Mr. Gott is a British journalist who visited North Vietnam. This report appeared in the Manchester Guardian Weekly, February 28, 1970, p. 13.
The Fourth Zone of North Vietnam--the four provinces south of the 19th Parallel that the Americans call "the pan handle" --has had more bombs dropped on it than any other area in the history of the world. It looks like it; though today, rather more than a year since the bombing stopped, lush vegetation is beginning to hide some of the worst scars.
But even if the inhabitants, about 20 per cent of North Vietnam's population of 20 million, wished to forget the war, the pounding by American bombers of the mountainous areas of neighbouring Laos--which reverberates daily through the Fourth Zone--is a constant reminder that the war is not over. Vietnam's problem is not solely one of reconstruction.
During a five-week visit to North Vietnam I have been able to drive as far South as the 18th Parallel and to spend some days in the province of Hatinh. This area, where the bombing redoubled its intensity of 1968, is still a shattering sight. Some times, bouncing along in an old Russian jeep, I would look out and see a perfectly normal landscape of women planting rice and boys on the backs of buffaloes. This place, I would mentally note, has been left alone; I must be careful not to exaggerate.
Then, round the next corner would come a broken bridge, a burnt-out house, a cratered rice field or a string of twisted railway trucks. Some valleys are almost showpieces of destruction, the hillsides deeply scored and floor barren and deserted. Only an occasional small ridge indicates where once was a rice field.
Much of the bombing north of Vinh concentrated on the areas where road and railway ran in harness. With a bridge as well, all havoc was let loose. In underdeveloped countries