Civilian Killings Went Unpunished - Vietnam War
Civilian Killings Went Unpunished
Declassified papers show U.S. atrocities went far beyond My Lai.
By Nick Turse and Deborah Nelson Special to The Times
August 6, 2006
The men of B Company were in a dangerous state of mind. They had lost five men in a firefight the day before. The morning of Feb. 8, 1968, brought unwelcome orders to resume their sweep of the countryside, a green patchwork of rice paddies along Vietnam’s central coast.
Waterboarding - Vietnam
They met no resistance as they entered a nondescript settlement in Quang Nam province. So Jamie Henry, a 20-year-old medic, set his rifle down in a hut, unfastened his bandoliers and lighted a cigarette.
Just then, the voice of a lieutenant crackled across the radio. He reported that he had rounded up 19 civilians, and wanted to know what to do with them. Henry later recalled the company commander’s response:
Kill anything that moves.
Henry stepped outside the hut and saw a small crowd of women and children. Then the shooting began.
Moments later, the 19 villagers lay dead or dying.
Back home in California, Henry published an account of the slaughter and held a news conference to air his allegations. Yet he and other Vietnam veterans who spoke out about war crimes were branded traitors and fabricators. No one was ever prosecuted for the massacre.
Now, nearly 40 years later, declassified Army files show that Henry was telling the truth — about the Feb. 8 killings and a series of other atrocities by the men of B Company.
Among the substantiated cases in the archive:
• Seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died.
• Seventy-eight other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.
• One hundred forty-one instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.
The Vietnam War Crimes Working Group Files is a collection of formerly secret documents compiled by Pentagon investigators in the early 1970s, confirming that atrocities by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War were more extensive than had been officially acknowledged. The documents are housed by the United States National Archives and Records Administration. They detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by United States Army investigators — not including the 1968 My Lai Massacre…