August 22, 2011
Artist : Phan Phi Yen
It was built in 1903 by the architects of Daydé & Pillé, a French company. Before North Vietnam’s independence in 1954, it was called Doumer Bridge, named after Paul Doumer – The Governor-General of French Indochina and then French president. It was, at that time, one of the longest bridges in Asia with the length of 2,500 m. For the French colonial government, the construction was of strategic importance in securing control of northern Vietnam. From 1899 to 1902, more than 3,000 Vietnamese took part in the construction.
It was heavily bombarded during Vietnam War due to its critical position (the only bridge at that time across the Red River and connect Hanoi to the main port Haiphong). The first attack took place in 1967, and the center span of the bridge was felled by an attack by 20 USAF F-105fighter-bombers. The defence of Long Bien Bridge continues to play a large role in Hanoi’s self-image and is often extolled in poetry and song. It was rendered unusable for a year when, in May 1972, it fell victim to one of the first co-ordinated attacks using laser-guided “smart bombs“.
The bridge now stands like a patched-up war veteran. Some parts of the original structure remain intact, while large sections have clearly been built later to repair the holes. In this way the bridge is a strong visual expression of history. Only half of the bridge retains its original shape. A project with support and loan from the French government is currently in progress to restore the bridge to its original appearance.
Today trains, mopeds, bicycles and pedestrians use the dilapidated bridge, while all other traffic is diverted to the nearby Chuong Duong Bridgeand some newly built bridges: Thanh Tri Bridge, Thang Long Bridge, Vinh Tuy Bridge, and Nhat Tan Bridge.
Under the bridge, around forty extremely poor families live in boats on the Red River, coming from many poor rural areas of Vietnam.