Last week over the Vietnamese National Day holiday, I took a trip with my always usually lovely girlfriend to her home town located in Binh Phuoc Province, a few hours northeast of Saigon. It’s a pretty small town without much to do, basically the same as my hometown, so with my recently purchased Sony A7 in tow, this was set to be my first fairly proper outing with it, to put it through a few good tests before I take it up to northern Vietnam this week, ideally for use as my main camera.
Anyway, we were looking for something to do, and on previous trip we found an old US war plane that had been shot down many years ago, and now rests on display in the town of Phuoc Long. I had shot it before with my Mamiya 645 medium format film camera and liked the results, so this time I knew I wanted to do black and white again, but have the further freedom that shooting digital could provide. I was also lucky enough to get a bit of humanity in there this time as well, so let’s scroll down and take a brief stroll through history.
Not far from the plane site, this memorial reads “Remember this place, on January 4th, 1975 the American enemy dropped a bomb and killed more than 300 innocent people.” I was intrigued by it at first, and upon closer inspection, the details of the piece become quite intense. I’ll save these for the last few frames…
These are the bones of a C123 aircraft that was shot down in December 1974.
While I was checking out the details of the plane, I noticed some kids appear and start running around and all over it. Our subject here, and in a few more frames below is Diep, a 12 year old living nearby. While I did consider it a bit of serendipity, and of course welcome the human element in my frames, the over-protective American part my mother must have planted in me, couldn’t help but cringe a bit at him and his friends running around, through and over all the holes and shards of ripped metal, but kids will be kids I guess!
For some reason, I found the English texts and markings all around the carcass to be quite interesting. A few more will follow below as well.
Diep continued his laps around and through the plane, and I tried my best to catch up with him, even with a new camera I was still getting used to and a manual focus only lens!
Just outside the current site of the plane is a memorial statute in the middle of a small roundabout commemorating the Victory Day of the Phuoc Long War, January 6th, 1975.
So, back to the other memorial we saw at the top. After taking it in from afar, I had to get in closer to see what these depictions really were. I found them to be quite beautiful, if not intense, and at least from many photographs I’ve seen of this period of history and its consequences, fairly accurate and moving in their portrayals of loss, grief and suffering.
And finally, to end on a slightly happier note, a few smiles as the kids and a local worker pose for a portrait in what used to be the cockpit.
As sites and memories like these lie all over this country, I’m going to keep an eye and ear out for other locations and remainders of this infamous war, with intentions of creating a broader project. I’ll keep you posted if or when!