Vietnam Travel Blog› entry 2 of 19 › view all entries
It strikes me that true heroism is doing what is necessary, whether you want to or not, whether you feel prepared or capable of performing the task, and without thought to the harm that may come your way.
My Grandpa is a hero. He became a hero out of necessity when his plane went down over Vietnam during World War II and he spent the next 8 months with his flight crew in Vietnam surviving. First on the run from the Japanese and ultimately captured until he was liberated at the end of the war.
My Grandpa wrote a book about his flight crew and their story during this time in Vietnam. The book is called "For a Bag of Rice" and it is a compelling story of true heroism. My Grandpa's story is on my mind as I prepare for my trip to Asia. I will be in Ho Chi Mihn (Saigon) and Nha Trang, two cities that feature prominently in my Grandpa's story.
In Nha Trang my Grandpa was taken by the Japanese guards to the beach where he was shown several 250 pound bombs that were dropped from U.S. planes and failed to explode. After long back and forth attempts at conversation with the Japanese guards my Grandpa finally realized that the guards wanted him to disarm the bombs so they could clear the beach and use it for their recreation. My Grandpa did not have any bomb experience whatsoever. He was a Navy pilot and his crew conducted surveillance missions. He spent the entire day in the hot sun first studying the bombs, then attempting to disarm the bombs. When my Grandpa tells the story he describes trying to make his arms as long as possible, trying to stop his hand from shaking as he slowly unscrewed the arming device from the giant bombs. After several hours, incredible tension and anxiety, my Grandpa successfully disarmed the bombs. The Japanese guards then returned him to the building where he was held captive.
In planning my visit to Nha Trang I have been thinking about scuba diving, sitting on the beach, visiting the local fish market and soaking up the sun. I know most of my time in Nha Trang will find me contemplating June, 1945 and the actions and heroism of my Grandpa.
My Grandpa was taken to Saigon in July, 1945 right before the end of the war. He was held at a POW prison camp that had hundreds of prisoners: Americans, French, British and Dutch. After the atomic bomb was dropped my Grandpa and all the other prisoners listened to the Japanese commander read a long speech in Japanese. They did not know what the commander was saying but over the next few days the gates of the camp were left open and they suddenly found themselves able to come and go from the camp. The war was over. My Grandpa was in Saigon for several more weeks as the Americans made plans to evacuate all of the prisoners. During this time the Vietnamese began marching, protesting and rioting in the streets, unwilling to go back to French rule, unwilling to continue under Japanese occupation and ultimately the seeds of communism began to spread throughout Saigon and the rest of Vietnam.
All of these stories and thoughts will be on my mind as I travel through Vietnam.