Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saigon - War Remnants Museum

Date of visit: 30th December 2014

Our next stop after Saigon Notre Dame Basilica and Saigon Central Post Office was at the War Remnants Museum, a war museum located at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. The museum is open all days (including holidays) and its opening hours are from 7.30am in the morning till 5pm in the afternoon. Take note that the museum is closed for lunch from 12pm till 1 noon. A nominal ticket price of 15,000dong (less than USD1) is chargeable to foreigners whilst the locals paid a preferential ticket price of: 2,000dong /per person. Visitor’s students, students, armed forces, veterans, senior officials of the revolution ticket price has been reduced from 50% to 100%. For those visitors who are war invalids and martyrs' families and those with children under 6 years of age and children in remote areas, they are free to visit at no charge.

The War Remnant is currently one of the most popular museum in Vietnam, attracting approximately half a million visitors every year. According to the museum's own estimates, about 2/3 of these visitors are foreigners. We were told that locals are a bit sensitive about the place where the viewing of the exhibits need to be taken with a grain of salt. Some locals claim that Vietnamese regime has borrowed images from the West and inserted them into a distorted history, using images of the war to substantiate their version and views on Vietnam War history.

But it’s true, visiting these kind of places do bring back some sadness. Anne and I would try to bypass anything related to war and killing but in this case we had too, since Trip advisor has ranked the place as 1 of a must visit place when in Saigon. The museum primarily contains exhibits relating to the American War (known to the American as the Vietnam War) also known as the second Indochina War, but also includes many exhibits relating to the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists.

The museum is operated by the Vietnamese government, whereby an earlier version of this museum was open in September 1975, as the "Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes", located in the premises of the former United States Information Agency building. The exhibition was not the first of its kind for the North Vietnamese side, but rather followed a tradition of such exhibitions exposing war crimes, first those of the French and then those of the Americans, who had operated at various locations of the country as early as 1954.

In 1990, the name was changed to Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression, dropping both "U.S." and "Puppet" words. In 1995, following the normalization of diplomatic relations with the United States and end of the US embargo a year before, the references to "war crimes" and "aggression" were dropped from the museum's title as well. It now became the "War Remnants Museum".

The museum comprises a series of themed rooms in several buildings, with period military equipment placed within a walled yard. The military equipment includes a UH-1 "Huey" helicopter, an F-5A fighter, a BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter" bomb, M48 Patton tank, an A-1 Skyraider attack bomber, and an A-37 Dragonfly attack bomber. There are a number of pieces of unexploded ordnance stored in the corner of the yard, with their charges and/or fuses removed.

One building reproduces the "tiger cages" in which the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners, which we did not visit. Other exhibits include graphic photography, accompanied by a short text in English, Vietnamese and Japanese, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. The photographic display includes work by Vietnam War photojournalist Bunyo Ishikawa that he donated to the museum in 1998. Curiosities include a guillotine used by the French and South Vietnamese to execute prisoners, the last time being in 1960, and three jars of preserved human fetuses allegedly deformed by exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, contained in the defoliant Agent Orange.

Source of reference: Wikipedia
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