Ho Chi Minh City: War Remnants Museum

We made the trip to Ho Chi Minh City on April 21st with enough time to go visit the War Remnants Museum that same day. The #1 thing to do in HCMC on several tourist lists, The War Remnants Museum is mostly photographs, commentary, and some weapons from the Vietnam War, what the Vietnamese call the American War, and more particularly the War of American Aggression. Viewer discretion advised…

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Here are some of the planes, helicopters, guns, shrapnel, etc. displayed outside the museum…

I’ve been to museums in Hiroshima and Havana that also challenge Americans to question our role in world history, but for a number of reasons this museum is more disturbing. The verdicts of history condemn American actions in Vietnam even more than the peace demonstrators did during the war, and the images of the genetic effects of Agent Orange, even more than a generation later and on American children as well, are horrific. The damage done by bullets, mortar fire, carpet bombing, napalm, and torture are also atrocities graphically depicted. These pix show the horrors of war, Ho Chi Minh addressing a crowd, Vietnamese soldiers attacking/defending in the water, and a fellow museum visitor photographing “the girl in the picture.”

Here are some displays of the rifles, pistols, automatic weapons, mortars, grenade launchers, and ammunition used during the war, mostly American, with accompanying picture…

Here are more displays, mostly photographs of the consequences of war, specifically Agent Orange and other chemical weapons used by the United States against Vietnam…

More pictures, most from a large display dedicated to the journalists who covered the war, many of whom died in the war. The photo of the family crossing the river was taken by Japanese journalist Kyoichi Sawada and won a Pulitzer Prize. Most of the others depict, explosions, helicopters, soldiers interacting with Vietnamese prisoners, or trying to help each other…

Below are some maps and posters depicting Vietnam, Vietnamese propaganda, and international support for Vietnam during the war. There’s a picture of V.P. Richard Nixon in Indochina in 1953, LBJ, etc., Bill Clinton on the historic visit of 1997, and Barack Obama just last year. There’s a photo of an American family severely damaged by the effects of Agent Orange. And one of the most powerful exhibits is small: a collection of medals from Sgt. William Brown (obviously a decorated war hero) with the statement: “I was wrong, I am sorry.”

Finally, two compelling photos – a kid in a devasted mangrove swamp and a woman carrying stuff under an extraordinary sky…

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Study Questions:

  1. Research Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and/or the War Remnants Museum (use links above). What’s most compelling to you?
  2. Research Agent Orange and/or the My Lai Massacre (use links). What’s most compelling to you?
  3. Research “the girl in the picture” (link above). What happened to her then and since?
  4. Research “War of American Aggression” (link above). Describe Ho Chi Minh’s letter to LBJ, its content, his logic, your reaction.
  5. Extra Credit: Research the Vietnam War (it’s a big topic). What’s most compelling to you? How should Americans feel about that event? Explain.

2 thoughts on “Ho Chi Minh City: War Remnants Museum

  1. Thanks for sharing this – a real reminder that we do not learn from history. How can people be so cruel? I imagine a museum some day about Iraq and the forever-war, birth defects from deleted uranium used in munitions left in Falluja, etc. How do you all feel? How do you nurture the reactions in your kids?

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    • I’ll have more to say about our visit to Vietnam as it relates to this topic, but with regard to your last question, I’m not nurturing reactions. I’m letting them look or not, asking them to pay attention, and just answer their questions. I’ll follow up with some discussion when they’ve had a chance to process their experiences.

      Whatever their reactions, the rest of America that’s sitting on its fat ass watching Fox News should visit here, and then get a dose of the reality in Iraq, etc. I worry more about others and their ignorance of the world that my kids will have to deal with when we get back to the US.

      Peace!
      rv

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