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Saigon execution: Murder of a Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief, 1968


Nguyen Ngoc Lon raised his arm and shot Viet Cong operative Nguyen Van Lem in the head, went to reporters and told them: "These people kill a lot of our people, and I think Buddha forgives me." will do it".

Captured by NBC TV cameras and AP photographer Eddie Adams, the photograph and film footage shone around the world and quickly became a symbol of the brutality of the Vietnam War.

The photo of Eddie Adams was particularly striking, as the frozen moments almost occur at the moment of death. Split into a second after the trigger is pulled, Lem's final expression is one of pain as the bullet leaves his head. A closer look at the picture shows that the bullet is coming out of his skull. GIF (Graphic Images!) from exec.

"Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world", AP photojournalist Eddie Adams once wrote. An apt quote for Adams, as his 1968 photo of an officer shooting a handcuffed prisoner in the head at point-blank range not only won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, but soured Americans' attitudes about the Vietnam War. A long way to go.

However, for all the political implications of the image, the situation was not as black-and-white as it is presented. Adams' photo does not reveal that the person being shot (named Nguyen Van Lem) was the captain of a Viet Cong "revenge squad" that had killed dozens of unarmed civilians earlier that same day.

Regardless, it immediately became a symbol of war savagery and the officer pulled the trigger – General Nguyen Ngoc Lon – its iconic villain.



South Vietnamese sources said Lem commanded the Vietcong death squad, which had targeted South Vietnamese National Police officers, or the families of police officers in their place, that day. Confirming this, Lem was captured at the site of a mass grave that contained the bodies of at least seven police family members.

Photographer Adams confirmed the South Vietnamese account, although he was only present for the execution. Lem is brought to Lone, who interrogates him briefly and then, using his personal .38 revolver, kills Lem with a single shot in the head.

The photographer said that he has great sympathy for the shooter and wished he had never published the picture. He felt so bad for Lone that he admitted, apologizing for taking the photo, "The general killed the Vietcong; I killed the general with my camera". Adams wrote in Time in 1998:

Two people were killed in that photo: the shot recipient and General Nguyen Ngoc Lone. 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 in them; But photos lie even without manipulation. These are only half truths...

The picture didn't say, 'What would you do if you were a general at that time and place on that hot day, and after you blow up one, two, or three American men you catch the so-called bad guy? '...

This picture really spoiled his life. He never blamed me. He told me that if I didn't take the picture, someone else would, but I felt bad for him and his family for a long time... I sent flowers when I heard he died and wrote, "I'm sorry. I have tears in my eyes."

What happened to General Nguyen Ngok Lone after the war?
Sadly, the legacy of the picture would haunt the loan for the rest of its life. A few months after the gallows was photographed, Loan was seriously injured by machine-gun fire, which left his leg amputated.

After the war, wherever he went, he was condemned. After an Australian hospital refused to treat him, he was transferred to the United States, where he was met with a massive (though unsuccessful) campaign to deport him.

He opened a pizza restaurant called "Les Trois Continents" at the Rolling Valley Mall in Burke, Virginia, a Washington, DC suburb. In 1991, when he was recognized and his identity disclosed publicly, he was forced into retirement.

Photographer Eddie Adams recalled that on his previous visit to the pizza parlor, he saw "We know who you are, bastard" written on the wall of a toilet. Nguyen Ngọc Loan died of cancer on July 14, 1998 in Burke, Virginia at the age of 67.

Did Lone's action violate the Geneva Convention for the Treatment of Prisoners of War?
He carried out the partisanship after stumbling upon the bodies of his men and even their families, who had been killed by the Viet Cong. Viet Cong was killing people indiscriminately. A brief execution of partisans is acceptable under Geneva.

According to Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, irregular forces are entitled to a prisoner of war state, provided they are commanded by a person responsible to their subordinates, have a certain distinctive mark that can be recognized from afar, open To carry arms in a customary manner, and to conduct them in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

If they do not meet all of these, they may be considered franc-triers (in the original sense of "illegal combatants") and punished as criminals in a military jurisdiction, including summary execution. could. The man who was shot was an "illegal combatant", a Frank-Tyrer.

However, if soldiers disguise themselves and wear appropriate insignia before the start of war in such an operation, they are considered legal combatants and should be treated as prisoners of war if captured.

This gap was resolved in the post-WWII trial of Otto Skorzeny, who led Operation Gref, an infiltration mission in which German commandos wore American uniforms to infiltrate American lines but were recaptured before actual combat. 

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