8. MARTIN BIRNSTINGL

Report from North Vietnam

Introduction

I visited North Vietnam from 17 March to 31 March 1967 with Lynn, Cobb and Lester, the arrival of the rest of the fourth investigating team being delayed.
     After arriving in Hanoi we visited several bombed areas in the city and in the outskirts of the city. These were in populated areas and we saw no military or strategic targets near by.
     On 26 March we visited the neighbourhood of Thanh Hoa where we spent three days. We interviewed a number of provincial officials and representatives of medical services, teachers, militia, village and cooperative leaders and other people.
     On 27 March we visited Dan Loi village, Thieu Son district (Thanh Hoa). This appeared to be an isolated village with no evidence of military, defensive or strategic targets near by. The village had been raided on 13 March 1967 using pineapple anti-personnel bombs. Nine villagers had been killed including three women and six children. Four villagers had been injured. Twelve houses had been destroyed, together with animals and agricultural implements. We interviewed several villagers who had lost relatives in this attack.
     On 26 March we visited a monastery for Jesuit nuns close to Thanh Hoa city. This had been recently bombed with demolition (HE) bombs which had partly destroyed the monastery and damaged the vegetable gardens, where there were very large craters. We also visited a nearby pagoda, probably eighteenth-century, which had been completely wrecked by bombing. Such buildings are part of the historical heritage of the DRV and were civilian targets without military value.
     On 26 March we also visited Thanh Hoa city and saw the devastation of the whole neighbourhood. Every solid-built structure appeared severely damaged, most were roofless and only a {137} few were still in use. A few families were still living in the city. We saw evidence that both demolition and anti-personnel bombs had been used in the attacks, which had been made on many occasions and were continuing. We visited the large (600 bed) anti-tuberculosis hospital and centre. This had been a large complex of buildings extending over an area of some acres, built by the DRV and completed 1957. As well as providing in-patient treatment of tuberculosis, the centre had carried out much out-patient and dispensary work in Thanh Hoa province. It had been a most valuable contribution to the health services of the region and a costly tribute to the enterprise of the DRV. The hospital had been bombed on 1 July, 14 July and 21 August 1965, regardless of the fact that the complex of buildings was clearly of a medical nature. Heavy demolition bombs had been used and all the buildings rendered useless, so that it had been abandoned.
     On 27 March we visited an emergency surgical post under the medical charge of Dr Doan Le Dan. This was at Dong Thinh, Dong Son district (Thanh Hoa) and was part of the dispersed Thanh Hoa Provincial Hospital, the latter having been destroyed by bombing on 1 June and 25 September 1965. At the surgical post we examined four civilians seriously injured during recent raids: M. aged eleven, injury to right arm; M. aged thirty-eight, compound fracture right tibia and fibula, penetrating head wound (steel pellet); M. aged twenty-four, amputation through right arm; F. aged thirty-seven, perforating wound right colon and right kidney, due to injury by a single steel pellet. . . . As a surgeon it was clear to me that these victims had received the highest standards of surgical care and that it is probable that the life of every one of them was saved by timely and skilled surgery. This particular surgical team was very well organized and continued to carry out efficient modern surgery under very difficult and dangerous conditions.
     On 28 March we visited Thuong Phuc hamlet, Thuy Thuong village (Thanh Hoa). Two days previously, on 26 March, three planes had arrived from the south-east and flown over the place after which they had returned from north-west and dropped twelve demolition bombs, probably 1,000 lbs., on an irrigation dike and surrounding rice fields. The sluice had now been closed so that the dike was dry, but there was a main dike and channel {138} about 150 metres away which remained undamaged. The large craters were scattered about an area of about 100 metres square and we were told that four hectares of rice had been damaged by the explosion and by considerable flung mud. One villager had been killed and twelve wounded, whilst walking on the dike and in the fields.
     The damage to the dike and to the rice fields was already in course of repair. We could see no military target in the region and this attack seemed to have been made with the sole intention of interfering with the water supply to the rice crop.
     The main dam on the Chu river system is Bai Thuong dam, first bombed 22 April 1965. This system has since had many attacks including twenty-four during the last summer. On 26 March we heard explosions which we were told came from further bombing of Bai Thuong.
     On 28 March we also visited Don Xuan cooperative, Tho Xuan district (Thanh Hoa). The village had been raided on 23 April 1966 and 1 June 1966, killing a total of fifty-two villagers and wounding eighty-three. We interviewed several survivors, who described their tragic losses from amongst their nearest relatives. The attacks had been made with HE bombs and with rockets. In the second attack, villagers had been killed by strafing with cannon fire from the aircraft and we were shown several 20 mm cannon shells, used in the attack.

Summary

During our visit to Thanh Hoa Province we saw incontrovertible evidence of attacks on civilian targets including a provincial city, a hospital, religious establishments, villages and irrigation dikes. Witnesses told us of attacks with aircraft cannon, rockets and anti-personnel bombing whilst working in the fields and returning from work.

Civilian casualties

I examined a number of casualties in Dong Thing Emergency Hospital, Viet Duc Hospital, Hanoi, St Paul Hospital, Hanoi and the Ophthalmology Hospital, Hanoi. {139}
     The injuries were due to various causes but nine were certainly due to steel pellet anti-personnel bombs. Three or four more were probably due to this cause. These patients were having specialized surgical treatment and probably do not give a true indication of their frequency since very many casualties are treated in the regional hospitals.
     A professor of surgery told me that he had treated about sixty thoracic wounds due to steel pellets and Professor Nguyen had treated twenty ocular injuries due to the same cause.
     During a number of visits to Hanoi hospitals I was constantly impressed by the high medical standards and human concern for the relief of suffering.
 

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