The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City first opened to the public in 1975. Once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’, it’s a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War. Graphic photographs and American military equipment are on display. There’s a helicopter with rocket launchers, a tank, a fighter plane, a single-seater attack aircraft. You can also see a conventional bomb that weighs at 6,800kg. American troops had used these weapons against the Vietnamese between 1945 and 1975.
History behind the history
Just months after the fall of Saigon, in 1975, the government of Vietnam opened the “Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes.” From its inception, the museum featured propaganda that highlighted the horrors of war with a heavy political bent. American atrocities, both real and exaggerated, were the primary message. But when America and Vietnam normalized relations in the 90s, the name of the museum changed to the “Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression,” before finally ending up as the name it still has today — a diplomatic trade off for the lifting of sanctions, which had crippled the Vietnamese economy.
What there is to see?
The F-5A fighter inside the front entrance gets the most publicity, but it’s the UH-1 “Huey” that foreigners will more likely recognize, as some of the most dramatic footage of the war came from the landing zones where these choppers ferried mobile units into intense firefights. But, while these pieces are impressive, it’s the exhibits inside that leave the deepest impression.
The most talked-about exhibits at the War Remnants Museum are the ‘tiger cages’. The South Vietnamese government kept their political prisoners in these confinements. Locals believe the cages imprisoned up to 14 people at a time. The museum also has a guillotine brought in by the French government. Both the French and South Vietnamese used it to execute their prisoners until 1960.
Also featured are grisly photos of victims that had suffered ‘Agent Orange’. As many as 4.8 million people were exposed to strong pesticide and chemical spray. The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs believed 500,000 children were born with birth defects.
Some of the main exhibits include the following: displays showing the protests and popular support for peace around the world, features on French and American war crimes, a documentary on the aftereffects of Agent Orange, photos from the collection of Japanese photographer Ishikawa Bunyo, and tiger cages like those used by the French and South Vietnamese to torture political prisoners.
Opening Hours: Daily 07.30 – 12.00 & 13:30 – 17:00
Location: 28 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
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