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The Village of Ben Suc

The Village of Ben Suc

by Jonathan Schell, introduction by Wallace Shawn

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Ben Suc was a relatively prosperous farming village thirty miles from Saigon, on the edge of the Iron Triangle, the formidable Vietcong stronghold. It had been “pacified” many times, but because of security leaks no Vietcong were ever captured, and it always reverted to the villagers.

But on January 8, 1967, American forces launched a surprise assault kept secret even from their South Vietnamese allies. The plan was to envelop the village, seal it off, remove its inhabitants, destroy every physical trace, and level the surrounding jungle.

Jonathan Schell accompanied the operation from its beginning to its successful but dismal end, and reported it in depth as he saw it. This time no one slipped away. The story of the bewildering task of separating the Vietcong from ordinary villagers is the dramatic core of The Village of Ben Suc.

Here is an overwhelmingly affecting narrative of American skill and good intentions squandered in a cause made hopeless by misunderstanding, resistant traditions, and cultural gaps—not only between the Americans and the villagers, but between the villagers and the Saigon government. Schell’s report is devastating.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378497
Pages: 200
Publication Date:


An eloquently understated documentary in precise and relevant terms.
Kirkus Reviews

Arguably the most important book of reporting from Vietnam.
—Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

One of the most sobering indictments yet seen of the purposes and conduct of the Vietnam War.
—Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times

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