Street  Without  Joy

Street  Without  Joy

Along the Street Without Joy,
A young Vietnamese boy,
Rides bareback, in the rice paddy fields;
Where French troops took the bait,
Repeatedly lured to their fate,
Today time and the jungle conceals.

Oh, the Street Without Joy,
As the highway to Hanoi,
’Twas a symbol, clearly echoed elsewhere;
And the victorious Viet Minh,
Sucked those French forces in,
Consumed in this guerrilla warfare.

From the DMZ, down to Hue,
Where entombed emperors lay,
The Street Without Joy, runs north of Tourane;
And this place ’twas so called,
Since French troops there were mauled,
By enemy ambushes, time and again.

Patrols to search and destroy,
Along the Street Without Joy,
In the jungles, deltas and hills of Annam;
Similar strategies employed,
Sweet success not enjoyed,
Up and down and right across Vietnam.

North, south, or west from the coast,
Each isolated military post,
’Twas overrun, with consummate ease;
From My Tho to Nha Trang,
From Pleiku to Danang,
Such attacks finally brought France to her knees.

One last fortress in rubble,
Burst this imploding ‘rice bubble’,
Troop withdrawals and elections to follow;
Peace conditions decided,
By Great Powers who presided,
Solid promises that proved to be hollow.

Around a decade’s delay,
And then a second re-play,
With new players lined up in each team;
Under a ’60s new name,
Playing the same kind of game,
Ten years of denting the American Dream.

*  *  *
Although past tactics found flawed,
All those old lessons ignored,
Thousands of French troops, each died in vain;
So new ambushes laid,
‘Hit ‘n’ run’ battle games played,
The Street Without Joy fell in darkness again.

In city markets, shops and bars,
In hotels, streets and bazaars,
Acquiescence again masked, a disguise;
And any success in the field,
Researchers later revealed,
’Twas imagined or quite often just lies.

Tet saw the Embassy raided,
Many key towns invaded,
Khe Sanh, another lure, a ploy;
And when Hue’s citadel fell,
Again the gates opened to Hell,
An inferno on the Street Without Joy.

As the ‘body-count’ rose,
To a level nobody knows,
The Paris Peace Talks continued to stall;
‘Vietnamisation’, a sham,
Excuse to exit Vietnam,
No more names for that black granite wall.

And an author who spoke,
Of this place when he wrote,
Ironically, returned and joined the long line;
Oh, this tragic Street Without Joy,
His life too, ’twould destroy,
When Bernard Fall stepped out onto a mine.

Dominoes fell one by one,
Up until there were none,
Chaos contagious during the siege of Saigon;
As palace gates crashed to the ground,
The Street Without Joy was closed down,
Since the West had deserted and gone.

Today, just like a ghost,
By that road on the coast,
Riding a buffalo, ubiquitous, ’tis a boy;
Yet there’s no signs either side,
 Of the thousands who died,
Just memories, on the Street Without Joy.


​     Street Without Joy is a tribute poem to author and academic Bernard Fall. His 1961 book, by the same name, was a definitive analysis of the French fiasco in Indochina and it was a tragedy that his sound advice to the Americans (and Australians for that matter) went unheeded (or unread).
     The original term ‘Street Without Joy’ is a French tag referring to the main coastal highway north of Tourane (Danang). It was along here where French forces were constantly ambushed and they ‘met no joy’ in subduing the area. However, the expression ‘Street Without Joy’ can surely be applied to most of the highways and by-ways throughout Indochina on which French forces were constantly harassed. Bernard Fall returned to Vietnam in 1967 and was killed by a mine on the ‘Street Without Joy’.

                      “I predict that you [President Kennedy] will, step by step, become                                                   sucked into a bottomless military and political quagmire, despite
                                                          the losses and expenditure that you may squander.”                                                                                                                                               - Charles de Gaulle, 1961.

Photo courtesy Lonely Planet's  - Vietnam