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Memories of Vietnam War fade as military chiefs meet

| Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, 6:18 p.m.

HANOI — When the highest-ranking officer in the American military met with his Vietnamese counterpart here on Thursday, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey's motorcade passed a used-car lot's worth of captured American military hardware.

Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also was chauffeured past the infamous Hanoi Hilton, the prison where U.S. prisoners of war, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were abused.

If Dempsey noticed these end zone dances, he did not show it. And maybe that's because the Vietnamese seem to pay about as much attention to them as he did. They are relics of a bygone era, falling from fashion as the economy roars to life here and newer generations consider the war a textbook lesson, not living history.

“It needs to come up at every conversation,” Dempsey said. “But it doesn't dominate.”

Indeed, the ongoing thaw in relations between the two formerly warring countries explains that in part. Watching Dempsey and his counterpart, Gen. Do Ba Ty, the chief of General Staff of the Vietnam People's Army, listen while the People's Army band played the national anthems of each country, you forget for a moment that they were on opposite sides of the war that claimed 58,000 American lives and multiples more on the Vietnamese side.

The old soldiers seem far more interested in teaming up to deal with China than rehashing an old conflict.

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