This attractive and detailed map showcases all of the inner city of Hanoi, as it was in March 1974, only 14 months after it was very heavy bombed by the U.S. Air Force, although this experience only seemed to
heighten the city resolve, as North Vietnam prepared to drive home final victory in the Vietnam War. While half of the city’s population was temporarily evacuated to the countryside during the bombing, they soon returned, and city was rapidly repaired. The map was map by the Land Survey Bureau of the Prime Minister’s Office of North Vietnam, which was responsible for producing official maps for civilian use.
The built-up areas of the city are represented by pink blocks, while every street is delineated and named. Hanoi is shown to be built amongst numerous lakes, while the ‘Sông Hồng’ (Red River), flows down the right-hand side of the scene. Most of the streets follow the rational urban plan created during the French colonial period, while the city is graced by numerous grand Art Nouveau edifices. The legend, in the lower-right, identifies the pictographic symbols used for churches, temples, theatres, cinemas, pharmacies, hospitals, post offices, schools and libraries, etc. There are also symbols for transportation infrastructure, including railways, tramlines and stations, taxi stands, and ferry terminals.
Hanoi is here shown to be a vibrant and culturally rich city befitting the capital of what was soon to become a united Vietnam. The inset in the upper right shows the inner city within the greater context of its rapidly growing suburbs. Hanoi’s population had tripled from 1950 to 1974, whereupon it had a population of 723,000 (today Hanoi proper has over 5 million residents, while the greater metro area has a population of around 20 million!).
When observing the map, one would have no idea that barely 14 months previous, Hanoi endured the heaviest aerial bombardment of any major city since World War II. While the U.S. Airforce had bombarded Hanoi during Operation Rolling Thunder (March 2, 1965 – November 2, 1968) and Operation Linebacker (May 8 – October 23, 1972), the onslaught the North Vietnamese capital endured during Operation Linebacker II (December 18-29, 1972) was something altogether different. The Nixon Administration felt humiliated that the U.S. and South Vietnam were heading towards decisive defeat during the Vietnam War, and frustrated that the North Vietnam was not receptive to their proposed peace terms, attempted a desperate, and may say highly immoral, 11th-hour bid to literally bomb Hanoi into submission.
During Operation Linebacker II, over 12 days and nights, the U.S. Air force mercilessly pounded Hanoi, supposedly aiming for military and infrastructure targets but, in reality, leveling entire civilian neighborhoods. Astoundingly, over 20,000 tons of ordnance was dropped on Hanoi, Haiphong and surrounding areas. In the end, 2,380 Vietnamese civilians in Hanoi were killed, although this number would have been much higher had the government had not evacuated half of the city’s residents to the countryside.
The American bombing of Hanoi remains highly controversial to the present day, as it was so poorly, or recklessly, prosecuted (missing so many key targets, yet hitting so many civilian places) that many believe that it was a war crime, violating commonly accepted rules for air campaigns.
Operation Linebacker II backfired spectacularly, as instead of terrorizing the North Vietnamese into submission, it revealed the Nixon Administration’s desperation and incompetence, and was one of the main factors that motivated North Vietnam to push ahead towards total victory in the war, which was achieved upon the Fall of Saigon (April 30, 1975). From that point onwards, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam ruled all of the country, as it does to the present day.
As for Hanoi, while the damage was awesome (tens of thousands of people lost their homes) and much infrastructure was destroyed, the city’s citizens pulled together, and Hanoi was repaired with a speed that shocked outside observers.
As such, the present map, published in March 1974, served as a subtle but effective work of propaganda, as it shows Hanoi to be an intact, well-ordered and culturally rich city with no signs of the destructive events that occurred just over a year before. The message is clear: the American bombing meant nothing to the big picture, and Hanoi, and North Vietnam, are on the home stretch to victory!
A Note on Editions and Rarity
The map was issued in 3 progressively updated editions, published in 1965, 1974 (the present example) and 1979.
All editions of the map are rare, we can trace 7 institutional examples in any of the editions.
References: Library of Congress: G8024.H15 1974 .V5; OCLC: 15162051.