My cleaning girl is from Quang Binh in vietnam and she's pestering me to go with her and see the village she grew up in and meet her family (Her dad fought with the Vietminh, so talking with him does interest me). Has anyone been there, and if so what did you think of the place?
(And no, before you ask - we aren't doing it. No Romance.)
#1 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
It appears to me that your LIFE is purely romance. I suspect what you mean is 'no we aren't doing sexual romance.
Quang Binh province is on the north side of the DMZ. I don't know where Quang Binh town is located.
I've been to Dong Hoi (and its beaches). I learnt that the area has some spectacular caves (but I didn't go), and there are several Hue-style buildings representing an earlier dynastic empire. Along the coast, the scenery is a bit flat (as you'd expect), but inland its quite hilly and interesting.
I say GO. You can easily go look at some of the US 'positions' and see from the way they were positioned into the broader landscape how some US leaders had what appears to be a huge amount of testosterone and little sense of military strategy.
Beyond the immediate DMZ area (not much really remains except for the artefacts to show western tourists), the area is little visited by tourists and so is not part of the banana pancake trail (hooray for mug tourists, it leaves these sorts of places for the few who enjoy local culture, etc.).
Her father didn't fight the Americans - he fought the French. He's on the very old side (late 70s). She says he was at Dien Bin Phu.
I would like to go to Khe Sahn were a friend of mine fought during the siege there. That's actually right on the way. Also the Special Forces Camp at Long Binh that was overrun by the NVA. I read a detailed account of that action - it's actually not very far from where I live. Right across the Laotian panhandle.
As for Noi - that's what I meant, not sexual romance.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Giap was an amazing strategist, and he organised the V Minh really well. To be at DBP and see the French perimeters (and parameters), and the obstacles Giap had to deal with really makes one recognise his innate abilities.
I always thought the generalship of Giap was over-rated. He was most certainly competent. But the engineering feats to move his artillery into position were not his - the credit there goes to his combat engineers.
Giap's strategy against the US was very simple - keep the war going until the Americans quit. That's a sound, but not a brilliant, strategy. Brilliance is when you can overwhelm a superior enemy through manuever. The NVA could never do this. Giap had two huge factors in his favor:
1. The determination of the North Vietnamese body politic to win the war at any cost. And it's a good thing he had it, because the cost was high indeed. Very popular tatoo on NVA soldiers: "Born in the North, the die in the south".
2. He didn't have to win any battles (which was a good thing, because against the Americans he never did). He just had to ensure the blood letting continued. Since we were not prepared politically to invade the North, nor were we prepared politically to commit genocide against the population supporting Giap, defeating the NVA became a very difficult proposition.
Anbd I would not submit testosterone to the decision making. The record is clear that McNamara was an intellectual man who approached things from a reasoned position. He just blew this call. Johnson agonnized over troop increases, because he saw that it might well lead nowwhere in military or political terms. The miscalculation was not a military one, but a political one. The American leadership believed that the NVA's will to fight could be broken, and that was a gross miscalculation.
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
The cave is absolutely worth seeing. While much of it isn't accessible to casual visitors it's still a very impressive place. I'm probably not Dong Hoi's biggest fan, but it's been about 15 years since I've been there, so perhaps it has improved with time. I did like Dong Ha though.
As far as the DMZ goes, there's not much left in the way of actual "things" to go see -- more like a patch of dirt here, a pile of rocks there (called the uhh Rockpile) but if you've got a connection there via friends could be more interesting.
What I would suggest is sourcing a guide in Dong Ha town and doing a one on one by motorbike, rather than any kind of tour junket out of Hue -- not that you were going to do that anyway, but thought I'd mention it for other's benefit.
As an aside, the province apparently gets some quite good surf. When I was there I met a couple of kiwi travellers who were travelling with boards etc -- they recounting being viewed as other-worldly aliens while suiting up and surfing from somewhere north of Dong Hoi.
The biggest reason I am hesistant to go is my deep dislike for Vietnamese cuisine. I hate their food. And I know if I go to a village in Quang Binh province I will be eating lousy Vietnamese food. But given the opportunity to have an in depth dicussion with a former member of the Viet Minh is a very tempting offer for me.
I also would love to go see Long Binh and Khe Sahn - I've studied those battles, seen the maps... terrain will of course be very different and there's nothing left of Long Binh, but I'll be able to figure it out using the maps. I've done this many times before and enjoy it.
When in Ethiopia a friend of mine from the British Army did a terrain walk with maps and history book in hand and found the place where his uncle earned a posthumous Victoria Cross knocking out an Italian tank in WW II. We found the tank (tiny, rusting, hulk - type M11/39). It was very interesting to examine the same ground and follow the movements from the battle with a personal connection.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957