Vietnam, many more US atrocities than My Lai

Vietnam, victims of My Lai massacre

From History News Network:

Declassified papers show U.S. atrocities in Vietnam went far beyond My Lai

Source: LA Times (8-6-06)

A once-secret archive, assembled by a Pentagon task force in the early 1970s, that shows that confirmed atrocities by U.S. forces in Vietnam were more extensive than was previously known.

The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators — not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.

Though not a complete accounting of Vietnam war crimes, the archive is the largest such collection to surface to date.

About 9,000 pages, it includes investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.

The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese — families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing.

Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity.

Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units, a Times review of the files found.

They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.

Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, a Vietnam veteran who served on the task force, says he once supported keeping the records secret but now believes they deserve wide attention in light of alleged attacks on civilians and abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

“When somebody asks, ‘Why do you do it to a gook, why do you do this to people?’ your answer is, ‘So what, they’re just gooks, they’re not people. It doesn’t make any difference what you do to them; they’re not human.’ “And this thing is built into you,” Cpl. John Geymann testified almost 44 years ago at the Winter Soldier Investigation, held in Detroit, which was sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. “It’s thrust into your head from the moment you wake up in boot camp to the moment you wake up when you’re a civilian”: here.

The contradictions of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War: here.

247 thoughts on “Vietnam, many more US atrocities than My Lai

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  27. In the midst of the Tet Offensive, US and South Korean soldiers, acting on explicit orders from US commanders, carried out massacres in several south Vietnamese villages.

    On February 8, 1968, Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, came on a nameless hamlet near its position in Hoi An in Quang Nam province, where it had recently lost five men to National Liberation Front attackers. Infantrymen recalled their commands. “The order of the day was to search and destroy and kill anything in the village that moved,” one soldier told army investigators. Another said that the commanding officer said he “did not want to see anything walking when he came through.” A third remembered the instruction, “kill everything that breathed.”

    After a number of the soldiers gang-raped a teenage girl, the entire village was brought together and gunned down. It is not known how many were killed, but as many as 19 such US mass murders took place in the period in Quang Nam alone.

    Four days later, troops of the Republic of South Korea—part of the American “coalition” to drown the Vietnamese Revolution in blood—carried out another massacre in nearby Phong Nhi and Phong Nut, brutally killing perhaps 80. Writer Nick Turse describes what American soldiers found in the village when they followed the Koreans in: “clumps of corpses, burned houses, a woman—still alive—whose left breast had been hacked off, a ditch filled with the bodies of women and children.”


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  41. Following the political debacle suffered the United States in the Vietnamese Tet Offensive (January-February 1968), Washington turned to increasingly savage and desperate measures to turn the war to their favor. A joint CIA-US Army assassination campaign called the Phoenix Program, officially launched on July 1, 1968, would lead to the death of at least 26,000 people with some estimates exceeding 40,000.

    The mission of the Phoenix Program, according to the CIA, was “a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong.” But in reality, it was a systematic policy of terrorism carried out against the civilian population of South Vietnam.

    South Vietnamese soldiers did most of the dirty work, but CIA and Army officials oversaw and participated in various forms of torture and assassinations. The main purpose of the program was to collect intelligence on suspected members of the Viet Cong then “neutralize” them, which could mean imprisonment and torture, or assassination, or both.

    The methods used by the Phoenix operatives were as unsophisticated as they were brutal. Supposedly, before “neutralizing” a suspected communist, the US-South Vietnamese forces were required to obtain three separate sources of evidence. But the real practice involved grabbing random civilians and forcing them to point out the house of known Viet Cong members.

    Victims of the random selection would often be too afraid to openly finger their neighbors. The solution the Phoenix Program came up with was to put a bag cut with eye holes over the head of a villager and pull him or her around the village with a leash around their neck. Then he or she would be instructed to scratch their head when walking by the house of a communist.

    According to the account of Lieutenant Vincent Okamoto, after a house was selected, “that night Phoenix would come back, knock on the door, and say, ‘April Fool, motherfucker.’ Whoever answered the door would get wasted. As far as they were concerned whoever answered was a Communist, including family members. Sometimes they’d come back to camp with ears to prove that they killed people.”

    Those dragged off to torture suffered beatings, rape, electrocution, dog attacks, and in some cases were thrown alive out of helicopters. The methods of the US government under the Phoenix Program rivaled the methods of the Nazi Gestapo and Stalin’s KGB.


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