Ho Chi Minh City Museum and the War Remnants Museum

Despite suffering from nausea, Lan was a trooper and went sight seeing with me in Ho Chi Minh City. This was certainly a day of challenging perspectives. The Ho Chi Minh City museum attempts to relate the history, geology, ecology, and economy of Ho Chi Minh City. There were several beautiful ceramic pieces that show the unique style and external influences of each dynasty. It was also interesting to see the state sanctioned historical perspective of the struggle against French colonialism by the communist movement which was subsequently turned into conflict to contain the spread of communism by the US. The version described in the museum is not quite the version I recall from grade school, and I'm fairly sure the truth lies somewhere in between.

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Two Vietnamese beauties look on as I study the moves of a master.


Examples of Vietnamese pottery.


Attending a communist rally.


Model of the Cu Chi tunnels, the largest Viet Cong tunnel complex north of Ho Chi Minh City


The medical kit of a Viet Cong medic.

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American service vehicles were captured by the Viet Cong who taught themselves how to operate them and then painted new colors on them for use toward the end of the war.

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Outside the Ho Chi Minh City museum.


Despite the fact that I'm bigger than this car, private vehicles like this were used to ferry wounded, supplies, and weapons.

From the Ho Chi Minh City museum we walked north toward the Reunification Place, where the Southern Vietnamese surrendered. Unfortunately we didn't get to tour the inside because they were hosting a conference that day.

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The Reunification Palace

The War Remnants Museum is a place of powerful emotion. The outside begins fairly benignly with captured implements of war by land and air. From there we walked through a replica of a prisoner of war museum which related stories of prisoners who were tortured. It showed cells, a real guillotine (with the biography of its last victim), and many photographs of the effects of torture. Some 4000 prisoners are still unaccounted for. While illuminating in highlighting similarities in torture techniques used then and now, e.g. "waterboarding", it is somewhat one-sided. Prisoners of war were tortured by both sides and kept in horrible surroundings.

Inside were different galley exhibits of photographs highlighting various atrocities of the American-Vietnamese conflict. One had the alleged victims of the effects of Agent Orange, a series of photographs of phenotypic deformities. While it is well acknowledged that this had more than herbicidal effects and presumably has carcinogenic and teratogenic effects a series a photos without epidemiologic correlation is shock value not science. Yes deformities are terrible afflictions and yes they could be presumably due to Agent Orange, but simply putting up pictures and slapping the label of Agent Orange victims is not a fair assessment, even if it might be true.

The floors above showed other collections of pictures. There was an exhibit of war correspondents pictures, some of whom were killed in action. War photographs are intensely emotional by their content alone, but there is something even more chilling when the picture is labelled "from the last roll of film shot by..." and the image recorded was minutes before their death.

Another exhibit showed the overall losses of the American-Vietnamese war, the numbers of killing and death. Another gallery showed the ravages of war on the cities and the regrowth that they have gone through today.

In all not the history I was taught and again I'm sure the truth lies between the two versions. War causes people to due inhuman things to one another and neither side is innocent of that. Perhaps we can learn from past mistakes, although more current history does not support that. The idea that one side is evil, or that Americans are always the good guys, might be a little too golden a perspective on our nation.

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Captured air craft outside the War Remnants museum.


The exhibit featuring the prisoner of war prison used both by the South Vietnamese government, the French, and the US. Not a pleasant reminder of the inhumanity of humans during war.


Tiger cages were placed in the hot sun and often filled with offal, then not one but multiple prisoners would be thrust into them as punishment.

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