I visited this museum five months ago during a visit to Vietnam, but I had been procrastinating writing about it simply because of the heart-breaking sentiments. While observing distressing photographic material, which was way even more horrific than the one of my previous visit to the UXO Visitor Centre in Laos, I felt livid and saddened at the same time.
The museum is in the District 3 of Ho Chi Minh. It originally opened in 1975 as an “Exhibition of USA Crimes”, but 20 years later, after the diplomatic relations opened between Vietnam and USA, its name changed to the War Remnants Museum. It is currently one of the most visited museums in Vietnam, with most visitors coming from Europe, North America and increasingly from Asia.
When I visited the museum, I did it without checking any reviews prior to it, so I was not prepared for what was coming. As a result, I left saddened by the material and I had to finish it without visiting all the exhibits.
Sometime after my visit, I read the various mixed opinions about the displays; I learned that is so often called the one-sided story museum (Vietnamese side). Plus, many other contradictory free positive and negatives expressions about it. But in the end, I concluded that this side of the story is what I was required to learn anyway.
Whatever anyone’s opinions, the museum’s curators have certainly achieved a remarkable collection of photographic and documentarian evidence. I will share some of the photos I took, but the most awful I could not even take. So, this is my experience as I went through it.
Upon arrival I paid my entrance, 15000 Dong, (£0.50, $1950 Colombian pesos).
The first thing I saw, outside the building, was an open-air display of US military vehicles, including aircraft, artillery and various other weapons. For example, an F-111 bomber jet, a Chinook helicopter and tanks. The label displays explained how they were used, for example, the CH47 Chinook was used primarily for the movement of personnel, artillery and ammunition supply to various death-defying locations. At that point I did not think much of it, it simply reminded of the many Hollywood movies about US wars interventions.
As I carried on and entered the ground floor, I found a big open space with various displays. On the left side, a smaller room with an exhibition called Hai Phong the Wavefront. This exhibit was conceived due to the 42nd anniversary of the reunification of Vietnam. The exhibition showed various displays about how this city, as a major port city in North Vietnam, was a prime target and heavily bombed by US Navy. The pictures were very graphic and showed clearly the colossal destruction of this city, pretty sad…
The rest of the ground floor is dedicated to portrait many different anti-war posters and photographs from countries around the world, the historic posters illustrate various organizations, countries and people requesting the USA to stop their bloody intervention in Vietnam (check out the pictures below). It sorts of gave me goose-bumps reading through them.
One of the posters that caused me a lot of interest, and I felt strongly about, was the one with a news article about US Commander Captain Michael Heck, this is astonishing history of how this man, was awakened by the horror of this senseless war, suddenly refused to continue to take part, this regardless of the consequences he would receive. I share here the article with my yellow highlights, but you may as well do you own research as well.
After finishing walking around this somehow-worldwide-optimistic ground floor display, I went upstairs.
Upon entering the first room, I found dreadful photographs about the various victims and killings during the war, one that cause me the itchy-feeling was a photo of a group of having-fun US soldiers surrounded with mutilated bodies, in the picture they looked sort of cheerfully accomplished and proud. I think the perpetrators of this, completely lost their mind in such an environment, I was trying to imagine what was in the heads at the specific moment when this photo was taken. I thought that they were suffering for cruel psychopath insanity, and that probably this was not even their fault, but the system or the idea of an idea of a military system. Anyhow pretty sickening! There is no way someone in their right mind can see this scene as a victory. I decided not to take a picture of this display.
I then took a little break before visiting the next room, Orange Agent Room, here the images continued to be gross, and they are likely to upset even the hardest of human-hearts, not only the consequences of the people back then, but also the consequence for many forward generations.
The Vietnam war had dreadful costs for the people of Vietnam. Agent Orange, as well as other chemical weapons, left a shocking legacy, which included unexploded ordinance that continues to be a great danger for people today, same case as in Laos.
I was then not able to continue after that the visit and I left, but then again, I don’t regret attending, the visit is a must if you are in Ho Chi Minh, however, please do avoid bringing children!
“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom” Leo Tolstoy.