War Remnants Museum
Ho Chi Minh City
You can see the old weapons from the street. Tanks, jets, helicopters. Morning traffic roared behind me and the noise subsided once inside the museum compound. Thick steel. Military green paint and numbers painted in white on the sides. Must have meant something to somebody sometime. I wandered, in awe at the memory of what these giants were. Killer machines. I paused to read the descriptive boards beside each weapon. “This beast could deliver six rockets on each side with twelve mega-killer bombs below and a big gun on a swivel to get personal death counts up”. I shudder inside and go inside to see the other displays.
This war has a history. Ken Burns made a documentary about it, but here in Vietnam the history is tangible, fungible and painful. Agent Orange survivor photos, lengthy quotes from the 1954 Geneva Convention, pictures of protest demonstrations from everywhere, more actual bombs, real things that got left behind, land mines and pictures of victims, grotesque and horrible. Room after room. Floor after floor. I push on, not wanting to leave out anything. It’s getting crowded now as the school groups arrive and the tour buses with their patient explainers answering questions posed by ignorant tourists.
This is why the museum is here.