The Reunification Palace was originally named Norodom Palace, and was the home of the French governor during the 19th century. When the French left Vietnam, it was occupied by President Diem of South Vietnam, who renamed the building the Presidential Palace. In 1962 his own air force bombed the building in an attempt to assassinate him, destroying much of the building. The building was rebuilt to look like it does today, but Diem was killed before he could occupy it. Throughout the Vietnam War, the leaders of South Vietnam used the building for their headquarters, although another bombing assassination attempt on another President also took place here, destroying little more than a staircase. Eventually, on April 30 1975, North Vietamese tanks smashed down the Palace gates. This event was captured in a famous press photograph.
The palace was open for tourists to wander through. I was not surprised to see the opulence of the President’s reception and dining rooms, but I found the bunker beneath the building, with its map room and radio transmission equipment, really interesting.