The War Remnants Museum is a war museum and can be found at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3 of Saigon.It mainly contains exhibits relating to the American phase of the Vietnam War. When it originally opened on September 4th 1975 it was called The Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes. Initially it was in the premises of the former United States Information Agency. Not the first of its kind in the country, it followed in the pattern of other exhibitions exposing war crimes. Initially the French and then the Americans, who had operated throughout the country from as early as 1954.
In 1990 following a softening of diplomatic relations with America it dropped US and Puppet from the title and became The Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression. Then in 19905 as relations normalised completely, it gained its current title. It is a large imposing modern structure surrounded by a large garden, in which much military hardware is displayed. This includes An A-37 dragonfly attack bomber, an A-1 Skyraider attack bomber, an F-5a fighter, and M48 Patton Tank and the famous UH-1 (Huey) Helicopter.
Inside the building the ground floor is given over mainly to articles of clothing worn during this period of history. There are some fine examples of dresses and fabrics. Moving upstairs one enters the main exhibition hall which consists primarily of graphic photographs taken during the worst moments of this devastating conflict. Some of the photographs are extremely disturbing and leave little to the imagination.
The museum has been on the end of some criticism over the years as being propagandist in its nature. However, it is worth pointing out that many of the photo credits are of GIs who took photos during the war and submitted them after. As with all conflicts their are two sides to every story, but this exhibition certainly makes one stop and think.
There is an example of a guillotine used by the French and also of the Tiger Cages used by the Americans in which to keep prisoners, particularly on the island of Phu Quoc during the war. It is a difficult museum to stomach at times, but such is the nature of the subject matter.
The Agent Orange Room has some extremely harrowing photographs and descriptions of the terrible injuries and life-long illnesses that some people have and continue to suffer from. On the wall outside in the garden there is a large mural made from photographs that depict a small boy standing in what was previous a forest before the devastating effects of this highly toxic defoliant.
The fact remains that this is the most popular museum in the country and receives no less than half a million visitors per year. Its situation just round the corner from the Reunification Palace make ideal to see both places of significance and interest in the same day.