Viet Nam News
PHÚ THỌ — In war veteran Bùi Văn Bình’s 20sq.m room, most of the space is taken up by more than 600 pieces of war memorabilia, collected over the past four years.
Known as Mr Bình’s museum by locals in Phong Châu Town, Phù Ninh District, Phú Thọ Province, the little room full of war memories has become a familiar place for local war veterans to gather and a place for young people to learn about history.
Cartridges, padded cotton waistcoats, war maps and even letters written by soldiers are carefully kept in good condition on the wooden shelves or in the glass cupboards.
Bình said that each time he takes them out for clean, he feels his comrades are standing by his side.
The piece of memorabilia he treasures most is a machine used to remove bullets, donated from overseas to Việt Nam in the war against the US.
“In the middle of 1972, when I was on reconnaissance duty, I was wounded. A piece of bullet entered my arm,” he recalled.
“Doctors used this machine to remove the bullet from my arm. Thanks to the machine, I recovered quickly and continued the fight,” he said.
“This box was presented to me by the daughter and son-in-law of Vũ Kim Khanh, a former leading nurse of a unit in brigade 312,” he continued, talking about a different item.
The box used to store needles was made in Germany in 1940s and taken from French soldiers in 1950.
“I survived thanks to the sacrifice of my comrades. We promised to go back to our battlefield, Quảng Trị Old City, to offer incense for dying men.
“This fueled motivation to hold solidarity activities and collect war memorabilia. It is to pay tribute to my comrades who laid down their lives,” he said.
Voluntary and silent contribution
At the beginning, Bình’s family, especially his wife prevented him from going to collect war memorabilia.
“She said that I am mad and I should spend my retirement relaxing, taking care of grandchildren, playing sports or visiting comrades. She was worried about my work,” he said.
“But when she understood my heart, she and my children supported my collection,” he said.
Every month, Bình spends part of his retired teacher’s pension and veteran allowance on travelling Phú Thọ Province and other localities to look for items.
No matter if it is sunny or rainy, whenever he gets information about any antique war items, he sets off.
He even went to see a family four times to persuade them to donate an item.
Understanding his passion, many veterans living far away donated objects to him. Most recently, veteran Lê Kim Bảng, member of War Veteran Association of HCM City’s Gò Vấp District gave Bình three items, including a small-sized wireless telegraph machine seized from American soldiers.
Pass on the next generation
Each item collected by Bình recalls a memory of war in Việt Nam. Some objects were taken by Vietnamese soldiers from enemies, such as chairs made from B52 airplanes, cups, combs and flower vases made from cartridges.
Bình carefully takes photos of each item and puts them in albums with detailed information.
On special occasions such as festivals and Vietnamese War Veteran and Invalids Day on July 27, students visit Bình’s museum.
“The museum helps us learn about national history, our predecessors who sacrificed their blood to gain national peace, independence,” Bùi Hữu Bằng, a youth in Phong Châu Town said.
Nguyễn Minh Phú, deputy chairman of Phong Châu Town’s People’s Committee said Bình’s museum has made an important contribution to local people, especially young generations so they can understand national history. — VNS