By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The Vietnam conflict, which changed the history not only of the United States but also the fate of much of Southeast Asia, will be the subject of a museum on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove.
That’s the plan. Now its supporters have to raise the money and spread the word about their proposal to establish the facility in a former car dealership.
“I went to the World War II museum in New Orleans in 2009,” said City Councilman Bruce Broadwater at an event Tuesday to publicize the project. “It was fantastic. I said that we should have a museum in Garden Grove dedicated to the Vietnam War.”
Broadwater is vice president of the Vietnam War Museum of American Foundation.
The 17,500-square foot, two-story facility at 13560 Harbor Blvd. started its life as a Mazda new car dealership. After several incarnations as a used car lot, the building was purchased by the City of Garden Grove. If all goes according to plan, the city would lease the building to the foundation.
“This is all going to happen,” said Broadwater.
Kimberly Huy, community services director for the City of Garden Grove and a member of the foundation staff, said the museum should appeal to “everyone from baby boomers to kids to local Vietnamese to those who served in the military in Vietnam.”
Tuesday’s event showed off the potential for a building which had been in disrepair. Volunteers, including Broadwater, have repainted and cleaned it.
“Those were the longest six days of my life,” he said about the rehab effort.
There’s still a lot of work to be done; the building has no electrical power and tours had to be conducted with the help of flashlights.
Hopes for the museum project are high. A consultant estimated that the museum could attract between 295,000 and 415,000 visitors annually.
It could serve as another attraction on Harbor Boulevard, which the city is seeking to re-brand as International West, a Pacific coast version of the section of Orlando, Florida featuring many amusement parks, attractions, restaurants and hotels.
Garden Grove and Westminster have large Vietnamese populations, most of which fled their home country after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
For right now, the museum’s advocates are meeting with architects, pursuing grants, and, of course, still seeking donations to their non-profit foundation.