1 February 1968 – Nguyen Van Lem

Nguyen Van Lem The dying moments of Nguyen Van Lem’s execution are set as pieces of indelible visual history.

The Pulitzer-prize winning seconds leading up to Lem’s execution were captured by photographer Eddie Adams and became iconic and emotive images charting the Vietnam War.

The gut-wrenchingly graphic picture shows Nguyen Van Lem’s getting a bullet in the brain, right there in the streets of Saigon. Believed to be a suspected guerrilla, his activities as a member of the Viet Cong earned him a swift and unflinching execution.


Poignant though the photos were, American photojournalist Eddie Adams was to regret the lasting damage that picture did to the career of Lem’s executioner. Why? For all the things the picture didn’t say. Said Adams, ‘What would you do if you were the General at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?’

Innocents ditched

Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan was the executioner that day and, Nguyen Van Lem, (AKA Captain Bay Lop), was the commander of a unit tasked with assassinating people. According to Inopedia, Lem’s unit had just ‘finished executing the wives, children and relatives of South Vietnamese police officers. Thirty-four bound and murdered civilians were found’ dumped in a ditch.

Lem was therefore summarily executed following a fierce gun battle during what was known as the Tet Offensive and the General, a policeman himself, used his very own firearm to do the job.

But the picture doesn’t tell you that, and Adams later felt compelled to apologise to General Nguyen for the debilitating effect it had on his career and reputation.

Also on this day

1 February 1944 – Franz Kutschera

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3 Responses to “1 February 1968 – Nguyen Van Lem”

  1. Hogwash Says:

    What crap excuse!

    Still without a trial and totally uncivilised!

    Shows what lowlife USA taught the losers of Vietnam!

  2. στην ελλαδα ειχαμε τον ντερτιλη

  3. When you’re engaged in war operations, as Lem was, you are required to fight in a clearly recognizable uniform. Lem was conducting military operations in plainclothes, to avoid being recognized as a Viet Cong. Setting aside what he may have done, he was liable to be shot when captured simply for fighting out of uniform. If you’re engaged in combat, and you’re fighting out of uniform, you have no rights under the Geneva Convention. You can legally be summarily shot if the captor so chooses. They chose to do so.

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