municipal sculpture in a nice part of town.


8 comments to Time passes

  • PersonFromPorlock

    That was about the last hurrah for NVN SAMs. I was a B-52 crewdog (Electronic Warfare Officer) on a couple of those Linebacker Two raids, and by the 26th it was obvious they were mostly firing blind, and running out of SAMs into the bargain. This may have been the last BUF they shot down.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Looking into this a little further, there’s a 50-50 chance that the Electronic Warfare Officer on this plane was a guy I knew fairly well, Major Allen L. Johnson. KIA, unfortunately.

    Oh, well, “time passes,” as you say.

  • Laird

    In reading the plaque it appears that they spell their city “Ha Noi” (two words). Is that correct? If so I learned something new today.

  • Laird: Yes. . It is not just Hanoi, though, but every name and word in the language. (Sai Gon. Sa Pa. Dien Bien Phu. Hoi An). The current writing system for Vietnamese was formulated in the 18th century by French missionaries. It uses a Latin alphabet, but every syllable is written as a word. This superceded and replaced the (very difficult, low literacy rate) previous writing systems that either were or were based on Chinese characters. In these Chnese writing systems, every syllable is represented by a character, and this was passed through to the new Latin based writing system as every syllable being represented by a word.

    For the European traveller, the Latin based writing sytem is one thing that makes Vietnam a relatively easy place to visit. One can read the signs, and more or less pronounce the words and place names.

  • Paul Marks

    The only defeats of American air power in the Vietnam period were in Washington D.C.

    Both “you are not allowed to bomb X, Y, Z”.

    And – “they have agreed to talk [again] so you [again] have to stop attacking even those things we sometimes let you attack”.

    So it is not “O.K.”

    The sign is a lie.

  • So it is not “O.K.”

    The sign is a lie.

    You really did not understand Michael’s remark then Paul

  • PersonFromPorlock

    “Dien Bien Phu of the air” is maybe a little, um, strong. As I recall it, by the end of the month they were essentially defenseless (out of ammo) and eager to resume the negotiations which shortly ended the war. Well, kinda ended it – we kept bombing in Cambodia and Laos, and they cheated flagrantly, moving strong forces down into the South Vietnamese Highlands.

    Paul’s remark about no defeat in the air is true as far as it goes, but suggests a ‘stab in the back’ explanation for our loss when the reality is that we shot ourselves in the foot looking for one easy way out after another. For all the lives and money spent, we were never serious about the war. North Vietnam was nothing but.

    The fact is that we did lose the war, unless our goal was to see North and South Vietnam united under a communist government. That sign struts a little – as war memorials are wont to do – but the North Vietnemese remain the ones who earned bragging rights.

  • Well, the North Vietnamese objective was clearly to rule the whole country under a communist government, and they achieved that 100%. The American objectives were presumably (a) to preserve the existence of the south and (b) for the southern government to rule the whole of Vietnam, and they failed 100% in those objectives. So America lost the war, but not through any lack of air superiority.

    The least embarrassing way of looking at it from our point of view is that America lost a battle in the greater war against communism and the Soviet Union, a war which you and we undoubtedly ultimately won. Vietnam today is still communist in name, but is not remotely communist in practice, but a rapidly developing South East Asian country that is fully integrated with the region and the rest of the world. This is good, of course.

    Interestingly enough, the last thing I saw on this trip to Vietnam was one of the two 747s with “United States of America” emblazoned on the side that is used as Air Force One and also to carry other very important American officials around. (There was also a C-17 on the tarmac next to it at Hanoi Airport). My flight was boarding at the exact same time, so I got to see a full rigmarole of Secret Service agents in black suits with earpieces getting in position at the bottom of the steps, followed by a convoy of black SUVs driving up and someone clearly very important with entourage getting out and boarding the plane. They quickly boarded and the plane took off. We were the next flight to take off after them, so we got to see this from fairly close up.

    Apparently Defence Secretary Gates had been in town. Vietnam presently holds the presidency of ASEAN, and there was apparently a meeting of ASEAN defence ministers, to which the Chinese and American ministers were also attending as observers. My guess is that this means they were using the meeting as cover to talk semi-officially to one another, and this also probably explains the 747 – if you are meeting with the Chinese you arrive in your most impressive looking aircraft. And, despite history, there is clearly not the slightest problem with the Americans doing this on Vietnamese soil. The past appears to be the past.