WASHINGTON - The US Defense Department refused to reopen an investigation into suspected atrocities committed in Vietnam by a special US Army reconnaissance unit, despite new allegations of war crimes, including ghastly killings and torture of Vietnamese civilians.
"Absent new and compelling evidence, there are no plans to reopen the case," a Pentagon spokesman told AFP. "The case is more than 30 years old."
A US Marine guards a Viet Cong prisoner as they walk to the collection point 10 October, 1965 in Vietnam. The US Defense Department refused to reopen an investigation into suspected atrocities committed in Vietnam by a special US Army reconnaissance unit, despite new allegations of war crimes, including ghastly killings and torture of Vietnamese civilians. (AFP-National Archives/File)
The statement came in response to an independent probe of the activities of so-called Tiger Force undertaken by The Toledo Blade newspaper both in the United States and Vietnam over the past eight months.
The investigation, which included more than 100 interviews, has concluded that the highly decorated platoon that operated in South Vietnam's central highlands as part of the 101st Airborne Division was possibly responsible for the murder of several hundred Vietnamese civilians in 1967.
Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers and were practically buried alive in mass graves, said the midwestern daily, which began publishing its account of the probe Sunday. Elderly farmers were shot as they worked in their fields.
Prisoners were tortured and executed while their ears and scalps were severed for souvenirs, the report said. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.
"We would go into villages and just shoot everybody," a former Tiger Force medic, Harold Fischer, is quoted as saying. "We didn't need an excuse. If they were there, they were dead. It just made me sick."
According to The Blade, commanders knew about the platoon's atrocities and in some cases encouraged them.
Copyright 2003 AFP