Military Command Culture

defensiveness & denial

The standard operating procedure for commanders throughout the Vietnam years was to paper over any problems, conceal faults, bury bad news as much as possible. Even when detailed, reliable atrocity allegations came from soldiers within the army’s own ranks, the military often tamped down the reports, suppressed investigation findings, or dragged out the case for as long as possible. If any perpetrators were charged, they could frequently count on military juries or friends in high places to let them off with very little punishment — or with no consequences at all. – from Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves

A bayonet-wielding South Vietnamese paratrooper threatens a captured Viet Cong suspect during an interrogation Getty Images

“The Americans wore big jackets, flak jackets, and they looked very, very big. They raped many young girls. We all have family that were killed by Americans.”

-Mrs. Dang Thi Sinh in Quang Nam Province

“In 1965 I was arrested by the Americans and brought to Hoi An. They put electricity in my vagina, on my nipples, in my ears, in my nose, on my fingers. Blood came out of my vagina. At night they put electricity inside my body and they beat me. … In 1965 I was a beautiful woman, not like now. I am forty-five and I live alone, no parents, no brothers, sisters, no husband. How can someone marry me? My father was killed by the Americans. My mother was killed by American bullets, shelled. My younger brother was killed. The boys had been playing on the road when the Americans came through, and shot them.” 

– Mrs. Le Thi Dieu. Photo shows her fingernails that are dead and broken 25 years after Americans tortured her.

U.S. Marines pull a Vietnamese woman from a hole in her hut as they sweep through an area Sept. 10, 1965, in Qui Nhon. Bettmann Archives

“There is one woman here, Mrs. Dung, whose breasts were cut off by the Americans. Now she is crazy. They forced her to drink some kind of medicine, to tell her where the VC were, but she didn’t tell anything, They beat her, tortured her, and they cut off her breasts.”

– Mr. Huynh Phuc Tinh

– Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam
– Martha Hess, And Then the Americans Came: Voices from Vietnam