Bombardment of Civilians in North Vietnam

The attack on Xa Viet Hong village

On 15 March 1967 we visited Xa Viet Hong village in Phu Tho province, which had been bombed three days earlier. According to the authorities, it had a population of 5,423. Nothing contradicted the information we got that it is a purely agricultural {151} area, far from military targets and remote from communication lines. Prior to the bombing, reconnaissance planes had several times flown over the village. On 12 March at twelve o'clock six planes came from the north-east, two of them flying at low altitude and four at higher altitude. The first planes dropped four CBUS with `loading date' November 1966 and January 1967. Thirteen persons were killed and thirty-one wounded. Twenty-five houses caught fire and were completely destroyed together with clothes, cooking utensils, farming equipment and other property; thirteen water buffaloes and twenty poultry were killed.
     Mr Bui Van Hguong, fifty-nine, spontaneously came to show us a quilt and some clothes, all that was left of his home and property after the raid. At the site of a destroyed home a number of men had cleared the ground and were erecting a new house. The owner, Mr Nguyen Khac Dan, thirty, told us that his wife, twenty-seven, had been killed by steel pellets, leaving him with their three small children. We tape-recorded his detailed description of the raid.
     A few houses from there we met Mr Nguyen Van Hua, also with three small children. His wife had been running for the shelter when she was hit by a global-shaped CBU bomb which exploded on her head, killing her instantly. A few metres from the spot where she was killed there was one half of a CBU canister with the following inscription:

FSN1323 - 7/?/29-839H/?/E
Dispenser and Bomb
Aircraft CBU - 24/B
AF Drawing No 65E10875
Cyclotol 122 lbs
Loading Date 1-67
LOT PA-20-82-SERIE... [illegible]
We also interviewed Mrs Bu Thi Sung, forty-nine. She had had six children. Evidently she had not heard the alert. She was boiling water in the kitchen when she heard the planes coming. A moment later a CBU bomb exploded on the thatched roof of their house. Her son, Ban, five, was killed by a steel pellet through his head and her son, Chich, seven, by a pellet in his neck. A third son, fourteen, was wounded by a steel pellet in one wrist. Having told us this she said: `The US aircraft have come to kill my children. I'll always carry the hatred of the aggressors in my heart.' {152}

The bombing of Dan Ly village

In Dan Ly village, Trieu Son district, about fifteen kilometres west of Thanh Hoa city, two hamlets, `Number Five' and `Number Nine' were bombed with pineapple-shaped CBU bombs on 1 3 March 1967. These bombs were first used against targets in North Vietnam in January 1965, we were told by military experts in Hanoi. They are now replaced by global-shaped CBU bombs. The material is the same in both types, steel pellets cast into a shell of hard, brittle metal. But the pineapple-shaped bombs are loaded in tubes, eighteen to twenty-five bombs in each tube; and nineteen tubes in each container (canister). As distinguished from the canisters of the global-shaped bombs, which are dropped in toto and can be found in all bombed hamlets, the pineapple-shaped bombs are spread directly from the planes: the tubes and canisters are evidently brought back or dumped somewhere else after the bombing.
     We went to Dan Ly village on 19 March, a Sunday. The house closest to the entrance of hamlet `Number Five' was burned down. We heard sobs and moans and in the twilight saw an old man sitting barefoot in the carbonized ruins of his garden. He had been living alone. He had lost everything, including his buffaloes, in the raid. According to the testimonies, two planes came at noon on 13 March, and circled the hamlet for a short time. Nothing happened; it was a fine sunny day. At 5.30 P.M., the same day, four planes came which dived and dropped many pineapple CBU bombs.
     In hamlet `Number Five' there were 127 houses of which twelve were completely destroyed by fire caused by high explosive bombs. The raid took place at a time when the children had returned from school and the adults were returning from their work in the fields. Six persons were killed, among them two old women, and seven were wounded. Three of the wounded, all children, later died in the hospital.
     The hamlet is in a flat delta landscape and surrounded by immense rice fields. The only military targets to be seen were the rifles which the peasants carry with them to the fields. Only pineapple-shaped CBU bombs had been dropped on this hamlet. The craters had not been counted when we came there. As one plane {153} usually carries four canisters and four planes had taken part in the attack, the total number of small bombs was probably 6,000 to 8,000 against this single hamlet. Each small bomb contains 240 to 250 steel pellets. The total number of pellets against the population of hamlet `Number Five' was between 1.5 and 2 million. The casings break up into sharp, crystal-form fragments of different sizes. One can safely conclude that the number of fragments from these bombs is probably as great as the number of pellets. We talked with some who had lost family members in the raid. Mr Tran Van Xuan came with his five children, carrying the smallest of them. His house was burned down. His old mother and his forty-year-old wile had been killed instantly.
     The inhabitants of hamlet `Number Nine' gave similar information. The planes circled the hamlet on 13 March 1967 at noon. At 5.30 P.M. the same day, one plane attacked the hamlet with pineapple CBU bombs, destroying three houses, killing seven villagers and wounding four. The bombs were dropped from an altitude of 500 metres. Mr Tran Hoan lost two of his three children, a seven-year-old girl and a fourteen-month-old boy. `When the planes came the children were playing in the garden; their grandmother was working in the kitchen and did not find them,' he told us.
     Mr Tran Van Binh, thirty-three, lost his mother, his younger brother and an eleven-month-old daughter. He had five children. His mother was carrying his little girl to the shelter when they were hit by pellets. His brother, too, was killed a moment before he would have reached the shelter. In both these hamlets, `Number Five' and `Number Nine', the inhabitants are Catholics.

The shelling of Ca Lap Village

Ca Lap village is situated on the coast near Sam Son. This small area has been shelled four times by the 7th Fleet, the last time on 5 March 1967. On the shore we saw the ruins of Ngo Hun Ky's brick house which was destroyed during the last shelling. He himself was killed by shells on 26 January 1967, while on his way to work in the field. He was thirty-five. Everywhere around these ruins and in the fields we saw heavy double-edged slivers from the shells. Tran Chi Thuyen, fifty-five, was killed and his brick house {154} destroyed on 5 March 1967. His wife and two of his six children were wounded by shell slivers which penetrated their mud shelter. At our visit, Mr Vu Dinh Buong, forty-nine, was preparing dinner in the remnants of his brick house, now under a temporary thatched roof. His wife, Ngo Thi Canh, was killed and the house destroyed by three shells on 26 February 1967. He is a fisherman and was working on the sea when the shelling took place. He has four children; fifteen, eleven, five, and a four-month-old baby. Ca Lap was originally a fishing village but is also a successful producer of sweet potatoes. Its potato fields, now pockmarked with craters from 127 mm. shells, stretch for several hundred metres in a wide band along the shore. In a modest administrative building Mr Nguyen Viet Kieu, president of the Village Administrative Committee, briefed us on the situation in the presence of some fifty villagers.
     On 26 February 1967, at 9.45 A.M., the village was shelled from the sea, receiving 102 shells. Three persons were killed on the spot, and one died later from wounds. Another three persons were wounded and several houses were destroyed or damaged. Two hectares of potatoes were destroyed. Seven oxen and buffaloes were killed.
     On 5 March, at eight o'clock in the morning, three US warships approached the coast and shelled Ca Lap village from a distance of ten kilometres. Many shells burst in the air with a blue-black smoke; in all, 397 shells exploded into the ground. We walked through the potato field over a narrow pathway. On each side we counted about forty craters; at a distance of about a hundred metres they merged into each other, and certainly the total number given by Mr Kieu was not exaggerated. Nine cooperatives in this village were affected by the last shelling. Three persons were killed and four wounded. Seven houses were destroyed completely, four heavily damaged and another fifteen less seriously damaged. Four oxen were killed. The shells were of the 127 mm. type.

Examination of victims

We examined forty-three victims of bombings and shellings; the majority of them (18 cases) were victims of pellets and/or fragments {155} from CBU bombs. Most of these victims were examined by us in the hospitals after we had investigated the bombings in which they had been wounded. As the Tribunal has the hospital records, photos, etc., it suffices for us to repeat what we have said in our statement of 31 March 1967:

We have visited many hospitals, functioning in extremely modest houses in the villages, mostly under thatched roofs, since their permanent buildings have been destroyed. At the Quoc Oai district hospital we were impressed, as we have been at all the other hospitals, by the excellent organization of the emergency services and the high standard of the surgery performed. It is to us obvious that the rapidly expanding public health system of the DRV, the highly qualified training of the physicians, the devotion of the physicians and the medical personnel to their patients and their work and the outstanding emergency organizations have played a great role in holding down the fatality rate due to the bombings and shellings and in reducing the rate of chronic disabilities among those who have been wounded.
All records we have seen have been exemplary, nearly always supplemented with X-rays and drawings and with the extracted pellets or fragments attached to the records in plastic envelopes. We have also examined victims from earlier raids, who had been brought to the hospitals in a state of shock with many pellet holes in their intestines, bones shattered, soft tissue pierced and who are now fully recovered...

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