The War Remnants Museum is located at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. It houses many exhibits relating to Vietnam War, especially the American phase. Operated by the Vietnamese government, the museum was opened in September 1975. Since then, it has undergone many changes and renovations due to the process of normalization of relations between Vietnam and the United States.
Nowadays, the main purpose of the museum is to display the devastation of the war between two countries from 1961 to 1975. It comprises several buildings storing military equipment, as well as disturbing photographs about the traumatizing consequences of Agent Orange, napalm and phosphorus bombs, etc. on Vietnamese people. There are also pictures about atrocities such as the My Lai massacre, a guillotine used by the South Vietnamese Government, and last but not least three jars of deformed human fetuses indicating the haunting effects of the war on the next generations.
Popular with tourists, the War Remnants Museum does not hold back when putting the full-face of War time atrocities on display…or should I say does not hold back when putting the full-face of American War-time atrocities on display.
Originally named “The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government [of South Vietnam]“, this museum now goes under the more tourist friendlier name “The War Remnants Museum.”
The name change should give you some idea that the museum does not exactly give the most even-handed portrayal of the atrocities that happened during the Vietnam War.
For example, while the My Lai massacre committed by the U.S forces is well represented, you might find mention of certain Viet Cong massacres in Hue or Dak Son missing. This is not to say that the museum is not worth visiting, because it is worth visiting.
The War Remnants is very good at informing visitors both about what the Vietnamese people went through during the Vietnam War, and how the war still affects the Vietnamese people today. War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City
For example, one of the key displays, and an issue most Westerners are well aware off, is the issue of Agent Orange.
What most Westerners wouldn’t know though, or have seen before, are images of how the toxin actually affects living people and unborn fetuses in various unpleasant ways. At the War Remnants Museum, the display on Agent Orange puts all this on display for the visitor to see.
Stepping inside the main squared shaped museum building, the display on Agent Orange is the first display you will come across.
The display contains numerous photos showing people born with deformations due to their families living in areas that were sprayed with Agent Orange.
Many of these images are of children born with a bulbous odd shaped head, missing eyes, or limbs twisted and deformed into awkward and acute angles.
Alongside these photos are a number of jars containing preserved fetuses. Often the jars contain two fetuses fused together in unnatural ways, or fetuses with odd shaped or missing facials features. War Remnants Museum Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City War Remnants Museum – Saigon
Sitting peacefully inside their jars of formaldehyde, the orangey-brown color of the formaldehyde only serves to highlight the ghostly white shapes of the preserved fetuses floating inside.
In both cases the deformed and distorted bodies are not pleasant to look at, but then they shouldn’t be.
And that is what is good about the War Remnants Museum, the displays are not sanitized out of politeness or sensitivity to the visitor, the museum puts real death and deformity on display. It is all there to be seen and remind people that these are the real consequences of wars.
The issue of Agent Orange is obviously one of the more well known issues on display at the War Remnants Museum, but the museum as a whole contains about eight themed rooms covering various issues and atrocities.
Other rooms contain reconstructions of the Tiger Cages in which the South Vietnamese Government housed political prisoners on Con Dao Island, or various photo displays on the effects of Napalm, the My Lai massacre or photos about the war in general.
The courtyard of the War Remnants Museum is also crammed full of old American hardware, including tanks, planes and a huge Chinook helicopter.
Which reminds me, I actually remember walking around the big hulking American tanks and guns sitting benignly in the courtyard, their exteriors cooking away under the hot Vietnam sun, and meeting a young Vietnamese man selling books to earn money at the museum.
That was until I realized that the young man was missing his right arm from the elbow down, his left leg and one of his eyes.
This was a young man obviously too young to be alive during the Vietnam War, but who’s life as he had known it, was blown apart one day by the “remnants” that wars tend to leave behind.
In this case a mine.
Again, that is what the War Remnants Museum is good at doing, making you confront the trauma that war causes and highlighting the fact that a large majority of the victims of such wars are often civilians, and that the negative side effects to both soldiers and civilians a like does not stop when the war stops.