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Some commanders, like an army colonel who investigated allegations of rape in an infantry battalion, nevertheless sought to cast Vietnamese women as willing participants. Writing about the heavily populated coastal regions of I and II Corps, he conjectured that in those areas “the number of young women far exceeds the number of military age males,” so the local women undoubtedly welcomed the attentions of American troops as a means to “satisfy needs long denied.” Assuming that all Vietnamese women longed for intercourse with armed foreigners marching through their villages, the colonel blithely concluded, “The circumstances are such that rape in contacts between soldiers … and village women is unlikely.”

The colonel’s theory about universally willing partners becomes even more preposterous when we consider the shockingly violent and sadistic nature of some of the sexual assaults. One marine remembered finding a Vietnamese woman who had been shot and wounded. Severely injured, she begged for water. Instead, her clothes were ripped off. She was stabbed in both breasts, then forced into a spread-eagle position, after which the handle of an entrenching tool — essentially a short-handled shovel — was thrust into her vagina. Other women were violated with objects ranging from soda bottles to rifles.


Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, a reminder that the Vietnam War took even more than the 4.5 million outright murdered in it.

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