The Huế Massacre (Vietnamese: Thảm sát tại Huế Tết Mậu Thân, or Thảm sát Tết Mậu Thân ở Huế, lit. translation: "Tết Offensive Massacre in Huế") is the name given to the summary executions and mass killings perpetrated by the Việt Cộng (VC) and People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) during their capture, occupation and later withdrawal from the city of Huế during the Tết Offensive, considered one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.
The Battle of Huế began on January 31, 1968, and lasted a total of 26 days. During the months and years that followed, dozens of mass graves were discovered in and around Huế. Victims included women, men, children, and infants. The estimated death toll was between 2,800 and 6,000 civilians and prisoners of war, or 5–10% of the total population of Huế. The Republic of Vietnam released a list of 4,062 victims identified as having been either murdered or abducted. Victims were found bound, tortured, and sometimes buried alive. Many victims were also clubbed to death.
A number of U.S. and South Vietnamese authorities as well a number of journalists who investigated the events took the discoveries, along with other evidence, as proof that a large-scale atrocity had been carried out in and around Huế during its four-week occupation. The killings were perceived as part of a large-scale purge of a whole social stratum, including anyone friendly to American forces in the region. The Massacre at Huế came under increasing press scrutiny later, when press reports alleged that South Vietnamese "revenge squads" had also been at work in the aftermath of the battle, searching out and executing citizens that had supported the communist occupation. In 2017, Ben Kiernan described the massacre as "possibly the largest atrocity of the war."
|Location||Huế, Thừa Thiên-Huế Province of South Vietnam|
|Date||January 30 - February 28, 1968|
|Target||Civilians and prisoners of war|
|Deaths||2,800 – 6,000|
|Perpetrators||Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army|
The Viet Cong set up provisional authorities shortly after capturing Huế in the early hours of January 31, 1968. They were charged with removing the existing government administration from power within the city and replacing it with a "revolutionary administration." Working from lists of "cruel tyrants and reactionary elements" previously developed by Viet Cong intelligence officers, many people were to be rounded up following the initial hours of the attack. These included Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) soldiers, civil servants, political party members, local religious leaders, schoolteachers, American civilians and other international people. Cadres called out the names on their lists over loudspeakers, ordering them to report to a local school. Those not reporting voluntarily were hunted down.
The communists' actions were based on a series of orders issued by the High Command and the PRG. In a 3500-page document issued on January 26, 1968, by the Trị-Thiên-Huế Political Directorate, the political cadres were given specific instructions::28 'Operating in close support of the regular military and guerrilla elements, the political cadre were to: destroy and disorganize the Republic of Viet Nam's (RVN's) administrative machinery "from province and district levels to the city wards, streets, and wharves;" motivate the people of Huế to take up arms, pursue the enemy, seize power, and establish a revolutionary government; motivate (recruit) local citizens for military and "security" forces .. transportation and supply activities, and to serve wounded soldiers . . . ;" "pursue to the end (and) punish spies, reactionaries, and "tyrants" and "maintain order and security in the city".
Another section, dealing with Target Area 1 ("the Phu Ninh ward") read: ""Annihilate all spies, reactionaries, and foreign teachers (such as Americans and Germans) in the area. Break open prisons. Investigate cadre, soldiers and receptive civilians imprisoned by the enemy. Search for tyrants and reactionaries who are receiving treatment in hospitals":29–30 The orders for Target Area 2 ("the Phu Vinh ward") were similar; "Annihilate the enemy in the area...Rally the Buddhist force to advance the isolation of reactionaries who exploit the Catholics of Phu Cam".:30 The orders for Target Area 3 ("the wharves along the An Cuu River and from Truong Sung to the Kho Ren Bridge") followed the same pattern; "Search for and pursue spies, tyrants and reactionaries hiding near the wharf...Motivate the people in the areas along the River to annihilate the enemy.":30 For Target Area 4 (the district including Phu Cam and the Binh Anh, Truong Giang, Truong Cuu and An Lang sections) the orders were; "Search for and pursue spies and reactionaries in the area...Destroy the power and influence of reactionary leaders...":31 For Area 1, Cell 3 was assigned the job of "Annihilation of tyrants and the elimination of traitors.":32
In June 1968, American 1st Cavalry troops captured PAVN documents that included a directive written two days before the battle began. It included the following instructions: "For the purpose of a lengthy occupation of Huế, we should immediately liberate the rural areas and annihilate the wicked GVN administrative personnel.
Specific Mission .... We must attack the enemy key agencies, economic installations, and lines of communications. We must also annihilate the enemy mobile troops, reactionary elements and tyrants.":113
On February 1, the provincial administration, having taken control of Huế, issued a directive that ordered the troops, in part,:193 "To wipe out all puppet administrative organs of the puppet Thiệu-Kỳ (President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Vice President Nguyễn Cao Kỳ) clique at all levels in the province, city and town down to every single hamlet."
On the same day, the Liberation Front radio announced, "We tell our compatriots that we are determined to topple the regime of the traitorous Thiệu-Kỳ clique and to punish and annihilate those who have been massacring and oppressing our compatriots ... we ask our compatriots to ... help us arrest all the U.S.-puppet cruel henchmen.":195
Foreign Service Officer Douglas Pike wrote that according to Viet Cong documents captured during and after the siege, members of the provincial administration were to be taken out of the city, held and punished for their "crimes against the Vietnamese people". The disposition of those who were previously in control of the city was carefully laid out, and the lists were detailed and extensive. Those in the Saigon-based-state police apparatus at all levels were to be rounded up and held outside the city. High civilian and military officials were also removed from the city, both to await study of their individual cases.:33
Ordinary civil servants who worked for "the Saigon enemy" out of necessity, but did not oppose the communists, were destined for reeducation and later employment. Low-level civil servants who had at some point been involved in paramilitary activities were to be held for reeducation, but not employed. There are documented cases of individuals who were executed by the Viet Cong when they tried to hide or otherwise resisted during the early stages of Huế's occupation.
Within days of the capture, US Marine Corps (USMC) and US Army as well as ARVN units were dispatched to counterattack and recapture the city after weeks of fierce fighting, during which the city and its outlying areas were exposed to repeated shelling and bombing. It was reported that during the USMC and ARVN attack, North Vietnam's forces had rounded up those individuals whose names it had previously collected and had them executed or sent North for "reeducation".
A large number of people had taken sanctuary from the battle in a local church. Several hundred of these people were ordered out to undergo indoctrination in the "liberated area" and told afterwards they would be allowed to return home. After marching the group south 9 kilometers, 20 of the people were separated, tried in a kangaroo court, found guilty, executed and buried. The others were taken across the river and turned over to a local Communist unit in an exchange that even included written receipts. Douglas Pike notes that, while "It is probable that the Commissar intended that their prisoners should be reeducated and returned, but with the turnover, matters passed from his control." Sometime within the following several weeks, the communists decided to kill the individuals under their control.:49
Nguyễn Công Minh, daughter of the Deputy Mayor of Huế at the time, reported that her father, who was of old age, was arrested at his home in the beginning of the Communist occupation, 3 days after he ordered his children (incl. Nguyễn Công Minh) and wife to flee via the back of their house when Communist troops first came knocking at their home. Upon telling the troops that he was Deputy Mayor of Huế who was set to retire in one year (1969), he was ordered to report to a camp for reeducation, and pack clothing and food sufficient for 10 days. He was never seen again, nor were his remains recovered. She recalled that in the search of her father's remains, she witnessed that many of the bodies she came across in the mass graves were found to be in a fetal position, with their hands tied behind their backs, and the back of the heads/skulls were smashed, indicating that they knelt on the ground prior to their deaths and they died due to blunt-force trauma to their heads.
In 1971, journalist Don Oberdorfer's book, Tet!, documented some eyewitness accounts of what happened in Huế during the PAVN/VC occupation. Pham Van Tuong, a part-time janitor for the Huế government information office who made it on the Viet Cong list of "reactionaries" for working there, was hiding with his family as the VC hunted for him. When he was found with his 3-year-old daughter, 5-year-old son and 2 nephews, the Viet Cong immediately gunned them all down, leaving their bodies on the street for the rest of the family to see.
Don Oberdorfer spent five days in late 1969 with Paul Vogle, an American English professor at Huế University, going through Huế interviewing witnesses of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong occupation. Oberdorfer classified all the killings into two categories: the planned execution of government officials and their families, political and civil servants, and collaborators with Americans; and those civilians not connected to the government who ran from questioning, who spoke harshly about the occupation, or who the occupiers believed "displayed a bad attitude" towards the occupiers.
Oberdorfer reported that on the 5th day of the Viet Cong occupation in the Catholic district of Huế, Phủ Cam, all able-bodied males over age 15, approximately 400 boys and men, who took refuge in Phủ Cam Cathedral were taken away and killed . Some had been on the VC's blacklist, some were of military age and some just looked prosperous. Oberdorfer interviewed Ho Ty, a VC commander who took part in the advanced planning of a general uprising. He reported that Ty recounted that the Communist party "was particularly anxious to get those people at Phủ Cam... The Catholics were considered particular enemies of ours." It was apparently this group whose remains were later found in the Da Mai Creek bed. The murders of 500 people at Da Mai were authorized by PRG command "on grounds that the victims had been traitors to the revolution.":85
An American veteran who was in the Huế area has written an account of his unit's march to the discovery of the bodies at Dai Mai Creek. He corroborates the information that the discovery was predicated on information revealed by three communist defectors who had witnessed the massacre. His unit provided security for the authorities who investigated and recovered the remains, and they were honored by the citizens of Huế for their efforts.
Three professors, Professor Horst-Günther Krainick, Dr. Alois Alteköster, and Dr. Raimund Discher, who taught at the Huế University's Faculty of Medicine and were members of the West German Cultural Mission, along with Mrs. Elisabeth Krainick, were arrested and executed by North Vietnamese troops during their invasion of Huế in February 1968. On April 5, 1968, the bodies of the executed professors along with many Vietnamese civilians also executed, were discovered in mass graves near Huế.
Philip W. Manhard, a U.S. senior advisor in Huế province, was taken to a POW camp by the PAVN and held until 1973. Manhard recounted that during the PAVN's withdrawal from Huế, they summarily executed anyone in their custody who resisted being taken out of the city or who was too old, too young, or too frail to make the journey to the camp.
Two French priests, Fathers Urbain and Guy, were seen being led away and suffered a similar fate. Urbain's body was found buried alive, bound hand and foot. Guy, who was 48, was stripped of his cassock and forced to kneel down on the ground where he was shot in the back of the head. He was in the same grave with Father Urbain and 18 others.
Captured in the home of Vietnamese friends, American Stephen Miller of the U.S. Information Service was bound and shot in a field behind a Catholic seminary. Courtney Niles, an American civilian working for NBC International, was killed during an attack by communist forces while in the presence of U.S. soldiers.
Alje Vennema, a Dutch-Canadian doctor who lived in Huế and witnessed the battle and the massacre, wrote The Viet Cong Massacre at Huế in 1976. He recounts numerous stories of murders. A 48-year-old street vendor, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Lao, was "arrested on the main street. Her body was found at the school. Her arms had been bound and a rag stuffed into her mouth; there were no wounds to the body. She was probably buried alive.":131 A 44-year-old bricklayer, Mr. Nguyen Ty, was "seized on February 2, 1968...His body was found on March 1st; his hands were tied, and he had a bullet wound through his neck which had come out through the mouth.":136 At Ap Dong Gi Tay "110 bodies were uncovered; again most had their hands tied and rags stuffed in their mouth. All of them were men, among them fifteen students, several military men, and civil servants, young and old.":137 "Sometimes a whole family was eliminated, as was the case with the merchant, Mr. Nam Long, who together with his wife and five children was shot at home." "Mr. Phan Van Tuong, a laborer at the province headquarters, suffered a similar fate by being shot outside his house with four of his children.":141
Vennema listed 27 graves with a total of 2,397 bodies, most of which had been executed.:129–141 He cited numerous eyewitness accounts of executions by PAVN and VC troops and described the condition of bodies found in the graves. Many had their hands tied behind their backs. Some were shot in the head. Some had rags stuffed in their mouths and had no evidence of wounds, apparently having been buried alive. Some had evidence of having been beaten. A few were identified as PAVN or VC troops killed during the battle.:129–141
Some graves were found purely by accident. A farmer working in his field tripped on a wire sticking out of the ground. He pulled on it to remove it and a skeletal hand popped out of the ground. Other graves were found when people noticed suspiciously green grass in sandy areas. The Da Mai Creek massacre was discovered after three VC defected and told authorities about the murders. An ARVN soldier on patrol south of Huế noticed a wire sticking out of the ground. Thinking it was a booby trap, he very carefully worked to uncover it. He discovered the body of an old man, his hands tied together with the wire. Two days later 130 bodies had been uncovered.
In another case,
...a squad with a death order entered the home of a prominent community leader and shot him, his wife, his married son and daughter-in-law, his young unmarried daughter, a male and female servant and their baby. The family cat was strangled; the family dog was clubbed to death; the goldfish scooped out of the fishbowl and tossed on the floor. When the Communists left, no life remained in the house.
An eyewitness, Nguyen Tan Chau, recounted how he was captured by Communist troops and marched south with 29 other prisoners bound together, in three groups of ten. Chau managed to escape and hide in the darkness just before the others were executed. From there he witnessed what happened next.
The larger prisoners were separated into pairs, tied together back to back and shot. The others were shot singly. All were dumped into two shallow graves, including those who had been wounded but were not dead.":57
Captured Viet Cong documents boasted that they "eliminated" thousands of enemy and "annihilated members of various reactionary political parties, henchmen, and wicked tyrants" in Huế.:72–78 One regiment alone reported that it killed 1,000 people. Another report mentioned 2,867 killed. Yet another document boasted of over 3,000 killed. A further document listed 2,748 executions.:73–74 A captured Viet Cong enemy document, which numerous writers cited, including Guenter Lewy in his 1980 book America in Vietnam, and Peter Macdonald's 1993 book Giap, recorded that the Communists "eliminated 1,892 administrative personnel, 38 policemen, 790 tyrants" – 2720 politically-persecuted persons in all, during the Communist occupation of the city.
The translation of an official Vietnamese campaign study of the Tet Offensive in Thừa Thiên–Huế province released by the Communists recognized that Viet Cong cadres "hunted down and captured tyrants and Republic of Vietnam military and government personnel" and that "many nests of reactionaries [...] were killed." Hundreds of others "who owed blood debts were executed." Another official history from the Communist side, "The Trị-Thiên-Huế Battlefield During the Victorious Resistance War Against the Americans to Save the Nation", recognized the widespread killings but claimed they were done by civilians who armed themselves and "rose up in a flood-tide, killing enemy thugs, eliminating traitors, and hunting down the enemy... The people captured and punished many reactionaries, enemy thugs, and enemy secret agents." However, the word "eliminate" may be a mistranslation of the word "diệt", or "loại khỏi vòng chiến đấu", and instead actually mean "destroy" or "neutralize" as in neutralizing their administrative function and eliminating of their political influence through detention, as opposed to physical liquidation.
When Trương Như Tảng was appointed Viet Cong justice minister soon after Huế, he understood this to be a critical position because the massacre had, "left us with a special need to address fears among the Southern people that a revolutionary victory would bring with it a bloodbath or reign of terror." This was because, "large numbers of people had been executed" including "captured American soldiers and several other international people who were not combatants." According to Trạng, "discipline in Huế was seriously inadequate" and "fanatic young soldiers had indiscriminately shot people, and angry local citizens who supported the revolution had on various occasions taken justice into their own hands...." The massacre was, "one of those terrible spontaneous tragedies that inevitably accompany war."
On February 4, Radio Hanoi announced, "After one hour's fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces occupied the residence of the puppet provincial Governor (in Huế), the prison and the offices of the puppet administration . . . . The Revolutionary Armed Forces punished most cruel agents of the enemy and seized control of the streets . . . rounded up and punished dozens of cruel agents and caused the enemy organs of control and oppression to crumble.":54 On Feb 14th, the Thừa Thiên-Huế People's Revolutionary Committee issued a statement that read in part,
Concerned over the country's survival and their own fate, on 31 January 1968, the Thừa Thiên-Huế people rose up holding weapons in their hands, smashed the puppet ruling apparatus from the provincial to the village and hamlet levels, and completely liberated the rural areas and the city of Huế. The enemy has suffered disastrous defeats. A number of ringleaders of the puppet administration have surrendered to the people or have been arrested and have been detained by the revolutionary forces. Except for some localities and scattered guard posts which have not yet been liquidated, the Thừa Thiên-Huế puppet administration has basically disintegrated.:196–197
An entry in a captured communist document dated Feb 22nd stated, "Troop proselyting by the VC/PAVN forces was not successful because the troops had to devote themselves to combat missions. Moreover, they were afraid of being discovered by the enemy. It was very difficult for them to handle POWs so they executed the policy of "catch and kill.":114 A February 25 captured communist document detailed some of the successes of the Special Action Company of the PAVN 6th Regiment. "We captured and exterminated thousands of people of the revolutionary network. From province to village we broke the enemy's administrative grip for the people to rise.":115
A report written immediately after the battle by a political officer of the People's Revolutionary Party listed 2,826 "administrative personnel, nationalist political party members, 'tyrants' and policemen that were killed by their troops.":7
Another document, undated, written by a senior political officer and marked "ABSOLUTE SECRET", entitled "Information On the Victory of Our Armed Forces in Huế from 31 January to 23 March 1968" was captured by the US 1st Cavalry Division on April 25, 1968.:212 – note 15 It reported on the results of the political operation.
We also killed one member of the Dai Viet Party Committee, one Senator of South Viet-Nam, 50 Quoc Dan Dang party members, six Dai Viet Party members, thirteen Can Lao Nhan Vi Party members, three captains, four 1st lieutenants, and liberated 35 hamlets with 32,000 people...We eliminated 1,892 administrative personnel, 38 policemen, 790 tyrants, six captains, two first lieutenants, 20 second lieutenants, and many NCOs.:74
The same document contained a passage that read
The people joined our soldiers in their search for tyrants, reactionaries and spies. For instance, Mrs. Xuan followed our soldiers to show the houses of the tyrants she knew, although she had only six days before given birth to a child.:72
In March 1968, in the official Hanoi press, the North reported,
Actively combining their efforts with those of the People's Liberation Armed Forces and population, other self-defense and armed units of the city of Huế arrested and called to surrender the surviving functionaries of the puppet administration and officers and men of the puppet army who were skulking. Die-hard cruel agents were punished.:191
A March 6 document written by a VC sapper unit commander recounted that his unit "participated in the killing of tyrants and the digging of trenches":112 A March 13, 1968 entry in captured documents reviewed the successes of the attack on Huế. "Enormous victory: We annihilated more than 3,000 tyrannical puppet army and government administrative personnel, including the Deputy Province Chief of Thừa Thiên.":115–116 A report written by the commander of the 6th Regiment on March 30 stated that they had captured thousands of "local administrative personnel, puppet troops, and cruel tyrants" and successfully "annihilated members of various reactionary political parties, henchmen, and wicked tyrants." It also stated that they had "killed 1,000 local administrative personnel, spies and cruel tyrants.":73
On April 26, 1968, Hanoi, reacting to the discovery of graves in Huế, announced that the people murdered by their troops were, "hooligan lackeys who had incurred blood debts of the Huế compatriots and who were annihilated by the Front's Armed Forces in the early spring of 1968.":191 On April 27, 1969, Radio Hanoi criticized authorities in Huế and South Vietnam, stating,
In order to cover up their cruel acts, the puppet administration in Huế recently played the farce of setting up a so-called committee for the search for burial sites of the hooligan lackeys who had owed blood debts to the Tri-Thien-Huế compatriots and who were annihilated by the Southern Armed Forces and people in early Mau Than spring.:191–192
A cadre diary captured by 1st Cavalry Division troops contained an entry that read:
The entire puppet administrative system from hamlet to province was destroyed or disintegrated. More than 3,000 persons were killed. The enemy could never reorganize or make up for his failure. Although he could immediately use inexperienced elements as replacements, they were good for nothing.:73
In December 1968 the Huế City People's Revolutionary Party Central Committee released a summary of the Party's accomplishments during Tet. The summary included the following statement: "Thousands of tyrants were killed. Many reactionary factions and organizations were exterminated.":7
That same month, Don Oberdorfer reported,
Ho Ty was arrested by the government police on Sept. 4 this year. At the time of his arrest, he was party secretary for a section of Huế city...Ho Ty reported that the part of the plan from higher headquarters was to destroy the government machinery of Huế and the people who made it work.....He said the killings were planned and executed by a separate group in charge of security.
In 1987, at a Hanoi conference to discuss the history of the Tet offensive, Colonel General Tran Van Quang, one of the commanders of the Huế operation, assessed the strengths and weaknesses of his forces, citing as one of their strengths:
We resolutely carried out the orders and fulfilled the requirements set out for us by the High Command. We motivated our cadre, soldiers, and the civilian population through the use of the slogans, 'Tri-Thien fights for Tri-Thien and for the entire nation,' and 'Heroically and resolutely conduct attacks and uprisings.'
In February 1988 Vietnamese Communist leaders admitted "mistakes" were made in Huế. Col Nguyen Quoc Khanh, commander of part of the forces that took over Huế stated that "There was no case of killing civilians purposefully.....Those civilians who were killed were killed accidentally, in cross fire." But he admitted "some rank and file soldiers may have committed individual mistakes." However, in an internal document discussing the 1968 Tet offensive in Hue, General (Tổng) Hồ Trung wrote, referring to the Giá Hơi section, that "These forces hunted down and killed enemy thugs, reactionaries, and puppet policemen" and that they "cleaned out....nests of Catholic reactionaries."
A first summary was published for the U.S. Mission in Vietnam by Douglas Pike, then working as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Information Agency in 1970. Pike identified three distinct phases for the executions in Huế. In a report published in 1970, The Viet Cong Strategy of Terror, the U.S. Information Agency analyst Douglas Pike wrote that at least half of the bodies unearthed in Huế revealed clear evidence of "atrocity killings: to include hands wired behind backs, rags stuffed in mouths, bodies contorted but without wounds (indicating burial alive).":47 Pike concluded that the killings were done by local VC cadres and were the result of "a decision rational and justifiable in the Communist mind.".:52 The three phases are as follows:
After the Battle of Huế, between 1968 and 1969 a total of almost 2,800 bodies were recovered from mass graves, with 4 major mass grave finds.
In Bùi Tín's 2002 memoir, From Enemy to Friend: a North Vietnamese perspective on the war, the former PAVN Colonel acknowledged that executions of civilians did occur in Huế. However, he added that under the intensity of the American bombardment, discipline of the troops disintegrated. The "units from the north" had been "told that Huế was the stronghold of feudalism, a bed of reactionaries, the breeding ground of Cần Lao Party loyalists who remained true to the memory of former South Vietnamese president Ngô Đình Diệm and of Nguyễn Văn Thiệu's Democracy Party." Tin explained that over 10,000 prisoners were taken at Huế, with the most important of them sent to North Vietnam for imprisonment. When U.S. Marines launched their counterattack to retake the city, Communist troops were instructed to move the prisoners with the retreating troops. According to Tín, in the "panic of retreat," the company and battalion commanders shot their prisoners "to ensure the safety of the retreat."
Marilyn B. Young disputes the "official figures" of executions at Huế. While acknowledging that there were executions, she cites freelance journalist Len Ackland, who was at Huế, who estimated the number to be somewhere between 300 and 400.
Ngo Vinh Long claims that 710 people were killed by the communists. In an interview he stated, "Yeah, there was a total of 710 persons killed in the Huế area, from my research, not as many as five thousand, six thousand, or whatever the Americans claimed at that time, and not as few as four hundred as people like some of the people in the peace movement here claim...."
The Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci reported that "In the last few days the Vietcong lost their heads and did nothing but make reprisals, kill, punish". But citing a French priest she spoke to in Huế, she also claimed that the death toll of up to 8,000 included deaths due to American bombardment, and at least 200 people, and perhaps as many as 1,100, who were killed following the liberation of Huế by the US and ARVN forces. Stanley Karnow wrote that the bodies of those executed by South Vietnamese teams were thrown into common graves. Some reports alleged that South Vietnamese "revenge squads" had also been at work in the aftermath of the battle, searching out and executing citizens that had supported the communist occupation.
Historian David Hunt posited that Douglas Pike's study for the U.S. Mission was, "by any definition, a work of propaganda". In 1988 Pike said that he had earlier been engaged in a conscious "effort to discredit the Vietcong".
In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, historian Gareth Porter stated that there was little evidence that the Communists carried out more than "several hundred" political executions and revenge killings in Huế, with only U.S. official assertions identifying all of over 2,800 bodies found as "victims of Communist executions". He alleged that the site of one set of mass graves was also the site of a major battle in which some 250 Communist troops were reported killed in U.S air strikes, and that Saigon's minister of health, after visiting burial sites, said the bodies could have been Communist soldiers killed in battle. He dismissed Douglas Pike's claim that there were Communist blacklists of students and intellectuals to be killed as unsupported by interviews and captured Communist documents.
Historian James Willbanks concluded that "We may never know what really happened at Huế, but it is clear that mass executions did occur". According to Stanley Karnow, "Balanced accounts have made it clear, however, that the Communist butchery at Huế did take place—perhaps on an even larger scale than reported during the war." Ben Kiernan's 2017 history of Vietnam acknowledges that "thousands" were killed at Huế in "possibly the largest atrocity of the war."
Reports of the Massacre had a profound impact on the South Vietnamese for many years after the Tet Offensive, with an anticipation of a bloodbath following any North Vietnamese takeover, like the one in Huế. Novelist James Jones, in a New York Times article wrote, "Whatever else they accomplished, the Huế massacres effectively turned the bulk of the South Vietnamese against the Northern Communists. In South Vietnam, wherever one went, from Can Tho in the delta to Tay Ninh to Kontum in the north, and of course in Huế, the 1968 Tet massacres were still being talked about in 1973."
Anticipation of a bloodbath was a major factor in the widespread panic and chaos across South Vietnam when North Vietnam executed their 1975 Spring Offensive, and the panic culminated in the disintegration and defeat of South Vietnamese military forces, and the fall of the Republic of Vietnam on April 30, 1975. Today, the Massacre remains unrecognized and entirely ignored in the Vietnamese communist government's War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnamese Government still does not acknowledge that a massacre took place and does not allow any public dissent from this position.
The 1975 Spring Offensive (Vietnamese: Chiến dịch Mùa Xuân 1975) or officially known as The General Offensive and Uprising of the Spring 1975 (Vietnamese: Tổng Tiến công và Nổi dậy Mùa Xuân 1975) was the final North Vietnamese campaign in the Vietnam War that led to the capitulation of South Vietnam. After the initial success capturing Phước Long Province, the North Vietnamese leadership increased the scope of the People's Army of Vietnam's (PAVN) offensive and captured and held the key Central Highlands city of Buôn Ma Thuột between March 10 and 18. These operations were intended to be preparatory to launching a general offensive in 1976.
Following the attack on Buôn Ma Thuôt, the South Vietnamese realized they were no longer able to defend the entire country and ordered a strategic withdrawal from the Central Highlands. The retreat from the Central Highlands, however, was a debacle as, under fire, civilian refugees fled with soldiers, mostly along a single highway reaching from the highlands to the coast. This situation was exacerbated by confusing orders, lack of command and control, and a well-led and aggressive enemy, which led to the utter rout and destruction of the bulk of South Vietnamese forces in the Central Highlands. A similar collapse occurred in the northern provinces.
Surprised by the rapidity of the South Vietnamese collapse, North Vietnam transferred the bulk of its northern forces more than 350 miles (560 km) to the south in order to capture the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in time to celebrate their late President Ho Chi Minh's birthday and end the war. South Vietnamese forces regrouped around the capital and defended the key transportation hubs at Phan Rang and Xuân Lộc, but a loss of political and military will to continue the fight became ever more manifest. Under political pressure, South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu resigned on 21 April, in hopes that a new leader that was more amenable to the North Vietnamese could reopen negotiations with them. It was, however, too late. Southwest of Saigon IV Corps, meanwhile, remained relatively stable with its forces aggressively preventing VC units from taking over any provincial capitals. With PAVN spearheads already entering Saigon, the South Vietnamese government, then under the leadership of Dương Văn Minh, capitulated on 30 April 1975. Both ARVN generals in the Mekong Delta, Le Van Hung and Nguyen Khoa Nam, committed suicide after the surrender.Alje Vennema
Alje Vennema (1932-June 7, 2011) was a Dutch-Canadian doctor. Born in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, in 1932, he arrived in Canada in 1951 and studied at the McGill University Medical School (graduating 1962). From 1965 to 1968 he was director of Canadian medical assistance in Vietnam. He received the Order of Canada in 1967.
After his time in Vietnam he studied at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. In 1982 he qualified as a pediatrician. He worked at Tulane University in New Orleans and subsequently in New York City, where he was to be director of the New York City Department of Health's Bureau of Tuberculosis.
He died at home on 7 June 2011.Battle of Huế
The Battle of Huế – also called the Siege of Huế – was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Between 30 January and 3 March 1968, in the South Vietnamese city of Huế, 11 battalions of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), four U.S. Army battalions, and three U.S. Marine Corps battalions – totaling 18 battalions – defeated 10 battalions of the People's Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong (VC).
By the beginning of the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive on January 30, 1968 – coinciding with the Vietnamese lunar New Year (Vietnamese: Tết Nguyên Đán) – large, conventional, U.S. forces had been committed to combat operations on Vietnamese soil for almost three years.
Highway 1, passing through the city of Huế, was an important supply line for ARVN, US, and Allied Forces from the coastal city of Da Nang to the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). It also provided access to the Perfume River (Vietnamese: Sông Hương or Hương Giang) at the point where the river ran through Huế, dividing the city into northern and southern parts. Huế was also a base for United States Navy supply boats.
Considering its logistical value and its proximity to the DMZ (only 50 kilometres (31 mi)), Huế should have been well-defended, fortified, and prepared for any communist attack. However, the city had few fortifications and was poorly defended.
While the ARVN 1st Division had cancelled all Tet leave and was attempting to recall its troops, the South Vietnamese and U.S. forces in the city were unprepared when the Viet Cong and the PAVN launched the Tet Offensive, attacking hundreds of military targets and population centers across the country, including Huế.The PAVN/Vietcong forces rapidly occupied most of the city. Over the next month, they were gradually driven out during intense house-to-house fighting led by the Marines and ARVN. In the end, although the Allies declared a military victory, the city of Huế was virtually destroyed, and more than 5,000 civilians were killed (2,800 of them executed by the PAVN and Viet Cong, according to the South Vietnamese government). The communist forces lost an estimated 2,400 to 8,000 killed, while Allied forces lost 668 dead and 3,707 wounded. The losses negatively affected the American public's perception of the war, and political support for the war began to wane.Communism in Vietnam
Communism in Vietnam has played a key role in the politics of Vietnam since independence. Marxism was introduced into Vietnam with the emergence of three separate communist parties; the Indochinese Communist Party, the Annamese Communist Party and the Indochinese Communist Union, later joined by a Trotskyist movement led by Tạ Thu Thâu. In 1930 the Communist International (Comintern) sent Nguyễn Ái Quốc to Hong Kong to coordinate the unification of the parties into the Vietnamese Communist Party with Trần Phú as its first Secretary General.
Later the party changed its name to the Indochinese Communist Party because the Comintern, under Joseph Stalin, did not favor nationalistic sentiments. Nguyễn Ái Quốc was a leftist revolutionary who had been living in France since 1911. He participated in the founding of the French Communist Party and in 1924 he traveled to the Soviet Union to join the Comintern. Through the late 1920s, he acted as a Comintern agent in order to help build Communist movements in Southeast Asia.
During the 1930s, the Vietnamese Communist Party was nearly wiped out due to French suppression with the execution of its top leaders such as Phú, Lê Hồng Phong, and Nguyễn Văn Cừ.
In 1941 Nguyễn Ái Quốc, now known as Hồ Chí Minh, arrived in northern Vietnam to form the Việt Minh Front, short for Việt Nam Độc Lập Đồng Minh Hội (League for the Independence of Vietnam). The Việt Minh Front was supposed to be an umbrella group for all parties fighting for Vietnam's independence, but was dominated by the Communist Party. The Việt Minh had a modest armed force and, during the war, worked with the American Office of Strategic Services to collect intelligence on the Japanese. From China, other non-Communist Vietnamese parties also joined the Việt Minh and established armed forces with backing from the Kuomintang.Communist terrorism
Communist terrorism describes terrorism carried out in the advancement of, or by groups who adhere to, communism or related ideologies, such as Leninism, Maoism, or Marxism–Leninism. In history communist terrorism has sometimes taken the form of state-sponsored terrorism, supported by communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Cambodia. In addition, non-state actors such as the Red Brigades, the Front Line and the Red Army Faction have also engaged in communist terrorism. These groups hope to inspire the masses to rise up and begin a revolution to overthrow existing political and economic systems. This form of terrorism can sometimes be called red terrorism or left terrorism.The end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union have been credited with leading to a marked decrease in this form of terrorism. Brian Crozier, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, has said that communism was the primary source of both state-sponsored and non-state terrorism.Gareth Porter
Gareth Porter (born June 18, 1942) is an American historian, investigative journalist, author and policy analyst specializing in U.S. national security policy. He was active as a Vietnam specialist and anti-war activist during the Vietnam War. He has written publications about the potential for peaceful conflict resolution in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, including his 2005 book Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, an analysis of how and why the United States went to war in Vietnam. Porter's analysis and reporting has appeared in academic journals, news publications and periodicals for four decades.Huế
Huế (Vietnamese: [hwě] (listen) is a city in central Vietnam that was the capital of Đàng Trong Kingdom from 1738 to 1775 and of the Nguyễn Dynasty from 1802 to 1945. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor's home; and a replica of the Royal Theater.
The city was also the battleground for the Battle of Huế, which was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.John-Baptiste Nguyễn Bửu Đồng
John-Baptiste Nguyễn Phuc Bửu Đồng (1912 – January 30, 1968) was a Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest from the city of Huế who was murdered by the Việtcộng during the 1968 Tet Offensive.List of war museums and monuments in Vietnam
There are numerous war museums, memorials and monuments in Vietnam, this page presents a partial list of museums and monuments located in Vietnam relating to the First Indochina War and the Second Indochina War. This list is organized by location.Mass grave
A mass grave is a grave containing multiple human corpses, which may or may not be identified prior to burial. The United Nations has defined a criminal mass grave as a burial site containing three or more victims of execution. Mass graves are usually created after a large number of people die or are killed, and there is a desire to bury the corpses quickly for sanitation concerns. Although mass graves can be used during major conflicts such as war and crime, in modern times they may be used after a famine, epidemic, or natural disaster. In disasters, mass graves are used for infection and disease control. In such cases, there is often a breakdown of the social infrastructure that would enable proper identification and disposal of individual bodies.Paris by Night
Paris by Night is a direct-to-video series featuring Vietnamese-language musical variety shows produced by Thúy Nga Productions. Hosted mainly by Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn and Nguyễn Cao Kỳ Duyên, the series includes musical performances by modern pop stars, traditional folk songs, one-act plays, and sketch comedy.Paris by Night 91
Paris By Night 91: Huế, Sài Gòn, Hà Nội (Huế - Saigon - Hanoi) is a Paris By Night program produced by Thúy Nga that was filmed at the Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center on January 12, 2008 and January 13, 2008.Premature burial
Premature burial, also known as live burial, burial alive, or vivisepulture, means to be buried while still alive.
Animals or humans may be buried alive accidentally on the mistaken assumption that they are dead, or intentionally as a form of torture, murder, or execution. It may also occur with consent of the victim as a part of a stunt, with the intention to escape.
Fear of being buried alive is reported to be among the most common phobias.Quang Lê
Quang Lê (born 24 January 1979) is one of the top selling Vietnamese-American recording artists, renowned for his unique covers of many traditional Vietnamese songs created and written before, during and about the Vietnam War. Quang Lê has become a household name within the Vietnamese music industry worldwide, from the United States, to Canada, to France, to the United Kingdom, to Germany, to the Czech Republic, to Australia and back home in Vietnam. Quang Lê achieved success at a young age, with hits such as “Sương Trắng Miền Quê Ngoại”, “Đập Vỡ Cây Đàn”, “Đường Về Quê Hương” and “Tương Tư Nàng Ca Sĩ”. Many famous Vietnamese songwriters, such as Đinh Miên Vũ, personally write songs for Quang Lê to perform on the Thúy Nga Paris By Night stage.Tet Offensive
The Tet Offensive (Vietnamese: Sự kiện Tết Mậu Thân 1968), or officially called The General Offensive and Uprising of Tet Mau Than 1968 (Vietnamese: Tổng Tiến công và Nổi dậy Tết Mậu Thân 1968) by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, was one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War, launched on January 30, 1968, by forces of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese People's Army of Vietnam against the forces of the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States Armed Forces, and their allies. It was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam. The name of the offensive comes from the Tết holiday, the Vietnamese New Year, when the first major attacks took place.The offensive was launched prematurely in the late night hours of 30 January in the I and II Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. This early attack allowed South Vietnamese and US forces some time to prepare defensive measures. When the main North Vietnamese operation began the next morning, the offensive was countrywide and well coordinated; eventually more than 80,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops struck more than 100 towns and cities, including 36 of 44 provincial capitals, five of the six autonomous cities, 72 of 245 district towns, and the southern capital. The offensive was the largest military operation conducted by either side up to that point in the war.
Hanoi had launched the offensive in the belief that the offensive would trigger a popular uprising leading to the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. Although the initial attacks stunned both the U.S. and South Vietnamese armies, causing them to lose control of several cities temporarily, they quickly regrouped, beat back the attacks, and inflicted heavy casualties on North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces. The popular uprising anticipated by Hanoi never happened. During the Battle of Huế, intense fighting lasted for a month, resulting in the destruction of the city. During their occupation, the North Vietnamese executed thousands of people in the Massacre at Huế. Around the U.S. combat base at Khe Sanh, fighting continued for two more months. The offensive was a military defeat for North Vietnam though General Westmoreland reported that defeating the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong would require 200,000 more American soldiers and activation of the reserves, prompting even loyal supporters of the war to see that the current war strategy required re-evaluation. The offensive had a strong effect on the U.S. government and shocked the U.S. public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the North Vietnamese were being defeated and incapable of launching such an ambitious military operation; American public support for the war soon declined and the U.S. sought negotiations to end the war.
The term "Tet Offensive" usually refers to the January–February 1968 offensive, but it can also include the so-called "Mini-Tet" offensive that took place in May and the Phase III Offensive in August, or the 21 weeks of unusually intense combat which followed the initial attacks in January.Thừa Thiên-Huế Province
Thừa Thiên-Huế (listen) is a province in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam, approximately in the centre of the country. It borders Quảng Trị Province to the north and Đà Nẵng to the south, Laos to the west and the East Sea to the east. The province has 128 km of coastline, 22,000 ha of lagoons and over 200,000 ha of forest. There is an extensive complex of imperial tombs and temples in Huế.Viet Cong
The Việt Cộng (Vietnamese: [vîət kə̂wŋmˀ] (listen)), also known as the National Liberation Front, was a mass political organization in South Vietnam and Cambodia with its own army – the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (PLAF) – that fought against the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War, eventually emerging on the winning side. It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized peasants in the territory it controlled. Many soldiers were recruited in South Vietnam, but others were attached to the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the regular North Vietnamese army. During the war, communists and anti-war activists insisted the Việt Cộng was an insurgency indigenous to the South, while the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments portrayed the group as a tool of Hanoi. Although the terminology distinguishes northerners from the southerners, communist forces were under a single command structure set up in 1958.The headquarters of the Viet Cong based at Memot came to be known as Central Office for South Vietnam or COSVN by its Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) and South Vietnamese counterparts, a near-mythical "bamboo Pentagon" from which the Việt Cộng's entire war effort was being directed. For nearly a decade the fabled COSVN headquarters, which directed the entire war effort of the Viet Cong was the target of the RVN/US war effort, and which would have collapsed the insurgency war effort. US and South Vietnamese Special Forces sent to capture them usually were killed very quickly or returned with heavy casualties to the point that teams refused to go. Daily B-52 bombings had failed to kill any of the leadership during Operation Menu despite flattening the entire area, as Soviet trawlers were able to forewarn COSVN, whom used the data on speed, altitude and direction to move perpendicular and to move underground.North Vietnam established the National Liberation Front on December 20, 1960, to foment insurgency in the South. Many of the Việt Cộng's core members were volunteer "regroupees", southern Việt Minh who had resettled in the North after the Geneva Accord (1954). Hanoi gave the regroupees military training and sent them back to the South along the Hồ Chí Minh trail in the early 1960s. The NLF called for southern Vietnamese to "overthrow the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists" and to make "efforts toward the peaceful unification". The PLAF's best-known action was the Tết Offensive, a gigantic assault on more than 100 South Vietnamese urban centers in 1968, including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon. The offensive riveted the attention of the world's media for weeks, but also overextended the Việt Cộng. Two further offensives were conducted in its wake, the mini-Tet and August Offensive. In 1969 the Việt Cộng would establish the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, a shadow-country in South Vietnam intended to represent the organisation on the world stage and was immediately recognised by the communist bloc and maintained diplomatic links with many nations in the Non-Aligned Movement. Later communist offensives were conducted predominantly by newly mechanised PAVN forces, as the ability of the Việt Cộng to recruit among the South Vietnamese became much more limited. The Việt Cộng remained an active military and political front. The organisation was dissolved in 1976 when North and South Vietnam were officially unified under a communist government.
Political and military organization of the Việt Cộng was complex, with a series of well-constructed, overlapping networks, committees and organisations; see strategy, organization and structure. Material aid was primarily provided through the well-established, ingenious Hồ Chí Minh trail, which withstood the most sustained bombing campaign in history while expanding the war effort; see logistics and equipment. They had further developed a complex insurgency warfare method capable of countering overwhelmingly superior numbers and technology, retaining the strategic initiative during much of the war. According to the Pentagon Papers, 90% of large firefights were initiated by the PAVN/VC and 80% were well-planned VC operations throughout most of the war and as early as 1966 US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara expressed doubt about the US ability to win the war (see NLF and PAVN battle tactics).Vietnam War casualties
Estimates of casualties of the Vietnam War vary widely. Estimates include both civilian and military deaths in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
The war persisted from 1955 to 1975 and most of the fighting took place in South Vietnam; accordingly it suffered the most casualties. The war also spilled over into the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos which also endured casualties from aerial and ground fighting.
Civilian deaths caused by both sides amounted to a significant percentage of total deaths. Civilian deaths were partly caused by assassinations, massacres and terror tactics. Civilian deaths were also caused by mortar and artillery, extensive aerial bombing and the use of firepower in military operations conducted in heavily populated areas. Some 365,000 Vietnamese civilians are estimated by one source to have died as a result of the war during the period of American involvement.A number of incidents occurred during the war in which civilians were deliberately targeted or killed. The best-known are the Massacre at Huế and the My Lai massacre.