An Excerpt from “Then The Americans Came”

Then The Americans Came: Voices from Vietnam is a 1994 book written by Martha Hess that consists of over 100 interviews conducted by the author in Viet Nam during 1990-91 involving atrocities committed by US forces above and below the 17th parallel.

The eyewitness report below is about Khâm Thiên Street in the Đống Đa District of Hà Nội. This densely populated street was the most heavily bombed part of the city during what the US military called Operation Linebacker II, also known as the Christmas Bombings. For 12 consecutive days and nights, starting December 18, 1972, B-52s dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs and munitions on Hanoi, Haiphong and other locations in northern Viet Nam, the heaviest bombardment by the US since World War II. This campaign killed over 1,600 people.

Thanks for sharing, Sandy.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Kham Thien Street devastated by the Christmas Bombings in December 1972. Courtesy of VNExpress International

Kham Thien Street, Hanoi

Mrs. Phung Thi Tiem

I am the head of the Kham Thien Women’s Union. I will tell you what happened. It was 10:20 on the evening of December 26, 1972. People had returned from work, eaten dinner, and many had already gone to bed. And, then the Americans came. Many older people, women, men, and many children were killed in that bombing. They were supposed to have been evacuated, but the 24th was a Sunday and the 25th was Christmas Day. So people thought the Americans wouldn’t bomb. They returned to their homes.

That evening buildings were destroyed, everything. Many people were injured and entire families were wiped out–from the youngest to the oldest. In one family, five generations were killed together, the baby inside its pregnant mother, the son, the mother, the grandmother and the great grandmother. Mrs. Xuan, who lives next door here, lost an arm. Five people were killed there. The woman on this monument over here, with the child, was the lady of the house. She took her children with her under the staircase, to protect them, and they were all killed. In one family there were nine children, and their parents died. Now they have grown up and left the neighborhood. Only the wounded ones are still here, working in shops. Families helped the wounded, and cooperatives and the Women’s Union helped them, and continue to help them.

We spent that week digging out the shelters, looking for missing people. The smell of the dead was terrible. We collected the bodies in one place, and the wounded were taken to the hospital. People whose homes were bombed mostly went to live with relatives in the countryside.

This is a screenshot from a PBS segment about the Christmas Bombings linked above.

American pilots dropped all those bombs, yet we were merciful. When an American pilot was shot down and brought through this very street, nobody touched him.

At the time, I was a factory worker. As head of the Women’s Union of Khan Thien district, I had to set an example to the community, so I stayed, and my children had been evacuated. Only the workers could stay here, to work in the factories. Nobody in my family was killed.

Many people are handicapped today. Many people lost everything in the war, and can’t support themselves. So you can tell the American government to make reparations. To be fair, the Vietnamese didn’t send troops to invade America. Never, never forget. We remember the war. We remember our losses. All the little children–nine years old, thirteen, they committed no crimes for the Americans to come and kill them. When they died in the bombings, their eyes popped out from the compression. Their bodies were mangled. Small children and old people. They lived here, and worked their whole lives here. They never sent troops to America. They never took one plant, one leaf from America. Why did the Americans come to destroy everything, to kill the people, to kill small children, to kill even pregnant women–why? Don’t the American people even know why?

2 thoughts on “An Excerpt from “Then The Americans Came”

  1. Thanks for reminding us about our responsibility to address the war crimes committed by our government, Mark! I try to visit the memorial on Kham Thien Street on my visits to Hanoi.

    Another thing people can do is to help the campaign for justice for Vietnam’s Agent Orange victims by supporting the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam and the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign in the US.

    Sent from my tablet

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