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Saturday, 26 May 2007

Friendly allies ? Collateral damage ? Tan Dinh, Saigon, Vietnam

And so the war continued. I read in the newspaper one day that a Vietcong ambush had been thwarted. Two young boys had driven their troup of buffaloes into a field and set off a string of mines. I know that when I was walking in the countryside I always felt happier putting my feet where buffalo had trod. Anyway according to the newspaper the buffalo had destroyed the minefield and therefore saved the South Vietnamese army from a defeat. What were a few dead animals in any case. That the two young boys were also killed did not seem to worry the newspaper either. They were after all what in a later war would become known as collateral damage. I cannot remember hearing the term used in Vietnam. It was said the Americans included all civilian dead in the body count to boost the number of enemy they killed.
I was having some beers with a Vietnamese pilot one evening. He was some vague cousin of KC and piloted an AIE Skyraider. He said he was fed up with the Americans. One day he had spotted four of them in a jeep somewhere isolated. He had then straffed the jeep and killed all four. I had no means of verifying this. Later he was shot down. His body was not discovered in the wreck. I believe the usual fate of captured South Vietnamese pilots was to be shot.
Once talking to some US soldiers they had said that when they had first arrived in the country they had been told that the Viet Cong wore black. The first time one of them saw two men in black somewhere out in the country he shot them. Later they discovered it was also the colour of the South Vietnamese peasantry.
One of my students was called Lan. A very lovely girl, both in looks and character. I became fond of her in a friendly way. She was always so sad. Her beloved brother had been killed whilst serving as an officer in the South Vietnamese army. She seemed to miss him a lot. Later she told me she was getting married. I hope it worked out for her.

1 comment:

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