South Viet-Nam

Land of Contrasts

South Viet-Nam -- a thousand miles long; its greatest width a seventh of that. Sub-tropical heat; and the bitter nights of mile-high mountains.

Sophisticated citizens of Saigon, "the Paris of the Orient"; hardy farmers of the lowlands; mountain tribes called "savages" by city-dwellers. 800,000 Confucian Chinese and more than a million Catholics; Buddhists, Taoists, Mohammedans, and a "new" religion embracing them all. These are its people.

Villagers distrust central government yet fight vigorously for their country; there is compulsory education of children but mountain tribes may not understand the language of a tribe ten miles away; tigers and elephants are hunted on high plateaus, and the white sand beaches welcome sunbathers.

City restaurants with French cuisine also serve coagulated pork blood with chopped heart, liver, and intestines; French wines and rice wine compete on equal terms. City streets are used to Western clothing and colorful monks' robes; and black or blue loose cotton shirts and trousers brush against white satin tunics, split to the waist, and satin trousers

Countrymen carry their produce to market in wicker baskets, suspended from a bamboo pole across the shoulders; but there are aircraft everywhere. Railroad lines have rusted away, but oxen pull heavy loads.

South Viet-Nam -- land of contrasts and variety ... melting-pot of old and new, of many faiths and customs, of towering mountains and warm beaches. A land of terror and hope. A battleground for the Free World's fight against the tyranny of Communism.

Here is a country with a thousand miles of coastline on the South China Sea, and its other border thirty to 130 miles away. Here is a sub-tropical climate in most of its area, and bitter cold nights in its mile-high highlands.

Here are diverse peoples: the sophisticated city-dwellers of Saigon, "the Paris of the Orient"; simple, hard-working farmers; highland Montagnards with their own languages and customs; eight hundred thousand Chinese, largely concentrated in Saigon's suburb of Cholon.

Here are Confucians, Buddhists, Mohammedans, Catholics, Taoists, Christian Protestants, and religion called Dao Dai which is composed of many of the others.

Here are village governments, each composed of numerous tiny hamlets, for many years almost untouched by any central government and inclined to be opposed to central authority of any kind -- government or Viet Cong.

Here is a country with its railroads inoperative because of guerrilla action, its highways useable only by armed convoys, depending upon airlifts (and oxen) for vital transport.

Here is South Viet-Nam, a land of gentle, peaceful people -- but the battleground where the destiny of hundreds of millions will be determined in the war of Communism against the Free World.

Courtesy of The Face Of VIET-NAM, The Land & The People (1966)