May 2018. While I think I prefer Hanoi as a city, I would say Ho Chi Minh is still an unmissable part of any Vietnam travel itinerary thanks to a handful of truly world-class museums. One of these must-sees is The War Remnants Museum on Vo Van Tan Street. Be warned though, this is one of those places that feels more like a rite of passage than something to actually enjoy as it offers an uncompromising window into the atrocities carried out on the Vietnamese during The American War.
May 2018. I would put the museum right up there with Poland’s Auschwitz and Cambodia’s Killing Fields as one of the most shocking exhibitions I’ve ever seen. Formerly known as The Museum of American War Crimes, today the more diplomatically named building is divided into numerous sections, each with a different focus on the effects of the war. This stone well, located in The Aggression War Crimes Exhibition, is said to have contained the bodies of three children allegedly found and killed by Lieutenant Bob Kerrey and his squadron during the infamous Thanh Phong Raid on February the 25th 1969. Nearly twenty people were reported as killed in the village that day and one of the children was apparently disemboweled.
May 2018. Be prepared to have one hell of a lump in your throat as you work your way through the various photo galleries. I’d been looking out for the infamous Napalm Girl shot and right enough here it was. Taken by the associated press photographer Nick Ut, it captures a nine year old girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, running in agony down a country road just moments after suffering severe back burns in a South Vietnamese napalm attack in the district of Trang Bang. The photo went on to win the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography.
May 2018. Perhaps the most awful part of the museum is the exhibition showing the horrific birth defects caused by the Agent Orange attacks. Agent Orange was a deadly herbicide used by American forces to destroy crops and eliminate forest cover for the Viet Cong. The repercussions of this on local communities included major deformity, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphona. The only consolation, if any, is that many of the children born into these terrible after effects were still much loved by their families and some even managed to live reasonably happy lives.
May 2018. I was relieved to finish the museum experience on a relatively upbeat note. This small art gallery on the top floor showcases work exclusively by those directly affected by the devastation of The Vietnam War. Many of these pieces were created by children and, despite the grisly subject matter, are beautiful, colorful and full of hope. The War Remnants Museum is open daily from 07:30-12:00 & 13:30-17:00. Entrance tickets cost 40.000 VND (£1.40/€1.50/$1.70).
For more on my experiences in this Vietnamese city, have a wade through my many articles on Ho Chi Minh.
Like these? Then take a look at more of my pieces from all across Vietnam.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001, so why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.