Reflecting on what I’d been up to in 2015, I realised there was a batch of photos I’d taken with the explicit purpose of uploading to the blog but never got round to. They were from back in the summer when I went to Vietnam for work. At a loss for what to do with the free moments I had in Hanoi, I was drawn to the pictures of war wreckage I saw on Wikipedia. Spurred on by the maps and info in the guidebook I acquired from Aberdeen City Library, I managed to track down two locations in the west of the city where the remnants of some rather large aircraft were located…
There was nothing remotely off-the-beaten-track about the first location, a giant museum having been constructed at the site of the wreckage. And in case one was in any doubt as to what was being celebrated, the name of the shot-down aircraft was written in big gold letters above the entrance: B52.
From what I can gather this is not where this US bomber initially came to rest – indeed, the various names and initials scratched into the vertical stabiliser suggest it’s been moved about more than a few times since coming down over the Vietnamese capital. Nonetheless, the bomber has now been granted a permanent home not far from the Lieu Giai thoroughfare, the remaining parts arranged in something approximating the shape of a B52.
Despite the many fragments of the airfame not having been in a flying condition for more than forty years, it was still possible to get a good sense of the size – and toughness – of the BUFF by standing next to it. Doing this was aided by the fact the B52 was laid out at ground level, physically lower than the Vietnamese aircraft. Now history is always a subjective and representative affair, so it should have come as little surprise to discover that the aircraft mounted high on plinths were those of the ‘resistance’ – on this occasion, a MiG 21.
What you can’t deduce so readily from the photos is that not only was it warm – over thirty degrees – but also stiflingly humid. Having rather stupidly elected to walk out to the museum from the city centre (in my defence I did have an appointment nearby earlier that morning) the sweat was pouring from me rather profusely by this point and I was onto my second litre of water before eleven o’clock. That’s my excuse for the limited range of photos from this day, at least.
Four days of meetings and one bout of food poisoning-cum-heat exhaustion later, I was somewhat better prepared for my second day of B52 hunting later during my trip. This was just as well as this wreckage was slightly less well-signposted, located in a small lake down a sidestreet which I found somewhat fortuitously. I knew the rough area, but only happened across the lake itself after spotting a sign which I thought said ‘B Fifty-Two’ in phonetics and then making a couple of wrong turns into rather, shall we say, more residential areas.
You will find thousands of photos like this last one if you search for anything to do with B52s and Hanoi online, which leads me to believe this particular example wasn’t actually as hard to find as I made it out to be. The lake also has a small marble memorial with a brass plaque explaining in both English and Vietnamese what it is that’s in the lake, just in case you weren’t able to figure it out for yourself.
I wish I’d had time to to a bit more research to go with these photos as regards the provenance of the jets I’d seen – which airframe numbers they were, where they were based, when and how they were shot down, that sort of thing. However, as is increasingly the case these days there just wasn’t time to do so (even more so because I was in Hanoi for work purposes so as such had other priorities), so rather than let the photos go to waste on my hard drive I thought I’d put them up with a few words to stitch them together. I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know when I went to look for these B52s, but rather like the Citroen Traction Avants I wrote about back in August, these vehicles are left behind as a striking visual reminder of nations that have for better or worse had a historical involvement in Vietnam.