Reunification Palace

Reunification Hall, also known as Reunification Palace or Independence Palace, is located in the heart of Sai Gon now known as Ho Chi Minh City. It is where the collapse of the authority of the Republic of Vietnam and the entire liberation of Southern Vietnam took place on April 30, 1975.

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Under French domination, after completing the conquest of six provinces in Southern Vietnam, including Bien Hoa, Gia Dinh, Dinh Tuong, Vinh Long, An Giang and Ha Tien, in February 1868, Governor Lagrandiere of South Vietnam ordered a new palace to be built in Sai Gon to replace the old wooden one built in 1863. The complex covered an area of 12ha, including a palace with an 80-meter-wide façade, a guest-chamber capable of accommodating 800 people, and spacious gardens covered by green trees with a lawn. In 1873, the work was completed and named Norodom Palace after the then king of Cambodia (1834-1904). The avenue in front of the palace bore the same name. In March 1945, Japan defeated and replaced France in the Indochina. Norodom Palace became the headquarters of Japanese colonial officials in Vietnam. In September 1945, Japan surrendered to the allied forces and France returned to Vietnam and Norodom Palace was restored to its position as the office of the French colonists.
In 1955, President of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, renamed the building, Independence Palace. At that time, the authority and soldiers of the army of South Vietnam often called it “Phu dau rong” (literally Dragon’s Head Palace).
 

In 1955, President of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, renamed the building, Independence Palace.

Tank No. 843 was the first tank that entered the Independence Palace at noon on April 30, 1975.

The UH1 Helicopter of President Nguyen Van Thieu.

The Mercedes belonging President Nguyen Van Thieu.
During the coup in February 1962, two pilots of the Republic of Vietnam’s Air Force, Nguyen Van Cu and Pham Phu Quoc, flew aircraft above the Palace and bombed it. As a result, almost the entire left wing of the Palace was destroyed. After the event, Diem ordered it demolished and commissioned a new building in its place. The new palace was constructed according to a design by Ngo Viet Thu, a talented Vietnamese architect who had previously won the First Grand Prize of Rome – an annual prize for talented artists granted by the Beaux-Arts school in Paris.
The new palace was built on July 1, 1962 and it was completed on October 31, 1966. When designing the palace, the architect wanted the building to have a cultural significance so both the inside and the outside of the Palace were designed with both traditional and modern features. For this reason, Independence Palace has the harmony of both modern and oriental architectural characteristics. 
 
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  On June 25, 1976, Reunification Hall was ranked as a special national relic by the Ministry of Culture (present-day Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism). In August 2009, the Prime Minister recognized the Reunification Hall as one of ten special national relics.

The building is a magnificent example of 1960s architecture – airy and open, with spacious chambers and tasteful modern decorations. It was built in the shape of the Chinese script for “Cat”, meaning good luck. It is 26m high with a total area of 20,000m2, consisting of three main floors, two mezzanines, two basements and one terrace for a helicopter pad. Over 100 rooms in the palace, including a stateroom, a cabinet council meeting room and work rooms for the president and vice president were decorated differently, depending on the use. There are also many other auxiliary places such as a semi-circular lotus lake, two corridors leading to the main hall and warehouses. The unique architecture of the palace is clearly seen from the system of ventilation and windows letting in sunshine that were styled as curtains with elegant- bamboo sections, surrounding the front of the second floor. This architectural feature originated from a kind of door with wooden bars seen in palaces in the old capital of Hue. 

A system of ventilation and windows letting in sunshine with elegant-bamboo sections is a unique architectural feature of the palace.

An octagonal house on the palace grounds.

The second floor’s corridor of the palace.

The carpet embroidered with dragons and phonixes is placed in the great hall of the palace.

The work room for the president.

The room for presenting credentials.

The stateroom for receiving delegations.

The meeting room of the president and his cabinet council.

The archive room in the basement of the palace.

The projection room in the palace.

The room for entertainment.

The sitting room of the president’s wife.
When the Palace was opened, it became the headquarters of the authority of the Republic of Vietnam. It served as the home and working place of Nguyen Van Thieu, who was then President of the Republic of Vietnam, from October 1967 to April 21, 1975. On April 8, 1975, Nguyen Thanh Trung, a pilot of the Vietnamese Air Force and an undetected communist spy, flew an F-E5 aircraft to bomb the Palace, but caused no significant damage. At 10.45 on April 30, 1975, a tank bearing number 843 struck the auxiliary gate of Independence Palace. Following that, a tank bearing number 390 knocked down the main gate and advanced directly to the Palace. At 11.30 of the same day, a flag of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam fluttered proudly on the palace roof, ending 30 years of war.
In November 1975 after the negotiation convention on unifying the South and the North was completed, the Provisional Revolutionary Government renamed the palace, Reunification Hall. Today, Reunification Hall is one of the most fascinating sights in Ho Chi Minh City because of its striking architecture and historical values, attracting many domestic and foreign tourists.
Marquez, a tourist from Argentina said: “Visiting Reunification Hall in the city named after President Ho Chi Minh, I learned more about the glorious history of a special country with heroic people and their national defence and reconstruction.”
 
Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat – Photos: Le Minh