Execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém
Nguyễn Văn Lém
|Died||1 February 1968 (aged 36)|
|Spouse(s)||Nguyễn Thị Lộp|
Nguyễn Văn Lém (Vietnamese: [ŋʷǐənˀ vān lɛ̌m]; 1931 or 1932 – 1 February 1968), often referred to as Bảy Lốp, was a member of the Viet Cong. He was summarily executed in Saigon during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, when Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces launched a massive surprise attack.
He was brought to Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan who then executed him. The event was witnessed and recorded by Võ Sửu, a cameraman for NBC, and Eddie Adams, an Associated Press photographer. The photo and film became two famous images in contemporary American journalism.
Nguyễn Văn Lém was a Viet Cong officer or Captain and was known by the code name "Bảy Lốp". His wife, Nguyen Thi Lop, explains that his code name consisted of "Bảy" for seventh son, and "Lốp" from her own name.
Lém was captured near the Ấn Quang Pagoda on 1 February 1968, during the Tet Offensive. He was brought to Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, Chief of the Republic of Vietnam National Police at 252 Ngô Gia Tự Street, District 10 ( ) near the modern day Chùa Trấn Quốc temple. Loan summarily executed Lém using his (Loan's) sidearm, a .38 Special Smith & Wesson Bodyguard revolver. Lem was 36 years old at the time of his death.
Max Hastings, writing in 2018, noted that Lém was in civilian clothes and was alleged to have just cut the throats of South Vietnamese Lt Col Nguyen Tuan, his wife, their six children and the officer’s 80-year-old mother.
According to Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, irregular forces are entitled to prisoner of war status provided that they are commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates, have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, carry arms openly, and conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. If they do not meet all of these, they may be considered francs-tireurs (in the original sense of "illegal combatant") and punished as criminals in a military jurisdiction, which may include summary execution.
Lem's wife, Lop, learned about her husband's death when she was given a newspaper with the photo on the front page.
In 1975, Nguyễn Ngọc Loan fled South Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon, eventually emigrating to the United States. Pressure from the U. S. Congress resulted in an investigation by the Library of Congress. In 1978, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) contended that Loan had committed a war crime based on that Library of Congress report, which had concluded that the execution was illegal under Vietnamese law. They attempted to deport him, but United States President Jimmy Carter personally intervened to stop the proceedings, stating that "such historical revisionism was folly." Loan died on 14 July 1998 in Burke, Virginia, at age 67.
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The INS now contents in a legal proceeding against Loan that he should have been tried in Vietnam for the execution, a war crime, and that his permanent resident status should be rescinded on the grounds of "moral turpitude." ... But Sawyer said that he also then requested the Library of Congress to research the issue. The results of the library's report, which concluded that summary execution of such nature were illegal under Vietnamese law at the time, were forwarded to INS last spring.
- "Carter bids to halt Viet general's deportation". The Miami News. 6 December 1978. p. 9C. Retrieved 9 July 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
- "Viet executioner won't be deported". Detroit Free Press. New York Times Service. 2 December 1978. p. 2A. Retrieved 9 July 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
- The Saigon Execution, a thorough account by an AP photo editor including research after the war.
- Feb. 1, 1968: A grisly moment from the Vietnam War -St. Louis Dispatch