News / archive

    40 Years Later, Vietnam Remembers the 'Christmas Bombing'

    US bombing campaign on the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) lasting from 18 to 29 December 1972 during Vietnam War.
    US bombing campaign on the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) lasting from 18 to 29 December 1972 during Vietnam War.
    Marianne BrownKate Pound Dawson
     
    Forty years ago last month, the United States launched the last major offensive of the Vietnam War in an effort to push the North Vietnamese government back to stalled peace talks. Those talks resumed just days after the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong ended. Less than a month later, January 27, 1973, a peace accord was signed, ending U.S. military action in Vietnam.
     
    But the offensive left a battered city. Vietnam says about 1,600 people died in nearly two weeks of bombing.
     
    Nguyen Van Cau remembers returning to his home in Hanoi on December 26th, 1972, to find it in ruins.
     
    Cau, now 81, found only half of his wife’s body in the wreckage. She was wearing a red pull-over. The only part of his son still intact was his leg, which Cau recognized from the scar left by an accident the previous year.
     
    Hanoi has rebuilt since then and Vietnam now does bustling trade with the United States. But three decades of war – first with France and then the United States -- left hundreds of thousands of tons of unexploded ordnance across the country. Each year scores of people are killed or maimed when they stumble across old weapons.
     
    Bomb clean-up effort
     
    Over the past two decades, the United States and Vietnam have combined efforts to remove those weapons.
     
    Vietnam War veteran Chuck Searcy says more needs to be done to protect people.
     
    Searcy is co-founder of Project Renew, an organization helping communities in central Vietnam manage mine clearance. He notes the Ministry of Defense has often said it will take 100 years and billions of dollars to clean up every bomb and mine.
     
    But Searcy says that kind of thinking needs to change and efforts must include more education to help people avoid the hazards.
     
    “It won’t take 100 years, it won’t take a thousand years because it will never be done and it does not need to be done,” Searcy said. “The items that are really dangerous can be better managed, and the response required to deal with those, (and) that combined with teaching the children and the adults how to be safe and how to report this ordnance when it’s found.”
     
    Aid agencies in Vietnam estimate that since the war ended, 100,000 people have been injured or killed by old bombs. In December, four children died in Vinh Long province, in southern Vietnam, when an old mortar shell exploded.
     
    Over $80 million spent so far

    Since 1989, the U.S. government has spent more than $80 million to remove unexploded ordnance in Vietnam and help its victims. Most of the money pays for work by groups like Project Renew and the Mines Advisory Group.
     
    Project Renew operates in Quang Tri province, the most heavily bombed area during the war. Searcy says more than 80 percent of the province is still littered with unexploded ordnance, compared with 20 percent of rest of the country.
     
    '"Before we started our project there did seem to be sort of sad acceptance of the probability that people would continue to be killed and injured by bombs and mines. It was just a fact of life,” he said.
     
    “But over the years as we’ve promoted the public education, mine awareness program, and taught the children and the adults that there are ways they can be safe and they can avoid accidents and injuries and death."
     
    Since the start of Project Renew almost 12 years ago, the number of accidents in the area has dropped to about 10 a year, from around 50.
     
    Searcy says the projects work with existing Vietnamese institutions like the Women’s Union, Youth Union and health services.  It also cooperates with the military so it can easily go into other provinces to help out. At the moment, only a few provinces have the capacity to deal with unexploded ordnance.
     
    As Vietnam marks the anniversary of the end of war with the United States, Searcy says it is a good opportunity to raise awareness of the threat posed by unexploded ordnance. The problem has gone on too long, he says, but it is never too late to end it. ((Signed))
     
    (This story adds background and context information to an original version issued Dec. 18, 2012)

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.