If you are interested in the Vietnam War then a visit to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City should be at the top of your list. As you might imagine, the Vietnamese have a completely different view of the war than Americans do, and you’ll be confronted by some things you might not like to see like photos of the My Lai massacre, napalm victims, and the terrible effects of war on a civilian population.
Bear in mind, this used to be called the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, so don’t expect a balanced view of events. If you go in with an open mind and can see things from a different point of view, you may get more out of your visit.
The first thing I noticed was the way they referred to the war. While we talk about the fight against communism, domino theories, and police actions, the Vietnamese refer to it as a war of American aggression, resistance against the U.S for national salvation, resistance against American interference, and similar phrases.
There are several walls filled with photos and tributes to the support they received from various nations and peoples around the world for the anti-war movement.
On the second and third floors you’ll find a large selection of small arms weapons used in the war interspersed with displays highlighting specific atrocities of the war and the effect on the Vietnamese people.
There is a large section dedicated to the tragedies caused by the use of Agent Orange on the villages of Vietnam. Some of those pictures are very disturbing. We know what happened to our soldiers who were exposed to this toxin, you can only imagine the human cost when it was sprayed on 26,000 villages in Vietnam.
Another section was dedicated to some of the devastating weapons that were used by the U.S. during the war, such as napalm and cluster bombs. Again, the photos were a bit disturbing and show the horrors of war, not only on the soldiers fighting it but also the civilians.
While most of the exhibits tell the story of the war from the Vietnamese point of view, which can be a little unsettling and feel one-sided, there is also a very nice section dedicated to the war photographers from all over the world that killed while covering the conflict. There is a display containing some of their best work. As a fan of photography, I really enjoyed this. It’s amazing the photographs these people were able to take in the midst of battle.
Once the most dramatic part of the tour was over, it was time to head outside and checkout the display of big guns. The museum has a collection of American arms captured of left behind when we departed Vietnam. It is a varied collection of fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, and artillery.
Con Dao Jail
In one corner of the yard is a doorway to a recreation of the Con Dao jail. Con Dao was a prison located on an island off the coast of South Vietnam. It was started by the French Colonial government to house political prisoners and other problematic prisoners.
After the French left Vietnam, the government of South Vietnam continued using the prison and the torture methods started by the French. While North Vietnam got all the publicity for its horrible treatment of prisoners, our allies in the South were not much better.