The War Remnants Museum

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog

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The War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

On our first day in Ho Chi Minh City, we’ve seen the classical Dong Khoi area and the Reunification Palace, after a few days visiting the Cu Chi tunnels and the Mekong Delta, it’s time to explore the former Saigon some more.

We decide to start with the War Remnants Museum, which is the most popular museum in HCMC among Westerners. I’m not that great with stuff (movies, pictures, weapons, etc.) that has anything to do with war, it makes my skin crawl.

Picture in the War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
I don’t exactly know why I react this way, I only know that the whole phenomena disgusts me to the very core of my body and soul.

Going to this museum however, seems an essential part of my trip through Vietnam. I feel like I owe these wonderful kind people a look at their darkest hour in history, just to understand them better. So I brace myself, grab my husbands hand and walk onto the museum compound.

The whole outside of the museum is full of US armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons that are all on display. I see countless people (mostly men) posing for a picture at every vehicle, bomb and weapon and I try to ignore the huge ‘Why?’ that starts sounding in my head. If you’re interested in helicopters and tanks I can understand such actions (not easily, but I’m willing to try), but these military left overs were actually used in combat. They were used to kill people. They are not props, they are not examples or anything, this is the real deal. I don’t see why these people feel the need to stand in front of them, smile, and have their picture taken. Is it a testosterone- thing? Then I’m very lucky that my husband doesn’t have the same odd desires.

Once we’re inside, I get caught up with the many pictures and stories that cover the walls. They illustrate the US atrocities during the American-Vietnam war, and even though I’ve known most of it, it’s different to have it on your plate all at once. The pictures of deformed babies, children and adults mark the ongoing inheritance of the chemical herbicides the US military used. There is even a low glass case, filled with water. It holds two deformed embryos.

At this point I walk towards my husband and tell him I’ve seen enough, I can’t watch anymore. There are two more floors to cover and if he wants to see it all, I’m fine with it. I’ll just wait outside.

I guess I’m squeamish or faint-hearted, but I cried when I walked out of the museum. I sat down on a low bench, was surrounded by those horrible displays of military vehicles and bombs, and I wept. What I had seen on those pictures inside the museum was beyond horrible, I can’t believe these things were done to innocent civilians, children even.

But what’s even worse is the realization that it is still happening today. A new generation of these monsters is the Middle East, telling people what to do and how to live because they feel threatened in their way of life. During the war on display in the museum behind me it was about communism, today it’s about religion. Some people think their ideas are superior to those of others and they feel the need to threaten as much innocent lives as possible to let them know that their beliefs are better, or more advanced. It’s medieval if you ask me.

If there was anything I could do to make it stop, I would. But accept for voting for the right politicians, I have no power whatsoever. Especially since I live in a tiny and insignificant country.

I feel helpless, but at the same time I realize that although this museum tells all about the terrible things that happened during the war, the Vietnamese people do not hold a grudge against the Americans. Even though the effects of the chemicals that were spread haven’t gone completely, the war seems forgiven. After three weeks in Vietnam, I haven’t noticed any hard feelings against the US.

To me, that is sheer greatness, to dedicate a museum to the historic facts and to be done with it. Therefore, right there and then, I decide this place is more about the forgiveness of the Vietnamese people, than about the atrocities that happened during the war. How weird, I just discovered beauty in the results of a horrible war…

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The War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi Mi…
The War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi M…
Picture in the War Remnants Museum…
Picture in the War Remnants Museu…
3,004 km (1,867 miles) traveled
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