Kill Anything That Moves

Kill Anything That Moves

The Real American War in Vietnam

Book - 2013 | 1st ed
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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.

Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Co., 2013
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780805086911
Branch Call Number: ANF 959.70434 TUR
Characteristics: 370 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm


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Jul 18, 2019

An informative book. But very depressing to read.

Nick Turse accessed U.S. Army records to document the sad stories of murdered Vietnamese noncombatants. At least he accessed those records when he could. In some instances the records seem to have gone missing; which is to say they evidently had been destroyed.

Having read numerous books about Vietnam, my primary take away from Kill Everything That Moves is that the U.S. Army trained young conscripts to re-fight World War II. When the Army and its conscripts found themselves fighting a war with no clear front, and enemies that used the civilian population for cover, it sometimes reacted by killing any Vietnamese that happened to be available. Note "sometimes". While Turse does a good job of documenting atrocities perpetrated by some U.S. troops it's unfair to tar every Vietnam veteran with that brush.

For me, the worst part of America's misadventure in Vietnam is what the U.S. military did to that country and its population was surely worse than having them become "communist" (whatever that term means...)

HCL_staff_reviews Dec 31, 2018

Although I'm too young to remember the Vietnam War, my generation has learned much about that conflict from our elders and through popular culture. Still, nothing had prepared me for Nick Turse's book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Based on primary documents and interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese, Turse provides a mountain of evidence that civilian casualties and massacres like Mai Lai were common occurrences, and that these atrocities resulted from specific policies by the military and politicians. This book should do more than shake up and refresh memories of the Vietnam War, but also illustrate the realities of counter-insurgency warfare. — John M., St. Louis Park Library

Oct 29, 2018

(This comment was originally posted under Audio entry, Nov 29, 2013.)
A very detailed, convincing account of American atrocities and genocide in Vietnam, and our government's largely successful campaign to hide them from the public.
--- Any soldier who reported the ongoing massacres would likely be shot in the back by his fellows. Once discharged, he would be threatened, hounded, and defamed by teams assigned by the Pentagon.
--- Top generals, presidents, top defense officials joined in the suppression of facts. So did Congressmen and US media. No one in any leadership position wanted news of war crimes. The truth had to be hidden: it discredited the military and was against the national interest.
--- Presidents and top generals who chose and administered the policy of genocide, area by area, naturally honored and protected known mass murderers who applied it. Media stories extolled them.
--- Our strategy was to wipe out the whole population if necessary to keep it from going Communist. ("Better dead than Red.") Body-count was everything. Soldiers who killed the most were best. The dead were not real people like us, but only subhuman gooks, "little yellow bastards", a principle drilled into trainees. Gook lives meant nothing compared to winning the war, winning promotions and medals, or getting re-elected.
--- Based on extensive firsthand interviews and research in suppressed archives, this book came out in 2013 -- after the mass murderers had been buried with honors.

Jun 17, 2017

This book gives one a pretty good insight into how the "right wing" thinks and how it deals
with the truths they don't like.They did it then and do it now.

Feb 18, 2014

This book has many grisly accounts of a war which in my eyes came at great cost and ultimately ended with a feeling of shame. It contains an unimaginable and horrific accounting of death, abuse and torture of non-combatants i.e. civilians in all age ranges. Those of us who have suffered trauma in life can well imagine the lifelong psychological damage involved for surviving and future generations. As human beings we have the potential to carry and pass on our fire to preserve and to destroy. Nick Turse is passing on the fire of truth for those who are willing to consider what can happen when unrestrained and anonymous “high” level decision makers, racism and tragic unrelenting pressure to put aside one’s common humanity prevail. Those innocent victims of the war including animals and the environment itself need to be considered and heard. There is nothing that can make up for the injustice which occurred. It should be the task of everyone to understand that we are linked with everyone in both commendable and deplorable ways. This is a start to growing as a better people. On a last note: Readers would do well to make sure that they read the back pages 349-355 “Acknowledgments” which brings a welcome human element behind the tons of grim black and white data of what occurred.

sit_walk Feb 05, 2014

Illuminating, essential, but a rather harrowing read. The title says it all about American policies and practices in Vietnam. The sad thing is that things haven't changed that much -- you see echoes of this history right through to modern day Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc.

ecrl Dec 30, 2013

No one should judge a book by its cover--but by its author, yes! And according to a very well-researched/documented article by David Paulin (, Mr. Turse "has a long history of supporting radical leftist causes and writing for radical websites and lefty publications [...]. So extreme is Turse's anti-Americanism that he even praised the Columbine shooters." Paulin correctly states that “for a major newspaper to hire a freelancer to research and write a controversial showcase story is highly unusual if not unprecedented.” So, keep Mr. Turse’s extreme leftwing, anti-war agenda in mind while you peruse the pages of his book!

Dec 29, 2013

I am presenting this review in a different manner, because as long as Americans continue to believe in fairy tales, whether about "American exceptionalism" and "collateral damage" or Tom Hanks' abominable propaganda presentation, "Joe Wilson's War" (a pox on his house), reality is too tough for them to take. Among the so-called "wise men" during World War II, was John J. McCloy, who had worked as an attorney at I.G. Farben, pre-WWII, but in Nazi Germany (McCloy sat next to Adolf Hitler during the Olympics there), who would later pardon a Nazi woman doctor guilty of the most heinous medical experimentation (a former I.G. Farben employee) and, who, as president of the World Bank, would deny loans to Guatemala because their President Arbenz was promoting land reform for the populace (and McCloy would later applaud the overthrow of the democratically-elected Arbenz, which was CIA-financed), who would be one of the top two people on the Warren Commission, fabricating the story of the JFK assassination, and would later be rewarded with the chairmanship of David Rockefeller's Chase Bank, was far more the devil than any savior or "wise man"! Read Nick's book - - that would be a citizenship responsibility! Mr. Turse presents the ugly reality, just as during WWII Americans were presented pablum, which they believe to this very day. Deal with reality!


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Feb 18, 2014

In Vietnam, where the “lives” of the deceased are believed to be inextricably intertwined with those of the living it is thought that those who die a “bad death may be forced to suffer as “wandering ghosts,” trapped in a limbo between our world and the land of the dead. In this shadow land, they forever reexperience the violence that ended their lives, unable to attain peace until the living truly acknowledge them and the fate they suffered. The idea of such wandering ghosts is an unfamiliar one for most Americans, but we should not be too quick to dismiss it. The crimes committed in America’s name in Vietnam were our “bad death,” and they have never been adequately faced. As a result, they continue to haunt our society in profound and complex ways.

Aug 11, 2013

Nick Turse writes:
“The true history of Vietnamese civilian suffering does not fit comfortably into America’s preferred postwar narrative – the tale of a conflict nobly fought by responsible commanders and good American boys, who should not be tainted by the occasional mistakes of a few “bad apples” in their midst. Still, this is hardly an excuse for averting our eyes from the truth. For more than a decade I have combed through whatever files I managed to locate, searched out the witnesses who remained, and listened as best I could. What I’ve ended up with can offer, I hope, at least a glimpse of the real war: the one that so many would like to forget, and so many others refuse to remember.”

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