Last night was the first performance of Swanlights at The Melbourne Festival. Boy George guest appeared and will do the same tonight. Antony's exhibition Paradise is now open at the Melbourne Festival Arts Center. Paradise will be on display until Saturday October 27th. For more details plase click . This coming Tuesday, TURNING will have it's Australian premier at The Australian Center for the Moving Image as part of the Melbourne Festival. The screening will be followed with a Q&A. More details . In addition, Lynette Wallworth's film Coral: Rekindling Venue will be screened at the Melbourne Planetarium as part of the Melbourne Festival on Monday October 15th. For more information please see .
The Diem government responded by accelerating the arrest of suspected rebels and their supporters, including those who accepted land distributed by the Viet Minh. The government also initiated the Rural Community Development Program, a “pacification” program designed to resettle villagers into “safe” Agrovilles, thus enabling the government to maintain surveillance over villages. The program incited more resistance than the land transfer program, as it forced peasants to abandon their homes, cultivated fields, and ancestral graves in exchange for inadequate housing and plots in the Agrovilles.
Public opinion shifted during the war. In the fall 1964 election, a majority of Americans voted for a presidential candidate who promised not to send “our boys” to Vietnam. Once combat troops were sent, however, the majority endorsed the war, in keeping with patriotic support for American troops abroad. A Gallup poll taken in June 1965 reported that 66% favored continued U.S. military involvement as opposed to 20% who favored withdrawal. Only one year later, support for the war had begun to wane. A Gallup poll taken in June 1966 reported 48% in favor of continued involvement and 35% in favor of withdrawal.
In 1995, the Vietnamese government estimated NLF-NVA military casualties at 1.1 million killed and 600,000 wounded over the course of twenty-one years – the period of direct American intervention (1954-75). U.S. casualties, in contrast, were 58,200 killed (including 10,800 in non-hostile situations) and 305,000 wounded. For every American soldier who died in Vietnam, nineteen NLF/NVA soldiers died. At the end of the war, the NLF-NVA had 300,000 soldiers missing in action as compared 2,646 American MIAs.
Reorienting American thinking about the war was an uphill climb. The generation that came of age during the Vietnam War was raised on heroic World War II stories, pumped full of national pride, and indoctrinated to believe in the benevolence of American foreign policies. Still, the purported “threat” of a communist-led government in a small country halfway around the world did not elicit the same fighting spirit as defending the nation in the aftermath of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. This was true for the general population as well – the necessity of the war was not obvious. Hence, the administration had to work assiduously to persuade the public that developments in Vietnam did indeed pose a dire threat to the security of the United States as well as to the survival of the so-called Free World.
The story that was heard in the U.S., however, was that of Douglas Pike, an employee of the U.S. Information Agency, who blamed the civilian deaths entirely on the insurgents and warned that more massacres could be expected should South Vietnam fall to the communists. His story was spread by U.S. agencies and the American Friends of Vietnam, which issued a pamphlet in June 1969 warning that the “massacres at Hue … were only the most outrageous in a long history of such Communist atrocities.” Excerpts of Pike’s story also appeared in Reader’s Digest (September 1970) in part to counter revelations of American atrocities at My Lai. Writing forty years later, the American military historian James Willbanks concludes:
The first major battle between U.S. and with North Vietnamese forces took place in Ia Drang Valley in mid-November 1965. The U.S. First Calvary Division, venturing deep into the Central Highlands, found itself surrounded by NLF-NVA forces. In the ensuing four-day combat, one out of every four American soldiers was killed or wounded. Up to that point, 1,100 Americans had been killed. The Ia Drang mission added 234 more. The U.S. command claimed victory, as an estimated 3,500 NLF-NVA soldiers were reportedly killed. Two weeks later, however, Secretary of Defense McNamara sent a top-secret memo to President Johnson predicting that, just “to hold our present geographical positions,” the U.S. would need the “addition of 28 U.S. battalions,” or about 200,000 troops. McNamara’s early optimism never returned after the Ia Drang Valley battle.
Far beyond merely dismissing the Vietnamese as “slopes” or “gooks,” in both deed and thought, too many American soldiers seem to discount their very humanity; and with this attitude inflict upon the Vietnamese citizenry humiliations, both psychological and physical, that can have only a debilitating effect upon efforts to unify the people in loyalty to the Saigon government, particularly when such acts are carried out at unit levels and thereby acquire the aspect of sanctioned policy.
Regardless of the actual circumstances of the civilian deaths in Hue, U.S. and South Vietnamese authorities trumpeted the killings as an object lesson in Communist immorality and a foretaste of the atrocities ahead – should the Communists triumph in South Vietnam. We may never know what really happened at Hue, but it is clear that mass executions did occur and that reports of the massacre there had a significant impact on South Vietnamese and American attitudes for many years after the Tet Offensive.
One such GI, Tom Glen, who served with an American mortar platoon, expressed his moral concerns in a letter to General Creighton Abrams, the commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, in the fall of 1968. “The average GI’s attitude toward and treatment of the Vietnamese people all too often is a complete denial of all our country is attempting to accomplish in the realm of human relations,” he wrote.
CIA director William Colby testified before Congress that over 20,000 suspects had been executed in the Phoenix program, but that the U.S. bore no responsibility
The American massacre of civilians at My Lai on March 16, 1968, was part of the U.S. counteroffensive following Tet. The area in which the My Lai village was located was labeled “Pinkville” and a U.S. unit known as Charlie company – led by Captain Ernest Medina, with 2nd Lt. William Calley commanding the First Platoon – treated it as a free-fire zone, killing some 500 unarmed men, women, children, and infants. A number of women were raped as well. Not all soldiers participated in the murders; one broke down and cried; another shot animals instead. Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot surveying the scene from above, spotted the bodies of men, women and children strewn over the landscape. Realizing that a massacre was taking place, he landed his chopper and rescued ten civilians while ordering his crew chief to shoot any American soldiers who opened fire on the civilians. On the same day, another U.S. unit, Bravo company, murdered some 90 civilians in the village of My Khe, two kilometers to the east. These massacres were not acknowledged by military authorities at the time. The task force commander overseeing operations wrote in his after-action report that the day’s maneuvers were “well planned, well-executed, and successful.”