Diem Cao 601 (Skull Hill)

War history

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

What we say: 3 stars



Seventeen km from Kon Tum along the road to Dak To is monument by the side of the road. It's known as 'Skull Hill' because of the large number of human remains unearthed here after the war. Skull Hill was the south's last line of defence before it was broken by North Vietnamese forces in 1975, following the withdrawal of American troops. There isn't much to see here, but there is a cemetery for North Vietnamese killed in action nearby.

An interesting historical note is that those who died fighting for the South were buried in a separate cemetery -- untended and uncelebrated -- if they were buried at all. This practice, on the part of the government, means that soldiers from the same village were buried in separate places, depending on which side they fought for. But according to traditional Vietnamese beliefs, the souls of the departed can have a powerful influence on the future of a village. Their burials must be handled scrupulously, and their graves visited regularly to appease the departed spirits and appeal for blessings. Burying them in separate cemeteries is an insult to the dead, and a lot more travel time for the living. So, locals have erected a small, concrete shrine across the road from Skull Hill, invoking, in Chinese characters, an ancient name for Vietnam which applies to both north and south. It is at once a spiritual touchstone, and a political protest. And it's also a big ugly block of concrete that no one seems to be taking care of.


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