Red Tide, Vol. II, No. 4 [Issue #8], January-February 1973
Bach Mai Bombed
[By Michael Letwin]
In Vietnamese, Bach Mai means white blossom.
On December 19th and 22nd, Bach Mai hospital in Hanoi, was bombed by U.S. B-52s. The hospital had previously been damaged by U.S. bombs on June 27th, 1972. In this most recent bombing, Bach Mai, the largest hospital in all of North Viet Nam, was completely destroyed.
On October 26, 1972, Presidential Advisor Henry Kissinger announced to the world that “peace is at hand.” On December 16, Henry Kissinger announced that the peace talks had ended with no agreement. Days later, Presidential Nixon ordered round-the-clock saturation bombing raids against Hanoi and Haiphong for the first time in the history of the Indochina war. On December 22nd, many Americans were shocked to hear reports that the largest civilian hospital in ail of North Viet Nam, Bach Mai, was bombed and completely destroyed.
The immediate response of the U.S. government to the bombing of Bach Mai hospital Came from Pentagon Jerry who said: “we have not struck any large 1000 bed civilian hospital. We have no information that indicated that at all” (Boston Globe, 12/28/72).
The Bach Mai Hospital was “blown to smithereens, blown to bits, completely destroyed to bits, completely destroyed, and hit more than once on successive days,” according to Brig. Gen. (ret.) Telford Taylor, former prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trial. who is now professor of law at Columbia University. Mr. Taylor visited the hospital site this morning after the intensive bombing (N.Y. Times, 12/31/72).
The Bach Mai hospital, built by the French in 1932, was the largest and most important general teaching and research hospital in all of Viet Nam, with a bed capacity of 1150, comparable to the Stanford Medical Center in California.
Bach Mai had extensive clinical laboratories and all the auxiliary services required to run a major teaching and research hospital. The hospital was clearly defined and a landmark readily visible from the ground or from the air.
The patients of Bach Mai were entirely civilian. Patients came to Bach Mai from all over North Viet Nam. Those patients referred to Bach Mai were only the patients with the most complex medical problems.
At the time of this most recent bombing of Bach Mai, there is estimated to have been about 2000 doctors, nurses, workers, and patients at the hospital. Bach Mai itself was not destroyed until the fourth day of the most intensive bombing in the history of the war, after the patient capacity was filled to overflowing. The bombing killed 23 doctors and nurses, 2 children and an unknown number of patients. All of the medical equipment and supplies were destroyed, including 1500 quarts of blood plasma from the Bach Mai transfusion center.
BACH MAI HOSPITAL NEEDS FUNDS TO REBUILD. FOR MORE COPIES INFORMATION AND CONTRIBUTIONS, WRITE: Medical Aid for Indochina, 140 Sixth St., Cambridge, Mass. 02142
[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See: http://theredtide.wordpress.com/]