Saigon Execution: Murder of a Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief

Saigon Execution: Murder of a Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief ...
1host2u.com 01/02/1968 History

Keywords:#1968, #1host2u.com, #AP, #Associated_Press, #Geneva, #Military, #Murder, #NBC, #National_Liberation_Front, #People, #Police_Chief, #Pulitzer, #Pulitzer_Prize, #Saigon, #Saigon_Execution, #Tet_Offensive, #Vietcong, #Vietnam

Nguyễn Văn Lém (referred to as Captain Bảy Lốp or Ew Tu) (1931 or 1932 – 1 February 1968) was a member of the National Liberation Front who was summarily executed in Saigon by General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan during the Tet Offensive. The execution was captured on film by photojournalist Eddie Adams. The execution was explained at the time as being the consequence of Lém's admitted guerrilla activity and war crimes, and otherwise due to a general "wartime mentality".
On the second day of the Tet Offensive, amid fierce street fighting, Lém was captured and brought to Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, Chief of the Republic of Vietnam National Police. Using his personal .38 revolver, General Loan summarily executed Lém in front of AP photographer Eddie Adams and NBC television cameraman Vo Suu. The photograph and footage were broadcast worldwide, galvanizing the anti-war movement; Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph.
South Vietnamese sources said that Lém commanded a Viet Cong insurgent team, which on that day had targeted South Vietnamese National Police officers, or in their stead, the police officers' families. Corroborating this, Lém was captured at the site of a mass grave that included the bodies of at least seven police family members. Photographer Adams confirmed the South Vietnamese account, although he was only present for the execution. Lém's widow confirmed that her husband was a member of the National Liberation Front and she did not see him after the Tet Offensive began. Shortly after the execution, a South Vietnamese official who had not been present said that Lém was only a political operative.
Military lawyers have not agreed whether Loan's action violated the Geneva Conventions for treatment of prisoners of war (Lém had not been wearing a proper uniform; nor was he, it is alleged, fighting enemy soldiers at the time), where POW status was granted independently of the laws of war; it was limited to National Liberation Front seized during military operations.
The act was stunning in its casualness. Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams was on the streets of Saigon on February 1, 1968, two days after the forces of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong set off the Tet offensive and swarmed into dozens of South Vietnamese cities. As Adams photographed the turmoil, he came upon Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, standing alongside ­Nguyen Van Lem, the captain of a terrorist squad who had just killed the family of one of Loan’s friends. Adams thought he was watching the interrogation of a bound prisoner. But as he looked through his viewfinder, Loan calmly raised his .38-caliber pistol and summarily fired a bullet through Lem’s head. After shooting the suspect, the general justified the suddenness of his actions by saying, “If you hesitate, if you didn’t do your duty, the men won’t follow you.” The Tet offensive raged into March. Yet while U.S. forces beat back the communists, press reports of the anarchy convinced Americans that the war was unwinnable. The freezing of the moment of Lem’s death symbolized for many the brutality over there, and the picture’s widespread publication helped galvanize growing sentiment in America about the futility of the fight. More important, Adams’ photo ushered in a more intimate level of war photojournalism. He won a Pulitzer Prize for this image, and as he commented three decades later about the reach of his work, “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.”
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