Forgotten memorial for school kids bombed by US in central Vietnam

By Duc Hung    August 31, 2020 | 05:08 am PT
Forgotten memorial for school kids bombed by US in central Vietnam
Huong Phuc Secondary School’s war memorial in Huong Trach Commune, Huong Khe District, Ha Tinh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung.
Huong Phuc Secondary School in Ha Tinh Province, which honors 33 students’ tragic deaths in American airstrikes in 1966, is a national historical site that few know about.

The school, built in 1965 in Tan Phuc Hamlet, Huong Trach Commune, Huong Khe District, had two fifth grade classes and one sixth grade.

Situated in the east of Huong Khe District, Huong Trach Commune has a critical geographic location close to National Route 1A and the north-south railroad. As a result, from 1965 to 1966 it served as a cargo transshipment and military resting point for the North Vietnamese Army in the war against the American invaders.

To stop the advancement of the North Vietnamese Army towards South Vietnam, the U.S. resorted to frequent bombings and airstrikes in central Vietnam, especially on critical positions such as Huong Khe District.

At around 4:30 p.m. on February 9, 1966, a squadron of American F-4 aircraft carried out tactical bombings of Huong Trach Commune, dropping 58 bombs, six of which hit Huong Phuc Secondary School, instantly destroying it. Two out of the six bombs hit class 5A, killing 33 children and injuring 24 and a teacher.

After a few days the 33 children were buried in Tan Phuc Village, Huong Trach Commune, and the school area was designated a war memorial. The school closed for three months as a mark of memorial to the students, before opening in another place nearby.

In 2001 the 4,050 square meter memorial was recognized as a "national historic site" by the then Ministry of Culture and Information. Since 1991 authorities have been frequently renovating and constructing on the historic site.

Due to the small low number of visitors it gets, the site remains closed most of the time and looks desolate. Inside, vegetation has grown wildly, paths have broken tiles and the tombs are covered in dust and moss.

"Looking at the site being deserted, I feel really sad. As a war memorial, it should have become more well-known," Nguyen Van Tu, 56, a local, said.

The bomb site. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung.

The bomb site in Huong Phuc Secondary School. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung.

Cao Song Giang, deputy chairman of Huong Trach Commune, admitted information about the Huong Phuc Secondary School Memorial has not been disseminated enough.

"Due to the tight budget, the site has not got any major renovation despite the great determination to make it better known," he said.

To address this problem, the local government is actively reaching out to private corporations for investments and donations, he added.

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