Nguyen Ngoc Loan
was a police chief in Saigon
during the Vietnam war
. Perhaps he is most famous for being characterized as a heartless killer
in a photo taken by American photographer Eddie Adams
. The photo was taken during the Tet offensive
, and is perhaps the most well known photo from the Vietnam War
The picture shows Nguyen firing his pistol at point blank range into the head of a captured Vietcong
captain. As the picture was printed in American
newspapers, it only furthered the anti-war sentiment and many saw Nguyen as a murderer.
What those people didn't know was that the prisoner, Nguyen Van Lem, was in charge of the Vietcong
effort to assassinate Nguyen Ngoc Loan. Having been unsuccessful, Van Lem and his group did manage to break into the home of one of Nguyen Ngoc Loan's best friends, a Colonel in the National Police. They murdered the Colonel, then cut the throats of the Colonel's wife and their six children who were Nguyen Ngoc Loan's godchildren.
Upon hearing this news, Nguyen Ngoc Loan
felt the killing of Nguyen Van Lem was justified. After the killing, he remarked to NBC
cameraman Vo Su, saying "These guys kill a lot of our people, and I think Buddha
will forgive me."
However, the American people did not forgive him. After he was later wounded in another confrontation with the Vietcong, he was sent to an Australian
hospital where his right leg was amputated. There, the controversy was too great and he was sent to recuperate in Washington D.C. There, he was denounced publicly in congress and risked danger of being tried as a war criminal
. Eventually, the controversy died down and he was able to open a restaurant in Virginia
. However, people soon came to know who he was and business sharply declined.
Nguyen Ngoc Loan died on July 16, 1998. He was 67.