A Brief History
On February 25, 1968, South Korean Marines fighting against the communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army alongside Americans and the South Vietnamese committed a terrible atrocity in the town of Hà My in South Vietnam. Sadly, in virtually any war that can be researched, atrocities are almost sure to be found committed by both sides in the conflict.
The South Korean Marines, renowned for their toughness, had suffered a mortar attack in which an officer, an NCO, and 4 troops had been killed. The direction the mortar fire came from was deemed to be from the Hà My area and the South Koreans went about conducting a retaliatory attack to “discourage” further mortar fire.
Starting with a heavy artillery bombardment, the village was then attacked from the air by South Korean armed helicopters that sprayed the village with machine gun fire. A detachment of about 200 South Korean Marines was then sent in to “mop up” surviving villagers, gunning down innocent civilians where they were found. In all, 135 people were murdered, almost all of which were elderly people, women and children.
The South Koreans attempted to hide their handiwork by using a bulldozer to dig a mass grave into which the victims were thrown. Then Korean helicopters dropped Napalm bombs on the mass grave in an effort to burn the bodies. Oddly enough, it was the desecration of the dead bodies that enraged the Vietnamese the most!
Far from cowing the locals into fearfully refraining from attacking the South Koreans, local resolve turned against the South Koreans and resulted in anti-Korean activity until the South Koreans finally vacated Vietnam in 1973. Reprisals and retribution seem to seldom have the effect desired by the perpetrators, and usually just hardens the resolve of the offended people.
After the North Vietnamese finally conquered South Vietnam in 1975, the now unified country of Vietnam recognized the people of the Hà My region as a “Hero District of the People’s Armed Forces.”
Question for students (and subscribers): How many different military forces committed atrocities during the Vietnam War? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Ketwig, John. Vietnam Reconsidered: The War, the Times, and Why They Matter. Trine Day, 2019.
Milam, Ron. Not a Gentleman’s War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War. University of North Carolina Press, 2012.