Aside from the World War I trench, the Vietnam Exhibit is probably one of the most unique areas of the museum. A section of the museum is enclosed so visitors can actually walk through a replica of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As visitors enter the trail, they hear the all too familiar sound associated with this war – a helicopter flying amongst enemy fire. This diorama serves as a reminder to visitors of the darkness which often plagued the soldiers as in some places the thickness of the jungle prohibited sunlight to reach the surface.
The vehicle located just inside the trail is a one-of-a-kind M151-A2-LC, light cargo vehicle developed by AM General on an experimental basis, but was never put into production. This model is certified as the only known model in existence and was acquired directly from AM General. Off to the right on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, beware of the Vietnamese soldiers; off to the left feel the determination of a group of American soldiers as they wade through the swampy waters carrying one of their fellow wounded soldiers.
Two display cases are located inside the Ho Chi Minh Trail – one is dedicated to the US Military while the second houses North Vietnamese memorabilia. Along with countless items, these cases are lined with photographs depicting the faces of war, the anguish of war and the intensity of war. The American display case includes a number of items - some are simple such as MP Armbands and first aid kits, while others are far more intimidating such as the Jungle Machete. Also included is an Army Field Phone, a chemical agent field test kit and a protective chemical and biological hood - items sadly all too necessary for this conflict.
The North Vietnamese case includes personal items such as a razor, comb, combat whistle and North Vietnam cigarettes and lighter. Other items on display are a Grenade Pouch with stick grenades, a Viet Cong Field Machete, an officers’ compass and a trench sandal. A most unique item housed in this case is the handmade Vietnamese rifle.
Another diorama in the Vietnam Exhibit depicts a Vietnam Firebase. These bases were temporary, military encampments set up throughout Vietnam. These bases provided artillery fire support to the infantry and operated in areas that were beyond the normal firing range of their own base camps. Inside the Vietnam Firebase exhibit at the AFHM are two American soldiers ready to assist with an 81 mm M1 Mortar.
Above the Firebase, Carey McGiffin, a volunteer at the museum, recounts his days in Vietnam during the Battle of Khe Sanh. Carey talks about how cooperation, rather than competition is what assisted this group of 6,000 in holding off 20,000 enemy soldiers. His is one of the many gripping stories shared throughout the museum.
Two popular pieces - along with many others - from the Vietnam War included in this exhibit are the M274 Mechanical Mule and the US Army 40 mm Anti-Aircraft Gun.
Read about the other outstanding exhibits at the Armed Forces History Museum by clicking on the links below:
- Salute to Service Exhibit
- Firearms/Ordnance and Mines/Grenades Exhibit
- World War I Trench Exhibit
- World War II Pearl Harbor Exhibit
- USMC South Pacific Exhibit
- WWII US Navy Exhibit
- WWII Normandy and French Village Exhibit
- WWII German Farmhouse Exhibit
- WWII Communications Room Exhibit
- Korean War Inchon Landing Exhibit
- Korean War MASH Unit Exhibit
- POW/MIA Exhibit
- Rosie’s Bar Exhibit
- Korean War Frozen Chosin Exhibit
- Vietnam Ho Chi Minh Trail Exhibit
- Vietnam Firebase Exhibit
- Saddam Hussein and Gulf War Exhibit
- Additional Exhibits
- Outdoor Exhibits