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.
“You 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,” recalled
Marine 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.
Both 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.”
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.
Many 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
“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 Thomas.
“The Viet 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
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.
poured through two perimeters and overwhelmed the defenders — 150 ill-trained South Vietnamese soldiers and 11 American
“There were 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 for bravery.
With 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 standing building.
The 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.
Descriptions of ISIS operations against
civilians in Iraq and Syria often recall the communist atrocity in Duc Duc.
“Survivors 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.
“I cherish 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.
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