Today is a huge holiday in one country, that most Americans (unsurprisingly) don’t know about. Forty years since the end of the war in Vietnam, the Vietnamese national holiday known as “Liberation Day”, when the US-supported South Vietnam regime surrendered to People’s Army on April 30, 1975. For Vietnamese this is the end of 30 years of war that 3 million lives claimed, the devastation of nearly the entire country and still covered with unexploded landmines, and nearly half the rural population in the south into refugees. For Americans it’s a day of shame, for the country that believes in “no apologies” isn’t surprising this is being ignored by the news and not talked about in schools. The reasons for this are both sinister, and sad.
“My name is Jack Regald… My testimony is about the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilian women and children, torture of prisoners for fun and other reasons…”
“My name is Joe Bangerd… My testimony will cover the slaughter of civilians, the skinning of a Vietnamese woman…”
“My name is Scott Camille… My testimony involves the burning of villages with people in them, the cutting off of ears, calling in artillery on villages for games, napalm dropped on villages, women being raped, women and children being massacred, CS gas used on people, animals being slaughtered, bodies shoved out of helicopters….”
This is the disgusting truth about America’s “Vietnam War”. This is what our glorious troops did to the Vietnamese people during the “Tour of Duty” in the 1960s and early 1970s. The same book I transcribed this testimonials from elaborates on the atrocities:
“In the diary she kept.. Clare Cullhane (a nurse at NGO hospital) wrote of- endless cases of women and children being run down by tanks, of GIs picking off children as they swam out to pick up food cartons from and overturned truck, of pilots inviting passengers for human ‘turkey shoots’”
Helicopter crews had a particularly bad reputation. As early as 1963 veteran war correspondent Richard Tregaskis described members of the 362nd Helicopter Squadron as “wild men… one chopper would go first… and when the people would go running, the second plane would spray ‘em”… James Duffy, a helicopter gunner with the 1st Air Cavalry, recalled “our company policy was to just keep on firing… I had fired at all the military targets I could spot and I looked out across the field and I spotted a Vietnamese woman peasant running away from the ship. I fired a burst of about six or second rounds into her back before we hit the ground. A couple of weeks later he and his company commander had “a good laugh about it.”
The worst of it took place at a village called My Lai-4 in 1968. The soldiers who moved into the area justified their slaughter of 500 people- all of them unarmed- all of them women, children and old people- on the grounds that they faced an invisible enemy; that children had frequently acted as scouts for the Viet-Cong, and suffered dozens of casualties from a minefield days before…
As the Americans approached…villagers began to flee across the open fields and were immediately shot down. The 2D Platoon…swept through the northern half of My Lai hurling grenades and setting fire to family shelters, calling occupants out of their homes and gunning them down, raping and then murdering village girls… they gang raped several more girls before rounding up ten to twenty women and children and killing them on the spot. Some civilians were killed when they emerged from their homes. Others were rounded up and moved toward a drainage ditch on the southeastern border of the hamlet where 75 to 150 villagers were shot to death at Lt Calley’s command.
At one point, the men of the 3D Platoon herded together a group of women and children and sprayed them with M16 fire. A half dozen other wounded villagers were killed ‘to put them out of their misery’.
“They just kept shooting at her,” said photographer Ron Haeberle, “You could see the bones flying in the air chip by chip.” A woman staggering out of a hut weeping, her dead baby in her arms… she took only a few steps before one of them en with Capt. Medina shot her down them “opened up” the dead baby with his M16.
“Some of the guys seemed to be having a lot of fun” said PFC Herbert Carter, “They were wisecracking and yelling ‘Chalk that one up for me!’
“I remember this one group, a little distance away. Maybe there were ten people, most of them women and little kids, huddled all together and you could see they were really scared, they just couldn’t seem to move. Anyway, he turns around toward them and lets fly with a grenade. It landed right in the middle of them. You could hear the screams and then the sound and then see the pieces of bodies scatter out, and the whole area just suddenly turned red like somebody had turned on a faucet.”
This is not just a massacre by a few bad soldiers. As shown by the testimony at the start- this was a widespread, systematic destruction of the lives of innocent Vietnamese peasants throughout the war. This is what America did, to keep Vietnam divided, to prevent the unification of the country under a socialist government. We went into villages, and if suspecting one of the residents was a “VC” (a communist supporter), the entire village would be torched, the people herded into trucks, and dumped in another field somewhere and told to get moving. We turned HALF the population of rural South Vietnam into refugees. And after we bombed North Vietnam back to the 18th century, and flew hundreds of B-52 runs over Hanoi to bomb civilian neighborhoods to terrorize the North Vietnamese into signing a “peace treaty” in Paris- the result of the Christmas Bombing of Hanoi in 1972 in which a dozen B-52s were shot down and thousands of people killed- Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. If it sounds sickening, that’s because it is. We uprooted millions of people, burned their homes, used chemical weapons to destroy entire forests and farmland, used napalm against human beings, and dropped enough bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to be five times as many explosives as used in all of World War Two.
One of the many excuses used to justify the mass murder is that our "enemy" was also committing atrocities. This ignores the fact that we were invading THEIR COUNTRY and taking a side in their civil war. In the below documentary, the Viet Cong are said to have killed "37,000 people" during the war years. However, the American anti-insurgent programs killed many times this- even the CIA man William Colby admits in a Congressional hearing in 1971 on the so-called 'Phoenix' program- a sinister program of search and assassination in Vietnam- some 27,000 people are killed, at least 75% of them Colby admits were probably not even communists; and this is just this one program alone.
The travesty of the Vietnam War is something this whole country owns. It is not the evil deeds of a few soldiers, it is a shameful chapter in the history of our intervention in the affairs of other nations- the violation of basic human rights, the consistent opposition to the right to free-determination and liberty of the peoples of the Third World. I wish more people to know about this so that we can see that the American ‘big stick’ is not and will never be a welcome presence in foreign nations.
I’m not surprised nobody knows about, talks about, or thinks about this war. It was an atrocity, something Americans want to forget and mostly have.
Source: Doyle, Weiss, Editors. The Vietnam Experience “A Collision of Cultures” P 148-149; 158-160 Boston Publishing Company ©1984
Source: Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War. (Peter Arnett) TDW Corporation ©1980