This morning we visited the Vietnam War Museum, which is across the street from a large steel statue of Lenin. In the U.S., a Vietnam War Museum would contain lots of American weapons and pictures of G.I.s from the late 1960s. This museum, however, could be properly called the Vietnam Wars Museum, since Vietnam has been involved in one struggle or another since ancient times.
A nice statue of Lenin
The first room had a fanciful painting of Vietnamese soldiers sinking a Mongol navy in a raging river battle. But the majority of the museum was devoted to the campaigns against the French, Americans and the South Vietnamese Regime, who were referred to as the colonists, imperialists, and puppets, respectively. Significantly, the 1979 war against China was omitted.
The most impressive part of the museum is the room covering the Vietnamese victory at Dien Bien Phu. At the end of the room there was a very snazzy diorama of the terrain at Dien Bien Phu, which lit up to mark the troop positions. The narration led us through each Vietnamese offensive, as the red dots surrounded the green dots in an ever tightening noose.
A bunch of captured French artifacts were proudly displayed, as well. I saw a steel helmet punched through with dozens of holes. The caption demurred “French helmet shows colonist failure.” But it looked to me as if the French helmet showed helmet failure, more than anything else.
Another room had Vietcong artifacts used in the struggle against the United States and the various puppet regimes in Saigon. Once caption read “gun used by heroic soldier Vo Trinh Quoc to shoot 10 United States soldiers at Battle of Hill 585.” It was a gun used against us at the imfamous Hamburger Hill.
As in the French war, the Vietnamese had very limited supplies and they had to improvise to fight a modern war. A bicycle with two hundred pounds of sacks hanging from the seat demonstrated how the Vietnamese managed to supply the resistance forces with food, ammunition and even artillery pieces. Other artifacts were just as impressive. Sandals were fashioned out of the tires from downed B-52s. American parachute rope was weaved into a hammock. And on the gun display, there was a pistol entirely crafted with bamboo.
The Vietnamese were able to defeat the world's most powerful armies with bamboo and trash!
An instillation made out of downed French and American airplanes
An early 19th Century flag tower next to the museum