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Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam
Author: Nick Turse
Publisher: Published January 15th 2013 by Metropolitan Books (first published August 30th 2011)
ISBN: 9780805086911
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by just a few "bad apples." But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by just a few "bad apples." But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of official orders to "kill anything that moves." Drawing on more than a decade of research into secret Pentagon archives and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time the workings of a military machine that resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded-what one soldier called "a My Lai a month." Devastating and definitive, Kill Anything That Moves finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts America to this day.

30 review for Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    3.5 Stars A insightful and shocking expose of US armed forces during the Vietnam War. I had not read or listened to any books on this subject and this did make for grim but important reading and while I struggled through it, I feel I have gained a little insight to a war that I learned very little about in history class This is a very well researched and written account and one I listened to on audio which I think might have been a tad easier had I sourced a hard copy of the book as I found the t 3.5 Stars A insightful and shocking expose of US armed forces during the Vietnam War. I had not read or listened to any books on this subject and this did make for grim but important reading and while I struggled through it, I feel I have gained a little insight to a war that I learned very little about in history class This is a very well researched and written account and one I listened to on audio which I think might have been a tad easier had I sourced a hard copy of the book as I found the tone of the narrator was lifeless I struggled through this one. However the information is there and the author does an incredible job of painstakingly sourcing instances of war crimes though the government’s own records. I was appalled to read of the shocking accounts of the mounds of corpses, including women, children, and even babies, murdered by American troops in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai and this is something that will stay with me for a long time. This is not an easy read, but I do think it is an important one in understanding what happened in Vietnam, if like me you have very little knowledge on this time in history.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    In his famous chapter How to Tell a True War Story from the Vietnam classic The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien says, "True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside. It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe" (78). Ki In his famous chapter How to Tell a True War Story from the Vietnam classic The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien says, "True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside. It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe" (78). Kill Anything That Moves is not a pleasure to read. It's not an entertainment. It's a rote account of atrocity after atrocity that gives names and faces to the abstraction created by numbers and statistics. And I felt it in my stomach with every turn of the page. This is war at its most foul, most hellish, most base and brutish. In other words, it's war without the veneer of romanticism; it's war that is not cloaked in nobility and honor and valor. It's about what men can and will do to a people they feel are inferior, labeled as "Other." It's an important book because it confronts us with the truth of what war is and the toll it takes on the land on which it's fought and its civilian populace. And it reminds us of the moral corrosion it sometimes inflicts upon the boys--little more than children--who fight it. Countless novels and non-fictions have been written about the horror of the Vietnam War and the impact it had on a generation, and rightly so. It is important to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of those who fought, regardless of how one feels about the policies of the U.S. in Vietnam. However, those accounts have mostly focused on the American cost in the war. Turse's account is different in that its purpose is to explore the war atrocities committed by American forces as a result of military policies that reinforced a "kill anything that moves" mentality. The book also reveals that My Lai was not an aberration, but only seemed one after the military used intimidation and cover-ups to keep other atrocities quiet and out of the media. This was especially true of Operation Speedy Express in the Mekong Delta, which led to approximately 5,000 civilian deaths (250). Because Vietnam was not traditional Western warfare where troops met on a battlefield, the notion of "body count" as a means of determining who was winning was instituted. The results were disastrous. War became a machine with a quantifiable output, leading to increasing pressure to produce high body counts as a sign of American victory. From this, the "Mere Gook Rule" mentality was born--if it's Vietnamese, it must be VC. Kill boards were sometimes erected, keeping tally of how many kills a unit had. Because troops were told that anyone who ran in the presence of U.S. military must be a VC and could therefore by justifiably killed as an enemy, civilians were often purposefully frightened so that they would run. Women, children, and old men who clearly were not enemies were tortured and killed with little or no effort given to ensuring they were, in fact, the enemy. Weapons were planted on some of the bodies so they could be called in as enemy kills. For example, Operation Speedy Express yielded results such as "During the week of April 19 . . . 699 guerillas had been added to the division's body count (at the cost of a single American life), but only nine weapons were captured" (250). Such discrepancies should have raised suspicions--and, in fact, often did--but the whistle blowers were often threatened into keeping quiet. Turse chronicles these harrowing events, both from the perspective of the Vietnamese survivors and from interviews conducted with American veterans. Turse clearly points the finger of blame at a military establishment more concerned with sweeping everything under the rug than confronting the demons it created with its both spoken and unspoken policies. He's not without sympathy, however, on the part of the average soldier in Vietnam and he doesn't generalize. Not every American in Vietnam is portrayed as a ruthless killer. Many of the soldiers, fresh out of high school, were placed in a war where not knowing who the enemy was, seeing the gruesome and tragic deaths of their comrades, and spending endless days humping through the boonies while worrying about a seemingly phantom enemy created a sense of disorientation, fear, and anger. Combined with fear of retribution should they disobey orders, many would do as they were told without second guessing command. The book is also not without its heroes. Men like Jamie Henry, Ron Ridenhour, and the 100 Vietnam veterans who testified at the Winter Soldier Investigations refused to remain silent about what they had seen, and participated in (both willingly and unwillingly), in Vietnam. The Winter Soldier Investigations themselves "put the lie to any notion of bad apples and isolated incidents . . . the Winter Soldiers explicitly pointed to superior officers and command policies as the ultimate sources of the war crimes they had seen or committed" (239). It took tremendous courage to stand up to the military establishment and these men should be praised for their refusal to keep silent on behalf of a people who seemed a world away to the average American. I'm not naive enough to think that war is completely unavoidable. However, books like Turse's remind us of what war really is and how it can warp the morality and finer points of human nature. It's also a reminder that when we send our men and women in uniform to fight on behalf of our country, we better make certain it is for a justifiable cause--because the costs are just too high and the sacrifice too great, for both sides, when it's not. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder and at Shelf Inflicted

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kaora

    We shoot the sick, the young, the lame We do our best to kill and maim Because the kills all count the same, Napalm sticks to kids. Ox cart rolling down the road, Peasants with a heavy load, They're all VC when the bombs explode, Napalm sticks to kids. This book is a little bit different than what I normally read, but I feel it is an important topic. I knew very little of the Vietnam War. I grew up in Canada and our history lessons mainly focused on what the British did or Canada's role in important bat We shoot the sick, the young, the lame We do our best to kill and maim Because the kills all count the same, Napalm sticks to kids. Ox cart rolling down the road, Peasants with a heavy load, They're all VC when the bombs explode, Napalm sticks to kids. This book is a little bit different than what I normally read, but I feel it is an important topic. I knew very little of the Vietnam War. I grew up in Canada and our history lessons mainly focused on what the British did or Canada's role in important battles. So after reading Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans, a book based on the Vietnam War and wanting to see the similarities I picked up this book in order to completely understand what I had just read. I don't think I have ever been quite so angry at a 5 star book. But not at the writing, but at the content. Pages and pages of incidents showing that anyone saying the My Lai massacre being an isolated incident is a fucking liar. The same massacre of which no one was ever jailed, disciplined or charged for. Just look up Operation Speedy Express, where 5,000 people died, the majority of those civilians because the US would rather kill innocents than allow VCs access to a river. I wanted to stop reading 10 pages in. The incidents kept coming, babies bludgeoned, children bombed, old men tortured, women raped. But I couldn't stop. I couldn't close the book. Because some people don't have that option. Because ignorance is what contributed to this. Because ignoring it doesn't mean it didn't/doesn't happen. Because those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The author does a great job of outlining some of the things that went wrong. In addition to the obvious ones, that Viet Congs were visibly no different, the language barrier, cultural differences, etc there were a number of problem policies, such as using body count to identify the success of a battle. These were then use in promotions, resulting in the most bloodthirsty and ruthless of soldiers being put in charge, even becoming decorated. Training focused on stripping the Vietnamese people of their humanity by using terms such as VC or 'gooks' and convincing soldiers that everyone is a potential VC. Reports of wrongdoing were quickly covered by planting evidence or resulted in slaps on the wrist, such as a written letter or a demotion. Whistle blowers were threatened and ignored. This disturbing cycle is just one that revealed itself in this book. He also outlines what happened after and the disturbing fact that the government continues to lie to us. To hide things from us. And nothing will be done about it until people start realizing. This book scares me. It scares me that despite public outcry about My Lai the investigations went nowhere. The army stalled until the public lost interest. They even did not allow the term massacre to be used in a press conference. It scares me that even after all the horrors that happened here there was nothing learned. They still say they are "Winning hearts and minds." It scares me that so many can die and be so easily forgotten. I really hope more people read this book. And start to question what we are being told. This is only part of the review. More posted at Kaora's Corner

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    I never thought I would be a little embarrassed to have been a Marine. Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse is a very disturbing account of American actions in Vietnam. Mai Lai Massacre is just the tip of the iceberg of American atrocities in Vietnam. This book goes beyond the most famous massacre and beyond napalm and beyond Agent Orange. Day to day murders of civilians for the “body count”, killing everyone in the village including women and children along with all the animals, were not jus I never thought I would be a little embarrassed to have been a Marine. Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse is a very disturbing account of American actions in Vietnam. Mai Lai Massacre is just the tip of the iceberg of American atrocities in Vietnam. This book goes beyond the most famous massacre and beyond napalm and beyond Agent Orange. Day to day murders of civilians for the “body count”, killing everyone in the village including women and children along with all the animals, were not just isolated incidents. It happened too many times to be isolated incidents of a few bad leaders. Misinterpretation of the rules went deep. Search and Destroy was not meant to be destroy everything yo find. Free Fire Zones were not meant to be shoot anything that moves, yet many in leadership roles believed this to be true. If your body count is low...shoot some prisoners to bring it up. Murder and rape were dismissed under the unofficial “Merely Gook Rule” It is sad that people look back to World War II and ask how backward was man's thinking then to let those atrocities happen back then. United States being a liberator and “the good guy” fighting evil, only twenty years later to turn it around and become the “bad guy.” It wasn't just the soldiers and Marines in the field committing massive war crimes. It was American leadership doing it too. America came to war with weapons that were primarily intended to severely would the enemy; cluster bombs, flechettes, napalm. The idea was it was more demoralizing to the enemy to see it's soldiers painfully wounded, burned, disfigured, or crippled than simply just dead. My first thoughts, being a Marine and of course learning the long and proud tradition of the marine Corps was to consider Turse's book hyperbole or plain sensationalism. I imagine this would be close to how the Soviets would have written about America's imperialistic war in Vietnam. Of course, there were a few mistakes most of us have heard of from Born on the Fourth of July to any number of “based on a true story” Vietnam movies. A few not hundreds of “mistakes.” Turse backs up his writing with almost one hundred pages of documentation. Almost a third of his book (not counting index) is documentation. He makes a compelling and well documented case. A very worthwhile, but disturbing read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    As I read this frustrating, unremitting book, I found myself thinking of a line from Alfredo Vea's great Vietnam novel, Gods Go Begging: "It's true, but it's not the truth." Turse is determined to correct what he sees--incorrectly I think--as a thorough whitewashing of the nature of the war in Vietnam by insisting over and over and over again that atrocity was the center of the story. On meaningful levels, that's true, and Turse provides copious documentation of both individual and systemic abus As I read this frustrating, unremitting book, I found myself thinking of a line from Alfredo Vea's great Vietnam novel, Gods Go Begging: "It's true, but it's not the truth." Turse is determined to correct what he sees--incorrectly I think--as a thorough whitewashing of the nature of the war in Vietnam by insisting over and over and over again that atrocity was the center of the story. On meaningful levels, that's true, and Turse provides copious documentation of both individual and systemic abuse of Vietnamese, emphasizing--again correctly--the human suffering visited by H&I policies, free fire zones, and operations such as the horrendous Speedy Express. I don't think there's any question about the truth behind the stories Turse tells. So why the two stars? Part of it has to do with Turse as a historian; he's almost entirely uncritical of his sources, presenting all manner of information as if it's equally trustworthy. This is a problem because it will open him to the sort of criticism that dismisses the points he wants to make. Nothing new about that in discussions of Vietnam; the revisionists will savage anything that doesn't adhere to their "noble cause" hallucinations. No need to help them out. That's tied to the voice of the book, which irritated hell out of me. Without justifying or apologizing for US or South Vietnemese or South Korean actions, I disagree with his choice to call the NVA and the VC "revolutionary forces," especially since--a subordinate clause or two aside--he pretty much gives them a free pass they didn't earn. This is NOT to say that the situation was equally horrible on both sides; it wasn't. But Turse again and again ramps up the rhetoric--his use of adjectives and adverbs and scare verbs bugged the hell out of me--and it has the effect of diminishing, not increasing his impact. Although Turse is reasonably clear that he doesn't want to blame the soldiers and holds command decisions accountable for what happened on the ground, the weight of the evidence focuses on the soldiers and a reader who doesn't already have the wider context will be likely to emerge with a demonized view of them. Finally, I simply don't think there's much new here, with the exception of some useful delving into official military records. The Winter Soldier hearings made the basic points Turse claims credit for very clearly, as did the numerous contemporary books he cites. Maybe we've forgotten more than I think we have. If this book reminds us about some of that, well and good. But the truth is in the memoirs and earlier histories that recognized that My Lai wasn't an isolated case.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Randy Fertel

    Kill Anything That Moves is the total fulfillment and completion of Ron Ridenhour's belief, which he took to his early grave, that My Lai was not an aberration but an operation like many another. (Ridenhour was the man who blew the whistle on My Lai -- see ridenhour.org). Turse supports Ron's idea with evidence based on government documents and interviews with veterans and victims. The evidence is as incontrovertible and devastating as it is discomforting. Turse's tone is angry but restrained--j Kill Anything That Moves is the total fulfillment and completion of Ron Ridenhour's belief, which he took to his early grave, that My Lai was not an aberration but an operation like many another. (Ridenhour was the man who blew the whistle on My Lai -- see ridenhour.org). Turse supports Ron's idea with evidence based on government documents and interviews with veterans and victims. The evidence is as incontrovertible and devastating as it is discomforting. Turse's tone is angry but restrained--just right. These things were done in our name and hidden from us even after the government did the investigations to confirm the allegations. He does not point fingers except up the chain of command, not at the men on the ground who were put in harm's way and asked to do these morally reprehensible things. Shit always flows downhill. Turse makes the case for reversing gravity. No doubt Turse should ready himself for the flame wars. They are coming. These things matter because how America wages war today is largely based on the lessons -- the wrong lessons -- drawn from Vietnam. The generals learned "no more My Lais" but what that meant was, don't put men on the ground who can be prosecuted and implicate us up the chain of command. Hence our increasing reliance on push-button wars. One reader he complains that Turse does not listen to the other side, that he should consider "how those same soldiers helped the people in that country." I suggest they read Jonathan Schell's masterpiece The Military Half on the devastation of Quang Ngai province in which he writes: "The Americans in Vietnam liked to speak of the 'military half' of what they were doing, but the 'half' was more like nine-tenths, and the other one-tenth--the contribution to 'nation building'--was often, in the context of the war, pure mockery. For example, it frequently happened that in driving the enemy out of a village the Americans would destroy it. That was the 'military half.' the 'civilian half' then might be to drop thousands of leaflets on teh ruins, explaining the evils of the N.L.F., or perhaps introducing the villagers to some hygenic measures that the Americans thought were a good idea." (quoted in Turse p69)

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    I'm reading the book. Promotions of officers were tied to the "body counts," accrued in as short as six month's time. Combatants received perks ( extra beer and food, better R&R, permission to wear non-regulation clothing, etc. ) based on the numbers of dead gooks. From the book: According to Wayne Smith, a medic with the 9th Infantry Division, the body count system led to a "real incentivizing of death and it just [email protected] with our value system. In our unit, guys who got confirmed kills would I'm reading the book. Promotions of officers were tied to the "body counts," accrued in as short as six month's time. Combatants received perks ( extra beer and food, better R&R, permission to wear non-regulation clothing, etc. ) based on the numbers of dead gooks. From the book: According to Wayne Smith, a medic with the 9th Infantry Division, the body count system led to a "real incentivizing of death and it just [email protected] with our value system. In our unit, guys who got confirmed kills would get a three-day in-country R and R." Another veteran echoed the same sentiments: "They would set up a competition. The company that came in with the biggest body count would be given in-country R and R or an extra case of beer. Now if you're telling a nineteen year-old kid it's okay to waste people and he'll be rewarded for it, what do you think that does to his psyche?" "Box scores" came to displayed all over Vietnam--on charts and chalkboards ( also known as "kill boards") at military bases, printed up in military publications, and painted in crosshatched "kills" on the sides of helicopters, to name just a few of the more conspicuous examples. "We had charts in the mess hall that told us what our body count was for the week," recalled one veteran. "So you were able to look up at a chart and see that we had killed so many." All civilians were perceived as the enemy by many soldiers. Black pajamas were often worn by men and woman who were not Viet Cong. Grenades were thrown into bunkers when voices were detected, even if only women and children were in them. Most young men would flee villages, leaving women, children and the elderly behind, for fear of being shot or captured by the Americans, or conscripted by the South Vietnamese army. Those on the bunkers were most often civilians. The "search and destroy" missions led to what became to be known as "collateral damage." Anyone interested in this period of history ( that has relevance to what has happened recently ) should read this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nick Lloyd

    Reading this book will make it abundantly clear to you why the United States lost the war in Vietnam. If you were to read this after completing Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking, which details the atrocities of the Japanese in their conquest of China during the early years of WWII, you would think the actions of Americans in Indochina were far more similar to those of Imperial Japanese soldiers than they are to their modern US counterparts. As someone who has been studying guerrilla warfare for s Reading this book will make it abundantly clear to you why the United States lost the war in Vietnam. If you were to read this after completing Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking, which details the atrocities of the Japanese in their conquest of China during the early years of WWII, you would think the actions of Americans in Indochina were far more similar to those of Imperial Japanese soldiers than they are to their modern US counterparts. As someone who has been studying guerrilla warfare for several years now, I'll be the first to admit that it is a question of much debate as to whether or not this type of war can be won in any circumstance, but the broad consensus is that if victory is possible, it must be achieved through population protection and development of domestic institutions. The US military in Vietnam did the exact opposite. Indiscriminate killing, alienating the population, and focusing on arbitrary statistics like enemy bodycount, did nothing but drive the people of Vietnam closer to the Vietcong/NVA. Perhaps saddest of all, theories of successful counterinsurgency were not only known at the time, but had been tested successfully in places like Malaya. David Galula, the famed counterinsurgency theorist, published his work in 1961. The United States military rejected overtures by foreign advisors to assist in this effort, for reasons one can only attribute to hubris. This book should be considered required reading for any scholar of the Vietnam War, as well as any student of counterinsurgency.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lou Gremalgi

    Dr. Turse does not approach this gem of fastidious and copious research, as reporting on mistakes or acts of a few renegades but proves beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the policies of the political and military hierarchy dictated a kill anything that moves culture that subjected the people of Vietnam to horrors America for decades has refused to acknowledge, and thus we are doomed to repeat. The voices that came before him Ridenhour, Buckley, Hirsh, were shouted down with an orchestrated gover Dr. Turse does not approach this gem of fastidious and copious research, as reporting on mistakes or acts of a few renegades but proves beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the policies of the political and military hierarchy dictated a kill anything that moves culture that subjected the people of Vietnam to horrors America for decades has refused to acknowledge, and thus we are doomed to repeat. The voices that came before him Ridenhour, Buckley, Hirsh, were shouted down with an orchestrated government cover up. The documents of that cover up are reveled on nearly page. Dr. Turse goes beyond soldiers tales, even beyond the supporting documents of the US Government that tell a story in themselves, He goes to the scene of the crimes, to the tortured, to the maimed, to the orphaned, to the widowed. With 30,000 books written on the Vietnam War, few come close to telling the story of the American War on Vietnam that Dr. Turse tells beautifully in Kill Anything That Moves.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    This review contains considerable material quoted directly from the book Kill Anything That Moves. While it is a book about the past, it is clearly about things that happen still in the present day, right up until the immediate moment of August 6, 2013. I dedicate this review to Bradley Manning, a whistleblower who has been prosecuted by the U.S. government even as I have been reading this nonfiction account of atrocities carried out in our name. If you didn’t believe it already, Kill Anything Th This review contains considerable material quoted directly from the book Kill Anything That Moves. While it is a book about the past, it is clearly about things that happen still in the present day, right up until the immediate moment of August 6, 2013. I dedicate this review to Bradley Manning, a whistleblower who has been prosecuted by the U.S. government even as I have been reading this nonfiction account of atrocities carried out in our name. If you didn’t believe it already, Kill Anything That Moves will convince you that atrocities are a normal part of war. What this book, published in 2013, shows is a current highlight of what has been known for decades. The My Lai massacre was not an isolated incident. I remember the Winter Soldier Investigation (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_... ) held in January 1971 in Detroit to highlight atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. This book is Winter Soldier writ large. In June 2001 author Nick Turse was directed to documents of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group in the U.S. National Archives by a friendly archivist. This investigative data was gathered after the My Lai massacre and was declassified in the mid 1990s. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_... ) Nick Turse initially published much of the material in Kill Anything That Moves in a 2005 doctoral dissertation at Columbia University. A book I read recently, A Rumor of War by Phil Caputo is a first person account of how “regular guys” come to commit atrocities in the heat of war. Caputo’s point of view is much more sympathetic than Nick Turse, giving soldiers a lot of latitude and understanding for doing pretty outrageous things in battle. Kill Anything That Moves doesn’t give many breaks to soldiers who do the wrong thing. It is an interesting comparison, showing what a difference a point of view can make. Caputo described what under less accepting circumstances would be considered war crimes, U.S. Marines rampaging thought Vietnamese villages out of control by his own admission. Kill Anything That Moves is page after annotated page of horror. Such cold-blooded killings went on in unit after unit, all for the sake of the body count. The practice of counting all dead Vietnamese as enemy kills became so pervasive that one of the most common phrases of the war was: “If it’s dead and Vietnamese, it’s VC.” . . . We shoot the sick, the young, the lame, We do our best to kill and maim, Because the kills count all the same, Napalm sticks to kids. . . . That is, the American boys on patrol were just a lure – “dangling the bait,” as the veteran and future Senator James Webb put it in his Vietnam War novel Fields of Fire. When attacked, they were supposed to back away and call in heavy firepower to destroy their Vietnamese foes. . . . Whether a single farmer’s hootch or a whole village – all were burnt. . . . “The search-and-destroy mission is just another way to shoot anything that moves.” . . . “If we ran across unarmed people that appeared to be civilians, I was to fire as near to them as possible. If they ran I had permission to kill them.” . . . “You’ve got to dry up the sea the guerillas swim in – that’s the peasants – and the best way to do that is to blast the hell out of their villages so they’ll come into our refugee camps.” . . . A hunch that an area might have enemy fighters in it? Plaster it with artillery fire. A Saigon-appointed Vietnamese official identifies a village as an enemy stronghold? Bomb it back to the stone age. . . . On March 2, 1967, several bombs slammed into the village of Lang Vei, killing at least 100 civilians and wounding another 175. And Lang Vei was hardly exceptional. Only 11 of the provinces 3,500 villages unbombed during the war. . . . Between 1965 and 1973, the U.S. Strategic Air Command launched at least 126,615 B-52 combat sorties, the majority of them hitting targets in South Vietnam. . . . Cluster munitions were simply slaughter spring-loaded into little metal cans. The BLU-3 bomblet, for instance, better known as a “pineapple,” was a small container filled with 250 steel pellets. One B-52 could drop 1,000 pineapples across a 400-yard area. As they burst open, 250,000 lethal ball bearings would tear through everything in the blast radius. . . . From 1964 to 1971, the U.S. military ordered at least 37 million pineapples, and between 1966 and 1971 it bought approximately 285 million guava bomblets – nearly seven for each man, woman and child in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia combined. Each of these “little” factoids comes with its own footnote that gives you the source. And the concluding paragraph of the chapter “Overkill” goes like this: From the start of the American War to its final years, from the countryside to the cities, Americans relentlessly pounded South Vietnam with nearly every lethal technology in their arsenal short of nuclear weapons, indiscriminately spreading death across vast swaths of territory. Such supercharged killing – so often carried out from the relatively safety of a jet flying thousands of feet above the ground, a helicopter gunship hovering over thatch-roofed huts, an artillery battery miles from the target zone, a ship lobbing shells from offshore – undoubtedly saved the lives of some American soldiers. But the logic of overkill exacted an immense, almost unimaginable toll on Vietnamese civilians. U.S. commanders wasted ammunition like millionaires, hoarded American lives like misers – and often treated Vietnamese lives as if they were worth nothing at all. The next chapter is titled “A Litany of Atrocities” and includes many horror stories like this one: We flew over a large rice paddy and there were many people working in the rice paddy, maybe a dozen or fifteen individuals, and we passed a couple of times low over their heads and they didn’t take any action, they were obviously nervous, but they didn’t try to hide or anything. So we hovered a few feet off the ground among them with the two helicopters, turned on the police sirens and when they heard the police sirens, they started to disperse and we opened up on them and just shot them all down. They were all footnoted to indicate the sources of information. I found it hard to believe what I was reading and wondered how those soldiers who participated in the described events managed to live with themselves afterward. Torture is graphically described in the chapter “Unbounded Misery.” Anyone who has spent much time with Government units in the field has seen the heads of prisoners held under water and bayonet blades pressed against their throats . . . In more extreme cases victims have had bamboo slivers run under their fingernails or wires from a field telephone connected to arms, nipples or testicles. Another rumored technique is known as “the long step.” The idea is to take several prisoners up in a helicopter and toss one out to loosen the tongues of the others. . . . In 1971, it was revealed that an official army investigation of “Torture of Prisoners of War by U.S. Officers” had come to much the same conclusion, noting the violations of the Geneva Conventions were “widespread” and the torture by U.S. troops was “standard practice.” Clearly there are no good guys in war. In the years since Vietnam, torture including the infamous “waterboarding” has continued unchecked. Revelations up to and including 2013 show that torture continues to be an important tactic of the U.S. military. The well known “School of the Americas” at Fort Benning continues to train Central American dictators in the skills of torture. Torture is an American staple. Kill Anything That Moves details atrocity after atrocity and cover up after cover up. For me it brings to mind the many stories about how badly returning soldiers from Vietnam were treated with epithets of “Baby killer!” among the most prominent. When you read this book, those allegations somehow seem less scurrilous, more believable. I remember the chants “Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?” Kill Anything That Moves tells of those realities. They were ugly times and ugly events that created great divisions in the U.S. There was validity to the chants as revolting as they were. Events that have been repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be repeated in future wars. They are part of the normal inhuman scene of war, man’s inhumanity to man. Over the next few years, the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group continuously kept an eye on the army’s atrocity investigations and provided regular reports to the military brass and the White House. The group did not work to bring accused war criminals to justice or to prevent war crimes from occurring in the first place. Nor did it make public the constant stream of allegations flowing from soldiers and veterans. As far as the War Crimes Working Group was concerned, the allegations were purely an image management problem, to be parried or buried as quickly as possible. Over time, the group became a key part of the Pentagon’s system for hiding the true nature of the war from the American public. This is a book that damns the American War in Vietnam. Some will dismiss it as leftwing propaganda. This is a book that cries out “baby killer” and worse. It is a book that calls men in the highest places liars and worse. It is a book that should embarrass a nation. But the sad fact is that it probably will embarrass few since so many of those who should be embarrassed are long dead and the stories are decades old and mostly forgotten. Author Nick Turse concludes For more than a decade I have combed through whatever files I have managed to locate, searched out the witnesses who remained, and listened as best I could. What I’ve ended up with can offer, I hope, at least a glimpse of the real war: the one that so many would like to forget, and so many others refuse to remember. This is a five star book that is hard to read but should not be forgotten. My brother-in-law is a Vietnam veteran who does not talk about his war experience. I am a veteran as a result of having read of the experiences of so many others although I was never there.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Nick Turse has written a polemical work on the Vietnam War that basically offers nothing new or revolutionary about our understanding of the conflict. Anytime an author suggests that what they are writing is "new" or "revolutionary" or "eye-opening" or a "secret history," I immediately become suspicious. Sometimes that suspicion is unfounded. But, in this case, Turse fits the bill as someone packaging old wine in a new bottle. His central claim is that "Murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displ Nick Turse has written a polemical work on the Vietnam War that basically offers nothing new or revolutionary about our understanding of the conflict. Anytime an author suggests that what they are writing is "new" or "revolutionary" or "eye-opening" or a "secret history," I immediately become suspicious. Sometimes that suspicion is unfounded. But, in this case, Turse fits the bill as someone packaging old wine in a new bottle. His central claim is that "Murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process—such occurrences were virtually a daily fact of life throughout the years of the American presence in Vietnam" (6). He echoes Ron Ridenhouer's feeling that the My Lai massacre was not an aberration but an operation. Many Goodreads reviewers are praising this book effusively for its eye-opening accounts of the "Real American War" and the litany of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by American G.I.s. If they found this book truly mind-blowing then it was probably because they have read nothing about the war or have lived under a rock for the past fifty years. Seriously. The idea that Americans committed wide scale war crimes during the war has been prevalent in the literature and news media since the Winter Soldier Trials in the 1970s. Granted, various Republican and Democratic presidents, conservative pundits, and military innovators have been very effective in their efforts to rebrand the Vietnam War as an inherently noble cause, or alternatively (and much more palatable for the American public) an opportunity to thank the troops for their service. Regardless, Turse has just re-packaged fifty years of speculation and documented evidence about war crimes into a popular history that has Barnes & Noble appeal for readers interested in wanton violence, rape, torture, and sadistic behavior. If I were to compare the narrative flow of this book to a movie, I would say that it is very similar to the horror series Saw. That is, there is very little explanation of why any of what you are reading/watching really matters other than it is disgusting and horrible. Turse meticulously details rapes, murders, executions, forced evacuations, systemic bombing of villages, massacres, and the effects of napalm on human bodies on page after page. What he doesn't do is situate any of these isolated events into a coherent understanding of the Vietnam War. Well, to be fair, Turse does say all of these isolated events represented the "American way of war": the American military (at all levels of command) intentionally prosecuted a war that "killed anything that moved" to forcibly instill fear in the South Vietnamese people so that they would relocate to refugee camps and, in turn, American soldiers could more easily root out the Vietcong. Turse commits the logical fallacy of reductio ad absurdum by taking much more sophisticated and nuanced arguments about the creation of American strategy and tactics (esp. "Search and Destroy) during this period and pushing them to the extreme of "nearly all military commanders and soldiers were probably murderers or complicit in atrocious violence." Those on the far Left and those who participated in radical segments of the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s will probably find this argument comforting because it confirms what they already believed about the war and American imperialism. However, it doesn't resonate well with more responsible scholarship. Turse's argument becomes more problematic when one begins looking at his source base. He mined the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group files in the National Archives which incompletely catalogued a number of atrocities and war crimes that were unevenly prosecuted in the post-war years. Mostly, interviewers solicited information from potential witnesses and documented alleged atrocities that occurred throughout the war, ranging from the murder of one prisoner to the slaughter of an entire village. Turse then did his own field work by trying to seek out those who contributed to the VWCWG and solicit interviews. He relies on roughly 300-400 interviews conducted with veterans who self-identified as witnesses to war crimes. Thus, his sample isn't representative of anything other than a small minority of individuals who self-reported war crimes and then consented to be interviewed by the author. It also appears that he used a convenience sampling method, or a snowball method, to compile his interviews by asking interviewees about friends who might also know something about an alleged crime. There's nothing inherently wrong about using a convenience sample when you are producing work that argues for the uniqueness of your source base. It doesn't quite fit with a universalizing argument. Turse also never offers a firm definition of atrocity. Instead, the term is thrown around throughout the book as a catch-all that becomes so broad that it is essentially meaningless. He groups strategic bombing, the bulldozing of hamlets, forced evacuations, shootings, sexual assaults, and massacres on the scale of My Lai under the same term. And that leads me to my final critique. Turse peppers the book with testimony from his small sampling of veterans and the VWCWG and then fills in the rest with long, eloquent diatribes against strategic bombing, refugee policies, the strategic hamlet program, and the use of defoliants. By the way, none of this material is new. There are literally hundreds of books that document and castigate American policies on all these fronts. Turse makes no claims for the historiographical significance or historical significance of his work other than it exposes a "secret war." Well . . . War is hell, and some alleged atrocities definitely occurred (My Lai being one example), but the Vietnam War was also much more than body parts, guts, gore, and violent sexual assaults. Turse has chosen this as his lens for understanding the entire war effort and has convinced some that his interpretation WAS the Vietnam War and that we've all been essentially misled. I do give Turse credit for trying to push the pendulum on American thinking about the Vietnam War. Was this war truly noble? Heroic? Necessary? Benign? In that effort, Turse largely succeeds during a time when commemorations of the war's approaching fiftieth anniversary were constructing a narrative that completely elided Vietnamese suffering. Then again, there are far many other works that more rightly deserve such commendation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    A Wrenching View of the U.S. Military at War in Vietnam If you were following the news in 1971, chances are you were aware at least dimly of the Winter Soldier investigation, when American soldiers, sailors, and marines testified to the atrocities they had witnessed, or even participated in, during their service in Vietnam. You may also have come across reports in newspapers and magazines from time to time about other war crimes committed by the U.S. military there. However, like most of us who f A Wrenching View of the U.S. Military at War in Vietnam If you were following the news in 1971, chances are you were aware at least dimly of the Winter Soldier investigation, when American soldiers, sailors, and marines testified to the atrocities they had witnessed, or even participated in, during their service in Vietnam. You may also have come across reports in newspapers and magazines from time to time about other war crimes committed by the U.S. military there. However, like most of us who followed news of the war only sporadically, you probably thought only about the 1968 My Lai Massacre whenever the subject of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam saw the light of day. The frenzy of reporting and commentary on that single event was so voluminous that you may remember some of the names of those involved: Seymour Hersh, whose fame as an investigative reporter began with his disclosure of the massacre; Ron Ridenhour, the soldier whose persistent efforts finally succeeded in gaining a hearing; and Lt. William Calley, the only person convicted of criminal acts in connection with the massacre of more than 500 Vietnamese villagers. My Lai was characterized by the Pentagon and the Nixon Administration as an aberration, the result of “a few bad apples” such as Calley. But it was nothing of the sort, as Nick Turse reminds us in his shattering new book, Kill Anything That Moves. The sheer scope of the Vietnam War was far greater than that of the U.S. military efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan. More than 10 times as many Americans died in Vietnam than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Even more significantly, some 3.8 million Vietnamese died in that conflict, according to the best available estimate, while Iraqi and Afghan casualties are measured in hundreds of thousands. In 1969, the peak of U.S. engagement in Vietnam, more than 540,000 troops were serving there. As Turse notes, “Over the entire course of the conflict, the United States would deploy more than 3 million soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and sailors to Southeast Asia.” As Turse illustrates, the reality of the war they experienced was far worse than even the most lurid mainstream reporting disclosed. Far from being an outlier, the My Lai Massacre was typical of the daily experience in much of the country for years on end, although no instance came to light in Turse’s research with nearly as many dead as the 500 who perished at My Lai. As Turse notes, “I’d thought I was looking for a needle in a haystack; what I found was a veritable haystack of needles . . . [A]trocities were committed by members of every infantry, cavalry, and airborne division, and every separate brigade that deployed without the rest of its division — that is, every major army unit in Vietnam.” Turse displays his findings in heart-wrenching and ultimately numbing detail. However, his major contribution in Kill Anything That Moves is to explain why so very many U.S. troops participated in the virtually indiscriminate murder of Vietnamese civilians. It was all a matter of policy set at the highest levels. The war, and war planning, were grounded in the racist assumptions underlying the emphasis on the “body count.” Turse: “[E]verything came down to the ‘body count’ — the preeminent statistic that served in those years as both the military’s scorecard and its raison d’etre.” When senior officers rated junior officers on the numbers of “enemy” dead they reported, junior officers demanded that enlisted men “kill anything that moves” in the belief that it made no difference whether the dead Vietnamese were “Viet Cong”, supporters of the allied U.S. government in the South, or simply peasants who couldn’t care less — didn’t “they all look the same”, anyway? “While officers sought to please superiors and chased promotions, the ‘grunts’ in the field also had a plethora of incentives to produce dead bodies. These ranged from ‘R&R’ (rest and recreation) passes . . . to medals, badges, extra food, extra beer, permission to wear nonregulation gear, and light duty at base camp.” Kill Anything That Moves is an indispensable contribution to the enormous body of writing about one of the most significant — and most tragic — episodes in the history of the United States.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    This book is numbing to read. It is hard to go through the litany of atrocities and absorb the impact fully and I think that grasping the magnitude of the slaughter and barbarity of the Vietnam war is not possible. 58,000 U.S. servicemen were killed in the war. The Pentagon estimates that 1,100,000 Vietnamese were killed and a Harvard study puts the death toll at 3,000,0000 the same figure is claimed by the current Vietnamese government. This book describes the U.S. conduct of the war with batta This book is numbing to read. It is hard to go through the litany of atrocities and absorb the impact fully and I think that grasping the magnitude of the slaughter and barbarity of the Vietnam war is not possible. 58,000 U.S. servicemen were killed in the war. The Pentagon estimates that 1,100,000 Vietnamese were killed and a Harvard study puts the death toll at 3,000,0000 the same figure is claimed by the current Vietnamese government. This book describes the U.S. conduct of the war with battalions competing for body counts, dehumanization of the Vietnamese, Napalm, agent orange, more bombing ordinance dropped on this tiny country than every bomb dropped in world war two, search and destroy missions, rampant killing of civilians, rape, torture, collecting body parts as souvenirs. Some places were so bombed out that whole provinces were left with out a single building standing and the landscape was denuded of everything save bomb craters which covered the whole area. Many of these things did get out to the public but were largely downplayed or ignored by the press at the time. Turse collects a mound of evidence of all of this that is available but largely ignored to this day. This is what modern war means this description of the effects of war should be read by every citizen, so that when we are asked to give our consent in a future conflict we have some grasp of what we are about to embark upon before we go to war.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rob Prince

    Unfortunately an excellent book. I say unfortunately because it is an accurate picture of the slaughter of Vietnamese by the U.S. military during the war the U.S. launched against that country. It's like reading about the holocaust - 4 million Vietnamese killed, a figure itself lost in history. the book not only details hundreds of `My Lais' but it explains the warped rationale (McNamarra's body count psychosis)for the slaughter. The book is well researched, unsparingly painful, deadly accurate. Unfortunately an excellent book. I say unfortunately because it is an accurate picture of the slaughter of Vietnamese by the U.S. military during the war the U.S. launched against that country. It's like reading about the holocaust - 4 million Vietnamese killed, a figure itself lost in history. the book not only details hundreds of `My Lais' but it explains the warped rationale (McNamarra's body count psychosis)for the slaughter. The book is well researched, unsparingly painful, deadly accurate. The shadow of that war still hangs over the country, and always will. As certain propagandists try to re-write the history of that war, suggesting that the U.S. `won' (we didn't - we got the shit kicked out of us), that it was a noble cause, that our counter insurgency tactics worked (they didn't they were a complete failure) and should be the model of more recent wars, Nick Turse bursts all those bubbles. Every American should read it,,...the same way that Germans should read what the Nazis did at Auschwitz.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Quentin Stewart

    This book will become a must have addition to anyone’s Vietnam War library and marks a turning point in how we will look at the war in the future. My Lai has become the accepted aberration of the war, but Turse opens new doors through his dogged research to show that maybe it was not an aberration, but accepted policy of the government and of the military higher ups. Pouring through Pentagon archives followed up with interviews with veterans and also with the survivors of the incidents Turse give This book will become a must have addition to anyone’s Vietnam War library and marks a turning point in how we will look at the war in the future. My Lai has become the accepted aberration of the war, but Turse opens new doors through his dogged research to show that maybe it was not an aberration, but accepted policy of the government and of the military higher ups. Pouring through Pentagon archives followed up with interviews with veterans and also with the survivors of the incidents Turse gives us eye-opening evidence that My Lai-like operations occurred time and time again throughout Vietnam. These atrocities did not occur because of a “bad egg” in a platoon but because of a culture that grew in the US military forces. It was difficult to tell who the enemy was because the Viet Cong were embedded into the very civilians that were only concerned with harvesting their crops and making a living the best they could and try to ignore the soldiers that were marching through their hamlets and rice paddies. One shot from a sniper could lead to a whole village being wiped out by bombs or artillery. “Body count” became the magic phrase for the military brass. If the “body count” was high then we were accomplishing something. I think the important thing is to not blame the “grunt” or foot soldier out there. This mind-set came from the higher ups in the military scheme of things. The officers wanted to get their “ticket punch” so that their records would show that they had been in a combat zone and if they could add some “body count” to it than all the better. It was these officers who time after time had charges against them buried by investigators and were allowed to move on up the ladder of military success. This mind-set and a bunch of 18-20 year old draftees made for a situation that would lead to in some cases war against the civilians that they were trying to win over to the side of the US. Turse’s book Kill Anything That Moves was a hard book for me to read but I am glad that I did. I do not believe that a true history of the Vietnam War or an understanding of what our soldiers went through during their time there can be made without books like this. Yes it is a tough book to read but as Americans we must stand up and say we made mistakes and try to learn from them. I have to wonder if the military has learned anything or are they still busy trying to hide what happened.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dave Moore

    I understand that the agenda Mr Turse puts forth is to enlighten the reader that the U.S. forces in Vietnam showed little regard for civilians, that the "body count" figures were absurd (and no real indicator of progress in the conflict), and that these facts were covered up, denied, and the responsibility of the upper echelons directing the military. His approach could do with a dose of balance, however. The fact is, atrocities of various grotesque types were committed equally by NLF and Vietcon I understand that the agenda Mr Turse puts forth is to enlighten the reader that the U.S. forces in Vietnam showed little regard for civilians, that the "body count" figures were absurd (and no real indicator of progress in the conflict), and that these facts were covered up, denied, and the responsibility of the upper echelons directing the military. His approach could do with a dose of balance, however. The fact is, atrocities of various grotesque types were committed equally by NLF and Vietcong forces on an equally routine basis. Vietcong guerrillas mutilated the corpses of GI's killed in action in nightmarish ways that horrified, incensed, and hardened American troops to take revenge. You have 18-20 year-old kids thrust into an alien culture in an alien environment fighting a guerrilla-style war they were never trained for and they're scared. Mind-boggling means of destruction were under the control of kids who had not yet experienced life. Their only concern was to get home alive. The unfortunate, indeed tragic, result was that if it was a Vietnamese it may be lethal---kill first-get home. Vietnam was a tragedy that didn't have to happen. It was a useless, pointless waste of lives on both sides. Mr Turse needs to direct his blame at Truman and his alliance with France after WWII which resulted in American involvement in a situation that was none of our business, not at the poor conscripts who were forced to survive in a hostile jungle.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    I found it difficult to read this book because I was in Vietnam and this catalogue of slaughter was troubling to handle. All I can do is tell the stories of my experiences when I write. Many soldiers look at killing in war as a survival technique. They defend what they are doing by claiming they want to live and have the other guy die. Some soldiers need to look at the "enemy" as less than human in order to kill them. It seems to me that part of the solution is good training, finding some way to I found it difficult to read this book because I was in Vietnam and this catalogue of slaughter was troubling to handle. All I can do is tell the stories of my experiences when I write. Many soldiers look at killing in war as a survival technique. They defend what they are doing by claiming they want to live and have the other guy die. Some soldiers need to look at the "enemy" as less than human in order to kill them. It seems to me that part of the solution is good training, finding some way to get leaders who can do a better job, getting their ideas down to the grunt on the ground, and avoiding war in the first place.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    "War is hell." - William Tecumseh Sherman “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke Most brutal armies: The Mongol Horde. The Nazi Wehrmacht. Military Assistance Command Vietnam? Yes, it was that bad. This book fills a vital gap in the literature. According to Turse, roughly 30,000 non-fiction books have been written about Vietnam (I have quite a few to go. *gulp*). Those that concern war crimes tend to focus on specific incidents, particularly "War is hell." - William Tecumseh Sherman “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke Most brutal armies: The Mongol Horde. The Nazi Wehrmacht. Military Assistance Command Vietnam? Yes, it was that bad. This book fills a vital gap in the literature. According to Turse, roughly 30,000 non-fiction books have been written about Vietnam (I have quite a few to go. *gulp*). Those that concern war crimes tend to focus on specific incidents, particularly My Lai. None look synopticly at how America fought the war. Drawing on the files of the US military Vietnam War Crimes Working Group (those that haven't mysterious disappeared), and interviews with veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse has compile a chilling account of the routine occurrence and sanctioning of war crimes. An estimated million civilians were killed in South Vietnam during the American war. Some of these were the collateral of the American juggernaut: victims of aerial bombardment, Agent Orange, and random shellings. Many more were callously personal: village bunkers cleared with grenades, children run over by convoys, girls on bicycles knocked down by passing troops. And a final category is chillingly inhumane: torture and execution of prisoners, buzzing farmers with helicopters until they ran in terror and then machine gunning them as Viet Cong, hours long gang rapes of teenage girls by combat patrols. Day after day for years on end, in every province of the country, American soldiers mistreated Vietnamese civilians in ways that violated every law of war. Turse admits that this book is not a complete story, but he tells enough to show a clear pattern of abuse starting at the highest echelons of command. Body count-driven strategy meant that commanders were encourage to manufacture kills by any means necessary. Higher echelons didn't bother to check that the bodies were accompanied by weapons. Similarly, nobody was sanctioned for war crimes. Lt. Calley became the fall man for 40 more senior officers, and suffered only a few months of house arrest and the loss of his reputation. The Mere Gook Rule, which started that American lives were precious, firepower was cheap, and Vietnamese lives worth nothing at all, was applied at every level-from shooting 'escaping' prisoners to flattening villages and relocating the population to squalid strategic hamlets. I believe strongly that war is a moral enterprise, and in Vietnam those in command showed the utmost moral cowardice and disregard for the honor of their uniforms and the American flag. In seven years of war, Vietnam experienced something equivalent to the My Lai massacre every week. What happened there was just as bad as anything on the Eastern Front in WW2, my previous gold standard for man's inhumanity to man.

  19. 5 out of 5

    K.

    Written with a clear bias, which given the extent of atrocity and human rights violations that occurred, is not exactly unforeseen. It is a truly robotic person who isn't the slightest bit disgusted by reading Turse's recitation of what happened at My Lai, (one of the most well-known operations of the Vietnam War) or really, any tiny hamlet US troops were told to "search-and-destroy". All that death and destruction rained down on an undeserving people, culminating in a ultimately failed venture Written with a clear bias, which given the extent of atrocity and human rights violations that occurred, is not exactly unforeseen. It is a truly robotic person who isn't the slightest bit disgusted by reading Turse's recitation of what happened at My Lai, (one of the most well-known operations of the Vietnam War) or really, any tiny hamlet US troops were told to "search-and-destroy". All that death and destruction rained down on an undeserving people, culminating in a ultimately failed venture of "democracy". "The United States never wanted to admit that the conflict might be a true "people's war," and that Vietnamese were bound to the revolution because they saw it as a fight for their families, their land, and their country." I was constantly moved to put this down, disturbed yet unsurprised by the machinations of my government. They used racism and general xenophobia as a way to make a proving ground for new US military technologies, all while pretending to fight the good fight against communism. This conflict ruined the lives of the (young, so incredibly young) soldiers they brainwashed to this nightmare and the thousands upon thousands of Vietnamese civilians who had the audacity to exist where the US wanted to firebomb/bulldoze/defoliate. None of this is news, really, but I can see echoes of it in the way OEF and OIF is presented by our media; Turse makes oblique reference to it in the very end: "Never having come to grips with what our country actually did during the war, we see its ghost arise anew with each successive military intervention. Was Iraq the new Vietnam?" This book was an experience I wish had never happened. As Sherman once said, "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it." But it did happen and we should at least do the victims of this cruelty the favor of remembering it fully, without mitigation.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Extremely hard to rate this book using the Goodreads rating system, while I did not love the book, its subject matter and content made it very hard to read and get through, it was and is something that needs to be known and read. The author does a very good job of painting a well documented and vivid picture of the atrocities the US armed forces and its allies regularly carried out against the Vietnamese people, showing that they were systematic abuses rather than aberrations as the My Lai Massa Extremely hard to rate this book using the Goodreads rating system, while I did not love the book, its subject matter and content made it very hard to read and get through, it was and is something that needs to be known and read. The author does a very good job of painting a well documented and vivid picture of the atrocities the US armed forces and its allies regularly carried out against the Vietnamese people, showing that they were systematic abuses rather than aberrations as the My Lai Massacre was claimed to be. Sadly given the amount of documented cases that have up to this point been swept under the rug it seems that the protestors protesting "Baby Killing/Killers" were sadly in the right on quite a few cases. 5 stars because the author documents and cites sources for every case, and this is a piece of writing that needs to be read, its facts known, even if reading it is extremely hard and depressing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Bales

    Difficult to read, obviously because of the subject matter, Nick Turse was able to mine the National Archives for war crimes investigation reports that had been sitting unread for 40+ years from the Vietnam War which led to hundreds of hours of interviews with U.S. veterans and Vietnamese to come up with this monumental work on what he calls the "real war" in Vietnam. That is, a war that killed mostly civilians and where American firepower was directed against an often defenseless and innocent p Difficult to read, obviously because of the subject matter, Nick Turse was able to mine the National Archives for war crimes investigation reports that had been sitting unread for 40+ years from the Vietnam War which led to hundreds of hours of interviews with U.S. veterans and Vietnamese to come up with this monumental work on what he calls the "real war" in Vietnam. That is, a war that killed mostly civilians and where American firepower was directed against an often defenseless and innocent population. Of course, the information was there decades ago but had been buried, whitewashed or ignored. Turse again resurrects the tales of "free fire zones", "pacification" and "strategic hamlets" in a retelling of the monstrous and very unjust war, the more sordid parts of which are often forgotten--but as he shows, not by the Vietnamese who survived or the U.S. veterans. One of the great books on the Vietnam War.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is an important book. I always had a somewhat vague knowledge that things did not go well for the civilians living in Vietnam during the time of the Vietnam War, but I had no idea it had been this bad. The author lays out the evidence showing systematic, pervasive, and horrifying brutalization, torture, rape, murder, and general mistreatment of civilians all over that nation during the war at the hands of American troops. This book will open your eyes. If only a fraction of the crimes alleg This is an important book. I always had a somewhat vague knowledge that things did not go well for the civilians living in Vietnam during the time of the Vietnam War, but I had no idea it had been this bad. The author lays out the evidence showing systematic, pervasive, and horrifying brutalization, torture, rape, murder, and general mistreatment of civilians all over that nation during the war at the hands of American troops. This book will open your eyes. If only a fraction of the crimes alleged in this book are true, and I think more than that are indeed true, you will want to take action in whatever ways you can. I know I will.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

    This book is extremely unsettling. It was difficult to read atrocity after atrocity, massacre after senseless massacre, rape after gang rape, the conditions in "concentration zones" which did not have the basic essentials of life, and the constant abuse in the field of elderly, women, and children, not to mention extensive, graphic, and brutal torture. This reads more like a masters thesis or a dissertation than a book, thanks to the overwhelming amount of citations, amounting to about one third This book is extremely unsettling. It was difficult to read atrocity after atrocity, massacre after senseless massacre, rape after gang rape, the conditions in "concentration zones" which did not have the basic essentials of life, and the constant abuse in the field of elderly, women, and children, not to mention extensive, graphic, and brutal torture. This reads more like a masters thesis or a dissertation than a book, thanks to the overwhelming amount of citations, amounting to about one third of the book. That goes to extreme lengths to show how well the author documented and cross referenced all the information he took in an synthesized it into one horrific whole. I'd like to share a few quotes from the book which characterize the book, and the Vietnam War as a whole, something which the United States certainly should have brought up on war crimes concerning: Page 79: "Between 1965 and 1968, thirty-two tons of bombs per hour were dropped on the North. It turned out, however, that of the munitions unleashed by the United States in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War-Which added up to the equivalent of 640 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs-the lion's share was dropped not on the North but on South Vietnam, America's own ally." Page 94: "'Only you can prevent forests,' a play on the Smokey the Bear Slogan about forest fires, was the dark motto of the troops who carried out 'ecocide' in the previously verdant country. It was obvious to anyone who cared to look, though, that forests were only a small fraction of the story. According to hamlet census data, toxic defoliants were sprayed on as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese. Immediate reactions to exposure included nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. In the longer term, defoliants have been associated with higher incidence of stillbirths as well as a variety of illnesses, including cancers and birth defects such as anencaphaly and spina bifida. Children born decades after the war still suffer the aftereffects." Page 117: "Vietnamese sources estimated that by August 1966, the marines in Quang Nam had killed more than 4,600 civilians and wounded more than 5,200, the overwhelming majority of them women and children. The situation had spun so far out of control that a few months later, Lieutenant General Lewis Walt, the commander of III Marines Amphibious Force, sent a secret communique to two top generals, noting, 'I am greatly disturbed, as I am sure you are, by the number of serious incidents involving allegations of felonies by Marines against Vietnamese civilians. But despite Walt's concern the carnage continued." Page 184: "When the Army finally did launch an investigation into the 172nd MI several years later, it found evidence of abuse exceeding anything Herbert had seen. The Inquiry indicated that for at least 20 straight months, from March 1968 to October 1969, prisoners and civilian detainees were consistently "subjected to cruelty and maltreatment," with much of it carried out by American MI troops. Indeed, it appeared that the American Interrogators considered torture to be a routine part of their work." Page 188: "In fact, however, executing prisoners or putting them in situations where they might perish was hardly uncommon. Detained civilians and captured guerrillas were often used as human mine detectors and regularly died in the process." Page 262: "Despite the decades that have passed, despite presidents who have attempted to rebrand the war or dispatch it to the dustbin of history, Americans are still in the thrall of a conflict that refuses to pass quietly into the night. Never having come to grips with what our country actually did during the war, we see its ghost arise anew with every successive military intervention. Was Iraq the new Vietnam? Or was that Afghanistan? do we see 'light at the end of the tunnel'? Are we winning 'hearts and minds'? is 'counterinsurgency' working? What are those lessons, anyway? The true history of Vietnamese civilian suffering does not fit comfortably into America's preferred postwar narrative-the tale of a conflict nobly fought by responsible commanders and good American boys, who should not be tainted by the occasional mistakes of a few 'bad apples' in their midst. Still, this is hardly an excuse for averting our eyes from the truth. For more than a decade I have combed through whatever files I managed to locate, searched out the witnesses who remained, and listened as best I could. What I've ended up with can offer, I hope, at least a glimpse of the real war, the one that so many would like to forget, and so many others refuse to remember." These are just a few of the moving and often heart-rending passages from this incredibly important work of history. I encourage you to read it, and learn the truth.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ted Diamond

    The stories of the casual massacres of South Vietnamese are heartbreaking. And even though this book speaks to only a fraction of the civilians suffering in that senseless war, it is valuable. It is not an easy read, if for nothing else, for the metronomic regularity of the accounts by which American and South Korean soldiers unleashed their demons in torture, rape, and murder of the civilians they were supposedly protecting. It is not an easy read, but I would recommend it to anyone. Apart from The stories of the casual massacres of South Vietnamese are heartbreaking. And even though this book speaks to only a fraction of the civilians suffering in that senseless war, it is valuable. It is not an easy read, if for nothing else, for the metronomic regularity of the accounts by which American and South Korean soldiers unleashed their demons in torture, rape, and murder of the civilians they were supposedly protecting. It is not an easy read, but I would recommend it to anyone. Apart from the human tragedy, one lesson of the book is the exposure of the mechanisms by which these acts are covered up, "tamped down", and accepted as the daily conduct of war. Soldiers kill women, grandfathers and grandmothers, children and babies in a hamlet. Kill them as they cower in tunnels dug for their protection. Perhaps an old rifle is found in the village. If not, one soldier or another drops a spare weapon on the scene. The leader radios in that his men killed twenty Viet Cong in a firefight. And the war rolls on. But as Turse makes clear, these episodes were not just instances of soldiers going haywire. This incentive to inflate kill counts came from the top, and soldiers who did not keep up with the berserking that was expected of them were punished by assignment to more and more difficult and dangerous patrols, and greater exposure to the risk of death. The top-level mandate to prove that the United States was winning the war, a war of numbers, trickled down and became a mandate to kill any South Vietnamese human being, with little regard for the rules of war. At first, few stood up and said this was unacceptable. Those that did, did so at the risk of their lives. Most often, they were punished, or became the targets of investigation themselves. Later, as the number of disillusioned veterans grew, more stood up and spoke the truth about what they had done, and what was still being done in Vietnam. These were the WInter Soldiers. The military, like any institution, has entrenched mechanisms by which those at the top protect themselves;if blame is to be laid, it is laid on those at the bottom. Notably, Colin Powell, famed for his role in Desert Storm (the first invasion of Iraq), and then Secretary of State during the second Iraq War, worked to cover up the role of senior officers in the "kill at any cost" mandates. (He is the consummate company man, baldly lying to protect those in power) Before reading this book, I was unaware of the scope of American atrocities in South Vietnam. As this was happening, our attention was focused on the carpet-bombing of civilian centers in North Vietnam, the mining of Haiphong Harbor, and the secret, illegal extension of the war into Cambodia. Turse has uncovered a trove of declassified official documents, and has corroborated the stories they tell by going back and visiting the locations of these massacres, speaking to survivors. What does this book suggest about the conduct of war in the countries we have most recently invaded? As in Vietnam, very low-level soldiers have been singled out for "egregious" acts (e.g., Abu Ghraib). What will we learn decades from now when documents from this war are declassified? War is, inevitably, mass murder of civilians. Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq were wars of choice, not necessity.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Turse’s premise is that atrocities committed during the Vietnam War exceeded (both in number and intensity) what is commonly stated in history books, and this culture of atrocities was ordered and covered up by military and government officials stretching up to the Pentagon itself. The sheer amount of events he discusses and witnesses he mentions show the massive extent of the research that went into making this book, and for that, Turse should be commended. But the book itself falls short from t Turse’s premise is that atrocities committed during the Vietnam War exceeded (both in number and intensity) what is commonly stated in history books, and this culture of atrocities was ordered and covered up by military and government officials stretching up to the Pentagon itself. The sheer amount of events he discusses and witnesses he mentions show the massive extent of the research that went into making this book, and for that, Turse should be commended. But the book itself falls short from the very beginning. To the author, every civilian casualty is an atrocity; he seemingly rejects out of hand the idea of “collateral damage,” misguided fire missions, and the myriad of other events that take place in war, events that lead to disaster when they occur in heavily-populated areas. To avoid every “atrocity” (in Turse’s use of the term) armies must avoid fighting in anything but barren land, devoid of human population; obviously, this happened only rarely in modern history and will continue to be just as rare. The topic of atrocities in Vietnam requires the understanding that only a military veteran (not necessarily from Vietnam) has; at the very least, a combat veteran should play a significant role in the writing. However, neither of these seems to be true in this book. Turse clearly has no combat experience, especially in a counterinsurgency, leaving him baffled, and yet, judgmental, when discussing “excessive force.” He fails to understand the horror of wounds from land mines and the terror of sniper attacks, and in this failure, he removes any opportunity for understanding why a unit, or individual soldier, would respond as they did. This lack of understanding, and the corresponding lack of any empathy, makes his entire premise seem hollow and ignorant, detracting from the overall value of the information he gathered in his research. And while the purpose of the book is to expose American (including South Vietnamese and South Korean) atrocities, Turse almost completely fails to mention Viet Cong and North Vietnamese tactics and atrocities; this leaves only half of the picture of events in Vietnam. For example, Turse never mentions, or perhaps never researched, the stories from veterans about how the “freedom fighters” fired from the edges of villages specifically so that the Americans would retaliate and end up harming the villagers. Perhaps the worst oversight that Turse commits is in not discussing the problems of waging war in a democracy. With the sights and sounds of war, and seemingly unending casualty lists, coming home in Vietnam, public opinion required that the suffering by the nation’s soldiers be minimized; basically, it’s easier to justify “massive retaliation” against a target than to justify losing men in an effort to avoid any sort of collateral damage. This completely escapes (or is ignored by) Turse. The atrocities committed in Vietnam should be discussed (and should have been when they happened), but the method that Turse uses in this book seems more like propaganda than history. His ignorance of combat and obvious agenda diminish the overall quality of the book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve Woods

    This was a difficult book to read. I was very young, 19, however having been conscripted and tagged for a tour in Vietnam, I sought to find out what I could. The reports in the media had already left me skeptical of the government line justifying the war, for Australia followed the American line as slavishly as we followed the US into the war. Nothing has changed we're still doing it. The day I landed at Ton Son Nhut air base, then the busiest airfield in the world with at least one aircraft tak This was a difficult book to read. I was very young, 19, however having been conscripted and tagged for a tour in Vietnam, I sought to find out what I could. The reports in the media had already left me skeptical of the government line justifying the war, for Australia followed the American line as slavishly as we followed the US into the war. Nothing has changed we're still doing it. The day I landed at Ton Son Nhut air base, then the busiest airfield in the world with at least one aircraft taking off or landing every few seconds, the massive firepower on tap was immediately obvious. In only a few days in country the devastating effect of the American army of occupation was visible everywhere, seeding the overwhelming shame I was to eventually feel for having been a part of it at all. The Australian Army had had extensive experience with anti guerrilla jungle warfare in Malaya and Borneo before our commitment to Vietnam. Our approach was much different to that of the American forces. Generals Westmoreland and Abrams, war criminals and incompetent both in my view, regarded our forces as insufficiently aggressive because of our methods, which certainly involved the use of firepower but that use was always judicious as opposed to prolific and unrestrained. Not that mishaps did not happen, but the slaughter that was so much part of the American way of war was never for us. Our professionalism, training and strict rules of engagement prevented our corruption by the American kill everything that moves credo. None the less we were still a part of that greater tragedy. By the time I left the country I suffered from a terrible sense of guilt and rage. I have managed over the sat 6o years to deal with that guilt, the rage remains as I watch the same braggart sense of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny wreaking havoc still, and dragging young Australians into yet more folly, based still as was the Vietnam war, on lies, deceit and arrogance. Shame on our politicians for continuing the deluded nonsense that is the so called American alliance. They would desert us as quickly as they abandoned their Vietnamese, Khmer and Lao allies when it suited them. Despite their rhetoric there has been little than one could regard as honorable in the American way of dealing with their allies in the past several decades, we seem to be more just window dressing for the public relations spin than anything else and we have paid for that in the blood of our young. The one axiomatic truth that the whole Vietnam debacle declared so loudly was that the bullshit that forms the basis of the American legend is just delusional thinking never borne out in fact. Least of all during their butchering of Indochina and its populations. In so many ways there is little difference between their conduct and that of the declared forces of evil, the fascist states that were the enemy during World War 2.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Outstanding. This was a very difficult book to read. I had no illusions about American conduct during Vietnam, but I still had a mental picture of "bad apples" and casual racism. And of course "isolated incidents" like My Lai. No. I was very, very wrong. There were some tough chapters to get through. There are three main thrusts in this book. First, My Lai was not an isolated incident, but rather one of countless massacres, extraordinary only in death toll. "Search and destroy" missions often resu Outstanding. This was a very difficult book to read. I had no illusions about American conduct during Vietnam, but I still had a mental picture of "bad apples" and casual racism. And of course "isolated incidents" like My Lai. No. I was very, very wrong. There were some tough chapters to get through. There are three main thrusts in this book. First, My Lai was not an isolated incident, but rather one of countless massacres, extraordinary only in death toll. "Search and destroy" missions often resulted in the murder of civilians. Second, high-level military policy (such as obsession with "body counts") lead directly to torture and other violations of the Geneva Convention, mass shelling of civilians, and unrestrained bombing campaigns over civilian areas. Finally, that the military, press, and U.S. Government all cooperated in suppressing any internal reports, and whitewashing any public investigations. The first category, the wide spread war crimes conducted by ordinary soldiers, was the hardest to read and understand. Because it wasn't all "There's a sniper shot, flatten that village" heat-of-the-moment stuff. That, while still reprehensible, is understandable to an extent. That is, I know WHY, but it isn't an excuse. But for example, the standard operating procedure for helicopter gunners was that anyone who ran was "VC." Anyone who ran from the heavily armed helicopters that swooped in suddenly firing machine guns. That is just casual, thoughtless, bloodthirsty murder. Rape and casual murder were basically SOP in many regions. And this stuff isn't from anti-war groups, or "commie propaganda." For the most part, Turse used internal US Government documents, as well as personal interviews with witnesses and survivors as his sources. In short, you need to read this. Everyone should read this. Because as a culture we've managed to just feel vaguely unpleasant about Vietnam, and move on. We NEED to confront this. We, as a nation, committed war crimes. We slaughtered tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of civilians, most of them in SOUTH Vietnam, ostensibly our allies. And virtually no one was ever prosecuted, or even investigated. I'm not suggesting that we suddenly start investigating 40 year old crimes. That's not the point. My point is that we need to understand that yes, we really are capable of horrible things. We are not always the "good guys". War rarely has "good guys", or "bad guys". It's usually just "guys". I am not a conspiracy theorist at all, but we need to wake up and understand that our government is absolutely capable of doing horrible things. To understand that words like "collateral damage" hide untold misery and death. We need to understand that war really is hell, and that it isn't about "putting a boot in their ass", but choosing when and where something is worth ending the lives of other human beings.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Nicely written, researched to the nth degree, but hard to stomach. Why haven't we as a nation learned the history (never mind the lessons) of Vietnam? Probably because if we learned the history, we would also have to review all of the indiscriminate murders, rapes, destruction, setting fire to villages, and all of the war crimes that would be painful for a people who think of themselves as the "good guys" . The My Lai massacre was much more than just William Calley going berzerk--it was calmly c Nicely written, researched to the nth degree, but hard to stomach. Why haven't we as a nation learned the history (never mind the lessons) of Vietnam? Probably because if we learned the history, we would also have to review all of the indiscriminate murders, rapes, destruction, setting fire to villages, and all of the war crimes that would be painful for a people who think of themselves as the "good guys" . The My Lai massacre was much more than just William Calley going berzerk--it was calmly carried out under direct orders by a large number of soldiers. The boys even took a break to have a quiet lunch before finishing their gang rapes and slaughter of men, women, children, babies. 2-3 million people, mostly civilians, died in the American part of the war. My Lai was not an exception, but rather too often a commonplace. Women and girls were routinely raped and then killed. It's hard reading for sure. The author documents events on the ground (including whistleblowers who were fragged by fellow soldiers), the various attempts to suppress dissent by higher ups in the army and in the Nixon administration, William Westmoreland's part in covering. The press tried to cover these crimes but the distance and the distaste for stories that could inflame the anti-war movement led to story stunting (partly due to fear of government sanction). No one wanted to be accused of left-wing kook or a Communist. Slowly some of the story started to come out, at least by 1971. Telford Taylor, a counsel for the Prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials, pointed out that what we were doing in Vietnam would be considered crimes of war had it happened in Europe during WWII. Finally, the various stories of atrocities reached a critical mass to where they could not be minimized. We are not inherently different from other nations. Our empire is not well served by its ideological doctrine of American "exceptionalism." This is the idea that we are special--that we alone can exert our power around the world and do what we wish to whomever is our enemy-du-jour without worrying about war crimes or international courts. We should be cautious in our use of power--we may some day be held to account.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rudy Dalessandro

    A very strong indictment of the US as a nation that collectively committed war crimes throughout its war in Vietnam. The author has resurrected extensive documentation from Vietnam veterans, Inspector General reports and the Pentagon's own investigations into an endless stream of war crimes allegations. This was a very hard book to read all the way through, because the recital of brutality by US troops, at the belligerent behest of their bloodthirsy, arrogant and racist colonels and generals is A very strong indictment of the US as a nation that collectively committed war crimes throughout its war in Vietnam. The author has resurrected extensive documentation from Vietnam veterans, Inspector General reports and the Pentagon's own investigations into an endless stream of war crimes allegations. This was a very hard book to read all the way through, because the recital of brutality by US troops, at the belligerent behest of their bloodthirsy, arrogant and racist colonels and generals is unending and graphic, and knowing that our military reprised some of its greatest hits, and added new chapters via broad application of torture to interrogate Arab prisoners at Abu Graib and throughout the Middle and Near East in search of Osama Bin Laden, how can you doubt the veracity of the charge here? Guilty as charged, sir. We Americans like to think that we're the "good guys" on this planet, in this world filled with dictators and genocidists, but any reasonable look at the historical record, from just after first contact through the near-genocide of Native Americans during our "Indian wars," and via our conduct of wars in Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, Vietnam and Iraq show that we have created a grave national negative karma, hardly offset by all the humanitarian assistance we've undertaken during that seem reign of planetary terror. Other nations, even such tough guy states as Russia and China, must seriously quaver when considering military engagement with the US - we are serious badasses who have proven again and again the willingness to go medieval, and atomic, on any or all foes we encounter. Does this book atone for the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths we caused in all these countries over the past 4 centuries? No, not at all, but for a nation to face its karma it must acknowlege its negative karma and books like this, and the many films that have come out over the past 40 years, plus all the other written exposes, help raise awareness in all of us living in a jingoistic fog of ignorance to wake up and realize we have much to do moving forward to being better neighbors to all sentient beings on this planet.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Austin Kirk

    I really did not enjoy reading this book... but, I guess that was sort of the point. Through the first half, I found it a chore to make it through the chapters, as the information was a bit repetitive and nauseating at the same time. For most of the book I felt like there was a side of the story, explaining what exactly would allow this to happen. However, in the end the book does help explain what may be the root cause of these atrocities. I thought I was going to end up giving this book only 2 I really did not enjoy reading this book... but, I guess that was sort of the point. Through the first half, I found it a chore to make it through the chapters, as the information was a bit repetitive and nauseating at the same time. For most of the book I felt like there was a side of the story, explaining what exactly would allow this to happen. However, in the end the book does help explain what may be the root cause of these atrocities. I thought I was going to end up giving this book only 2 or 3 stars, but at the end I realized why this is such an important story to tell, and why it needs to be a hard book to read. If basing a rating on whether a book is the best it can be, there is no way this does not deserve 5 stars. It is a hard book to read, but that is the point. Two of the passages I highlighted later in the book helped me understand this... The first comes in the afterword to the 2014 edition, explaining a meeting with an out-spoken veteran who "wasn't shy about telling truths about his war. But too many of his fellow veterans take such stories to their graves without ever speaking about them—just as too many Americans have refused to listen to veterans who, like this “ammo humper,” did find the courage to stand up and speak out." The second comes from the epilogue: "The true history of Vietnamese civilian suffering does not fit comfortably into America’s preferred postwar narrative—the tale of a conflict nobly fought by responsible commanders and good American boys, who should not be tainted by the occasional mistakes of a few “bad apples” in their midst. Still, this is hardly an excuse for averting our eyes from the truth. For more than a decade I have combed through whatever files I managed to locate, searched out the witnesses who remained, and listened as best I could. What I’ve ended up with can offer, I hope, at least a glimpse of the real war: the one that so many would like to forget, and so many others refuse to remember."

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