Hanoi, Vietnam. I run with young boys into the New Years giant fire cracker bomb explosion which knocked us all flat. In celebration. This part of Hanoi was heavily bombed by the U.S. just before an American withdrawal in 1975. I went to Hanoi in 1976 for NatGeo. At that time there were no diplomatic relations with Vietnam, so I was pretty much on my own with writer Peter White. We were watched carefully but treated courteously. After all the war was over and they the victors. 40 years ago today an end. After more than 500,000 dead. Now Hanoi a major international tourist zone and Vietnam a friendly trade partner with their former enemies. ‪#‎Vietnam‬

16 Responses to “Vietnam”

  • DAVID,

    Thank you for joining in with many other media sources to acknowledge the anniversary of the end of the ‘Vietnam War’ as it is known in the US. I still have a copy of that NatGeo magazine in which your pictures and Peter White’s story from 1976 appeared. I also appreciate that this is a chatty and informal blog and not meant to be the NY Times, but there are at least 3 glaring mistakes in your paragraph that I think you should pay some attention to… the Vietnam War is a very, very touchy subject for a lot of people in your and my generation.

    “…just before an American surrender in 1975.” There was no American surrender… US combat forces were withdrawn in 1972-73. In April 1975 the South Vietnamese gov’t collapsed and one of their generals surrendered to the North Vietnamese Army when it captured Saigon.

    “40 years ago today a truce.” What truce? 40 years ago today the North Vietnamese crushed the South Vietnamese armed forces in a sweeping and complete military victory resulting in a total surrender by the latter. There had been a truce in 1972 but it was violated repeatedly by all signatories.

    “After more than 300,000 dead.” I don’t know where that number comes from, or who it is supposed to include, but it is far, far too small. From Wikipedia on ‘Vietnam War Causalities: “The most extensive survey estimates deaths in the war from 1954 to 1975 at between 1.5 and 3.6 million people.”

    I appreciate your sentiment in posting the great photo, but the caption is very poorly written and plays fast and loose with the truth, something I find quite puzzling given your normal conscientiousness.

  • Thanks, Sidney; you hit all the points I was going to make when I read the caption.

  • Ummm, guys, I watch a lot of Fox News and I’m pretty sure the U.S. won the war in Vietnam. It was the North Vietnamese who surrendered and the U.S. withdrew victoriously, as can be seen in the famous footage of the giant victory party on the roof as the last helicopter was leaving. And the number of dead was around 50,000 (not counting the Vietnamese, Cambodians or Laotians (and why would you?)).

    Of course we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

    Nice pic, though I’d like to see the full frame. Will have to look up that Nat Geo, too.


    that’s what happens when i post something while driving down the highway….i totally forgot the 40 yr. anniversary bit until the end of the day, was on my way to the Kentucky Derby, and did a one finger post from my iPhone to Instagram…

    on the Instagram after about an hour i realised i needed to change the word “surrender” to “withdrawal” but the original unedited version ended up on Burn…do you realize how many times in my life i have discussed the Vietnam War?? yes a “sensitive issue” because after WWII where i think it is safe to say was a decisive “victory”by the U.S. , both the Korean War and the Vietnam War were decisive losses….so surrender , withdrawal, whatever…we lost Sidney…and of course should never have been there in first place…Ho Chi Minh was an ALLY of the U.S. during WWII…his declaration of independence against the French was copied from the words of Thomas Jefferson and our own declaration…

    the 300,000 figure is pretty much agreed upon as total loss of life during the American part of the Vietnam conflict….55k Americans dead and about 250k North Vietnamese dead….i do not have the South military number…i am sure you know…

    still on the road Sidney….can discuss further AGAIN this war, but not now…must go shoot….

    always appreciate your careful eye…

    cheers, david

  • DAVID,

    Thanks for your reply. I don’t ‘follow’ anyone or anything on Instagram or Twitter… BURN is my interface with you and your world, and I’ll bet that is true for some others as well. When I first read your caption I was amazed at how slapdash and offhand it was (I wondered if you’d been drinking..?)… since not only am I used to very thoughtful and carefully worded statements from you (by which I don’t mean cautious, tentative, or ‘diplomatic,’ which is not your style at all.. simply well-thought-out and articulate) but also because I know that Vietnam and the war there were important to you and I think I have a vague understanding of your general views on subject.

    I don’t think we necessarily need or should reopen the whole discussion of Vietnam here. For your and my generation it remains a searingly indelible and life-defining series of events that for almost all who experienced them were deeply unsettling and largely tragic, but no one who came afterwards will really understand why or how deep the scars are for us. Readers of literature will know from Alexandre Dumas and Balzac that for several generations of Frenchmen, the Napoleonic Wars never really ended… and for at least two generations of Britons, the First World War had a similar cataclysmic impact. As a veteran of both the US Army and of the anti-war movement, and someone who has long studied the complexities not only of that war but of America’s involvement in Asia over more than a century, I cannot honestly blame or find fault with any of the choices young men made in those days… none were easy choices, and all had enduring consequences. As for the leaders, that is another story. But we don’t need to talk about that here.

    However, I still can’t accept your 300,000 figure for deaths even if it is only meant to include only US and North Vietnamese personnel (which is an arbitrary and frankly absurd restriction for this of all wars which was a civil war where civilians were deliberately targeted by all sides). Even the low-ball estimates for NVA dead I have seen put the number at about 440,000, which combined with the generally accepted figure of 55,000 American dead still adds up to roughly 500,000. But failure to count South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, Laotians, or Cambodians merely emphasizes the tunnel vision mindset that got us so deeply entrenched in that quagmire to begin with.

  • Yes, we lost in Vietnam, no two ways about it, but the assertion that Korea was a decisive defeat is historical revisionism pure and simple. The original purpose in going to war in Korea, before MacArthur demanded that the Truman Administration allow him to go for all out victory, was the preservation of South Korea’s independence and the return of the political status quo antebellum. The Chinese intervention and MacArthur’s subsequent dismissal for insubordination brought political sense back to Washington. The Administration returned to the original purpose of the war and spent the next couple of years trying to negotiate an end to it. When the armistice was finally signed in 1953, there was no great overwhelming victory as there had been in 1945 and most Americans felt let down by what someone once called America’s first dry fuck war. But Clausewitz tells us that war is policy implemented by other means, and by this standard Korea was a decisive success. The United States achieved the goals it set out to achieve. South Korea is an independent democratic state and is now an economic powerhouse, while North Korea is a hereditary tyranny, a society of dirt poor slaves. Is there really any credible question about who won the Korean War?

  • But come, come, gentlemen, we suffer from too much seriousness today. It is sunny and warm and spring is busting out all over and getting all over my shoes, so to lighten the mood, we have the following, brought to you by our sponsor:

  • AKAKY,

    I always knew that deep down inside you were a Marxist.


    most of the Burn audience these days is on Burn Facebook or Instagram…..for the last 2 or 3 years….for Instagram and FB one must write very very briefly…people just do not read long comprehensive text on either…this specific Instagram caption was not intended as a treatise on the Vietnam war but was very specifically about a large firecracker!! so please put this in reasonable perspective…i would write the same caption today for Instagram with a possible change in the death toll overall…you do not know me, but if you did you would know i rarely consume alcohol and certainly not while driving!!!

    i do think the 300,000 death figure is low and i did say “more than” but i have changed the number to 500,000..and yes probably another 100,000 if we take in Cambodia and South Vietnam casualties…yet i am not sure any of us really know and honestly i have no idea where to go to get an accurate figure….do you? for sure i have never seen an NVA figure of 400,000 not even when i was in Hanoi and listening to their accounts….


    ok …we won the Korean War…30,000 U.S.troops still there..hmmmmm….feel better now??

  • Yup. As for the 30,000 troops still there, there are more than that stationed at Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, Fort Hood, Fort Knox, Parris Island, Camp Lejeune, Fort Meade, etc. 150 years after the end of the Civil War. Now, you may want to give the Rebels the benefit of the doubt, but I think it’s still important to keep an eye on them, yes I do.

  • “most of the Burn audience these days is on Burn Facebook or Instagram…..for the last 2 or 3 years….for Instagram and FB one must write very very briefly…people just do not read long comprehensive text on either”



    as usual my friend you are correct on all counts..i just hate it when someone is always right!!

    on a slightly serious note ( if i may) , it is for sure a tidal wave of change in how much time people will spend reading online …the “experts” say that if you can hold someone for one minute, you are the master of the universe….and the stats (according again to experts) say that if a video goes over one minute the audience gets cut in half every 30 seconds… concise is the name of the game….however, and i am serious, your New Yorker style essays are the best for ME personally…i love them….yet i am old school in this regard…if you want to capture a young audience, then you gotta wrap it up fast….movies made for the very young rarely have more than a five second shot….

    it’s funny about Burn…for example our age demographic for Burn is 18-45… audience if i show up for a photo fest or whatever is twenty somethings….yet they are not here on comments…too many clicks to came back here…so the commenting crowd is older….way older than the basic demographic….go figure…

  • My problem was never over the length, depth, or level of analysis in your caption. It was over 3 words that were factually incorrect. I see that you have now changed ‘a truce’ to ‘an end’ and ‘more than 300,000’ to ‘more than 500,000.’ But it still reads, incorrectly, ‘American surrender.’ Why not say ‘ final withdrawal’ or ‘evacuation’? That would have satisfied me.

    I actually just wrote a much longer response that touched on the whole Twitter-Instagram and demographic thing and the shrinking attention spans of the young, but my internet connection went dead and I lost the whole text.. probably just as well, since anything that long would anyway only be read by you, me, and Akaky.

    Just to be clear… I never meant to imply you would drink and drive at the same time, and I apologize if I gave that impression. I don’t think of you as an irresponsible person, and I wasn’t envisioning you actually in the driver’s seat with the vehicle in motion when you wrote the caption. (Texting while driving is illegal in my and some other states and has been shown to be as dangerously distracting as drinking while driving). I figured somebody else was at the wheel and you were either riding shotgun or snoozing in the back seat.


    surrender was changed to withdrawal immediately on Instagram, it just didn’t make it here…i will fix it now…damn Sidney, don’t you realize i have a lot going on?? this is not the New York Times or NatGeo it is true but sorry amigo they sure as hell both make more mistakes than do i and don’t answer you back if you correct them!!! please take Burn for what it is…my blog for heavens sake!! and i will stand by its totality in the end…..

    surrender is just too painful a word for anyone to hear…especially a military man…i get it….

    cheers, david

  • Surrender is not all that incorrect. Declaring victory and going home when you are behind on points is pretty much the same thing. It just lacks the pomp and circumstance of serious men in formal attire handing over swords and signing documents with quill pens.

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