Vietnam's Military History Museum in Hanoi
War museums are miserable places, tragic piles of broken metal. Putting old military hardware in bright place surrounded by dioramas in no way masks the horrors and the shadows.
The War Museum in Hanoi is just such a place with the remnants of a smashed French empire surrounding the ruins of what was perhaps America's greatest misadventures.
As such, a museum is a reminder of the fading of all empires and the tragic fate of those that don't understand history. The lessons are brutal as well as poignant.
Much of the Museum in Hanoi is outdoors and the endless war between tired old MIG's and the rain is one that the MIG's can only lose. Rows of old tanks and beaten armour look tiredly at the home made weapons and tattered uniforms of a people who simply would not be beaten.
At the Center, of course, is Ho Chi Minh but next to him is the much mourned General Giap who passed away recently at 103 years of age. Perhaps that's the best thing about war museums. They tend to trivialize things like aircraft and armour and underline the achievements of individuals and their heroism built on determination.
In Hanoi, perhaps the greatest thing about the museum are the herds of children that race around the tattered military remnants with flags and balloons and squeals of laughter while behind them are the photographs of child warriors in their recent past. Even when humanity doesn't learn, it can triumph.
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