Category Archives: Vietnam

Vietnam in historic photographs

The National Overseas Archives in Aix-en-Provence have opened up to the public an online database called Ulysse, thereby making a variety of digitised materials from the Archives and their library available for research. Begun in 2002, this database contains individual photographs or albums, postcards, posters, drawings and maps.

These materials document on one side the history of French colonial empire, but on the other side they are a rich source for the study of Vietnamese traditions and everyday life in historical perspective. The materials mainly originate from public records (state secretariats and departments that managed colonies from the seventeenth century until the mid-twentieth century, general government offices, etc.) and private archives, but also from donations, purchases, and bequests.

A keyword seach for Vietnam returned almost 400 results, of which most were photographs from the 1940s. Interestingly, they do not only document Vietnamese traditions and everyday life scenery, but also the culture of ethnic minorities in Vietnam. The Cao Dai religion and their rituals are well presented in this collection, as well as the cultural traditions of the Tai in North Vietnam and the Chinese in Saigon. A selection of photographs from this wonderful online database can be found below.

Mobile barber shop at Camau

Mobile barber shop at Camau

Vietnamese children playing traditional games

Vietnamese children playing traditional games

Construction of a boat at Camau

Construction of a boat at Camau

Chinese funeral procession in Saigon

Chinese funeral procession in Saigon

Students exiting the Lycee Calmette in Saigon

Students exiting the Lycee Calmette in Saigon

Theravada Buddhist temple near Nguu Son

Theravada Buddhist temple near Nguu Son

Theravada monks at their temple near Nguu Son

Theravada monks at their temple near Nguu Son

Cao Dai temple interior in Tay Ninh

Cao Dai temple interior in Tay Ninh

Superior Pham Cong Tac in his ritual costume at the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh

Superior Pham Cong Tac in his ritual costume at the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh

Cao Dai musical group in Tay Ninh

Cao Dai musical group in Tay Ninh

Tai princesses, the daughters of Deo Van Dai

Tai princesses, the daughters of Deo Van Long

Tai religious ritual

Tai religious ritual

Tai dancers

Tai dancers

View of Cholon

View of Cholon

The Ulysse database can be accessed free of charge.

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Vietnam War Museum Ho Chi Minh City – Virtual Tour

Throughout Vietnam there are museums, references, and memorials dedicated to the Vietnam War and the wars in Indochina. In the city of Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, we probably find best and most comprehensive museum dedicated to the Vietnam War.

The organisation Vietnamitas en Madrid has created a virtual tour to the Vietnam War Museum (War Remnants Museum) for all those who can not travel to Saigon, or for travellers who had no time to see the museum during their visit to the city.

The virtual visit to the Vietnam War Museum  is composed of a collection of videos and photos to show the exterior exhibition areas, the exhibition halls and the 3 floors of the Museum of Saigon Guerra. The largest part of the museum are the exterior areas. In the grounds of the Museum are displayed machinery of war and heavy artillery that the Viet Cong captured from U.S. Army: aircraft, fighters, helicopters, tanks, bombs, anti-aircraft artillery, flamethrowers, etc.

The interior houses collections of propaganda posters, photographs and videos documenting the effects of Agent Orange, of which many are truly shocking. Also included are collections of guns, ammunition and landmines, battle scenes, gear and medals of American soldiers.

The museum stands as a reminder of the atrocities of the Vietnam War in particular, and of the inhumanity of any war.

To enter the virtual tour of the Vietnam War Museum, please visit the homepage of the Vietnamitas en Madrid organisation.

 

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Germans in the First Indochina War

The First Indochina War (1946-54) was a struggle between the Viet Minh and the French for control of the country. It followed the defeat of Japan in 1945 and the power struggle following their withdrawal from Vietnam. The Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, seized the opportunity to declare Vietnamese independence on September 2nd 1945. By late 1946 the French had 50,000 troops in Vietnam and had regained control of Saigon. During this conflict, the French Foreign Legion saw its numbers swell due to the incorporation of Second World War veterans who couldn’t adapt to civilian life, as well as German prisoners of war. Even so, although the Foreign Legion distinguished itself, it also took a heavy toll during the war: constantly being deployed in operations, it even reached the point that whole units were annihilated in combat, in what was a traditional Foreign Legion battlefield. Units of the legion were also involved in the defence of Dien Bien Phu and lost a large number of men in the battle. Some Germans deserted, others defected to the Viet Minh. Some stayed in Vietnam beyond the war and started families.
The story of Germans in the French Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère) is being explored on the website More Majorum . It is entirely in German language, but contains a huge collection of photographs, copies of documents and pictures of uniforms and paraphernalia.

German former soldier in the French Foreign Legion with his family in Vietnam. Source: http://www.muenster.de/~redlich/family/poster.pdf

German former soldier in the French Foreign Legion with his family in Vietnam. Source: http://www.muenster.de/~redlich/family/poster.pdf

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Hanoi – Spirit of Place

A photo exhibition by John Ramsden, a British diplomat to Vietnam 1980-83, dedicated to Hanoi in the 1980s was on display for a couple of days last month in London. A selection of rare photographs showed everyday life in Hanoi when Vietnam was still very isolated from the Western world and only few foreigners had the opportunity to travel or work there. The exhibition is part of a bigger project that aims to digitise Ramsden’s over 1700 photographs and make them available to a wider audience. A small selection of photographs and more information about the project is available at http://www.hanoispiritofplace.com/ .

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