On 30th April 1975, the Reunification Palace in Saigon became famous around the world.
As the war came to a dramatic end, pictures of North Vietnamese tanks rolling through the gates, soldiers cooling off in the fountain and a National Liberation Front (Vietcong) flag being unfurled from the first floor balcony were beamed around the world.
And from that point on, this masterpiece of 1960s architecture has not changed much. The decor has remained the same, the war plans are still in the bunker, and even the tanks remain on the grounds.
If you are in Ho Chi Minh City, it is well worth a visit.
Get a black and white view of what’s in store below….
There has been a palace on this site since 1873, built in the French Colonial Era and named a
But unless the French had some serious vision, this building is clearly not of 1870s design.
So what happened to the original palace?
Diệm was far from a popular leader though, so much so that in February 1962, two pilots from his own airforce ignored their original orders, and bombed the palace in an attempt to kill him.
The palace was subsequently rebuilt in its current style, complete with a Bunker to keep Diệm safe from future assassination attempts. He never got to see the completed building though, as he was killed in a coup in 1963.
The palace is set in a 12 hectare park which, despite a large number of tourists, makes is a surprisingly peaceful retreat from the chaotic Ho Chi Minh City streets.
The Cabinet Room
From 1967 to 1975 this was the main meeting room for the government of South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam)
The Conference Hall
This is the room President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu gave his long resignation speech, criticising the USA after their withdrawal of support for the war, before fleeing to Taiwan. This was on the 21st April 1975, nine days before the tanks rolled through the gates.
The Presidential Office
The Presidential Bedroom
Dark parquet flooring, yellow wallpaper, TV cabinet and walnut furniture. It’s hard to get more ’60s that the Presidential Bedroom!
The Bunker and Command Centre
Underneath the Palace the 1960s design disappears, replaced with the control centre of a Bond Villain! Designed by an engineer rather than an architect, this area was here purely for pragmatic purposes.
With communications centres, briefing rooms and even a bed for the president, the entire war effort could be co-ordinated from down here.
The panelled walls, and tiled floors give a small element of civility, but the grey, metal equipment and eerie corridors leave you in no doubt as to the purpose of this place
Used to prepare huge banquets for the President’s guest, this industrial area is full of high-end Japanese equipment. In amongst the sinks, ovens and work surfaces we even found an ice-cream maker. Amazing how the leaders live, even in times of such hardship in their country.
The Shooting Gallery
Mercedes Benz 200 W110
Captured when the palace was overthrown, and now kept indoors, this car was used to transport President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu.
There are two tanks on display in the ground of the palace which are replicas of the tanks that rolled into the grounds in 1975.
The 843 is a Russian made T54 tank, arrived first and damaged the entrance, but it was the 390 tank (produced in China), which finally broke through and was in the famous pictures that were shared around the world.
On the day we visited, their were some military personnel here taking photos of each other.
You’ll also notice that the local tourists aren’t as restrained as us Brits, with the tanks being used as a playground for the kids, who were having a great time!
There is also a F5E jet on site, a replica of one involved in another security breach at the palace.
In 1975 a communist colonel infiltrated the Southern Republic’s airforce and completed a bombing run on the palace. Unlike the 1962 raid, this one caused very little damage, and the palace survived.
Once again, the kids were really enjoying the jet. I snapped one completing a set of pull ups off of the wing, a real show of strength.
The best photo of the day is at the bottom though, with Becca capturing this shot of a boy in complete awe of the machine he’s just seen.