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Interview with Le Van Ba, 1981

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Le Van Ba was a resident of the village of Ben Suc, a key locale along the Saigon River and site of Operation Cedar Falls, in part an effort to remove Viet Cong from the village. He says the village was bombed and then bulldozed to the ground, while the surviving population was displaced by ferrying them to relocation camps. Le Van Ba recounts that the Americans promised little in terms of food or shelter.
Relocation (Housing), Village communities, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, Vietnamese, Bombing, Aerial--Vietnam, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Aerial operations, American, United States--History, Military--20th century
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Relocation from Ben Suc during Operation Cedar Falls

SR 2085
621 Take 1
Interview with Le Van Ba 66, resident of Ben Suc.
Please tell us what happened to you during the Cedar Falls Operation.
Le Van Ba:
During the operation called Cedar Falls, they bombed all around in order to prevent the inhabitants from fleeing. Then they herded us to one place, captured us and then took us away. At first, they herded us to the school, inspected us and then sent us home. While were being herded, the cattle and buffaloes which we shut up in the pens and compounds were all shot and killed.
Then within the first few days, they herded us to the ferry landing, which was over here. My wife and the rest of the family were taken away, leaving all the belongings behind. They did not allow us to take anything along with us at all. We had to stay there at the ferry landing for two days before they shipped us to Binh Duong. Then they put us under a tent, I don't know what it was made of, it was a red canopy and was extremely hot inside.
By the end of the year, I left the camp. They did not allow me to leave, they said that they would provide me with money and other things. But I refused everything and escaped. I came back to the liberated area and lived there until 1968 when I was again herded away again during a search and destroy operation. In 1972 I came back here again.
They bombed and shelled unendingly, but my day didn't come yet. There were B-52s and other types of bombers. My wife was lucky. She got knocked down into a bomb crater and was saved. At that time they removed everybody and then bulldozed the whole place flat. This whole area was just like an empty field at the time. There was nothing left standing.
622 Take 1
Please tell us your experiences again with more details.
Le Van Ba:
In 1965 the helicopters came while we were working in the paddy fields and strafed us, wounding an old man and killing five other persons. Two persons were blown to pieces and two others became a bloody mess.
When they herded us together, they shot and killed many people. I personally had to bury a man up there and another down here. They were very brutal. They rounded us up and relocated us and after that they did not allow us to go anywhere at all.
When I was forced to go, my mother was over ninety years old. When peace came, she was able to come back here and enjoy it for four months before she died. She died when she was 96 years old. Oh my God, you should have seen how I piggybacked her all over the place in order to escape the bombs and the shells. People had said that once relocated you would be treated well and kindly. But in reality they did not think you were anything at all.
623 Take 1
Please go ahead with your description.
Le Van Ba:
Before they rounded us up and carted us away, they shelled the entire area around the village. They dropped bombs from the B-52s and shot rockets from the helicopters. At about nightfall they landed from the sky, surrounded the village, prevented the inhabitants to flee to other places, rounded the population up and herded them to the school where they looked at people's faces and had them arrested. Those who were not arrested were allowed to go home.
A couple of days later, they herded us to the ferry landing and shipped us out on boats and fan powered canoes. When my mother and I were taken out of here, we were taken by one with two fans, big ones. My wife and children were taken out the next day.
When we got down there, we had to live in a tent. It was extremely hot in there. They gave us some food to eat, but never enough. So I escaped and came back here. I lived in Dau Tieng, Suoi Dua, at first. Then in 1972 I came back here and stayed ever since.
Artillery shells and bombs from B-52s were exploding all over the place. I carried my mother on my back and ran, not fearing anything.
What did they give to the village inhabitants to make them stay in the relocation camps? What did they say to the people?
Le Van Ba:
After they took us there, they did not do anything for us. And in only a few days, I escaped. I did not do anything for them.
What did they say to you when you got there?
Le Van Ba:
The Americans told me that if I remained there they'd provide me with housing. But I did not take them up on that. I just left for the liberated zone to live.
Besides talks of housing, did they promise people anything else to make them stay?
Le Van Ba:
No, nothing. They did not give us anything.
But you said a while ago they distributed rice and other foodstuff. So did they hand out anything or did they let the people go hungry?
Le Van Ba:
In my case, I brought some rice with me and I lived on that. I did not know whether they distributed anything after that.
624, Take 2 End slate
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