Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

by Nick Turse
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Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse

Based on classified documents and first-person interviews, a startling history of the American war on Vietnamese civilians

Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by "a few bad apples." But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of orders to "kill anything that moves."

Drawing on more than a decade of research in secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time how official policies resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded. In shocking detail, he lays out the workings of a military machine that made crimes in almost every major American combat unit all but inevitable. Kill Anything That Moves takes us from archives filled with Washington's long-suppressed war crime investigations to the rural Vietnamese hamlets that bore the brunt of the war; from boot camps where young American soldiers learned to hate all Vietnamese to bloodthirsty campaigns like Operation Speedy Express, in which a general obsessed with body counts led soldiers to commit what one participant called "a My Lai a month."

Thousands of Vietnam books later, Kill Anything That Moves, devastating and definitive, finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts Americans to this day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250045065
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Series: American Empire Project Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 99,409
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Nick Turse is the author of The Complex, the managing editor for, and a fellow at the Nation Institute. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Nation, among other publications. Turse's investigations of American war crimes in Vietnam have gained him a Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He lives near New York City.

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Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
wjshelton More than 1 year ago
This book masterfully puts together information not only taken from multiple credible sources, but also documents and provides sources for the United States' conduct in Vietnam. Turse pulls no punches as he describes the banality of atrocities and other war crimes committed with almost absolute impunity. If we do not come to terms with and accept that our nation's actions in Vietnam constituted almost daily war crimes, then we are doomed to repeat those actions. This book should make us wonder about the reports of illegal killings and atrocities committed by US forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the perpetrators just a few "bad apples" like Lt. Calley, as we were told about those crimes that were reported in Vietnam? Or do they indicate a greater, more systemic problem. As a Vietnam Era veteran, after reading the evidence Mr. Turse presents in this book and then looking at similarities in the rationale and descriptions of crimes recently committed, I tend to suspect that we are looking at a systemic problem. We are no longer the "good guys wearing white hats" -- if we ever were.
qstewart More than 1 year ago
This book will become a must have addition to anyone’s Vietnam War library and marks a turning point in how we will look at the war in the future.  My Lai has become the accepted aberration of the war, but Turse opens new doors through his dogged research to show that maybe it was not an aberration, but accepted policy of the government and of the military higher ups. Pouring through Pentagon archives followed up with interviews with veterans and also with the survivors of the incidents Turse gives us eye-opening evidence that My Lai-like operations occurred time and time again throughout Vietnam.  These atrocities did not occur because of a “bad egg” in a platoon but because of a culture that grew in the US military forces.  It was difficult to tell who the enemy was because the Viet Cong were embedded into the very civilians that were only concerned with harvesting their crops and making a living the best they could and try to ignore the soldiers that were marching through their hamlets and rice paddies.  One shot from a sniper could lead to a whole village being wiped out by bombs or artillery.  “Body count” became the magic phrase for the military brass.  If the “body count” was high then we were accomplishing something.  I think the important thing is to not blame the “grunt” or foot soldier out there.  This mind-set came from the higher ups in the military scheme of things.  The officers wanted to get their “ticket punch” so that their records would show that they had been in a combat zone and if they could add some “body count” to it than all the better. It was these officers who time after time had charges against them buried by investigators and were allowed to move on up the ladder of military success.  This mind-set and a bunch of 18-20 year old draftees made for a situation that would lead to in some cases war against the civilians that they were trying to win over to the side of the US. Turse’s book Kill Anything That Moves was a hard book for me to read but I am glad that I did.  I do not believe that a true history of the Vietnam War or an understanding of what our soldiers went through during their time there can be made without books like this.  Yes it is a tough book to read but as Americans we must stand up and say we made mistakes and try to learn from them.  I have to wonder if the military has learned anything or are they still busy trying to hide what happened.
JerOlson More than 1 year ago
Don't expect to read Turse's incredibly documented report in a single sitting: The information will astound you, the fact that the military and government suppressed these accounts will confound you. Read every word. Then share this book with someone else and ask him or her to do the same.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Footnoted and thorough to a fault. Factual account of the extent to which American soldiers mistreated and killed the Vietnamese civilian population, often ordered from the top and covered up at the top.
efm More than 1 year ago
An unfortunate true story of Vietnamese men women and children being killed for the sake of " dead body totals " no wonder so many vietnam vets have PTSD it is from killing civilians and not enemy soldiers. I am a Vietnam Vet and this book makes me ashamed of what was done there.
Old_Dog More than 1 year ago
It was hard for me to rate this book. I couldn't read it before bedtime; it gave me nightmares. But I also couldn't put it down. I felt like a guilty, gaping bystander to some horrific catastrophy. In fact, I am a Vietnam- era veteran and I spent my 30+ year career as a Psychologist listening to a seemingly endless procession of Vietnam veterans as they described the joys and horrors of their combat experiences. After reading this book, I realize that I never fully appreciated, nor could I have imagined, the scope of the misery inflicted on Vietnamese civilians by U.S. military forces. And I say this ever mindful of the friends and families of the nearly 60,000 American casualties whose honored names are engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. I gave this book to several of my former colleagues. One returned it saying that he couldn't expose himself to the information contained in this book. "It wouldn't be good for me", he said. I told him I understood. Believing all your life that we are the good guys and they are the bad guys and war is as simple as that; it's a difficult belief to surrender. But ultimately, I suppose, we must put away the things of childhood and face the truth of reality. And so, I regretfully give this book 5-stars.
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Unmasked1 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. This shows what really went on in Vietnam
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Impressive array of research and paints a very clear picture of what happened during that conflict.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extremely well written and meticulously researched. The author does more to expose the plight of the peasant population of Vietnam during the decade of occupation by US forces, than any of the 30,000 plus volumes written on the war to date. Laid bare are the truths that the American policy of atrocity was a top down calculation to kill the US to victory. Punctuated by micro level tales that are a stain on the moral compass of all Americans the greater narrative is that the behavior of some troops in the field was a reflection of the policies of the Johnson and Nixon administrations and the military leaders that served them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Essential reading. Highly relevant to current discussion of the National Security State and the use of secrecy. It documents -- with Defense Dept documents -- that My Lai was only one of hundreds of atrocities reported by troops to their superiors and then buried by higher-ups at all levels. The failure of the public to understand fully what occurred during that war made the subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan much easier to sell. We're getting better; it's only taken 40 years to get this story out, better than the 60 years it took for the CIA to admit its overthrow of democracy in Iran.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well researched, but the tales were so many & so similar as to seemingly be variations on same tale. Could have delivered same punch in about 1/2 the pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very factual and cold. Not a readable narrative. Almost 100 pages of footnotes. Very limited on the coverup portion of the war and it's aftermath. Art 1st Air Commando IV Corps 1967-1968
BillyBobGreeley More than 1 year ago
I served with the First Cavalry Division and can tell the readers that I never received an order to “Kill Anything That Moves”, participated in an atrocity, or heard rumor of an atrocity. It is clear to me that Nick Turse’s intention is to single out and defame all Vietnam Veterans. Little or no mention is made of the atrocities committed by others (North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, Khmer Rouge, or Pathet Lao) before, during, or after the period (1965-1975) as others have noted in their one star reviews on other Websites. There are many good references about Vietnam but this is not one of them.
Chesai More than 1 year ago
What's next, investigations into Civil War crimes?