9. HENRICK FORSS

Examinations of Victims of US Bombs

This is a simple report. It covers only a very small part of a subject of immense proportions: victims from bombings in North Vietnam.
     In the province of Ha Nam, I was able to see a few victims from recent bombings. One was Nguyen Thi Nam, a twenty-four-year-old woman from Nam Dinh. By the time of the air raid, of 23 June 1967, she had been evacuated to the nearby village of Vuot, commune of Loc Ha. She was pregnant in her ninth month. Fragments of the CBU penetrated the intestines and the uterus, killing the foetus which had to be removed surgically. Forty centimetres of the intestine had to be removed at the same time. I was able to examine the patient two weeks after the operation. She was then still physically weak, pale and tired. It is uncertain whether she can have any more children.
     Tran Thi Hieu, an eighteen-year-old girl from the village of Kenh, commune of Loc Vuong, was wounded by CBU bombs on the same date. Fragments of the bomb perforated the stomach, her {140} left ear and both arms and legs. On examination I found four scars on the right hand and fourteen scars and marks on the left lower limb. One small fragment was still in her body. The patient was anaemic and told me she suffered from insomnia, loss of memory, headache and vertigo. The case of an eight-year-old girl, Tran Thi Thanh, is very tragic. Her parents and brother were killed during bombings of Nam Dinh in April 1966. The girl was then evacuated outside the town. On 23 June 1967 she was hit by a CBU fragment in her left arm. Examining the girl, I found that after-effects consisted mainly of psychic disturbances: she was suffering from crises of stupor. I was told, however, that her schoolwork was nearly at normal level. I examined a nineteen-year-old electrician, Tran Ngoc Hai, who was working in spite of the fact that he was carrying a CBU fragment in his neck. He had been wounded on 21 June 1967 at midnight. The fragment penetrated the region of the left jaw and ear and was later found to be impossible to localize. He is at present suffering from occasional pains in the neck and loss of appetite.
     Near Nam Dinh I also examined Pham Van Luan, thirty-eight years old, a chemical and textile products worker. His wife was killed during an air raid on 25 May 1967. At the same time their boy, aged five years, was hit by a fragment of a bomb in his left ankle. Examining the boy, I found a scar five centimetres in length. However, after-effects are not only measured by the length of a scar. The loss of a mother means more.
     In the province of Ninh Binh the bombing of the commune of Yen Lam in Yen Mo district is another example of attacks on the civil population. On 26 June 1967, Ngo Thi Dieu, a thirty-six-year-old woman, lost her home during an incendiary and high explosive bomb raid. She suffered severe burns; I was able to examine her 6 August 1967. She was then still in a very critical condition and I speculated on whether she would recover at all. She showed large second- and third-degree burns on both arms and her head. She was breathing fast, looked extremely exhausted and was not able to answer questions. At the place of the same bombing I met a twenty-two-year-old woman, Mai Thi Mien. She indicated the place where her hut had been. She herself showed a partly healed second-degree burn on her left leg, from knee to foot. {141}
     Her general condition was poor and she may later have difficulties in walking.
     In Hanoi, the capital and its surroundings were the target of several heavy bombings during the month of August. These following few examples will reveal, I hope, some of the cruel effects of this air war. On 15 August 1967, I examined an eighteen-year-old girl in the district hospital of Hoan Kiem. Six days later this hospital was to be nearly totally destroyed. Mademoiselle Dinh's house was near the Long Bien bridge. The very day the bridge was damaged she fell victim to the same attack: she was severely wounded. Her left lower leg had to be amputated below the knee because of a complicated open fracture. Her recovery so far is good, but she will be handicapped for the rest of her life.
     The Hoan Kiem hospital I mentioned was badly hit by a rocket on 21 August 1967. My colleague, Dr Doan Tri Cuong, thirty-six years old, was killed on the spot while on duty. A nurse was also killed and another died later from his wounds. Two more of the staff of this small hospital were wounded. We were able to see them in the Viet Duc hospital the same day. Le Quan Dan, a male assistant physician, was hit by bomb fragments in his arm and in the neck near the carotid artery. At the time we saw him he was weak, but his condition was not critical thanks to immediate treatment. A female nurse, Le Thi Hao, suffered several superficial wounds in her chest, head and left leg. She will probably recover completely.
     In Hanoi I was also shown eight victims from bombings earlier this year. Four of these victims were children. All suffered from the after-effects of wounds and scars caused by fire and antipersonnel bombs. Three patients showed extensive areas of thick keloid scar tissue from second- and third-degree burns. They were undergoing plastic surgery treatment. In their case this is a long and painful procedure and it is doubtful that complete recovery will ever be achieved. In addition three patients had to be operated on for removal of bomb fragments in the abdominal region.
     My last impressions are from a district in the centre of Hanoi. This region was hit by several heavy bombs on 22 August 1967, the day of our departure. I did not see any wounded, just corpses being carried away from the ruins. {142}
 
 

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