Memorials & the Bien Hoa Military Cemetery

The experience of the Vietnamese community, in being allies-turned refugees, is one that necessitates memorialization and remembrance. The Vietnam War resulted in the displacement of approximately two million Vietnamese refugees. Although two-thirds of those displaced were eventually resettled, the remaining third perished at sea while attempting to flee. In the aftermath of the conflict, various Vietnamese communities across the United States have worked to memorialize the experiences of those living and those lost. Such memorialization has taken on various forms, including individual items and larger public memorials.

The Việt Museum seeks to honor and remember all who fled in search of safety. The sections below feature memorials from the Việt Museum.

Memorials at the Việt Museum

ARVN Memorial War Hall of Fame

The ARVN Memorial War Hall of Fame was dedicated in April 2014 to the civil and military personnel of the Republic of Vietnam. On the Memorial Wall are portraits honoring seven heroes of the ARVN who were targeted then killed following April 30, 1975. The Memorial Wall also honors those who made sacrifices during the conflict and bears witness to the fall of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

The statue was created by Hoang Mong Thu and was funded by donations from the Vietnamese community.

Quảng Trị Citadel

The monument honors the recapture of the Quảng Trị province by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Military (ARVN) on September 16th, 1972 after the Second Battle of Quảng Trị. The bronze bas relief depicts an iconic photograph after the battle in which ARVN soldiers are erecting the flag of the Republic of Vietnam among the ruins of the Quảng Trị Citadel. The inscription at the base of the monument reads: “Từ đổ nát chúng ta xây dựng lại” or "from the ruins, we rebuild."

Fishing Boats Used by Refugees

The outside of the museum features two reconstructions of fishing boats used by refugees fleeing Vietnam. Slides 1-3 show the reconstruction of Hải Nhuận fishing boat which left from Thuận An in the southeast region of Vietnam with twenty-six refugees aboard in 1987. The refugees aboard the Hải Nhuận traveled directly to Hong Kong. Slides 4-6 show the reconstruction of the Tân Phát fishing boat which left from Cà Mau, a city in southern Vietnam, with twenty-one refugees aboard in 1980. The refugees on the Tân Phát were rescued by a Japanese boat. The boats serve to memorialize the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who fled by boat.

Xung Phong – The Vanguard

This monument depicts a soldier of the ARVN 18th Infantry Division in combat at the front in Long Khanh, during the last days of April 1975. Created by Thanh Hue, professor of Hue College of Fine Arts in 2001.

The Statue of Brotherhood

Statue made of plaster by Master Thanh Hue. Portrays a soldier kneeling down to pay respects to his brothers-in-arms, who have just fallen in battle.

ARVN Helmet

The helmet represents the role of individual artifacts in memorializing the experiences of the veterans who fought for the Republic of Vietnam. The wound that created the hole in the helmet, which was donated by the local community, demonstrates the hardships and risks experienced by those who fought.

To see this in 3D, click here

Bien Hoa Military Cemetery

The need for memorialization is driven, in part, by the desecration of the Bien Hoa Military Cemetery in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The Bien Hoa Military Cemetery, also known as the Nghĩa trang Quân Đội Biên Hòa and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Cemetery, was the primary cemetery for veterans of the Republic of Vietnam. The cemetery was designed to host 30,000 graves and to serve as an equivalent to the Arlington National Cemetery. Between 1965 and 1975, approximately 16,000 soldiers were buried in either traditional Vietnamese-ground cement structures or mounds.

Bien Hoa Cemetery Reconstruction

The Việt Museum houses a miniature replica of the Bien Hoa Military Cemetery prior to 1975. The Central area of the replica includes pieces such as the Sacrifice Mourning, and the Statue of Mourning. A small-scale replica of the Statue of Mourning, also known as Thuong Tiec, is featured in the exhibit. In the aftermath of the conflict, the Social Republic of Vietnam criminalized and targeted materials honoring the Republic of Vietnam. In the decades that followed, relatives removed 6,000 of those buried. The cemetery was closed off to the general population while many of the graves were razed, defaced, destroyed, and abandoned without maintenance.

Thuong Tiec

The Thuong Tiec statue, a reproduction of which is featured, shows a grieving ARVN soldier. The statue was created to honor those who fought for the Republic of Vietnam. The original statue, which once was a central memorial of the Bien Hoa Military Cemetery, was destroyed by the forces of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1975.

Slide 2 Thuong Tiec Statue in 1968.

Slide 3 Thuong Tiec was destroyed in 1975.

Tombstone of the Nameless Soldier

The tombstone featured is that of the first unknown (vô danh 1) soldier (chiến sĩ) to be buried at Bien Hoa Cemetery. The soldier died (từ trần) June 7, 1968 and was buried (an táng) on June 16, 1968.

As refugees fled in the aftermath of the war, many sought ways to honor those who sacrificed themselves for the Republic of Vietnam. The tombstone featured was salvaged by a refugee who valued the historical significance of the first unknown soldier to be buried in the cemetery. Eventually, the tombstone was gifted to the museum by the refugee in order to maintain and honor the memory of the fallen soldier.

The tombstone embodies the necessity of remembrance and memorialization for those lost in the conflict.

Other Memorials

To see other memorials dedicated by/to the Vietnamese diaspora throughout the world, check out this database by clicking here.