Vietnam's collectors keep war memories alive, with bullets, bombs and dogtags

Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:14am EDT
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By Do Khuong Duy

HANOI (Reuters) - Grubby satchels, helmets, rusty knives and chunky radios are strewn around Dinh Van Loc's front room, transforming his house in Vietnam's capital into an abandoned battlefield.

For Loc, these are treasured items amassed over the years, rooted in a teenage fascination with the country's devastating war with the United States that ended nearly four decades ago.

The 32-year-old's obsession with combat zone memorabilia is a rare one in Vietnam, where the vast majority of its 90 million people were born long after the war. And those who do remember it chose to move on.

"These things help me feel the lives of the soldiers," said Loc, the proud owner of more than 2,000 war souvenirs. "That's what drove me to collecting."

He points to etchings on unused ration tins retrieved from the front line, some bearing the names of soldiers and their lovers or crude scratchings meant to resemble Hanoi landmarks.

"I can feel some of the atmosphere of those days," Loc said. "I can see what they were thinking, their emotions, how they were missing their parents."

Postwar generations in communist-run Vietnam are proud of their heritage, schooled in the same ideology as their parents, but are increasingly seduced by the tokens of capitalism - smartphones, couture and flashy motorbikes.

Still, the wounds of war have not entirely healed and collector Lai Dung says it's important that future generations don't forget the war that killed several million Vietnamese.   Continued...

A missile from a U.S. helicopter which was used during the Vietnam War is seen displayed for sale at an old items market in Hanoi March 14, 2015. REUTERS/Kham