Nguyen Van Lem
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Nguyễn Văn Lém (referred to as Captain Bảy Lốp) (died 1 February 1968) was a member of the National Liberation Front who was summarily executed in Saigon by General Nguyen Ngoc Loan during the Tet Offensive. The execution was captured on film by photojournalist Eddie Adams. The execution was explained at the time as being the consequence of Lém's suspected guerrilla activity and war crimes, and otherwise due to a general "wartime mentality". It was later learned that Lem was suspected of having murdered one of General Loan's senior officers, and his entire family, during the Tet Offensive shortly before General Loan summarily executed him on a busy Saigon street with a Smith & Wesson Model 38/49 Airweight revolver.
On the second day of Tet, amid fierce street fighting, Lém was captured and brought to Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, Chief of the Republic of Vietnam National Police. Using his personal .38 revolver, General Loan summarily executed Lém in front of AP photographer Eddie Adams and NBC television cameraman Vo Suu. The photograph and footage were broadcast worldwide, galvanizing the anti-war movement; Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph.
South Vietnamese sources said that Lém commanded a Vietcong death squad, which on that day had targeted South Vietnamese National Police officers, or in their stead, the police officers' families. Corroborating this, Lém was captured at the site of a mass grave that included the bodies of at least seven police family members. Photographer Adams confirmed the South Vietnamese account, although he was only present for the execution. Lém's widow confirmed that her husband was a member of the National Liberation Front and she did not see him after the Tet Offensive began. Shortly after the execution, a South Vietnamese official who had not been present said that Lém was only a political operative.
Military lawyers have yet to definitively decide whether Loan's action violated the Geneva Conventions for treatment of prisoners of war (Lém had not been wearing a uniform; nor was he, it is alleged, fighting enemy soldiers at the time), where POW status was granted independently of the laws of war; it was limited to National Liberation Front seized during military operations.[not in citation given]
- "Nguyen Ngoc Loan, 67, Dies; Executed Viet Cong Prisoner". The New York Times. 1998-07-16. Retrieved 2009-05-07. "But when Brig. General Nguyen Ngoc Loan raised his pistol on Feb. 1, 1968, extended his arm and fired a bullet through the head of the prisoner, who stood with his hands tied behind his back, the general did so in full view of an NBC cameraman and an Associated Press photographer."
- Major General George S. Prugh (1975). "Prisoners of War and War Crimes". Law at War: Vietnam 1964-1973. Vietnam Studies. United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 2006-10-24.
- Account of the execution and photograph spoken by the photographer Eddie Adams.
- The Saigon Execution, a thorough account by an AP photo editor including research after the war.