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Interview with Nguyen Bay, 1981

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Summary
Nguyen Bay was a ten year old boy at the time of the 1967 Thuy Bo massacre. He recalls the Americans arriving just before noon and the destruction and bombing that occurred. Nguyen Bay describes the deaths of his family members. He describes his fear at the time and shows his scars from being shot.
Topics
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, Vietnamese, Bombing, Aerial--Vietnam, Women in war, Youth and war, Children and war, War crimes, War and family, Village communities, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Atrocities
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Transcript

The Thuy Bo Massacre

SR 2076
NGUYEN BAY
Interview with Nguyen Bay, eleven years of age at the time of the Massacre.
Interviewer:
Please describe what happened on January 31st, 1967. How did the Americans come, how did they shoot people down and destroy things and also how old you were at the time?
Nguyen Bay:
The incident took place fourteen years ago. It was on January 31st, 1967. At that time I was only a young boy of ten and was in the fourth grade in the village grade school. It was a little before noon the Americans had been going around destroying villages and just a little before noon they approached Thuy Bo hamlet and destroyed the hamlet. When I heard the Americans had arrived I was at that time a young boy in the 4th grade and was going to classes and when I heard the Americans had arrived, I was really afraid and ran back to the hamlet with a number of my friends. When I got home and tried to put things away, the Americans were already deploying their forces on the outside.
From above there were the airplanes (strafing and bombing) and the artillery shells. On the ground there were the infantry and their rifles. Before the Americans swept into the village, they had the airplanes bomb us and lobbed in the artillery shells. When the American infantry swept into the hamlet, they went into my house. In my house that that time there were only women and children. The oldest child was me, who was ten years old at the time. There was no child any older. There were only women and children. When they entered the house, they asked us whether we were VC.
We were only women and children and we did not know what VC meant. This was because we were only innocent women and children who were leading an ordinary life. After that, I acted angry and tried to intimidate us. Then they approached us, and before they could reach us frightening things happened. For example, they shot off the ears of some people. When these people climbed up to the beds they shot at this people, causing their guts to burst out all over the place. In fact, the whole bodies were shattered from the knees up.
They came and asked us about the VC, and we were only women and children so we did not know what VC was. So they shot at us, they shot at all of us. After they shot at us, they burnt down the house. And all the domestic animals in the house were shot and killed. And another really brutal thing that they did it was so brutal that no human being could have ever done it was, after killing the women and children, they stomped with their feet on the heads of babies who were not even a month old yet.
Another thing was that there were women who were still recovering from their childbirths who were dragged out of the house and roughed up. The really terrifying thing was that after they shot and killed people, they scattered powder gasoline (? gun powder? flare?) on these bodies and burnt them. Another thing was to throw the corpses into the burning haystacks in order to destroy them. It was such as terrifying scene that if you people believed in ghosts and demons you should be really scared.
The dead people were lying all around, their guts were strewn all over the place, their limbs severed, their brains scattered, blood and brains reaching as high as your ankles in some places. Guts and things flew as high as the ceiling. It was a terrifying scene. So terrifying was this scene fourteen years ago that it is impossible to really describe it. It was really not human. It was indescribably brutal, this action of fourteen years ago. In my family at that time, forty persons were killed. The total number of inhabitants in Thuy Bo killed at the time was 105 persons.
This does not include the wounded. And this does not include the people who were killed in their burning homes. The very fact that I managed to survive at the time was because I did everything I could think of to escape death. First of all, I hid under the corpses. After that, I ran and hid in the bushes. Then later on I ran back home, and hid in the remaining nooks. I had been wounded and blood was coming out in a pool. Two hours later, the Americans left. After they left, the villagers tried to help each other. Those who were lightly wounded helped those who were severely wounded...
SR 2076
Interviewer:
Could you ask, why does the, well how does he explain the fact that he was able to survive? Why was he left alive? Did he describe that already? All right, fine.
Please roll up your sleeve and show us the scar on your arm. How did it happen? Were you hit by shell fragments or by gunshot?
Nguyen Bay:
They shot pointblank at me and the bullets hit me here and here.
Interviewer:
Please show that side to the camera again.
Could he just do that for us again...the arm and the shoulder.
Hold it there.
SR 2076
Interviewer:
Please continue with your description and then please tell us what your feelings were at the time.
Nguyen Bay:
In general that was the way it was. It was a really terrifying scene of death and destruction. The massacre that was committed here was committed in three areas: the front portion of the hamlet, the middle portion and the back portion. I myself was at that time was in the middle portion, and the killing that I am describing occurred in that middle portion. When they came in and asked about the VC...
Interviewer:
Please just describe to us what happened from where you left off.
Nguyen Bay:
When they came in asked about the VC, the women and children did not know that the VC was. They asked us again, and we shook our heads. At that time, all of us fell on our knees and kowtowed at them, saying: "Please sire, we don't know anything." In spite of our kowtowing and our entreaties, they used their guns in a very brutal way. At first, a number of people were injured as a result and climbed up to the beds to lie down. Their ears were shot off, blood was coming out in pools as they lay in the beds. They then shot at the bellies of these people, causing their guts to spurt out all over the place.
After that, they used the butts of their guns to smash the heads of the people there. This horrifying scene scared everyone who was still alive. And the children cried out when they saw that brutal scene. But the Americans carried on. They continued with the questioning. They began with shooting to pieces the water basin nearby. Then they just opened fire continuously at us. I was wounded and fell to the ground. Looking back at that scene, I must tell you that it was so horrible that I just cannot describe it all.
After I got wounded and fell to the ground I was wounded here and there is still a scar from the gunshot wound right here a number of dead bodies piled up on me. For that reason, I escaped death. Although I escaped death, the other dead bodies were piling on top of me and my wound was burning unbearably. So I got out from under the pile of corpses and ran away. I ran for a while, but because my arm had been wounded and I lost my balance as a result so I fell down.
I got to my feet again and again I ran in order not to be shot down by the Americans who were still searching in the hamlet. So I ran away and hid in a banana bush. Afterwards, I ran back to the village again. After the Americans had shot the people down, they used their bayonets their rifles were the Garrand 12 they used the bayonets to stab at the corpses. The dead bodies, they threw them into the burning houses. They stacked the dead bodies into a house nearby and then they scattered powdered gasoline (chemical of some kind?) and burnt them to destroy all these bodies. Now, it is just impossible to describe the horror of fourteen years ago.
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