Images of War in Hanoi – Women and Propaganda

We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam from Kuala Lumpur – finally ready to travel overland down Vietnam, into Cambodia, through Thailand, and up to Laos. (We’re now in Ho Chi Min City – Saigon – and our plans have changed… but when we were in Hanoi we thought we’d be heading up to Laos….)

Using Hanoi as our jumping off point for the next couple of excursions, we visited Hanoi several times over the following week.  During our numerous sojourns in the capital we were able to see a variety of sights, including the Women’s Museum and Hao Lo Prison Museum.  As a brief side note, our past year in Mongolia was well spent as we were well prepared to cross the streets in Hanoi – there’s nothing quite like inching your way across a street as swarms of motorcycles weave around you from both directions.

The Women’s Museum was very interesting, if a bit biased. The bottom floor highlighted the efforts of Vietnamese women during the war. We found it quite interesting that women were portrayed as important players in the struggle for independence.

Hanoi - Images of Vietnamese WomenWe visited a special exhibit at the Vietnam Women’s Museum that 
displayed propaganda posters featuring Vietnamese women. 

In one exhibition, there were many posters that encouraged the Vietnamese people to struggle for independence and freedom.  There were all manners of posters, from those that promoted armed conflict, to those that simply advocated for a good work ethic to improve the economy or grow more crops.  Some had no reference to any specific enemy, but there were also those that made it quite clear that the Americans were to be on the other end of your gun barrel.

Hanoi - Propaganda poster Baby in one hand and gun in the other – the caption on
this poster read “Protect and Defend Each Village.”

As for the Hao Lo Prison Museum, the exhibits painted a very clear picture.  During colonial times, the French and the “puppet government” used this place to torture and execute patriots.  By contrast, during the American war, the Vietnamese used this place to hold American POWs in strict accordance with the Geneva conventions.

Hanoi - Prison A memorial for all the patriots who suffered at the prison.

Hanoi - Decapitated VictimsThe caption reads:  “The French colonialist executes and
displayed the heads of patriotic soldiers who participated in
‘Ha Thanh poisoning’ case on 8 July 1908.”

Ostensibly, the American POWs were given regular physical activity, being allowed to play basketball, volleyball, and other sports.  They were able to decorate and celebrate Christmas, and they grew their own animals, right in the prison!!  When they were released and returned to America at the end of the war, they were even given souvenirs so that they could remember the great times and generous hospitality of their stay at the prison.  Many photos documented how much the Americans felt just at home here!!

Hanoi - Christmas in prisonThere was great effort to demonstrate how all the American
POWs were treated humanely and in accordance with the
Geneva conventions. 

While this really has nothing to do with the prison that we visited, we couldn’t leave our post about Hanoi without mentioning the rain that we encountered in the city. Back in November 2008, the city of Hanoi experienced the worst flooding they had had in 35 years. Streets were closed down, shops and restaurants closed up, the power went out, and 18 people were killed in the city.  The rain that we encountered was not nearly that bad. It was over pretty quickly but it did leave an impact on a couple of the streets. 

Hanoi - FloodingThis motorbike driver made it through the flooded street.
Others just turned around and looked for an alternative route. 

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~ by dawseng on July 24, 2009.

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