The Ban Me Thuot Five and the Laotian Two: A story authored by Mike Benge who is a member of Vietnam Veterans for a Factual History
Mike Benge was published in the Vietnam Women’s Memorial remembering… “Dr. Ardel Vietti, Carolyn Griswold, Ruth Thompson, Ruth Wilting, Betty Olsen, Evenlyn Anderson and Beatrice Kosin.
You won’t find their names of the Viet Nam Memorial Wall or on a grave marker at the Arlington Cemetery. Yet, like thousands of other women, they went to Viet Nam for the same reasons – a sense of duty, love of country, belief in God, an obligation to serve mankind, and a desire to help, in some small way, to keep the Vietnamese and Laotians free from communist oppression. All seven women were missionaries.
The Ban Me Thuot 5 had many things in common: “They all served with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), they all worked with Montagnards, they all lived at the CMA Compound and they were all captured or killed by the Vietnamese communists”. Betty Olsen and writer Mike Benge were tortured throughout a trek from Ban Me Thuot to a jungle prison camp. They were poisoned, beaten, starved and Betty finally died from their inhumanity. She and Mike shared the task of keeping each other alive. Dr. Ardel Vietti was captured with two associates in 1962.
Dr. Vietti had been CMA’s Medical Director of the Laprosarium. They disappeared in the jungle and were never heard from again.
What happened to the Laotian 2? Mike writes, “The free people of South Vietnam learned the nature of the North Vietnamese communists in 1968, when they invade Hue. The systematic massacre that followed belied the NVA’s persuasive propaganda. First they murdered thousands on their lists of opponents and neutralists. Then they turned on the pro-communists and student groups who they did not consider reliable. Then as they retreated, they killed anyone they thought might have witnessed the wholesale slaughter. Two missionaries, with whom I was imprisoned, told of seeing six other missionaries, in Ban Me Thuot, gunned down in cold blood as they emerged from bunkers with their hands over their heads. TWO WOMEN MISSIIONARIES in Laos were tied inside grass huts by the NVA and burnt to death”. They were the Laotian 2. Ref: Mike Benge – Bio https://www.c-span.org/person/?mikebenge
Premedidation! Every North Vietnamese action in the Vietnam was preplanned. The massacre of Christians and their patients in Ban Me Thuot was part of the communist plan to rid the Dar Lac Province of Christian influence. The Ho Chi Minh trail was approved by the communists in 1959. “The Pentagon Papers” , if they had been read, would have revealed Ho Chi Minh as a determined Stalinist fighting for the spread of international communism. All the anti war criticism claiming the U.S. was suppressing a peasant uprising was totally false. Quoting Mike Benge again, If the burning of the two nurses from Laos wasn’t bad enough, the communists burned women and children with flame throwers in other areas during the 1968 Tet offensive.
Its really worth while for Vietnam History students to check www.vvfh.org and add their updates and book series to their reading.
Vietnamese and American survivors and veterans are planning a joint memorial in Louisville, Kentucky committed to an accurate history of the Vietnam War.