Guidebook Life is unrecognisably different after the war

Sense of Place

Life is unrecognisably different after the war

When the last American helicopter flew out of Saigon in April 1975, writes Kevin Doyle in Al Jazeera, more than 58,000 US military personnel had been killed in the war and “so many more Vietnamese had died that it is difficult to calculate.” Between 1.5 million and more than 3.5 million Vietnamese were killed in fighting from the mid-1950s until the war's end in 1975, he notes. Today, the war “seems like a very distant memory among the gleaming high-rise buildings in downtown Ho Chi Minh City … high-end stores sell Hugo Boss, Chanel, and Chopard to the city's nouveau riche, and McDonald's caters to the aspiring middle class.”

And people rarely mention the war, says Elisabeth Rosen in The Atlantic. “As an American who has lived in the Vietnamese capital for three years, I rarely hear the conflict discussed … at Huu Tiep Lake, which is located at the quiet junction of two residential alleys, vendors sell fresh produce without glancing at the wreckage of a B-52 that was shot down there in 1972 and still juts out of the water as a memorial.”

Two-thirds of the country's population was born after Saigon fell in 1975, explains Jessica Meyers in The Los Angeles Times. “Now they're helping transform the Communist nation into one of the world's fastest growing economies,” creating a new national identity “filled with capitalistic idealism, responsibility, and a belief that the country offers opportunity that many of their parents won't acknowledge.” This is the next generation's Vietnam, she says, “where coffee roasters and tech start-ups wedge in between noodle soup vendors and bike repairmen as the city sidesteps its socialist legacy in a dash toward the future.”

Vietnam has also made a remarkable recovery in world affairs, according to Lawrence Wittner on Huff Post. It now has diplomatic relations with 189 countries, “enjoys good relations with all the major nations,” enjoys one of the highest economic growth rates in the world and “has become an agricultural powerhouse” as the world’s second largest exporter of rice, and one of the world’s leading exporters of coffee, pepper, rubber, and other agricultural commodities. “Another factor distancing the country from what the Vietnamese call ‘the American war’ is the rapid increase in Vietnam’s population,” he writes: only 41 million in 1975, it now tops 90 million.

Sense of Place
  • Guidebook