The Summer of Love as it is widely known in the United States was 1967: A period of hope that the war in Vietnam would end soon, and the power of love, sex, protests, rock and roll, and good drugs would be the fuel to return peace to southeast Asia. All wishful and chemically-altered thinking.
By August of 1969, the world seemed more likely to be going to hell and back. Just weeks after mankind’s spectacular landing on the moon with Apollo 11, August turned into a less heroic month save perhaps musically. While the Beatles were crossing the zebra marks on Abbey Road, Charles Manson was planning a massacre in California, the gulf coast of America was soon to be devastated by Hurricane Camille, and the Woodstock Music festival was busy setting up stages in the middle of rural farmland in upstate New York, the landscape of My So’n was about to change forever as well.
Intelligence sources in the U.S. military had determined that the North Vietnamese army, the Viet Cong, were using the ancient ruins of My So’n as a secret base of military operations and planning. Despite its cultural significance, the U.S. air force carpet-bombed the complex with the famed B-52 bombers for nearly a week, effectively wiping out the ground operation in My So’n. Also wiped out were several hundred years of history and art.
During the tour of My So’n, our Vietnamese guide teased out the story of the B-52 bombing for nearly an hour as we walked around as his commentary focused more often on what was not here rather than what was left at the site. The cliffhanger ended as our group was encouraged to walk down into the giant crater hole obviously left in its natural state as a reminder of the bombing.
If the bomb crater was not enough of a visual aid, we had the chance to stand next to several UXO-Unexploded Ordinance dropped that week, found later on-site and having been successfully diffused and put on display inside one of the temple buildings as part of the tour. The sobering reminders stood nearly 6 feet tall and were rusted from age but most definitely “US-Made and delivered” as our guide grimly emphasized.
When questioned further about why the bombs were dropped, he admitted to us the part of the story not mentioned earlier regarding the Viet Cong’s culpability in choice of secret lairs. He admitted too his father had been stationed at My So’n as an infantryman in August of 1969, but had obviously survived the week, and later would have a son, who would make a career from telling the story.