Hoi An & My Son (... near Mi Lai) the incidental Tourist of History

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November 24th 2015
Published: December 24th 2015
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We took a late day flight to Da Nang; arriving at dusk, so missed seeing it in the light. Da Nang was larger and more spread out than we originally thought; with lots of hotels and larger resorts along the beach.

We had book a nice French Vietnamese colonial hotel in Hoi An. The old city is the tourist centre with busy and vibrant fresh fish and produce markets along the river with surrounding newer urban expansion away from the old town centre and market river areas. The old town centre caters to the tourist trade with some good quality shops and restaurants. Night sees the traditional lanterns lighting the shop fronts. We were lucky to be there during the full moon festival with residence and shop owners on the street displaying and burning offerings to their ancestors in the harvest moon.

My Son is an interesting old crumbling red brick Cheam temple city ruins dating from the 400 to the 1000 AD; settled for hundreds of years of continuous temple building in red clay bricks cemented together with a resinous glue. During the US invasion My Son temple area was also used as a Viet Cong base and was heavily damaged by US bombing and fire fights. Evidenced by bomb craters; bombs on display and bullet holes in some of the ruins. We heard it mentioned that My Son is also close to the Village of Mi Lai; which is an infamous mistake by the US military that saw the massacre of a Village of Vietnamese blamed for being Viet Cong ...

I Can’t write this better than a journalist so below this is a quote from “The American War, Did the US commit crimes against humanity during the Vietnam War? The World Weekly” Oct 2014.

Unfortunately; war is hell; it makes people do the unthinkable, that haunt us there after; this was a day; in a War, of many days and many years … pictures are evidence of haunting images; journalists relay the events as they unfolded …(DN Dec2015).

“The My Lai massacre stands out as one of the more notorious atrocities carried out by a US platoon over the course of the war. It took place in March 1968 when American soldiers entered the village of Son My, firing upon people working in rice fields without any provocation. The soldiers set about rounding up the villagers - mostly women, children and elderly people - into three large ditches and began killing them. The men took a lunch break by the ditch, but the killing didn’t end until a US helicopter landed and its crew threatened to fire on the marines.

By that point more than 500 unarmed civilians from the hamlets of My Lai and My Khe had been killed. Women were gang-raped and children were shot as they fled. There was a cover-up of the massacre within the US military and it was reported that the majority killed were NLF insurgents while just 22 were civilians. The secret eventually got out thanks to the efforts of war veteran Ron Ridenhour, who had been disturbed by what he had heard about the massacre, and the story was broken by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in late 1969.

An investigation followed soon after and 26 soldiers were brought to trial to face charges. Only one, Lieutenant William Calley, was found guilty (of killing 22 villagers) and sentenced to life in 1971. At the trial Mr. Calley had insisted he had only been “following orders”. Mr. Calley would serve three years under house arrest before being pardoned by President Nixon in 1974.

In a separate case Former US Senator Bob Kerrey confessed in 2001 to leading the swift boat raid on the village of Thanh Phong in 1969. Just like Son My, the village fell under a free-fire zone and the troops were searching for an NLF leader. According to Mr. Kerrey, the unit was fired upon from the village and swiftly retaliated. A total of 21 people were killed in the village and only one person survived. Bob Kerrey told Dan Rather on CBS: “I was expecting to find Viet Cong soldiers with weapons, dead. Instead I found women and children.” He then added “I don’t have any doubt that the people that we killed were at the very least sympathetic to the Viet Cong. And at the very most, were supporting their efforts to kill us.”

The Vietnamese side of the story reads differently however. The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City has a display on the deaths of the villagers. It reads:

From 8pm to 9pm February 25th, 1969, a group of Seal Rangers (one of the most selective rangers of US Army) led by Lieutenant Bob Kerrey reached for Hamlet 5, Thanh Phong Village, Thanh Phu District, Ben Tre Province. They cut 66 year-old Bui Van Vat and 62 year-old Luu Thi Canh’s necks and pulled their three grandchildren out from their hiding place in a drain and killed two, disembowelled one. Then, these rangers moved to dug-outs of other families, shot dead 15 civilians (including three pregnant women), disembowelled a girl. The only survivor was a 12-year-old girl named Bui Thi Luom who suffered a foot injury.

Bob Kerrey was awarded a medal of honour.”

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