Reeducating tourists at the War Remnants Museum
My father didn’t want to go to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, because we had heard that it’s a very one-sided, anti-American portrayal of the Vietnam War. We walked up to the entrance, where he had planned to leave me for an hour, but then the American military vehicles and weapons in the courtyard got his attention and he shelled out the $1 admission fee. Here he is, standing next to an M-48 tank.
Most of the museum, with the exception of an exhibit of peace-themed children’s art, consists of photos depicting the horrors of the Vietnam War, beginning with the fight against the French in the 1940s and 1950s, then through the American involvement. Unfortunately, as our group had warned us, the information is not always accurate, especially because it completely ignores the fact that South Vietnamese (ARVN) forces were involved in combat operations. You walk through the museum, and you get the distinct message that Americans and their international allies came in and attacked the Vietnamese people, without any mention of any dispute between the North and South Vietnamese.
And then, as I went through the museum, I realized something that rings true for the other places we’ve seen on our trip: the Vietnam War here is portrayed as a resistance war between Vietnam and America, not as a Vietnamese civil war with American involvement. There are no references to South Vietnamese troops anywhere: not at this museum, not in any cemeteries, not in any war memorials. It’s as though they never existed, and the war was simply, as they call it, the American War.
It’s all rather Orwellian.