Once known as the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, the War Remnants Museum (Add: 28 Vo Van Tan street; Tel: 930 5587) is now the museum in HCMC most popular with Western tourists. Many of the atrocities documented here were well publicised in the West, but rarely do Westerners have the opportunity to hear the victims of US military action tell their own story.
The museum's name was changed to avoid offending Chinese and American tourists, but the pamphlet Some Pictures of US Imperialists Aggressive War Crimes in Vietnam, handed out at reception, pulls no punches.
The War Remnants Museum was established in September 1975 in Ho Chi Minh City. US armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons are on display outside. There's also a guillotine used by the French on Viet Minh 'troublemakers'. Many photographs illustrating US atrocities are from US sources, including photos of the infamous My Lai Massacre. There is a model of the notorious tiger cages used by the South Vietnamese military to house Viet Cong (VC) prisoners on Con Son Island. There are also pictures of deformed babies, their defects attributed to the USA's widespread use of chemical herbicides. An adjacent room has exhibits of 'counter-revolutionary warcrimes' that were committed after 1975 by saboteurs within Vietnam. Counter-revolutionaries are portrayed as being ailied with both the US and Chinese imperialists.
Despite the relative one-sidedness of the exhibits, there are few museums in the world that drive home so well the point that war is horribly brutal and that many of its victims are civilians. Even those who supported the war would have a difficult time not being horrified by the photos of children mangled by US bombing and na-palming. There are also scenes of torture -it takes a strong stomach to look at these. You'll also have the rare chance to see some of the experimental weapons used in the war, which were at one time military secrets, such as the flechette (an artillery shell filled with thousands of tiny darts).
The War Remnants Museum is in the former US Information Service building, at the intersection with Le Qui Don street. Explanations are in Vietnamese, English and Chinese. Though a bit incongruous with the museum's theme, water-puppet theatre is staged in a tent on the museum grounds.
Over the last 20 years, over 6 million visitors entered the museum. Among this number, nearly 1 million were foreign visitors, including American tourists.