Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Nguyen Van Lem
On the second day of Tet, amid fierce street fighting, Lem was captured and brought to Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, then Chief of the Republic of Viet Nam National Police. Using his personal sidearm, Loan summarily executed Lem before international press including AP photographer Eddie Adams and a television crew. The photograph and footage were broadcast worldwide, galvanizing the anti-war movement; Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph.
Though Loan's execution of Lem violated the Geneva Convention norms for treatment of prisoners of war, the execution has been attributed to war crimes committed by Lem.
South Vietnamese sources say that Lem commanded a Viet Cong assassination and revenge platoon, which that day had targeted South Vietnamese National Police officers, or in their stead, the police officers' families; these sources say that Lem was captured near the site of a ditch holding as many as thirty-four bound and shot bodies of police and their relatives, some of which were the family of Gen. Loan's deputy and close friend. (In some accounts, the deputy was a victim as well; in others, the number of murdered relatives is as few as six.) Photographer Adams confirms the South Vietnamese account, although he was only present for the execution. Lem's widow confirmed that he was a member of the Viet Cong and she did not see him after the Tet Offensive began. Shortly after the execution, a South Vietnamese official said that Lem was only a political operative.
- Voice autobiography of execution by Photographer Eddie Admas
- General Nguyen Ngoc Loan's Obituary from The New York Times, July 16, 1998
- The Saigon Execution - thorough account by AP photo editor including research after the war
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