Although the Vietnam War has been over for more than four decades, it can still stir up a lot of emotions. The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City opened in 1975 after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War.
The museum displays the many atrocities and horrors of the war, told from the perspective of the Vietnamese. It was originally called the Museum of American War Crimes, which was later changed to the War Remnants Museum after relations normalized with the United States. However, the exhibits and perspective of the Vietnamese government haven’t changed.
What To Expect At The War Remnants Museum
The museum is an indoor and outdoor exhibit. Inside you’ll find three floors with different galleries focused on aspects of the war and the effects on the Vietnamese people. The gravity of what’s on display makes it a quiet and somber experience.
The first floor is a small gallery with posters, photos, and propaganda against the American War of Aggression and the support of the antiwar movement that Vietnam got from countries around the world.
The top two floors contain several different exhibits. You’ll see a collection of captured small arms and other weapons used by the American Troops.
There is one room showing the effects of Napalm and Agent Orange and another about the unexploded ordinance that is still killing and maiming people.
War is brutal. Many of the photos hanging on the walls show some disturbing images. They are bound to surface a variety of emotions and feelings.
Amidst all this is a room with a moving tribute to the war photographers who covered the Vietnam War.
The Requiem Exhibition is dedicated to the many photographers who died while doing their job.
In the courtyard outside the War Remnants Museum is a collection of captured U.S. military equipment. You’ll find a mix of tanks, artillery, helicopters, and airplanes, which should be a treat for any war or history buff.
Phu Quoc Prison Exhibit
On one corner of the grounds is an exhibit about the French colonial prison on Phu Quoc Island. The prison is where the French held Vietnamese political prisoners in horrific conditions. It was later used by the South Vietnamese government to house North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
There are examples of the “Tiger Cages” made out of barbwire where troublesome prisoners were confined. Inside you’ll see examples of prison cells and the original French Guillotine that was used by both the French and South Vietnamese to execute prisoners until 1960. While North Vietnam is notorious for the Hanoi Hilton prison and the awful treatment of American prisoners of war, Phu Quoc Prison was no better.
The museum is located in the former U.S. Information Service Building. The Information Service was essentially the Public Relations arm of the U.S. government.
Should You Go
While the War Remnants Museum is on the must-see list of sites in Ho Chi Minh City, some of the graphic photos may be difficult for some to view. While children can enter the museum, they probably shouldn’t visit the top two floors.
A tour guide isn’t needed. The captions on the photos and exhibits are in Vietnamese and English. There isn’t a dress code enforced at the museum. You’ll want to plan your time to visit as the museum closes down for lunch. See the hours below.