December 25, 2005
My personal opinion is that the Hospital Cave in Cat Ba Island is one of the most fascinating sights (and lesser known) of the Vietnam war era--even more than the Ku Chi tunnels further south. The hospital was constructed initially by the Chinese. Access to the hospital is not through some road that ambulances or cars could use, but through a mountain donkey path surrounded by thick vegetation, which I would imagine would be quite a task for two soldiers carrying a stretcher to walk on. Injured North Vietnamese officers would be arriving by boat via Halong Bay and eventually carried in the “hospital”. The hospital “entrance,” barely visible even today, is less than 5 feet high (1.52m) and about 4 feet wide (1.21m). On the left, immediately after entering, was the x-ray department, to x-ray the incoming casualties. The operating theatres, recovery rooms, and other spaces were primitive by today’s standards, but the sheer size of the place--where and how it was actually constructed--is incredible and made the place secure and impenetrable by enemy fire.
The old man seen on the first picture below next to me was a young Army soldier who served in that hospital and now narrates the story (via a translator) to the tourists. He has a broad, generous smile, a contagious laughter and a kind nature and appears to have no hostile feelings against American tourists. He described vividly the futile efforts of American bombers trying to destroy the hospital and the anti-aircraft fire from anti-aircraft guns placed on the top of the hill above the hospital. Those days, without the laser-guided bunker buster bombs, such an attempt was doomed to fail. Today it may have been possible, I suppose. (I hope no American readers will jump to protest; that it is unthinkable that freedom-fighting American bombers were trying to destruct a hospital, for god’s sake).
One feature in that hospital of which I could not fathom the purpose was a flight of stairs ,about 40 or steps, leading nowhere (just on the surface of a rock). The old soldier explained that as this hospital was treating the cream of the North Vietnamese Army middle-ranking officers, they were all keen to return to the front line, but they were only allowed to do so only if they were able to go quickly up and down these steps at least half a dozen times. No wonder the Vietnamese is the only nation on earth, so far, that has not succumbed to the superior American military might.
From journal Halong Bay and Cat Ba island-Natural Wonders