BILL MOYERS: Just like Susan Crawford, my next guest has been driven to tell a story the powers-that-be would rather we forget. He found it by chance in documents buried deep in the recesses of the National Archives in our nation’s capital. The discovery led him on a journey of twelve years that has now concluded with this beautifully written account of ugly horrors, "Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam," by Nick Turse.

There have been many memorable accounts of the terrible things done in Vietnam – memoirs, histories, documentaries and movies. But Nick Turse has given us a fresh holistic work that stands alone for its blending of history and journalism, for the integrity of research brought to life through the diligence of first-person interviews. Those interviews skillfully unlock the memories of American warriors and expose the wounds that to this day still scar the hearts and minds of villagers who survived the scorched earth of Vietnam. Here is a powerful message for us today, a reminder of what war really costs.

Ironically, Nick Turse wasn’t even around as the Vietnam War raged. He was born in 1975, the year it ended. Not until 25 years later, while pursuing his PhD in sociomedical sciences, did he discover the secret trove of documents that sent him on this long search. In addition to two earlier books and countless articles and essays, Nick Turse is managing editor of – the indispensable website if you want the news powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

Nick Turse, welcome.

NICK TURSE: Thanks so much for having me on.

BILL MOYERS: Of the more than 30,000 nonfiction books that have been published since the end of the war, this is one of the toughest. How did you come to write it? You weren’t even born until the year the war ended in 1975.

NICK TURSE: I really stumbled upon this project. I was a graduate student when I began it. I was working on a project on post-traumatic stress disorder among U.S. Vietnam veterans. And I would go down to the National Archives. Just outside of D.C. I was looking for hard data to match up with, you know, self-report material, what veterans told us about their service. And on one of these trips, I was down there for about two weeks. And about every research avenue that I had pursued was a dead end. And I finally went to an archivist that I worked with there.

And I said to him, "I can't go back to my boss empty-handed. I need something, at least a lead." And he, you know, said a few words to me that really changed my life. He said, "Do you think that witnessing war crimes could cause post-traumatic stress?" And I said, "You know, that's an excellent hypothesis. What do you have on war crimes?"

And within an hour, I was going through a collection of boxes, thousands and thousands of pages of documents. To call it, you know, an information treasure trove is the wrong phrase. It was a horror trove. These were reports of massacres, murders, mutilation, torture. And these were investigations that were carried out by the U.S. military during the war. A collection of documents called The Vietnam War Crimes Working Group Collection. And this was a taskforce that was set up in the Pentagon. And it was designed to track war crimes cases in the wake of the exposure of the My Lai Massacre.

BILL MOYERS: Where 500 men, women, and children were murdered by American G.I.s.

NICK TURSE: That's right. The military basically, what they wanted to do was make sure they were never caught flatfooted again by an atrocity scandal. So in the Army Chief of Staff's Office, there were a number of Army colonels who worked to track all war crimes allegations that bubbled up into the media that GIs and recently returned veterans were making public. And they tracked all these. And whenever they could, they tried to tamp down these allegations.

BILL MOYERS: The book, your book is very important to me. I was there at the White House in the 1960s, when President Johnson escalated the war. My own great regret is that I didn't see the truth of the war in time didn't see what was happening there. And yet, as I said, you didn't even come to the experience until after it was all over. And yet you have become obsessed with telling this story. You had no money. You had no advance. You didn't, you had no means of support when you left graduate school to do this.

NICK TURSE: That's right. But I thought that this story was, I really thought it was just too important. And one Vietnam War historian that I, you know, really respected recommended that I pursue it. And once I did, once I got involved with it, you know, I could never get those records out of my head. And, you know, then I went you know, I traveled the country. I spoke to a lot of American witnesses and perpetrators.

BILL MOYERS: There are 80 pages of notes in here, tiny little notes. You seem almost determined that nobody would accuse you of not having sourced the information.

NICK TURSE: Well, I know that this it's not a popular narrative of the war. And you know, it's they're hard truths. And I know it's you know, there are a lot of people who are predisposed to disbelieve this. It is in many cases, it's shocking. And it's hard to believe. This isn't the type of warfare that most Americans think that their fellow Americans pursue.

So I wanted to make sure that it was documented as meticulously as I could. And this is the story of Vietnam veterans told by Vietnam veterans. I used you know, hundreds of sworn statements, sworn testimony that active-duty GIs and recently-returned veterans gave to army criminal investigators. So it's the veterans in their own words.

BILL MOYERS: But let me play for you what John Kerry said back in 1971, when he returned from Vietnam and he joined with other Vietnam veterans to talk about the kind of war they had experienced. Here's what he said.

JOHN KERRY TALKING BEFORE THE SENATE: Not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do. They told stories that, at times, they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.

BILL MOYERS: All these years later, this book you've been working on for ten years, based upon these documents buried at the National Archives, confirmed what John Kerry was saying then.

NICK TURSE: All the atrocities that Kerry mentions by name there I found evidence of all of those types of crimes represented in the records of this Vietnam War Crimes Working Group in the government’s own files. So at the same time that-- you know, that Kerry and the veterans that he was referring to there were being smeared as fake veterans or as liars, the military had all these records that proved that these were just the very crimes that were going on in Vietnam.

BILL MOYERS: And the military had these records in 2004, when John Kerry was being swiftboated.

NICK TURSE: That's right. You know, these records existed then. There was proof at the time that the military they knew about it and they didn’t disclose it to the public. And it was still, you know, under wraps when he was running. The military definitely didn't want these records out there. I talked to several members of this Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, this Pentagon taskforce.

And I asked one of the colonels, who he ended up retiring as a general. And he says that, at the time, he thought it was right that these records need to be kept secret. It was for the good of the country, for the good of the war effort, but in the years since, he recognized that he thought it was the wrong thing to do.

I talked to him during the Iraq War. And he said, you know, "Perhaps if these things had been aired at the time, if we had been honest with the American people and open with these records, then maybe we wouldn't have had Abu Ghraib-- you know, the torture scandal there." He came to see it as a real failing on his part.

BILL MOYERS: What kind of reception did you get when you went out to call on these veterans who had been there, whose testimony was included in these secret files and who must have been disturbed when this young reporter calls and said, "I'd like to talk to the two of you about war crimes in Vietnam"?

NICK TURSE: There were times when I had a door slammed shut in my face or the phone slammed down on the receiver. But most of the time veterans were willing to talk.

And a lot of them told me that they were-- they were happy to talk about it, in some ways. Even if we were talking about, you know, horrific events-- you know? A lot of them said that they couldn't tell their families about this. You know? It's not something they were able to talk about. But I knew something of their experience. And they were willing to walk that road with me.

BILL MOYERS: There was a medic, Jamie Henry, who seems to epitomize the stories of everyone else with whom you've talked. Tell me about Jamie Henry.

NICK TURSE: Yeah, Jamie had a tremendous impact on my life. And-- you know, I found him through this collection of records to begin with. And then I sought him out. And Jamie was a self-described hippy living in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District before the war. But he was drafted. And became a medic and a very good one.

The men who served with him said that he was among the best soldiers that they had served with. He saved a lot of American lives. And they really lauded his performance in the field. But Jamie saw things in Vietnam that really disturbed him. He told me that on his first day in the field, he watched as the point man, the lead man of his patrol stopped a young girl on a trail and molested her right there. And, you know, Jamie said to himself, you know, "My God, what's going on here?" And over the next-- several months, he just saw a litany of atrocities take place.

He watched a young boy who was just-- you know, detained and beaten and shot dead for no reason-- an old man who was used for target practice, a prisoner who was beaten up and then thrown off a cliff-- another man who was taken and held down to be run over by an armored personnel carrier, basically a small tank.

And Jamie saw these things. And when he first spoke up about brutality his life was threatened by fellow unit members. And even his friends came to him and said, "Look, you have to keep your mouth shut or you're going to get shot in the back during a firefight and no one's going to be the wiser." So Jamie did keep his mouth shut, but he kept his eyes open. And he kept cataloguing everything he saw.

And this culminated in-- it was February 8th, 1968. And his unit moved into a small hamlet. And his commanding officer, a West Point trained captain-- ordered all the civilians there rounded up. It was about 19 civilians, women and children. And Jamie was taking a break, smoking a cigarette. And over the radio he heard this captain give an order. And it was to kill anything that moves.

And Jamie heard this. And he jumped up. And he went to go try and intervene. But he was just seconds late. He showed up just as five men arrayed around these civilians, opened up on full automatic with their M-16 rifles, and shot them all dead. And Jamie told me that 30 seconds after this took place, he vowed that he would make this public.

And he made it, you know, his duty to do so. As soon as he got home from Vietnam, he sought out an Army lawyer. And he told them everything that he saw. And this Army lawyer told him that he needed to keep quiet, because there were a million ways that the Army could make him disappear. He went to spoke to an Army criminal investigator. But that man threatened him. He went and sought out a civilian lawyer who told him to get some political backing.

He wrote to two congressman. Neither of them returned his letters. Then he started speaking out. He went on the radio. He went to public forums. And even the winter soldier investigation He spoke out there. But he could never get any traction. And finally, you know, it was years later that Jamie just gave up. And you know, he decided that he just had to move on with his life.

BILL MOYERS: Until you tracked him down.

NICK TURSE: He was. I showed up on his doorstep with several phone books, stacks of documents. And this was the first time that Jamie knew the Army had investigated his allegations, had corroborated everything he said. And, in fact the documents even painted a grimmer picture than Jamie had told. Because other members of his unit finally spoke up. And they talked about things that Jamie hadn't seen-- you know? Additional atrocities.

BILL MOYERS: So this is where you got the title for your book, “Kill Anything that Moves”? That's what he overheard?

NICK TURSE: Yes, this was-- this was the order that his commanding officer, the West Point trained captain gave. And this was the first time that I really took note of the phrase. But then as I continued, you know, working on this topic, I noticed it coming up again and again. I realized that this was the order that was given out by Captain Medina, the commanding officer, to the troops who carried out the My Lai Massacre, that was his order to them to kill anything the moves.

And I found it listed in court-martial documents from a Marine Corps massacre that took place in 1967. And it seemed that everywhere I looked, there were variations on it. "Shoot anything that moves. Kill anything that breathes." And I came to see it as really a shorthand for the war.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think this will strike some people as old news?

NICK TURSE: Well, I think that in some ways the story of atrocities in Vietnam is kind of a half-known history. People have, you know, maybe some inkling of it. They know a little bit about My Lai. Or they've seen glimpses of civilians suffering in “Apocalypse Now” or “Platoon” or “Casualties of War”, these movies.

But I think that, you know, this society and the American culture has never fully come to grips with Vietnam. It's this half-known history there. These hidden and forbidden histories that just haven't been fully engaged. So while I think people might know a little bit of it, I doubt that they know the full story as I came to know it.

BILL MOYERS: It's not just a litany of atrocities, you reach some very significant conclusions about the way the war was fought, how it was not just some bad apples that were conducting these brutal acts, but that it was a pattern which was inevitable given the pressures from the top.

NICK TURSE: I talk about individual micro-level atrocities, things like murders and massacres. And they do punctuate the book. But really I'm telling the story of civilian suffering. And the sheer number of Vietnamese who were killed or wounded in Vietnam or became refugees-- this wasn't due to simply bad apples, simply-- troops on the ground. It was command-level policies, things like the use of unrestrained bombing and artillery shelling on heavily-populated areas of the countryside, policies that were promulgated at the highest levels of the U.S. military. This is what made it inevitable that there would be this much civilian suffering, that there would be, you know, an estimated two million Vietnamese civilians killed.

I mean, the Vietnam War in Vietnam took such a tremendous toll. It's almost as I came to understand, it was almost unfathomable suffering on the part of the Vietnamese people. You know, the best estimates that we have are 3.8 million Vietnamese deaths overall, combatants and noncombatants, two million of them civilians. 5.3 million civilians wounded using a very conservative method of estimation.

NICK TURSE: The U.S. government came up with a number of 11 million Vietnamese who were made refugees during the war. And the latest studies show that up to four million Vietnamese were exposed to toxic defoliants like Agent Orange. So this is-- it's suffering on a scale that I don't think that most Americans can fully wrap their head around.

BILL MOYERS: I was struck by your writing that by the mid-'60s, the American military-- the American military had turned war making into "a thoroughly"-- I'm quoting you, "thoroughly corporatized, quantitatively-oriented system known as techno war." And you say that became, in Vietnam, the American way of war. And this led to what you call the indiscriminate death of civilians, as well as the atrocities that occurred against individuals.

NICK TURSE: That's right. You know, the military fought this war with an attrition strategy. The U.S. was fighting a guerilla war. And they were looking for a metric to show that they were winning. And the attrition strategy provided that by making body count the way that you could tell. Basically, you would kill your way to victory. You would pile up Vietnamese bodies. You would kill more enemy guerillas than the enemy could put into the field.

BILL MOYERS: That was the crossover point?

NICK TURSE: That was the famed "crossover point?

BILL MOYERS: So this crossover point that-- that we were supposed to reach when we were killing more Vietnamese than could be replaced led, as you point out here, step by step, to the whole notion focus the body count as the measure of success in Vietnam?

NICK TURSE: That's right. Sometimes I found that-- you know, American troops would take prisoners in the field. And they'd call in, you know, "I have a prisoner." And the commander would call back, "Well, I want a body count." And then the prisoner would be killed and then called in as an enemy who was shot while fleeing or shot during a firefight.

BILL MOYERS: You say, "So entire units would be pitted against each other in body count competitions with prizes at stake."

NICK TURSE: Yes. You know, one veteran that I talked to, he said there was a great-- he called it an "incentivization of death". And I talked to many veterans who talked about this. They said that that this really messed with their value system, that they were told to-- you know, if they brought in a dead Vietnamese, that they proved a body count, they would get three days of R&R at a beach resort-- in Vietnam or they would get extra beer or light duty when they were back at basecamp or medals, badges.

So there were all these incentives that were pushing them to produce bodies. And then there were disincentives. There were-- along with those carrots, there were sticks. They knew if they didn't produce bodies that they'd be that they'd have it tougher. They'd be kept out in the field longer. They wouldn't-- they'd have to march out instead of getting an airlift and a helicopter. So there were real reasons to produce bodies.

BILL MOYERS: And you describe, you know, almost a sporting event, sport statistics, box scores-- and those scores being padded by including civilians?

NICK TURSE: Yeah, there were-- you know, everywhere in Vietnam, there were kill boards, they were called, up that showed each unit's number of kills. Some men talk about it-- you know, the being like box scores up in the mess hall in military publications. This idea of body count was just drilled into them at every turn. And they really couldn't get away from it. I mean, this was the way the war was fought. And it turned out to be disastrous for Vietnamese civilians.

BILL MOYERS: And so that led, as you say, to the body count as the measure of success. Nick, you make it clear that this pressure that led to this kind of killing came down from the top in Washington, as well, from Secretary of Defense McNamara at the Pentagon and clearly from the White House.

NICK TURSE I think it did. And there was rarely any distinction made between enemies and the civilian population. They were-- you know, and I should make the point that these are very young men, 18, 19, 20 years old. So they get to boot camp as mere boys. And they're really told that all the Vietnamese are dangerous. And they learn pretty quickly that it was okay to shoot first, because no one was going to ask questions later.

BILL MOYERS: How were you affected when you went to Vietnam for the first time?

NICK TURSE: Well, I was. It really changed-- you know, the project that I was working on. And I think it changed me in profound ways. I went to--


NICK TURSE: I went to Vietnam-- you know, with these stacks of documents. And I was looking for witnesses and survivors to individual atrocities, the cases that I had read about. And I went to these villages. And I talked to Vietnamese. And I was asking them about one specific spasm of violence.

But what I'm-- what they kept telling me, the stories that I kept hearing, what it was like to live for 10 years under bombs and shells and helicopter gunships and how they had to negotiate their live around the American war, what it was like to have your home burned down five, six, seven times, and to finally give up rebuilding it and start to live a subterranean or semi-subterranean existence in a bomb shelter and have to-- you know, to make all these calculations about how to survive, when to leave the bomb shelter to forage for food or to find water or to relieve yourself, when to farm.

And all these decisions could have a profound affect that your life depended on it and the life of your family. You had to know-- to get into the bomb shelter in time, when artillery started raining down. But you had to get out of there before the American troops came through and started grenading the bunkers because Americans didn't see these as bomb shelters, they saw them as enemy bunkers that could be hiding guerillas. And the Vietnamese lived with this war for 10 years straight. And as they told me these stories again and again, I realized that this was really the story that I needed to tell, the one of Vietnamese civilian suffering, the one of--

BILL MOYERS: You called it a system of suffering.

NICK TURSE: Yeah, I-- you know, with the way that the American war was engineered, I think it turned it into a veritable system of suffering.

BILL MOYERS: Did you encounter animosity, an anger towards you as an American?

NICK TURSE: I didn't. And it was one of the most shocking things to me that-- you know, I would go into a village. And I would often be the first American they had seen since the war. And-- you know, I'd ask them to dredge up the most-- you know, horrific events imaginable, the most horrible days of their lives. And then I'd ask these people to do it again and again, to make sure that I got the stories exactly right.

And afterwards I would be shocked to find them thanking me. That they would-- they expressed a great gratitude. They were amazed that an American knew something of the story of what they lived through, the story of their hamlet. And they couldn't believe that someone had traveled halfway around the world to listen to this.

BILL MOYERS: Why are we talking about this? Do you we think any good is going to come out of resurrecting the skeletons in the closet and bringing them out and exposing them in your book or in a conversation like this?

NICK TURSE: Well, I'm hoping that it will have some bearing on the present. You know, the U.S. is, of course, involved has been involved in constant warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia. There's you know military interventions taking place all over the world, over the last decade plus.

But I don't think that Americans really have a clear picture of those wars. And what they've meant for people overseas, what they've meant to civilians around the world. So I hope that my book might be able to, you know, to add to that conversation, to open America's eyes to what wars mean for people overseas. And if we're asked to send our brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to war, I think we should have some idea of what it means for the sons and daughters of people overseas.

BILL MOYERS: The book is “Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.” Nick Turse, thank you for joining me.

NICK TURSE: Thanks so much for having me.

Nick Turse Describes the Real Vietnam War

Journalist Nick Turse describes his personal mission to compile a complete and compelling account of the Vietnam War’s horror as experienced by all sides, including innocent civilians who were sucked into its violent vortex.

Turse, who devoted 12 years to tracking down the true story of Vietnam, unlocked secret troves of documents, interviewed officials and veterans — including many accused of war atrocities — and traveled throughout the Vietnamese countryside talking with eyewitnesses to create his book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.

“American culture has never fully come to grips with Vietnam,” Turse tells Bill, referring to “hidden and forbidden histories that just haven’t been fully engaged.”

Explore More:
Read part of James Henry’s witness statement from 1970, in which he details acts of depravity committed by fellow U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War. Also view the summary fact sheet of the Army’s final report on the “Henry allegations” in 1974.

Producer: Gina Kim. Editor: Rob Kuhns. Associate Producer: Reniqua Allen.  Intro Editor: Paul Henry Desjarlais.

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  • Judith Logue

    It’s a good thing that Nam is being further reviewed. Many of our guys died long after the war was over from its effects.
    However, Bill, wish you would more closely examine the differences between Nam and its population and our current problems. A more accurate comparison might be between WWII and our present difficulties.
    If you are worried about the US reputation in the world, you might start with 9/11 and the tragedy of Iraq. This administration is dealing with problems it did not create. Our present tactics seem much more humane than sending in bombers or putting our troops in in complicated very drastic situations. This administration has proven that it is sensitive to the attitudes of the country and would no doubt welcome suggestions to the problems. What suggestions do you have? . .

  • rod

    ck out va. what a joke .ruls that hurt vets ,some great md. the rest a joke.. demeaning vets..not living up to promises made..friendly but don’t give a damn..

  • Judith Black

    shame on you Bill and the little liberal twerp who wants to be the revisionist of a place he never saw, on things he has never done, on a subject he can only guess at. that people like John Kerry are his heroes is exactly why America is the liberal mess it’s in. sadly Bill you are part of the problem.

  • zoukboy

    If you disagree you must answer the testimony of the veterans themselves, not simply insult the author and Mr. Moyers who are only the messengers. What do YOU have to say to these veterans, whose sworn testimony the Pentagon suppressed, even as the swiftboaters lied about Sen. Kerry’s service.

  • davidp

    Turse should investigate the same what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan as what he did for Nam. For example, the drones and what they do, and Brennan´s nomination for head of the CIA, and the political rhetoric with it in keeping America safe will further isolate the US.

  • davidp

    Oh by the way…it scares me more when Obama, and recently Feinstein and Brennan will use the word “Morals” in its connection with drones…because it will further degenerate our own morals in years or decades to come.

  • Middle of the Road in Oregon

    So Judith thinks it’s people who expose the truth of atrocities committed on innocent human beings who are liberal twirps? We really are in Orwellian times. Hey Bill, thanks for having the courage and integrity to talk about and expose things that are hardly covered anywhere else. Have you thought about doing a piece about all the ways in which our society is now actualizing Orwell’s vision of what was to come?

  • WallopinWill Martin

    Atrocities committed by the the top policy makers of the two most “civilized” nations in the world, Germany and the USA (Auschwitz and Hiroshima), have already proven that all moral pretentions in the post modern world are absurd. As the now deleted comment below no doubt indicated, there will always be a shameless element of our society prepared to commit any outrage in furtherance of a twisted ideology. Just for fun, let’s watch a drone strike!

  • Jennifer Iverson

    This book would be very hard for me to read…I cried during your interview and kept saying to myself, “The world is changing to a gentler, kinder sanctum, but then I think of the drones.” Thank you, we should have a 1,000 more Moyer’s in the world.

  • djh

    As did I, Jennifer I. The dark horror that Nick Turse researched, personally investigated, and now reveals to the world is very painful. I could see and hear it in Nick’s & Bill’s eyes and words – and feel it in my own heart. That pain can and should be a source of energy – fuel, to move us from those horrors, and the current horrors of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and “our” other similar military actions, to a place of conscience, responsibility, and accountability. – djh

  • Stupid Git

    “News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.”

    Once again you have proved that your show is one of the only actual news programs available today. Thanks for all you do Mr. Moyers.

  • Jed MacDavid

    When I returned from Vietnam in 1969 having spent a year as an infantry platoon leader and then as an adviser to the Vietnamese popular forces, I spent a lot of time in bars with other returning vets. After a while I was amazed how all the “war stories” seem to take on the same tone of Turse’s allegations. Then I remembered Hemingway’s short story “Soldier’s Home”, and the line: “His lies were quite unimportant lies and consisted in attributing to himself things other men had seen, done or heard of, and stating as facts certain apocryphal incidents familiar to all soldiers”: Most of my barmates at the time were “base camp warriors” who never strayed far from from their air-conditioned barracks in Saigon, but all of them claimed to have participated in, seen, or heard of some atrocity during their one-year tour. That was a pretty broad paintbrush that Turse uses on all Vietnam vets in the interview. I saw some rough things, but none of the amoral acts described by Turse. It’s been over 45 years and the Vietnam vet is still clumped into the same all-purpose, sweeping generalization.

  • Josephus

    Forty years ago there were writers, a few journalists, and many many soldiers (Winter Soldier Campaign) who exposed the atrocites committed during the Vietnam War. Nick Turse and the Viet-era military investigators have done a great service for us.

    Why have professional journalists failed to document the atrocities committed during the Iraq War? There are plenty of stories, and plenty of veterans willing to talk about what they saw and did in Iraq. I suspect that they’re waiting for someone to ask.

    Maybe it’s the right time for Moyers & Company to ask the people who were in-country in Iraq to speak up. If nobody asks, nobody will speak up.

  • Josephus

    Basic human psychology and my own experience show that “people generally do what is expected of them”.

    I recommend this book, “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland”. The book examines the behavior of a 3rd string rear echelon German paramilitary unit in WWII. The men in this non-combat unit were “expected” to march into Jewish villages in occupied Poland, and kill everything that moved. A collection of ordinary middle-aged men conformed to the expectations of their peers and institutional authority. They shot 40,000 civilians, and sent 40,000 to death camps.

    The German battalion in Poland killed more civilians than any American battalion in Vietnam. However, both groups were conforming to the expectations dictated by their society

    Nick Turse’s comments in this M&Co episode suggests (to me) that America’s insanely violent society and its military culture expected, or at least sanctioned, the “kill everything that moves” behavior of its soldiers in Vietnam. If true, then the catalyst for and the prevention of wartime atrocities can be found in the roots of our American culture.

  • Anonymous

    First of all I want to thank BIll Moyers for this important discussion. I lament the fact that few, if any of the major media, would want to discuss the horrors of what our troops did in Vietnam or the efforts of the military to cover up those crimes. I am now reading Nick Turse’s book which I have to take in small bits as reading what our soldiers did makes me sick, sick at what they did and sick at our country for sending them to a place where they did not belong. I find that the crimes committed by our country should have put the leaders into the dock at the Hague just as those who lied us into the war in Iraq should also have been charged as war criminals.

    Even today the people of Vietnam suffer as a result of our use of Agent Orange. Many children are born deformed just as our use of depleted uranium and other weapons has caused a huge jump in deformed babies and cancer in Iraq.

    I hope that it will not take decades before the truth of what our country has done in Iraq and Afghanistan becomes common knowledge. We should hang our heads in shame.

    Meanwhile the president who wrongfully was given the Nobel Peace Prize terrorizes the people of Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and who knows where else as he sends drones that have killed many innocent men, women and children. If President Obama had any honor he would return that Peace Prize. He is no more worthy of it than was Henry Kissinger during the years of the VIetnam War.

  • Anonymous

    reminds me of Saul Friedlaender’s “Nazi Germany and the Jews”. Another book that will change your mind about what human beings are able to do to each other.

  • Reddoor2

    Good Point, and true. Now is a good time to substantially raise our expectations. I was just having a conversation about the mistrust of politicians. We don’t look to them for leadership, and we certainly don’t trust them, so they are feel uncompelled by anyone to lead, or be trustworthy. They are just meeting expectations.

  • Renard Prather

    I just watched the show for the first time and I am happy that people are finally speaking out about all the atrocities that our government have committed.

  • Anonymous

    The problem is that the issue in the US was quickly transformed from “What has our country done to Vietnamese civilians?” to “What blanket description do we make of all Vietnam veterans?”

    If you frame it the second way, then the first issue vanishes. And that’s how it has been framed for decades now. I don’t think this is an accident. It’s a way of making it seem callous and unfair to Vietnam vets to investigate what America did to the Vietnamese.

    There were 2.7 million Americans who served in Vietnam. It would only take a small fraction to have committed a great many atrocities. And anyway, as Turse points out in his book, the bulk of the civilian deaths were inflicted at long range, by artillery and aircraft, destroying countless villages and creating millions of refugees. And we know that in some cases entire campaigns amounted to massive war crimes–Operation Speedy Express being the most notable.

    By your own account, you heard a great many atrocity stories, but didn’t see any yourself. So by your account, it’s your fellow Vietnam vets who are responsible for all these atrocity stories that you think are fake. Just a bunch of guys in air conditioned barracks making things up. Now we’d also have to explain away the other evidence, like the bodycount to captured weapons ratio in Operation Speedy Express, and the testimony of the Vietnamese themselves.

  • Richard Estesre

    Bill Moyers testified before the Committee, and his role in enabling Hoover’s repulsive obsession with MLK and his sex life is spelled out in the report. Moyers gave the go-ahead to Hoover to spy on MLK. He leaked information on MLK, including audiotapes, to the press and made efforts to undermine MLK in Europe when he traveled to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. White House Memoranda show that Moyers made sure that LBJ was aware of the dirt on MLK and was give a heads up when there were leaks of private information on MLK to the press.

  • James and Marion Kimball

    I was a platoon leader 69/70 2/8th Cav 1st Cav Division and we were rewarded with a 3 day pass to Vung Tau for capturing an NVA soldier, not killing one. We got no rewards for killing. The only time we shot at “anything that moves” was when we were in an area where there were no civilians and we knew where all our people were.

  • Fred Voto

    I commend journalist Nick Turse for his exhaustive search for the truth of the war and atrocities which took place in Vietnam. I was a veteran rifle platoon leader during 1966-1967 serving with the 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi.

    I can attest to atrocities which I either witnessed
    or saw photos.

    Having said that let me tell you that while under fire we had to ask permission from our company commander to return fire before we could engage the enemy much to our own risk. It was about insuring that we did not accidentally kill or wound any civilians. As many times as my platoon had to gather villagers to flush out Viet Cong, never, I say NEVER did my men, molest or harm in any way the Vietnamese civilians many of whom were harboring the Viet Cong. My men served with the greatest of dignity and honor and fairness.

    Be careful that you don’t sweep the tens of thousands
    of honorable, patriotic young men (18 and 19 years old) with the same brush. War is war. It will always remain thus and until men can live in harmony and peace it will always be inhumane and despicable.

  • HV

    The truth is very hard for the American people to accept! But as a Vietnam Veteran witnessing many horrors I am so glad that he has documented this part of history. Maybe now my fellow countrymen will listen to the truth about their leaders and politicans criminal behavior. When we tried to speak up know one would listen, instead we were called cry babies. I only wish the people that sent us to war could experience close up and personal like we did!

  • HV

    Now read the biography of the young NVA Doctor and the diary of Dr. Dang Thuy Tram, a twenty-five year-old woman from Hanoi, who works as the chief medical officer in a field hospital in the mountains of central Vietnam.

  • hairyapple

    I’d buy a used car from Bill Moyers

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just the Viet nam war–but all wars. How on earth would the Cheny, Bush, Rockefellas, Kochs and Rothdchildren get rich without selling all that oil, munitions, etc.? War is good for ‘business’ and bad, bad, BAD for people (esp. women and kids who dies in greater numbers than soldiers), other species and the environment we all share. Even other industries and businesses benefitted from these specious wars–ship-building, shipping lines, pulp mills, mines, nuke power plants, and so forth. The media were bought and paid for by the zionist mafia, along with special effects to make us all think things happened a certain way when they didn’t. It helps when you own the media. You can brainwash entire generations of people. The Borgias were mild compared to today’s ruling families. The Rothschilds own 80% or more of the USA. AND 50% of the rest of the world. Money not only talks, but it takes.

  • Anonymous

    Men will live in harmony and peace as soon as they have the courage to reject the jingoistic bullsh*t that brainwashes them into thinking that the military is “glorious”…

  • Anonymous

    I wrote an eyewitness documentary ,The Idiot’s Frightful Laughter, of the Vietnam War largely from the perspective of the Vietnamese peasant and Viet Cong, whom I spoke with at Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) camps. I spent seven years in Vietnam throughout most of the war as a Refugee Adviser for USAID in the Mekong Delta and else where. I shared the dangers with the peasants. I witnessed first hand napalm and white phosphorous drops on villages and resettlement camps by our troops for sport. I alerted pheasants of random and interdicted artillery fire saving hundreds perhaps thousands of lives from our noble youth but losing thousands more. Ordinary American soldiers and Marines gang raped and murdered those I knew. They carried photos of corpse they’d mutilated and traded them as though they were baseball cards. Yes, I spent seven years there and have written what no other American dare write. That we are a nation of monsters.

  • Sally Russell

    Thank you for exposing the real truth behind many of the war from Vietnam, scary truths that we are unable to face. I’m sure that many would be able to tell, though are afraid to say. Are we a nation to admit the truth?How many have we killed in the name of democracy? Millions sadly. What can we do? How can we revolt?

  • Anonymous


    You were born the year I left Vietnam from the roof top of the U.S. Embassy with my two infant children and Filipina wife. I saw the horrors you described for seven years first hand over and over again first hand and yet I cannot publish the book. Why? I am journalist as well as an educator and training specialist.

  • Anonymous

    Okay. Thanks for opening Americans’ eyes Nick. However I gave half my life and endured enormous danger to write an eye witness documentary of the War from the Vietnamese perspective. Not 35 years later but then and there. I have a degree in journalism. I worked for newspapers as a reporter. I was also an educator and training specialist. Isn’t my documentary of more significances? I saw the napalm drops, the white phosphorous, the artillery barrages, the bombardments, the agent orange (which caused me prostate cancer), the grunts brutal atrocities. Seven years!! And then I also witness corruption of the worst sort first hand. Is all this a wasted sacrifice? Google me.

  • SB

    I am watching this show right now. It is striking to me. I was getting an EMBA at Columbia in 2010, and met a US military person who had been in Afghanistan. As we were talking, he said that “those people” don’t value life the way we do.

    Turns out, I recently heard a recording of a US general in the time of Vietnam saying exactly the same thing.

    To my fellow EMBA student at Columbia, I mentioned that we started the war and that we are killing a lot of people, including civilians and that we don’t know how many civilians we have killed. So who values life?

    Ironically, by saying that others don’t value life “the way we do” makes it that much easier to kill them.

    This entire cycle of war and killing is so disturbing.

    I an heading to the UN CSW for women in March, and the theme is elimination of violence against women. How can we focus on 1/2 the population when so many people are blind to their own horrific behaviors and beliefs?

  • McNab

    Mr. Moyers, I listened to your closing comment, after Mr. Turse interview, and I appreciated every word you said especially about american self-righteousness vis-a-vis war and the way the Noble peace prize status has been compromised when it was “prematurely” granted to a person who approves of “collateral damages” i.e. a euphemism for “innocent bystanders”, as you eloquently put it. Thank you for always speaking the truth in the face of the emperor and his tyranny.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much, Nick.

  • Anonymous

    An outstanding work compelling as it is important.

    Praised by scores of reviewers for meticulous research and lifting the curtain on subject matter long avoided, the Author gets less credit for his incredible skill as a writer. Revealing explosive truths with skill and grace of the most accomplished Matador. The reader is caught up in spellbinding emotion, mesmerized by the cape of humane treatment of inhumane content, only to have the ferocious bull charge through with brutality, reality and tragedy.

  • TAW

    I was a platoon commander in 1968-69 and as a young lieutenant I did worry about atrocities and the conduct of the Marines. I personally halted some body mutilation I observed, but alas we did operate in a “free fire” zone that was supposed to be devoid of civilians and was not. Some of them died. For the most part, good small unit leadership, in my experience, prevented atrocities. Although I agree the story needs to be told, the officers, non-commissioned officers and men I served with operated with honor and dignity in some very difficult circumstances. As with the Winter Soldier “investigation” referenced in the interview, it is unfair to use too broad a brush. I fear the resurgence of epithets like “baby killers,” that the American public only recently has accepted as not indicative of the service of Vietnam veterans.

  • Anonymous

    Do different at what is happen in syria , iraq and Afganistan,
    The root of all Evil is the US.
    where is the Justice!

  • MikeD

    Nuremberg: A war of aggression is the supreme international crime.

    In no country is that idea more ingrained than Germany today. The supreme irony is that NATO was begging the Germans to get involved in Libya. No thanks. The lesson is that humans seem unable to learn from rational discourse or the horrors of the past. It has to happen very deep in their psyche.

  • ClappRobert

    We did it to the NATIVE INDIANS as we stepped on the shores, and continued perpetual wars to this day. 44 men have continued to lead us in empire building.

  • Mike Peterson

    “How does a Vietnam veteran review a book by a journalist and historian who contends that the war he took part in was, in essence, one giant American atrocity?…For that matter, how does a Vietnam veteran write that review for an audience of fellow Vietnam veterans?”

    So wrote Marc Leepson as a review for “The Veteran” a publication of Vietnam Veterans of America. He continues: “Turse is to be commended for compiling a detailed, well-documented account of atrocities committed by American troops in the Vietnam War. But…Turse has failed dismally by neglecting to provide the the right amount of context for his single-minded version of what he calls the ‘real American war’ in Vietnam.”

    Turse “glosses over” atrocities committed be the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army, let alone what happened during the French-Indochina war which lasted from 1945-54; on both sides.

    And there were examples of American acts of kindness: U.S. military medical teams visiting the hamlets, or Army and Marine programs that worked to bring sanitary conditions in those hamlets the visited. And especially the U.S. nurses, doctors, and medics treating Vietnamese civilians and even enemy personnel in evac hospitals all over South Vietnam.

    That doesn’t excuse American examples of atrocity, especially if such atrocities were met with a “blink and a nod” of senior American officers.

    I served in Vietnam in the Marines’ Combined Action Platoons in those very hamlets “Westy” Westmoreland sought to destroy, and the picture is murkier on that level.

  • Carlos Bento

    “The horror! The horror!”

  • Anonymous

    You claim that:

    “Turse ‘glosses over’ atrocities committed be the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army, let alone what happened during the French-Indochina war which lasted from 1945-54; on both sides.”

    It would appear after reading that less than honest statement that you could not have possibly read the book because if you had you would have discovered how Turse describes how the revolutionary forces at the battle of Hue:

    ” … held large portions of the city and carried out one of the most notorious and well publicized atrocities of the war: preplanned, targeted executions of select officials, military personnel, and others loyal to the Republic of Vietnam. According to a captured document, during this occupation the revolutionary forces ‘eliminated 1,892 administrative personnel, 38 policemen, 790 tyrants, 6 captains, 2 first lieutenants, 20 2nd lieutenants, and many non-commissioned officers.’ In all 3,000 or more people may have been killed in the massacre.” [page 102]

    That description of what the NLF did does not strike me as an example of Turse “glossing over” what the revolutionary forces did. In addition, Turse also brings to the attention to the reader in a footnote to that passage about 45 sources which a person can peruse if he or she wishes to read about other atrocities that the NVA and the NLF had committed.

    But Turse did not even have to do that as his book is not about the history of atrocities that were committed by both sides during the Vietnam war but rather, as the inside flap of the book notes, is concerned with the “Startling History of the American War on Vietnamese Civilians” a history which, to borrow from your words, was not only not glossed over but not even written about by other historians.

  • Mike Peterson

    Dear Erroll:


  • Dylan Kolad

    Not only is there repeats of torture and war crimes in Iraq or Afghanistan like Vietnam but there is a plan to expand the war through out the arab then asian countries. This would be the start of WWIII bringing on more death then WWII and vietnam combined.

  • Dan C.

    I was an undergraduate during the years 1968 to 1972 and pretty much educated myself about the American War in Viet-Nam, including listening on the radio to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (chaired by Senator Fulbright I believe) concerning the origins of this conflict. It became patently clear that America had blundered into a colonial war taking the place of the French. The Vietnamese People were fighting a war of independence from colonial domination. During the Senate committee meeting an American OSS officer, who was attached to Ho Chi Minh during the Japanese
    occupation, said that Ho greatly admired America’s fight for independence against the British Empire and had hoped that after WWII the Americans would help the Vietnamese secure their independence from the French Empire. The Senate chambers fell silent.

    When I was in graduate school during 1975 to 1980 I heard that some ROTC cadets were being told that the “Vietnam” War was lost because of “civilian constraints”. Nothing was learned from the lessons of this conflict and decades later the Neocon war hawks were confident that Americans could be intentionally deceived into waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American War in Viet-Nam was a blunder- the American War in Iraq was calculated.
    When will we ever learn?

  • Anonymous

    Another stunning testament, sharing and thinking of great advice from Joseph Conrad and George Orwell: the best way forward is to face it.

  • BoomerLefty

    real point to remember that humans are capable of committing the most horrible atrocities
    under the name of any banner. The only
    way to put an end to these acts is to stop bringing war to other nations.

  • Sey

    So the hippies were right — we really were baby-killers.

  • Mac

    I’ve always been troubled by the Vietnam vets who joined the Swiftboat smear of John Kerry and wonder if any or all of them are named in any of the archived material.

  • Julia Perry

    beautiful piece! I am a disabled vet of the navy and in the early 80s spent 53 days in a VA hospital. Oh, I most assuredly did hear these truths !!!!!

  • Julia Perry

    you’re so very right. Our boys were thrust into primitive conditions in a country where we did not belong!

  • Julia Perry

    I’m sorry for how you and your brothers were reviled by our country. No wonder Kerry, et al, tossed their medals. Thank you for your service. I was in the navy one generation later than you, and one time spent 53 days in a VA hospital in the early 80s. Believe me, I heard these truths.

  • Julia Perry

    I’m sorry for the peril you and your brothers faced. We all thank you for your brave service.

  • Suzy

    As Nick Turse spoke of what he found I was choking back tears. Being of an age when I lost many friends and family in Vietnam either by death of life or death of personality, this report really hurt deep. In our names these things were done and hidden. And, it still goes on; what is wrong with us?

  • James Cella

    Thank you Nick and Bill for telling the true story of VietNam.It sickens me but it will keep me alert re the abuse of power.I am a Canadian but, as you probably know, Canada had a hand in this as well.

  • James Cella

    What really pisses me off about all of this is that Oliver Stone by directing films such as Platoon totally misled us all about the atrocities in VietNam.Stone must have known that he was just scratching the surface of the story so why tell it at all.First time I have ever suspected Stone of being a US courtier.

  • Rhonda Richardson

    This episode curled my toes, and I have bunions.

  • Kerrie B. Wrye

    When the rest of the documenting begins to include the reality of the American families whose lives were also sacrificed to this war, then we may be on our way to a full accounting of the impact Vietnam has really had_ with no one group or side left out of the whole picture…

  • hruhs

    This was a great personal blessing for me. I lived through a lot of what the guest describes as a non governmental civilian aid worker (IVS), briefly as a correspondent with ABC (’69) and finally as the “Field Representative” for the anti-war Committee of Responsibility where I went to many of these places looking for appropriate war wounded children (i.e. likely to survive the trip mostly) and the families of children already sent back to the US which, having completed their treatment, were to be reunited with their families. I has occasion to hide in the holes Nick describes to survive American firepower. I operated in all my endeavors as a lone unarmed individual self described American. Several times during the hunts for family, which typically were complicated by the eradication of the home and village where the child had lived to be replaced by flat featureless spots that really reminded one of the lyric about turning the world into a parking lot, guides would try to convince me to claim that I was a Russian, or maybe a Hungarian or something. I never did. That is why I came back alive, an improbable outcome repeated frequently. My family is used to my mental and emotional scars and will sometimes tell people about funny stuff I still do, like take cover when I hear a helicopter approaching or the sound of automatic weapons fire nearby.

    Based on my experience in VN as a Vietnamese fluent, free actor during that war, I have is a very short list of people I consider informed, responsible and, most importantly, compassionate voices attempting to describe the American War In Viet Nam. Paradoxically for me, Nick, who wasn’t even alive then, has nudged his way to the front of this small group.

    Tank you Bill for providing this opportunity.

    Herb Ruhs, MD
    Boonville, CA

  • John Kimak

    You said it!

  • emmett grogan

    The American war on Vietnam was not a “blunder”, it was a crime against peace. Nuremberg

  • emmett grogan

    And the “global strategy” when the U.S. joined 16 other nations to invade the new born Soviet Union after the Bolshevik Revolution success in 1918-1920? Anti-communist/imperialism right down the entire period, including the attempts to reverse the Democratic Republic of Korea’s anti-imperialist struggle from 1946 on..please what counter-insurgency nonsense you spew..Petrause’ sycophant, doomed to fail

  • Chris T.

    The systematic, not-aberrant “culture” that Turse documents here, was taking place just 20 some years after WWII ended.

    Is it conceivable that the army so drastically changed its culture in that short time, from being the lauded fighter of the just war, with the “greatest generateion”?

    Hardly.Rather, this was maybe just business as usual, hightened in degree because the enemy was made to seem even less human.
    But when this was done by the Waffen SS, or Japanes troops, we condemned them and their members as war criminals, with many sentences to match.
    But of course, nothing like that , to this day, for our army.
    Too bad there is no book like this about the “good” side’s conduct in WWII.
    One “little” point: then supreme commander Eisenhower purposefully reduced the rations to German POWs to such an extent, that more than 1 million died of the consequences.
    And that was after 5/8/1945….
    However this same man did get it right in his farewell speech, as Turse shows with his techno-war comment

  • Godofwardujour
  • Doug

    This excellent expose about the conduct of war is useless and will not be believed. “You’re always blaming America! The other side did bad things, too!” It’s our attitude towards war that needs fixing. Stay out of them. Self-defence only. Trade with other countries and leave them alone.

  • Family Rotten

    I guess they were right, Communism would spread if North Korea wasn’t defeated. Just look at Amerika today. Also, this is a lesson in intervention into other countries’ affairs….perhaps its time to stop bombing brown people for financial and political gain/loss. Will the US pupulation and politicians ever learn?

  • Jon

    Explain this US attack on Soviets in 1918 period. Had a relative who fought there, esp in Archangel, Russia in 1918.

  • Anonymous

    I served with the First Cavalry Division and can tell you that I never received an order to “Kill Anything That Moves”, participated in an atrocity, or heard rumor of an atrocity. It is clear to me that Nick Turse’s intention is to single out and defame all Vietnam Veterans. Little or no
    mention is made of the atrocities committed by others (North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, Khmer Rouge, or Pathet Lao) before, during, or after the period (1965-1975) as others have noted in their one star reviews on the Amazon Website. There are many good references about Vietnam but this is not one of them.

  • Dallas D. Snell

    The South Korean Tiger Division which did not operate under the Geneva convention made US Troops look civilized. The North Vietnamese Army slaughtered and filled trenches with an untold number of civilians in South Vietnam. They also made US troops look civilized. I realize this article is about the US Soldiers but one must look at the entire picture to get a clear understanding as of why things happened as they did.I can only add that my heart goes out to all the folks that were “drafted” into that unpopular war and have to live with the memories.

  • Bryan

    I was in the armed forces at that time. I do not recall Canada having a role in Vietnam. Some Canadians served there, of their own volition, but it was not Canadian Government policy, as far as I know.

  • James Paul Cela

    I’m QUITE certain that Canadian industrialists supplied some arms and munitions.

  • James Paul Cella

    Love your last line!

  • George

    That is a really good piece of evidence. Thank you very much for documenting this so we could find out more about the Vietnam war. This has really helped me with my course work for my GCSE’s. Thank you again. I think more people need to come out with the facts and other things they know ever if they where in it or involved if you know anything it would be good to publish it she we can find out more things about this War!!

  • Pamela

    Dear Zeke, I don’t think Nick in any way im,plied that other persons’ testimonies were not worth while, on the contrary, he cites many of them.
    Revealing reality is not a contest, all the fragments add up to the total picture, provided they’re honest. Peace be with you for your efforts.

  • jim clifford

    “…well publicized?” You say “massacre and Vietnam” to most people and the knee-jerk reaction is “My Lai.” Next to the Spanish Civil War, Vietnam was probably the most poorly covered war – more bias than a used prom dress. The problem is that only one side was covered well. If Turse wanted to do a service he’d go to Vietnam and report on the little known crimes of the North Vietnamese. No touche from me. See “Philip’s Code – No News is Good News to a Killer;”

  • Anonymous

    Nick Turse said that his goal was to tell the story of what American troops did. There are always other stories to tell and someone will. American war policy should not be driven by what others are willing to do but by our values. I have discouraged my young grandsons from considering the military because I lived through the Vietnam war and was old enough to protest it in the last years. It was bad enough even without knowing all of this.

  • Anonymous

    Pointing a finger at others does not absolve us.
    Turse has exposed info that was buried in the Pentagon, not meant to be revealed to the public who, one suspects, would rather not face the horrors of Vietnam. It’s amazing how many people don’t want to face the truth. As Aaron Sorkin’s Colonel in A Few Good Men barked, You can’t handle the truth!

  • Anonymous

    A movie of Platoon”s era would not get released if
    it exposed the savage brutality of U.S. troops. It’s not Stone’s fault. I’m sure he wants to do a 9/11 film, but he must contravene our government’s implanted mythology, a strict no-no.

  • Lou Ann Hanrahan

    However, I’ve recently discovered that JSOC sends our Special Forces into countries to complete night raids and they are killing people, families, women and children. This is all done without Congressional approval and at last count these Special Forces are invading over 138 countries. So, it seems it isn’t out and out’s covert terrorist operations on the part of the United States Military.

  • fb

    As far as I can tell, every nation that becomes strong enough to impose its will beyond its borders, and does so, does monstrous things. Democracy and empire are not compatible, as Chalmers Johnson well demonstrated.

  • Gyst53

    I can confirm your account. We helped as many local Vietnamese people (living in Quang Tri Province) as well as fought against their Viet Cong and NVA relatives living just North of the DMZ! It is hard to know the enemy until they shoot at you or try to blow you up and themselves up with a grenade! War is truly Hell….

  • Buck

    There were 40,000 Canadians who voluntarily joined and served beside another 11 countries combatants who fought under the US’s singleminded cause. Those countries include:
    South Vietnam
    United States
    South Korea
    New Zealand
    Khmer Republic
    Kingdom of Laos

  • Buck

    The Vietnam War was the most televised war in history, the conflict was accessible by every journalist in the world. This book brings to light documents that were summarily held from the US public despite the FOIA.

    The wars that are the least covered by journalists are Afghanistan and Iraq, by far!!!

  • MarchMarine17

    To those who have left comments falsely claiming that “Nick Turse has done a disservice to Vietnam Veterans”, I say as a proud Marine disabled Veteran of the Vietnam War and a former member of VVAW, I take issue with that false claim. If you actually listen to Mr. Turse here, you just might begin to understand that those false claims are indeed FALSE. The Vietnam War, was not a surgically ‘clean’ war, as no war ever is. War is indeed hell and civilians of that war paid and paid agonizing costs.

  • Swift2

    One thing that motivates denying this reality are the guilty consciences of our veterans. This account puts the blame where it lies: the war policy by MacNamara the numbers guy, that embraced a strategy that was no way to win this war. The Vietnam War was lost when FDR died and Truman let the French back in– something FDR saw as bad strategy for the postwar world. The Vietnam War was lost when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu. It was lost when Ike refused to hold elections in the South in 1956, because Ho would have won in a landslide. It was lost when we didn’t understand how strong the nationalism was, and that Ho could have been our ally against China. It was certainly already lost when Mr Moyers’ boss started the escalation. Unleashing a strategy of genocide is no way to win a war. And it has traumatized a generation of Americans in ways we won’t understand until we’re all dead and our grandchildren can read about it and shake their heads.

  • Swift2

    I guaran-damn-tee that a movie based on this will never get made.

  • Swift2

    You were kids told to do these things.

  • Swift2

    When you can’t tell the difference between civilians and soldiers, isn’t that proof that the strategy is wrong? I mean, the battle for hearts and minds needs to be good for your friends, to make them safe and to think of you as their friends. To have been a peasant trying to keep his family alive for ten years, my God.

  • BB

    Will they ever learn? No.

  • Gyst53

    I was in VMO-6 in Quang Tri in 1968-69 and I agree with your viewpoint. We Marines were in “free fire” zones many times, but we weren’t cold blooded killers. I think there are many more atrocity stories from the NVA, Viet Cong to force the local population to support their cause. My observation is Mr. Turse needs to review both sides of the story! Yes, I was spayed with Agent Orange defoliant but our Government doesn’t care what was done to its own troops in the name of Liberty and Justice for All….

  • BB

    Human male DNA is loaded with impulses of savage aggression, which may be a biological imperative instilled for Darwinian survival. Kill to eat, and kill to protect what you cherish. As civilizations developed these primitive urges prevailed. Until savage drives are quelled we will be in murderous conflict until it backfires and wipes us out. Notice I said MALE.

  • BB

    A weak, lame defense/apologia. It reminds me of so many mothers who defend a killer by stating`; He was a nice boy who would never hurt a fly. I brought him up to have Christian values.
    He’s innocent. Oh, yeah?

  • Anonymous

    Does that mean those men who do not harbor savage aggressive urges have evolved before the others? I have known lots of men who never portrayed brutality or savagery during their lives. Many refused to go to war. I question whether the impulse of savage aggression is loaded into male DNA. I think there are brutal men among us, period.

  • Anonymous

    His book is not about how Americans helped with acts of kindness. It is a book revealing atrocities committed by our armed forces in Vietnam. Going off in other directions would muddy his subject matter. There were many acts of kindness. But accounts like this belong in another book – not in Turse’s story.

  • Anonymous

    So true!

  • Anonymous

    His book is not about that subject. He wrote about American atrocities in the Vietnam War.

  • Gyst53

    I saw more atrocities by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army than by any U.S. Troops!

  • Anonymous

    Nevertheless, that was not the subject of the book. That would make another book, I’m sure, but this author wrote about American atrocities.

  • David Schadle

    I have a book “Approaching Vietnam” by Lloyd Gardner
    an interesting read