An ancient flag tower, destroyed enemy bombers, photographs and weapons from wars with China, France and the U.S. offer a glimpse into Vietnam’s turbulent past.
The Vietnam Military History Museum in central Hanoi presents a perspective on the wars that raged in Vietnam, and it’s a perspective that Westerners rarely get to see. The museum contains a remarkable collection of war relics and photographs from Vietnam’s long struggles for freedom. Learn about guerrilla and communist troops and the history of the present Vietnam People’s Army.
The main building in this museum was opened in 1959 and is dedicated to Vietnamese conflicts up until World War II. Find out about Vietnam under Chinese and French colonisation and occupation by the Japanese. Learn about the rise of the Viet Minh in North Vietnam and how they declared independence in 1945.
Many tourists head straight to the museum’s newer building, which is dedicated to Vietnam’s battles against American troops. Learn about the tactics the Viet Cong used in what the Vietnamese call the American War and most Americans call the Vietnam War. Whatever your perspective, the conflict in the 1960s and ’70s left permanent marks on the country and this museum tells the Vietnamese side of the story.
See photographs from the battlefields and the simple uniforms of the Vietnamese troops. There are also bamboo spikes, homemade firearms and other weapons that helped the under-equipped Vietnamese Army defeat its opponents.
Venture outside to the spacious courtyard where there is a large collection of preserved military wreckage. Climb through the machinery to feel what it was like to be behind the wheel of these colossal vehicles. Damaged tanks, shot down B-52 airplanes and army vehicles are strewn throughout the grounds.
For panoramic city views, climb to the top of the Hanoi Flag Tower. This observation tower, built in the 19th century, is one of only a few old Vietnamese buildings that was not destroyed during the French occupation.
The Vietnam Military History Museum is opposite Lenin Park, southeast of the Ho Chi Minh complex. The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays and during lunchtime hours. A small admission fee applies and you pay a little extra to bring in a camera.