Stories as documented by Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, in their book, Four Hours in My Lai
“Truong Thi Le [pictured above], aged 30, lost nine members of her immediate family including her husband, mother, three brothers, and a 17year old daughter.When the shelling started, he mother and two of her children hid in a corner of their home. The Americans arrived and dragged them away and she became separated from them. Instead she was rounded up with her 6-year-old son,Do Ding Dung. When the shooting began she pushed him into a paddy field beside the trail and lay on top of his boy, pressing him down, urging him not to cry. She wanted to see if they could save themselves. Two corpses were on top of her and when she raised her head slightly as the shooting stopped she could see soldiers still moving. They appeared to be pointing toward people on the ground. They began shooting those who were alive all over again. Eventually they left and Mrs. Le walked along the path unable to believe her eyes—women and children were lying dead everywhere. Her three brothers were killed in a bomb crater, but most sad of all, her daughter was sitting dying, holding her grandmother, who was already dead. She said to Mrs. Le: “Mother, I think I am very badly injured, maybe I’ll die, I don’t think I can survive.You have survived, you had better take little brother away. Please don’t stay here as the Americans will shoot you.” Mrs. Le cried her heart out.Virtually her whole family was dead. She carried her son into the paddy field and lay down again to hide. The world had ended. Her husband had left for the rice fields at first light that morning and she never saw him again. Nine members of her family had died. When the troops left she carried her child home in her arms, but there was no home left. It was burned to cinders . . .”
“Truong Moi, an 18-year-old fisherman, was working at his nets in the river out in the paddies, seven hundred meters beyond the irrigation dike on the western side, when the Americans landed between him and the village. He had dropped his nets the previous evening and was up early at first light to check his catch and collect the fish. Soon after the shelling stopped, troops landed in waves about 500 meters away from his position. They then spread out before they entered the village, shooting as they went. He hid frightened behind a bush, worried that he might be shot but more concerned for his family, especially his mother.
The helicopters continued firing around the edges of the paddies for half an hour. He could see smoke inside the village itself, coupled with explosions and a great deal of shooting. Trees were falling and homes were set on fire. In the afternoon he went back tot the village and found the charred remains of his elderly mother who had been shot dead in their home. All the farm animals had been slaughtered.
He searched for the rest of his family. Along the paths and in the ditches beside the fields there were piles of bodies everywhere. Entire families had been killed. The throats of some of the children had been slit; others were disemboweledand completely naked. Moi’s sense of horror and outrage was combined with a deep sense of injustice. His had been a very quiet and peaceful community, virtually untouched by the war, apart from the shelling and bombing. They saw few soldiers. he Americans had only been in the village twice—just before and just after Tet, less than two months previously. The troops asked the people for water and in exchange gave candy to the kids and cigarettes to the grown-ups. Sick people were given medicines. “How is it,” he asked himself, “that they could come and do this to us, when we have done nothing to them?” After much searching Moi finally found the remaining members of his family at the foot of the watchtower, in the southern half of the village just off the main trail. His brother, his sister, and her two young children were all dead. He buried them. A total of twenty-four members of his immediate family were killed. His father, who had been working in the rice fields, escaped. Moi’s younger brother had also been spared injury, hidden under several bodies which shielded him from the soldier’s bullets . . .”
“Pham Thi Thuam, a 30-year-old widow caring for her 6-year-old daughter, lost six members of her family—father, sister, younger brother, and three nephews. She and her daughter were pushed into the ditch just before the firing started. Hiding underneath those dead on top of her, she pushed her child under her stomach. With bodies weighing her down she put her hand over her daughter’s mouth and told her to keep quiet, not to cry, and to pretend to be dead. The soldiers waited to see if anyone moved and shot them again. They fired a second series of shots sometime later, and then a third. Much later, a long time after the shooting had ended, she pushed some of the corpses away to free herself. All around her were dead bodies curled up. She grabbed her daughter and ran across to a path. They were seen escaping and more shots were fired. Another woman running behind them was hit and fell down but Mrs. Thuam just hung onto her daughter and did not stop. When she eventually came to a halt she discovered that her hair and neck were saturated with blood. There were lumps of flesh and pieces of brains from the people killed all over her, stuck to her body by drying blood. Suddenly overwhelmed by fear oat the sight of this gore she ran frantically to the neighboring hamlet, crying hysterically, desperate to wash the blood and flesh from her body. Villagers came to help her and gave her clean clothes to wear . . .”
- What do all these stories have in common?
- How do the survivors react to what is going on around them?
- What do they feel during the attacks? After?
- How do you think the survivors feel about the attack?
- Why do you think these testimonials were barely released a few years ago, even though this even happened during the Vietnam War?