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Life under Bombing in Southeastern Laos (1964–1973) Through the Accounts of Survivors in Sepon

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

This article draws on fieldwork carried out between 2004 and 2010 in the rural district of Sepon, located in the east of Savannakhet Province in southern Laos. The area was heavily bombed by U.S. forces between 1964 and 1973 in an attempt to stop North Vietnamese supplies flowing into South Vietnam from the North via the transportation network widely known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The district of Sepon constituted a strategic centre and logistics base area for the North Vietnamese Army, and was one of the most important nodes on the Trail. This paper represents an attempt to reconstruct life under aerial bombardment through the recollections of some survivors. The majority of recollections concerned aspects of day-to-day survival, including the most routine tasks of daily life that, under bombardment, became major challenges. However, some survivors dwelt on more profound issues, notably their remembrance of the period as a 'Dark Age' characterized by a loss of their humanity. Silences—untold or absent memories—are also present in the villagers' accounts, which we view not as an obstacle to the telling of their stories, but as an integral constituent of their recollections.

Affiliations: 1: CNRS—Institut d'Asie Orientale, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon;, Email:


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