Since My Lai dwarfed such other mass killings, it made many subsequent allegations of atrocities "seem small and less newsworthy by comparison."
Ed Austin, a Marine who fought in Vietnam, said, "We make more VC [Viet Cong] than we kill by the way these people are treated."
Tragically, Austin's insight appears equally as relevant today in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Vietnam, the arsenal of U.S. weapons -- from B-52 bombers and fighter planes to naval ships and guns -- was massive and they were used obsessively.
"The amount of ammunition fired per soldier was 26 times greater in Vietnam than during World War II," Turse points out.
Between 1965 and 1972, U.S. and Vietnamese aircraft flew 3.4 million combat sorties. In Quang Tri, South Vietnam's northernmost province, only 11 of its 3,500 villages escaped bombing during the war.
Racist views also played a major role in Vietnam, as they still do in today's wars.
Many American leaders held the Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians in contempt, including: President Lyndon B. Johnson, his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon's national security adviser, Turse points out.
Maj. Gordon Livingston, a West Point graduate and medical surgeon, said more than "90 percent of the Americans with whom I had contact in Vietnam" treated the Vietnamese as subhuman and "with nearly universal contempt."
During an "eerily similar campaign" in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War that began in 1898, Turse points out, "American troops began calling their indigenous enemies 'goo-goos.' The pejorative term then seems to have transmuted into 'gook.' "
That the Vietnamese were less than human became part of the "mere-gook-rule" -- "MGR" in military parlance.
Bigoted outlooks facilitated torture.
The infamous Con Son Prison was known for its "tiger cages." About five feet wide and nine feet long, each of these cages housed three to five Vietnamese prisoners, typically handcuffed or in leg irons.
Years of living inside cages typically made prisoners unable to walk once they were freed. Their bodies were remolded into a "permanent pretzel-like crouch."
U.S. interrogators routinely used torture to question prisoners. But military leaders routinely refused to prosecute or punish anyone for that, Turse points out.
"Kill Anything That Moves" tells the story of the "Phoenix Program," the U.S. initiative to find and kill potential enemies throughout South Vietnam.
By 1971, Phoenix Program participants killed more than 20,587 people. The overwhelming majority were civilians.
Turse also focuses on "Speedy Express," a little-known program in the Mekong Delta led by Julian Ewell that repeatedly dropped deadly explosives and napalm over civilian areas between December 1968 and May 1969.
At the time, "Concerned Sergeant," a soldier named George Lewis, tried to expose the horrors of "Speedy Express." But no one from the Ninth Infantry was ever court-martialed for targeting and killing civilians.
"Concerned Sergeant," Turse writes, "wanted to "offer eyewitness testimony about an atrocity far larger and more damning than the death of 500 civilians in a single village: the mass killing of civilians in the Mekong Delta during Speech Express, month after month, hamlet after hamlet."
But the stories of Speedy Express, "emblematic of the entire American enterprise in Vietnam," quickly faded away and disappeared.
Turse recently co-authored "Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050," a book about the increasing use of drones in today's wars, which also routinely kill civilians.
Thousands of files relating to violence in Vietnam disappeared. The military suppressed information about hundreds of atrocities. Other documents were stored in massive files, which were never read.
"Buried in forgotten U.S. government archives, locked away in the memories of atrocity survivors, the real American war in Vietnam has all but vanished from public consciousness."
In his new book, Turse offers the public stunning new insights into past events based on reading through tens of thousands of pages of forgotten records and on interviewing scores of people -- on both sides -- who suffered through the Vietnam War.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.