Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — When veteran Tống Trần Hội attended an exhibition featuring the savage actions of prison wardens across the country during the war, all the haunting memories came flooding back to him.
The exhibition Lời Tri Ân (Gratitude) opened last week at Hỏa Lò Prision in Hà Nội.
On display are photos, documents and objects relating to soldiers held at various prisons during the wars against the French and American invaders, including Hỏa Lò, Sơn La, Côn Đảo, Chí Hòa and Phú Quốc.
Hội is one of the few prisoners to have escaped or released from the prisons, but many of his comrades did not make it out due to the cruel wardens.
“The struggle at Phú Quốc Prison will never be forgotten as it was full of tears, blood, loss and sacrifice,” he said at the exhibition.
“The exhibition reflects the war crimes that were committed and the bravery and will of the Vietnamese soldiers,” he said.
The prisons were known as ’Hell on Earth’ where revolutionary fighters were tortured and killed. Many of them had a great influence on the patriotic movement for national liberation.
Sacrifice: A corner of the exhibition. — Photo baodulich.vn
“The stories of establishing and defending the country have been written by the blood and tears of many generations,” said Nguyễn Thị Bích Thủy, head of the management board at Hỏa Lò Prison.
“Prisons were also a special frontline where loyal people strengthened their resolve. They succeeded in overcoming cruel treatment at prisons and the prospect of execution.”
The exhibition is being held to commemorate War Martyrs’ Day (July 27). July is known as the month of gratitude when the country shows its respect to the war martyrs and invalids.
“The generations living in peace today always remember the heavy sacrifices that were made,” said Thủy.
Chuck Searcy, co-chair of the Agent Orange Working Group, said he felt touched by the exhibition. The first time he came to Việt Nam was in 1967 as a 20-year-old soldier in the US Army. The year he spent in the war had a profound impact on him, and that experience made him hate war, he said.
“The exhibition shows something terrible but inspiring,” he said.
“Through the exhibition, people will understand how cruel the war was, and they will also know how brave and strong Vietnamese people are.”
Hero: Veteran Tống Trần Hội looks at keepsakes that belonged to his comrades on display at the exhibition. — Photo baodulich.vn
“Many foreign tourists including Americans visit Hỏa Lò Prison every day. I think the exhibition will give them have a comprehensive view on the war in Việt Nam. For young Vietnamese people, they will learn much from history.”
Thomas Eugene Wilber, whose father US Navy Captain Walter Eugene Wilber was held at Hỏa Lò Prison, has visited Việt Nam many times to donate war memorabilia to the prison. Capt Wilber was never tortured and his food and water were just as good as that consumed by the civilians outside the walls of the prison.
“It’s definitely different from the way Vietnamese prisoners were treated,” said Wilber.
“For me personally, Hỏa Lò was the second home of my father from 1968 to 1973. It is a place where he experienced the humane culture of the Vietnamese people. From here, he was able to speak the truth about American aggression and urge his fellow citizens to exhort the US Government to stop the war.”
The exhibition will run until September 10 at 1 Hỏa Lò Street, Hà Nội. — VNS