Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16
America can be great – again or for the first time, depending on how you see it – if it can man up and confess its sins instead of hiding them, as Congress tried to hide the Song my massacre. Countries can get great by learning from their mistakes.
Below is our translation of an article by Andrey Veselov from RIA Novosti.
Massacre in Song my
Why did US soldiers kill women and children in Vietnam?
A half-century ago, on March 16, 1968, soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment of the US Army entered the Vietnamese village of My Lai and completely destroyed it, killing 504 peaceful civilians. Many of them were brutally tortured and women were raped. There were no weapons in the village. The Song Mai (Vietnamese preferred usage) massacres became one of the symbols of the Vietnam War. In the United States, the crime was not recognized at first, and today they are still trying not to remember this. The correspondent of RIA Novosti visited Song My and talked to witnesses of the monstrous massacre.
The punitive operation began at about 5:30 in the morning. Following artillery fire, the soldiers of Charlie Company landed in landing helicopters on the western outskirts of the village and immediately opened fire on the peasants working in the rice fields. Moving along the road, they threw grenades at the windows and doors of houses. Some residents were killed on the spot, others were driven to other premises or wastelands and shot there.
"The brains were white. Everything else was red.”
Pam Ti Tuan is 80 years old. When the Americans attacked the village, she was thirty. She still remembers the incident in detail.
"It's impossible to forget. I often dream at night about the soldiers coming back, and then I scream,” she says. The Americans broke into the house and the whole family - mother, father, grandmother, two brothers, sister, Ti Tuan herself and her two young daughters - were pushed out.
"Together with the rest of us we were led to a ditch (a shallow irrigation canal for watering near rice paddies), our neighbours, several dozen people, were with us," recalls the Vietnamese woman. On the way soldiers shouted, swore, beat us with rifle butts and kicked us, sometimes shooting. People were lined up along the edge of the canal, forced to turn their backs, kneel and raise their hands. We did not think that they would kill us. We completely obeyed them and did not resist! But they opened fire. The slain fell into the water one by one."
Together with Thi Tuan, we came to the very moat where her family and neighbours were killed. "I saw them shooting my father. I can still see it! His head just exploded. I could not believe it - his brains were completely white. Everything else was red," she says.
When shots rang out, Thi Tuan grabbed her daughters and jumped into a ditch, pretending to be dead. Everyone around them was dead and wounded.
"People were screaming horribly. The Americans could not kill them all right away. The wounded were finished off. I whispered to my daughters not to move and to remain silent. At one point it seemed to me that they were dead, so quietly they lay. It was terrible! I almost screamed when I thought they were dead. If I had screamed, I would also have been killed. "
Thi Tuan’s daughters survived, but the rest of the family all died.
Together with the children, Thi Tuan spent several hours among the dead, although the Americans had already left. I was afraid they would return. In all, about 70 people died in that ditch.
"She then worked all her life in the countryside," the neighbours said. She did not go anywhere, grew rice and vegetables. Crafted carvings of wood. She remained very calm and friendly, although she had experienced the sort of thing that can drive a person crazy. She was lucky. She survived herself and her children survived. "
"I looked like a basket of meat"
Another survivor of the slaughter was Fan Thanh Kong. In 1968, he was only 11 years old. A year later, a picture of a little frightened boy circulated all around the planet.
"Mom was getting us ready for school when we heard explosions and shots. We decided to hide. My father dug a small dugout in advance and were going to wait there. But the soldiers found us and forced us out,” says Thanh Kong.
He remembers that there were three soldiers - two white men and one black man. "The whites aimed at us, smoked and laughed. And the black man shot the cows and set fire to our barn. Then they began to discuss what to do with us. They ordered us to return to the dug-out. When we came down, they threw three grenades at us and ran away,” continues Thanh Kong.
"I think mother understood everything. She realized that they wanted to kill us like that, with grenades,” the Vietnamese fellow said. "So she told me to go with my sisters and brother to the very depths of the dug-out." And she stayed at the exit. She was torn to pieces. The rest also died. Only I survived."
They took Thanh Kong for dead and wanted to bury him too.
"I looked like a basket with meat, covered in blood. It didn’t occur to anyone that I was alive," - he says.
At the very last moment the boy woke up and miraculously escaped being buried alive.
The reason for the incredible cruelty of the Americans is still unclear. According to one version, the headquarters of the guerrilla National Liberation Front of South Vietnam - the Viet Minh, or as the Americans call them, the Viet Cong, could have been in the village. Shortly before this "Charlie" company had suffered losses: several soldiers had been blown to bits by mines.
In other words, retaliation. But in the village the soldiers found neither partisans nor weapons. So they took "revenge" on ordinary peasants.
"There were no guerrillas here," says Thanh Kong. – It wasn’t like that at all. The Americans wanted the Vietnamese to work for them. A special camp was organized nearby. And in Song My, no one wanted to work for the Americans. So it was an act of intimidation: to show the inhabitants of other villages what awaits them."
"There are good Americans too"
Song my was destroyed entirely, nothing remained. Later, the village was rebuilt.
For the Vietnamese government, it was a matter of honour, and on the site of wooden huts there appeared stone houses. The only thing that has survived from the old village is a well. American soldiers threw the corpses there, and possibly even the living.
In Song My there is a modest memorial and a museum. Thanh Kong worked as a caretaker there for years until he retired a year ago. On the walls of the two rooms of the museum are grim photographs - absolutely peaceful people, peasants (this can be clearly seen from their clothes) with terrible wounds and injuries: heads with shot wounds, entrails exposed and lolling out, faces distorted by pain. And next to them American soldiers - laughing and setting fire to their homes.
The truth about the crime was not revealed immediately by any means. Washington denied everything.
One congressmen tried to initiate an investigation, but the White House said: it was a bunch of "lies and fiction.”
Everything changed after the photos were published. Ronald Haeberle of Charlie Company took pictures during the slaughter, but did not make them public for a year. Not until November 1969 did he sell the photographs to several American and European publications. At that point a major scandal broke out.
As a result, only one person was convicted - Lieutenant William Kelly. By special order of President Richard Nixon, he served his sentence at home. And three years later he was released.
In the museum, Thanh Kong points to the portrait of the gunner of the helicopter, Lawrence Colburn, and says: "There are good Americans too."
Colburn joined the crew of the observation helicopter OH-23, who accidentally witnessed the massacre and stopped it, opening warning fire.
"The US does not want to remember what happened here. For them it's a disgrace. Of course, they do not help us in any way,” concludes Thanh Kong.
In Hanoi, we meet with the senior Lieutenant-General Nguyen Van Rinh. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War, formerly, Deputy Minister of Defence, and today, President of the Association of Victims of "Agent Orange" / dioxin.
Americans used chemical warfare agents, infecting 14 percent of the country's territory, poisoning millions of Vietnamese. Exposed children were born with mutations.
"Very many crimes of the US Army in Vietnam have not yet been uncovered," the general said. “The scale is so monstrous that it is very difficult to know the truth. They themselves will never admit it on their own."
Indeed, if it were not for Haeberle’s random photographs, the world would never know about the Song My tragedy and the White House would still confidently deny it.
But in many other places where the US military was operating, there were no photographers.