- Nguyen Ngoc Loan
Nguyễn Ngọc Loan
General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan
Nickname Nguyen Ngoc Loan Born December 11, 1930
Huế, French Indochina (now Vietnam)
Died July 14, 1998(aged 67)
Allegiance - Republic of Vietnam Service/branch Army of the Republic of Vietnam Rank Brigadier General, ARVN Battles/wars Tet Offensive
General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan (December 11, 1930–July 14, 1998) was the Republic of Vietnam's Chief of National Police. Nguyễn gained international attention when he executed handcuffed prisoner Nguyễn Văn Lém, a Viet Cong soldier, on February 1, 1968 in front of Vo Suu, an NBC cameraman, and Eddie Adams, an Associated Press photographer. The photo (captioned "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon") and film would become two of the most famous images in journalism and started to negatively change the American public's views on the Vietnam War.
Nguyễn Ngọc Loan was a former Brigadier General of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. A few months after the execution picture was taken, Nguyễn was seriously wounded by machine gun fire that led to the amputation of his leg. Again his picture hit the world press, this time as Australian war correspondent Pat Burgess carried him back to his lines. In addition to his military service, Nguyễn was also an advocate for hospital construction.
In 1975, during the Fall of Saigon, Nguyễn fled South Vietnam. He moved to the United States, and opened a pizza restaurant at Rolling Valley Mall, in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Burke, Virginia. In 1991, Nguyễn was forced into retirement when his identity was publicly disclosed. Photographer Eddie Adams recalled that on his last visit to the pizza shop, he had seen written on a toilet wall, "We know who you are, fucker".
General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon is a photograph taken by Eddie Adams on February 1, 1968. It shows South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a Viet Cong officer in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. The event was also captured by NBC News film cameras, but Adams' photograph remains the defining image.
There is also some dispute as to the identity of the man who is being executed in the photograph. It has been claimed that he was either Nguyễn Văn Lém or Le Cong Na, a similar looking man who was also a member of the Viet Cong and died during the Tet Offensive. The families of both men claimed that the Viet Cong officer in the photo looks very similar to their relative. Neither family could say for sure.
Lém was captured and brought to Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, then Chief of the Republic of Viet Nam National Police. Using his personal sidearm, General Nguyễn 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 state that Lém commanded a Viet Cong death squad, which on that day had murdered South Vietnamese National Police officers, or in their stead, the police officers' families; these sources said that Lém was captured near the site of a ditch holding as many as thirty-four bound and shot bodies of police and their relatives, some of whom were the families of General Nguyễn's deputy and close friend, and six of whom were Nguyễn's godchildren. 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 Viet Cong 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.
The photo won Adams the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, though he was later said to have regretted the impact it had. The image became an anti-war icon. Concerning General Nguyễn and his famous photograph, Eddie Adams later wrote in Time:
“ The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths ... What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers? ”
Adams later apologized in person to General Nguyễn and his family for the damage it did to his reputation. When General Nguyễn died of cancer in his new home of Virginia, Adams praised him: "The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him."
Sympathetic treatment of Loan
The 2010 book, This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive, offers a detailed, sympathetic picture of Loan, portraying him as a relatively honest and uncorrupted officer, who cleaned up and stabilized a difficult Saigon security situation. He was also a staunch South Vietnamese nationalist the book maintains, refusing to give Americans special treatment in his jurisdiction. For example, he rejected the arrest of a Vietnamese mayor by American military police and insisted that only South Vietnamese authorities could arrest and detain South Vietnamese citizens. He also insisted that US civilians, including journalists, fell under South Vietnamese jurisdiction while in Saigon. Loan's uncompromising stand caused him to be regarded as a troublemaker by the Johnson administration. Loan was also skeptical of the US CIA-backed Phoenix Program to attack and neutralize the clandestine Vietcong infrastructure.
Loan's men were also involved in the arrest of two NLF operatives, who had been engaged in peace feelers with US officials, behind the back of the South Vietnamese. His stand against such "backdoor" dealing, and his opposition to releasing one of the communist negotiators, reportedly angered the Americans, and forced them to keep both him and the South Vietnamese better informed of diplomatic dealings involving their country. Loan was also an accomplished pilot, leading an airstrike on Viet Cong forces at Bo Duc in 1967, shortly before he was promoted to permanent brigadier general rank. The Americans were displeased at his promotion, and Loan submitted his resignation shortly thereafter. According to the 2010 book: "It was widely believed that Loan was being forced out by the Americans for exposing their dealings with the VC or that he was taking a stand on principle because the US was trying to compel the government to release [communist envoy] Sau Ha." The South Vietnamese cabinet subsequently rejected Loan's resignation. The United States under the Nixon administration was to later negotiate a separate deal with the North that left communist troops in good tactical position within South Vietnam, and forced acquiescence by the South Vietnamese. Later action by the US Congress was to cut off aid to South Vietnam during the final northern conquest in 1975.
- James S. Robbins (2010). This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive. Encounter Books. pp. 94–104.
- ^ THIẾU TƯỚNG NGUYỄN NGỌC LOAN (Vietnamese)
- ^ "Nguyen Ngoc Loan, 67, Dies; Executed Viet Cong Prisoner". New York Times. July 16, 1998. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/16/world/nguyen-ngoc-loan-67-dies-executed-viet-cong-prisoner.html. Retrieved 2009-05-07. "But when Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan raised his pistol on Feb. 1, 1968, extended his arm and fired a bullet through the head of the prisoner, who stood with his hands tied behind his back, the general did so in full view of an NBC cameraman and an Associated Press photographer."
- ^ Lucas, Dean (2007-02-17). "Famous Pictures Magazine – Vietnam Execution". Famous Pictures Magazine. http://www.famouspictures.org/mag/index.php?title=Vietnam_Execution. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- ^ There Are Tears in My Eyes – Eddie Adams & the Most Famous Photo of the Vietnam War, by Jonah Goldberg 1999
- ^ Adams, in documentary An Unlikely Weapon (2009), dir. Susan Morgan Cooper
- ^ Vietnam Studies: Law at War: Vietnam 1964–1973, Major General George S. Prugh, US Army Center of Military History, 1975
- ^ Adams, Eddie (July 27, 1998). "Eulogy". Time magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,988783,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
- ^ Image Canon - Historic Images
- ^ Adams, Eddie (July 27, 1998). "Eulogy: GENERAL NGUYEN NGOC LOAN". Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,988783,00.html.
- ^ Robbins, pp. 94–104
- ^ Robbins, pp. 105–106
- ^ Stanley Karnow (1983). Vietnam: A History. Viking Press. pp. 181–239.
- The exact location of this event happened on the west section of "Lý Thái Tổ" street, right in the center of this satellite map, and looking East as shown in the execution picture.
- VNAF The South Vietnamese Air Force - Không Quân Việt Nam Cộng Hòa
- Voice autobiography of execution by Photographer Eddie Adams
- Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Reunion 2003
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