Vietnam Military History Museum: Wars Waged Against Vietnam

Vietnam Military History Museum (Vietnamese spelling: Bảo tàng Lịch Sử Quân sự Việt Nam) is one of the six national museums and the chief of a series of military museums. It’s south of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel in central Hanoi, near the Hanoi Flag Tower.

Since 1954, the museum has been a research institute collecting and preserving much of Vietnam’s military history. There are over 16 000 objects on display depicting various aspects of defensive wars against invading forces.

Establishment of the Vietnam Military History Museum

A metal relief of President Ho Chi Minh and soldiers
A metal relief of President Ho Chi Minh and soldiers
[ by Edgardo W. Olivera from Flickr ]

During the war against French colonialists in 1945, President Ho Chi Minh signed a decree “to preserve all cultural heritage”. A decade later in 1954, the Military Museum was unofficially established with the mission to collect, preserve, and display all things military.

After a period of procurement and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Vietnamese National Military Day, the Military Museum officially opened for visitors in 1959. During the American War, many of the museum’s personnel were at the fronts collecting and preserving history in the making, and some, unfortunately, lost their lives doing so.

In 1994, the Military Museum was given national status. It officially became the Vietnam Military History Museum in 2002 and has continued to receive many prestigious national awards.

Things to See in the Vietnam Military History Museum

Things to See in the Vietnam Military History Museum
[ image from vmhm.org.vn ]

Vietnam Military History Museum has some interesting collections of artifacts from ancient times, to the First and Second Indochina War, the American War, and life in times of peace. It also displays 9 National Treasures including historical tanks, ships, and planes.

The museum provides brochures in English and Vietnamese, an information board for each object in English, French, and Vietnamese. There are video presentations but they’re currently only available in Vietnamese.

First Building (S2)

The Battle of Bach Dang
The Battle of Bach Dang against the Southern Han Dynasty in 938 AD
[ by The History of Mechanized Warfare Club from Facebook ]

The first floor in the main building is dedicated to relics from around 200 BC during the Hung Kings (Hùng Vương) Period to the common era of 1930. There are numerous drawings and dioramas with explanations depicting historical wars of resistance. They include different Chinese Dynasties, Mongolian, and Siamese (present-day Thailand).

The second floor is where you can see military objects from 1930 to the end of the First Indochina War in 1954.  The highlight of this period is the victory of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (trận Điện Biên Phủ) against French Cochinchina presented with a 1:1800 scale model and a video documentary.

Second Building (S3)

A part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail Exhibit
A part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail Exhibit
[ by Little Sol Montessori Pre-School from Facebook ]

The second building in the Vietnam Military Museum showcases the battles against the US from 1954 to 1968, and the 1975 Spring Offensive (Chiến dịch Mùa Xuân 1975). The period from 1955 to 1975 is known by many names including the Second Indochina War, the Vietnam War, and the American War— the latter most familiar to Vietnamese.

The highlight is the 1975 Spring Offensive, or Tet Offensive, by Northern Vietnamese to regain South Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh Campaign (Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh) proved crucial to this victorious offensive. The famous Ho Chi Minh Trail (đường mòn Hồ Chí Minh), or Truong Son Trail (đường Trường Sơn), was its lifeline.

The museum has a detailed exhibition of the trail and the lives of soldiers while maintaining military communication and logistics such as road paving. You can find two National Treasures here which are the Ho Chi Minh Campaign Determination Map (bản đồ Quyết tâm Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh) and the Ho Chi Minh’s original Campaign Book of Operation (sổ trực ban Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh).

Exhibits also include tactics of the American troops as well as different war strategies deployed by US Command. There’s a section dedicated to the global voices against the war from countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Congo, Netherlands, and North Korea.

Third Building (S4)

The T54B Tank No. 843 which crashed the gate of the Independence Palace
The T54B Tank No. 843 which crashed the gate of the Independence Palace
[ by Holiday Point from Flickr ]

The third and last building contains exhibits from 1975 to the present. One of the highlights is the 1:8000 scale model as well as a video documentary in Vietnamese of the Ho Chi Minh Campaign which marked the victory of the 21-year American War.

There’s also a themed display of Vietnamese Heroic Mothers. It has an iconic statue and photographs of mothers whose children joined the war and sacrificed their lives.

Outside Exhibition (S6)

Outside Exhibition (S6)
[ by John Novis from Facebook ]

The entire outdoor area is dedicated to grand-scale objects like planes, tanks, missiles, and canons. They are captured or destroyed military equipment and vehicles used by the French, the US, and the Vietnamese.

Some people jokingly call the outside exhibition ‘the garden of broken toys”. To see this area from above, you can go up the 1st and 2nd platform of the Hanoi Flag Tower for free, but the tower isn’t open for visitors.

Visiting the Vietnam Military History Museum

Hanoi Flag Tower
Hanoi Flag Tower
[ by Garry Wahl from Facebook ]

Visiting hours: On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

  • Morning: 8 AM to 11:30 AM.
  • Afternoon: 1 PM to 4:30 PM.

Ticket price: 40 000 VND per person.

Camera photography charge: 30 000 VND per camera.

Camera filming charge: 

Less than one hour: 300 000 VND per camera.

One to two hours: 400 000 VND per camera.

Two to three hours: 500 000 VND per camera.

Is the Vietnam Military History Museum Worth Visiting?

The Vietnam Military History Museum is a good stop-off if you have some time to spare after visiting the Thang Long Imperial Citadel.Check out our article on ‘25 Best Things To Do in Hanoi’ for more about how to get to Hoan Kiem Lake and other destinations around.

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