Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saigon Festivities Bitter for Some 25 Years Later,wounds Unhealed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saigon Festivities Bitter for Some 25 Years Later,wounds Unhealed

Article excerpt

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- Bay Lop's family skipped the dancing pink dragon and all the hoopla yesterday celebrating the 25th anniversary of victory in Vietnam. As with so many others, their war is not over.

Bay Lop is missing. His wife last saw him in that famous photo of 1968, shot point-blank in the head with a snub-nosed .38 pistol by South Vietnamese police chief Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan. She has never found his body.

"I could understand if it was the Americans, outsiders," Nguyen Thi Lop said in an interview, deep in a poor neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. "But a Vietnamese did this barbaric act. How can I forgive until he is decently put to rest?"

In fact, she explained, Bay Lop was guilty and proud of it. Born Nguyen Van Lem in 1933, he fought the French with Ho Chi Minh as a teenager. When captured in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, he was a Viet Cong captain with a nom de guerre.

"That photograph did much to turn Americans against the war," she said. "He would have been happy to see his goal achieved, a socialist state free of foreign occupation. Now the government is duty-bound to find his remains."

Across Vietnam, however, 300,000 soldiers are still missing. The impoverished government has few forensic tools to follow old clues. And that is only part of Vietnam's postwar problems.

In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, cameras focused on 25 couples in traditional robes and headdress as they placed flowers on a monument to Uncle Ho. Their mass wedding was part of official festivities, along with a parade and outdoor concerts.

Huynh Van Dung watched from the side, in battered shoes and a dirty T-shirt emblazoned, "A little creativity. . . ." He seemed glum, with few fresh ideas about how to change his future.

He was 4 years old when the war ended. His father, in the South Vietnamese army when it surrendered, disappeared in a re-education camp. His mother left with another man, abandoning her son. …

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