Fire-Breathing Bridge, A Determined New Jersey Effort, In Vietnam

Fire-breathing dragons are nothing new. We saw one of those briefly over Disney World not long ago, celebrating the opening of new Fantasyland, Disney’s largest expansion in 41 years.

Interesting bridges are more of a permanent attraction, and we took a look at the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, a Gadling Photo of the Day, just last week.

But what about a bridge that is also a fire-breathing dragon? Now that’s something different.

Modeled after a bridge from the Ly Dynasty, Vietnam recently unveiled a new 1,864-foot bridge that is shaped like a dragon and illuminated by 2,500 LED lights. Better yet, the bridge shoots fire from its mouth along with giant plumes of water.

Unveiled in Da Nang on the 38th anniversary of capturing the city near the end of the Vietnam War, the six-lane bridge, built by a New Jersey-based firm, cost about $85 million.

“This achievement is the result of the determination of Da Nang’s leaders and the consensus of the local people,” Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at an unveiling ceremony in March, reports YahooNews. “The government always supports Da Nang to become the center of economic, cultural and economic development in the central and Central Highlands region as well as the country.”

USS Edson To Become Part Of Future Ship Museum

USS EdsonEarlier this week, the destroyer USS Edson sailed into the harbor of Bay City, Michigan, to the cheers of an expectant crowd. As Art Daily reports, it will become part of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum.

This museum’s primary purpose will be to showcase the USS Edson, which saw duty from 1958 to 1988. She saw action in the Vietnam War and was shelled by Vietcong land forces.

The USS Edson has been a museum before. From 1989 to 2004, she was part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City. Although she’s been fitted out as a museum and is seaworthy, there’s still much to be done to make her ready for a new set of visitors. The museum is raising funds to get this work done and open this historic ship to the public. There’s no set opening date at this time. Stay tuned.

[Photo courtesy John McCullough]

Vietnam Military Service Recalled At Flight Museum

VietnamVietnam veterans will gather at Florida’s Fantasy of Flight museum in June to share their personal stories of strength, survival and patriotism during America’s longest and most controversial military conflict on foreign soil.

During the Legends & Legacies Symposium Series: Reflections of Vietnam, several veterans will interact with guests in open forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph signing sessions.

“We recognize that the Vietnam War is an emotional and complex subject and we invite the public to hear firsthand accounts from the brave men who stood up to serve,” said Kim Long, General Manager of Fantasy of Flight.

The symposium is presented along with the annual Military Collector’s Show on Saturday, June 9, showcasing collectibles for sale from the Civil War to the Vietnam era including uniforms, medals, insignia, and war relics, among other memorabilia.

“We are also proud to once again offer history buffs a chance to browse and purchase military collectibles dating back to the Civil War during our Military Collectors Show,” added Long. “Even those who aren’t collectors will be amazed at the incredible array of artifacts.”

Fantasy of Flight is one of the only attractions in the country to assemble military veterans and their families for panel discussions and to share their compelling personal accounts and unique perspectives with the public.

Hanoi’s Oldest Hotel Will Open Secret Bunker To Visitors This Week

bunkerDuring hotel renovations last August at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi in Vietnam, construction workers discovered an unknown bunker thought to be used during the Vietnam War. While drilling near the poolside bar, they found a flooded hallway, numerous rooms and a staircase leading to the secret 500-square-foot bunker. Moreover, wine bottles, unbroken light bulbs, graffiti and air ducts were also found, according to VietNamNet.

“In the hotel’s history, there is a story of the American folk singer, Joan Baez, who sought shelter in this bunker during the Christmas Bombings in 1972, and who sang some songs beside a Vietnamese guitarist,” explains Kai Speth, the hotel’s General Director. “We don’t know of any other hotels, in Vietnam or anywhere else for that matter, that maintained a shelter for guests and staff.”

The luxury hotel is the oldest in Hanoi, boasting a 110-year history that has welcomed guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, Fidel Castro and Somerset Maugham. That will be celebrated, along with the opening of the bunker to guests, on May 21, 2012. Likewise, people who actually spent time in the bunker, such as Bob Devereaux, the Australian diplomat who carved his name into the bunker in 1975, will also be present at the opening ceremony.

[image via The Metropole Blog]According to the hotel’s blog, some guests were given a sneak-peek of the Bunker. As a recording played of “Where Are You Now My Son,” a song Baez made there in 1972, each guest was brought back in time to those scary days.

“I knew that my guests were the beneficiaries of a powerful feeling for a place, and the past,” writes Speth on the blog. “Usually, people travel beyond the confines of a hotel for such experiences. But how lucky, I thought standing there with those 10 Americans, that my guests could experience that right here with us.”

Vintage aircraft collection to feature Legends and Legacies Series

vintage aircraft collectionsFor aviation fans, visiting a vintage aircraft collection is about as good as it gets. Scattered around the United States from Richmond, Virginia to Galveston, Texas, aircraft of yesteryear are available to view and some even still fly. One collection, Fantasy of Flight in Florida, takes it all a step further with its Fourth Annual Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, which features new and seldom explored stories of World War II and the Vietnam War, told by some of the aviators who were actually there themselves.

“Each year, the Legends & Legacies experience is different from the last, with new guest speakers, new stories, new interactions with guests, and new topics to explore, including three all-new events this year,” said Kim Long, General Manager of Fantasy of Flight. “The opportunity to hear firsthand from military veterans, especially those who fought in World War II and Vietnam, is a precious gift that we hope to share with as many guests as possible throughout the 2012 series.”It’s a forum for the public to hear firsthand about the experiences of some of America’s most courageous aviators and military heroes through exhibits, real aircraft, and most importantly, their own personal stories, recollections from their family members, and interactions with guests. The multi-day events feature open-forum, question-and-answer sessions as well as meet and greet autograph signings with the guest speakers.

The 2012 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series includes:

They Dared to Fly: Tuskegee Airmen, Feb. 9-11 – In honor of Black History Month, several of the nation’s first African-American military aviators will share their personal stories of what it was like to serve as a World War II pilot in the military during segregated America. Fantasy of Flight has a permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and vintage aircraft collection, including the P-51C Mustang, provide the perfect backdrop to meet the men who fought America’s enemies abroad while enduring racism at home.

Breaking All Barriers: Amazing Women in American History, March 2-3 – In honor of National Women’s History Month, Fantasy of Flight celebrates the barrier breaking women who took on non-traditional roles during WWII, including the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the first women to fly military aircraft, and all those entered the workforce for the first time in the spirit of “Rosie the Riveter.”

Unspoken Valor: The Bomber Crews of World War II, April 13-14 – New to the Legends & Legacies line up this year, the event promises harrowing tales from actual crewmen of WWII bomber planes such as the B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator, all incredible planes with amazing strengths but potentially catastrophic weaknesses.

D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, May 11-12 – Guests will relive the most complex military initiative in world history as the men who were there recount their experiences as part of this massive air, land, and sea attack. Months in the making, it required the coordination of thousands of Allied forces, who once set in motion, could not be called back.

Reflections of Vietnam, June 8-9 – Fantasy of Flight’s Legends & Legacies series will explore the Vietnam War, America’s longest conflict and first military failure on foreign soil. Here, those who served will share their personal experiences about this complicated and emotional time in U.S. history.

Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival, Oct. 12-13 -The final event of the 2012 series is based on the personal handwritten correspondence exchanged between the men who fought abroad and the women and loved ones they left behind. Whether they were high school sweethearts separated by the war or soldiers who met the love of their lives while serving overseas, their letters portray a wartime experience that can’t be found in history books.

Symposium events are included in the price of Fantasy of Flight general admission and are free for annual pass holders. For more information about Fantasy of Flight, call 863-984-3500 or visit FantasyOfFlight.com.