The Toledo Blade

April 08, 2004

The Tiger Force and The Toledo Blade

Posted by Ed

Today's Boston Phoenix features a short article on this year's Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, which went to The Toledo Blade. As Dan Kennedy writes,

The Blade’s reporters found that an elite unit of American troops called the Tiger Force did terrible things in Vietnam in the late 1960s. They murdered innocent people in cold blood, some as they were begging for their lives. They tossed grenades into tunnels, where they knew elderly folks, women, and children were hiding. They cut off the ears of their victims and made necklaces of the grotesque souvenirs. In all, the Blade reported, the 45-member Tiger Force may have killed hundreds of unarmed civilians during a seven-month period in 1967.

"We were living day to day. We didn’t expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live," a former Tiger Force sergeant named William Doyle told the paper. "So you did any goddamn thing you felt like doing — especially to stay alive. The way to live is to kill because you don’t have to worry about anybody who’s dead."

The series, "Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths," concerns some of the most emotionally charged territory in American life, even today, some 37 years after those events took place. Vietnam was at the heart of a right-wing attempt to smear Senator John Kerry after he’d wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination. Critics dug up testimony Kerry had given before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 about atrocities he’d heard his fellow veterans attest to — rapes, mutilations, torture, random killings, and the like (see "Sex, Lies, and Republicans," News and Features, February 20) — and held it up as evidence that Kerry was somehow unpatriotic. The Blade has shown that such horrors may have been commonplace — and that Kerry’s testimony spoke to something very dark and very true about the Vietnam War.

The Blade's reporting hasn't gotten nearly the level of press coverage it deserves, and as Kennedy points out, it offers a cautionary tale for policy-makers today. The paper has made the series available online.

Posted by Ed at April 8, 2004 02:01 PM

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