Vietnam Veterans for Factual History

Facts not myths

Cuban War Crimes Against American POWs During the Vietnam War*

By Mike Benge

Cuban officials, under diplomatic cover in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, brutally tortured and killed American POWs whom they beat senseless in a research program "sanctioned by the North Vietnamese." United States Air Force. June 1975. Special Exploitation Program for SEASIA PWs, 1967-1968. Rep. No. A10-2, Series: 700/JP-1. This was dubbed the "Cuba Program" by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the CIA, and it involved 19 American POWs (some reposts state 20). Recent declassified secret CIA and DOD intelligence documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the extent of Cuba's involvement with American POWs captured in Vietnam. A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report states that "The objective of the interrogators was to obtain the total submission of the prisoners…" CIA Memorandum From: Deputy Director for Operations For: Director, Defense Intelligence Agency. dated 28 Jan (illegible). Subj: Identification of "Fidel", Cuban Interrogator of U.S. Prisoners of War in North Vietnam.

According to former POW Air Force Colonel Donald "Digger" Odell, "two POWs left behind in the camp were 'broken' but alive when he and other prisoners were released [1973 Operation Homecoming]. … They were too severely tortured by Cuban interrogators" to be released. The Vietnamese didn't want the world to see what they had done to them." The Washington Times. Oct. 21, 1992. Ex-POW describes "broken" cellmates left in Indochina. Washington, DC{/footnote>}

POWs released during "Operation Homecoming" in 1973 "were told not to talk about third-country interrogations. …. This thing is very sensitive with all kinds of diplomatic ramifications." The Washington Star. April 3, 1973. POWs Tortured by "Fidel". Washington. DC. Hence, the torture and murder of American POWs by the Cubans was swept under the rug by the U.S. Government.

The "Cuban Program"

The "Cuban Program" was initiated around August 1967 at the Cu Loc POW camp known as "The Zoo", a former French movie studio on the southwestern edge of Hanoi. The American POWs gave their Cuban torturers the names "Fidel," "Chico," "Pancho" and "Garcia." The Vietnamese camp commander was given the name "The Lump" because of a fatty tumor growth in the middle of his forehead.

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A Book Excerpt From Mike Benge

Vietnam? Where and the hell is that?

I was just finishing my first year at Oregon State College and living as a fledgling pledge at Delta Chi Fraternity. Pledges such as myself had to follow strict dress code for different days of the week: suits - ties, slacks - sports coats - ties, slacks - dress shirts - ties, and casual, while serving dinner to the members four days a week (members had the same dress code rules). However, on Friday night (aka hell night), everyone (members and pledges) was allowed to dress super casual (some took it to the extreme such as jockstraps and “wife-beater” under-shirts; or not), and dinner was no holds barred. The presence of upperclassmen was usually low, for a great share of them were out and about doing their thing. It was an unusually hot that night for that time of the year, and the very informal dinner erupted into a water fight launched by four of us pledges; and after we had expended our supply of our water balloons, we took it outside to the lawn. There, we had set up an ambush for the few members that remained with some buckets of water, and I had commandeered a water hose to ward off an attack by the upperclassmen. By that time, both sides were soaked and covered with mud from what used to be a lawn which had turned into a swamp when someone shouted “Time out!” All at once, for some strange reason, everyone stopped in place, remaining stark-still, and there was a pause of deadly silence. Then we could hear a short-wave radio broadcast blaring from an open window on the second floor. Someone turned the radio up, and we could hear some kind of an on-site news report with a real-time battle in the background with the thunder of bombs, artillery explosions, and other dins of war.

Điện Biên Phủ

The broadcast highlighted the heroic actions of Geneviève de Galardc, a nurse and officer in the French medical service, one of 15 French female nurses who had been tending the wounded on the multiple med-evac flights out of Điện Biên Phủ but became stranded when her assigned plane was being repaired on the runway. The runway, the plane, and the airport had been all destroyed by intense anti-aircraft and artillery fire. Geneviève had been dubbed l'ange de ofĐiện Biên Phủ (the Angel of Dien Bien Phu)1 by the press and other media in Hanoi, although in the camp, she was known simply as Geneviève. At the time she was the sole “French” woman there2 and continued tending the wounded in the field hospital until the last. After a two-month siege, the garrison was overrun on May 7, 1954. The coup de grâce came when an all-out human-wave attack was launched against the remaining 3,000 French units by over 25,000 communist Việt Minh. The last words of the radio broadcaster were, "The enemy has overrun us. We are blowing up everything. Vive la France!" 3  “This is ‘…’ reporting from Điện Biên Phủ, in Northwestern Vietnam; it’s May 7, 1954!” It was a broadcast of the fall of Điện Biên Phủ -- the last bastion of the colonial French forces in Indochina, lost to the communist Vietminh and Chinese. 

The four of us who had been listening to the broadcast, almost in unison, cried out, Vietnam! Where in the hell is that? I then said I know whose radio we were listening to; it was my friend Serge’s. Let’s go, so we can find out from him where Vietnam is and took off for the second floor. Serge was sitting at his desk with a geography book in his hand when we showed up dripping wet with muddy shoes. Much to his chagrin, he invited us in, and after ensuring my hands were clean and dry, he handed it to me, already bookmarked to the section on Vietnam. Serge was a STRACK-brevet-captain in the army’s ROTC program.4 I thanked him, and we read the section on Vietnam and its location, and we got educated – it was the first time any of us had heard of it or that it was one of three countries of the French Colony of Indochina. The next day, I went to the school library to see if they had any books on Vietnam. They had none on hand; however, the librarian said if I came back in a couple of days, she might be able to find one or two that she could obtain on-loan from another library. Unfortunately, the one she had for me was written by a guy who had been on an official three-week whirl-wind tour of Indochina with five days with boots on the ground in each country in French Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.5

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The Last Battle of the Vietnam War: Mayaguez Incident

Two weeks after the fall of Saigon, on May 12, 1975, Khmer Rouge in an American-made PCF Swift gunboat seized the U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez and its crew in Cambodian waters. After the U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam and the abandonment of the three countries of former Indochina, a number of conservative politicians and intellectuals in the United States had begun to question America’s “credibility” in the international field, suggesting that this would encourage enemies around the world to challenge America with seeming impunity. The Cambodian seizure of the Mayaguez appeared to be just such a challenge. President Gerald Ford denounced the seizure as an "act of piracy" and demanded immediate release of the ship.

President Ford, goaded by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, believed that the ship’s seizure provided an opportunity for the United States “to prove that others will be worse off if they tackle us, and not that they can return to the status quo. It is not enough to get the ship’s release.” One Pentagon official told Newsweek at the time, “Henry Kissinger was determined to give the Khmer Rouge a bloody nose.” This in a way would be comparable to baseball’s traditional contemptuous gesture of kicking dirt on the umpire’s shoes after he had said, “You’re out of here!” They also wanted to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing Pueblo incident of 1968, where failure to promptly use military force to halt the capture of the U.S. intelligence ship by North Korea led to an eleven-month hostage situation.

On instructions from the President, Kissinger tried to send a message to the Chinese Liaison Office in Washington demanding the immediate release of Mayaguez and her crew; however, it was refused. Kissinger then instructed George H. W. Bush, head of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing, to deliver the note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and to pass on an oral message that “The Government of the United States demands the immediate release of the vessel and of the full crew. If that release does not immediately take place, the authorities in Phnom Penh will be responsible for the consequences.”

The SS Mayaguez

The SS Mayaguez, owned by Sea-Land Service Inc., was the first all-container U.S. flag ship in foreign trade. Beginning in 1965, the SS Mayaguez sailed a regular route for Sea-Land Services in support of American forces in Southeast Asia: Hong Kong -- Sattahip, Thailand -- Singapore. On May 7, 1975, about a week after the fall of Saigon, the Mayaguez left Hong Kong on a routine voyage carrying 107 containers of routine cargo, 77 containers of government and military cargo, and 90 empty containers -- all insured for $5 million. The exact contents of the 77 containers have never been disclosed, but the Mayaguez had loaded containers from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon just nine days before the fall of Saigon. There was speculation that some may have contained arms and ammunition. Nevertheless, during the entire incident the Khmer Rouge did not search the containers.

The crisis began on the afternoon of May 12, 1975, as the Mayaguez en route to Sattahip, Thailand, was allegedly sailing in a regular shipping lane in the Gulf of Siam about 60 miles from the coast of Cambodia, and about 8 miles from the Poulo Wai Islands.

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The Khmer Rouge: Bayon two faces instead of four - by Mike Benge

The ancient symbolic four-faced sandstone Bayon is thought by some Cambodians to represent simplicity, compassion, equanimity and wisdom, virtues lacking in those involved in the factional struggles of the communists in Cambodia. A symbolic Bayon for the Khmer Rouge would have only two faces, that of the barbaric and amoral genocidal “year zero” Pol Pot Khmer  Rouge (PP-KR), and that of the murderous Viet-Minh Khmer Rouge (VM-KR). Equanimity may have been relevant to the

Cambodian culture and society during the Ankor Wat era centuries ago, but not during the past hundred years.

The VM-KR was a mixed bag of Vietnamese NVA and VC, Khmer Krom, and other Cambodian Khmer conscripts, as well as Vietminh holdovers from the French Indochina War. All were under the command of Hanoi. Before French colonization of Indochina, the Mekong Delta was part of the greater Cambodia Empire – Kampuchea Krom (comprising a great portion of the fertile Mekong Delta) - and (what today) is Northeast Thailand. On June 4, 1949, the French formerly annexed Kampuchea Krom and made it a separate protectorate called Cochin China. After the 1954 Geneva Conference dismantled French Indochina, Kampuchea Krom (the Mekong Delta) formally became part of the Republic of Viet Nam. By that time, Kampuchea Krom was populated by large numbers of Vietnamese.

Ironically, Ho Chi Minh set conditions for future Khmer Rouge when he formed the Indochina communist party in the 1930s, and although somewhat separate, three distinct branches were structured for Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia with the Machiavellian Ho Chi Minh and his Vietnamese associates dominating. It wasn’t long before many of the Cambodians began to realize that they were being duped by their centuries’ old arch-enemy the Vietnamese, led by the manipulative Ho. His intent was to replace French Indochina colonial rule of three countries with Vietnamese communist party control. Cambodian communist party members therefore split into two factions: 1) Those who felt they owed their loyalty to Ho and his communist party after receiving political indoctrination in communist ideology and military training, remained in the North Viet Nam and became part of the Vietminh against the French. The Vietminh was a “tri-nation force” fighting the French, with Ho and his henchmen at the helm. Anyone

who showed independent nationalistic leadership characteristics were eliminated. Those Cambodians who survived Ho’s purges, and did not trust Ho and the Vietnamese, went south into the jungles of Cambodia, later to evolve and morph into the xenophobic, ground zero Pol Pot Khmer Rouge which gained support from China.

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The Making of Apocalypse Now

By Mike Benge, POW, VVFH Founding Member

The only similarity between Francis Ford Coppola’s film set-in South-East Asia and Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” set in Africa is that both had rivers winding through them and both had major characters named Kurtz. And, oh yes, Coppola copied Conrad’s style of telling stories within a story. Coppola’s 1979 film “Apocalypse Now” makes a mockery of the geography of Vietnam and Cambodia by depicting the Mekong River as running through the jungles of Northwest Cambodia. Captain Benjamin L. Willard’s, played by Martin Sheen, odyssey portrays him powering up one river and drifting down another in his relentless quest to find the reclusive Colonel Kurtz (Marlin Brando) in the heart of Cambodia and assassinate him. (Senator John Kerry would have been a great advisor for this portion of the movie, given his claimed expertise and fantasy in navigating this area in Cambodia – A figment of his imagination. What Coppola produced was an epic messy abortion regurgitated from the hallucinatory nightmare in his mind – the Vietnam War. 

Anthropologist Dr. Gerald Cannon Hickey – Gerry to his friends – was the most knowledgeable scholar on the Montagnards of the Central Highlands in Vietnam. One day Gerry received a phone call from Francis Ford Coppola’s production manager, who wanted to hire him as a consultant on that portion of his film pertaining to Montagnards. Gerry had no patience for the likes of Coppola and wanted nothing to do with his brand of movie madness; besides that, he was in the middle of writing yet another book on the Montagnards. He knew that I was on sabbatical from USAID, which had broken its contract to fund my Master’s Degree at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos, and suggested they contact me for the job, adding, “Mike knows more about the Montagnards than you’ll ever need to know.”  

They took Gerry’s suggestion and offered me the job at a salary much higher than what I was making with USAID, and sweetened the pot by providing a Crown Toyota and a chauffeur to drive me to and from the set each day. I lived near the University only a few miles away from the shooting location. I decided this would be a good break from my intense Master’s research. At first, I was intrigued by what was going on, but I soon realized it was more make-believe than any semblance of the reality of the Vietnam War, and many of the film’s so-called expert advisors were as phony as a $3 bill. 

My first encounter with this was at a humongous evening outdoor picnic-style buffet with lighted lanterns given in honor of Martin Sheen, who decided not to come to the party. I was following Coppola through the line as he described one scene involving the Montagnards. As Captain Willard is floating down a river in a boat, as, he drifts around a bend and looking through field glasses a scene evolves with a group of Montagnard men dancing around a woman giving birth. As they circle around, each, in turn, pushes on her abdomen in a ritualistic aid to help force the baby out. I asked Coppola, “Where in the hell did you get this idea? The birth of a Montagnard child is a private affair attended only by women.” He replied that his personal pilot had seen this when he was a helicopter pilot stationed in the Central Highlands. “Bullshit!” I retorted. He then told me to turn around and ask the pilot, who was standing right behind me. He was pretty impressive, a big guy, standing at least 6 foot 3 or 4, buff, and didn’t seem all that pleased with my comment. I thought to myself,” Holy shit!” Not backing down one iota, I quickly asked, “Where were you stationed?” He replied, “Pleiku.” I then asked, “What were you doing?” He replied, “I was an Army helicopter pilot.” By then Coppola was standing beside me, when I said, “I’ve three questions for you.” Coppola was listening intensely, either to what I was asking, or perhaps just waiting for a clue to what would provoke his pilot to take a poke at me. I then asked, “What was the name of the base you flew out of and what aviation company was stationed there? He hemmed and hawed, and finally said, “I can’t, a don’t, remember.” To which I emphatically said, “Strike one!” I then turned to Coppola and said, “Everyone who was there knew the name, Camp Holloway – about 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) west of Pleiku – for it was named after Chief Warrant Officer Charles E. Holloway, who in December 1962 became the first helicopter pilot killed in action. Camp Holloway was the home of the U.S. Army’s 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion.” I turned back to the pilot and asked, “If you flew out of Pleiku, what was the most distinctive visual landmark from the air?” He couldn’t seem to remember that either. I then forcefully said, “Strike two!” Again, I turned back to Coppola and told him, “The landmark was Pussy Peak. Every pilot who ever flew in Vietnam knew that. The Vietnamese called it “Dragon Mountain” (a contraction of Dragon's Mouth Mountain - Núi Hàm Rồng in Vietnamese) and the Montagnards called it Chu H’Drung. The American name came from the fact that it was shaped like a woman’s torso, with two ridges coming down taking the shape of legs cut off at the knees, with a triangle patch of trees nestled in the crotch of the mountain. It was the major landmark for the dogleg flight pattern from Saigon to Hue. I then addressed the pilot once more, “I have one last question, remember it’s ‘three strikes and you’re out.” “What was the name of the Montagnard tribe in Pleiku that was supposedly conducting this ritual?” Again, he seemed not to remember, so I prompted him with, “Was it the Cao Đài, the Hòa Hảo, or the Nung?” (None of which were Montagnard tribes in South Viet Nam, the later was a tribe for North Vietnam.)  He thought for a while and then with a stammer he emphatically replied, “The Hoa Hao, that’s it, they were called the Hoa Hao.” I ardently told the pilot, “Strike three, you’re out of here!”  Turning my back on him, I said to Coppola, “Your pilot is a liar. The Hoa Hao is a religious sect, not a Montagnard tribe, and I doubt if he was ever in Vietnam. If so, he was a REMF and got his story out of a gin bottle in some bar in Saigon.” The crowd at the buffet had grown quiet, listening to our conversation and waiting for Coppola to explode; but for some reason, he didn’t. Surprisingly, giving the devil his due, Coppola dropped the scene from the movie, nor did the pilot deck me and he kept flying for Coppola. This was my introduction to Coppola’s delusional world.  

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The Insurgent Communist Huks in the Philippines

By Michael Benge

The communist Hukbong Laban sa Hapon (Anti-Japanese Army) or simply Huks, comprised mainly of disenfranchised peasant tenant-farmers of Central Luzon, was only one of several guerrilla groups resisting the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines. The Huks were well received by the villagers and were seen as their protector from the abuses of the Japanese. There were many motivations for people to join: nationalism, empathy, survival, and revenge. Those who could not join the guerrilla army joined the underground government via its “secretly converted neighborhood associations”, called Barrio United Defense Corps. The Huks also tried to recruit beyond Central Luzon but were not as successful.

On March 29, 1942, the communist Hukbong Laban sa Hapon (Huks) was incorporated into a broad-based united front of guerrillas named the -- Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon (Hukbalahap) -- "The Nation's Army Against the Japanese"). Soon after, its representatives met with USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East) representative Colonel Thorpe at Camp Sanchez in the spring of 1942, and under this umbrella, the conferees agreed to cooperate, share equipment and supplies, with the Americans providing trainers under USAFFE’s overall command.Although the communist Huks fought the Japanese, at times, they also fought other guerrilla units under USAFFE as well as killed, pillaged and plundered other Filipino nationalists. Their methods were often portrayed by other guerrilla leaders as terrorists; for example, “Ray C. Hunt, an American who led his own band of 3000 guerrillas, said his experiences with the communist Huks were always unpleasant, they were much better assassins than soldiers.” Tightly disciplined and led by fanatics, they murdered Filipino landlords and drove others off to the comparative safety of Manila. They were not above plundering and torturing ordinary Filipinos, and they were treacherous enemies of all other guerrillas on Luzon. The initial force of 500 armed Huks was organized into five squadrons and “by late summer 1943, Huk leadership claimed to have a fully armed guerrilla force of 5,000 to 20,000 active men and women military fighters and 50,000 more in reserve. By August 1948, the Huks became a trained and experienced force, well-equipped and well-prepared for its guerrilla warfare. Their weaponry was obtained primarily by stealing it from battlefields and downed planes left behind by the Japanese, Filipinos, and Americans. The Huks also created a training school where they taught political theory and military tactics based on Marxist ideas. In areas that the group controlled, they set up local governments and instituted land reforms, dividing up the largest estates equally among the peasants and often killing the landlords.” Among the group's leaders were figurehead Luis Taruccommunist party Secretary General Jesus Lava, and Commander Hizon (Benjamin Cunanan) who aimed to lead the Philippines toward Marxist ideals and communist revolution.

After the surrender of Japan in WWII and the withdrawal of its forces from the Philippines, most of the guerrilla groups disbanded and went home, or were absorbed into the Philippine Constabulary (civilian police) or the Army. The aftermath of the liberation from Japan was characterized by chaos. The paternal relationship of the large landowners toward the tenant farmers had been virtually destroyed during the war, and life was economically unsustainable for the peasants who had joined the Huks. Moreover, the poor harvest between late 1945 to early 1946 period not only exacerbated the plight of the Huks, it also further intensified the gap between the tenants and the landlords. Added to this, the Huks being a communist-led group were considered to be disloyal and were not accorded U.S. recognition or benefits at the end of the war. Their hardships were aggravated by the hostility they experienced when the Philippine Government, following orders from the United States of America, disarmed and arrested the communist Huks. Harassment and abuses against peasant activists became common. Largely consisting of peasant farmers, the Huks feared for their lives as the USAFFE and the Philippine Constabulary (civilian police) hunted them down. In September 1946, the Huks retreated to the Sierra Madre Mountains and their guerrilla lifestyle as a response to supposed maltreatment by the government and renamed themselves Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan (HMB) or People's Liberation Army.

Although the communist Huks were only one of a plethora of guerrilla groups in the umbrella organization Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon (Hukbalahap) -- "The Nation's Army Against the Japanese"), originally formed to fight the Japanese. However, in 1946 in what became known as the Hukbalahap Rebellion, the communist Huks extended their fight into a rebellion against the Philippine Government and usurped the Hukbalahap name in an attempt to play off on its patriotic reputation and create a charade of legitimacy among the peasants. Adding to this deception, the Huks claimed that it had extended its guerrilla warfare campaign merely in search of recognition as World War II freedom fighters and former American and Filipino allies who deserved a share of war reparations. In reality, the communist Huks insurrection was but an attempt to take over the entire Philippines. The rebellion lasted for years, with huge civilian casualties.

In 1949, the Huks ambushed and murdered Aurora Quezon, Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross and widow of the Philippines' second president Manuel L. Quezon, as she was in route to her hometown for the dedication of the Quezon Memorial Hospital.  Several others were also killed, including her eldest daughter and son-in-law. This attack brought worldwide condemnation of the Hukbalahap, who claimed that the attack was done by "renegade" members.

The continuing condemnation and new post-war causes of the movement forced the Communist Party of the Philippines (PKP) in 1950 to reconstitute the organization as the armed wing of a revolutionary party and change the official name to Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) or "Peoples' Liberation Army"; likely changing it in emulation of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Notwithstanding this name change, the HMB continued to be popularly known as the Hukbalahap, and the English-speaking press and the U.S. Army command continued to refer to it and its members, interchangeably, as "The Huks" during the whole period between 1945 and 1952, and commentators have continued to do so since then.

The start of the 1950s saw the beginning of the rebellion's decline. There was general weariness among the people from years of fighting.  Many prominent Huk leaders either had died or were too old to fight, and those that remained were few. To make things worse, the villagers of Central Luzon showed signs of becoming weary of supporting them or just saw them as irrelevant. Public sympathies for the movement began waning due to their postwar attacks. The Huks carried out a campaign of raids, holdups, robbery, ambushes, murder, rape, massacre of small villages, kidnapping, and intimidation. The Huks confiscated funds and property to sustain their movement and relied on small village organizers for political and material support. Nevertheless, from Central Luzon, the Huk movement had spread to the central provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan, and in Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Laguna, Bataan, and Quezon.

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Readers note: The following was written in 2007 in response to a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times discussing American atrocities in Vietnam.  The author is a founding member of VVFH and a Vietnam Veteran and has given his permission to reproduce the article here.
The article was originally published on another (now defunct) site and included graphic photos of Viet Cong violence.
By Bill Laurie

The recent Los Angeles Times article on U.S. Military atrocities in Viet Nam should only be the beginning of a comprehensive investigation of war crimes and unwarranted brutality in Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia. This has never been done and is long over due.  Culmination of such a study would produce results not expected by the American public, misinformed as they have been about Viet Nam.

It should be noted as a preface that this Viet Nam veteran neither excuses nor justifies actual war crimes committed by American forces. I would not stand in a long line to argue any American serviceman guilty of murder should not be spending the rest of his life in Leavenworth, breaking rocks. These vile events did happen, and are inexcusable and seen as such by Viet Nam veterans themselves. I have personally heard any number of Viet Nam veterans state forthrightly that they never did or saw anything like My Lai, and that Lt. Calley should be executed as a war criminal.

That said, let's consider the report the L.A. Times examined. It reports 7 massacres resulting in 137 civilians killed, along with 78 other attacks killing 57 civilians, and 141 instances of torture. A total of 320 incidents are in the Army report, and another 500 alleged atrocities that were either unproven or were otherwise discounted. Altogether, there are 820 cited instances, and at least 194 civilians killed. These exclude My Lai so the total civilian atrocity death toll is presumably about 694. This is far less than the 36,000 Viet Namese assassinated by the communists, and that is an absolute minimum, exclusive of combat fatalities.

During the American involvement there were approximately 900 infantry platoons in Viet Nam at the high point, excluding Naval riverine, combat engineers, artillery, armor, and other units exposed to combat. These infantry platoons, excluding other unit types cited above, spent in the order of 729,000 platoon-days in the field, involving about 22 million man days in the field. In other words, 729,000 daily opportunities for platoons to commit war crimes, and a total of 22 daily million opportunities for an individual to commit an atrocity. The Army report cited by the L.A. Times suggests 820 atrocities occurred and even if these extended over a two-day period, meaning 1,640 "atrocity days," it would represent 0.22% of total platoon days, or 2 out of 1000. Most vile atrocities, even My Lai, took place in one day, so the ratio is somewhere between 1: 1,000 and 2:1,000. For individuals the incidence is similarly low. Presuming 15 people were involved with each of the 820 atrocities, and these occurred on one day, the individual atrocity-day equals 12,300, or .0006, 6 out of 10,000. If riverine, engineer, artillery and other were included, the "atrocity rate" would plunge even further. No apologies made for what might appear to be obscene McNamarian number-juggling; it is simply a means to show that barbaric behavior, as measured by the report's own data, was not a common occurrence and these disgusting examples do not come close to representing the whole. It's also called "analysis," something reporters are supposed to do, and most often do not. In the interest of honesty and historical integrity, it must be added that atrocities, per se, were not the full extent of the problem. There were simply too many, however much a minority, Americans who behaved with crass rudeness and sometimes drunken-or stoned-grotesque idiocy. The US government is culpable, as is the military, for not properly training troops on Viet Nam's intricacies(it is doubtful if many in government knew enough to teach anything) and the utmost importance of dignified and civilized behavior in dealings with the people of Viet Nam.

This was and is not a mere rhetorical statement. The Viet Namese people were and are my friends. In two instances of inexcusably rude and disgusting American behavior I physically threatened the American perpetrators with instant violent retribution; they stopped their rancid and utterly intolerable obnoxiousness. I, along with several others, also initiated an investigation of wrong-doing which we knew would destroy the career, deservedly so, of a U.S. Army "lifer" NCO whose actions were a disgrace to the uniform he wore, and to his country.

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This article is posted at the request and with the permission of its author.

The Khmer Rouge trial grinds on slowly on the outskirts of Phnom Penh largely ignored by the world and the citizens of Cambodia. As a Vietnam Veteran listening to testimony in February of 2015 describing the Maoist-inspired genocide that killed two million Cambodians, I was suddenly struck by the obvious- that the Vietnamese communists in Hanoi were just as guilty as the Khmer Rouge; after all, Ho Chi Minh and the Hanoi communists created the Khmer Rouge. And Hanoi should also be held responsible for the war crimes they committed against their own people after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Not only did the Hanoi Stalinists kill as many innocent people as the Khmer Rouge, but they are still doing it in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and the World gives them a free pass on it.

The Hanoi inspired Stalinists also forced masses of their population into 150 concentration/slave labor camps similar to what the Khmer Rouge did after April of 1975. According to R.J. Rummel in his statistics on democide, the number that Hanoi killed of their own people, and to include the Hmong in Laos and the Montagnards in Vietnam could have reached over two million from 1975 through 1987.

On a lesser scale, the communists are still doing it in Vietnam, incarcerating the Buddhist, Christian, Hoa Hao , and the Cao Dai religious leaders who still languish in prison if they don’t submit to the thought control policies of the State. And they still aggressively perpetrate an under-the -radar genocide in the Central Highlands against the Montagnard nation that had fought with the Americans in the Vietnam War. So how does Hanoi escape the scrutiny that is now applied to the five former leaders of the Khmer Rouge on trial? The answer is that they were much more clever and devious about killing large numbers of people and in a direct way, they control the outcome of the Khmer Rouge trial in Phnom Penh because they are the power behind the scenes in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

The first Khmer Rouge to be found guilty since the trial began in 2006 was Comrade Duch, the chief torturer of the notorious S-21 detention center in Phnom Penh. When the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979 and their forces entered Phnom Penh, they found the Toul Slung prison where Duch and his henchman first tortured, then obtained signed confessions from the 14,000 suspected spies and traitors who were then murdered. In the eyes of” Brother Number One”, Pol Pot, they were all guilty of being CIA agents, or were tainted and under the influence of the Hanoi-trained Khmer Rouge. Under the Orwellian nightmare the Khmer Rouge created, all the inmates were guilty because they had confessed their sins, albeit under torture, and signed their confessions under the direction of Duch.

The Hanoi Stalinists did exactly the same thing in their 150 Gulags. In 1981, Amnesty International wrote a protest letter to the Hanoi crowd demanding they release the hundreds of thousands they still held in their prison camps. Hanoi responded in Khmer Rouge fashion with a written response. “In all cases of people being sent to reeducation camps, the competent authorities have established files recording the criminal acts committed by the people concerned.”

To those they trusted, the Hanoi communists boasted in private about their bloodletting. Nguyen Cong Hoan, a member of the Buddhist antiwar opposition in the old South Vietnam and member of the National Assembly until he defected, has said, “The party leaders have told me they are very proud of their talent for deceiving world opinion. We’re worse than Pol Pot they joke, but the outside world knows nothing.”

There are many peculiarities connected to the trial that outside observers are unaware. Yes, a Khmer Rouge trial in a country governed by a former Khmer Rouge Commander put into power by the Vietnamese when they invaded Cambodia in 1979. Prime Minister Hen Sen is still in power after 40 years assisted by many former Khmer Rouge leaders and soldiers who run the country today serving in the Army and Police that run the dictatorship there. He is assisted by Vietnamese “advisors” who can be found at every level of the Cambodian government. Hun Sen controls the trial and he has limited the prosecutions to only five former Khmer Rouge leaders, one of whom has died, Ieng Sary, former Deputy Prime Minister, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, former Minister of Social Affairs, whose case has been dismissed because she suffers from dementia. Many believe that if any more Khmer Rouge leaders are put on trial they will rat out Hun Sen and leaders of The Cambodian Communist Party and tell of their role in the genocide in Cambodia.

Most citizens of Cambodia have lost interest in the trial because they believe it is a whitewash of the Chinese and Vietnamese involvement behind the scenes in the killing of two million Cambodians after 1975. Says Youk Chhang, survivor of the genocide and executive director of the documentation center at Toul Slung Prison, “China was there with the prison guards and all the way to the top leaders. “ Cambodians today refer to Prime Minister Hun Sen as a man with a Cambodian body with a Vietnamese mind.

After years of negotiation with the United Nations, Hun Sen allowed the establishment of a new Cambodian court that included international judges and staff. The trial is a hybrid concoction of international judges controlled by a majority of Cambodian judges of questionable judicial skills appointed by Hun Sen to try only the five former leaders and not go beyond that.

So now there are only two old leaders of the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge left, Nuan Chea, former Deputy of the Communist party, and Khieu Samphan, former head of state for Democratic Kampuchea, both who face life behind bars without parole. Samphan and Chea, both in their 80’s, face additional charges of crimes against humanity. What the five former leaders have in common, is that they were trained in France by the French communist party (co-founded by Ho Chi Minh) in the 1950s before going back to start the revolution in Cambodia. What is lesser known, and this is what the defense lawyers are trying to bring out at the trial, is that there was a 4000- member Vietnamese faction of the Khmer Rouge trained in Hanoi and that a civil war broke out between the two factions, causing many of the Cambodian deaths. The Vietnamese faction of the Khmer Rouge run Cambodia today, countering the argument that the domino theory was a US concocted theory.

During the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh, masquerading as patriotic nationalist, but whose first allegiance was to international communism and the communist party, on orders from Moscow set up a powerful and highly secret organization in Cambodia staffed by Vietnamese to run revolutionary affairs in Laos and Cambodia. The North Vietnamese Army hiding in Ratanakiri Province in the Eastern Cambodia on the Ho Chi Trail, helped train Khmer Rouge guerillas and in actuality fought many of their battles against the American- backed Lon Nol regime. Hanoi trained and maintained three divisions (the 5th, 7th and 9th), often referred to as the Vietnamese Khmer Rouge divisions, fighting Cambodian government forces in the Eastern Zone of Cambodia. After the American congress ignobly abandoned their South Vietnamese allies in April of 1975, the iron lid of communism clamped down on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and the killing began in all three countries out of sight and out of mind.

To insure that Khmer Nationalism would not override Vietnamese interest in Cambodia, Le Duc Tho, the North Vietnamese communist party official who refused the Nobel Prize, was sent south to set up an organization to control Hanoi’s trained agents in Cambodia. In January 1979, a Vietnamese army of one hundred thousand troops with a token Cambodian force overthrew the Khmer Rouge and installed their carefully groomed former Khmer Rouge officer, Hun Sen who is still in power today. Hun Sen had fled from Eastern Cambodia to Vietnam, along with a number of other junior leaders of the Khmer Rouge and their soldiers, rather than be killed by the Pol Pot faction.

In November of 1978, Tho invited Hun Sen to Saigon, along with 7 other former junior leaders to prep them for the overthrow of Cambodia. After the fall of Phnom Penh in early 1979, this group was flown to Phnom Penh on a captured American DC -3 along with Tho to set up the new government.

The Vietnamese invasion army with the token Cambodian force was trained at a former American army base at Xuan Loc just across the border in Vietnam. Le Duc Tho and Col Bui Tin, an information specialist who was rewarded by Hanoi by being allowed to retire in the West, spent several years in Cambodia to insure that the Vietnamese communists dominated all levels of the new Cambodian government from top to bottom. Russian KGB and Eastern German Stasi personnel provided them direction on how to set up and control a government in police state fashion, just as they did in Vietnam, which holds true today.

In the handout literature to visitors at the trial, it is stated that one of the goals is to build a culture that will prevent the recurrence of such crimes as genocide occurring elsewhere. While the trial was in session in February of 2015, over a hundred Montagnards escaped into Cambodia from the Central Highlands of Vietnam fleeing ethnic genocide by their Vietnamese oppressors. Their goal was to meet with UNHCR representatives so they could present their cases as legitimate refugees fleeing religious/ethnic persecution.

Apparently the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam have ignored the lessons of the War Crimes trial because the current Cambodian government has tried to block the UNHCR representative, Wan-Hea Lee from meeting the Montagnards who were hiding in the jungle in Ratanakiri Province. She was able to rescue 13 of them for the UNHCR before being blocked by Cambodian police/military, preventing them from rescuing any more. This is in direct defiance of the United Nations International refugee law which both countries have pledged to honor. The Montagnards fear for their lives if they are captured and sent back to Vietnam where they will disappear in a prison gulag specially designed for Montagnards who choose to practice their Christian religion in their own homes.,

While this writer was in Ban Lung , Ratanakiri, in February, the Cambodian Police/Military used hunting dogs to track down the Montagnards hiding in the jungle in O’Yadow district. One Jarai villager reported, “The Montagnards told me they fled from Vietnam because the authorities threatened to kill them because they were practicing Christianity. They begged me to help them because they told me they would be killed if I refused.”

One Jarai acquaintance told this writer that to frighten the local Jarai Montagnards, the Cambodian police threatened local villagers that they would kill the Vietnam Montagnards if they found them and they would kill the UN if they showed their cowardly faces.” It is against Cambodian law to give food and shelter to the fleeing refugees from Vietnam. The Hun Sen regime has refused to allow UNHCR to meet with escaping Montagnards hiding in the forests.

What’s it like in the Central Highlands today where the Montagnards have suffered since the fall of Saigon in 1975? Their rich land has been taken from them by the Northern communist conquerors, those who resisted were either killed or imprisoned, former military leaders and public officials were executed right after the war, just like the Khmer Rouge did to the former Lon Nol soldiers, and the oppression continues to this very moment.

The secret police in the Highlands, deny all access to outside visitors, even the UNHCR last year. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt reported after his visit to Vietnam in July of 2014, “The rights and freedom of religion are grossly violated in the face of constant surveillance, intimidation, harassment, and persecution. “ Mr. Bielefeldt was closely monitored by “undeclared security or police agents” to prevent him from traveling in the Central Highlands where the Montagnards call their traditional homeland. He said he was “outraged” by the intimidation, police interrogations and even physical injuries of some of his interlocutors during and after his visit.

According to human rights advocate Mike Benge, former POW, he received a dated list of 344 Montgnard political prisoners from the Jarai tribal group in Gia Lai province who are languishing in prisons and jails under horrendous conditions. (The list does not contain the names of hundreds of others from the numerous Montagnard tribes that have also imprisoned for their Christian beliefs.) The Khmer Rouge are being prosecuted for such war crimes of genocide against the Muslin Cham population and the world is outraged but the Hanoi monsters get a free pass from the World media and Western governments.

In conversation recently with a former Montagnard interpreter who spent 7 years in a prison camp after the war, he describes a large prison camp in the middle of Gia Lai province south of Pleku where Montagnard Christians are taken to “disappear” never to be heard from again. Their crimes are minor offenses such as using the internet, owning a cell phone, or attending a house church.

The US State Department secretly ordered their people in Vietnam to ignore and play down the human rights abuses so Vietnam could be taken off the Religious of Particular Concern List that allowed them to become a member of the world trade association. But a Wikileaks document released several years later caught the US State Department in their despicable actions against the Montagnards who had helped the Americans fight the Vietnam War. Holding hands also with the communist liars and perpetrators of War Crimes was Ellen Sauerbrey , State Department Official responsible for refugees and migration, who in 2007 said she believed the communist officials in Hanoi when they told her the Montagnards enjoyed religious freedom, were not being persecuted and could travel freely to the US Consulate in Saigon and to the United States.

The Khmer Rouge trial of the five old leaders can be viewed as a smoke screen to cover the past and ongoing human rights abuses in the three Indochina countries of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia-all currently controlled and ruled by sleight of hand by the Hanoi communist party. The perpetrators of the Indochina genocide skate free in Vietnam as well as China who had their advisors with the Khmer Rouge at all levels. Pol Pot visited his allies in Beijing at the height of the cultural revolutions where cities and educated people were viewed as evil. He also learned the importance of purges from his close association with the Chinese leaders who designed the Cultural Revolution for Mao that killed 35 million people.

Other war crimes charged against the Khmer Rouge were the establishment of people’s courts where thousands were executed without trial and the forced removal from the cities of hundreds of thousands of people into labor camps where they were worked unmercifully with little food and medical care where 2 million Cambodians died. The educated Cambodians, the doctors, civilian officials, former soldiers were executed and all else who couldn’t work like an animal in the killing fields.

The Hanoi thugs did just the same thing. After their takeover of the South, the front line peasant soldiers in the North Vietnamese Army discovered their masters had lied to them in the North when they discovered their Southern Vietnamese brothers had been living in luxury compared to the peasants back home. Hastily contrived people’s courts exacted their revenge by executing 100,000 former South Vietnamese government officials and military officers.

The Hanoi conquerors then imprisoned over a million South Vietnamese in 150 prison camps which they euphemistically called “reeducation camps.” Those Vietnamese on the wrong side in the war went there to discover the error of their ways and to learn silly Marxist doctrine taught to them by barely literate cadre in exact parallel to what the Khmer Rouge were doing at that time. A trick the communists used to hide the death count was to let the families of those prisoners close to death come to take them home where they would die out of sight denying they caused their death with their inhuman brutality.

In an interview with famous South Vietnamese General Le Minh Dao in 2005, he stated that there were more than a million South Vietnamese in concentration camps after the war where 250,000 died of starvation, forced labor, with no access to even the most basic health care. One of the real heroes of the Vietnam War and for all Vietnamese to emulate, Dao spent 17 years in one of these camps, ten of the years locked in a cage. The Hanoi oppressors knew how to collect their blood debt.

One Western journalist, Jean Lacouture, an apologist for the communists and against the American war effort in South Vietnam, changed his mind when he was allowed a visit back in Vietnam in 1976. He traveled by car from Hanoi to Saigon. “I visited a new economic zone”, he said. “It was a prefabricated hell-a place one comes to only if the alternative would be death.”

What Lacouture described was the exact replica of the Khmer Rouge slave labor camps that starved and killed two million people which the prosecutors have charged the Khmer Rouge with for their War Crimes trial. A reeducation camp was where prisoners moved huge mounds of dirt in baskets on starvation diets with no access to any type of medical care that caused the death of millions of people. That’s what the communists brought to Southeast Asia, destroying their own cultures following the doctrines of Stalin and Mao Ts Tung.

Yet the Vietnamese communists still cling to these old doctrines to control the people of Southeast Asia. If one visits their war museums, the ones near the border at Loc Ninh where their B 2 headquarters was located, and also the one next to the COSVN headquarters northeast of Tay Ninh, there are no pictures of Vietnamese nationalists there. The walls of the museums are covered with large framed photos of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Che Guevara, East German communist leaders, but no Vietnamese nationalists because they were viewed as enemies of the State purged by the international communist, Ho Chi Minh.

South Vietnamese President Thieu in 1972, speaking not far from where these two museums were to be located after 1975, issued the following statement praising the heroic soldiers of the South who had won the famous Battle of An Loc in 1972, “The Binh Long victory is not a victory of South Vietnam over Communist North Vietnam only, the BInh Long victory is also a victory of the Free World over the theory of people’s war and the revolutionary war of world Communism.”

The Khmer Rouge old men are also being charged with genocide against the Muslim Cham population where their leaders were hunted down and whole villages of people executed suspected as being enemies of the revolution. In like fashion, the Hanoi communists from the North who trained the Pathet Lao army force- marched 350,000 Laotians who were former soldiers, civilian officials, and especially the ethnic Hmong race that fought with the Americans into prison camps. The prisoners were overworked with little food or medical supplies, and the forced relocation of people into these prison camps fall within the definition of crimes against humanity as described by the Geneva Convention of 1949. The guards and prison officials at these camps were comprised of 60,000 North Vietnamese soldiers.

In Eastern Laos, the traditional homeland of the Hmong, those who couldn’t escaped to Thailand and wouldn’t come down from their mountain homes as they were ordered, had chemical weapons dropped on them by the North Vietnamese Army. These war crimes are described in Jane Hamilton -Meritt’s book, “Tragic Mountains”. Over 100,000 died in the Laos killing fields hidden from the world.

Thousands more Hmong were hunted down and killed in their jungle homes as the North Vietnam oppressors basically annexed eastern Laos for their economic exploitation. . French photographer, Yves Michel Dumont, captured during the heroic battle of An Loc where the South Vietnamese fought valiantly and eventually defeated the North Vietnamese army, went to Laos in the early 1990’s to document the killing of the innocent Hmong, but to his amazement he discovered that the World Media was not interested in atrocities committed by the Vietnamese communists. Read to the end to find out why the World turned a blind eye to the Vietnamese communist holocaust.

Estimates range between 250,000 to 500,000 Vietnamese boat people died fleeing the workers’ paradise created by the communists. The international Vietnamese community who fled to freedom in the West, have seen the work of the Hanoi oppressors up close and describe it in exact words, “The Khmer Rouge communists kill openly and display their results openly. The Vietnamese kill silently and slowly and hide their results.”

So why is there no outrage in the world about the Vietnamese holocaust the Vietnamese communists perpetrated against their own people? The first reason as has been discussed is that they were much more clever and devious about how they killed their citizens to extract revenge and maintain control.

The second reason they have escaped War Crimes recognition is that those who opposed the American war effort to back the South Vietnamese in the Vietnam War, and that includes the dominant media culture at that time and most of all academia in the world, supported a communist victory during the Vietnam War. The anti-war crowd in America has a blind spot about examining the killing fields in Vietnam and Laos. A close examination of the war reporting at the time one would discover very little attention to Communist policy in South Vietnam of terror, torture, and murder that the Viet Cong used on a daily basis to control the peasants, and an obsession by such reporters as Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam in magnifying every shortcoming of the old South Vietnamese army and government. After the fall of Saigon, it was discovered that these two famous reporters had been heavily influenced by the high- level North Vietnamese spy Pham Xuan An, who put on his Colonel’s uniform after the War.

An honest examination of the Vietnam War would depict how the Left in America and the World failed to distinguish between the authoritarian regime of old South Vietnam, and the Stalinist inspired North Vietnam that unleashed a hell on earth to the peasants and those left behind that included torture, executions, and mass murder.

The world view of the Left, which still rests comfortably in the halls of academia, is that the indifference to the spread of communism is perfectly acceptable from a moral and political point of view. The naïve leftists living the comfortable life in the tenured halls of academia, pictured themselves as the champions of the peasant by cheer leading for the anti-war movement in America. But they have forgotten to ask the Vietnamese and Cambodian peasants how they felt about their communist liberators who enslaved them and murdered their family members. This simply proves that every refugee who escaped from the Indochina countries with his/her life is smarter than the Western intellectual.

The left would just as soon the world not remember their support of the Khmer Rouge and the Ho Chi Minh communists during the Vietnam War. It is clear that the Ho Chi Minh crowd chanting “Let’s give peace a chance”, share much of the blame for the killing of all those innocent people in South East Asia. They were putting into practice the end results of communist revolutionary warfare just like the Khmer Rouge.

Another famous Vietnamese General, Ly Tong Ba, the hero of Kontum, who spent 13 years in a prison camp, tells the truth about what happened after the fall. “Who did the communists liberate when they conquered the South? They enslaved the people and operated revenge camps for years. Today their policies would be called terrorism because they murdered our teachers and killed our village chiefs. They ruled by torture to control the peasants.”

Generals Ba and Dao, are the real heroes and leaders of the Vietnamese people, but they have been written out of the history books and the cemeteries of their soldiers have been bull dozed out of existence by the Hanoi conquerors.

One is struck by the anomaly that Hanoi’s leaders following the policies of communism killed more of their own people after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 than were North Vietnamese/Viet Cong and South Vietnamese soldiers killed during the entire Vietnam War. One never hears at the Khmer Rouge trial, that it was the doctrines of communism that the Khmer Rouge were following, and that the Vietnamese communists are still following today to suppress their people.

And who was fighting against this evil and the enemies of mankind? It was the South Vietnamese and American soldiers, the real heroes in the South East Asian holocaust, forgotten for their valiant sacrifice and never once mentioned at the Khmer Rouge trial. If the Khmer Rouge were monsters, created and trained by the North Vietnamese soldiers, then wouldn’t those fighting them be viewed as the forces for good against evil?

There was more freedom in the old South Vietnam than there is in the communist controlled Vietnam today. There were independent newspapers and radio stations, and writers were given the freedom to express their thoughts openly. That’s all forgotten today where all citizens who speak their mind and advocate for human rights in Vietnam finds themselves silenced with a long prison term.

What the world needs is a War Crimes trial for the Vietnamese communists who murdered all those innocent people in Vietnam and Laos, just like their former comrades in arms, the Khmer Rouge. Those who escaped with their lives from the Vietnamese holocaust know the real horror created there which was met by complete silence by communist fellow travelers in the West, who had supported them and rooted for their victory.

The Khmer Rouge trial is a show trial for the world, and to be effective, it has to be taken out of the hands of the communist masters who control it by establishing an outside location. But why no mention of a trial for their partners in crimes against humanity, the Hanoi communists, who still enslave their own Vietnamese people and get a free pass on the crime of genocide?

The Co Van,

Rich Webster
Advisor with the Regional Forces/Popular Forces, 1968/1969 April, 2015

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