While out driving around and doing some shopping, my wife listened to an interview on NPR with Nick Turse and told me about it. I then did some research on Nick Turse’s book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.
I haven’t bought or read the book yet, but I plan to, because the topic is worth reading to see what Turse wrote after his extensive research.
NPR.org reported, “The U.S. government has maintained that atrocities like this were isolated incidents in the conflict. Nick Turse says otherwise. In his book, Turse argues that the intentional killing of civilians was quite common in a war that claimed 2 million civilian lives, with 5.3 million civilians wounded and 11 million refugees.”
Turse takes the high end of the estimate of civilians killed during the Vietnam War. In truth, the estimates range from 245,000 to two million. In Cambodia, there were another 200,000 to 300,000 dead and in Laos 20,000 to 200,000—from bombs dropped by American aircraft, because American troops did not fight in large numbers in Cambodia or Laos.
For a comparison, in World War II, it is estimated that 37.5 to 54.5 million civilians were killed, and World War II spanned only six years 1939 – 1945. The Vietnam War lasted nineteen years, five months, four weeks and one day—about three times longer than World War II. In that time, the US dropped more bombs on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam than it dropped in all of World War II.
I suspect that most of the civilian deaths in Vietnam were caused by bombs dropped by American aircraft.
While I served in Vietnam, I heard of incidents like those Turse writes about, but I suspect that it wasn’t as common as Turse clams. After all, the US fought in Vietnam for almost twenty years and the last decade saw huge increases in troop numbers and the bombs dropped.
In 1959, America had 760 troops in Vietnam. The Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964 would change those numbers drastically. By 1963, the US had 16,300 troops in Vietnam and in 1964 there were 23,300. Then in 1965 those numbers reached 184,300. In 1968, the high point of the war, the US had 536,100 troops in Vietnam.
In total, 2.7 million Americans served in uniform in Vietnam. In 1966, I was one of them.
This is what I remember from my tour. We had rules that said we had to see who was shooting at us before we returned fire but we seldom saw who was shooting at us. I had unseen snipers shoot at me a number of times and come very close—one round touched my ear. Our base camp was hit usually at night by mortars and rockets, and it is true that body counts were important to General Westmoreland. At the time, the belief among America’s leaders was that we could kill our way to victory.
Continued on February 2, 2013 in Kill Anything That Moves: Part 2
His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.
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