Cunningham has led a decades-long
campaign for official recognition of the Duc Duc atrocity and has compiled a series
of graphic, first-hand websites that portray life before and
after the massacre .
The fires that burned
the Duc Duc homes were so bright on the night of the
attack, helicopter pilots 20 miles away in the
city of Danang could see the flames.
can see there’s a big empty space where the houses had
been. They were cardboard and tin houses. We called them hooches.
They were gone. Just burned,” Cunningham said.
The Duc Duc village was a government-sponsored hamlet
that housed refugees who had fled Viet Cong-held areas.
“There was no reason for them to set fire to the village,”
Sgt. Dennis Sherman, who was stationed near Duc Duc.
was no military significance to the site. It was only
refugees. But it was a way to ‘convince’
people to move back to their area. The message was: ‘See, the government
can’t protect you from us,’” Sherman said. “The
Viet Cong hated them. The Viet Cong’s attitude was
‘it’s us or you’re dead,’” he said.
“And that’s the way ISIS is today,” former
Marine Lance Cpl. Richard Thomas told TheDCNF. Thomas was
stationed three miles away from Duc Duc.
the American media and anti-war activists, however, largely ignored
communist atrocities and even praised the communists as good people.
The late anti-war activist Tom Hayden
wrote in the Los Angeles Times in January
2013 that “far from being faceless fanatics,
the Vietnamese I met struck me as patriotic.”
But the Vietnam vets continue to raise their politically
incorrect message that the U.S. government should
regard the burning of Duc Duc as an atrocity.
of the G.I.s see a similarity to the tactics used
by ISIS, whose guerrillas have beheaded, burned alive and hacked
to death civilians who don’t support them.
“The Viet Cong would
hack people to death with machetes and bayonets. It’s
kind of like the way ISIS is doing right now,” said
Cong were known for going into a village, grabbing somebody’s parents, shooting
one in the head and saying, ‘if you want
mom alive, cooperate with us,’” recalled Sherman. “That’s
how they operated.”
On the night
of March 29, 1971, between 1,500 to 2,400 North Vietnamese
Army regulars and Viet Cong guerrillas launched their
assault on Duc Duc and on the nearby military base called the Fifth
Marine Combat Base.
attackers poured through two perimeters and overwhelmed the
defenders — 150 ill-trained South Vietnamese
soldiers and 11 American soldiers.
probably 150 people against a minimum of 1,500 enemy.
We were greatly outnumbered,” recalled Sherman who was on the
base when the attack started and later received a Bronze Star
the troops preoccupied, the Vietnamese communists turned their attention
to the defenseless people of Duc Duc.
When the fires ebbed, a Viet Cong flag flew on top of one
village was destroyed and never rebuilt. The survivors
retreated further toward U.S. lines, but their whereabouts after
the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 are largely unknown.
Noted Vietnam historian Robert Turner
told TheDCNF that for the Viet Cong, “brutality was a key to their strategy. They made no
distinction between combatants and noncombatants.”
The terror tactics were dictated by the North Vietnamese
Communist Party, which controlled the Viet Cong.
“Most of the brutality
that I saw was because of official party policy, that is they were
doing something because this is something the party told them to do,” said
Turner, who also served in Vietnam. He is now a distinguished
fellow at the Center for National Security Law at the
University of Virginia School of Law.
ISIS operations against civilians in Iraq and Syria often
recall the communist atrocity in Duc Duc.
describe an ISIS killing rampage whose main objective
was apparently to terrorize local
residents,” wrote Letta Tayler, a senior
terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch, of the June 20, 2015,
assault on the Syrian City of Kobani. “By all accounts, this
was a planned attack on the civilian population
of this area.”
That narrative differs
from actress Jane Fonda’s comments, who in a famous 1972 Radio
Hanoi broadcast while the war was in progress, lavished
praise on communist women fighters who sought to
kill American pilots.
the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory,
encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue
sky of Vietnam — these women, who are so gentle and
poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes
are bombing their city, become such good fighters,” Fonda said.