Unexploded Ordnance “UXO”: “We have to go back to our homes in the countryside and start all over again. We have to build from nothing. And it’s not certain that peace means we are going to live. Those old fields are just popping full of explosives. The dying’s not over for us yet.”
– an elderly woman in Quang Ngai Province returning home in 1975.
“You Americans called the B-52 carpet bombing. We called it harrow bombing. After the B-52s flew off, the land was pulverized, like a field after a harrow has turned the earth over on itself. People died twice. First people died from the war, then another bomb would hit their grave and they died again.”
– a woman in the Mekong Delta. 10 million bombs from B-52s pockmarked South Vietnam with bomb craters 30 to 40 feet wide and 40 to 50 feet deep. The craters became breeding grounds for mosquitoes that caused malaria.
The Vietnamese struggled to recover from the extensive damage caused by the war after it ended in 1975. The U.S. continued the embargo it had first enforced against North Vietnam in 1964 and extended it to the whole country after the Saigon government fell. The embargo was not lifted until 1994, 30 years after it began. An ill-fated attempt to collectivize agriculture failed. Vietnam lost economic support from the Soviet Union when it collapsed, and then lost economic support from China.
“Of all those years we were hungry, the worst was 1980. … We adults could stand the pain that comes with an empty stomach, but no sound tugs harder at your heart than hearing your child cry from hunger.”
– a mother in the Mekong Delta
U.S. forces also used herbicides to destroy nearly 50 percent of the country’s mangroves that protect shorelines from typhoons and tsunamis. The spraying led to nutrient loss in the soil that in turn has caused erosion, compromising forests in 28 river basins. As a result, flooding has increased in numerous watershed areas.
– Nick Turse, Two Men, Two Legs and Too Much Suffering: The Forgotten Vietnamese Victims, TomDispatch.com
– Earl S. Martin, Reaching the Other Side: The Journal of an American Who Stayed to Witness Vietnam’s Postwar Transition
– Lady Borton, After Sorrow: An American Among the Vietnamese