The Ho Chi Minh City War Remnants Museum is a must-see exhibition of the wars and colonial history that have scarred, reborn and forged modern Vietnam. It’s located in District 1, housed in the old United States Information Agency building.
The museum is open from 7:30 AM to 5 PM. Entry is 40,000 Dong, or around $2 USD. The museum attracts around half a million visitors a year, with only one-third being local citizens.
History of War Remnants Museum
Interestingly, the Museum’s previous incarnation was much more sinister and operated as a propaganda arm of the North Vietnamese government following the war. Opened in 1975, the Museum was called the Exhibition House for the US and Puppet Crimes.
In the 90s, the museum changed its name to Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression to reflect Vietnam slowly making peace with the West. The museum took on its modern name in 1995 when the US and Vietnam restored full diplomatic relations.
The museum has long since buried any overt propaganda against the West, and acknowledges the United States help in preserving the history and providing photographs.
However, visitors should be aware that the narrative of history is from the North Vietnamese perspective and thus some familiar with the events might take exception to this museum’s interpretation of certain facts. Notably absent is any mention of the North Vietnam prison camps that are so famously portrayed in western media, nor any of the atrocities that Northern forces inflicted on the south.
Exhibits of War Remnants Museum
Visitors can expect a series of exhibits, installations and themed rooms across several buildings as they make their way across the breadth of Vietnam’s modern history. All the items have English explanations and are spread over three floors.
The top floor covers the french colonial period up to the 1950s when France was forced to leave South East Asia, with the remaining floors covering the expansion of United States forces in the country and the eventual war.
Photographs and other materials come from both western photographers (Highlights include AP photographer Nick U’s famous Napalm Girl photograph, which was donated to the museum) and North Vietnamese alike. You get a good sense of the events that transpired, plenty of which are kept out of the history books.
Some interesting items of note are the preserved wartime aircraft and tanks, which include a US UH-1 Huey helicopter, F-5A fighter jet, an M48 Patton Tank, several warheads and two attack bombers. Additionally, another building includes the dreaded ‘tiger cages’ that the South Vietnamese government used to hold political prisoners throughout the war.
Visitors who are a little sensitive might be warned that the museum also has an Agent Orange exhibit. This chemical weapon was used by the South Vietnamese alliance with impunity against the North, causing horrific injuries and birth defects for years to come. The exhibit includes preserved human fetuses deformed by the chemical attacks.
The best way to visit the museum is to give yourself plenty of time (around three hours is recommended) and to follow the numbered rooms to best understand the chronological events. The museum is located a short walk from the Independence museum in central Ho Chi Minh City.
Parents are warned as some of the exhibits do contain harrowing images of wartime and might be very graphic (more so than the average video game) for young minds. However, if you think your children are ready to learn about the real world, we can’t recommend a better educational experience.
The museum might be seen as a little gratuitous for some, but there is no escaping the important lessons that history can teach us.
Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh 700000
Phone: +84 28 3930 5587
Season: Year round