The World Should Know – Tet Mau Than Massacre – Hue 1968

The World Should KnowHUE

Paper presented at the 6th Triennial Vietnam Symposium at The Vietnam Center, Texas Tech University. March 14, 2008

By Michael Do, BA, BS, MS

The following is Michael Do’s illustration to his slide show.

Thank, Dr. Reckner, for your kind introduction. I was here at Lubbock two times (in 2001 Conference and 2002 Symposium). This time, I will talk about the Mau Than Massacre at Hue in 1968.

Even right after the Mau Than event, the American mass media ignored the massacre of thousands of innocent people committed by the Communists but portrayed our military victory as a defeat.

During the last 40 years, lot of information on this crime has been revealed. But it seems that people don’t care anymore.

LB08P4I am here today to ring the bell to call for this heinous crime not to be erased. We get to do something to keep it remembered and to avoid such act would happen again.

Dr. Reckner has just introduced me.  So I will skip this slide to save our time.

SlideLB08Audience-8 4: In the second half of the 20th century, in a remote country half way of the globe, called Vietnam; our people have suffered these major crimes by the Vietnamese Communists:

1.- The Land Reform Campaign (from 1953 to 1956) killed 50000 people who simply owned a piece of land, no matter how large. The campaign affected hundreds of thousands people of the land owners’ families. (Nixon’s news conference of July 27, 1972, that appeared the following day in the New York Times. 50,000 had been executed and 500,000 had died in slave labor camps)

2.- Tet Mau Than General Offensive in January 1968 that resulted to the death of 130000 soldiers of both sides and innocent people. (30,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, 100,000 NVA and VC Killed in Mau Than General Offensive)

3.- After the Communists took the South, they sent 500000 South Vietnamese servicemen and women to concentration camps (from 3 to 20 years or more).  This included civil servants, priests, businessmen… Tens of thousands died of starvation, illness, torture, execution in prison.

4.- At the same time, there were hundreds of thousands people fled the country to seek to for freedom in other countries. Half of those people vanished on the high sea or in the dense forests.

5.- Today, Thousands of young women have been sold to the neighboring countries. A great number ended up in whorehouse.  Tens of thousands have been sold to be some kind of hard labor slaves.

Slides 5: In this presentation, I will focus only on the Massacre at Hue. This happened on the Mau Than New Year Eve and the following 4 weeks.

To our Vietnamese people, the New Year is the most important holiday of the year. It is the day of family reunion. It is indeed a sacred celebration. People from all over country will come back to their home village. In at least one week, people celebrate the new year,  clean and decorating the grave yard and honor the dead.

Slide 6: The Battle of Hue was part of the Communist Winter-Spring campaign of 1967-68. (see map)MauThanOffensive

Phase I: Oct. to Dec. 1967. (fairly large, set-piece battles against important fixed installations or allied concentrations. The battles of Loc Ninh in Binh Long Province, Dak To in Kontum Province, and Con Tien in Quang Tri Province, all three in the mountainous interior of South Vietnam near the Cambodian and Lao borders, involving NVA)

Phase II From Jan. to March, 1968. Independent fighting methods. (large numbers of attacks by fairly small units, simultaneously, over a vast geographic area and using the most refined and advanced techniques of guerrilla war. Involving both NVA and Viet Cong). Tet offensive (80,000 troops attacked 36 of South Vietnam’s provinces and 6 major cities, 72 district towns and the capital Saigon)

Phase III, Second Wave, From April to June, 1968, In reality, there was no Second Wave, because the phases 1 and 2 failed. (The siege of Khe Sanh in late summer.)

Mr. Trinh Quoc Thien will talk about the battle. I only mention that the Tet Offensive is part of phase 2 of the Winter Spring Campaign of the Communist army.

Slide 7: Here is the map of Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. Hue is the old capital of Vietnam, located about 80 kilometers south of the DMZ.

Slide 8: Although we did not fight a conventional war, we always respected the truce to cease fight during the holidays as agreed upon by both sides.  At the end of the lunar year, the Communists suggested a 7 day cease fire. South Vietnamese government agreed only 3 days since in the past, the Communists did not respect the truce.

That’s why, the military authorities allowed a rotation of 50% of the force to go home with family.

On the New Year Eve, January 29, 1968, while the residents of Hue people were preparing for the new year celebration, 12000 NVA and VC soldiers left their hideout west of  the city, and suddenly attacked the city from 4 directions.  After 4 days of fierce combat, the NVA and Vietcong occupied the city, except for the Headquarters of the 1 Infantry Division, MAC-V Compound, Thua Thien Sector Headquarters, and the Radio Station.

The South Vietnamese troops with the support of the US Marines, fought in 24 days to retake the city. On March 2, the last resistance of Vietcong was silenced.

Slide 9: Just in Hue battle, there are about 2500 VC and NVA troops killed, another 2500 might be killed as they retreated; 89  were captured.

The American lost 216 soldiers, and 1609 wounded

South Vietnam lost 421 soldiers, 2123 wounded and 31 MIA’s.

Of 140,000 Hue residents, more than 5800 killed and 116,000 left homeless after the battle.

Slide10Slide 11: Since Hue was the center of the Buddhist Church and the Anti-Government movements, the Communists could easily infiltrate and recruit their secret cadres. Most of them were college students and professors. These moles helped the NVA to make a list of South Vietnamese soldiers, and civil servants, and arrested and executed them during their occupation. There are some figures that we should not forget: Le Van Hao, the brothers Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong and Hoang Phu Ngoc Phan, Nguyen Dac Xuan, Nguyen Dinh Chi, Nguyen Doa… They had been professors or students of Hue University who turned to be executioners in this horrible event.

Slide 12: Not only South Vietnamese soldiers and civil servants and low ranking cadres, victims of Viet Cong Massacre includes students, professors, High school teachers, Catholic priests, Buddhist monks, young men at the age of military draft, foreign doctors, and foreigners who worked for humanitarian organizations, and American contractors; and even ordinary people, young women and children.

The North Vietnamese Communists assumed their victims as those who had blood debt to the Revolution, collaborators with Americans. To those who did not have any contact with South Government, the communists considered them as “having bad attitude towards Viet Cong.

Slide 13: Communists intended that their prisoners should be re-educated and returned, but with the turnover, matters passed from his control.” Sometime within the following several weeks, the communists decided to kill the individuals under their control.” (Douglas Pike)

During the NVA withdrawal from Huế the NVA summarily executed anyone in their custody who resisted being taken out of the city or who was too old, too young, or too frail to make the journey to the camp. (Manhard, a U.S. Senior Adviser who was taken to a POW camp by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and held until 1973.

The planned execution of government officials and their families, political and civil servants, and collaborators with Americans; and those civilians not connected to the government who ran from questioning, spoke harshly about the occupation, or the occupiers believed “displayed a bad attitude” towards the occupiers (Don Oberdorfer and Paul Vogle, an American English professor at the local Huế University by interviewing witnesses of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong occupation.) Oberdorfer reported that in the Catholic area of Huế, Phucam, virtually every able bodied man over the age of 15 who took refuge in the cathedral was taken away and killed.

In an interview with Ho Ty, a Viet Cong commander who took part in the advanced planning of a general uprising, Oberdorfer reported Ty’s statement that the Communist party “was particularly anxious to get those people at Phucam… The Catholics were considered particular enemies of ours.”

Slide 14: On the very first day in Hue, the NVA and Viet Cong established the People’s Committee with the involvement of the local pro-communist members. They began to call the South Vietnamese soldiers and agents to report to the committee. These people were released with promise of safety. Viet Cong did this 2 or three more times to get more people reported. Finally, when they think there would be no more people in hiding. They kept their victims and began the slaughter.

Slide 15: In some first mass graves within the city, we found that people were tied back to back in every 2 using the electric wires, or telephone cables even with barbed wires. They were buried alive. Some had their head blown or shot in the head.

The group of more than 400 people taken from a Catholic church was ties in bundles of  20. They were led to the forest 20 kilometers west of Hue and were killed with all types of guns and grenades. Some groups were ordered to stand on land mines, and the Communists simply ignited.

Slide 16: To this day, we don’t know exactly how many people were killed. The number is estimated 7600. Of them about 5800 confirmed dead. There are 1173 killed due to accident of the battle. There are 1800-1900 missing still unaccounted.

Ø                  Wounded (hospitalized or outpatients) with injures attributable to warfare : 844

Ø                  Estimated civilian deaths due to accident of battle : 1173

Ø                  Bodies discovered immediately post battle, 1968 : 809
(Gia Hoi HS Yard: 170;  Tang Quang Tu Pagoda: 67; Bai Dau 77; Cho Thong 100; Imperial Tomb Area 201; Thien Ham 200; Dong Gi 100)

Ø                  Bodies found from March-July (including Sand Dune) 1969 (est.): 428

Ø                  Bodies found at Da Mai Creek (Nam Hoa district) September, 1969 : 428

Ø                  Bodies found at Phu Thu Salt Flat, November, 1969 (est.) : 300 – 1000?

Ø                  Miscellaneous finds during 1969 (approximate): 1946

Ø                  Total yet unaccounted for : 1900

Ø                  Total casualties and wounded in Hue: 7600

Slide 17: To the Communists, whoever didn’t support them would be considered reactionary elements and thus, their enemies. At the Paris talks, Viet Cong delegation denied that it had not been the work of Communists but of “dissident local political parties“.  Broadcasting on Hanoi’s Liberation Radio (April 26, 1968), North Communists said “Victims were only “hooligan lackeys who had incurred blood debts of the Hue compatriots and who were annihilated by the Southern armed forces and people in early Spring.”  Ex-Colonel Bui Tin recently stated that the Viet Cong tried to get rid of people as they retreated from the battle.

In their words, they called these people “Hooligan lackeys who had incurred blood debt of the Hue Compatriots.”

Others believe that when the Communists could not hold the city, they wanted to eliminate the witnesses.

Slide 18 & 19: Hanoi Radio on February 4: “After one hour’s fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces occupied the residence of the puppet provincial governor (in Hue), the prison and the offices of the puppet administration… The Revolutionary Armed Forces punished most cruel agents of the enemy and seized control of the streets… rounded up and punished dozen of cruel agents and caused the enemy organs of control and oppression to crumble… “

The Hanoi official party newspaper, Nhan Dan, echoed the theme: “Like a thunderbolt, a general offensive has been hurled against the U.S. and the puppets… The U.S.-puppet machine has been duly punished. The puppet administrative organs… have suddenly collapsed. The Thieu-Ky administration cannot escape from complete collapse. The puppet troops have become extremely weak and cannot avoid being completely exterminated.”  There are some reasons of the killing:

Elimination of witnesses, for both the prisoners and Viet Cong are Hue residents and may know each others and killing these witnesses reduced future problems for Vietcong

Revenge killing in the name of the Communist party or settle old scores.

Many Hue residents believe that the execution orders came directly from Ho Chi Minh. More likely, however, the Communists simply lost their nerve. They had been led to expect that many South Vietnamese would rally to their cause during the Tet onslaught. That did not happen, and when the battle for Hue began turning in the allies’ favor, the Communists apparently panicked and killed off their prisoners (The Massacre at Hue, Time Magazine, October 31, 1969)

The last phase began when it became evident that the communists could not hold the city and was designed to “leave no witnesses”. Anyone who could identify individual VC members who participated in the occupation was to be killed and their bodies hidden


Slide 20: Although the level the Hue Massacre is quite enormous, very few foreign correspondences broadcasted it. They are mostly British, French men. Such as:

Times (London, UK). Article by Stewart Harris on front page accused the mass killing at Hue, and confirmed the burial sites’

Minute (A French Weekly Magazine): Article by  Yves Gautron stated that no one on this planet could forgive the heinous act of killing people by Communist troops.

Demonstration of the French Youth at Ternes Square (Paris – France)

Of 354 U.S. news reporters in Vietnam, only 40 reported the battle but did not mention the massacre. Even they distorted the information to make the 68 Offensive a defeat of our troops. This reflected the bias of the media during the rise of the anti-war movement in the U.S. They tend to favor the public as said by NBC producer Robert Norshield: “The public perceived it as a defeat, and therefore it was a defeat “ Robert Northshield, NBC’s executive producer.

“In a sense, newsmen and their editors may have been as mentally unreceptive to reports of the Hue massacre as was much of the U.S. public later to reports in 1969 of the My Lai massacre.” Peter Braestrup, Washington Post

Slide 21: Some reasons the Mauthan Massacre was ignored: Communist Propaganda, Bias American Mass Media, American Public and the Anti-War Movements, US Congress Approaches to withdraw the troops and the Tendency to End the War

Please, compare the Mau Than and My Lai massacres to see how we have suffered from the bias US media.

Slide 23: VC casualties: 85,000 during the Winter-Spring Campaign (killed or permanently disabled). In Hue: 2500 killed during battle. Estimated 2500 killed while retreating beyond Hue.

After Tet Mau Than: VC Infrastructure in South Vietnam was almost totally destroyed.

Allied Forces suffered 357 KIA’s in the battle of Hue

After Mauthan, we witnessed a Declining of US Casualties: from 15000 in 1968, to 9414 in 1969 and 4221 in 1970’

Also the increasing of South Vietnam Government’s control of the population:

Before 1968: 42% , in 1969: 70%, 1970-1971: 90% (estimated by Ambassador Bunker)

Many Communist sympathizers switched their side. Pro-Communists became pro-government.

Slide 24: Almost every family in Hue has at least one relative, close or remote, who was killed or still missing.

Besides more than two thousand persons whose deaths were confirmed after the revelation of the mass graves, the fate of the others, amounted to several thousands, are still unknown.

Exhumed bodies showed teenagers and women as victims of this horrible massacre.

A great number of pre-68 anti-war activists, pro-communists people took side with South Vietnamese government.

After April 30, 1975 when South Vietnam fell into the hand of the Communist Party, it seems that the number of boat people of Hue origin takes up a greater proportion among the refugees than that from the other areas.

Slides 25 – 38: Images can speak more than words

Slide 39: After taking Hue in 1975, the Communists tried to move the Hue residents to the remote New Economic Villages, and filled the empty houses with their people from Northern provinces.

For years, Hue still mourns their relatives who were victims of the massacre. They mingle the massacre with the New Year celebration to cheat the Communist authorities.

Assuming more than 50% of population had been born after the War who know nothing about the massacre, Communists celebrated Mau Than Offensive as their victory, distorted the true history, indifferent to the misery of their people.

This year, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Mau Than Offensive, the Communists celebrated it as their victory; disregard the misery of their people.

Fearless the revenge of local Communist authorities, relatives of the victims built a Memorial at Da Mai, where more than 400 bodies were found. This year, someone dared to secretly conducted a rite to pray for the dead and wrote a slogan to accuse the Communists of killing innocent people

Slide 40: Of course, many of you already know about the Mau Than Massacre.  You may know more than I do. But I still think it is not enough if we do not bring this issue in to light to make everyone on earth know it.

There have been hundreds of books, movies, and memorial sites for

Hiroshima (Kill to Save)

Nan King Rape (Kill for Fun)

Nazi Holocaust (Hate Crime)

Poland (Soviet troops killed 15000 Poles POW)

Kampuchea (Killing Field)

Ethnic Cleansing in Serbia, African Countries

The world still knows little about:

Land Reform Campaigns in China, Vietnam

Mau Than Massacre

Boat People Episode

The killers still own Hue the blood debt. They must be brought to the justice. They might be dead or still alive, still in the VCP Poli-bureau, Central Committee and some where in Vietnam. They got to pay.

This concludes my presentation.

Thank you for listening.