Military History Museum, Hanoi - review by Rusty Compass
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Military History Museum, Hanoi

| 16 Nov 2011
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Military History Museum, Hanoi
28A Dien Bien Phu St, Hanoi
8-11:30am and 1:30-4:30pm Closed Monday and Friday

Our rating
16 Nov 2011

The ultimate museum tribute to Vietnam’s twentieth century struggles against larger and better equipped enemies - the French and the US.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service


Vietnam has plenty of war museums - they're as ubiquitous as Ho Chi Minh museums. The most important of them is, unsurprisingly, located here in Hanoi.

The Military History Museum (aka. the Army Museum)  pits the relatively simple armoury of Vietnam's victorious communists against the more sophisticated but ultimately failed weaponry deployed by the French and the Americans. Prized pieces include tank 843 - the tank that famously smashed through the gates of Saigon's Presidential Palace on 30 April 1975 marking the end of the Vietnam War (we are reliably advised that this one is the real deal and the one found in the grounds of the former Presidential Palace in Saigon is a replica) and the wreckage of an American B-52 bomber set amidst assorted US military junk.

Other displays of interest include classic propaganda videos, a diorama of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and a multitude of small arms, improvised weapons and low tech logistical support pieces - like bicycles - used to great effect against both the French and the Americans.

Photo: Mark BowyerDowned B52 - Military History Museum, Hanoi

The museum is well worth visiting but is as remarkable for its shortcomings as its collection. It seems a modest and shallow account of a military whose campaigns changed the twentieth century and humbled a superpower. There is no shortage of expected triumphalism but some of the deeper contours of Vietnam's three decades of war are disappointingly left untouched.

Bloody 1970s conflicts with the Chinese and the Khmer Rouge are curiously missing from the exhibition leaving the visitor wondering whether only those with the West are fit for the military historical record.

Photo: Mark BowyerCot Co Tower - Military History Museum, Hanoi

The museum is overlooked by the Cot Co tower - one of the few remnants of Hanoi's Royal Citadel. This structure was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Emperor Gia Long. It was later modified by the French and used as a watchtower. Travellers to the museum have limited access to the tower.

Travel tips
A short walk from Ba Dinh Square, the Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and his house on stilts. Hanoi Citadel is also accessible nearby from Hoang Dieu St. There are also some very impresseive colonial era villas in the area. Right across the road is one of the last standing statues of Lenin anywhere in the world.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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