History Being Talked About Archives 12-10-03 to 12-28-03

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NYT Reports on Vietnam Atrocities (postd 12-28-03)

John Kifner, writing in the NYT (Dec. 28, 2003):

Quang Ngai and Quang Nam are provinces in central Vietnam, between the mountains and the sea. Ken Kerney, William Doyle and Rion Causey tell horrific stories about what they saw and did there as soldiers in 1967.

That spring and fall, American troops conducted operations there to engage the enemy and drive peasants out of villages and into heavily guarded"strategic hamlets." The goal was to deny the Viet Cong support, shelter and food.

The fighting was intense and the results, the former soldiers say, were especially brutal. Villages were bombed, burned and destroyed. As the ground troops swept through, in many cases they gunned down men, women and children, sometimes mutilating bodies — cutting off ears to wear on necklaces.

They threw hand grenades into dugout shelters, often killing entire families.

"Can you imagine Dodge City without a sheriff?" Mr. Kerney asked."It's just nuts. You never had a safe zone. It's shoot too quick or get shot. You're scared all the time, you're humping all the time. You're scared. These things happen."

Mr. Doyle said he lost count of the people he killed:"You had to have a strong will to survive. I wanted to live at all costs. That was my primary thing, and I developed it to an instinct."

The two are among a handful of soldiers at the heart of a series of investigative articles by The Toledo Blade that has once again raised questions about the conduct of American troops in Vietnam.

The report, published in October and titled"Rogue G.I.'s Unleashed Wave of Terror in Central Highlands," said that in 1967, an elite unit, a reconnaissance platoon in the 101st Airborne Division, went on a rampage that the newspaper described as"the longest series of atrocities in the Vietnam War."

"For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians — in some cases torturing and mutilating them — in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public," the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians.

"Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers," The Blade said."Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings."

In 1971, the newspaper said, the Army began a criminal investigation that lasted four and a half years. Ultimately, the investigators forwarded conclusions that 18 men might face charges, but no courts-martial were brought.

In recent telephone interviews with The New York Times, three of the former soldiers quoted by The Blade confirmed that the articles had accurately described their unit's actions.

But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a"rogue" unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing.

"The story that I'm not sure is getting out," said Mr. Causey, then a medic with the unit,"is that while they're saying this was a ruthless band ravaging the countryside, we were under orders to do it."

Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops.

The tactics — particularly in"free-fire zones," where anyone was regarded as fair game — arose from the frustrating nature of the guerrilla war and, above all, from the military's reliance on the body count as a measure of success and a reason officers were promoted, according to many accounts.

Nicholas Turse, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities.

"I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported," Mr. Turse said by telephone."I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds."

Yet there were few prosecutions.

Besides the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians in 1968, only 36 cases involving possible war crimes from Vietnam went to Army court-martial proceedings, with 20 convictions, according to the Army judge advocate general's office.


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Margaret - 1/7/2004

HI, I love this website. I will be back to read more. Thanks .. Me

Dave Livingston - 9/27/2003

The causes of the War Between the States were 1) the fundamentally different economic systems that prevailed between the North, industrail, in the South Agricultural. Northern industrails wanted to sell to the South excluding foreign, principally Britsh, competition. The South wanted to import manufactured goods from Europe without having protectionist-driven imp[ort duties.

Once the break between the states was made the power-mad tyrant Lincoln and greedy Northern industralists strove for an illegal, forcable retention of the Southern states within the Union.

Wright - 8/22/2003

One should be reminded that Ulysses Grant owned and worked a slave on his Ohio farm before leading the Union forces. That Abraham Lincoln tried to have Congress ship African Americans back to Africa and told a delegation of African Americans in the White House that they would never be equal because of their black features. The north began the slave trade, held slaves in the border states during the war and, since the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the Confederate states, the Union officially had slaves longer than the South.

Robin Edgar - 7/13/2003

Dr. Anthony Perks' Stonehenge theory deserves to be given some serious consideration and certainly deserves better than the gratuitous and quite disingenuous dismissal of David Miles, chief archaeologist of English Heritage, in the Observer article. The full text of my letter to the editors of the Observer condemning David Miles irresponsibly dismissive attitude may be read here -


alejandro serrano - 6/11/2003

at least put some pictures

David Foster - 6/3/2003

"According to Mr. Tucker, even if (the kite) had got off the ground, there was no way it could have reached the heights needed to draw electricity from thunderclouds. He then tried the experiment using a modern kite, but that did not work, either."

I'm not grasping this. Lightning strikes objects at ground level, or a few hundred feet above, all the time. So why couldn't it strike a kite? True, you might have to wait a while...it wouldn't "draw" the electricity. But it could happen.

Arnold Beichman, Hoover Institution - 4/29/2003

The "omission" by Dr. Beschloss of the Allies’ Declaration in December 1942 condemning Nazi atrocities against Jews and vowing retribution is not as important as the fact that President Roosevelt did little to save European Jews when it was in his power to do so. The detailed documented record is there (Schlesinger to the contrary) in the three-volume "Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence", edited with a commentary by Professor Warren F. Kimball who writes (Vol. II, page 293):
"One of the unhappiest stories of the war was the failure of the American and Britrish governments to provide relief and safety for refugrees, particularly for Jews who had fled German-occupied areas in Europe. In April 1943, British and American represenatives met in Bermuda to discuss the problem, but the talks were, in the words of a British participant, ' a conflict of self-justification, a facade for inaction. We said the results of the conference were confidential, but in fact there were no results that I can recall.' " Rarely did the refugee problem intrude upon the Churchill-Roosevelt correspondence, and when it did, they only mentioned small, partial measures or the political implications of various proposals."
FDR deserves the "bad rap." Beschloss does not.

Jim Lynch - 4/26/2003

Might Roosevelt and Churchill have considered the implications of their allied peoples cutting a deal with the Axis powers, even in the face of genocide?

A diary entry of General Patton as late as January, 1945, states that "we could still lose this war". Its outcome, needless to say, was never pre-ordained.

Anti-semitism was endemic throughout 'christiandom' before and during the the holacaust years. Perhaps the two leaders weighed that fact against the inherent risks of military gambles, and concluded humanity could not afford even chancing such a betrayal of itself, by acquiecing in any conclusion short of unconditional surrender. Perhaps they assumed to bear that responsibility, themselves alone. In that scenario, had catastrophe struck the allied cause, and their peoples demanded a cessation of war, general ignorance of magnitude of the Nazi genocide could be invoked by posterity, for posterity's own sake.

In any event, it must have crossed their minds.

Lawrence Baron - 4/9/2003

While I admire Deborah Lipstadt's research about Holocaust denial, I do not share her view that denial that the Holocaust
happened will increase when there are no longer Holocaust
survivors to refute them. After approximately 100 years, no historical event has eyewitnesses to confirm that the event
occurred. By then, the event depends on documentary evidence,
scholarly works, and the oral histories compiled when its survivors were still alive. I can think of no other event that has been so well chronicled through archival materials, monographs, and extensive interviews with perpetrators, surviving victims, and bystanders than the Holocaust. Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Project has videotaped over 50,000 such interviews. The incorporation of the Holocaust into the public school curriculum, the massive volume of scholarship on it, and the proliferation of courses at the college level are all indications that Lipstadt's
pessimism is unfounded. Indeed, what greater recogition of an
event is there than the establishment of a Federal museum in America's most important site for civil commemoration.
Finally, the presence of survivors has never deterred deniers from making their spurious claims.

dan - 3/27/2003

All of the above is true.

But, ask yourself this question: why was the country divided north and south? The only real difference was slavery. Slavery permeated all thought and political processes. The south's economy was based entirely on slavery, the north's on the lack of slaves. Nothing about the economy in the north was precluded from the south by anything other than the free access to slaves. The spread of short staple cotton exacerbated the divide because it could not be grown economically without slaves, and the south depended upon it for a huge plurality of its economy.

The spark for the Civil War came when southerners finally decided they could not gain ascendency in the Senate - parity was not enough, since that had been the norm since the Republic was formed. IF anything, it was a war of southern agression, rather than the reverse title the post-war southern revisionists would have people believe.

Argue all you want about the spark, but the CAUSE of the Civil War (no euphemisms for me) was most definitely slavery.

Davmos - 3/11/2003

The leaders of both sides denied that slavery was the cause of the war. Slavery in the south was secure because the Missouri comprimise, the Dred Scott decision, Lincoln's pledge not to end slavery, and other social and legal forces protected slavery. Abolishionists had similar standing to the status of anti-abortionists today. They were a fringe group. (Think of John Brown). Nevertheless, the south tried to secede. Northern attempts to tax imports (which hit the south, not the north) and general dissatisfaction with the north were motivation. Most scholars believed they had a right to secede. Lincoln saw it diferently. He fought to save the union not to abolish slavery. He even returned slaves who escaped during the early days of the war. Abolishing slavery became a tool to help fight the war. Only after the war had gone on and on, did the north assume the mantel of morality and add the goal to abolish slavery.

clarence swinney - 3/2/2003

Reagan was embraced by Conservativs for his constant attacks on big Government and Soviet Union.

Gorby changed Soviet Union with Glasnos and Peristroika. Period.

Conservatives do not increase Califonia spending by 112% in eight years--Federal spending by 80% --debt by 187%--deficits by 112%. 80-187-112. Shameful for any President.

Clinton as true Conservative. His numbers were 28-28-surplus.

Reagan's long list of promised actions which were not achieved showed he was more Blarney Baloney than Achiever.
clarence swinney

Bradley R. Smith - 1/19/2003

It would be interesting to read something new about why the primary murder weapon the Nazis used to murder the Jews of Europe was not systematically investigated at Nuremberg or the following war crimes trials.

James Cheeks - 12/18/2002

In the interview “Michael Beschloss talks about his new book”, Mr. Beschloss says that Roosevelt failed to speak out in public on Nazi treatment of the Jews “for almost 2 years” after 1942, and failed to threaten the Nazis with punishment for their crimes. In this view, repeated at book promotion ceremonies, Mr. Beschloss is less than straightforward with the full historical record, failing to mention the fact and the effects of the Allies’ Declaration in December 1942 condemning Nazi atrocities against Jews and vowing retribution.

This omission or distortion is continued into the book itself. “The Conquerors” text says this, and no more, about the Declaration: “On December 17, 1942, at the initiative of the British, the Allies issued a declaration against ‘exposure and starvation’ and ‘mass executions’ imposed by the Nazis ‘on many hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.’”

Mr. Beschloss has selected his quotes to give the impression that general Nazi frightfulness, rather than specific treatment of Jews, is being condemned. The Declaration’s title, which Mr. Beschloss nowhere mentions, is “German Policy of Extermination of the Jewish Race”. The Declaration contains these statements: “Hitler's oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe ... From all the occupied countries, Jews are being transported in conditions of appalling horror and brutality … . In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughterhouse, the Ghettoes established by the German invaders are being systematically emptied of all Jews…. The able-bodied are … worked to death in labor camps.”

This is the context in which the Declaration’s denunciations of “exposure and starvation” and “mass executions” are set. It took much ingenuity on Mr. Beschloss’s part to refer to and quote from this Declaration and still manage to conceal that it spoke specifically and exclusively about treatment of Jews.

The Declaration is also mentioned in his notes, without its title or any more of its contents. Though the Declaration, an act of the “Governments of …the United States of America” and its allies, is part of the United States official records (7 Dept of State Bulletin 1009 is one source), Mr. Beschloss’s notes refer the reader only to other authors.

In his book “The Holocaust in History”, Michael R. Marris says that the December 1942 “declaration denouncing the murder of Jews … could not have been more clear.” (Meridian edition, p. 163) “By December 1942 … the news about the mass slaughter … had been broadcast all over the world and featured in all major newspapers outside Nazi-occupied Europe”. (Marris, p. 163, quoting Walter Lacquer’s “Terrible Secret”)

Mr. Beschloss also said in the interview and elsewhere that Roosevelt’s failure to speak out forfeited the opportunity to threaten the Nazis with punishment for their crimes. His mode of reporting the December 17 Declaration keeps his readers and listeners from learning that the Declaration says: “The above-mentioned Governments”, including the government headed by FDR, “reaffirm their solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution”.

Might Mr. Beschloss think that the U.S. government positions in the Declaration were not FDR’s positions? If so, he’s at odds with Joseph Persico, who says that in December 1942 “FDR finally and publicly condemned the Nazi extermination of the Jews and declared America’s policy—those perpetrating mass murder would be dealt with as criminals when the fighting ended.” (“Roosevelt’s Secret War”, p. 220)

Some while before “The Conquerors” came out Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said that Roosevelt “has been given a bad rap” on Holocaust issues. In “The Conquerors”, the rap goes on, at some cost to the historical record.

Joe Soll, CSW - 11/28/2002

Ms. Melosh's statistics are in error.

Adoption is in fact, on the rise again.
In the mid sixties there were about 150,000 non-kinship adoptions.
In the late 60's thru mid 70's the rate averaged 100,000 per year.

The rate had been steadily dropping but has levelled off at about 51,000+ non-kinship (domestically born) adoptions per year.

The reason for the consistency is that adoption has become a huge "industry" in this country. In the last 5 years at least 51,000 babies have been processed into adoption at an average fee of $30,000. That amounts to over $1.5 billion a year in fees paid to lawyers and adoption agencies.

There seems to be a vested interest in convincing young, resourceless women to give up their babies for the welfare of those who are infertile or otherwise unable to have a baby on their own.

John G Linton - 11/15/2002

I found your comment about KW-7 key lists interesting. The public has been interested in the subject after the televised airing of "The falcon and the snowman." and other television movies about the Walker navy family, and most currently, the FBI agent who sold information. I think the public simply gets lost in the technical details of the televised presentations, and becomes disinterested in the subject. There also appears to be some public confusion between fiction and reality. I simply regard the world of cryptography as a means of communication, not a black world of Dr Stranglove. I see much of the public fear as unwarranted.

I was a repair SP-5 during the vietnam era and worked for two years on the repair and upgrade of field returns. I would trouble shoot and repair returns to the component level. I have
seen the inter-net posted image of the KW-7 ORESTES posted by ontario and I can certify the images and your comments are true and accurate.

I hope someday to author letters that may be of interest to people in the field of communications and communications history.

If there is any interest, I can be reached at my e-mail address.

James J. Divita - 11/2/2002

If both Menzies and the team of anthropologists etal. are correct, then Cheng Ho may have been the first to bring Old World diseases to the Americas in 1421. Hey, another first evil erased from Columbus!!

Brian Gordon - 7/26/2002

I was a shipboard naval officer in 1968 when the USS Pueblo was captured. Among my duties was to serve as what the Navy called a Registered Publications Custodian, meaning that I kept custody of all the crypto codes for the ship (my office was a walk-in safe). The usual practice was to carry several months' worth of key cards for the various crypto machines, and my job was to keep inventory of them, dole them out to the communications people as needed, and to shred and burn old codes. When the Pueblo was captured, it appeared that no one was absolutely certain what codes it had on board, and the result was a slew of messages to the effect that yet another series of codes was assumed to have been compromised, and that therefore it was necessary to destroy another month's worth of key cards. Once we reached port, we had to stock up on new codes. The line at the door of the Honolulu NSA distribution point was almost as long as the line of burn-bag-toting RPCs at the Pearl Harbor naval base's incinerator. (Most ships had shredding capability, but incineration usually required a shore facility.) What amazed me at the time (assuming, of course, that the destruct orders were based on actual inventory carried aboard USS Pueblo) was how many seemingly irrelevant code series had been carried on board that ill-fated snoop-ship. I recall seeing NATO operational key codes included on the shred-and-burn lists that came out following Pueblo's capture. It would have been more sensible to have such a vessel going in harm's way carry only a minimum inventory of codes, not the standard worlwide inventory issued to other ships. (And contrary to Professor Williams's thread above, Navy ships, including, apparently, USS Pueblo, carried several months' worth of keylists, not just enough for one month, so when it became evident that USS Pueblo had been captured with its crypto gear and code inventory mostly intact, every ship in the fleet went through several months' worth of codes in less than a week. We would switch to a series for the following month, then the next day a message would come through saying that that series was also assumed to have been lost, and ordering a switch to still another month, and so on.)

Of course, it could also be argued that, despite security breaches, spies like the Walkers, incidents like the capture of the Pueblo, inadvertent leaks of classified information, and so on through a dismal list of intelligence mishaps, none of it made much difference----even if the Soviets were reading our mail, they STILL lost the Cold War! They even had the technical manuals for the 1980s KH-11 spy satellite, and they still couldn't reverse-engineer anything close to it.

Jim Williams - 7/25/2002

Not only am I a history professor. I also was an Army Signal officer in the Vietnam era who worked some with generally low-level codes, including KW-7 keylists. This essay reveals a lack of understanding of cryptography and underestimates the careful complexity of our cryptographic system. If this is the level of care which Lerner put into the rest of his book, then the book is not credible.
The Soviets' possession of the operating manual for the KW-7 and the machine itself were not disastrous compromises, nor were even the seizure of the keylists on board the U.S.S. Pueblo. There was not one universal KW-7 keylist. There were hundreds, probably thousands (my vague memory is that my index of keylists was updated bi-monthly or quarterly and was hundreds of pages long, with 30-50 codes listed per page; this may have been only the Army's codes also), with different missions and organizations having different keylists. Moreover, each specific list was good for only one day, sometimes for even shorter periods (3 hours, 6 hours, etc.). How many days of keylists did the Pueblo have? I'm not a Navy guy, but I bet it wasn't more than a month's worth at a time - and probably for a few radio nets not directly related to Vietnam. The NSA and DoD intelligence and communications personnel resist whenever possible the excessively broad use of a single key to reduce the possibility of it being compromised and the damage caused if it is compromised. In other words, they aren't dumb, despite the cliche that military intelligence is an oxymoron.
NSA knew and knows exactly who has which editions of which keylists. The NSA and DoD intelligence agencies should have and probably did immediately supersede all keylists known to have been on the Pueblo. However, that information is probably classified.
Walker's cryptographic treason was more serious, since he may have gained access to global, strategic codes, not merely naval operational intelligence codes. I don't know which codes he betrayed to the Russians, but do not underestimate the difficulty of betraying a whole lot of codes on an ongoing basis. A lot of paper is involved, and copying thousands of pages a month invited detection and arrest, while people would notice if the actual serial number accountable keylists were missing.
More dangerous than the seizure of keylists in the Pueblo, keylists which probably had a limited application, would have become obsolete quickly and were probably immediately superseded, was the possibility that the Russians, by analyzing the sequence of the characters in the keylist, could figure out the computer program which generated that specific group of keylists. That's why we had to destroy used or obsolete unused key lists carefully and thoroughly. Did the Soviets figure the computer program(s) out? Maybe the NSA or CIA knows. I sure don't - no "need to know". However, to do this required luck, great ingenuity and great computers. The Soviets had the ingenuity, but did they have the luck and the computers? Maybe some day we'll find out. If they did, however, it is a little surprising that we have not yet heard about it.