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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 16, Issue 2, Fall 2002

Tom Grassey
Pages 163-180

When He Was a Young Man

This article examines the events in Thanh Phong, Vietnam, on the night of 25.26 February 1969, when Lieutenant (junior grade) Bob Kerrey led a squad of U.S. Navy SEa-Air-Land (SEAL)s on a mission to capture a Viet Cong district chief. It studies the events at an outlying hooch the SEALs encountered as they approached the village, and what happened in Thanh Phong, examining several sources, most notably Gregory Vistica’s New York Times Magazine article and Kerrey.s recent memoir, When I Was a Young Man. The article explains the differing accounts at the hooch and in the village, and considers whether military necessity, fear for their own lives, or obedience to superior orders can justify what these accounts offer. It concludes that neither Gerhard Klann.s nor the combined conflicting versions offered as his “best memory” by Kerrey gives sufficient reason to justify the deaths of about two dozen Vietnamese civilians.

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