Saturday 1 February 2020


Napalm bomb and napalm girl are the symbols synonymous of  Vietnam war  for me. Images of both which were embedded in my mind in early seventies are still live. When I look back now, Americans fought more of an 'industrialized' war with B52 bombers, heavy artillery, helicopters, Agent Orange and Napalm in the Vietnam war-they call it American war in Vietnam!

400000 tonnes of napalm bombs were used mercilessly between 1963 and 1973 alone, while the war was waged between 1954 and 1975.Americans brought a new controversial ruling in its military which is named as Mere Gook Rule(MGR), to aid its military personnel to get away with killings of Vietnamese civilians! Many massacres including the notorious 'Mai La massacre' unleashed in Vietnam which the world came to know much later only. Over a million died in the war...nobody has the correct estimates. But in spite of all these offensive acts, America had to leave the country ingloriously in 1975 when the south and north joined together to form a new single communist country as Vietnam.

I don't think that there is any other nation which has forgiven atrocities inflicted on them quickly as Vietnam. Although it remains as one of the five existing communist countries in the world, Vietnam is full of American goods and ideas now. America is influencing Vietnam and its people - slow but steadily- to achieve the primary intentions other than political! Americans seem to be more than welcome in Vietnam now if the number of American visitors coming to the country these days is any indication. KFC( Kentucky Fried Chicken) is performing much better than MGR.... 

Musings on Vietnam as I could visit the country few days back....

Napalm bomb-invented at Harvard, manufactured by Dow Chemicals and launched by Boeing!
Napalm means any petrochemical like petrol added with chemicals. Napalms burn hotter than just petrol and the wounds caused are unbearably  painful and too deep to heal!!I came to know of napalm bombs only in early seventies in the Vietnam war but it was there very much since second world war. Americans were the first to use them in 1944 at Berlin. They also used the same but in many folds more over Tokyo in 1945 using B52 bombers. B stands for the manufacturer's name- Boeing! In Vietnam the same type of bomb was used extensively and lavishly from all sorts of launchers including B52 bombers used for large pay load and long range, that it became the symbol of the war!!Though the intention was to flush out hiding military/armed personnel from bunkers and buildings, civilian causalities were more than expectations.

The napalm bomb was invented by two bright professors in chemistry of Harvard University in 1942, which was commercially produced by Dow Chemicals. When I see those brand names-Boeing, Harvard, Dow Chemicals- which I respect for their quality of end products and reputation, for their connections with napalm bombs, I am not comfortable for no reason. But we have the consolation that now people know of Alfred Nobel for the international prizes given than he was the man who invented the atomic bomb!! 

Mere Gook Rule...MGR
I am sure that most of you might not have heard about this rule which was formulated by US forces. 'gooks' is a derogatory term used by US forces  for people in Korea or Vietnam. MGR which was first successfully used by US military in Korea. Under MGR American soldiers would be prosecuted- if at all- mildly and very leniently for harming or killing civilians(gooks)!The law became controversial because many thought it was a green signal for killing innocents. The same rule MGR was brought and applied in Vietnam also. Nobody knows how many innocent 'gooks' perished in the war- even US forces!!

Napalm girl...Photo clicked at Trang Bang....
A photo clicked by Nick Ut, an AP photojournalist caught the attention of the world .It was published on June 8, 1972. A naked young girl named Kim Phuc runs screaming aloud for help after a napalm bomb burnt her village- Trang Bang- inhabited only by civilians by the Pro American South Vietnamese army. She was nine years old and the bomb had damaged her clothes and skin. I will reproduce the photo below for those who haven't seen it yet.

The photo within no time acted as a catalyst to turn US public sentiment against the war in Vietnam. Not only the photo won a Pulitzer prize but turned to be a iconic photo of the war which is considered to be one of the most memorable images of 20th century! The claim by Nick that this photograph was real reason for US to end the war is debatable but the fact remains that in the same year America's involvement in the war ended!

Tail Piece....
It is equally interesting to find out the current whereabouts of those or what I have mentioned above.

Vietnamese communist Govt used to make the famed picture for their political propaganda, while Kim was invited to meet important dignitaries visiting the country. In 1986 Kim was given permission to study a course in pharmacy in Cuba where she met another Vietnamese student to whom she got married. In 1992 after their honeymoon in Moscow, on their way back they got off the plane at Newfoundland and asked for political asylum!!Eventually they became Canadian citizens where they are now. Kim became  UN goodwill ambassador while she also runs a Foundation to help heal the wounds suffered by innocent victims of war.

Nick Ut had many other important assignments as an AP photographer in which he became equally famous. He lives in Los Angeles, US now.

Vietnam continues to be a communist country albeit the fact that such countries have really slimmed down to  five in the world now. There too it seems the authorities have watered down some of the core principles of communism to state led capitalism and now moving towards some sort of free market economy! Many American brands like GE, CAT, Honeywell, NIKE...... have manufacturing plants in Vietnam. KFC, McDonald's, Starbucks.. are all over  in cities where the youngsters throng. Apple, FB, Dell products.... are all being bought or used. The best and costly western auto plants of Rolls Royce, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW...are established there , I understand. US Dollar is more than welcome!!

That doesn't mean that communism is going to fall there too soon. That problem comes when people want freedom of thought and expressions !!It can wait as of now!!

Photos: courtesy google


Writing about the end of own life, that too after knowing that it could happen any time is hard to write for anyone. I am not an exception. ...