URL for this challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/bridge/
Following are photos that I took of bridges in my travels.
“Why South Vietnam Fell” by Anthony James Joes, Paperback, 218 pages, Lexington Books (May 25, 2016)
I must have read hundreds of books about the Viet Nam war, especially the period from 1954 to 1975 when the war ended. The latest, “Why South Vietnam Fell” by Anthony James Joes, was a surprise. It is a well researched and cogently written book that runs counter to much of what has been written about the subject by mostly liberal, anti-war American authors over the past 50 years.
Anthony James Joes is professor emeritus at St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia where he has taught since 1969. He has been Chairman of the International Relations Program there since 1972. He is also a visiting professor at the U.S. Army War College and has given presentations at places such as the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the RAND Corporation, the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He has written many books and articles on various topics, the Viet Nam war being one of them. According to him, three main factors contributed to the fall of South Viet Nam.
The first was the “risky wager” that President Kennedy took in 1963 to actively encourage South Vietnamese generals to overthrow President Ngo Dinh Diem, the first duly elected President of South Viet Nam. President Diem and his brother were assassinated in the coup. Disarray ensued in the civilian government and in the military, forcing President Johnson to send over increasing numbers of American troops to prevent a total collapse of South Viet Nam.
This escalation in turn gave rise to the US anti-war movement which benefited greatly when the 1968 Tet Offensive was trumpeted by American media as a communist victory. That ignored the fact that the Viet Cong suffered such severe losses that they were no longer an effective fighting force after 1968. The North Vietnamese from then on had to openly shoulder all of the fighting, dropping any pretense that it was the Viet Cong who led the fight against the southern regime.
Meanwhile the anti-war movement, actively supported by the international communist propaganda machine, succeeded in turning the American public against the war. American troops were recalled home. Aid to South Viet Nam was drastically reduced, before being completely cut off after the forced resignation of President Nixon in 1974. Without sufficient ammunition, fuel, and spare parts for its equipment, South Viet Nam could not defend all of its territory. However, disastrous redeployment maneuvers in early 1975 led to panic as civilians fled and mingled with soldiers and their own families, and thus entire divisions disintegrated. South Viet Nam fell in three months under an all-out invasion by the entire North Vietnamese military, amply supplied and equipped by the Soviet Bloc and Red China.
In laying out these themes, Professor Joes quotes numerous sources from all sides, including communist ones. Each chapter is richly footnoted, without distracting the reader from the main arguments the author was making. In spite of that, without the appendix, the book is only 171 pages long and makes for an ultimately provocative and intellectually stimulating read. Liberals will probably hate it, but in this age of “fake news” it is good to know that someone is presenting hard facts and his own informed opinion on a matter which has long divided Americans.
Here are some miscellaneous photos I took during our visit to Việt Nam.
Fansipan Legend is an aerial tram completed at the beginning of 2016. It allows people to go from the town of Sa Pa to the top of mount Fan Si Pan, without having to make an arduous and dangerous climb sometimes lasting several days.
The Water Puppet Theater is a tourist trap that some say is not worth going to. It is, however, housed in a building where the Tự Lực Văn Đoàn group used to meet. In the 1930’s Tự Lực Văn Đoàn (Self-Help Literary Group) started modern Vietnamese journalism and authored widely popular novels aimed at the mass market of Vietnamese thirsty for modern ideals and ideas.
Both the French colonial government and, after 1945, the Vietnamese communists tried to suppress and eliminate Tự Lực Văn Đoàn. The communists even imprisoned and killed one of the three leaders of the group. That is why you will never see any mention that the building pictured above was ever associated with Tự Lực Văn Đoàn.
Perhaps nothing illustrates better how Sài Gòn has grown than the following pictures taken at night.
A good place to capture the city’s skylight is from the middle of Thủ Thiêm bridge, built in 2008. The city has grown by crossing the river toward the North, on the left side of the picture.
Traffic on the bridge was typical for the city. Thousands and thousands of cars and motorbikes going in both directions.
On our last day in Sài Gòn, we went to Tao Đàn park, a green oasis in the center of the city.
The park has added several attractions since the last time I saw it.
The following photos are from a water lily pond in front of the Hùng Vương temple.
I was surprised to see many young people in a corner of the park. Some were practicing a conical hat dance, with each dancer holding two hats. They got better with their practice as I kept shooting with my camera.
When the North Vietnamese conquered Sài Gòn in 1975, they renamed it after their beloved leader, and changed many street names to those of luminaries in the communist pantheon. Still, after 41 years, people in the South as well as the North only refer to it as Sài Gòn, unless they have to make an official or public speech.
From the hazy airplane window, I saw that the city had grown vertically and had also spilled over to the north side of the Sài Gòn river, which was not renamed like the city was.
After we landed at the airport, I had trouble recognizing the old capital. It had grown both in size and in population, from 3 million in 1975 to well over 10 million inhabitants now. There were literally millions of motorbikes and cars competing for space on the narrow streets, and traffic was a nightmare day and night. It seemed impossible that people could ride or drive in such conditions, but they did, and traffic laws were constantly being violated by everyone including pedestrians who climbed over dividers to cross highways because there were no pedestrian overpasses.
Subways, light rail, overpasses exist only on paper in the planning stages. There was a tunnel running under the Sài Gòn river and several bridges were either built or expanded, but nothing seemed to help. Việt Nam has one of the highest highway fatality rates, and it is going to take well into the next decade, or even beyond, before things could get better.
We stayed at a hotel near the Bến Thành market in the center of the city, and from there we walked or sometimes called an Uber taxi to explore the city and find places that we used to know.
There were restaurants and food stalls everywhere in and around the Bến Thành area, or in the rest of the city as well. You can find people eating and having coffee, soft drinks or beer at any time of the day and night.
Some buildings had not changed much.
Nearby all the hotels and buildings had been rebuilt to be taller and more modern, so you won’t find the looks and atmosphere of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American any more.
There were signs that not all had benefited from the economic boom.Some buildings hardly changed, at least from the outside.
In 2005, the statue was reported to be shedding tears on the right cheek. People flocked to the cathedral in great numbers. The tear shedding was not confirmed by any authority.
For the last three weeks, we have been travelling in Việt Nam, from South to North. I took over 2,000 photos and will try to post some here to give you a flavor of what I saw and experienced.
Naturally the country has changed a lot since I left in 1975 at the end of the war. After wasting 15 years carrying out political retribution against the South, by the time the Berlin wall fell down, the communist regime in Hà Nội finally realized that free enterprise was the best antidote to economic stagnation and poverty caused by blind adherence to marxist-leninist-stalinist doctrine. Since then a virtual flood of foreign aid and investment, coupled with local initiative and hard work, has transformed the economy for the better. The South which has historically led the country in economic development and growth, found itself again at the forefront.
No city exemplifies it better than Cần Thơ, the fourth largest in the nation, located at the center of the Mekong delta. It used to be called Tây Đô, the Western capital, and has lived up to its ancient moniker. In my youth, one of my fist jobs was to travel from Sài Gòn to Cần Thơ, by car, a journey that took almost a day because one had to line up and wait for the only two ferries that allowed traffic to cross the Upper and Lower branches of the Mekong river.
The ferries are gone, replaced by two beautiful bridges. The first is Mỹ Thuận bridge spanning the Upper branch (Tiền Giang river). It was designed and built with Australian aid, and was completed in 2000.
We also had to cross a longer and higher bridge, the Cần Thơ bridge over the Lower branch (Hậu Giang river). It was built with Japanese aid and was completed in 2010. During construction, in 2007 one of its ramps collapsed, killing 54 people and injuring 80 others.
The Mekong delta has always been an agricultural wonder, sending its rice and other agricultural products to feed the rest of the nation and the world. Its Southern cuisine appeals to many with its variety of dishes and flavor, no doubt due to the abundance of food and innate culinary talent. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch, one that was frequented more by the locals than by tourists. The kitchen was at the front of the restaurant for all to see and observe.