On the first day in Saigon, we decided to walk around the city and see some of the sights. One of our first visits was the Vietnam War Remnants Museum located at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.
Operated by the Vietnamese government, the museum was opened in September 1975 as the “The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government [of South Vietnam].” Later it was known as the Museum of American War Crimes, then as the War Crimes Museum until as recently as 1993. Its current name follows liberalization in Vietnam and the normalization of relations with the United States.
The museum comprises a series of eight themed rooms in several buildings, with period military equipment located within a walled yard. The military equipment include a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, an F-5A fighter, a BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter” bomb, M48 Patton tank, and an A-1 attack bomber.
One building reproduces the “tiger cages” in which the South Vietnamese government housed political prisoners. Other exhibits include graphic photographs, accompanied by short copy in English, Vietnamese and Japanese, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs, and atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. Curiosities include a guillotine used by the French and the South Vietnamese to execute prisoners, last in 1960, and three jars of preserved human fetuses deformed by exposure to dioxin.
There are a number of unexploded ordnance stored in the corner of the yard, seemingly with their charges removed. (Thanks for the info wiki.)
The museum was amazing and put things into perspective for us. Both Cody and I were not too familiar with what went on during that time, so it was not only an emotional visit, but an extremely informational visit too. And the museum covered perspectives from media sources from all over the world, which made the information provided seem more valid and gave a well-rounded perspective. There were some side galleries for specific exhibits. One focused on photos taken post war and showed the ramifications of Agent Orange, on not only the people in Vietnam, but also in the US after they came back from war. It was very moving. Another exhibit was about all of the US anti-war protesters during that time.
On the first day, we were ushered out of the museum at about 1:00 p.m. when it closes for lunch, but were so moved and interested in the topic that we went back to the museum a few days later to explore more of it. We got a better picture of the events leading up to the war, what started it, why the US had an interest in Vietnam and what happened during and after the war.
Between our first visit and second visit, we befriended a man from the US named Charles. We met him in the Mekong Delta and had a great evening talking with him about his travels and the Vietnam war over some beers. He told us about a man he knew, named Norman R. Morrison, who was featured in the museum. Mr. Morrison is known because on November 2, 1965, Morrison doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire below Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s Pentagon office. There is more info about Mr. Morrison here. We went back and specifically searched him out to look into the story more and take a photo for Charles.
On the outside of the building, there are not only war tanks, helicopters and planes, but an exhibit that shows recreations of some of the buildings and contraptions used by Southern Vietnam government to house political prisoners.
It was a fantastic two visits and I definitely recommend a visit to anyone in Saigon.