HANOI, Vietnam — It's a question that would pop into the minds of many Americans if they were traveling to Vietnam. How will we be treated? WSBT traveled to Vietnam with former South Bend mayor Joe Kernan. It was his first trip to the country since being held there as a prison of war. War by nature is ugly. The Vietnam war was very ugly. A lot of time has passed since the war ended, but time doesn't always heal all wounds. When Kernan returned to Vietnam with his wife, Maggie, he wasn't sure how she would react to the Vietnamese. After all, they held her husband prisoner for 11 months. "There's part of me that wants to feel distrust or anger, but that certainly wouldn't be a very healthy thing. I need to move on, too," she said. The Vietnamese have moved on. That became very clear when the Kernans visited one of the sites where Joe was held prisoner. Kernan had to resort to looking at pictures of old prison buildings. That's because they've been torn down. A 27-story apartment building is about to be built. The local developers invited the group into their offices to talk about their project. "My wife, Maggie, said that the new project — which you must be very, very proud of — is a much better use for this property, than it was 40 years ago," Kernan said. Mike Cloonan owns the company Innovative Immersions. He organized the Kernan's trip to Vietnam. He said the Vietnamese don't have animosity toward Americans. "75 percent of the Vietnamese were born after the war, and they're so focused on today, economic growth," Cloonan said. If you look at the streets and shops of Hanoi, you can tell there is a lot of room for growth. Cloonan has been to Vietnam fourth trip to the country. "A lot of companies, not just American, have what they call a China-plus-one policy. You don't have all your eggs in the China basket, in case there's turmoil or economic unrest," he said. There is even an American chamber of commerce in Hanoi. Kernan was the guest speaker at their luncheon. He was introduced by the president of Exxon Mobil in Vietnam. The speech was delivered at a Hilton hotel. What Kernan wanted most out of this trip, was to find the Vietnamese village he parachuted into after being shot down on May 7, 1972. Wednesday night at 6, we'll take you on the wild search for that village, and bring you exclusive video of a reunion with some people Kernan met on that day.
Joe and Maggie Kernan pause in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi's Ba Dinh Square. The mausoleum is a memorial to Ho Chi Minh, president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from Sept. 2, 1945, to Sept. 2, 1969.
WSBT-TV Photo/MIKE CLOONAN