What do the Eiffel Tower and the US Bombing of Hanoi during the Vietnam War have in common?

What do the Eiffel Tower and the US Bombing of Hanoi during the Vietnam War have in common?

Above Photo: Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi.

The answer to that question is ‘Long Bien Bridge’.

Designed by French Architect Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, Long Bien Bridge is a magnificent iron construction which impressively spans the Red River in Hanoi.

Long Bien Bridge when it was first constructed.

Long Bien Bridge when it was first constructed.

Originally named the ‘Paul Doumer Bridge’, after the former Governor-General of French Indochina, the Long Bien Bridge was built between 1899 and 1902 by Paris architects Dayde & Pille, and opened in 1903.

The architects' original sign on the bridge.

Dayde & Pille: The architects’ original sign on the bridge.

It spans a massive 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles), and was of vital importance to the French in their ability to control the whole of north Vietnam during the time they occupied the country.

During the Vietnam War this unmissable landmark became a target for US bombers over Hanoi because it was the only bridge spanning the Red River. It connected Hanoi to the port of Haiphong, through which North Vietnam received much of its supplies, so it became a major target for US bombing – with remarkably limited success.

Span Down - a reconnaissance photo of a section of the bridge blasted into the Red River during a bombing raid.

Span Down – a reconnaissance photo of sections of the bridge blasted into the Red River during a Vietnam War bombing raid on Hanoi. (Click to enlarge)

The first attack on the bridge took place in 1967, when the center span of the bridge was felled by an attack by 20 USAF F-105 fighter-bombers.

Shrapnel and bullet damage still visible from air attacks on the bridge during the Vietnam War.

Shrapnel and bullet damage still visible from air attacks on the bridge during the Vietnam War.

In a tribute to its French architects and the 3,000 Vietnamese builders who’d worked on its construction, CIA reports after this bombing raid noted that the severing of the bridge did not appear to have caused as much disruption as had been expected.

More the air attack damage that can still be seen on Long Bien Bridge today.

More the air attack damage that can still be seen on Long Bien Bridge today.

It was rendered unusable for a year when, in May 1972, it fell victim to one of the first ever attacks using laser-guided “smart” bombs, when four US planes flew in low and took it out.

Another reconnaissance shot of air attack damage to Long Bien Bridge. Hanoi is to the right. Note the bomb craters on the island in the middle of the Red River.

Another reconnaissance shot of air attack damage to Long Bien Bridge. Hanoi is to the right. Note the bomb craters on the island in the middle of the Red River.(Click to enlarge)

Some parts of the original structure remain intact, while large sections have been rebuilt to repair the damage. Only half of the bridge retains its original shape.

This is a repaired section of Long Bien Bridge, where the span was destroyed during the above bombing raid.

This is a repaired section of Long Bien Bridge, where the span was destroyed during the above bombing raid.

Today trains, mopeds, bicycles and pedestrians use this historic bridge, although, thankfully, cars and trucks are banned.

Rush hour on Long Bien Bridge.

Rush hour on Long Bien Bridge.

We recently walked across Long Bien Bridge, looking at damage that remained following those bombing raids, spotting shrapnel and bullet holes in the metal structure of the bridge.

A barge sails past damaged bridge defences. This was taken about halfway across the bridge.

A barge sails past damaged bridge defences. This was taken about halfway across the bridge.

It was a long but interesting walk, although busy with passing motorbikes, and a cold, biting wind whipped off the Red River when we were halfway across.

A shot of the bridge looking back to Hanoi.

A shot of the bridge looking back to Hanoi.

This was taken from the island in the middle of the river, now covered with banana plantations and crops.

This was taken from the island in the middle of the river, now covered with banana plantations and crops.

As for Paul Doumer, who originally gave his name to Long Bien Bridge, not only was his name ignominiously removed from it when the French were chased out of Vietnam, but he was also assassinated in 1932 in Paris, when he was the President of France.

He remains the only President of France to die by gunshot.

A view from the other side of Long Bien Bridge, looking across to Hanoi.

A view from the other side of Long Bien Bridge, looking across to Hanoi.

See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.

For POWs left behind in Laos, see:

© Peter Alan Lloyd

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Front cover of BACK Part 1.

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