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May 7, 2022
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“We begged not to kill, but they kept shooting and shooting”

In the photo: an obelisk to the victims of American aggression in the village of Song My.

In the photo: an obelisk to the victims of American aggression in the village of Song My. (Photo: Alexander Mineev/TASS)

The cult speech of Brother-2: “Tell me, American, what is the strength? I think the power is in the truth.” And now it’s not a movie hero, but Sergei Bodrov himself: “During the war, you can’t talk badly about your own. Never. Even if they’re wrong.” What does one have to do with the other – about the Americans, strength, truth, and whether it is possible to talk badly about our own – further discussion. It is not so much about them, but about all of us, people.

There are 504 names on the memorial in the Vietnamese settlement of Song My, including 173 children and 182 women (17 were pregnant). One for all date of death March 16, 1968. This village was destroyed by American, army intelligence. According to the information received – it has not been clarified by whom and from where – there, allegedly, the partisan headquarters of the Viet Cong was located.

According to the plan, Company C (Charly) landed from helicopters west of Song My, Company B (Bravo) blockaded the rural community from the north, the third – in reserve for reinforcement. The day before, a sergeant respected by his colleagues died from shrapnel, a disguised land mine, and the captain promised: “We will take revenge!” Prior to this, servicemen “C” did not take a direct part in the battles, “face to face” did not collide, being engaged in security and patrolling, incurring losses due to mines and traps, so there was a great chance to specifically “revenge”.

Fire was opened almost immediately. According to the peasants who worked in the rice field. Those who tried to crawl into roadside ditches were finished off at close range. Huts were bombarded with grenades or lightly set on fire. A surviving resident (we still remember her) later said: “We begged not to kill, but they kept shooting and shooting. Mother died, children died. My husband was not there then, there were no men here at all – only women, old people and children. I was near death, wounded, my head was covered in blood, I was trembling all over. No matter how cynical, but she was lucky: she did not burn; not stabbed with a bayonet; not raped (at least 14 women); did not cut out the brand name “C” (Charly) – at least 6 Vietnamese.

A hundred “prisoners” (although, what kind of prisoners – no one resisted, no “partisans” were found), who seemed to have raised their hands and were not killed immediately, were shot after a while. At the same time, company B “took revenge” in the neighborhood – a soldier stepped on a mine in their field – for which at least 90 locals “paid off”. The captain said: “destroy everything that moves, screams and growls” – there were enough cartridges for dogs with poultry …

… The captain will not be proven “evil intentions.” Of the entire Sonder commando (witnesses at the trial will directly compare the military with the Nazis), only the lieutenant will be involved, skipping his testimony that he “followed the order of the Captain.” But even the only convict will be pardoned by the President of the United States. 31 year old major Colin Powell (test tube at the UN), who investigated the event, will write in a report on the traces that have not cooled down: “Relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.” Powell does not stint on ink to “whitewash”.

For a brilliant special operation, the command will express gratitude “for outstanding work.” After all, according to the first report, “128 Viet Cong” were destroyed, and a certain number of civilians, alas, by sad accident themselves came under fire. And only much, much later, the researchers will say: “The massacre in Son My was inevitable in that war, when, due to the lack of common intelligible results, success was determined by the statistical count of corpses.”

But let’s go back to that day, to Song My. A Hiller OH-23 Raven observation helicopter appears in the sky. The crew peers from the cockpit and sees people covered in blood, some moving. A green smoke signal is given: “Help needed!” The helicopter comes in for a landing and the pilots of the American army are already personally observing the infantry of the American army. For example, a captain who kicks a lying girl and shoots her (in court, the captain will say under oath, they say, it seemed that she had a weapon).

25 year old Hugh Thompson draws attention to a ditch full of bodies and broadcasts on the radio in plain text for everyone to hear: “There is something wrong here, a lot of strange murders.” They approach him: “None of your business, fly away from here.” Shots are heard in the background, they are finishing off the wounded peasants. “What are you doing, the victims must be evacuated urgently!” “Yeah, here’s a suitable means of evacuation” – and they show Thompson a grenade.

The helicopter takes off, but Thompson’s colleague – Glenn Andreotta reports that at the other end of the village they intend to “execute civilians” right now. A dozen frightened Vietnamese run with their children, followed by soldiers, raising their rifles. The helicopter again descends exactly between. Thompson yells, “If the bastards [пехота] open fire, answer them with machine guns. The persecution stops, “brothers in arms” are, to put it mildly, in a state of bewilderment. Andreotta hears crying, jumps out of the cab and, pushing the dead apart, takes out a five-year-old child …

Let’s use after-knowledge again. In 1973 Vladimir Vysotsky first performed his song “The One Who Didn’t Shoot”. Everything about her is right and everything is wrong. Not one, but three Laurence Colburn). And they were just about to shoot. On their own, instantly, become strangers. According to “a platoon that perfectly fulfilled the order.” But how many were saved, it is impossible to count. After all, not only the massacre in Song My was stopped (helicopters called for “help” flew in). After Thompson’s loud public report, the command canceled several punitive raids on other villages. Literally the next day, Songmi was supposed to happen again. At least four times.

Three weeks later, “a Vietnamese sniper shot” Andreotta on the ground, but his comrades “did not have to bend over and they finished the war.” Thompson, during a hard landing, knocking down the flames of a downed helicopter, injured his spine. Not completely cured, he was summoned to Washington, where he appeared before a closed hearing of the Congressional Armed Services Committee. “Evil, absurd path” – the deputies stamped their feet, and Chairman Rivers spat that Thompson was the only one who deserved a tribunal for Songmy. Against his own, you bastard, he turned his weapon!

The tribunal did not happen – they decided not to “inflate”, but the stigma of “national traitor” was firmly sealed. They called Thompson with threats, threw dead cats on the porch, whistled after him. Thirty years later, after an interview in a documentary about the events in Seong My, the attitude towards him has changed radically. U.S. highest award “for gallantry not related to combat.” After his death from oncology in 2006, he was buried with a salute of honor and a helicopter escort. A piano concerto performed at the UN General Assembly was written in memory. The former national traitor turned out to be a real patriot, according to the official statement of the US Senate.

The child, pulled out by pilot Glenn Andreotta at the last moment from the ditch, has grown. He met at the family grave – victims of Songmy – with Lawrence Colburn: “You saved me, you are a good person, but I still feel hatred for the Americans who killed my mother, my brother and my sister.”

Remember the Vietnamese woman survivor we talked about at the beginning? Both Colburn and Thompson managed to see her through the years, visiting My Song in 1998. She asked, “Why are you [кто всё это сделал] didn’t come with you?” Thompson faltered, collecting his thoughts, but the woman finished the sentence: “We would have forgiven them.”

“Tell me, American, what is the strength?” (WITH)

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