Saigon was a hotbed of activity throughout the Vietnam War. All of the photos featured in this article were taken in Saigon, 3 have won the Pulitzer prize for photography. The city and its surrounding areas are dotted with locations that are recognisable and important to the story of the war. However, the sites seem normal and are often neglected by travellers.  If you want to understand more about the Vietnam war and relive the moments, you might need to book a local insider to show you where to go and explain the stories behind these incredible historic sites.

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1. The Last Helicopter To Flee Saigon

This is an interesting spot because it signalled the last hours of the Vietnam war. The North Vietnamese Forces were bearing down on the city as its inhabitants made one last attempt to escape. This helicopter landed on a makeshift helipad at the American CIA building and tried to take as many as possible. This photo is truly amazing as it captures the sense of panic and desperation felt by those in Saigon. However, this helicopter , like many others, never returned to collect many of those who were left behind. This building is often missed by travellers but is an important landmark in one the wars most cataclysmic events-The fall of Saigon

29 Apr 1975, Saigon, South Vietnam --- A CIA employee (probably O.B. Harnage) helps Vietnamese evacuees onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
29 Apr 1975, Saigon, South Vietnam — A CIA employee (probably O.B. Harnage) helps Vietnamese evacuate onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

2. The Reunification Front Gate

The reunification palace was the former presidential palace of South Of Vietnam. When the Northern forces got into Saigon, the palace was their first target. The moment the tank crashed through the front gate carrying the North Vietnamese flag marked a turning point in Vietnam’s history and changed the country’s path forever.

30th April 1975, Saigon South Vietnam, the tank “390” carrying the North Vietnamese flag crashed through the Presidential Palace. The collapse of the gate was a symbol of the Fall of Saigon. Image by © Francoise de Mulder/CORBIS

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3. The ‘Saigon Execution’ photo

One of the most famous photos of the war. This Viet Cong soldier was captured and Eddie Adams captured this shot mere seconds before he was executed. The soldier in question was Nguyễn Văn Lém who was being condemned for war crimes. Adams won his Pulitzer Prize in 1968 and “Saigon Execution,” would be one of history’s most graphic, violent and enduring war photographs. The photo was taken on a random street in Saigon. Its location has only resurfaced recently.

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“Saigon execution” taken by Eddie Adams winning the Putlitzer prize in 1968 image by via Flickr

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4. The Burning Monk

Thích Quảng Đức was a Buddhist monk who burned himself alive to protest the prosecution of his religion by the South Vietnamese government. The photo captured the attention of the world and brought increased pressure on the South Vietnamese government to find a conclusion to its Buddhist crisis. Indeed, mainstream western media widely displayed the photo, much to the shock of those who viewed it.The American president of the time, J.F Kennedy declared that “no news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as this one”. Photographer Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer prize for this amazing photograph in 1964.

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“I was standing about 20 feet to the right and a little in front of Quang Duc. I clearly saw him strike a match in his lap, and with a slight movement, touch the robes at lap level.” Photo & caption by Malcolm Browne. Image by ManhHai via Flickr

5. The Napalm Girl

This is another photo which is instantly recognisable and highlights the intense brutality of the Vietnam war. This is a photo of Kim Phúc, a young girl whose village was destroyed in a napalm attack. Kim Phúc then fled the village with her family in an attempt to reach the safety of the South Vietnamese army. During their attempt to escape a South Vietnamese air pilot mistakenly attacked the group killing two members of Kim’s family, badly burning Kim in the process.

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The photo won the Pulitzer prize in 1973. Image by Nick Ut via Flickr

This image is without a doubt one of the war’s most harrowing images of the war and many press editors were reluctant to publish it due to its graphic nature and nudity. However, the photo appeared in the New York Times and immediately captured the attention of the world. Nick Ut’s work earned him a Pulitzer prize and was the World Press Photo of the year in 1973. For anyone who is further interested in the photo and Kim Phúc’s life, a documentary on the subject by Denise Chong was released in 1999 called The Girl in the Photo.

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