The fortieth anniversary of the Hanoi Christmas Bombings
While rather incongruous snowmen and santa clauses have appeared around Hanoi in the last week, some more poignant commemorative billboards have also gone up, marking the fortieth anniversary the most intense period of US bombing of the war.
Officially known as Operation Linebacker II, from the 18th to 29th of December 1972, US B52 bombers dropped over 20,000 tonnes of explosives over North Vietnam, resulting in the death of over 1,000 Vietnamese.
The anniversary is marked in Vietnam to remember the victims but also to commemorate the strength of the resistance to the operation. Surface to air missiles brought down fifteen B52s during the campaign – some of which are now displayed around Hanoi, including at the B52 Museum. Planes in flames are the central theme of hundreds of billboards and banners all over Hanoi this week.
The bombing brought both sides back to the negotiating table and the Paris Peace accords were signed by the end of January. This led to the end of American involvement in the war which was to finally came to an end with reunification in 1975. The BBC ran a piece on the bombings this week, which has further information here. There’s also a more in depth account here.
To mark the fortieth anniversary, Cinematheque held a showing of ‘Little Girl of Hanoi’, an amazing movie about a young girl wandering around Hanoi trying to find her father after she has lost her family during the bombings. Incredibly it was filmed in 1972 with the backdrop of Hanoi during and after the bombings.
Hai Ninh, the director, who is now eighty-four, was there to answer questions and was very touched so many people had come to watch his film. It is very beautifully filmed and well worth seeing. Despite being over forty years old it still strikes a chord with a powerful anti-war message. More information is available about the film here.
Below are the underground bomb proof war rooms, located on the grounds of the UNESCO recognized Citadel, which have just been officially opened to the public (though we’ve been going since we arrived in Hanoi – more in a previous post here).