Survivors covering the bodies of some of the 114 villagers in Dak Son killed by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops in December 1967.
“Under the cover of night on Dec. 5, 1967, a coalition of Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese troops set the village of Dak Son on fire as its inhabitants slept. The assailants used flamethrowers and grenades, and they had their rifles ready for anyone who tried to escape. Villagers who awoke to find the roofs of their thatched huts aflame tried to run, and many of those who managed to scurry into earthen tunnels and caves before bullets mowed them down were washed in the fire blasts of the flamethrowers or asphyxiated in their bunkers. When morning arrived, the survivors stumbled out to survey the damage, and they found more than 200 dead bodies, most of which were corpses of women and children. Other villagers were missing, presumed kidnapped by the attackers. Dak Son was a government-controlled hamlet in Phuoc Long Province, about 75 miles northeast of Saigon near the Cambodian border. Its 2,000 residents were Montagnards, an ethnic minority tribe that had long resisted Viet Cong incursions in the Central Highlands. Some 800 additional Montagnard refugees had fled to Dak Son from villages that the Viet Cong had taken, and so the guerrillas decided to make an example of Dak Son to try and prevent subsequent escapes from Viet Cong-controlled territories. Montagnards also served in local militias known as Regional and Popular Forces, or ‘ruff-puffs,’ providing security and defending their villages against Viet Cong incursions. American and South Vietnamese military troops trained the local security forces, which made the Viet Cong despise them even more. According to a Time magazine reporter who wrote about the Dak Son massacre, Viet Cong guerrillas shouted ‘Sons of Americans!’ as they launched their assault on the village. … The mythology surrounding the image of the Viet Cong as an organic movement masks the planning, training and expertise that shaped and executed its terror strategy. Cadres understood that they walked a thin line between engendering fear in civilians and provoking hate. …”