Independence Palace (re-named Reunification Palace after the Fall of Saigon), built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
A Brief History of Independence Palace
In 1868 a residence was built on this site for the French governor-general of Cochin-China, and gradually it expanded to become Norodom Palace. Norodom Palace – the French colonial headquarters in Saigon – was built in 1873 and occupied by Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of South Vietnam until two rogue pilots dropped bombs on the structure during an assassination attempt in 1962. One bomb actually fell into the wing where President Diem was reading, but failed to detonate!
When the French departed, the palace became home to the South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem until his death in 1963. General Nguyen Van Thieu – head of a military junta, moved into the palace in 1967 to serve as the second president of South Vietnam; he changed the name to Independence Palace.
Independence Palace served as central command for the South Vietnamese effort against communist forces until April 21, 1975 when General Thieu was evacuated as part of Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation in history.
On April 30, 1975, a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the palace gates, leading the way for Communist forces to capture the palace. The Vietnam War literally ended at the Independence Palace gates.
Reunification Palace Highlights
The basement is a blast-proof underground bunker; the command center for South Vietnamese military operations. It features tunnels, a war room and telecommunications center. The war command room has original maps on its walls, and period telecommunications equipment are also on display. The adjoining basement rooms display war propaganda materials.
The first floor is not of much interest, as it is only allocated for different meeting rooms. While the second floor holds the nicest view of the city from the palace. It is also used for the presidential offices and reception.
The third floor, however, was reserved for the president’s private chambers. The living quarters are still decorated with original furniture. It’s very 60s and very cool. Past the president’s bed room, you’ll find a private cinema, large game room complete with casino tables, dining room, bar, and plenty of places for entertaining.
Reunification Palace’s rooftop terrace is fitted with a helipad. During the war, a North Vietnamese spy infiltrated the South Vietnamese Air Force and stole a fighter jet which he used to drop two bombs on the palace. Three place staff were killed, but the president and his family survived.
The bombing shook confidence in the South Vietnamese government. If they couldn’t protect the president, how could they protect the country? Today, the roof of the palace is marked where the two bombs fell.
Outside, you can see one of the tanks that smashed through the palace gates on the day that Saigon fell to Communist forces. When the attacking army arrived, the new president (who had only assumed the post just hours before) was waiting patiently inside the palace to surrender. It was inevitable. By 1975, after the US withdrew from southern Vietnam, it was only a matter of months before the Communists were able to conquer all of South Vietnam.
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 07:30 – 11:00 and 13:00 – 16:00
Entrance Fee: VND 30,000
Note: The information provided in this post was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service.