A visit to the War Remnants Museum is a must if you are visiting Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is popularly known as. While not for everyone, it is an absolute must if you want to understand what transpired under both the French colonialists, and during the Vietnam War.
The museum originally opened on the 4th of September 1975 as the Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes within the former United States Information Agency building. However, with the normalisation of diplomatic relationships between the Vietnamese and US governments, it was renamed as the War Remnants Museum in 1995.
Today, it is a shocking reminder of the long and brutal war that initially started with their fight for independence from the French and culminated with the last American being evacuated decades later.
The museum and its exhibits
The museum itself is divided into different sections, with each section highlighting different aspects of the dirty war waged by both the French colonialists and the US forces.
Among the major highlights are the ‘tiger cages’. The South Vietnamese government would lock up to 14 prisoners in cramped conditions, before having them summarily executed later. As a grisly reminder of France’s past is also a guillotine that was brought in by the French during their rule.
As you walk around, you will see several armoured vehicles along with artillery, unexploded ordnance and other weapons.
There is another section that has horrifying photographs of children and adults that were affected by the US bombing and their liberal use of napalm, phosphorus, Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays. Other war atrocities such as the massacre at My Lai are also on display.
Another grisly exhibit are jars of preserved human fetuses that were allegedly deformed before of their exposure to Agent Orange. According to the official estimates, as many as 4.8 million people would have been exposed to Agent Orange and other pesticide and chemical sprays. Around 500,000 children were born with birth defects.
On the ground floor is a large collection of photographs that shows international support for those against the war. Considering the horrors that you witness in the other sections, this feels like a welcome relief.
It remains one of the popular stops on any visitor’s itinerary when visiting the city. While most may dismiss the exhibits as nothing short of propaganda, there is no denying that some of the photographs showing atrocities committed by the US forces are extremely disturbing. It manages to convey the brutalities of war very effectively.
Information you can use
The War Remnants Museum is open daily from 7:30am to 6:00pm. Entry fee is VND 15,000 per person for foreigners. Vietnamese pay VND 2,000 per person. While there is no restriction on the entry of children, think twice about taking them along as some of the images on display are not for the faint-hearted.
The museum is located on 28 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. The easiest way to reach the museum is to hop into a metered taxi or to book a Grab. They are both convenient and hassle-free.