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Museum reminds people of the horror of war

Update: November, 30/2014 - 12:00

One of the many awful things that happened during the Resistance War was at a village called My Lai.

Today there is a museum at My Lai to help people remember how cruel war is.

Some people living there survived the attack by American soldiers on the village.

There are even photographs at the museum that were taken by an American Army photographer.

Graphic: The museum's photos and displays tell the truth of the massacre 46 years ago.
Graphic: The museum's photos and displays tell the truth of the massacre 46 years ago. VNS photo Cong Thanh

by Hoai Nam

Situated 13km northeast of Quang Ngai City and in the centre of Tinh Khe commune, the Son My Sanctuary revisits the tragic My Lai massacre, memorialising wounds still raw after four decades.

The 3ha area retells the event through images of damaged thatched roofs and footprints of villagers escaping from American soldiers in March of 1968.

The museum site, built in 2003 and considered a National Special Relic, inhabits the village area American troops nicknamed Pinkville.

The main building at the centre of the museum complex centres houses over 1,000 items and photos, remnants of the massacre.

At the centre of the building sits a stone slab upon which the name of 540 villagers – 182 women, and 173 kids and infants – are inscribed.

The photos, many taken by former US Army photographer Ronald L. Haeberle, document the cruelty of war and its carnage. Mr. Haeberle's iconic black and white photographs become all the more visceral when displayed at the museum.

A caption on Haeberle's photo,"Most were women and babies. It looked as if they tried to get away", is redundant – as if the scene of women and babies piled up on a path needed explaining.

During the summer of 2012, Ron Haeberle visited Viet Nam and My Lai village and met with a survivor of the My Lai massacre.

But first-hand knowledge of the massacre will only get rarer as the decades roll by. For example, a museum guide, Bui Thi Thu Thuy was born in 1990 and learned about the event through her grandparents' stories.

"The museum managing board brings their stories to life with images of war-torn villages—collapsed and burnt houses, people and animal corpse scattered across village roads," Thuy said.

"A river channel in the village, where American soldiers herded remaining villagers to kill them off, was dyed red," she voiced.

A book at the museum retells the deadly morning on March 16, 1968.

Early in the morning, villagers got up for a new day of work on the farm or in the market. The morning's peace was broken by 30 minutes of shelling around 5.30am. The assault continued with rocket launches from helicopters.

Then nine choppers landed bringing with them a platoon called Bravo Company. They rushed into My Hoi hamlet and searched every house. A family of 15 hid in a shelter until a group of GIs arrived. Eight of the 15 family members tried to escape but were shot; the rest were killed by mines or grenades. An eight year-old boy running from the shelter was shot dead, his mouth still full with the morning's rice.

Ronald Haeberle, an army photographer, handed over 40 black-and-white photos of the platoon called Charlie Company to the Army, but kept 18 for himself.

Eighteen months later, when the massacre was under investigation, he showed those 18 photos along with a detailed testimony of the incident.

Pham Thanh Cong, 57, one of only a dozen survivors, said he had done everything he could to rebuild the museum to reflect the image he had held onto for more than 40 years.

"Other survivors have either died of old age or lost their memory of the massacre. I want to set up the village to recreate the tragedy that happened 46 years ago. It reminds young villagers and tourists from all over the world how cruel war is," Cong said.

"I would die but for the purpose of keeping the history of the village alive." More than four decades later, Cong wrote a book about the slaughter of 504 unarmed civilians by American soldiers.

The book, Pinkville's Memory, describes every thing that Cong remembers from that day and what his life became after the massacre.

Cong's mother and six brothers were killed in their house. He was seriously injured but was saved by his father.

Nguyen Van Tan, a 60-year-old visiting from Quang Nam Province, said he mourned for the villagers.

"The massacre was known by all Vietnamese people. I almost cried during my visit to the museum. I cannot understand the level of brutality and ruthlessness it took to kill so many.

The museum's photos and displays tell the truth of the massacre 46 years ago," Tan said.

"I hope that all Vietnamese come here to remember their deaths and do something to prevent future war from happening," he said.

In the museum's visitors' book people from around the world are similarly moved.

"No war ever-forever" was written by the Chu family from the US.

A UK visitor wrote, "Lest we forget the civilians that were taken from us during the Viet Nam war. As a past serviceman, it pains me to see atrocities like the ones here. May God bless the people of Son My village. They will never be forgotten. Amen."

Shamsheer Sharma felt the tug of memory, "I heard of this incident way back in 1968 when in college, so coming back here 46 years later raises goose pimples."

So far this year, the museum has hosted 250,000 visitors, of which 37,000 were foreigners.

The museum near My Khe beach, Chu Sa ancient citadel and Ly Son Island, is expected to be an attraction to domestic and foreign visitors alike.

The My Lai Massacre

The killings that occurred on March 16, 1968 in the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai, Son Tinh District in Quang Ngai Province, prompted widespread outrage around the world. The incident is credited with advancing the end of the American War because of how it undermined public support for the war in the US.

The massacre began when soldiers of the Charlie Company, under the command of Lieutenant Calley, opened fire on civilians during a ‘search and destroy' mission in My Lai and neighbouring villages. The casualties were mainly old men, women and children – all were unarmed. — VNS

GLOSSARY

The main building at the centre of the museum complex centres houses over 1,000 items and photos, remnants of the massacre.

Remnants are remains.

A massacre is an incident in which many people are murdered.

At the centre of the building sits a stone slab upon which the name of 540 villagers – 182 women, and 173 kids and infants – are inscribed.

Inscribed on stone means written into the stone.

The photos, many taken by former US Army photographer Ronald L. Haeberle, document the cruelty of war and its carnage.

A former army photographer is someone who once was an army photographer but is no longer.

Carnage means the killing of many people. It may not necessarily be murder but the word is probably used here to avoid using the word massacre once again.

Mr. Haeberle's iconic black and white photographs become all the more visceral when displayed at the museum.

Mr. Haeberle has made a name for himself producing black and white photographs, so they are iconic to him.

Visceral means making you react with your feelings rather than with your thinking.

A caption on Haeberle's photo,"Most were women and babies. It looked as if they tried to get away", is redundant – as if the scene of women and babies piled up on a path needed explaining.

A caption is a sentence, or paragraph written under a picture to explain what it is about.

Something that is redundant is not needed.

But first-hand knowledge of the massacre will only get rarer as the decades roll by.

First-hand knowledge means knowing something from having experienced it yourself, rather than having been told about it by someone else.

If first-hand knowledge becomes rarer, there will be less and less of it.

"A river channel in the village, where American soldiers herded remaining villagers to kill them off, was dyed red," she voiced.

If something is dyed it is made into a different colour.

Early in the morning, villagers got up for a new day of work on the farm or in the market. The morning's peace was broken by 30 minutes of shelling around 5.30am.

Shelling happens when ammunition called shells are thrown at a target from a distance, using military equipment known as artillery. The shells explode when they reach their target.

The assault continued with rocket launches from helicopters.

An assault is an attack.

Then nine choppers landed bringing with them a platoon called Bravo Company.

A chopper is a helicopter.

A platoon is a group in which soldiers are organised.

They rushed into My Hoi hamlet and searched every house.

A hamlet is a very small village.

 A family of 15 hid in a shelter until a group of GIs arrived. Eight of the 15 family members tried to escape but were shot; the rest were killed by mines or grenades.

Mines are bombs that are placed underground. They explode when people walk over them or when vehicles drive over them.

Grenades are weapons that explode after being thrown at a target.

Eighteen months later, when the massacre was under investigation, he showed those 18 photos along with a detailed testimony of the incident.

A testimony is proof of something. Detailed testimony is such proof presented in detail.

Pham Thanh Cong, 57, one of only a dozen survivors, said he had done everything he could to rebuild the museum to reflect the image he had held onto for more than 40 years.

To reflect means to show.

"I want to set up the village to recreate the tragedy that happened 46 years ago.

To recreate something means to make it look as if it is happening all over again.

Nguyen Van Tan, a 60-year-old visiting from Quang Nam Province, said he mourned for the villagers.

To mourn means to feel sadness about losing special people such as your loved ones.

"I cannot understand the level of brutality and ruthlessness it took to kill so many.

Brutality means savageness.

Ruthlessness is about having no feeling for others.

As a past serviceman, it pains me to see atrocities like the ones here. May God bless the people of Son My village.

An atrocity is an extremely wicked thing someone may do to someone else, usually involving hitting them in one or way or another and causing injury.

Shamsheer Sharma felt the tug of memory, "I heard of this incident way back in 1968 when in college, so coming back here 46 years later raises goose pimples."

A tug of memory is a reminder.

Goose pimples are shapes that form on your skin when you feel great emotion.

The museum nearby My Khe beach, Chu Sa ancient citadel and Ly Son Island, is expected to be an attraction to domestic and foreign visitors alike.

A citadel is a fort. Citadels are usually built on high ground above a city.

The killings that occurred on March 16, 1968 in the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai, Son Tinh District in Quang Ngai Province, prompted widespread outrage around the world.

Prompted means caused.

Outrage means feelings of anger about something people believe to be very, very wrong.

The incident is credited with advancing the end of the American War because of how it undermined public support for the war in the US.

To be credited with something means to be valued.

To undermine means to weaken.

 

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

1.      An incident in which many people are killed.

2.      An incident in which many people are murdered.

3.      Another word for a helicopter.

4.      Ronald Haeberle's job in the United States army.

5.      The relation to Bui Thi Thu Thuy of the people who told her stories about the My Lai massacre.

 

 

 

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ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2014









































 

1. Carnage; 2. Massacre; 3. Chopper; 4. Photographer; 5. Grandparents.

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