Vietnam Military History Museum: Wars Waged Against Vietnam

Vietnam Military History Museum (Vietnamese spelling: Bảo tàng Lịch Sử Quân sự Việt Nam) is a national museum. It’s also 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. They show 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”. In 1954, the Military Museum was unofficially established. Its mission was to collect, preserve, and display all things military.

The Military Museum officially opened for visitors in 1959. It coincided with celebrations of the 15th anniversary of Vietnamese National Military Day. During the American War, many of the museum’s personnel were at the frontlines collecting and preserving history in the making. Unfortunately, some lost their lives doing so.

In 1994, the Military Museum was given national status. It officially became the Vietnam Military History Museum in 2002. It 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. Artifacts range from ancient periods, to the two Indochina Wars, and the American War. This is contrasted to exhibits of life in peaceful times. It also displays 9 National Treasures including historical tanks, ships, and planes.

The museum provides brochures in English and Vietnamese. Also, there’s an information board for each object in English, French, and Vietnamese. There are video presentations but they’re currently only 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 before the modern wars. They’re 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 has military objects from 1930 to the end of the First Indochina War in 1954. This period’s highlight is the victory of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (trận Điện Biên Phủ) against French Cochinchina. The display includes 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 a number of battles against the US. They include battles from 1954 to 1968 and the 1975 Spring Offensive (Chiến dịch Mùa Xuân 1975).

The period from 1955 to 1975 goes by many names including the Second Indochina War and the Vietnam War. The American War, however, is the latter most familiar to Vietnamese.

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

This building has a detailed exhibition of the trail and the lives of soldiers. They were responsible for maintaining military communication and logistics such as road paving.

You can find two National Treasures here. One is the Ho Chi Minh Campaign Determination Map (bản đồ Quyết tâm Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh). The other is 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  US Command war strategies. There’s a section of 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 victory of the 21-year American War. It includes a 1:8000 scale model plus a video documentary in Vietnamese of the Ho Chi Minh Campaign.

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 displays grand-scale objects like planes, tanks, missiles, and canons. They are captured or destroyed military equipment and vehicles. These were 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 platforms of the Hanoi Flag Tower. It’s free to get up but inside the tower isn’t open for visitors.

Visiting the Vietnam Military History Museum

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

The Vietnam Military History Museum is a good stop-off if you have time after visiting the Thang Long Imperial Citadel.

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.Check out our article on ‘25 Best Things To Do in Hanoi’ for more about how to get to the Vietnam Military History Museum and other destinations around.

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