Posted by: James Shannon | November 7, 2011

Napalm, White Phosphorous, and Agent Orange: The Vicious Legacy Of The Vietnam War

I had once again settled into another Southeast Asian megopolis — Saigon, Vietnam.  After a night of quaffing more than a few Heinekens and Bia Saigon, I was ready to do some serious sightseeing the following day.  First on the agenda was the War Remnants Museum, a collection of artifacts from the 15 year long Vietnam War.

I had expected to see a collection of weapons, ammunition, tanks and planes, but like Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng, nothing had truly prepared me for the horrors of all-out war at its worst.  What will follow, like the photo essay covering the Genocide Museum in Cambodia, will be a selection of PG-friendly shots, with the truly horrific exhibits hidden behind links to avoid accidental discovery by those with weak stomachs.  Though the subject matter may brutally macabre, it is necessary to see the ugly by-products of armed conflict, so that we may never engage in such heinous crimes if we ever need to go war again.

As a final note before we begin: I realize that the Vietnamese aren’t showing the whole story; that is, that they engaged in many of the same dirty deeds that the Americans are depicted, in the photographs to follow.  I know this.  Take this post as a statement against the atrocities of war, not as an indictment of any of the parties involved.

With this post’s preamble concluded, let’s proceed with tonight’s post, shall we?

Tall trees line many of the boulevards and avenues as I made my way to the War Remnants Museum in Saigon’s District 1: it was the high level of greenery in the downtown core and the modernity of the city overall that led me to consider it one of my most favourite urban environments in Southeast Asia.

On my way to the War Remnants Museum, I saw a fellow traveller looking quite lost, his head stuck in a Lonely Planet guidebook.  Seeing as we were heading to the same place, we banded together to see the sights for the day.  However, my lazy, non-morning person arse insured that we arrived at the museum grounds right around lunchtime.  Since the place was closed for a hour and a half, we decided to grab some food and drink ourselves … here at a very stylish Saigon cafe, Ahmed and I have purdy drinks (mine was an ice-cream float) … the gold drinks in the smaller glasses was complimentary tea!

Arriving back on the grounds of the War Remnants Museum, we took the time to observe some restored American military machinery that was parked out front.  Here we have a tank and a transport helicopter…

… and a fighter jet to boot!

Ahmed took the camera to allow me to do some posin’: first, me and a Howitzer (or some kind of heavy artillery)…

… and with a tank!  I feel army strong already…! 

Following that bit of fun, we entered the interior of the museum; it was time to get into the heavy stuff … this is the part, as mentioned in the introduction to this post, that I was NOT prepared for!

It started off innocuously enough though, with displays of weapons and artillery.  Here we see shells that probably would have been fired by the howitzer outside…

Anti-personnel and anti-tank mines…

Rifles and uzis… 

Heavy-duty machine guns, no doubt the kind that can penetrate several concrete walls with ease...

Rocket launchers…

A Vietnamese artist took the scrap of munitions shells, and created this haunting sculpture of a suffering mother … sums up the suffering of the entire nation of Vietnam during that period, in my humble opinion…

The only picture from the Agent Orange room that I can conscionably show, without disturbing too many people.  This is what Agent Orange did to the lush jungles of Vietnam.  The environmental damage was was on a unprecedented scale … the fact that the forests have come back from this state 30 years ago is no small miracle!

From here on, the photos become very GRAPHIC, DISTURBING, and UPSETTING.  Consider yourself forewarned! Needless to say, the subject matter contained beyond these links is NSFW, so take care in clicking…

American troops waterboard a Vietnamese POW, a form of torture that simulates drowning.

A victim of a white phosphorous bomb, AKA Willy Pete…

The remains of villagers caught up in a napalm bomb attack…

The remains of a villager who accidentally set off UXO (unexploded ordinance, like cluster bombs) … probably the most graphic picture out of the whole set … DO NOT CLICK IF YOU ARE EASILY UPSET, GASTRICALLY OR OTHERWISE!

The after-effects of Agent Orange poisoning, affecting those around at the time, and unfortunately and heartbreaking of all, the children who had yet to be born, via birth defects … definitely NSFW, if you need to know.

More heartbreaking deformities, courtesy of Agent Orange.

After experiencing another sombre example of the extreme inhumanity that nations can inflict on each other in the name of ideology, I left in search of sights, people, and attractions that were more upbeat, or at least not focused on torture and death.

Ahmed and I made haste towards the Reunification Palace, where the head of state of the former nation of South Vietnam made his home.  Alas, this will be documented in the next photo essay, due by the end of this week (I promise!), right here, at The Pursuit Of Excitement!



  1. What does NSFW stand for?

  2. It means Not Safe For Work

  3. Im glad someone is talking about this! My husband was hit with White Phosphorous during Vietnam, scars all over his legs and torso, no eye brows and went blind. They had to scrap his eyes in the Siagon hospital. Then he got MRSA and was treated at the Long Beach VA. Oh they lost his records from Long Beach. They wont give him any kind of percentage for all his scars or no eye brows. They said you can live with Burn Scars all over your body and you should be fine! Oh now he has Peripheral vascular disease, two failed stents and bypass surgery and they had to ampulate his toes from ganegren. The VA will only give you compensation if the vascular disease is in your heart! That is just Frigg ridiculous! Iam so mad about this. All the things soliders were exposed to and they will only give compensation for a limited amount of things and they KNOW they are responsible!!!!
    Vivian Reed – Medical Social Worker.

    • Unreal … it’s one thing to read and see history of the war at a museum, it’s quite another to hear about it from somebody who life has been horrifically altered by it.

      I hope you get justice for the suffering you’ve endured at the hands of these cruel WMD’s, and the uncaring authorities that you’ve had to endure all these years.


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