Secret Tunnel Gets Facelift

After several years of being left deserted, the secret tunnel under Gia Long Palace, now the HCM City Museum, is being repaired. In early 1962, when Doc Lap (Independence) Palace, now the Reunification Palace, was seriously damaged by bombs, then-President Ngo Dinh Diem moved to Gia Long Palace, which was built between 1885 and 1890. Diem ordered the tunnel to be built for his protection.

Lying four meters deep under the palace's backyard and flower garden, the ferroconcrete tunnel was made to be able to withstand heavy shelling or aerial bombing. Running parallel with the main building, the tunnel looks like a U-shape corridor. The bottom of the U is 20m long, with six rooms that were meant to be living rooms; the two wings of the U are staircases connecting to the main building.

The two exits of the tunnel in the backyard, camouflaged as two blockhouses, and its four entrances in the palace, were fitted with 10-centimeter-thick steel doors. Doors of every room in the tunnel were made of steel of the same thickness. Each room was equipped with furniture, electric lamps and telecommunications system. Although rusty, these heavy doors are still intact.

There were some rumors about this secret tunnel in the old regime. Some people believed that the tunnel had many branches, one of which ran to Cha Tam Church in Cholon (District 5). Thanks to such a branch, Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu could escape from the palace and hide at Ma Tuyen's house in Cholon.

The tunnel has no such branches. Only one thing has been confirmed: the tunnel was used during the last hours of the president and his brother on November 1, 1963. While in the palace, they got out and went to Cholon, but were killed by the coup deùtat forces.

The management board of the museum refuses to say what the tunnel repair will be completed for. But if it becomes one of the places open for visitors, the HCM City Museum will become even more popular.

 1. The staircase in the main hall, where there are metal doors to the tunnel. This is a favorite setting for brides-and grooms-to-be who want them to be photographed, but few have known about the secret tunnel.
2. One of the two metal doors in the ground floor leading to the tunnel, which are under repair.
3. The staircase leading down to the tunnel.
4. The corridor connecting the six rooms in the tunnel, each with its own metal door.
5. One of the two blockhouses in the rear yard, which connect with the tunnel.