Atop Vietnamese Noodle Shop, War’s Course Shifted

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HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — The pho bo, Vietnam’s traditional beef noodle soup, is tasty at the Pho Binh restaurant, but in truth no better than at other places here. The broth is hearty, the noodles are chewy, the small slices of beef tender even if the accompanying pieces of lime and chili pepper looked a bit tired. The price is right: 22,000 dong, or about $1.30.

But the pho bo, however filling, is not the reason to visit Pho Binh, or Peace Soup. Instead, the restaurant is an important piece of history that has come back into the spotlight as Ho Chi Minh City (do not say Saigon) and the rest of Vietnam celebrate the three-day Lunar New Year holiday known here as Tet.

This year’s holiday, which began Thursday, is the 40th anniversary of the Tet offensive launched against American and South Vietnamese forces across what was then South Vietnam. The series of attacks demonstrated to the world the military capabilities of the Vietcong and North Vietnamese, who eventually lost so many soldiers in the fighting that their victory was political, not military.

Upstairs, above Pho Binh, the Tet offensive was planned and ordered to begin.

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