Vietnam

Posted by Ellen

Veterans' Day is Armistice Day, except that it's not. Calendar-wise, they're the same, but pausing or parading to show gratitude for our veterans is not really the same as pausing to commemorate the moment 95 years ago when soldiers lay down their weapons and those among them who still had the vitality and the nerve climbed out of their trenches and tried to put World War I behind them.

We know more than a few military men and women who squirm at hearing "Thank you for your service," which servicepeople hear all the time these days. All too often, what the people who say it really mean by it is: "Hey, I'm not one of those dirty hippies who burned their draft cards and stuff during Vietnam–I'm a real American, and here's my business card." Or something like that.

Still. We are grateful for our veterans and for all the people through the years who put their lives on the line for us. People sacrificed so much in so many wars, and way too many of those who benefited from their sacrifice are obnoxious Americans like me.

Anyways, VJ Day, much like Armistice Day, was a very good day for hundreds of millions of people around the world. We young folk know it mostly from Eistanstadt's iconic photo of a kiss in Times Square, recreated here in Lego by photographer Mike Stimpson.

Posted by Ellen

This cheerful little snake is welcoming us to Tết, the Vietnamese version of Asian lunar new year festivities, which will be celebrated this coming Sunday in Philadelphia among many other places. What the snake is saying, according to Google's translator, is "Sing along, Men of targeted Heritage."

In 1968, at the height of what I've been told was called "the American war" by many people in Vietnam, the governments of both North and South Vietnam announced two-day cease-fires for Tết. But shortly after midnight on the first day of Tết, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched more than a hundred surprise attacks on American and South Vietnamese forces and on cities and villages throughout South Vietnam. More than 80,000 troops were involved in the attacks, and there was fighting even in Saigon. The objective was to demoralize South Vietnamese soldiers and show Communist strength literally in every corner of the land; over the next few weeks, however, U.S. forces regained control of virtually all the territory contested in the Tết offensive, and the war dragged on for seven more years.

One consequence (among many) of the eventual North Vietnamese victory in the war was that the South Vietnamese provinces adopted the same time zone and lunar calendar as the North Vietnamese, thus ensuring that everyone celebrated Tết at the same time. Most years, including this one, the Chinese New Year also falls on the same date as Tết, though time-zone differences across Asia occasionally result in different clebration dates.