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Full-text: December 1-3 1970


National Veterans Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam

(Washington D.C., December 1-3 1970)

Witnesses:

Robert Bowie Johnson Jr.4238    Gordon S. Livingston4255
Michael Paul McCusker4238    Greg Turgeon4257
Daniel K. Amigone4239    Richard Altenberger4257
Greg Motoka4240    Bob Connelly4258
Kenneth Barton Osborn4241    Robert J. Lifton4258
Norman Kiger4245    Chaim Shatan4261
Gail Graham4245    Donald Engel4263
Steve Noetzel4246    Gary Thamer4264
Edward Murphy4248    Steven Hassett4265
Daniel Alfiero4249    Kenneth J. Campbell4266
Louis Paul Font4249    Sam Rankin4267
Robert J. Master4249    Phillip Wingenbach4268
Peter Norman Martinsen4249    Tod Ensign4269
T. Griffiths Ellison4252    Larry Rottmann4269
Ed Melton4252    Robert Osman4270
Chuck Hamilton4254    Day 24249
Elliott Lee Meyrowitz4254    Day 34263

______________________

Note: This is the full text of the transcript printed in the Congressional Record. That text, however, omits the testimony of Michael J. Uhl, who later also testified at a Congressional hearing (August 2 1971), Joseph B. Neilands (Harvest of Death: Chemical Warfare in Vietnam and Cambodia, 1972), and perhaps other witnesses. It also omits commentary at the hearing by Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Rifkin, Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. (the moderator), and perhaps others.  CJHjr

______________________

117 Cong. Rec. 4238-4271 SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.4


UNITED STATESU.S. SealOF AMERICA

Congressional Record



PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 92d CONGRESS FIRST SESSION



VOLUME 117—PART 4



FEBRUARY 26, 1971, TO MARCH 8, 1971


(PAGES 4083 TO 5460)





UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, 1971

 

U.S. eagle, Congressional RecordCongressional Record

PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 92d CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION

 

 


* * * {4215} * * *


 


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Monday, March 1, 1971

The House met at 12 o'clock noon


* * * {4238} * * *

____________________


War Crimes: The Bitter Facts

(Mr. Dellums asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute, to revise and extend his remarks and include extraneous matter.)

Mr. Dellums.  Mr. Speaker, as the war spreads, so does the possibility and danger of additional war atrocities committed by American soldiers. ¶

Yet, the Military Establishment continues to ignore or downplay not only the factual existence of these ghastly horrors but it also refuses to question the issue of ultimate responsibility for war crimes past and present.

Today, along with 21 of my colleagues, I am reintroducing a joint resolution proposing a full-scale congressional inquiry of American war crimes and war crime responsibility. ¶

Joining with me in backing this resolution are Mr. Diggs, Mr. Rangel, Mrs. Abzug, Mr. Collins of Illinois, Mr. Roncallo, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Rosenthal, Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Scheuer, Mr. Edwards of California, Mr. Eckhardt, Mr. Conyers, Mr. Kastenmeier, Mr. Mikva, Mr. Seiberling, Mr. Burton, Mr. Koch, Mr. Helstoski, Mr. Dow, and Mr. Badillo. {4238c2}

Mr. Speaker, the Defense Department blatantly ignores its responsibility to deal with war crimes. Instead, the Military Establishment attempts to pin the blame on lower echelon personnel — men such as Calley, Henderson, and soon, I presume, Medina — while refusing to acknowledge that the prime responsibility lies at the highest levels of civilian and military command.

Indeed, to all intent and purpose, the Military Establishment acts as if war crimes are minute aberrations, the deranged acts of men temporarily enraged by the horrors of combat. Of course in some cases, that is true. But there have been far too many instances of premeditated atrocities for this excuse to be accepted anymore.

Mr. Speaker, the material I shall now insert into the Record is for the most part some of the most gruesome and beastly testimony that I have ever read. ¶

The transcript which follows is that of the National Veterans Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam held last December here in Washington. ¶

The inquiry was undertaken by the Citizens Commission of Inquiry in order that the American public and Government realize the terrible realities of war atrocities as an integral component of our illegal, insane, and immoral adventurism in Southeast Asia.

The testimony contained in the transcript is blunt. ¶

But blunt also has been the Government’s ridiculous efforts to bypass or soft-pedal the responsibility for these actions. ¶

Congress represents the people of America, and I believe the people are sick of the war, sick of the war crimes, and sick of the Military Establishment’s handling of these problems.

The transcript follows:

Transcript

Introduction

{Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.}

Johnson.  My name is Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. ¶

I’m a Vietnam veteran, ex-Army captain, and West Point graduate {1965}. ¶

I’m currently a veteran coordinator of the National Citizens Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam. ¶

On behalf of the Citizens Commission, I’d like to welcome you to the National Veterans Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam.

Most of you have received the schedules of when the veterans will testify. This afternoon, nine members of the Americal Division will testify. After that, Noam Chomsky will deliver a brief perspective; and after that the testimony on ground combat operations will continue until 4:30 pm.

Initially, six witnesses here will testify. They’ll be interviewed by regional coordinators. After each witness testifies, we ask that the press hold their questions to about five minutes; then after all veterans have testified we will open the floor up again for questions. Should there be any question relating to procedure or scheduling, these questions will be directed to Mr. Tod Ensign or Mr. Jeremy Rifkin, national coordinators for the Citizens Commission.

Let me introduce our first witness, Mr. Mike McCusker.

Mike McCusker

McCusker.  My name is Mike McCusker. ¶

I am an ex-Marine. I was discharged as a sergeant. I enlisted in the reserves in 1959 in July; served six years in the reserves; and then in 1965 went active duty for two years, which means I had eight years of service. While in the reserves, I was trained in Recon, {4238c3} which meant that I became a jumper, a parachutist, scuba, and all the other John Wayne varieties. ¶

In the two years that I was active I was what was called a combat correspondent for the First Marine Division in Vietnam, generally out of Chu Lai. In that position I saw damn near everything from command to the field. ¶

Perhaps an indication of that is an interview — off the cuff, which I understand you know well enough — with the commanding general of the First Marine Division at that time, and said that Vietnamese society was ignorant and superstitious, the children were raised as thieves and liars; we could do nothing with the old; the children themselves should be taken from their families and indoctrinated all their lives in government camps. ¶

A colonel, on an interview with him, said his job was to kill gooks — except I knew better what to write, and put it a different way, such as country, God, duty, and devotion, helping these people even though both of us knew it was a lie, and not worth considering as far as the military was concerned. ¶

Lifers and NCOs continually referred to Vietnamese as gooks, inferior, of no worth. ¶

As a reporter I could not write of these things, nor could I write of atrocities, nor could I write of the treatment of POW’s; I could not write of women fighting with the VC, nor of women or children taken prisoners, nor of harassment and interdiction fire, of even napalm, which was referred to as incender-gel about halfway through my tour.

My job essentially was to cover things up from the press, to be the PR, and come off with the Marine Corps looking like a shining knight on a white horse. ¶

If anything was coming up that would embarrass the Marine Corps, we were to take reporters someplace else and make sure that they didn’t know about it. ¶

The general trend was to allude in our stories to all Vietnamese as Communists, not only dehumanizing them but indicting them as something that we are programmed to fear and abhor. ¶

Every dead Vietnamese was counted as Viet Cong, because they would not be dead if they were not Viet Cong, whether they were ninety years old or six months old. ¶

The body count was any pool of blood, and I used to think that perhaps multiplied by seven. ¶

The villagers were destroyed or forcibly removed to New Life Hamlets — which is what they were called — which were nothing more than concentration camps with barbed wire and machine guns. The huts were too close, there was hardly any food — which forced beggars and whores of once-proud farmers. ¶

And perhaps that was the most degrading atrocity: the garbage cans of the different battalions and companies, they would allow one or two Vietnamese to empty these garbage cans into their buckets — which also let the Marines think, after these farmers were reduced to nothing else, that these people must be inferior if they lived out of garbage cans.

Now there are two incidents, perhaps, that are of particular value as far as atrocity is concerned. They were SOP and they’re examples of general procedure.

One happened on my mother’s birthday, October 27, 1966, northwest of the Chu Lai perimeter, at a village called Duc Pho. It was a large village complex. A sniper killed a staff sergeant, so the skipper pulled us back and then ordered nape [Napalm] on the village itself. “Just napalm the hell out of it.” When we went in later, after the fires burned down, there were many, many bodies of old women and men. But I think the worst was thirty dead children who had been laid out for us to see by the survivors, who got the hell out of there before we got in. They laid these children out for us to see in one courtyard, and from being completely — just their bodies mutilated, to some of these kids looking like they’d just been sunburned, all of them were dead, all of them were very young — boys and girls both. {4239}

Another time we destroyed two entire villages — which was a month earlier than that. One of our old men, a man who had been around for six months, got hit by a sniper. The battalion went into a frenzy and destroyed these two villages in the Pineapple Forest, which was southwest of Tam Ky about ten miles. Everything living died. It was just — it was mad, it was insane. Everything died and burned, and there was nothing left, nothing left of those two villages.

The general trend in Vietnam at that time that I was there, for the entire year, if you received incoming rounds, sniper rounds from a village, one or two or three, you called in artillery strikes on that village, you napalmed that village; whether it was artillery or air, whichever was the closest. And this was indiscriminate and this was usual.

Moderator.  Mike, in that village you last described, could you estimate the amount of civilian casualties?

McCusker.  The village — it’s really very hard to estimate the casualties. I would say anywhere from fifty to one hundred fifty. I can’t really say, because bodies even that day were burned, thrown into huts that were burning and tossed in there. So it’s very, very hard to get an estimate. ¶

Of course, the situation report on it was essentially that we engaged a very large enemy force, and I forgot how many KIAs were listed; but then again, the body count you cannot take it for worth anything.

Moderator.  Could you estimate the date of that incident, Mike?

McCusker.  Yes, that was — if I remember the correct date, it would be 7 September, 1966.

Moderator.  Perhaps it would be good to have some questions at this point if there are any from any of the members of the press.

Floor.  Was there ever any investigation of either of these incidents, 7 September or 27 October, by the 1st Marine Division or any other agency?

McCusker.  No, there was no investigation.

Floor.  Why not? Why do you think there was no investigation?

McCusker.  Essentially because I would imagine nobody thought it out of — nobody thought to question it. It was, as I said by this time SOP, and you can consider the embarrassment of insanity on coming down from it.

Floor.  Could there have been an investigation that you didn’t know about?

McCusker.  There could be a lot of things I didn’t know about. As a matter of fact, generally we were kept in ignorance. One unit didn’t know what the other unit was doing. So the average troop really had no idea exactly what was going on except in his own platoon. ¶

Now in that time when the thirty dead children were burned and napalmed, by the way, a captain came to me, because he knew I was the reporter, and he said,

“Look what the Viet Cong did to their own people.”

And I got very angry and I said,

“The Viet Cong didn’t do this. I saw the strikes and that’s napalm.”

And he said,

“Well I think, Sergeant McCusker, you had better write that the Viet Cong did this.”

Floor.  Did you write that?

McCusker.  I didn’t write anything on that story.

Floor.  Who was the officer?

McCusker.  He was a captain. I don’t — I can’t even remember his name. He was I think the battalion, perhaps the battalion S-1, if I remember correctly, but I’m not sure. ¶

Another thing too, if we did write in or stories the things that we did see, there was absolutely no chance of them getting out anyway, because every story you turned in first went to your divisional office, through a staff sergeant, through a gunnery sergeant, through a lieutenant, and then a major, and then it was sent to the Combat Information {4239c2} Bureau at 3rd Marine Amphibious Headquarters in Danang, across the river from General Walt’s headquarters. And each story which had already gone through this redlining procedure went through more lifers like gunnery sergeants, it went through a captain, for final analysis, and then up to a colonel for final analysis — before it was ever released to the press. ¶

So, no matter what you tried to do, even through your stories, there were so many checks and counterbalances that by the time your story got out, if there was anything that you had put in, it was completely devoid of it; it was just — all the life was taken out and there was nothing but a shiny little shallow story about Vietnamese love us and the Marines succeeded again and every battle was a great victory.

Floor.  Mr. McCusker, could you give us the names of the villages and the dates that this happened — pinpoint this just as close as you possibly can?

McCusker.  The two villages that were destroyed?

Floor.  Yes.

McCusker.  It was, as I said, ten miles northwest — well, about ten miles due west of Tam Ky. It was down from Hill 488 where Howard got his medal of honor, and it was in the same area where the same battalion had gotten into a fire fight the month before.

Floor.  And the dates?

McCusker.  The date, as I said, approximately, as closely as I can remember was 7 September that this happened, this incident.

Floor.  Both of these incidents?

McCusker.  The incident of the dead children was 27 October, 1966, as I said it was my mother’s birthday, which to me was an irony because it seemed like her children were dead.

Floor.  Have you reported these incidents before?

McCusker.  No, I’m afraid I never officially reported either of these two incidents.

Floor.  Why haven’t you, seeing as it happened four years ago and being—

McCusker.  Oh, I have, I have, since I’ve been out of the Marine Corps, I’ve written of these incidents, I’ve spoken of these incidents, in the Marine Corps I’ve spoken of these incidents but I never did anything official.

Floor.  What I’m driving at is why do you choose now to come here and instead of, if you feel this was an atrocity.

McCusker.  All right, I wrote the Fulbright Commission about this. I received nothing but an innocuous answer. ¶

Everytime I’ve ever written anything to the government, and I have carbons of these, you just receive an answer that says, yes, we’ll check into this, and we’ll call you later about it, and you hear nothing. ¶

I’ve done this many times, until you just throw up your hands in disgust, you know it’s just going to be swept under the floor. ¶

And I have, as I said, carbons of damn near every letter I’ve ever written, even to the prisoner of war issue — H. Ross Perrot, to which I never received an answer. ¶

Also the Saigon news correspondent who said the Army was lying — he was immediately made a chaplain’s assistant. ¶

I wrote to the Fulbright Commission which said it was going to begin to check into the management of news by the Pentagon, and military news, and I received nothing but a little answer saying, well, we don’t have enough time to really call this commission right now. It’s very interesting testimony you have, but we’ll call you later.

Floor.  Is it your impression that these incidents were the exception or were these the rule?

McCusker.  No. These were not the exception. Oh, pardon me, these are not the rule. I’m sorry, I’m getting all fuddled up — these are not exceptions; these are generally the rule. ¶

Now, what’s an atrocity? ¶

The killing down of one man running in the field? ¶

Well, {4239c3} in other testimony, wherever you naped a village, the villagers were running from it, helicopters would shoot them down. ¶

Under the general operating procedure that anybody running must be a Viet Cong or he wouldn’t run from you. It was not taken into account that he might be just scared to death and he knows what the hell you’re doing. And so they were shot down in the field as they were running through the paddies. ¶

No, these were the general rule, whether it was the shooting down of one man or whether two villages were hit.

Floor.  What battalion was this?

McCusker.  This was the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division.

Floor.  In both these particular incidents.

McCusker.  In both these particular incidents, yes.

Floor.  Who was the commanding officer at that time?

McCusker.  I’m sorry. We’re not going to give names, it’s on file who he is.

Floor.  Well, if it’s on file, can you tell us?

McCusker.  Well—

Floor.  What’s the reasoning there?

McCusker.  Okay. The reason for not giving any particular names is once again we’re going to lay it back on individuals. And, the whole thing for this investigation is to take it away from individuals and not lay the blame back on them again and make it as if it were isolated. ¶

That this is the highest policy possible; that field grade officers were present at this time and the field grade officers yet were under orders themselves.

Floor.  You’re absolving the CO of the battalion as just doing his duty under standing orders, are you?

McCusker.  I’m absolving him as, in essence, the same way I’m absolving myself. That he was just as much a victim of the rigid structure in which he was involved, which especially his whole career was involved and so he was frozen within that position and could not do much more. ¶

And he was under orders as I was under orders. ¶

And I felt a great sense of powerlessness.

Michael Paul McCusker subsequently testified twice at the Winter Soldier Investigation (Detroit Michigan, January 31, February 1-2, 1971) and at the House Ad Hoc Hearing for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (April 23 1971).

  CJHjr


Moderator.  We’d like to move to the next witness, Mr. McCusker, unless there is a really pressing other question. We’ve got five other guys.

Daniel K. Amigone

Moderator.  Danny Amigone will be speaking to the problem, the area of mistreatment of civilians in ground combat. Dan?

Amigone.  Thank you, Chuck. Good afternoon. My name is Daniel K. Amigone. I’m from Buffalo, New York, the queen city of the Great Lakes. ¶

I enlisted in the United States Army after I received my master’s degree from Arizona State. As you know Arizona State, or Arizona, is a big, conservative hotbed of American politics, and at the time I really thought that what all we were doing in Vietnam was the right thing to do. So I enlisted in the United States Army and — for a three-year hitch by the way — and to this day I regret that. ¶

At any rate, I went through basic and AIT because I had plans of going into OCS, but just before, just before my actual departure for OCS at Fort Benning, they had a review board in my behalf and they decided I was not officer material because of various views that I had had during basic and AIT. ¶

And this I believe starts the whole process.

But anyway, after they refused my application to OCS, they sent me to Germany and I was over in Germany for three months and I volunteered for Vietnam, not like a lot of these people who have testified here before. I actually volunteered. ¶

At any rate, I went to Vietnam in March of 1968, March of 1968 I arrived at Bien Hoa and Bien Hoa just had been cleared of the Viet Cong. It was just right after Tet. I didn’t have too much in-country training because we were really badly needed, and I was assigned to Com- {4240} pany D, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, 199th Infantry Brigade and we were called the Red Catchers. And this began my career in Vietnam, I was assigned to a infantry unit as 11 Bravo, which is an infantryman because all the training I had was during basic and AIT.

And this training I think is very important to the whole philosophy that goes into the mind of a man that goes into the front lines over in Vietnam. Basic is just, as they say, basic, you know. They teach you how to fire usually a — in my case it was an M-14. They teach you the basic fundamentals of drill, and, etc. Once you get into advanced infantry training, the process gets stepped up and the process gets more involved.

And I heard a question before about racism. Well, racism starts in AIT, Advanced Infantry Training. It’s not a rasicm designated against the Blacks and Puerto Ricans; it’s racism designed toward the Vietnamese people. On the ranges when you are firing for record score to qualify, you’re taught by your platoon sergeant and the man who is the instructor to holler kill every time you squeeze that trigger, and you’re killing a gook, as they call them. ¶

And this is really where racism goes. They’re not people anymore, they’re gooks. They’re not Vietnamese, they’re gooks. So on the bayonet range, your drill sergeant would holler, “What’s the spirit of the bayonet?” And the people would as they lunged into their targets, would say, “kill, kill, kill.” So that’s — its the spirit of killing that these infantrymen have when they go over to Vietnam. It’s really imbedded into them. ¶

And they get over to Vietnam and we practice what they have taught us.

There’s one especially — topic I want to get into, and that’s the question of McNamara’s Brigade. In 1967, because of the drainage of manpower in the United States, Secretary of, I believe, Defense McNamara needed more manpower to fill the ranks over in Vietnam, in the infantry. So what he did was: lowered the mentality, mentality standards for acceptance, accepting men into the armed forces especially the Army. What happens to these men — in particular I remember one man was in my company. He was a platoon sergeant in basic, acting platoon sergeant. I remember this one man who came up to me. He was only eighteen years old, a black boy from Newark, New Jersey, and he was married and had four kids, and he couldn’t even read the letters that his wife wrote home to him. The Army had accepted him for combat duty. The Army was going to send him to paratrooper school and eventually to Vietnam. The man asked me to read his letter to him, and I read his letter to him and I said, “Well, what are you going — are you going to write to her?” And he said, “I don’t know how to write.”

What had happened was that the Army had drafted this man, and then put him through a three-week course so that he could learn how to write his name and sign his pay voucher. And what happens? These men go through this killing process. They learn to kill and they go to Vietnam and they do kill, and they do get killed, because given the fact that their reactions are a lot slower than a man with a normal intelligence, they haven’t been told that when you hear a bullet fly you’re supposed to duct. All they’ve been told how to do is to kill. So they kill, and they get killed. ¶

And if you look at Morning Reports — Morning Reports is a document, a document that registers your KIAs which are people killed in action, or your wounded people — you will find a disproportionately high number of people were these ‘67s. I say were because the Army had gotten a little grief about this, and they changed their system from using US or RA to social security numbers. That way they could hide anybody they wanted to. {4240c2}

At any rate, these people go to Vietnam and they die. And these people, I’d like to point out, they come from the ghettos. They come from the squalid areas of this country. They come from Appalachia, they’re blacks, they’re Puerto Ricans, they’re poor whites. And I personally believe it’s a sort of genocide, a genocide in both ways, a genocide in the effect that they’re using the poor to fight the poor over in Vietnam.

So what happens when we get over there? Well, as I say I arrived in the country just after Tet, and about the first week in the country I witnessed my first atrocity. ¶

We were in the middle of a fire fight, in the middle of a fire fight, and this GI to the left of me, ahead, captured a peasant girl. And he raped her, raped her. In the middle of the fire fight, raped her and then when she tried to get away, she killed — he killed her. And it was written off as a KIA, enemy casualty killed in combat.

And one more incident I’d like to bring up. I did not actually see it, but it happened when we were out on a patrol. We had captured three enemy prisoners and because of the lateness of the evening, we decided to hold them in our camp. And we held them and the next morning all three of them were dead, and they were shot in the back. And the — one of the platoon sergeants who were on duty at the time claimed the victory for killing them in the back saying that — he said that they tried to escape but what actually came out later, that he really just killed them. He loosened their binds and just killed them. ¶

And we both times went to the CO, both times, and he said,

“Well, that’s war.”

Moderator.  Excuse me, Dan. How did it come out that he had killed them? Did anyone see him?

Amigone.  Well, nobody really saw him kill them but he — one night he got drunk and it came out through his spirits.

Moderator.  Are there any questions to be addressed to Mr. Amigone from the press?

Floor.  You support that a disproportionate number of the poor were killed because I think you said their responses were slower. Would it be — would that be the case, or would it be the case that a disproportionate number of them are sent up to the front lines?

Amigone.  Well — a very high rate of this 1967’s that I’m talking about, that’s where they go. The Army cannot use them anywhere else. And the real sad part of it is, after they have used them for two years and if they’re still alive after their two year period, they cannot re-enlist in the army because the Army’s standards are too high for reenlistment. And yet they have fought their war for two years.

Floor.  You said that you went to your CO after each of these incidents. Did you fear any kind of harassment or reprisal for doing that, or in fact did any such harassment or reprisal happen to you?

Amigone.  Well, the first time I was like — as I said, I was brand new in the country. And he says, “Well, you’ll see this happen all the time, just brush it off.” The second time it happened late in my career and I soon after got wounded myself and was sent back.

Floor.  So you’re—

Amigone.  Nothing really happened, no.

Moderator.  Are there any more questions?

Amigone.  I’d like to add one more thing. We’ve heard about officers, and I’d like to just relate one incident. A fellow member of the 199, just back here; what happened was, I believe it was in May or April, in April of 1968 — we were operating in a very dense, a very highly vegetated area called the Pineapple. It’s outside of Saigon. ¶

And the night before, a sister company of mine went into this area and had suffered 60 per cent casualty. And it’s very heavy booby-trapped. ¶

So what happened was that our company {4240c3} was given the orders to go into it the next night. And my CO said, “No, I will not go in.” And the colonel said, “You go in or else I’ll relieve you of the command.” And my CO called back and said, “I stand relieved of my command.” And we didn’t go in that night. Well, another company went in and suffered almost 50 per cent casualties that night.

Greg Motoka

Moderator.  I’d like to introduce the next witness, Mr. Greg Motoka, from Philadelphia — correction, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Motoka.  My name is Greg Motoka. I served with the 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, 4th Corps, Ben Tre Province, South Vietnam, from January 1969 to June of 1969.

The first thing that really struck my mind, the reason why I might be testifying here today; well, I was being transferred from an engineering unit to an infantry unit there in Dac Tau. The commanding general of the 9th Infantry Division made a statement to all the men who had just finished division training there at base camp at Dac Tau. And he said, quote, he stated,

“We have the highest body count of any division of South Vietnam. We’re proud of it, and with your men’s help, we’re going to keep it that way.”

And soon after I was transferred to my unit there, it was easy to understand why they had such a high body count. Ah, from the very first mission out — we had set up an ambush patrol outside of a village. Air-strikes had been called in, near, around the village, and the lieutenant’s orders were — he said, “Set up a machine gun,” an M-60 machine gun with an M-16 rifleman beside him, facing up the trail. I had my back to him, facing down the trail. ¶

The lieutenant’s orders were very specific to the machine gunner and to me to shoot anybody that comes down that trail. Anybody. He made no specifications or qualifications whether they were carrying weapons or not. ¶

Well, someone came down the trail. It was a woman carrying her child. And following our lieutenant’s orders, they were shot. And the only thing the lieutenant had to say about that was, “Let’s get out of here.” Not because he really dreaded the sight of blood, but because he figured we’d wasted enough time in ... {Ellipsis in the original} ¶

Also going on a few operations later — we had just broken camp in the morning. This was around the beginning of May. I was the point man, I might also add, for our squad. I was walking down the trail and coming through the trail where I was — there was another trail going to meet in a point, a junction there. Well, I could see on top over the grass the heads of three Vietnamese walking down, I could see from their shoulders up. And I stopped the squad and I sent back word to the lieutenant: three Vietnamese coming down the trail. ¶

The response was almost instantaneous: kill them. So, I killed them, just like that. At the time I was elated over it, you know. And I wanted to go up and check to get the rifles because I hadn’t seen any rifles, to make sure that they were carrying them and perhaps get a rifle as a souvenir. Well, when I started down the right side of the trail where they were supposedly laying, the lieutenant called me back and moved me in another direction. Also, this kept in the policy of never being allowed to see who you shot or fired at.

Our operations would begin going down the river. I might add I was a Riverine Force, what we called ourselves. We worked all the way up and down the Mekong River. Upon going down the river, we carried three boats each equipped with two fifty caliber machine guns, two grenadiers, and a rifleman supplied by Navy personnel. An area on the {4241} bank was saturated with prep fire. I mean it was so completely devastating that you could not see the shoreline any more, you couldn’t see anything but the smoke from the grenades, the bullets, the fifty caliber machine guns. ¶

I asked the reasoning behind this, and it was said, to clear away any booby traps or any land mines that might have been set. Well, this makes sense but there’s only one thing that doesn’t, because we never landed where we had set up the prep fire, which is absolutely assinine. Many times in the very close sight of villages and of towns and hamlets. ¶

This is one reason I think it’s so completely assinine to ask, “Well, why didn’t you report to your commanding officer any war crimes?” Mainly because your commanding officer is ordering you to commit the war crimes.

One other thing I might also add as far as this body count goes. ¶

Both times this woman and child were killed, five VC were reported killed. ¶

When three Vietnamese were killed, carrying no weapons, this was reported as seven Vietnamese were killed. ¶

The captain ordered — talked to all of us point men and said — he says, “Anything gets in your way in that trail, you blast it.” He says, “If you find any blood, we’ll give you credit for a body count.” ¶

And that means a Sach Cong award or perhaps a three-day in-country R and R.

One other incident that’s mentioned here that I just want to explain. When I was in the engineers, we had set up — we were building a bridge outside of a village. At the time, an ARVIN company had moved in fairly close to the village and fighting had broken out. All of our engineer company was pulled back to our perimeter except for five men who stayed there to guard the bridges that they were working on. I was one of the five men. ¶

Napalm strikes were called in very, very close to that village. Like the undergrowth was so thick, I couldn’t see any actual hamlets going up but I could see the smoke coming from very close to that village. ¶

A few minutes later a man was walking — came walking out of that village across the pontoon bridge we had made temporarily, and he proceeded to walk down the road. Our sergeant ordered him stopped, and he wanted to hold him for questioning not because — he didn’t want to give him any medical assistance because his face was badly burned. He didn’t want to give him any medical assistance, but he thought he might be a possible VC suspect. ¶

He sent me to ask my lieutenant-colonel what we should do with him, and I related the incident to the colonel, who happened by a coincidence to be there. ¶

He said, “Just get him out, just get him away from here.” I guess he thought it wasn’t important enough to help because his skin was yellow and he had slanted eyes. That’s about it.

Bob Johnson.  I might add one thing. The question was raised many times about reporting war crimes. ¶

Well, I just want to say that during four years at West Point while I was there and in my time in the Army, we were never taught, never received one meaningful hour of instruction at the elitist, the so-called cream of the crop institution not one meaningful hour of instruction on the rules of land warfare. ¶

And if we, the so-called professionals, didn’t know what war crimes were, who did? ¶

I didn’t know what war crimes were, what the rules of land warfare were, until I returned from Southeast Asia. ¶

Are there any questions of Grieg Motoka from the press, the audience?

Floor.  Did you — you were in the 9th Division, right?

Motoka.  Right.

Floor.  Did you ever see a kind of helicopter called a “gook mobile?”

Motoka.  The gook mobile?

Floor.  Yeah. {4241c2}

Motoka.  Is it a particular kind of helicopter?

Floor.  It was the commanding general’s helicopter at Uhl’s — but I don’t know if it was there during his tenure.

Motoka.  No, not offhand. I really couldn’t say. I don’t remember it.

Floor.  Were you there during Uhl’s — during General Uhl’s command?

Motoka.  I really don’t know his name. I never paid attention to any of the generals’ names or anything. I was there from January of 1969 to June of 1969.

Floor.  You didn’t know the name of your division commander?

Motoka.  No. I didn’t know the name of the division commander — at the time I probably did, but it’s been so long that I forgot it.

Floor.  Can I ask you to explain again — I know that you just amplified one of the questions but you said it’s assinine to consider reporting to your CO for war crimes because it is your CO who is ordering you to do the war crimes?

Motoka.  Exactly.

Floor.  Well, you see there is a chain of command in the military whereas you are to report anything up the chain of command. If you see anything — well, not even necessarily war crimes, but in this case it would be war crimes — you would report it up to your next highest echelons, level. All right. The highest echelon there in the immediate vicinity was the CO, and he was the one who ordered me there at the time to shoot the Vietnamese. So if he’s the one telling me, what’s the sense of reporting to him?

Moderator.  Well, when all Vietnamese in Vietnam generally are treated with disgust, it’s very hard to understand that you’re involved in a war crime. Most of the GIs feel — well, they’re the enemy. They’re in a free-fire zone, they support the VC maybe, so they’re the enemy. You don’t think in terms of it being a free fire zone. Orders don’t come down and say: go out and murder prisoners. They say, as has been said here, get me a bigger body count. And it’s understood what’s to be done. The search and destroy policy teaches GIs not to value human life and property. It doesn’t teach them in their minds to go commit a war crime. But what we’re saying — what I say is that atrocities in Vietnam, the torture of prisoners and so on, is a logical consequence of our inhuman policy in Vietnam. ¶

Any other questions from the press or members of the audience?

Floor.  In your unit did you ever hear the terms: pacification, civic action, winning hearts and minds?

Motoka.  Sure. There was a pacification process. I forget — Chieu Hoi, the Chieu Hoi program, yes. This was very interesting. As a matter of fact, because members in Chieu Hoi, the so-called VC who gave themselves up, were supposed to be given outstanding treatment and put in secure, what they call secure areas. ¶

I happened to visit by chance a secure area one time. I passed by. It was nothing but a concentration camp with a barbed wire, machine guns pointed out, eventually in. But this is what they mean by “pacification process” in the delta. It was the big Chieu Hoi program: turn yourselves in and we’ll put you in this pacified area, which is nothing more than a prison. ¶

That’s their extent of pacification.

Moderator.  Another very common euphemism, used at the highest levels, for the destruction of Vietnam, is a program called Nation Building. It’s called Nation Building. I was briefed on it and participated in it in Vietnam. And of course it’s not nation building at all, it’s nation destroying.

Floor.  Can I carry that question just one step further?

Motoka.  All right.

Floor.  Your unit, or other units, did they attempt to practice civic action aside from {4241c3} telling of a body count? What — the other side of the coin.

Motoka.  We had one thing where we would go — the only civic action that we had was checking ID cards. As far as going out to give medical help or medical support to wounded or injured, there was none. ¶

On one instance I know — we had to go through it many times, we went to small villages to check for ID cards. ¶

Upon — a few incidents I know, the people didn’t have an ID card. ¶

They were dragged forcibly from their hamlet while their wife and children would beg and plead and cry on their hands and knees to let them go, but you are — the atmosphere is so entirely oppressive to everybody that its — you’re so numb that you just don’t care. But they’re down on their knees pleading with you, and that’s the extent of the pacification.

Moderator.  Okay. Thank you very much, Greg.

Kenneth Barton Osborn

Moderator.  Gentlemen, our next witness will be Kenneth Barton Osborn, from Washington, D.C.

Osborn.  Mike, here, just provided me with my own documentation, which I’d provided him with earlier. My name is Kenneth Barton Osborn. I live here in Washington and I’m a student here at American University, in the International Service Division. This is my DD 214, which proves that I was honorably discharged this past, let’s see, October of 1969. I entered the Army — can you all hear me — I entered the Army in 1966 and was released from active duty in October of 1969, and this is the form that proves that.

I was in Vietnam from September of 1967 until December of 1968. My MOS in the Army was 97C40, which simply is described as an area intelligence specialist. I was trained at Fort Holabird from April of 1967 until right before leaving for Vietnam in September of 1967.

My job in the Army is described overtly — unclassifiedly — as that of an area intelligence specialist; that is, I’m supposedly familiar with the geographical area, culture in that area — and work to provide cross-cultural empathy facility for the Army, that is, so they can understand the culture into which they go on any operational basis. ¶

In fact, when we started the program at Fort Holabird — we were there a couple of days for general orientation and when the class was organized, sat down and in walked a colonel who was a military intelligence — a full colonel in the Army — who gave us what they call the scare lecture. ¶

He described to us that what we were going to be trained for was not, in fact, just area specialty, but the function of what they call a case officer, or an agent handler. ¶

This is the job of spotting, analyzing, recruiting, training and running and terminating agents, who in fact are broken down as principal agents who run nets and sub-agents who are in fact the people in the field who are gathering information. ¶

There are two basic functions in military intelligence: that of the counter-intelligence agent, who supposedly does just that — counter the enemy’s intelligence — and the classified function, which is denied by our government, of the overt, active, aggressive collection of intelligence. ¶

It was my job to perform that classified function.

Of course, the starting point with the orientation at Holabird was that, all this that we were going to be trained to do was against the Geneva Accords, and if we had moral compunctions about it, we could opt out of the program if we wanted to. ¶

If we had none, you just go ahead and play along with the program — be trained this way, and then they would return to us as a result the privilege of autonomy from the military. ¶

That is, at one point in our training we would be released from uniform, from mili- {4242} tary structure, we would be subservient to only a few people. ¶

In other words, we would be more or less free agents.

This did happen when I got to Vietnam. I worked in the Danang area — that’s the I Corps area — and ran agent nets there. I won’t go into an awful lot of detail that’s unnecessary; it’s sufficient to say that I organized nets in the I Corps area and provided lead information to — I was with the 525th military intelligence group, with their 1st Battalion in the I Corps area. Traveled there under the cover of a GS-7 and later a GS-9 as I promoted myself during the year.

I lived under a cover name which is not my own name — which is not necessary to go into, I guess, and lived there in a house in Danang City and served using organizations being the 1st Marine Division, the 3rd Marine Division, the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force, Army units such as the Americal Division down in Lower I Corps, the 7th Armored Cavalry, which was in An Kay, and later came up to Danang. ¶

When I first got there, there was no liaison with the using units, and I had to establish that and also start from the beginning and establish nets and so forth. It took me a couple of months to get into business, and also to sell my services to the American military, who were reticent to use “foreign nationals,” that is, indigenous Vietnamese personnel, for information. ¶

When I proved on a retrospective plausibility basis, that is, look what I report and see what happens and if you believe it then accept my reports — when I sold them this information that way and they believed it, we were in business and I served in the 1st Marine Division, and the 3rd, and the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force primarily, because at that time the majority of the operations in the area were Marine operations. ¶

My liaison was with the G-2 officers of those organizations, and with subordinate S-2 officers in regimental headquarters subservient to those divisions in the area. ¶

So that was my function in Vietnam. I was there, in that function, for 16 months.

During that time, I worked with interrogations and I worked with the using units in their field operation at different times mostly to get a reading on what kind of information they needed — I needed requirements. I needed to know what to collect. I needed to know what to levy on my agents and as a result, since I couldn’t get any specifics, other than things from the Pentagon like “Beware of troop movements around the western Chechoslovakian border,” and so forth — couldn’t be more specific than that, and we were in Southeast Asia, I had to go out and get my own requirements from the using units so that I could travel to the field with the Marine counter-intelligence investigating team. ¶

During that time, I saw several incidents which I want to relate to you here.

There was a counter-intelligence team, an interrogation team, there on the compound of the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force, which is adjacent to the Danang air base in their G-2 shop, they have an investigation — they had at that time — I think it was 1967 or 1968 — they had an intelligence team in there which were made exclusively of American Marines. ¶

There were no Vietnamese there. These Marines were trained and spoke Vietnamese. They were interrogators. ¶

In the course of collecting intelligence information, I would come up with what Ed Murphy referred to as VC infrastructure detail, personalities, descriptions of people working in the local committees in the villages which were VC organizations. ¶

When I got this information — at first there was no function, that is, no use for it, because there was no program that could effectively deal with eliminating VC infrastructure on a combat-unit basis. ¶

I later got into the Phoenix program on — as a result of searching around for a unit that could use this information. ¶

At the time, early in the game, I used to give {4242c2} the information to the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force interrogating teams and they would pick up personally. ¶

There was a lieutenant, first lieutenant Marine, who was later promoted to captain during his tour there that I knew him, who would go out to the village with other Marines, Marine EM — enlisted men — and scarf up these people who were described in my reports and bring them in for interrogation. ¶

They had two hootches right there on that 3rd Marine Amphibious Force compound, which were devoted to interrogation and they used the following modus operandi: ¶

At one point, I had described a certain individual of a local village — suburban village of Danang. They went out and scarfed her up and brought her in and simply put her in one of the wire mesh cages that were inside this hootch, which was divided into four cages. She was in one of them, and they simply put her in there. There were no facilities other than a wooden bench — regular, like a picnic bench, which stood on, like, a sawhorse — on which she could sit, sleep, do whatever she wanted to. There were no toilet facilities. There was no food and there was no water. ¶

And the idea was that she should stay there until she talked. When they had weakened her, I was on the compound one day and the — a lieutenant said to me, I want to show you what we’re doing with so-and-so whom you — who we got from your report there. Come on over next door and I’ll show you the process and when we went over — and they had set this hootch up within the week. ¶

And they were quite proud of the fact that they were just leaving the people there to starve. I said, well, we’ll just leave her there until she talks. They did leave her there for about ten days until, finally, she was so weak that she couldn’t respond to anything, and at that point, they just sent her back to her village and called it a loss — got no information from her.

At another point, I had identified one of the members of the village committees for VC logistical supply, as I remember. In any case, he was picked up and brought in as what was described earlier as a detainee, not a POW, but a detainee. ¶

The fellow was put in the same hootch with the four cages, in another cage, and he was forced to lay on the floor with his hands tied behind his back and they would insert a bamboo peg — a wooden peg, I’m not sure if it was bamboo — a wooden peg, a dowel with a sharpened end, into the semicircular canal of the ear, which would be forced into the head little by little as he was interrogated. And eventually, did enter the brain and killed the subject, the detainee. ¶

They never got any viable information out of him — they called that a loss but in any case that was one thing that was a standard operating procedure. ¶

And I asked the lieutenant, I said, how often do you do this kind of thing? He said, whenever we can’t get information by easier methods. ¶

These methods being, I won’t re-describe the ringing up of the telephone sort of thing to the women’s breast nipples and the men’s genitals. ¶

When these things failed, then they went further into — the, I think, worst of the torture methods that I saw was the one of the inserting the dowel into the ear.

With that same unit, the 3rd Marine Division, I went along twice when they would go up in helicopters which belonged to the Marine Division and take two detainees along. ¶

They used one as a scare mechanism for the other. If they wanted to interrogate detainee A, they would take someone along who was either in bad health or whom they had already written off as a loss — take both these Vietnamese along in the helicopter and they would say, they would start investigating Detainee B, the one they had no interest in, and they wouldn’t get any information out of him and so they would threaten to throw him out of the helicopter. {4242c3}

All the time, of course, the detainee they wanted information from was watching. And they would threaten and threaten and, finally, they would throw him out of the helicopter. ¶

I was there when this happened twice and it was very effective, because, of course, at the time the step one was to throw the person out of the helicopter and step two was to say, “You’re next.” ¶

And that quite often broke them down, demoralized them, and at that point they would give whatever information. Sometimes the information was accurate; sometimes this was considered an ineffective method of investigation. Sometimes the Vietnamese, when threatened with things like the dowel treatment or the telephone treatment or in one case, the helicopter incident, would start babbling anything at all — would say whatever you, he felt, wanted to hear, and this, again was ineffective. ¶

But that was the modus operandi used, and those were the incidents that I actually was involved in.

Floor.  Excuse me — you did actually see these two people thrown out of the helicopters?

Osborn.  Yes sir, on two different occasions, yes sir.

Floor.  Could you tell me when and—

Osborn.  Yes sir, that was—

Floor.  Be as specific as you can?

Osborn.  Yes sir, I will. That was in the month of April, 1968, and it was northwest of Danang, perhaps fifteen miles just beyond the suburban villages there. The base of operations was the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force compound adjacent to the Danang air base in I Corps, and they would go from there up in a helicopter and go through this procedure and come back down again with what was considered a successful interrogation.

Floor.  You went up there for that specific purpose?

Osborn.  That’s right.

Floor.  Now, what was, what procedure did you follow, how did you do it?

Osborn.  Simply go out to — from the Marine Wing, they called it, there, there were on the compound that were the interrogation headquarters, go out to the helicopter there in a jeep, take these people with us. They weren’t badly restrained, they had their hands tied behind their backs. They walked, they were pushed and so forth onto the helicopter, and when they got up they would simply start on the subject that they didn’t want to interrogate, to scare the one that they did want to interrogate, and they’d terminate — they would throw the second subject out to scare the first one into whatever they either wanted to hear or whatever was appropriate.

Floor.  Who did the throwing?

Osborn.  The throwing was done by Marine enlisted men.

Floor.  On whose orders?

Osborn.  On the lieutenant’s orders.

Floor.  Where were you when it happened?

Osborn.  I was there in the helicopter on one of the side seats observing—

Floor.  How far would you be from the door?

Osborn.  Five feet.

Floor.  What would you say? Did you ever make an attempt to stop it or—

Osborn.  No, I did not. I was there to observe.

Moderator.  Mr. Osborn has some additional testimony, sir. Could we — unless you have any objections — could we get that out before we have any additional questions.

Osborn.  What else do you want to know?

Moderator.  Bart, you said that you worked closely with the CIA in the Phoenix program; how closely did you work with the CIA, and what did the Phoenix program mean to you?

Osborn.  As I had mentioned briefly earlier, sometimes the using combat units in the I Corps area, which is the area I basically {4243} served because that’s where the nets were gathering information, had no use for potentially valuable information, accurate information and timely, that we would gather just in the course of getting reports in from the field, from the Vietnamese agents. ¶

I was frustrated to let a lot of the information on a timely basis go down the drain. If I would have a VC who was the head of a committee or a fairly high-placed individual in the VC infrastructure and I found out where he was, where he would be, how he could be picked up and so forth, and I’d take this to the Marine Division and they’d say that’s nice, but we really don’t have the facilities to use it. ¶

I lived in Danang and I happened to run into a fellow in the club where I — the Stone Elephants, the Navy officers’ club — ate there, and I ran into a fellow who ran the I Corps area for CIA operations and I talked to him and found out through him that they had a program that could receive that kind of information.

On a discreet basis, I called him aside after dinner one night and asked him if he knew where I could disseminate this information on an effective basis. He put me in contact with an Army major who was at a house there rented by the CIA in Danang, and I established the liaison necessary in order to disseminate whatever VCI information I got with my reports, and did that for, I guess, for the last eight months or so that I was in Vietnam.

Moderator.  Does the term exterminate, to terminate with extreme prejudice — are you familiar with that term?

Osborn.  There are two ways — yes — there are two ways to terminate an agent. When you are through with the agent, that is, when he serves no more function to you, you can do one of two things. ¶

You can terminate him by paying him an amount of money, thanking him for his service, swearing him to secrecy, and simply letting him go — that’s without prejudice. ¶

There is termination with prejudice where the agent constitutes a threat either to your operations, to you personally as a case officer, to whatever has determined the threat, and you terminate him with prejudice by either killing the individual or perhaps relocating him in the— ¶

I remember one incident of an agent up in Phuo By who was relocated as a prisoner of war into a Chieu Hoy camp and reoriented— ¶

I’m not really familiar with the details of that, but the main idea was to, of course, neutralize the individual. ¶

I got orders a couple of times to terminate agents with prejudice because of things they had done which were considered illegal or in bad taste or threatening — bad security — while I was there.

Floor.  Did you follow those orders out, sir?

Osborn.  I had an agent, for instance, in Danang who was an effective principal agent — ran a net in the I Corps area around Danang. And who had worked — had told me when I hired him that he had never worked for American intelligence before. That was a starting point when I hired him. He spoke English so we communicated well — he was fluent in French and English, and he told me, no, he had never worked for the American intelligence community before. ¶

It turned out, though, that while he had been working for us for some time, in March of 1968, a list came out from the CIA, from CSD, they’re in Danang. And it was called the catalog of undesirable personalities, and we called that a blacklist. People who had done no-nos and were to be left untouched by the American military intelligence community. ¶

His name was on that list and I was shocked to find that out. ¶

I went — I went to a captain, an Army military intelligence captain, and I asked him what he thought I ought to do in that method of termination. He said, well, you do whatever you want to do, he’s your {4243c2} man, and generally that was the case, that the case officers were able to use their own discretion. ¶

But he said, “I want the man dead,” and so I said, “All right.” ¶

And I went out and he was a resident of Danang, had a family, a wife who also spoke English and a fine woman, also two children, two or three children. And so this would be eliminating the father of two children, obviously, and for no real reason, because what he had done was to have worked previously for the CIA as an interpreter and they didn’t like his interpreting because he had been feeding information to agents on the side in order to corroborate their information and get them better pay. He’d sit down with two agents and say, what do you have and what do you have, and he’d cross the information. ¶

They found this out and they fired him, on the blacklist as a result. ¶

He was an active agent with me, he was blacklisted, so he had to go. ¶

I took him aside; at the time he had quite a number of pieces of equipment. He had a Yamaha motorcycle that I had lent him for running around, he had a two-way radio, a little Motorola set that we communicated with on an emergency basis, he had a number of things and he owed me a lot of piastres which he’s drawn on his salary — which I had done in order to get a handle on him, in order to make him work effectively. ¶

And so he was strung out, and he was obligated in this way, and I sat him down and said I need these things back — it was a period of about ten days. ¶

And when I had gotten all these things back, which, of course, were compromising logistics, I then told him what I had been told to do and told him that if he did not disappear from the city, with his family or without his family but in any case disappear for at least three months, I would have to come back and kill him. ¶

That was a hollow threat but it worked. And he left and whether it was followed up or not, I don’t know, but that’s an example of going beyond what the orders were in neutralizing agents.

Floor.  What about the other orders?

Osborn.  I had an agent in Phu Bai, which was the 3rd Marine Division base, and he had been involved in some black market activities, and that came up in the course of an interview one time that I had with him one time. ¶

And I reported it to — in a report which was standard after every interrogation, after every what they call personal meeting with your agent. ¶

Because he would be compromised by having his finger in the black market, and was not working exclusively for me or for the American intelligence community, he was considered a threat. ¶

I was told to terminate him. ¶

I went up to Phu Bai and I brought him down to Danang to live with some relatives, and that’s what happened.

Moderator.  Are you familiar, Bart, with any incident where a person was actually terminated, liquidated, with extreme prejudice?

Osborn.  Yes, I’m afraid I had at one point in my employ a woman who was Chinese and who lived in Vietnam. She was a Chinese Vietnamese citizen. She was educated to the point where she spoke several languages, she spoke fluent English. And I used her as an interpreter and also as a guide to the culture that I was working in because as a Westerner, there were a lot of things there that I couldn’t have been sensitive to. She was my guide in that respect. ¶

She also was my direct contact with agents, that is, I had people I didn’t want to meet because I didn’t want them to know me because in case they got compromised, they couldn’t compromise me. ¶

So she was my go-between. She acted as an interpreter, guide, and support agent, that is, a courier. ¶

And at one point she had been — because we were short of people who were that well trained in Vietnamese, she was cross-exposed to operations. She was into a lot of my operations. {4243c3} ¶

She worked with — and incidentally, I ran only unilateral operations, American operations only, not in cooperation with the Vietnamese, which is against the Geneva Convention.

And so this was a sensitive area. ¶

When it was determined by a military intelligence captain that she was too cross-exposed, he reported that to Saigon and he got the reading back that she ought to be terminated from the scene. She ought to be let go. It was not determined — it wasn’t said whether she ought to be terminated with prejudice or not. ¶

He took it upon himself to terminate her by murdering her. ¶

He murdered her with a .45 in a street in Danang, shot her in the neck and let her lay in the street there. ¶

It was said that there were Viet Cong agents, or terrorists, or sappers, or something in the area who shot her, and it was plausible because we knew that she was heavily involved in intelligence and would have been targeted by the unfriendlies — that’s the Viet Cong.

Moderator.  I have one further question before I turn this over to the press. Bart, since your return to the United States have you ever worked, have you ever been in contact with the CIA since that time?

Osborn.  Yes I have, Mike. I had been pretty deeply involved in a number of operations in Vietnam, as I said, and as a result when you recruit agents you usually do it by recruiting their loyalty to you, and then get them to relate to the mission. ¶

When I left Vietnam I turned over my operation to my successor, but because a number of these things were CIA-supported, like the Phoenix program, VCI operations, and so forth, I was recontacted when I got back to the states, back a couple of months. ¶

They recontacted me and asked if I would serve on an advisory basis, and I did for a while. I don’t think that that’s all that relevant to this whole thing, but it is true that these things continue. ¶

I terminated that whole thing this June, and I have no association with the CIA any more.

Moderator.  Gentlemen, any questions, please.

Floor.  When you were recruiting these agents, you were working for the CIA?

Osborn.  Yes sir, these were military intelligence modus operandi — you know, method of operation — nets. They were serving military combat units for combat intelligence and the Phoenix program for VC infrastructure, and they were laterally disseminated on a discretionary basis. ¶

If I had only combat information I’d only send it to combat units. If I had only VCI I’d send it only to the Phoenix program, the Phoenix coordinator there in Danang.

Floor.  Mr. Osborn, in that first incident you mentioned, about the termination, you said that was a hollow threat. Why did you say that?

Osborn.  Because at the time that I said that, I didn’t have any intention of killing him, but just of exercising a second threat if the first one didn’t work. I may have killed him eventually if he became a viable threat. That is, he may have gotten bitter and compromised a number of things I was involved in and as a result have threatened my life. I may have. But I didn’t. But as I say, at the time that was a hollow threat because I didn’t intend to kill him, when I told him I did.

Floor.  You would have killed him if necessary?

Osborn.  Yes I would have.

Floor.  Why are you spilling all the beans now? Because we haven’t won the war?

Osborn.  No, ma’am, it’s not.

Floor.  Well, will you tell us why?

Osborn.  Yes. I feel as if this standard operating procedure, which is authorized by the American military community, and by the CIA, is against the American value system. ¶

I don’t feel that I can come back with a clear conscience from Vietnam and con- {4244} sider myself a good Christian, or I don’t feel I can have a clear conscience, knowing that my government is working despicable methods of operation in other parts of the world, and denying it; working against the Geneva Conference and blaming other nations for doing the same; taking action against foreign interests which are doing the same thing that we’re doing, it’s just that we classify it as they do — we catch them, they catch us, and it constitutes one heck of a hypocrisy. ¶

The reason I’ve said these things today is simply to document or add evidence to the fact that we are doing these things, and my suggestions would be that we don’t have to. ¶

We should not criticize others for doing the same things that we’re doing, or we ought to cut it out. One of the two. ¶

I simply want to add to what the others have said, and that’s why I’m here today.

Floor.  Do you consider yourself a war criminal, under Nuremberg?

Osborn.  Yes, for some of the things that I did in Vietnam I feel that they definitely were criminal.

Floor.  Mr. Noetzel, did you ever terminate an agent yourself?

Osborn.  Mr. Noetzel?

Floor.  No, I’m sorry.

Osborn.  Mr. Osborn. I beg your pardon?

Floor.  Did you ever terminate an agent by death yourself? Did you ever kill an agent?

Osborn.  No, I didn’t. I never killed an agent.

Floor.  In that first case, the case of the agent with the Yamaha. Is it possible that when he was working for the CIA he was not aware of that?

Osborn.  No, it is not possible that he was not aware that he was working for the American military intelligence community, and that was my question to him that he had denied. So in essence he had lied to me. And the interest in lying was simply this: the American intelligence community was hiring him, and they were the only force hiring him in the area, and if he wanted a job — and he was qualified because of his multi-language capability — he had to get on with somebody. And he had been fired by the CIA, and as a matter of fact he had not re-approached us, we had approached him.

Floor.  With the Chinese agent who was killed, did you have any advance news that he was going to be killed?

Osborn.  No, I had not advance news.

Floor.  In that case, what was your reaction, if you felt it was unnecessary? Did you protest?

Osborn.  Yes, I protested to the fellow who had murdered her and asked him why, and he simply explained that she was too cross-exposed and was too involved in operations. And I didn’t feel that since she had been asked to help us, and had never done anything actively or passively that was against our interest, but had only followed through and had gotten involved in as many operations as we had asked her to get involved in, then to determine her fair bait for murder seemed wrong.

Floor.  Sir, did you ever kill anyone other than an agent?

Osborn.  In Vietnam?

Floor.  In Vietnam.

Osborn.  Not that I can tell you about. In fact, during the fifteen months that I was in Vietnam I was responsible for deaths, yes.

Floor.  In what respect?

Osborn.  Several respects. One of our functions in supplying combat information to the 1st Marine Division, especially their G-2 office, was to get targeting areas for B-52 strikes, and we would follow these up to see how effective we had been. ¶

For instance if we had gotten an NVA unit reported in an area, and they would come in with the B-52s and they would target them as they came in and they would plough an area — that is, they’d drop bombs and plough an {4244c2} area there — and we’d follow up occasionally, and I’d find that we had killed civilians in the process. ¶

And whether or not they were Viet Cong agents or not I don’t know. There were civilians dead as a result who were not, in fact, part of the NVA units that were targeted.

Floor.  Did you ever kill any civilians or POWs yourself?

Osborn.  Not myself, no.

Floor.  Did you ever make any attempts to tell anybody, any government authorities, about these things?

Osborn.  In other words, bring charges or make an official complaint? No, never did.

Floor.  Will you tell us why?

Osborn.  Yes. Because it was so much the SOP, and my entire peer group had been doing the same thing, and to bring this up as a subject was old news. ¶

And as a matter of fact the people to whom I talked privately, private citizens, when I came back to the United States, doubted this — frankly didn’t believe me, or if they believed me generally, and knew that I was not known to be a liar, knew that I wouldn’t have any reason to lie about this, thought it was sad that I had been exposed to a war, but that’s war.

Floor.  Have you ever told this in public before?

Floor.  What about your peer group, what is their attitude about these cages, and throwing people out of helicopters and that sort of thing, as you say.

Osborn.  They vary. They do vary in their attitudes. I know people who are conscience-stricken about the methods of operations that we described, I know other people who just looked on it as a dirty necessity, of being in Vietnam for a year. And you get your year over and you go home and forget about it. There were all levels of conscience about it. Generally, though, it was an accepted thing.

Floor.  Tell us what your rank was.

Osborn.  Yes sir, I was in Vietnam, when I first got there, a Pfc, an E-3 in the Army, and when I left Fort Holabird an E-3. It was a long time before I was promoted to an E-4. I was an E-4 when I left Vietnam, and was promoted to E-5 by administrative process just before I left the Army.

Floor.  Did you ever get extra pay? Did you have a living allowance, or that sort of thing?

Osborn.  Yes. We had allowance for separate rations, because we had to eat, we had to live in the status and keep up — GS-9s make a good bit of money in Vietnam. They have a 25 per cent pay increment and so forth. On Pfc salary I couldn’t necessarily do that, and so there were separate rations, separate living allowance, and then a lot of our expenses were paid through a separate intelligence fund, so we didn’t have to put it out of our own pockets.

Floor.  Would you explain what you understand to be your violations of the Geneva Accords?

Osborn.  Yes. Primarily it was this. ¶

I mentioned the scare lecture that we had at Holabird, and it mentioned that we would be working in an area, that is, agent operations, that is plausibly denied by the American government. If we didn’t want to associate with it that was up to us, but we had to make that value judgment and do it voluntarily. ¶

In fact, out of a class of thirty-seven people only one opted out, and we were told that it would not be a mark against us if we decided not to continue with this at that point, but that we would have the rest of the day to think about it, and we were let go that day from class. And the next day we came back and a fellow had opted out, and the rest stayed because about half the class knew that that was the case, that area intelligence specialists were in fact agent handlers, and the others, who were surprised, accepted it. {4244c3}

Floor.  Sir, what were the violations, though?

Osborn.  Oh, all right. Yes. ¶

And we were told, we were told at the time that our function would be to run illegal operations, that is, active collection of intelligence by utilization of spies, nets, agent nets — and this was illegal. It alludes to the thing about if you are caught or compromised, we’ll deny the whole thing. And that’s basically why we lived in cover status in Vietnam. ¶

Because if John Smith, and that’s a fictional name, was caught doing so and so, he would be pulled back to Saigon and perhaps sent out of country, perhaps changed back to uniform, and he would simply evaporate — and so if charges were officially ever brought against the government that said, “We know of a John Smith in the I Corps area, who was in fact recruiting agents,” they’d say, well, you document that, and that’s fine. ¶

That was plausible denial, and it worked very effectively. This was illegality number one. ¶

Another example of what we were doing illegally, I mentioned before, we were running unilateral operations only. Just unilateral. They were an American effort, no cooperation whatsoever with the Vietnamese, based on the assumption that whatever the Vietnamese did was compromising because they might be infiltrated by the Viet Cong. ¶

In any case, it is, in fact, it is in conflict with our agreement with the government of South Vietnam to have exclusively unilateral collection of intelligence operations, which is what we had.

Floor.  Sir, do you feel in any personal danger as a result of your appearance here today?

Osborn.  I don’t feel as if, if somebody came out and reported to the press involvement with classified operations which are still classified, to which I have agreed not to speak, and I have signed agreements with the Department of Defense saying that I would not go into specific detail, which I, in fact, have not named names today — this is not a crucifying session of any kind — I have agreed not to go into this in detail. ¶

It was implicit in my agreement with the Department of Defense, that if anyone asked me what I did in Vietnam, I was an area intelligence specialist; “What was that?” Well, you were kind of familiar with the area and you studied geography and knew map reading and things, but I don’t know map reading and things very well, so that was not very plausible. ¶

And so I don’t think that this would do me any good, if I went to apply for top-secret clearance, like I had before, I probably wouldn’t make out too well, but what I plan to do is go into private industry on the basis of my education when I complete it, and so forth. ¶

And I hope to be able to stand on my own two feet — not a precarious process like investigation. ¶

Is the “pinko” questionable? ¶

I feel as though the classification system is closed to me as a result of today, and whatever else I get into.

Floor.  You say you are at George Washington?

Osborn.  I’m at American.

Floor.  And what is your major?

Osborn.  My major is languages and linguistics. I’m in a Masters degree for International Services program, in the school there, and I’m Western Europe oriented — German and so forth.

Floor.  What was your analysis of the Green Beret case in 1969, in Nha Trang? The way in which the Administration and the Department of the Army handled that?

Osborn.  I mentioned plausible denial to you before. And I think that if you were familiar with the method of operation that went on, and it was a part of your life, you lived with it — and if that were your goal, your mission, your assignment, and so forth, if you heard of having a double agent through the 5th Special Forces, who was to {4245} be terminated, and it flapped, that is, it became known, and it was necessary for our government to deny it, to see them deny it, and go through the legal process to divert attention from it or whatever they were trying to do, was not surprising at all. ¶

That’s the way I saw it.

Floor.  Sir, you say you saw Marines push Vietnamese out of helicopters. Could you tell me what the reaction of the Marines aboard the helicopters was when this occurred? Was there any reaction, or this sort of thing, and what was the reaction of the victims?

Osborn.  The victims fell.

Floor.  Before.

Osborn.  Before they left the helicopter? That’s two questions, sir.

Floor.  I’d like to know a little about what was going on in the helicopter.

Osborn.  Right. We’d go up, and the interrogation team chief — the lieutenant — and one, two, three EM, I’m not — there were two or three EM, I guess. And they would have these people with them, and they would have their hands tied behind their back, and they would load them on the helicopters, and the helicopter would take off and the— ¶

The Marines, you have to understand that wherever they were in a function like interrogation, any support function at all, they considered it less dangerous than a combat mission. ¶

They would go out in the boonies and kill via their M-16 rifles. And so I didn’t ever see any moral compunctions about that being done; as a matter of fact when they were told to go ahead and push the fellow they would go ahead and push him. ¶

And on both occasions that happened.

Moderator.  I’m sorry to interrupt this right now. We’re already five minutes over the time of this session, and we have two more witnesses. Mr. Osborn will be available for additional interviews, he’ll be here during the day, so I’d like to move on right now.

Kenneth Barton Osborn subsequently testified before two Congressional committees: A House Government Operations subcommittee (August 2 1971) and the Senate Armed Services Committee (July 20 1973).  CJHjr


Norm Kiger

Moderator.  The next witness is Mr. Norm Kiger.

Kiger.  My name is Norman Kiger, age twenty-two. I’m from Mount Rainier, Maryland. ¶

I served in Vietnam from December of 1968 until August of 1969, during which time I was with the communications company, 7th Communications Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

At one point in my tour in Vietnam I was attached to the 1st Tank Battalion on an observation post called Observation Post Bear, which was near the village of Tuy Lon, which is approximately ten miles southwest of Danang. ¶

On this observation post, the commander there was a staff sergeant. It was a daily occurrence for him while I was there, it was either daily or every other day; it was several times a week he would test fire claymore mines into the village, which was at the bottom of the hill. The village was approximately 75 to 100 meters away and the range of a claymore is approximately 200 meters. ¶

From on top of the hill we could hear the pellets from the claymore hitting the hootches, we could hear dogs barking, chickens running around, children screaming, that sort of thing. ¶

I was never able to see exactly what the results of these firings were, but it was not done as any kind of a tactical move. It was done strictly for fun. The staff sergeant always voiced his hatred for gooks, as he called them.

On one particular night in, I believe it was the month of February, of 1969, I was asleep. I was not on watch, but there was a man who was on watch in my bunker, or was supposed to be. Apparently he was somewhere else, goofing off, during which time a volley of rockets were fired from nearby, out in front of his position, the position of my bunker. The rockets were fired at Danang airstrip. No one saw — actually saw them fired, you could only hear them. No one saw where {4245c2} they came from, or who fired them. ¶

We all ran up to have a look in the direction where they’d been fired from and out in the graveyard near the bunker — maybe 100 meters — there were three people. I have no idea whether they were Vietnamese. They could have even been Americans. You could not tell whether they carried any type of hand weapons but they definitely had no rocket launcher of any type.

This was not a free fire zone, but the staff sergeant in command told the other man on my bunker to open fire on these men with a 50-caliber machinegun, which he did. And killed all three of them. We never did go out to see who they were; we never really did find out who they were, although the next morning, at the village, there was some sort of celebration. I don’t know what a Vietnamese funeral service is like, but that’s what I assumed it to be.

Also it was a dally occurrence at approximately sunset, when the Vietnamese were bringing their livestock in from the fields — they would herd them from the fields into the village. As they were doing so, many of them had to pass by our position. And at this time the staff sergeant and some of the others on the hill would harass the civilians by firing the 50-caliber machineguns directly behind them as they walked, trying to scare them. And they were successful.

Moderator.  Okay. Are there any questions from the press? Anything else you’d like to add?

Kiger.  In the end of February, 1969, the Tet offensive was just beginning. The word was, on the radio, the condition was called “Stormy.” And the word was that in our area that there were approximately a regiment-sized group of North Vietnamese regulars coming across; they had come across from Cambodia, and in the direction from which they were coming is where this village of Tuy Lon was. We knew they were coming. We knew approximately when they would get there, but at no time was there any move made to evacuate the village. ¶

And that night, I believe it was the night of February 23rd, we were hit by the North Vietnamese, and we had to shoot back. In shooting back, many of our rounds seemed to go into the village. The next morning, after the fighting was over — we had received reinforcements, air strikes, artillery — I had to go back to my battalion, and in walking out I walked out of the outpost at the same time that some of the villagers were bringing casualties in. They were bringing them up to the hill apparently for medical treatment. I don’t know if they ever received it because I didn’t stick around. I had to leave, but I tried to avoid seeing any of the casualties. ¶

But I couldn’t miss one. One was a girl, approximately age twelve to fourteen, with an enormous bullet hole in her mid-section. Apparently, I would say it was probably from a 50-caliber machinegun, which is what I had to man while I was there.

The 50-caliber machinegun — I didn’t know it at the time but apparently it is not to be used according to the Geneva Accords on ground troops. We were forced to use them on ground troops. The 50-caliber machinegun is an anti-aircraft weapon with high explosive rounds.

Moderator.  Any questions now from the press?

Floor.  You say February, 1969 — or 1967?

Kiger.  1969.

Floor.  You said right after the Tet offensive?

Kiger.  This was at the beginning of the Tet offensive, this last incident.

Floor.  The Tet offensive wasn’t in 1969.

Kiger.  There is a Tet every year.

Floor.  Oh I see. I thought you meant the Tet offensive.

Kiger.  No this was a Tet offensive.

Floor.  From what level of command did the use of the 50-caliber machinegun come? {4245c3}

Kiger.  I could not tell you. Everywhere I went this was one of the standard weapons used. The — I never thought it was particularly efficient because it is very slow in firing, but it does have a demoralizing effect on the enemy because it is so enormous.

Floor.  I understand that. But you don’t know what military command was issuing these directives?

Kiger.  Well, it doesn’t take a directive to place a machinegun wherever you want to use it.

Floor.  Then it was from the Military Issue Command?

Kiger.  I beg to differ with you. We carried those things everywhere we went.

Floor.  Oh, then you were just issued them for your general use.

Kiger.  Yes, for whatever we needed them for.

Moderator.  Okay. Thank you, Norm.

Gail Graham

Moderator.  Our next witness will be Mr. Gail Graham.

Graham.  My name is Gail Graham. I’m twenty-thnee years old, live in Jamestown, New York. ¶

I was drafted in the Army in June, 1967. In November, 1967, I went to Vietnam, got out of Vietnam January, 1969. In Vietnam I served the capacity of a medic door gunner. ¶

I would like to relate a few incidents of the general disregard and mistreatment of civilians while I was in Vietnam.

In June of 1969, we had a pick-up zone north of Camp Evans in a village where we were going to pick up AVRNs to take out on a combat assault. ¶

We came into this village in a six-ship formation. We came in at a pitch hover, low-level, about maybe twenty feet over the hootches. We went into this formation for about a hundred yards. I flew with the flight commander, which was a captain, and I requested the captain to pull the ship up because with our rudder wash we were literally blowing the hootches away. There were tin hootches, straw, and they were being blown down. I could see villagers being hit by the tin flying around — things like that. We were literally blowing the village down. The captain said “Screw it. Blow them all away.” ¶

So we made three passes to pick up — we didn’t take any — we could have taken a different route into this pick-up zone. We didn’t. And we blew about fifteen to twenty hootches away, I would say. ¶

Sort of a harassment of the South Vietnamese civilians.

In December of 1968, in the Cu Chi area, where there were supposedly pacified villages, we went on missions that were called snatch missions. ¶

On these missions, we went within a mile radius of villages, picking up any males of military age — military age being nine to sixty-one or whatever that was — and females. On these missions, we had two slick-birds, two gun-birds, and one light observation helicopter. ¶

We were told on these missions that if a civilian ran, we were to shoot him. Now these — I stress, these were pacified areas; supposedly the people were supposed to be all civilians. ¶

Now, when we went into these areas, we had usually infantrymen on our birds, when we went down to pick up these civilians, we pointed at them; they froze, usually, in the rice paddies. Luckily, none of them ran. ¶

When the infantrymen went down to pick up the civilians, they repeatedly hit them with their rifle butts, they hit them with their fists, they kicked them. If they were girls, it was standard policy to try to rip off their clothing. They dragged them on the ships by their hair or whatever else, and brought them back to the base camp for interrogation. ¶

I don’t know what they went through as far as interrogation went. ¶

Also, while we picked up these civilians, they were holding up their ID cards, trying to prove that they were Vietnamese civilians, and they still were treated in this {4246} manner. They offered no resistance as far as getting on the helicopters.

April 19, 1968, the First Air Cavalry initially assaulted into the As Sau Valley. In that valley, we lost or had heavily damaged thirty-one helicopters, which is something that wasn’t really printed up here — back here in the states. With this loss and this loss of life, the majority of the aviation battalions were very bitter at what happened in this operation. I’ve been on ships and I’ve seen, while flying in the air and while on the ground, ships of guys picking up POWs, wounded POWs, unconscious some, some of them just with their arm blown half off, things like that — slapping the POWs. ¶

On the bird I was flying, at one time we had an individual who was unconscious with a head wound, and the gunner across from me kicked the individual in the head. I went and gave a verbal protest, saying, “You shouldn’t be doing that” — which is really uncommon for me because I thought — I was very well trained in Army procedure and I thought that the only good gook was a dead gook. The pilot told me to shut up, he was trying to make a call in to a ground area, get a ground station. ¶

I’ve seen this done repeatedly. I’ve seen plasma bottles, the tubes on plasma bottles squeezed, for up to thirty seconds to a minute by gunners to keep the plasma from going into the veins of the wounded individuals.

While — December 25, 1968, on Landing Zone Rita in III Corps, we went and we sat down — we were flying log missions for the Army and they had a prisoner in. This prisoner was — had a sandbag over his head. He was repeatedly slapped and kicked around. ¶

They had a hole, right in the middle of the landing zone about three or four feet deep, and it was in the area of where the prisoner was. I asked the lieutenant, the interrogator, what the hole was for. ¶

He called it a “hot pit.” He said — it was out in the open with no shade — he said they used the area, they went and put the prisoner in the hole, they put a poncho over the hole, tried to seal it as much as possible to keep air from getting into it and used it as kind of like a fabricated oven, with the poncho and the hole and the sunlight. ¶

I didn’t see the use of this but they said they were going to use it in the daytime. I had a mission to fly.

While in Vietnam, our fliers indiscriminately used CS and white phosphorous grenades in civilian areas. It was standard while flying back from a mission to drop a CS grenade on the outskirts or inside of a village — harassment of the civilians again. ¶

In December, 1968, I, myself, personally threw at least three white phosphorous grenades into an area east of Dao Tiang, on a mission over a rubber plantation. Now this was at truce time — there should have been no firing, no nothing. Just to watch them explode. I couldn’t say there were civilians in the area — there were hootches and there were people working in the plantation. I couldn’t say if they were there permanently or not, but we just threw them off, just to watch the white phosphorous explode and start fires.

In June and May of 1968, we flew missions — as you’ve previously heard of — into Laos, with reconnaissance, Green Berets, up to a dozen Green Berets, into the area. ¶

We flew these missions out of Wey Phu By area, the same area as the Marine captain told you before, and on these missions, there was complete security — meaning we gave up our dog tags, no identification. Instead of painting over the insignias on the choppers we brought in, we taped over all our insignias And we were told if we went down in these areas — especially our birds — there’d be no attempt to get us out. We would be listed as missing in action since they couldn’t say we were in Laos because they considered that a {4246c2} neutral area. ¶

While flying into these areas we had two blue and grey helicopters following us in, which I asked the pilot, what those birds were. They had no gun mounts on them. And they said they were Air America helicopters following us in — I guess to check out our missions. To make — basically — I guess they figured it was CIA in those birds, that’s what the pilots told me. Now, I can’t be sure.

Moderator.  Are there any questions of Mr. Graham?

Floor.  Yes. Can you tell us anything about who formulates these — who in military command — what branches of military command — formulate these policies which servicemen are requested or forced to carry out?

Graham.  Being an enlisted man, I really — I really couldn’t get into the structure of who formulates these missions—

Floor.  The policies—

Graham.  The policy, yes, I really couldn’t. It may be the battalion — as far as interrogation goes and things like that, I can imagine it’s left up to the company commander or whatever official there is in the area. Snatch missions — it would depend on probably the commander to — on what treatment the civilians got.

Floor.  In other words, as far as you know, no, for example, no Pentagon directive or CIA directive that company commanders should observe the following civilian harassment techniques for the purposes X, Y, or Z?

Graham.  It was more or less free-lance — with the set-up of, the missions, these things had to happen.

Floor.  How so?

Graham.  Well, if you are in a pacified area and you are told to shoot anyone that moves, I mean anyone that runs away from your bird, which could happen, from just fright of a low-flying helicopter, there must be some mistrust generated there and there — you know — thereby beatings would occur with this mistrust.

Floor.  Right. But I mean, who would direct that this should be done? In other words—

Graham.  Like I said, we had — we had two helicopters flying on a snatch mission. One was a command helicopter.

Floor.  Oh, I see. The command helicopter would issue this order?

Graham.  Right — to go down and get these civilians.

Floor.  And who would be on a command helicopter, what type of—

Graham.  I’d say a lieutenant colonel, and a captain, probably a company commander.

Floor.  And that would be U.S. Army or that would be—

Graham.  Army — right. From the infantry units.

Moderator.  If there are no more questions, I think we can, oh, excuse me—

Floor.  Maybe he gave his unit but — would you give your unit?

Graham.  Company B, 229th Aviation Battalion, the 1st Air Cavalry Division.

Floor.  How did you define pacified areas on these snatch missions?

Graham.  Well, these were defined as areas where VC, say, have not been found in the area for the last six months and they could be called pacified.

Floor.  Were there any South Vietnamese troops guarding the villages?

Graham.  Popular Forces, yes. We had no South Vietnamese with us or interpreters on the missions with us trying to explain to the South Vietnamese we picked up that, you know, we’re just bringing you back for interrogation. ¶

They had no idea of what was going on — little panic for the—

Floor.  In the case of Vietnamese prisoners of war, was there any attempt to publish lists of them, to notify their families of what happened to them, by the Red Cross? {4246c3}

Graham.  I really don’t know.

Moderator.  Okay, let us move on now to our next veteran.

Steve Noetzel

Moderator.  Our next witness this morning will be Steve Noetzel, a resident of new York City.

Noetzel.  My name is Steve Noetzel, spelled N-o-e-t-z-e-l. I live in Floral Park, Long Island. I have a family there, three children. I work tor the Bell System, I have a management position at their headquarters, of one of the Bell System headquarters in New York. ¶

I was in Vietnam in May of 1963 to May of 1964. I predate Mr. Martinsen in this area. I have for the benefit of the gentleman who seeks immediate proof of—

Floor.  That’s for all of us, incidentally, at least me and the other gentlemen.

Noetzel.  All right. For whoever. At any rate, my DD 214, which is my discharge papers showing I was discharged in April, or May, of 1964, from the Augmentation Headquarters Detachment, 5th Special Forces Airborne, Vietnam.

Floor.  Could you go over that one more time?

Noetzel.  Yes. Augmentation Headquarters Detachment, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne. I have three commendation letters for my work with the psychological warfare team that I worked in during the year that I was in Vietnam. The first one is from a Theodore Leonard, Colonel — commanding officer of the Special Forces in Vietnam at that time. Also from a major who was a team chief of the PSY war team that I worked in. And also a two-page commendation letter from a — the director of the Combined Studies Division of IV Corps in Vietnam. Combined Studies Division is the Vietnam word for the CIA.

The program that I worked in was under the direct auspices, or was paid for, by the CIA, funded by CIA funds by the embassy in Saigon. But it was handled under the auspices of Special Forces B Team. That’s in Can Tho, which is south of Saigon in the Mekong Delta. ¶

On top of that I have an affidavit and a seven-page — or eight-page — statement that I have given to the Army just this past summer of an Interview. It’s the transcript of an interview that I had with the Army investigator and the Army is supposedly investigating the charges that I have made and will make today at this hearing. This statement was turned over to Investigator William Bass from the Military Ocean Terminal, 12th Military Police Group Criminal investigations, Brooklyn, New York. They’ve informed me that the investigation is continuing.

The work that I did in Vietnam was a PSY war effort, and I need not go into what the specific program was about. It’s not relevant to other things that I saw, that I want to talk about today.  ¶

But the point is that I had opportunity to travel all over the IV Corps area, because we implemented psychological warfare programs in all of the Special Forces A Team detachments in the Mekong Delta. So I traveled with the team leader, a major, and some other people to several or to all of the eighteen locations. And while at these locations for two, three, four, sometimes ten days, we witnessed the day-today operations of Special Forces.

At one particular time, this was in November of 1963, I was going from Can Tho — that’s about 120 miles south of Saigon — to Saigon. At the time I had some business to do in Saigon on a weekend. I had to see CSD people there. At the time you just — you didn’t need orders for anything, you just hitchhiked a ride on any airplane that was going from one airfield to another. You didn’t need to explain to anyone where you were going. ¶

I was waiting for a flight of helicopters at Can Tho, at the airport — I had heard that there was a flight of heli- {4247} copters going to Saigon that morning, and they were transporting some prisoners — sixteen prisoners in all — to Saigon for a rehabilitation program. ¶

I don’t know what they do with prisoners now in Vietnam, I don’t know first-hand, but at that time captured prisoners were brought eventually, after interrogation at several levels, were brought to Saigon for a rehabilitation program lasting six months, and then were released. ¶

Many of the people who captured prisoners were not happy to see them go to interrogation or to reform in Saigon, and then be released.

So in this particular incident there was — I boarded a helicopter. It was a HU I-V, single-rotor helicopter. ¶

I saw them load eight prisoners onto each of two H-21 helicopters — those are the double-rotor, banana-shaped helicopters. These prisoners were in black pajamas, Army issue, brand new, spanking-new pajamas. They had their hands tied behind their backs and they were tethered together around the neck with small pieces of rope about five feet long from one to the other. Eight tethered together went on one chopper, eight went on another. They were guarded by ARVN prison guards, or ARVN soldiers. The choppers of course were flown by American pilots, and they were American crewmen, machinegun crewmen, in the doorway of each helicopter.

I flew in the first helicopter, the point helicopter, and we went — took off from Can Tho and went straight to Tan San Nhut. There was no stopping on the way, all of the helicopters stayed in formation for the entire trip. There was no way for any helicopter to land and catch up with us later. ¶

We had advertised on the radio to Saigon that we were arriving with sixteen prisoners. They had quite a welcoming party there for us — a colonel from MACV and other people from the MACV headquarters in Saigon were there when we arrived at Tan San Nhut Air Force Base. ¶

The helicopters set down and they delivered one prisoner from one helicopter and two prisoners — excuse me, three prisoners — from another helicopter. A total of four. ¶

Of the sixteen prisoners we took off with, twelve were pushed out over the Mekong Delta. ¶

I couldn’t believe it when I got out of the helicopter and saw them delivering three prisoners, who were now untied. They had blindfolds on; they didn’t have them when we started off; and of course they were no longer tethered together by the necks. ¶

The colonel asked the American crewman and the Vietnamese captain in charge of the prison transportation what happened to the other twelve prisoners. And the Vietnamese captain answered that they tried to escape on the way. ¶

I couldn’t believe it. I felt upset, and I went over to one of the door gunners — American door gunners — of one of the choppers. And he looked shaken himself. And I said, “What happened?” I knew what happened but I couldn’t believe it and I said — he said, they pushed them out. And I couldn’t believe — I was dumbfounded. ¶

And he said go over and took at the doorway of one of the helicopters and I went over to one of the choppers and there was flesh on the doorjamb. These helicopters have no doorways, just sort of arches that are open through the entire flight. There was flesh on the doorjamb, there was blood on the floor. ¶

That was the first incidence of prisoner mistreatment that I saw in Vietnam. There were several others.

At a — in January or February of 1964 — at a camp called Tanh Phu, a Special Forces A Team camp — this camp was deep in the Camale Peninsula, the deepest or the southernmost Special Forces A Team in Vietnam at the time. It was completely surrounded by — or, it was in Viet Cong territory. ¶

There I witnessed a public display of electrical torture by American and Vietnamese interrogators. They had two prisoners, one an old man, one {4247c2} a young boy about sixteen years old. ¶

They questioned these prisoners in the open. There were field tables set up. They attached electrical wires to their wrists, necks, bottoms of their feet, and genitals. They asked them questions. ¶

There was a tape recorder on the table — a Sony tape recorder — that was hooked up and running. An American sergeant, Special Forces sergeant, had a switch under the table that activated the electrical shock. The shocks came not from cranks but they were several 6-volt batteries hooked up in series. They told the prisoners through the interpreter that the tape recorder was a lie detector. The prisoners didn’t know the difference between a tape recorder — had never seen a tape recorder. They told them that it was a lie detector and that they were going to be interrogated — and the lie detector would know when they were lying and would give them shocks when they didn’t tell the truth. ¶

In fact, the switch of course was operated by a Special Forces sergeant who held the switch under the table and he just intermittently, not knowing whether they were telling the truth or not, of course, just shocked them at times, and they screamed and jumped up and down when he did this. I don’t know what information they got or even what information they were looking for. ¶

Watching this whole procedure was over a hundred Vietnamese Strike Forces from the Tan Phu area, as well as a hundred or more civilians, standing on a bridge over a canal that is just outside the compound walls, sort of a little hump-back bridge that goes over the canal, and from the middle of the bridge there’s a view into the compound over about a five-foot wall. And they could see in the center of the compound the interrogation. They stood on the top and watched.

Also at that same camp, Tan Phu, they had some barbed-wire cages. They were sort of coffin shaped, there were stakes driven into the ground, and barbed wire was wrapped around the stakes. ¶

When they had a prisoner — they had one prisoner that they had left there for twenty-four hours while I was there. They slid him into this barbed wire cage. He just about fits in, there, laying down. He was nude. Then they wind up barbed wire in the other end of the cage, to keep him in there. His hands were tied behind his back. He stayed there through the day in the sun, temperature of over 110 degrees, and through the night. ¶

They had sprayed something on him to attract insects, and he was full of mosquito bites in the morning, and swollen. If he moved in that cage he punctured his flesh, no matter which way he moved. And by morning he had several cuts, and he was completely swollen from head to toe with mosquito bites. I don’t know what they sprayed on him, but I saw an American sergeant pump some kind of a spray thing that attracted mosquitoes.

At our C Team headquarters in Can Tho, they also used an interrogation method that I watched, where they took Viet Cong prisoners, or detainees, took them to a small rice paddy behind our compound, it was about 4 feet deep, and tied their hands behind their backs, blindfolded them, took them in a little rowboat — and this rice paddy was full of feces and urine because it was the drainage from our latrine went into this rice paddy. It wasn’t any longer a rice paddy. It was filthy and stank. ¶

And they would row them around in this water, and when they refused to answer knock them out of the boat into the water. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they had blindfolds on and they spluttered around until they found out which way was up, and they were finally hauled back into the boat, after drinking I don’t know how much of the water. ¶

Also at Can Tho they had a python snake, which is a constrictor. It was there — it was advertised supposedly for rat control, but many times when they brought prisoners in and were {4247c3} going to interrogate them the next day, they put them in a room, dark room, with the python snake and let them struggle with that thing all night. The snake cannot really kill an adult male, but it can — it does wrap around you and constrict. The Special Forces guys used to have wrestling matches with it.

Floor.  Explain to us just how they’d do that.

Noetzel.  The snake was already in a darkened room—

Floor.  How big was it?

Noetzel.  Eight feet long. It was already in there. And they just walked the prisoners in there and said you’ll have to stay here tonight, walked in and slammed the door shut. That was it. ¶

We could hear them screaming in there almost all night. The snake would attack every once in a while, and if they got it off them it would go back into the corner and coil and jump at them again. It took two or three men to help unwind the thing, given the Vietnamese — given their small stature, and so on. ¶

There was also a snake at several other A Team locations. The one at a camp called Chau Lang was over eighteen feet long. It also was used in prisoner softening-up process.

Floor.  Did they put them in there one at a time with the snake?

Noetzel.  No, there were two or three prisoners at a time in the room with the snake.

The last type of torture of prisoners that I saw, there were some — at one camp called Long Tom there were some VC that had allegedly blown up a road. And they tethered them together by the necks and made them work on the road, repair the road until it was fixed. This took three days. ¶

They had no food until they had it finished, and they were beaten and bleeding while they were working.

Moderator.  Does the press have any questions for Mr. Noetzel?

Floor.  This flight from Can Tho to Saigon when did that occur?

Noetzel.  I don’t know the exact date, it was in November of 1963.

Floor.  What is the — do you know what happened after the brief questioning at the airport by the colonel?

Noetzel.  It seemed to me as if everyone, by the captain’s answer to the question of what happened, everyone understood what happened and no one was going to bring it up any further. I don’t know if it was ever brought up later at MACV headquarters. It certainly was dropped immediately on the air field at Tan San Nhut.

Floor.  Do you know of any time—

Noetzel.  I have never seen any reprisal or any command policy coming down to stop any of the types of torture that I have seen.

Floor.  Did you see any other instances of prisoners being pushed out of helicopters?

Noetzel.  I heard of it, but that’s the only one I have seen.

Floor.  You said this was in November of 1963?

Noetzel.  Right.

Floor.  And how many were on the helicopter when they left?

Noetzel.  There were sixteen prisoners — eight on each helicopter. And when we landed there was one left on one helicopter, and three left on the other.

Floor.  You said you were flying in the point helicopter. Could you see the two helicopters carrying prisoners?

Noetzel.  If I looked back I could see them. I did not see prisoners falling from the helicopters, if that’s what you mean.

Floor.  Did you look back?

Noetzel.  I looked back, occasionally, during the flight.

Floor.  In all these instances on the helicopters, if they were in ARVN custody did they have ARVN guards, who pushed them out the doors?

Noetzel.  There were — you have to understand how this works. In the doorway of the helicopters there’s a bar that’s bolted to {4248} the side, it comes off very easily, with a .30 caliber machine gun attached. For anyone to go out those doors, that door gunner — American door gunner has to either let them out, or has to be taken away, and the gun has to be taken away or they have to be flipped over the gun. There has to be some kind of help or complicity or whatever from the American crewmen.

Floor.  But they had ARVN guards inside”?

Noetzel.  They had ARVN guards.

Floor.  In the place where you had the public display, you had an American sergeant presiding, is that correct?

Noetzel.  An American sergeant was presiding over the interrogation, and there were two Vietnamese intelligence, I think they were officers, or one officer and one enlisted man, helping.

Floor.  You say other cases, such as with the snakes, could that in any way be construed as the work of the LLDB? The Vietnamese Special Forces?

Noetzel.  They worked constantly with us. We all had counterparts.

Floor.  Was it American stimulated or Vietnamese stimulated?

Noetzel.  I honestly can’t — I don’t know how to put the blame for who stimulated what, what kind of—

Floor.  The Vietnamese and Americans were together.

Noetzel.  Always together. Worked very well together.

Peter Martinsen.  I’d like to make one point, if it’s possible to make one point—. ¶

In all the interrogation work I did in Vietnam, and all the interrogation work I witnessed down in Vietnam, there was always a Vietnamese interpreter present, because the Americans could not speak Vietnamese sufficiently well to interrogate effectively. ¶

Now this is often taken by the — well, I don’t know who — by somebody to mean that the Vietnamese are doing the torturing. ¶

This is not the case. The Vietnamese are doing the interpreting. They also may be doing the torturing at the same time, but the Americans are doing it too.

Noetzel.  That’s right.

Moderator.  Are there any additional questions, please?

Floor.  What was your rank in the Special Forces?

Noetzel.  I was a Spec 4.

Floor.  You were actually a Green Beret, you weren’t just assigned to them?

Noetzel.  No, I was attached to Special Forces. I had never gone through their training at Fort Bragg, however, I did wear the Green Beret, and was a Green Beret in Vietnam. I was a member of the organization.

Steve Noetzel subsequently testified at the Winter Soldier Investigation (Detroit Michigan, January 31, February 1-2, 1971).  CJHjr


Edward Murphy

Moderator.  We’ll go on then to our next witness, who is Edward Murphy, Staten Island, New York.

Murphy.  Like the fellows who have come before me I brought my DD 214, and if you want to see this, it states on there that I entered the Army in January, 1967, and that I left the Army in January, 1970. I completed my tour with the Army with the 116th Military Intelligence Group in Washington, D.C., here. ¶

Anyone who watched “First Tuesday,” last night, they saw what Army intelligence is doing here in Washington, D.C. The 116th Military Intelligence Group.

Floor.  When did you go in?

Murphy.  January, 1967, and I got out January, 1970. I did basic training in Georgia, at Fort Gordon. ¶

I was trained as a counterintelligence special agent in Fort Holabird, Maryland. ¶

I was trained for eight months, six hours a day, to speak Vietnamese, at the Defense Language Institute in El Paso. ¶

I was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam in May, 1968, to May, 1969, and in May, 1969, returned to Washington, D.C. I also received {4248c2} the Army commendation medal as the other fellows have.

One of the things I’d like to mention just briefly, I think some of them mentioned before — about the laws, and being trained in interrogation. ¶

What he didn’t mention was that there are two systems of law in the military. One, the second one, especially in Vietnam, besides the UCMJ, you have the second law, which is “Cover you — — .” ¶

You may be trained in the UCMJ, and you may be trained in interrogation techniques, as far as Western civilization goes, but there is also the understood law, and as an intelligence agent you are also trained in that understood law. ¶

We were trained at Fort Holabird that there are some things we do and there are some things we don’t do. That’s on paper. ¶

But in your training you’re taught there are some things you have to do, and if you have to do them, do them, but don’t get caught, because the UCMJ if you’re caught is the instrument of reprisal. ¶

An example is Lieutenant Calley and Captain Medina. Now these men are being tried.

When I was in Vietnam, I was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, and because I could speak Vietnamese, and was the first agent there who spoke Vietnamese, I was assigned to work in a domestic net on the base camp. ¶

And then I started working in liaison with the various police and intelligence units in Pleiku. ¶

As I got to know my way around, and I became more familiar with the CIA and with the Green Berets and the Air Force in Pleiku, I was taken off the job that I was doing, where I was under a lieutenant, and I was made directly responsible to a counterintelligence chief and I became the liaison officer to Pleiku. ¶

Now as you may have noted in the information put out, I was a sergeant in the Army. But like Mike and the other agents, when you’re in Vietnam you don’t wear rank, and you’re just known as Mr. Murphy or Mr. Uhl. ¶

And when I worked in the Phoenix program, every Tuesday I went down to CIA for the meetings, I was the representative, and there was no rank involved there. It was just Ed Murphy or Mr. Murphy. ¶

I worked with the lieutenant colonels in the Air Force, with the Agency, with the Green Berets, with the 525th MI group, as Mr. Osborn’s going to be testifying about the Phoenix program.

I’d like to get into a few things. Although everybody has talked already about electrical torture and physical torture in Vietnam, I’d like to say, just to corroborate their information briefly, that’s all, the use of the field telephone, beatings, the use of scout dogs against people to interrogate them, but I’d like to go on to terrorism. ¶

Now the people talk about the terrorists in Vietnam and how they use bombs — the Americans are also using terrorism. And I’d like to cite maybe one example.

One of our agents went into a village that everybody, in quotes, “knew” was VC. Mortars had come to the base camp from this one village. Agents were saying that VC were in the village, people were cooperating with the VC. ¶

Two agents went into the village one day after mortars had hit us, and 122 millimeter rockets. And they went in with a Grunt unit, and one of the Grunts suggested to the agent a way that he could kind of talk to the people and get the information. And this was the way.

He got the women together and he got their kids. But he kept the kids separate. And they took the kids off to the distance and they said to the women, “Tell us about the VC,” and they asked the regular questions. They didn’t talk. ¶

So they said tell us about the VC or we’re going to kill the kids. They didn’t talk. And the guns went off. And they brought back a sandbag that had something in it, and there was blood dripping from it. ¶

But the women still didn’t talk. I don’t know why they didn’t talk. ¶

They {4248c3} actually did not kill the babies. What they had done, was that they had killed two chickens, and they had brought the chickens back in the sandbag with the blood dripping, leading the women to believe that these were the babies. ¶

To this day I don’t understand why the women didn’t talk. If it had been my child I’m sure I would have talked.

As an example of terrorism, of beatings, things like this— ¶

I was in the hospital, 71st Medical Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku. ¶

One of the people that worked for us was a Montagnard, and he’d been shot down — not shot down, but he was in a helicopter and the helicopter when he spotted some NVA, and he got into a firefight, the guy was wounded really bad, he was hit in the spine and he was in the hospital for about a year. ¶

One of my jobs was to go to see this fellow, who was working for us also, and continue to pay him, continue to get information from him; I spent a lot of time around the hospital there. ¶

One day an NVA had been brought in, and nobody knew what his rank was so the interrogation team from II Corps headquarters came over. The Americans and the Vietnamese — and this was, I think, just before dark, it was starting to get late — and they were interrogating him. ¶

And they were interrogating, say, about where that wall is [twenty feet] and there was a curtain here that they put up, and the night nurse — she was a major — she was sitting within earshot, I’d say from there to here, when they were beating him. ¶

This prisoner was wounded. He was an NVA. They were beating him, we could hear it. ¶

But when you’re in a hospital, I guess, and you’re a nurse, and you see a lot of people coming in that are shot, you don’t really care if they’re beating up a gook, if that’s the way you’re looking at it.

Moderator.  Ed, I’d like to ask you one question. While you were the liaison officer for the Phoenix program for your unit, the 4th Division, what were you told the primary objective of the Phoenix program in Vietnam was?

Murphy.  Well I had some familiarity with the Phoenix program before I went to Vietnam, when we were in Texas some people told about the Phoenix program. ¶

And then when I got to Vietnam, and started to do liaison with the Phoenix, the words were “Neutralization. Neutralization of the VCI — Viet Cong Infrastructure.” On paper this was never really defined further. ¶

But like I said, there are two systems. There’s what’s on paper and there’s what’s understood. And as is in the documents here, it was operationally considered as getting people done away with, getting people blown away if they’re in the way. ¶

An example of when and how this was going to be done was soon after I got into Vietnam, was a guy named Tran Trung Ly. And Ly was a kind of a con man. And he’d been working in various intelligence agencies, and hadn’t been giving very good information, and he was going to be done away with. ¶

The reason he wasn’t done away with was he had a brother who was an NVA major, and the CIA figured they could use him. They’d maybe try and send him up north. To answer the question, I guess it would be to neutralize or to do away with, whatever way you can.

Moderator.  How would the CIA or your unit verify the information that you got or the evidence that a man in fact was a member of the Viet Cong cadre or infrastructure?

Murphy.  Because information is very difficult to verify in Vietnam — the lack of files and things like this — we would rely on the information given by one person, and that person would say another man was a VC or a woman was a VC, and we would accept that. ¶

Just an example of how this misinformation comes about: I only did one interrogation while I was in Vietnam, and it {4249} was a girl who was working on the base camp. And one of our agents had said she was working with the VC. ¶

We brought her in and we talked to her and talked to her and talked to her, and she didn’t admit to anything. ¶

We later found out — what she did finally say — was that the agent had demanded that she had gone to bed with him. ¶

I figured that — it sounded — I figured they picked this up off the Americans, the idea, so that they could get some sympathy, and I didn’t believe it. But I later found out that it was true. ¶

This was the type of information we were relying on — people, other Vietnamese, were getting favors from the Americans, and they’d say to another Vietnamese, ¶

“You’d better help me out or I’ll turn you over to the Americans.”

And the Americans would say

“We’ll turn you over to the Province Interrogation Center, where the Vietnamese National Police can just work on you.”

Moderator.  Do you have any questions from the press, please.

Murphy.  I just want to mention one more thing about the Phoenix program. ¶

People who were Phoenix co-ordinators would come into the country, and they would be maybe a Second Lieutenant, who would be trained in infantry. But because the Army needed an officer for the Phoenix program, this man would be assigned to be a Phoenix coordinator. Most of them had no psychological training concerning the Vietnamese. They had no language training. It would be simple to say they were incompetent.

Floor.  In the summaries of testimony it said that you were going to attest to incidents in which several civilians were killed.

Murphy.  I don’t think that says that under me. You have the wrong one. Is that from Philadelphia?

Moderator.  Edward J. Murphy?

Floor.  Edward Murphy of Philadelphia.

Murphy.  I’m from Staten Island.

Danny Alfiero

Moderator.  Our next witness is Daniel Alfiero from Phladelphia, Pennsylvania.

Alfiero.  My name’s Danny Alfiero from Portland, Maine. ¶

I was a Lance Corporal with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Chu Lai. I was a machine gunner in a rifle company, and what I have to say pretty much reinforces the type of things you have been hearing all day.

First of all, one incident that will always stay in my mind. Returning from a patrol, when we were fired upon we returned the fire, and there were five people in the vicinity. So the lieutenant gave us the order to fire at them. After about a two or three minute skirmish, we checked the bodies and found that they were five girls between the age of fourteen and fifteen. There wasn’t any weapons or any shells or anything. ¶

And so the radio operator called the company CO and told him we had five VC KIAs.

Another incident which I saw a lot of was tearing and cutting off limbs, noses, ears, what have you.

Another one was shooting of an old man in a cave. Somebody had said they had seen two people run in a cave, so the lieutenant ordered us to throw in a CS, which is a tear gas grenade, in there. The man came out with his arms extended over his head, and somebody gave the order to fire.

Another incident—

Moderator.  Would you speak up?

Alfiero.  Another incident: we had set up an ambush outside our perimeter, and another patrol was in the vicinity and by chance they caught the ambush and a few people were killed. ¶

They were Americans, by the way, and the company checked it out and they said the VC had done it.

Moderator.  Are there any questions? Okay. ¶

Well in closing, I’d like to briefly reiterate two short points. Number one, we’re con- {4249c2} cerned here not with the matter of guilt and innocence but with the matter of responsibility. ¶

Who is responsible for what’s happening on the ground in Vietnam?

And secondly, I’d like to reiterate our challenge, our hope, that member of Congress, members of the Senate will come here tomorrow, listen to the veterans who will testify tomorrow and Thursday, question them, and make their own judgments. ¶

Thank you.


Second Session


Moderator.  I’d like to welcome you to the second day of hearings of the National Veterans Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes Policy in Vietnam. ¶

A Pentagon spokesman noted yesterday — that a lot of our testimony he said was unsubstantiated. This is definitely not true. ¶

It is true, however, that the Pentagon and Administration claims that war crimes are isolated, aberrant acts, is unsubstantiated.

Today we will hear testimony on the systematic torture from military intelligence people of Vietnamese civilians and Vietnamese prisoners of war. ¶

{Louis Paul Font}
{16kb.pdf, 17kb.html}

The gentleman who will interrogate our first witness is a lieutenant on active duty, a 1968 graduate of the United States Military Academy, a distinguished graduate, who graduated in the top five per cent of his class — Lieutenant Louis Paul Font.

Font.  Let me state first, if I may, who I am and what it is I am doing here on this interrogation panel. ¶

My name is Louis Paul Font. I’m a First Lieutenant in the United States Army stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, about 20 miles from here. ¶

I’m here today because I feel that this testimony is very important to the American public. I am here because I feel strongly that it is my duty to be here on the panel today getting to the very heart of this matter with regard to war crimes policy. ¶

When I was introduced, it was stated that I graduated from West Point. At West Point I worked very hard. I graduated in the top five per cent of my class. And if there is one thing that I learned at West Point, if there was one principle that was driven into me during those four years, it is that lieutenants do not set policy, and it is that a commander is responsible for everything that goes on in his command. This was told to me time and time again. ¶

I’m also attending this hearing because I’m seriously considering filing some form of charges with regard to the generals and the high command and war crimes policy. ¶

This can be done, for example, under Article 138, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which allows for an individual in the armed forces to put forward a complaint with regard to the activities of his commanding officer. ¶

In my case, at Fort Meade, Maryland, my commanding officer is a lieutenant general, who was in charge of those activities of which Mr. Martinsen is going to speak today — Operation Cedar Falls and others. ¶

I feel very strongly that if Lieutenant Calley is guilty of anything, then the people above him are far more responsible. ¶

And now we’ll go on to the testimony.

Floor.  Pardon me, would you show us an ID card, to prove you are who you say you are?

Font.  Certainly, if you’d like to see one. [Produces ID card.] You’re welcome to come up and take a look.

Robert Master

Moderator.  I’d like to introduce Captain Robert Master, now stationed in Fort Meade, Maryland, and recently returned from Vietnam. Captain Master may be, during the day or during the entire session, asking some questions of the veterans who are giving testimony.

Master.  My name is Robert Master. I am a Captain, medical corps officer — physician — in the United States Army. I’m now serving at Fort Meade, Maryland; I’ve recently re- {4249c3} turned from Vietnam after a one-year tour of duty there. ¶

I’m speaking as one of a growing number of concerned active-duty officers who are rightly appalled at what we consider to be the immorality and criminality of American policy in Vietnam. I’m speaking of my experience in Vietnam where I witnessed the wholesale destruction of the entire fabric of Vietnamese rural life, the creation of a nation of refugees, living in squalor, wracked by epidemics such as bubonic plague, without dignity, without independence.

I speak to endorse wholeheartedly the efforts of those Vietnam veterans who speak up at this time — who I must say courageously speak up at this time. ¶

I want them to know and I want everyone else to know that there are a number of concerned, a growing number of concerned active-duty officers who are listening, who are supporting their testimony and the ends of this tribunal. ¶

It is our hope that the American people will come to realize that war crimes in Vietnam are not isolated, aberrant acts but the inevitable result of a policy which in its direction of waging war against the civilians, Vietnamese civilians, is in itself immoral and criminal.

Peter Norman Martinsen

Moderator.  Mr. Martinsen, would you please give us first of all your name, your age, your hometown, and what it is that you are doing now? Very slowly so that members of the press can get it down.

Martinsen.  My name is Peter Norman Martinsen, I’m twenty-six years old, I am a cost accountant, I work in a non-defense firm in Los Angeles, California. Right now I’m involved in anti-war activities, and I’ll give you my former rank, serial number, and unit. ¶

This is an Army commendation medal, which I received for being a prisoner-of-war interrogator at Vietnam. This is an honorable discharge certificate. I’m honorably discharged after four years of service, 1963 to 1967. This is the actual order for the commendation medal from 9th Division Headquarters, which I was not attached to. I also want to correct a little mis-release in the press release: I was not attached ever to the 101st Regiment in Vietnam, the 541st Military Intelligence Detachment. This is my graduation certificate from the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Prisoner of War Interrogation Force. I can’t think of any more things I can show you. I can show you my DD 214, which is the actual discharge paper.

Now I think that I have given you adequate documentation to show you that I am who I say I am.

Moderator.  Yes. Would you please explain to us, Mr. Martinsen, what it is that you did in the Army, the years and the month and so on before you went to Vietnam, from your induction until when you went to Vietnam. Very briefly.

Martinsen.  I actually enlisted in the Army in June of 1963, was sent to Fort Ord for basic training, was then sent to cook school, was then transferred around from post to post. I finally took what is called a short discharge and re-enlisted, which gave me an extra year in the Army and ended up being in the Army Language School, which was here in Anacosta Annex. I don’t know where it is now, I think it’s at Fort Hood. But I studied Italian there, graduated with honors, and then went to the Army Intelligence School at Fort Hollabird, in Baltimore. This was in — July 15th, I believe, 1966; say 1966. Beg your pardon.

Moderator.  Yes. Would you tell us what preparation you had specifically for going to Vietnam in Intelligence School?

Martinsen.  Well, in the Intelligence School there was very little in the curricula for preparation for Vietnam because Vietnam was not yet big at the time. We had four hours total preparation for Vietnamese-style interrogation, and I cannot say that was in {4250} any way illegal because it wasn’t. ¶

I considered it, as a personal opinion, slightly racist as they kept referring to the Vietnamese as gooks, but aside from that I cannot say anything else. Now I can’t tell you about the full course without, running too long. The course, though, they try and pump order of battle into you, which is what the enemy is doing, how many tanks they have, their troop dispositions, and so on. But it’s primarily oriented towards an Eastern-bloc communist war — against an Eastern-bloc country, or a Russian or a Chinese Communist war; and therefore we use maps oriented toward that area and so on. ¶

Now the interrogator’s bible so to speak, is called Military Intelligence Interrogation FM 30-15. That’s Field Manual Thirty dash Fifteen, it’s classified as confidential by the Army. Now there is actually no reason to classify this manual confidential, which is a low classification by the way. But there is no reason to classify it confidential because it’s quasi-illegal, and that’s why it is classified. But it’s against the law. If you follow me, it’s against the law to classify stuff just because it’s illegal.

But I’ll tell you why it’s illegal. ¶

There is an interrogation technique in there called the Big Brother technique. The Big Brother technique is very simply — as practiced by the police here in our country too — a big man enters the room, sees the prisoner, perhaps throws him up against the wall, beats him up a little bit. Then a little man comes in — he’s obviously of a higher rank — and he berates the big man, and sends him out of the room. And the little man, of course, out of gratitude talks.

Now the Geneva Convention states that you not use force or coercion against any prisoner of war. We’re also taught this in the school, to abide by the prisoner-of-war code, that you do not treat prisoners any differently than really a civil prisoner would be treated in your own country.

Moderator.  Let’s get to the issue of Vietnam specifically. When did you arrive in Vietnam?

Martinsen.  I was sent to Vietnam with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 541st MI Detachment, approximately in the middle of August, 1966. Arrived in country, since we traveled by boat, I believe it’s September 6, 1966 in Vung Tan.

Moderator.  What were the names and dates of the main operations you were involved with? And how large were these operations, Mr. Martinsen?

Martinsen.  Well, at the time we arrived we set up camp in Long Binh, which is very close to Bien Hoa. We staged there, and then we moved out to an area south of Xuan Loc in the III Corps area called Long Giao, spelled L-o-n-g G-i-a-o. And then as soon as we got — finally set up all our housekeeping and at the same time more units were being brought in and beefed up — Westmoreland started these major operations, the first one being operation Attleboro. And we were involved in Attleboro on just more or less a supporting role, because we were an armored cavalry regiment and we were running mainly road reconnaisance. Only one squadron of the regiment was actually involved. I was doing no interrogation work at the time on Attleboro; however, at the time I was doing interrogation work at the base camp in Long Giao.

Now in order to understand the whole context of what’s going to follow, you have to see that the 11th Armored Cav was always in a supporting role. Just called in as Op Con — operational control of somebody else. And they were always Op Con of somebody, and that’s why I managed to get around so much of III Corps area in Vietnam and that’s why I was on all these operations.

Now during this time that we were in the base camp, a good friend was killed when we were convoying out of the base camp, and {4250c2} we felt rather strongly about it because generally military intelligence men are not killed, especially photo-interpreters. And we got a group of detainees in, and let me tell you what a detainee is.

A detainee is not a prisoner, but a detainee is a man or woman or child who is picked up on suspicion and brought in for interrogation. It’s the interrogator’s job to determine just exactly what you have, whether you have what is called a prisoner of war, which would be a VC or NVA; whether you have a civil offendant, which is a person guilty of breaking the laws of Vietnam, perhaps not carrying his ID card around after curfew but not necessarily a VC; or you might have innocent civilians; or the fourth classification, you might have what is called a Hoi Chanh, which is a rallier, a deserter from the other side.

Now we picked up — not we personally but people were brought into us who were detainees, and I saw the use of force, a lot of harrassments, beatings, knives being held to throats, and so on. This is in October of 1966 in the Long Giao base camp.

But one night particularly sticks into my mind as the first night that I really got involved in torture techniques myself, and I was interrogating an older man and he was sitting in a chair, just as I am sitting in a chair here, across the table from me. And there was a lieutenant standing behind screaming at me to “break” the man, “break” being the military intelligence term to break a prisoner, break him down, get the information. And he was screaming to break him, and so I pushed him over backward and I almost broke his neck. But anyway, that didn’t succeed in breaking the man.

I finished that interrogation and I walked across our compound to another tent where interrogation was going on: a man of draftable age, no ID card. We were quite convinced he was a VC. ¶

And I proceeded to beat him with my fists. And you can beat a man senseless with your fists and not leave marks, except for a slight reddening of the skin perhaps. And this went on for some time and I wasn’t getting any effect at all, and the lieutenant came in and — I’m not naming, names, the Pentagon already has the names. ¶

And anyway, a lieutenant came in and he proceeded to beat the man to no effect, and then he wired electrical field phone wires around the man’s left wrist after burning the insulation, and proceeded to “ring him up,” as the term goes.

Now, this didn’t work and the, the man — I said, ¶

“Lieutenant, you can’t do that,” ¶

and he says, ¶

“Well, this man just got killed. I’d rather torture one man than have one more man get killed because of lack of tactical information.” ¶

So anyway, the man. The lieutenant pulled down the man’s trousers and proceeded to touch the electrical wires to the man’s genitals and cranking the field telephone at the same time, giving him very painful shocks; all he got was a lot of “I don’t know’s” and some very violent screams. ¶

I walked out of the tent, saying, “Lieutenant, you just can’t do that.” But the lieutenant was not reprimanded. ¶

This was a First Lieutenant, Army Interrogation Officer.

Moderator.  Would you describe to us Operation Cedar Falls?

Martinsen.  Cedar Falls was the first major operation that I was actually on. ¶

We convoyed to Ben Cat on Route 13 about 30 Kilometers north of Saigon. We set up a base camp. It was to clean out the Iron Triangle. It was designed to clean out the Iron Triangle. And the Iron Triangle was the triangle formed by the Song Be, which is a river running roughly — if I had a map I could show you much better, but anyway. It’s a north-south river, and another river forms a triangle, and it’s a very densely forested area. ¶

There are some towns in there, or there were some towns in there, I should say, and one {4250c3} of the towns was Ben Suc, spelled B-e-n S-u-c, and another one was called Rach Kien, R-a-c-h K-i-e-n. Now this occurred in January of 1967.

Now the operation was designed to bring all the inhabitants out of the area, clear the area so that it could no longer be used as a VC stronghold, because it had been used actually by the Viet Minh and even before that had been used by Viet Cong forces fighting the Japanese, and it was a very well fortified area. ¶

And so, first of all they started the operation with helicopter gunships flying overhead and people speaking to the Vietnamese, telling them to get out of the villages because — and get all their belongings — because they’re going to be moved put, which the people started to do. ¶

And then, a POW cage is what it’s called, was set up, a detention cage was set up, and myself and a staff sergeant from the 173rd Airborne Brigade — and we were op con of the 173rd Airborne Brigade at the time — we proceeded to interrogate this flow of prisoners — detainees, I should say. ¶

Now these were men, women, and children, mainly women, and there were 4,000 of them approximately. I didn’t count them all. But it’s a, physically, an impossible task to screen 4,000 people. ¶

So what we did was, we first of all, we took all the men. There was a captain and a lieutenant actually in charge of us, but they preferred to drink beer during the operation so I was actually more or less in charge of it myself. ¶

So what I did was, I took all the men of draftable age and I immediately turned them over to the Vietnamese authorities, which was kind of strange, an American inducting Vietnamese into their own army. ¶

And then we started screening the women, the visibly pregnant women, the younger women, and some of these we selected for interrogation and some we didn’t. ¶

Then they were loaded on flatbed trucks and taken down to a camp in Phu Loi, which was — I passed it on the way back from the operation, it’s on Route 13. ¶

I looked in it and it was nothing more than a concentration camp, surrounded by barbed wire with machine guns.

Now we had all these detainees and then the operation commenced, and they started taking prisoners. ¶

And they actually were prisoners, they were bound, with guns, and so on. ¶

Also at this time the order was given out — this is now a free fire zone, if it moves shoot it. ¶

So the 173rd was operating in the lower part of the Triangle, and the 1st Infantry Division was operating in the upper part of the Triangle, the 25th was also operating in the eastern — in the western part of the Triangle, rather, and the 11th Army Cavalry was on the eastern part, and we had our base camp set up op con the 173rd on a hill overlooking Ben Cat. If I had a 1 to 50,000 scale Army map, I could point it out to you exactly, where we were.

Now these detainees started coming in and most of them were obviously NVA — not NVA, VC — and I can recall instance after instance of torture, electrical torture with field telephones. Electrical torture. ¶

One man was captured, he admitted to being an NVA, a North Vietnamese Army officer — coincidentally he was the only North Vietnamese we ever captured in the 11th Army Cavalry. ¶

But anyway, he admitted to being a North Vietnamese Army captain. I started to interrogate him, and he was a very high-ranking prisoner, and the word got up to 1st Infantry Division Headquarters in Lai Khe that we had this man. And they wanted tactical information right away and I wasn’t getting anything from him, because I decided to be nice, because if you start torturing, where can you go from there?

Anyway, I let him wash his hands and gave him lunch, and it was obvious he was just playing me for the patsy. ¶

So a Spec 6 and an interrogation officer came in and relieved me and I went out and ate lunch, C {4251} rations, and came back. ¶

And I found the man’s hands had been tied to an Army field table, which is just an olive-drab field table made of wood, with field phone wires, and the lieutenant was placing bamboo splinters under the man’s fingernails. At the same time the Specialist 6 was “ringing him up” around his ears with a field telephone. ¶

Later on, the lieutenant was reprimanded very badly for leaving marks on the man, because the credo of intelligence work and POW interrogation is, you do not leave marks. ¶

Do anything you want, but do not leave marks. In other words, cover yourself.

And this is hence the use of electrical torture and beatings with the open hand. I saw it done on women, I saw it done on young girls, sixteen years old. I witnessed it and I participated in it. I’m not proud of it. ¶

Now any of these things are war crimes, by the Army Field Manual itself, FM 100-51, “The Law of Land Warfare.”

The Law of Land Warfare {10.3mb.pdf/txt, source} (U.S. Army Field Manual, FM 27-10, July 18 1956, and amendedment dated July 15 1976, 3+236 pages) {SuDoc: D 101.20:27-10, ditto, LCCN: 56062174, OCLC: 39027139, GPOCat, WorldCat}CJHjr

Moderator.  Mr. Martinson, would you explain to us please what was the highest ranking military officer that you saw witness these events?

Martinsen.  The highest ranking military officer I saw witness that was the commander of the detachment who was along. He was a major, I won’t mention his name, and he not only witnessed it, he also participated in it himself. ¶

These are specific events. These happened in January of 1966, as I say, about 1 kilometer from Ben Cat, off Route 13 in South Vietnam. ¶

Now this happened in sixty or seventy cases and there was also a case—

Now we were op con, like I say, to the 173rd. We were working with the 172nd MI detachment, which is their military intelligence detachment for the 173rd Airborne Brigade. ¶

One night when we were standing around and drinking beer, a captain came over and says, ¶

“Well, I just lost one.” ¶

And I said, ¶

“You just lost one what?” ¶

And he said, ¶

“Well, I was just wiring him up and he fell over and died.” ¶

And he said, ¶

“The guy was just about ready to break.” ¶

Well, I didn’t actually see the man fall over and die, but I went over and saw his dead body, and I hear the captain admit to me that he was wiring him around the ears and that the man just keeled over and died, those were his exact words. ¶

Now the death was diagnosed by a lieutenant colonel, the brigade surgeon of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, as death due to heart failure. Perhaps it was. ¶

The field phone can’t give a killing voltage, but if a person has a weak heart, it probably will give a killing voltage.

Moderator.  It’s now open for questions from the press.

Floor.  Sir, what did you feel, first of all when you were participating in this torture; and secondly, had you thought about, if you consider these crimes, bringing them to the attention of higher authorities?

Martinsen.  I brought them to the attention of the major. Of course, well, he knew about it, he told us about it himself. It mean, he was there participating himself. ¶

I did not go beyond the major because you don’t rock the boat in Vietnam, because it’s a very lethal place to be. ¶

And aside from the personal stress in going along with the group, and I still can’t explain my actions. I mean, I cannot live with myself as a human being, but I mean that’s why I take tranquilizers at night to sleep. ¶

But still, the point being is that you’d be surprised how many sand bags you can fill and how many dangerous missions you can go on if you start rocking the boat.

Floor.  Then you feared for your life, that was one reason—

Martinsen.  Well, that was one reason. ¶

Another reason was the fact that everybody else was doing it, and therefore if I brought it up, I would be getting some of my buddies into trouble too. {4251c2}

Floor.  What about after you got out of the service, did you think about—

Martinsen.  I thought about it very heavily, yes.

Floor.  Why did you wait so long?

Martinsen.  I haven’t waited long. I’ve been talking about this for three years. ¶

The CID has talked to me about it, and as soon as they advised me of my rights, that I could very well go to jail from what I was going to tell them, I decided that I’d get an attorney and he advised me to tell them nothing unless they grant me immunity. ¶

And I’d be happy to talk to any Senate committee on it, and in fact I’ll even talk to the CID now, if they want to talk to me about it.

Now the CID has come around twice, and they’ve also phoned up my mother, of all things, and “Where is Peter Martinsen?” And she told them where I was, and I phoned them back. This was in Los Angeles. ¶

I phoned them back at Fort MacArthur, and you might write the man’s name down: Major Ledbetter, in Washington, D.C. wanted to talk to me. ¶

And I said — and I don’t know, I think he’s within the First MP Detachment CID — but I told them, I said “I think you can save Major Ledbetter’s time and my time,” and the only way I’ll talk to them is if they grant me immunity. ¶

Now I’m six years, I’m out, there’s actually no jurisdiction over me. So there’s actually nothing that can be done to me personally. ¶

But see, I’m not trying to get individuals scape-goated. Some of these people are still in the Army. Some of these people I’d still like to consider my friends and I don’t want to see them in jail, that’s not the point. ¶

The point is that this policy is tacitly condoned at all levels, and known.

As Congressman Roman Pucinski, who debated me in Chicago in 1968 at an all-boys high school. He said, ¶

“I will have a congressional investigation of this man and show him to be the liar that he is.” ¶

I said, ¶

“Congressman, go right ahead, here’s my name, rank, and serial number.”

Later on the CI — that’s when the CID came around, but they came around nine months later, in November of 1968, and that’s when I told them I wasn’t going to tell them anything because I wasn’t yet completely out of the Army. ¶

And — but what it seems to me, the impression I got, is that they had a can of worms that they didn’t feel like opening.

Floor.  Mr. Martinsen, on this — what is this one incident when you returned to find the NVA captain wired to the field table?

Martinsen.  Yes.

Floor.  And somebody in the process of wiring his ears to ring him up? In both of these cases, was that the lieutenant doing that?

Martinsen.  No, the lieutenant — I saw it, I witnessed it, and the major witnessed it too.

Floor.  Yes, but who was driving the splints under—

Martinsen.  The lieutenant was driving the splints underneath the—

Floor.  And who was wiring him up?

Martinsen.  The Specialist 6 who was the interrogation section leader.

Moderator.  We have time for one more question from the press.

Floor.  That was in January, 1967, wasn’t it?

Martinsen.  1967, yes. Yes that’s right.

{Louis Paul Font}
{16kb.pdf, 17kb.html}

Floor.  Can I ask the lieutenant a question?

Martinsen.  Certainly.

Floor.  Now you say the commanding general in Fort Meade, is that right?

Font.  The commanding general of the First United States Army who is stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, is my commanding officer.

Floor.  He is your commanding officer.

Font.  Yes, sir.

Floor.  He was the man who was in charge of the operation?

Font.  He was in charge of Operation Cedar Falls, sir. {4251c3}

Floor.  Now what are your prospects as a lieutenant under his command now that you’ve appeared at this hearing?

Font.  My military career is ended. ¶

A typical career pattern for me would have been to have gone to Vietnam within the next month or two at least, as a military intelligence analyst, and after that, to come back and work in the Pentagon as an intelligence analyst, or go back to West Point and teach government and political science. ¶

I’m seeking discharge from the Armed Forces because I object particularly to the Vietnam War, not necessarily to all wars.

Floor.  Will you get that discharge?

Font.  I do not know.

Floor.  Do you think this will help you?

Font.  I don’t have any idea. I can’t—

Floor.  Well, do you expect any reprisals?

Font.  No, I do not because I am exercising my constitutional rights. ¶

I’m on leave right now from the United States Army for the last three or four days, and the coming three or four days, so — and, I’m simply speaking out as a concerned American citizen. ¶

This is an issue of concern to all American citizens, and that includes lieutenants in the United States Army.

Floor.  Would you spell your name for us?

Font.  Certainly. F-o-n-t. L-o-u-i-s. My home town is Kansas City, Kansas. I’m age twenty-four.

Floor.  Is this the first time you’ve come out with this, or did you take part in a press conference with the gentleman sitting next to you—

Font.  I took part in a press conference a couple of weeks ago stating that I would be sitting on this interrogation panel, sir.

Floor.  Well, I was acquainted with this gentleman here. I’ve seen him several months ago—

Font.  No, he was not. No, he was not. That was unrelated to the issue here.

Peter Norman Martinsen

Martinsen.  Can I add one more thing, sir, just to straighten the facts out. ¶

Again, the press release says I was in the 101st Airborne. I wasn’t in the 101st Airborne, I was in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and 541st MI, Spec 5. My MOS was the 96-C, which means I was an interrogator, 21, which means I was a linguist, and 3-9, which is the language of the battalion.

Floor.  Is there — do you think there are alternatives to these interrogation techniques?

Martinsen.  Yes, there are alternatives because we found the use of electrical torture was not effective. In other words, if you torture a man he’ll tell you everything he thinks you want to know, and he’ll tell you lies, a pack of lies. And so it develops into a kind of mindless thing, you start ringing the telephone and ringing the telephone and you’re getting more angry and more angry and more frustrated and the telephone keeps ringing, and the man is in obvious pain, screaming and swearing in Vietnamese and so on, and not giving any information at all. ¶

Or if he is giving information, he’s giving false information.

Floor.  What are alternatives?

Martinsen.  What are alternatives? To abide by the law.

Floor.  You could find out these things just by extensive questioning in—

Martinsen.  I cannot think as a professional interrogator — or, as I was a professional interrogator — I cannot think at the tactical field level that I was at, and that was regimental and squadron level which is — in the field, I mean, I cannot think of a quick way to get tactical information without the use of force, except — make an exception, except from a deserter.

Floor.  I’m sorry. You said — just tell me again: when was the date approximately?

Martinsen.  This was in January of 1968, Operation Cedar Falls. ¶

I could go on to Operation Junction City, I can go on to Operation {4252} Manhattan. ¶

In the interests of time, if you want to near about it, fine. ¶

If not — it’s just more of the same.

Moderator.  No, we really don’t have the time this morning, but Mr. Martinsen will certainly be available for interview. He’ll be here all day. Any other questions? We have time for one more question from the press.

Peter Norman Martinsen previously testified at the Bertand Russell Tribunal, in Roskilde Denmark (20 November – 1 December 1967).  CJHjr


T. Griffiths Ellison

Moderator.  Our next witness is a Marine Corps veteran, T. Griffiths Ellison.

Ellison.  My name is T. Griffiths Ellison; I’m presently a business student at the University of Virginia. ¶

I enlisted in the Marine Corps 9 January 1966. I’d like to point out that I did enlist; I was not drafted — under the J program, for a two year tour of duty, and at that time I enlisted for rather patriotic reasons. ¶

One: I’d like to briefly explain my background. I’m a military brat. My father just retired from the Navy. His last position was Chief of Staff, Allied Naval Striking Forces in Southern Europe. So I’ve had some background as far as military life goes, military procedures, and I thought I understood it pretty well when I went into the Marine Corps. ¶

Training in Paris Island was at the time for me rather enjoyable. It was the epitome of military life. It was rather brutal. As a consequence most of the trainees who come out of Paris Island have a dehumanized attitude toward any person that does not happen to be a flag waver. ¶

I went to Vietnam in September of 1966 with the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines Regiment. ¶

We operated on an operation called Operation Chinook I in an area northwest of Quane Tri City in Quane Tri Province. ¶

The area was called Co Bi Tan Tan and I believe Bernard Fall has written a book about that area called Street Without Joy. ¶

It was indeed a street without joy for us. During December of 1966, for three weeks prior to Christmas, we operated under search and destroy. ¶

And what I’d like to do is briefly explain what search and destroy meant to our battalion.

This area was designated a free fire zone. ¶

We were instructed to shoot any moving civilian, whether he was armed or not. ¶

We were instructed to burn down every hootch, grenade every bunker, without giving any warning, destroy every temple, and in fact, on one day which I approximate to be December 11th, we were instructed by our platoon sergeant to dig up every grave we saw. ¶

I was personally ordered — although I questioned this order — to dig up two graves near a hootch that we had just burned down, to increase body count. ¶

We were a new unit in Vietnam and we had to make our name known, and to make your name known in Vietnam, you go for body count. That’s the only way they can gauge this war. ¶

Upon digging up the graves, we found what I approximate to be a young girl, fourteen or fifteen years old, and a very old man. ¶

They were obviously — their deaths were obviously a result of artillery rounds. They were fairly well blown up. ¶

We proceeded in this same manner on Operation Chinook I sweeping the fields, still burning down hootches. ¶

I think, more or less, we were a zippo battalion rather than anything else. ¶

We had very light engagement with the enemy.

One afternoon, rather morning, we had been setting up on various hills — our CP, platoon CPs, command posts, and moving from each hill the next day to avoid being pinpointed by the VC or NVA. ¶

Due to Marine Corps training, we were instructed to bury all our garbage, C-rat cans, anything else, to avoid detection by VC scouts or something like that — although they could see us anyway. ¶

But this morning, that morning, our lieutenant gave an order to our sniper platoon to fire on a hill that was approximately 300 meters from us where Vietnamese civilians were digging up our garbage to eat.

On a search and destroy operation we not only destroyed the buildings but we also de- {4252c2} stroyed any available food supply because it was a free fire zone and anyone using that food was designated a VC, VC suspect, sympathizer, and so forth. ¶

As a consequence, the people that remained in that area were rather hungry, so they were digging up our garbage. ¶

I cannot give an accurate count of the number of people that the sniper platoon hit, but the people certainly got out of that area in a hurry.

About 2 days after that we were on patrol approaching the mountains that border the Co Bi Tan Tan Valley and the As Sau Valley. ¶

Two woodcutters were walking down the trail; they were not armed. We could see that. As a matter of fact, they walked right up next to us. They ran. And we fired upon them. One was hit, rather seriously wounded, and after a delay for interrogation was sent back to the battalion aid station.

Moderator.  Griff, did you ever witness the torture of prisoners while you were in Vietnam?

Ellison.  I was transferred to 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, because they had to balance 326 for rotation purposes. ¶

We went out on what is called a Medcap operation, medical aid operation south of Quy Vet River in February of 1967. ¶

We approached a village and gathered up every male that looked like he should have been in the ARVN Army or else he was a VC sympathizer and at that time, South Vietnamese interrogators who were working with us bound up two men, up against a tree, used fine wire, stripped como wire, you know, I believe it’s copper inside of it, I’m not sure, but they stripped the rubber casing off the como wire, wrapped that wire around these men’s wrists, and with a various set of tools, started pulling, tearing the flesh. ¶

At that time, the battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel, was present at those proceedings; and I don’t know what kind of intelligence they got out of it or not.

Moderator.  Well, Griff, we’ve heard a lot of testimony about the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, as a consequence of the free fire zone, search and destroy and so on. From your experience who did the command in Vietnam — who did the soldiers in Vietnam consider to be the enemy?

Ellison.  One of the things that happens, especially to Marines going over there, they have very intense training to build up esprit de corps. ¶

Prior to our leaving for Vietnam, in Camp Pendleton, our battalion commander addressed the troops and referred to all Vietnamese saying, ¶

“The only good gook is a dead gook,” ¶

therefore justifying increased body counts — you kill anything that has slant eyes or a slope head.

Moderator.  Did this apply to Viet Cong or North Vietnamese?

Ellison.  No, there was no differentiation whatsover between the South Vietnamese population and what ever troops — I believe the term now is the “other side” troops — were operating in that area. ¶

Matter of fact, I think this is one of the main causes for a disproportionate body count that includes civilians, because when operating under free fire you have this attitude that the only good gook is a dead gook, so you’re going to rip him off regardless of whether he carries a weapon or not.

Moderator.  Well, can you — in the interests of time I would like to open the floor to questions of Mr. Ellison by the press at this time.

Floor.  What’s your father’s name?

Ellison.  Well, it’s obviously Ellison.

Floor.  What’s his rank?

Ellison.  Captain.

Floor.  What’s his first name?

Ellison.  Thomas.

Floor.  Did he know you were going to testify here?

Ellison.  He knows I testified in Richmond, and he doesn’t necessarily agree with my {4252c3} feelings about this, but then again that’s understandable.

Floor.  What was your father’s position? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear it.

Ellison.  Chief of Staff of Allied Naval Striking Forces, Southern Europe.

Floor.  Navy rank?

Ellison.  He’s a captain.

Floor.  He’s retired now?

Ellison.  Yes, he is.

Floor.  Those orders of “the only good gook is a dead gook” — did they originate with the officers or with the men?

Ellison.  No, I think this is a necessary — in order to conduct this war, anyway — this is a necessary Marine Corps policy whereby we dehumanize an enemy, we dehumanize a people because we really don’t know who the enemy is over there. ¶

In fact, one thing I’d like to address some of the press on is that I was at Con Thien, the siege of Con Thien, my capacity at that time was a squad leader and I can verify the intelligence was rather poor. ¶

Regardless of how often we fired upon hills, the fire was returned. ¶

In fact during Operation Hickory, my unit spent four days trying to take a Hill 117. ¶

There was a great bit of rebellion, although I don’t think it ever reached the press because a lot of us refused to go up the hill the third day. That same hill, the squad — my squad — in fact, lost over half of them — why I was — I received a minor wound at that time, nothing to speak of, but 2 weeks later, when we were on Con Thien itself, we received fire from that hill, so that was sort of standard operating policies and procedures we had over there.

Floor.  Well what happened when you refused to go up the hill? Did you eventually go the third day or what?

Ellison.  Well, what happened is we told the company commander, unless he was going to go up with us, we weren’t going to go, because the whole time he was sitting back in the back trying to direct troops. ¶

On the first — excuse me, the second day, we were up there, we were pinned down on three sides, and he was down there telling us to charge bunkers and he was at the bottom of the hill. We thought that was a little ironical. ¶

I think he got a silver star of that action.

Floor.  Did he eventually go with you all up the hill the third day?

Ellison.  I don’t know. I didn’t go up the hill the third day because I was out, I was evacuated.

Moderator.  One more question from the press before we move on.

Floor.  I was wondering, were there any measures to destroy the food supply, was there defoliation in this free fire zone also?

Ellison.  Yes, as a matter of fact, we called napalm up on as many feasible rice fields as possible. We napalmed rice fields.

Floor.  Was there ranch-hand defoliation?

Ellison.  What was that?

Floor.  Defoliation, where the C-130s come over with defoliant?

Ellison.  I really don’t know because we had just come in-country and we were all rather green at the time. I don’t know, I wasn’t aware of things like H and orange being used at that time. Although it was used extensively in Northern Corps when I was up there.

Ed Melton

Moderator.  Our next Vietnam veteran is Ed Melton who served some time as a corpsman in the Navy.

Melton.  My name is Ed Melton. I was with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines — 1st Marine Division — as a Navy hospital corpsman with a Marine Infantry unit. I arrived in Vietnam on July 28, 1968, and left July 1, 1969. ¶

I think the whole point of emphasis that I’d like to make is that my unit was about as average an infantry unit as you could imagine. And my experiences are as average {4253} as the experiences of any infantryman in Vietnam.

I was four months in the field until November of 1968 when on Operation Mead River I was wounded in action, spent three weeks in the hospital and then was released back to my battalion rear area to allow me to convalesce another month since I couldn’t walk. ¶

While I was back there, there was a POW camp for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong prisoners. It was directly contiguous with the battalion rear compound there.

Matter of fact—

Moderator.  Where was this?

Melton.  This was about ten miles southwest of Danang in an area right adjacent to a large area known as Dodge City. They had several operations there since then. But it was while I was there at the BAS recuperating — I was on crutches — that the doctor there, the battalion surgeon, suggested that we ought to go down to the prisoner-of-war compound and check on the medical conditions down there. ¶

We hadn’t heard anything — and this was right in the wake of the Operation Mead River, which I had participated in, and there were a great deal of people down there. ¶

The compound itself was very small. It was only about the size of half this room. It was barbed wire, and machine-gun posts at all four corners. And so we went down there one day in the jeep, and took medical supplies with us. ¶

And the strange thing about this prisoner-of-war compound was most of the people in there weren’t prisoners of war, they were women and children. There were some wounded Viet-Cong, some wounded North Vietnamese, but most of the people there were detainees.

I think one of the people yesterday explained exactly what detainees are. They are just people that are picked up in areas, mostly civilians, women and children, maybe some old men, and oftentimes there’s not even a question of whether or not they’re Vietcong, the question is just: maybe they’ve got some information that the Americans can use. ¶

Well, this really wasn’t a prisoner-of-war compound, it was a concentration camp, a small concentration camp which was filled about five times its capacity with people. ¶

And in the building itself, there were about — I described the size of the building — there were about, I’d say, over a hundred people in these, the majority of which were women and children. And there were only — well you can imagine how many beds there would have been, how many cots in a compound the size of half this room.

Moderator.  What sort of medical care were these people receiving?

Melton.  They had received none at all. ¶

As a matter of fact, most — the operation at this time had been over about a week, and I remember most of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese still had battle dressings put on them by the North Vietnamese medics. But obviously they were a week old. Most of the wounds had maggots in them. ¶

They had received no medical care since arriving at the American facility. ¶

For women and children there was only one latrine. The sanitation conditions were appalling, obviously.

These people were really glad to have someone, you know, finally to give them some care because they’d been totally neglect medical-wise. There were children and women with horrible sores on — anyone who has been in Vietnam knows what kind of sores I am talking about, these inflammations that you get from being over in a moist, tropical area. ¶

And so we did what we could to treat these people, and attempted after that, while I was there, to basically provide some sort of on-going medical assistance, but we received no encouragement at all from the battalion staff. ¶

It was something we basically had to do on our own, and I got the impression from the guards at the prison camp that they would just as {4253c2} soon that we left these people alone and didn’t give them any medical care at all.

Moderator.  Were these guards Americans?

Melton.  Yes, they were. ¶

I remember them bringing one — we had to bring one of the wounded North Vietnamese officers up to the battalion aid station to treat him, and two prison guards came with him, and they were beating him and trussing him up the whole way, and they brought him in — and I told the guard just to get out, we’d take care of him. ¶

And he said something to the effect that it didn’t really matter because after these people were treated and after the Americans had gotten what they wanted out of them, that they’d be turned over to the, I believe, the Vietnamese National District Police, and that if they couldn’t get what they wanted out of them they’d just kill them. So—

Moderator.  Ed, when you were in the field you had opportunity to work on Medcap and normal ground operations. Could you briefly describe what a Medcap operation is, considering time limitations, and specifically the incident that you detailed to us earlier?

Melton.  All right. A Medcap is just an abbreviation for Medical Combined Action Program, and what it’s basically — it’s an attempt at civic action, or that’s the ostensible purpose. ¶

It’s really civic propaganda. You go into villages with medical care and you try to treat everyone in the village. You try to get in once a week, and you stay right in the center of the village and all the people come to you that need to be treated. ¶

But here again, this is another example of how a basically humane institution such as medical care which could do a lot for the people over there has been perverted to the uses of the U.S. military policy over there. Because the basic problem with this is that no one really cares about treating these villagers. They’re just looking for the propaganda value in it. You’re totally unable to provide any really thorough or real follow-up care.

Most of these people have things like tuberculosis, venereal disease — which is I think largely an import from the United States — infections of different sorts, vein varicosities — especially the men at a very young age — a high infant mortality rate, and yet these are the things that never get treated. ¶

My experience was that the Americans — what they do is they like to do things like repairing cleft palates because this is a very symbolic thing. You can take someone with cleft palate and operate, and restore the person’s looks. And this is something that outwardly looks very nice. But actually it’s not much at all, it really doesn’t do much. I mean, it’s a good thing to do, but in terms of the real medical needs, they’re not being met at all. ¶

There is no attempt to meet these needs. There is no attempt — ¶

You’re not allowed to give villagers medicines for more than two days at a time because everyone says they’ll turn them over to the Viet Cong. ¶

So what you do is you find someone with a bad infection and sometimes, maybe, you can get them into the Danang Hospital for Vietnamese, but usually you just have to give them as large a dose of penicillin as you can and hope that it works out, because you may not see them next week. ¶

In short, there’s just no follow-through in medical care at all, and it doesn’t meet the medical needs of the people over there at all.

Another example of perversion in medical care was, before I was wounded we were on a sweep southwest of Danang, and we were going — it was an area that we weren’t familiar with. ¶

We were op con to another battalion, and we were moving through a village-hamlet area, there were several villages sort of connected together. ¶

Some of the men in my platoon thought they saw some movement in a tree line and fired into it. It was a little girl and a water buffalo. It killed the water buffalo and wounded the girl in the {4253c3} leg. It was not a mortal wound, but it was a very painful wound and a wound which would have been infected, which did I’m sure become infected.

She was obviously in need of medical care. The parents were crying, they were very worried, and I wanted to call a medical evacuation helicopter to send her back. You know, get her in a hurry, we couldn’t, that just do the best we could. I’d just have to put a battle dressing on her and — she was in a great deal of pain, and I kept insisting on calling a helicopter. ¶

Finally he told me to shut up and do what I was told, so I put a battle dressing on and gave the girl a little — just enough morphine to stop the pain. And we had to move on. ¶

I’m quite sure that the wound and the pain — it was an open wound that had no bone involvement but it did lay the flesh open — and I’m quite sure that the wound became very badly infected after we left.

Floor.  How old was the girl?

Melton.  I would estimate about thirteen.

Another thing that happened while I was recuperating back at battalion aid station is that there was a vill about — I guess about a mile away — that everyone claimed was a Viet Cong vill. And yet for some reason or the other — you know they were always getting a few sniper shots from them when troops would go by there on patrols, but never anything really big. ¶

Well, it was known, though, that the brass in our battalion wanted to get the Viet Cong in the vill. ¶

It’s very strange: while we were there on a routine mortar fire mission at night, five mortar rounds fell in this village and there were very few young men there, but they brought in I believe women and children. There were fifteen very badly mutilated women and children and another five who were brought in dead. I don’t know how we — we did what treatment we could for the fifteen and sent them on, we never heard whether they made it. Many of them had lost one arm, two arms, an arm and a leg. Most of these were children and women, and a few old men. ¶

It just — you know, it was just suddenly in the middle of the night, these mortar rounds came in and killed these people.

The rationale behind it was that these had been short rounds and they’d accidentally fallen short on the vill. ¶

But I talked to several members in the mortar squad and they said that the ammunition they were using they knew was faulty, and they had told the executive officer of the battalion about it, and he told them to go on and use it anyway that people were the most expendable thing in Vietnam. ¶

So I don’t know whether there was any — whether this was purposely, whether these rounds were fired purposely into the village, but they were fired with knowledge beforehand that they were faulty and could very well fall short.

Another time while I was convalescing — I only spent two months back at this BAS and all these things happened while I was back there, so I would imagine they were pretty much standard operating procedure the whole time. ¶

An old woman was walking along the road right outside our battalion area, and she was run down by a truck. And they brought her in and she died at the BAS. There was nothing we could do for her. ¶

But the road wasn’t crowded. I don’t know if the truck driver, you know, meant to run her down, but there was never an investigation launched. ¶

He had no remorse about it at all. It was just another gook who got in the way, you know, and “sorry about that.”

Moderator.  Are there any questions from the press?

Floor.  I’d like to know, what was your impression of the general attitude of the American medical corps toward treating Vietnamese? {4254}

Melton.  The doctors that I served with — I served with four doctors over there, of which three of them were superb doctors and very compassionate, and were very much concerned with treatment of Vietnamese. ¶

But here again they were limited very much by official policies, so there was only so much they could do. ¶

And here again, whenever — the medical service over there is considered only an adjunct of the official military arm, and whenever you start trying to do something, which is almost always going to run counter to military policy over there, you’re going to be told to shut up and mind your own business. ¶

You know, leave the war to the soldiers and you just patch them up. ¶

That was my experience and that was the experience of the doctors I served with. I think the attitudes among the doctors varied a lot. But at any rate, regardless, a doctor no matter what he feels is very limited, he’s hamstrung in doing anything at all for the people.

Floor.  I wonder if you could give us examples of these official policies?

Melton.  All right. One policy was that — our battalion aid station was in a very good area to treat people. It just happened to be in the center of a rather populous rural area. That is, there were villages radiating out from our area. ¶

Our doctor there wanted to institute a sort of a relay station for all people in the area. You know, to come to, to get medical care as a sort of an intermediate step between here, there, and the hospital. ¶

That way we could keep records on these people. We could have — we could provide some sort of care, you know, some sort of follow-through care. ¶

And this was knocked down by the battalion commander because he said he didn’t want all these people coming into BAS, you know, the battalion aid station. That a lot of them might be Viet Cong, and saboteurs and sappers, and this, and he said he just didn’t want these people inside the compound. ¶

So I think that’s a primary example right there.

Floor.  What did you call that program, Medcap?

Melton.  Medcap, that’s correct. A Medical Combined — no, Medical Civic Action Program, or Medical Combined Action Program. It’s called both, I believe.

Moderator.  Any other questions from the press?

Chuck Hamilton

Moderator.  Our next veteran is Chuck Hamilton and he was in the Navy.

Hamilton.  My name is Chuck Hamilton. I’m an art student at the University of North Carolina. ¶

I joined the Navy on September 26, 1966, and I left the Navy on June — July, pardon me — July 6, 1970. During this time most of my time was spent on board a support oiler, the U.S.S. Ponchatoula. I was a second-class gunner’s mate, E-5. ¶

Most of what I want to depict to you is about my training.

When I was a gunner’s mate — they had a gunner’s mate school in the Great Lakes. The instructors there tried to dehumanize the Vietnamese. It was a process that they didn’t tell us any difference between, say, a Japanese, a Filipino, a Vietnamese, a North or South Vietnamese, they were all jokingly referred to slant-eyes or gooks. ¶

It was an accepted thing to say that the only slant-eye you can trust was a dead one; or things like that. ¶

We were shown Korean kill-team movies for entertainment. There was — when the instructors were not prepared on their lesson plans, they would show us these flicks. ¶

And this was all done in a jovial manner. Everybody was happy and there wasn’t anything to say that was bad.

We had a lot of discussions about CBU’s, which were the rounds, anti-personnel rounds that had one explosion and then there would be other explosions. This is all anti-personnel, and it was the favorite rounds of most of the instructors there. ¶

They {4254c2} liked this because they could tack people up with it and tear them up, and it was a good round to throw in when you didn’t want to spend a lot of time shelling and stuff like this.

After that, when I was on the Ponchatoula, I had volunteered all this time to go on PBR’s, which is patrol boat rivers. ¶

It’s a small riverboat which has twin .50 caliber machine guns on the front and I think an M-60 in the back, maybe a .50 in the back also. ¶

So I was very interested in going to Vietnam. A lot of the people I came in contact — a lot of the gunner’s mates had been to Vietnam, and when I was on the Ponchatoula I found out a lot of the policy. ¶

There was a third class gunner’s mate that had fired during the evenings, when it was pretty boring. He’d only been in twenty-seven fire fights, and to him that was pretty boring. And in the evenings when he was in Vietnam and it was boring and they didn’t have anything to do, he would fire tracers out of the .50 caliber machine guns into villages, just to see the arching effect and the way the rounds — the white and all that stuff — the way they hit the ground and the villages and stuff like this. ¶

I also know of incidents where the second-class gunner’s mates had thrown grenades into sampans and stuff like that, just without checking them. ¶

It was just that they weren’t supposed to be on the river at this time or something like that, and they would just go by, swiftly run by, and it was kind of like a big war thing for them, you know, to ride the boats by real fast and then to throw grenades into these sampans. Things like that.

Moderator.  Any questions from the press?

Lee Meyrowitz

Moderator.  Our next veteran is Lee Meyrowitz.

Meyrowitz.  My name is Lee Meyrowitz and I served with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, C Company, 502nd Infantry, in Vietnam, from 1965 to 1966. ¶

I was a point man, and for a while I was a squad leader when the other squad leader was shot, and for a while I was a fire team leader. ¶

I did not spend my whole time in the infantry. When I first went to Vietnam, it seems that — I had one semester of college education, so — they made me a clerk because I had intelligence. That was a farce, and I made very conscious efforts — and I have to stress this, I made a very conscious effort to get to an infantry unit because I was trained as an infantryman. ¶

There is also a very elite esprit de corps in the 101st Airborne Division, which almost forces you to somehow prove something.

Well, on the times that we operated — we operated in an area called II Corps area which is — we operated from Tuy Hua south to Phan Diet, west to a place called Non Koh, which is on the Cambodian border, and north to a place called Dac To. We were the first unit to enter Dac To.

Most of the things that happened I know — we spent the majority of our time in Tuy Hua, which is on the north above Nha Trang. And while there we worked on search and destroy missions. ¶

And on one specific occasion, on a search and destroy area, we opened a new area of which it was told to us it was all VC, and I quote that: that was “all VC”. ¶

It wasn’t called free-fire zone, and this was 1965 and early 1966, it wasn’t a free fire zone but all VC, everybody was a VC. ¶

We moved in, landed, went to a village. The village was occupied by women, children, old men. We proceeded to search the village, sack the village, destroy the rice crops, burn the village to the ground. ¶

We did not evacuate the people, we did not provide for them in any way, shape, or form. They were VC. We left the village, moved on in the search and destroy mission, and in no way do I know of was there any effort to evacuate the people or re-establish their village. {4254c3}

Floor.  Do you know the name of the village?

Meyrowitz.  I do not. I’ll tell you the God’s honest truth. I do not know the name of any village on any grid coordinate that I was at. We were given — many times we were given grid coordinates, maps that were wrong and inaccurate, and the only time that I can name names is the major area we operated in. ¶

The 101st operated as a pet unit to General Westmoreland, who was a Division Commander at Fort Kemble {sic: Campbell}, Kentucky. We operated strictly from rucksack. The base camp for the 101st was Phan Rang. They landed there around July of 1965, they did not see that base — when I left Vietnam in December of 1966, they had not returned as major unit to that base. ¶

We operated strictly out of forward base areas, we operately strictly out of rucksacks, we operated strictly in terms of twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five day operations, with re-supply of C rations every five days.

OK. I was in C Company. C Company had an excellent reputation as a fine, fine, respectable killer unit. We were told that we were one of the best units, best battalions in Vietnam, that we had highest body count, highest captured weapons — which were the first two standing orders, were body count and weapon count. ¶

When I came to the unit — and let me say one thing on this unit. This unit was the unit that was commanded by Captain Carpenter, if you remember at Dac To.

Floor.  Five-oh-dence?

Meyrowitz.  Five-oh-dence.

And there was a company commander before that time, in 1965 before December — there had been some mutilations of bodies and I think it was south of Ben Hoa or Ben Cat when they were pulling some assistance with the 173rd, they mutilated bodies. ¶

And the company commander had given an order that everybody was to carry hatchets to mutilate the bodies. The company then became known as Hatchet Company. ¶

This was found out by General Westmoreland, and General Westmoreland stopped it but not — after it had occurred, the action was completed.

Floor.  Could you please go over that again? You carried hatchets—

Meyrowitz.  I did not myself, not myself. In 1965 before I got in the unit, as related to me by men in the unit, C Company was known as Hatchet Company. They did carry hatchets. The company commander sanctioned it, and it was only stopped by General Westmoreland himself.

Moderator.  Let him continue his testimony and we’ll get into press questions afterwards. All right?

Meyrowitz.  As I said before, while in Vietnam the first thing the radio said — or clamored — was, “What was your body count?” ¶

Now there’s three specific instances I’d like to relate about body count. ¶

One was in an operation when we came upon a VC village, supposedly, in a dense forest, jungle, and we found four graves. I was then ordered to dig the graves up, which I did. There were four males, fairly recently buried, and they were called in as body count. These are conscious efforts to add to the figures. These people could have died from anything else but they were body count.

The other thing is on an operation: we were in a plain, on a hill. Our sergeant spotted a man, I won’t say VC, and in black pajamas. He told us that he was a VC, and in some insane moment we ran after the man, did not attempt to capture him, made no attempt to capture him by words or actions, and shot him and killed him and called him in as a body count. For those people in the audience, I consider that a war crime atrocity, because I shot him.

Another instance I know of specifically. We were operating — one of the sergeants in {4255} my platoon was very highly decorated, considered to be an extremely good sergeant. Out of frustration and anxiety, I don’t what the psychological principle would be, he found a man, I think in around his fifties or maybe sixties, and stabbed him to death, I think approximately sixteen times was what the story — I did not see it, I was on my position, but the rest of the guys told me what happened. And the lieutenant allowed it to happen without reporting it. The man was not a VC, he was a villager. He was called in as a body count.

Another instance is the handling of prisoners. I think there is one thing you have to understand about Vietnam, that it’s — and I hate to reiterate this thing — but it’s an agrarian country, an agrarian society. Most people in the countryside don’t necessarily have cards, they live out in the countryside. ¶

We came upon four men and a woman dressed in black pajamas. And it seems it’s an equation that exists in Vietnam: If you wear black pajamas you’re a VC. Well, if anybody knows anything about the culture of Vietnam, they should know that white is the color of mourning, that white is only worn by the schoolgirls. But in the U.S. Army, black is the equivalent of VC. ¶

These four people began to run away from us, which was many times a natural reaction. We did not shoot over their heads to stop them but we shot at them, wounded one man. We captured them, called in for a helicopter. The one man was wounded, the dressing was just dressed. There was a woman with them and when we called in the capture of these people, the woman was equated as prostitute. We had no proof of that, but she was called a prostitute. And these four men were called VC, we had no proof of that. ¶

The helicopter came in and we then proceeded to put the man on the helicopter. I was — myself and another man took the wounded man — he was not Medivacked out, he was taken out in a helicopter — and I proceeded to throw the man on the helicopter. That I consider to be mishandling of prisoners of war, more than likely, under the Geneva Convention.

I must reiterate something about myself. Before I went to Vietnam I had or was going to get a principal appointment into West Point. I went to the United States Military Academy Preparatory School at Port Belvoir, Virginia, and many times throughout the Army I was constantly pressured to go to OCS or flight school. ¶

I also must say that the 101st Airborne is an extremely elite-type unit operating many times in an elite-type status, and that I was an infantryman far, far away from the mainstream of major decision-making processes. So what I saw, as Ed stated, were pretty much average-day occurrences in an infantry unit.

Moderator.  Questions from the press?

Floor.  This incident in the village where you sacked everything and then moved on, did you ever do that again?

Meyrowitz.  We didn’t burn the villages, but we kind of wrecked them up pretty good sometimes. The battalion — the battalion commander found out about it and somehow the word came down that we weren’t to do these things any more because the burning left too many traces. We could wreck them up a little bit though. These were implicit, not explicit, orders, and no, we didn’t burn them again.

Floor.  What was your attitude towards all this at the time? These are second thoughts now.

Meyrowitz.  Very much so. I go to school at Chapel Hill, and I teach. I’ve been giving discussion classes on Vietnam and a girl brought this question up the other day. ¶

And at the time, somewhere in my cognitive structure I felt that something was not in balance, and I don’t know why I continued, but it seems that when you’re twenty miles out {4255c2} in the jungle it’s very difficult to throw down your rifle and say I’m leaving. It’s a hell of a long way back, eleven thousand miles, and I haven’t been able to walk on water. ¶

But it seems that when I went to Vietnam, from the community I came from, I sincerely believed I was helping the Vietnamese free themselves from aggression, to keep their institutions democratic and allow them the freedom of decisions to decide what their fate may be. ¶

When there I saw that lies were perpetrated upon me. ¶

But I didn’t realize things until I got back to the United States. And the whole time there, I justified all the means to reach a certain end.

Moderator.  Are there any more questions from the press?

Floor.  Yeah, could you give us your age and rank?

Meyrowitz.  I was a Specialist Fourth Class, E-4. My age is twenty-five, and I go to the University of North Carolina, where I’m a student.

Floor.  And your unit?

Meyrowitz.  Was the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne, C Company, 502nd Infantry.

Floor.  What was the certain end you say you justified all the means by?

Meyrowitz.  I think it was the fact that I had been told somewhere along the line that we were helping the people. You know, we were helping them to free themselves from communist aggression. ¶

And I would — myself, I was brought up in a small town where everything was put in a Manichean dichotomy of democracy–good, communist–evil; and I think you’re inculcated with that, and propagandized with that idea. ¶

I sincerely believe that I was programmed to think like that, and didn’t realize it until after the actions had occurred, which were just completely unnatural actions. ¶

I never thought I could kill a man, and I did. And I don’t understand why. He was unarmed, completely unarmed.

On other occasions if somebody was firing at me I’d think it was something different, but this man was completely unarmed. And that — it’s murder in its truest sense.

Floor.  Do you think we could have got it if you would have done it in this way, spared the villages, spared the people and not shot that man, if the whole Army would have pursued that course, and then you could have gone about your fire fights, do you think that would have been effective?

Meyrowitz.  What I think — do you want me to say this, I’ll say what I think was effective. ¶

I see no legal, moral, ethical, diplomatic, right, privilege for the United States to be in South Vietnam. ¶

Since I’ve come back to the United States, my major area of studies is Asian studies, and I’ve done a great deal of research and reading and listening and talking, into the why, wherefores, and hows the United States got into Vietnam. ¶

They’ve progressed from a state of just advisers to a state now of war. ¶

And so I sincerely believe that even if these incidents hadn’t occurred, and I had been just a straight infantryman with nothing happening to me, I’d still feel the same way. ¶

That it’s an illegal, unmoral, unethical act.

Floor.  Don’t go there at all, don’t even bother to attempt the military problem? ¶

Is that what you’re saying?

Meyrowitz.  I’d say yes. ¶

America has no right to intervene militarily in that country.

Moderator.  All right, in the interests of time we’ve got to move on.


Third Session
{Day 2 p.m.}


Moderator.  The Congressman-elect from Maryland, Parren J. Mitchell, is here to listen to the testimony and perhaps make a statement. He also represents today Representative John Conyers of Michigan.

Our first witness this afternoon is Doctor Gordon Livingston {Iraq, copy}, a 1960 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. {4255c3}

Gordon Livingston {Iraq, copy}

Livingston.  My name is Gordon S. Livingston. I have proof of that in my driver’s license. I don’t have any of my military documents, so that what I say in that regard has to be taken on faith or checked upon.

I graduated from the Military Academy in 1960, went into the infantry, served with the 82nd Airborne Division as a lieutenant. ¶

In 1960 through 1962, I applied for and received a five-year leave of absence without pay to attend medical school at my expense. I graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, and following that took an army internship at Walter Reed General Hospital. ¶

I volunteered for service in Vietnam with the understanding that I would return to Walter Reed following my tour to undertake a residency in psychiatry. I received training in the Foreign Services Institute, a State Department affiliate, before going to Vietnam, which included 150 hours of language training. I also received training at the U.S. Army Aviation School as a flight surgeon. ¶

I went to Vietnam in 1968, with the rank of major, and was assigned as regimental surgeon of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, at that time commanded by Colonel George S. Patton III. ¶

Although I went to Vietnam as I guess what might be described certainly as a career officer, and with what might be described as a qualified supporter of the war effort there and with some sense that I had perhaps something to contribute in a useful way, what I found when I got there was that the rationales which I had been led to believe justified our presence in Vietnam — essentially being two in number, that we were there to ensure self-determination to the Vietnamese, and, secondly, to prevent a communist takeover in that country — were in no sense justified or vindicated by the nature of our effort there. ¶

Now we’ve all heard testimony this morning of the most heinous and brutal war crimes. I can add to that testimony to a degree from my own personal experience, but I don’t want my message to be lost in recitation of yet other forms of violence toward the Vietnamese. These occur, and have been documented well, and I’ll document at least one instance of that in my testimony. ¶

But what is more important, and what I want to do most of all is broaden the scope of what we’re talking about to include the other, more pervasive forms of dehumanization which mark our — characterize — our presence in Vietnam, and which lead, and which create a climate in which the extreme sorts of cruelty, which we’ve been exposed to today, can occur. ¶

This spectrum of dehumanization of which I’m speaking might be seen to start out at the level at which the Vietnamese can be thought of — as they are by practically all Americans in Vietnam — as being of no consequence, as being subhuman in some sense. ¶

And, for example, of being referred to as gooks, and slopes, and dinks, and of being treated at best in an indiscriminately inhumane way, whether it’s in a fashion that our troops drive, or indiscriminate firing into villages, or whether it’s the more calculated kinds of atrocities that we have been talking about today. ¶

But what I want to do and what I want to say, is to emphasize that these atrocities, which are obviously, I guess, the primary interest, of the greatest sensation value, do represent just one manifestation of this very, very broad spectrum of this inhumanity and dehumanization that marks our effort there and makes a mockery of our national objectives.

Now, specific examples from my experience in Vietnam, include such things — and show the breadth of participation, the fact that it’s not just a few GIs here and there doing it, but a very pervasive kind of thing. ¶

For example was an incident in which a helicopter pilot in our unit, flying a low-level reconnaissance — one can imagine how low {4256} level by my telling you that he ran down two women who were riding bicycles down the road. ¶

Now, it’s difficult to establish whether or not this is an accidental happening. I can tell you from my interview with the pilot that he himself was somewhat in doubt. ¶

What was clear however was that he attached no significance to the act, and what was clear in the subsequent events is that the Army didn’t either because what happened was that these women were killed — absolutely innocent civilians — and the pilot was temporarily grounded, a board of inquiry was convened, and he was exonerated. ¶

And there was never any real doubt about that issue. It was not considered, you know, to be a terribly important thing.

During a period of my service in which I served as a medical officer in the emergency room of the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, one evening a young boy who had been hurt in an automobile accident was brought in, a young Vietnamese boy. ¶

It was the obligation of American military medical installations to provide care to any Vietnamese who was injured as a direct result of American action. ¶

If it was not a direct result then it was up to the discretion of the surgeon in charge whether or not the person would be treated. ¶

The nature of this boy’s injury were fracture of both bones of the lower leg, of which one of them was very badly comminuted and exposed. ¶

It made it clear to me that unless he obtained very definitive orthopedic surgery the leg would be lost. We had the capacity to provide that surgery, the orthopedic surgeon had nothing else to do, and refused to perform the operation. The nurse announced the boy’s arrival as being that of just another gook, and the surgeon refused to operate. The boy was evacuated to the province hospital and there’s no doubt in my mind that he lost his leg as a result.

Some of the more calculated forms of brutality, as we go up the scale, I guess could be illustrated in a couple of slides that I have and we might now show. Slide 1.

This occurred on an operation conducted by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in the village of Hoa Loi I in December of 1968. ¶

The prisoner being tortured there was a detainee from the village and the people administering the water torture — that is, pouring the water successively over his mouth and nose to induce a feeling of suffocation — are members of the National Police field force. ¶

These are South Vietnamese troops, but what is significant is that this was a small detachment of South Vietnamese who were working for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and this activity was sanctioned by American officers up to and including the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. ¶

The American involvement in this fits, of course, with the sorts of things we were talking about earlier today where the Vietnamese sometimes are the instruments through which the brutality is mediated, but the American involvement cannot be avoided.

And now I’d like to see that other slide. Slide 2.

I think it becomes explicit in this slide, when the intelligence gathered in this case was the revelation that there was a bunker nearby which the prisoner stated contained two of his fellow VC and offered to take us to the bunker. ¶

You’ll note in that picture the distinct absence of Vietnamese. As we began to approach the bunker, the gentleman in the center in the camouflage fatigues carrying the shotgun is an American National Police Field Force adviser, a civilian. ¶

When I approached him about the earlier water torture and my feeling that this was in direct violation of a whole bunch of rules of warfare, he seemed surprised at my raising the question and stated that it seemed like a moot point to him since when they got the {4256c2} prisoner back to province headquarters they would subject him to what was euphemistically described as the “Bell Telephone Hour.” ¶

And I think considering the testimony we heard this morning I don’t need to expand further on what that meant. ¶

The other Americans are evident in the picture and I think make the point that I’m trying to make, which is that the level of involvement of Americans in this kind of thing is evident.

So, and then let me give you one final instance of the pervasive nature of this involvement. ¶

I think everyone has some sense of the physician’s role as being that of a noncombatant. It’s so defined in the Geneva Convention. ¶

But I will tell you of a conversation I had with a medical corps lieutenant colonel, who at that time was the chief of anesthesiology for U.S. Army Vietnam. ¶

At the time I had been ordered by my commanding officer to inquire about the possible use of sodium pentothal in the interrogation of prisoners. ¶

When I approached this medical corps anesthesiologist about that he said that he would certainly be happy to assist us in that regard, but that his suggestion was that we might use Sucsoneal coline, which is a drug administered during specific surgical procedures which has the effect of paralyzing all the voluntary muscles in the body — the most profound effect of which, of course, is to stop respiration. ¶

The nature of the drug is such that it can be titrated in very small quantities, it is quickly reversible so that the effects of it can be transient, and his view was that this would be a very effective interrogation technique, to inject a small quantity of this into the prisoner, producing this paralysis of the respiratory muscles, reverse it, and prolong it as necessary to get the information. ¶

Well the fact that the proposal was not transmitted by me and was not acted upon, at least in my area, I think does not alter the main point, which is that everybody, literally everybody, is involved in this. ¶

And to say that the people who commit war crimes or who conceive them represent a small, aberrant minority is really what I think is very incorrect. ¶

I think it’s a very pervasive and widespread kind of ethnic {sic: ethic?}, and has very important psychological roots in how the whole war is being run in terms of disregard for Vietnamese lives, indiscriminate destruction, and so on and so on. ¶

But that essentially is what I had to say about my time there.

Moderator.  Gordon, as a principal staff officer for Colonel George S. Patton III, what was his attitude toward the treatment of prisoners and to the Vietnamese in general?

Livingston.  Well this raises another issue, which is the role of the professional military. ¶

It’s easy to make a whipping boy of the professional military for what has happened in Vietnam, and in a sense unjust because the professional military has been asked to execute an essentially — in many ways, an impossible kind of mission. They’ve gone about it with the traditional military techniques, and the price for the nation has been very high indeed. ¶

Now I think Colonel Patton represents the prototype of the professional military persons. That is, the individuals who as individuals have profited very highly by what has happened in Vietnam. ¶

That is, when they say, for example, that no one hates war worse than the soldier, well all right, now, when you’re a Pfc, or a specialist 4th class in the middle of the jungle, I think that’s easy to support, but if you’re a professional officer then Vietnam’s the road to success, there’s no other way to look at it. ¶

One goes over there and gets the requisite command time, gets the requisite number of decorations, and his career is a success — and can’t be a success without them. ¶

Therefore there’s a great deal of clamoring for things like command time and so on. ¶

Well I think also what it produces is an emphasis {4256c3} on some method by which a commander’s performance can be assessed, and that criterion in Vietnam happens to be the body count. ¶

And regardless of what protestations are made about the importance of the pacification effort and so on, the fact is that score is kept on the basis of the body count. ¶

This is what Colonel Patton was interested in, and this, I think characterized our failure. ¶

And I’ll cite one example of what I’m talking about in terms of prisoner interrogation. ¶

Although Americans are flown directly to large evacuation hospitals by helicopter when they’re wounded, North Vietnamese and VC who were wounded were brought to our regimental command post, where I was asked to provide some level of care, obviously not definitive surgical facilities or anything, but just intravenous drips and morphine, and whatever, to stop the bleeding, so that they could be interrogated. ¶

Well a wide variety of things happened. There was an essential conflict between my perception of the issue, which was to provide medical care, and the command perception, which was to gain intelligence information. ¶

So that for example on one occasion I was told by Colonel Patten when I informed him that a seriously wounded prisoner in my opinion was not likely to survive a lengthy interrogation, his response was, we just need to keep him alive for a few moments so we can question him, and after that he can die, it doesn’t matter to me.

Well, that kind of an attitude is what I’m talking about. ¶

And the fact that I don’t have any stories to tell of Colonel Patton personally torturing prisoners, or personally shooting a wounded prisoner or anything like that doesn’t alter the fact that when the pervasive kind of attitude toward the war finds that sort of expression, then all the excesses that we’ve been hearing about today are inevitable. ¶

There’s no way to get around them. ¶

So it’s — even the chaplain was involved. Even the chaplain was asked to pray for a big body count, at the nightly briefing, which, you know, for anyone who’s read Heller is straight out of Catch 22. In that case it was a tight bomb pattern; in Vietnam it was a big body count. And he did so — which is more important. ¶

But — and again now, what I’m trying to show is that the involvement here is very, very broad, and it does no good to just select out a few people who personally participate in excesses.

Moderator.  Questions from the press?

Floor.  In the nature of our relationship with the Vietnamese, on the example of the water torture there, did any American officer have the authority to stop the Vietnamese village policeman?

Livingston.  Yes, and in fact did, eventually. It was stopped when a sufficient protest was raised, and it was stopped by an American. ¶

But the fact was that it had been tolerated up to that point, so that it was clearly an American operation under American control, and the South Vietnamese police were acting under our direction, that’s right. So that there was no doubt about who was in charge of the operation.

Floor.  Aren’t there many instances where torture is condoned because we just have to hand these people over to the Vietnamese and it’s their show and not ours?

Livingston.  Well, that’s the rationale. ¶

But as demonstrated in the slides, we’re perfectly willing to make use of the information gained, so that while we may — if we’re not pouring the water that may give us some sense of being in some way not morally involved, I guess what I’m trying to point out is that that is really the ultimate in self deception, if we really believe that.

Floor.  Where is Colonel Patton now?

Livingston.  He’s a brigadier general now, and I don’t know where he is. He went from Vietnam to the Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker. {4257}

Floor.  He was a lieutenant colonel at that time?

Livingston.  He was a full colonel.

Floor.  Can you tell us about the chaplain praying for a big body count in more detail. When did this occur?

Livingston.  Well, it occurred, I think, about February of 1969, and the specific words of the prayer went as follows. ¶

The standing order of the regiment was to “find the bastards and pile on.” ¶

That was printed on signs in every bivouac area. ¶

And that, in fact, is what the chaplain prayed for when asked to pray for a large body count. He said, ¶

“Help us, Oh Lord, to fulfill the standing order of this regiment. Give us the wisdom to find the bastards, and the strength to pile on.”

Floor.  When was this?

Livingston.  February, 1969.

Floor.  Would you repeat that again — slowly, slowly.

Livingston.  “Help us, Oh Lord, to fulfill the standing order of this regiment. Give us the wisdom to find the bastards and the strength to pile on.”

Floor.  Did anybody say Amen?

Livingston.  Everybody felt amen. I think I—

Floor.  Was that true about his Christmas cards?

Livingston.  Yes, well the Christmas card is another issue. Again, all of these things being in a way symbolic, but I think illustrative. ¶

Now the Christmas card being referred to was in the Christmas of 1968. Colonel Patton was given by the commander of the reserve cavalry troop a color photograph of a North Vietnamese bunker that had been hit by a 750-pound bomb from a B-52, and what it essentially showed were a series, or a collection of dismembered bodies lying near a shell crater. ¶

It was in full color, and Colonel Patton was sufficiently impressed by this photograph that he placed it on a Christmas card over the inscription “Peace on Earth, Colonel and Mrs. George S. Patton,” and sent it to a variety of people, one early recipient being General Creighton Abrams. ¶

When General Abrams saw the card, he, I think as Colonel Patton did not, quickly appreciated the explosive political implications and ordered him to stop sending them out. ¶

So that I think probably a total of perhaps ten or fifteen were sent out. But again, now, the significance is what kind of a view of the world does that imply, to be able to do that sort of thing. ¶

That was written up in the New York Times Magazine. ¶

I think Jack Anderson got a hold of it, and so on.

Floor.  What Christmas was this?

Livingston.  It was Christmas of 1968.

Moderator.  One more question from the press.

Floor.  In your references to Colonel Patton, was that a quote you were talking about?

Livingston.  Yes. ¶

“Just keep him alive for a few moments, few minutes, so we can question him. After that he can die, it doesn’t matter to me.” ¶

That is an exact quote. I wrote it down at the time. ¶

I wrote down a lot of other quotes too, but because as this became more and more evident what was going on, it just obviously deserves some documentation, and so I kept a rather meticulous journal, and wrote down those things at the time they happened, so that I would not—

Floor.  Do you remember what the body count you were supposed to get was at the time of that prayer? Evidently there was some kind of quota or something like that.

Livingston.  No, to my knowledge there was never a quota established in that unit. The body count was rewarded, but I don’t think we ever got any directives to produce a certain number of bodies each—

Floor.  Did you hear any references to the use of anthrax on barbed wire? {4257c2}

Livingston.  No.

Moderator.  Okay, in the interests of time we’ve got to move on.

Floor.  Are you a doctor now?

Livingston.  I’m a resident in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Moderator.  Thank you, Dr. Livingston.

Greg Turgeon

Moderator.  The next witness is Greg Turgeon, of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Turgeon.  My name is Greg Turgeon, and I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1966, May, for two years. Went to San Diego, Camp Pendleton, for basic training, graduated as a rifleman, and then had two months of language training in Camp Pendleton — Vietnamese — and was sent to Vietnam. ¶

I arrived in Vietnam in December 1966, and left Vietnam in January 1968. My function — maybe I should tell you what unit I was in. I was in 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine, 1st Marine Division. ¶

It was an infantry battalion, and I was part of the S-2 section, intelligence. My formal title was sort of a Scout-Linguist, and what that meant was, I was supposed to act as a relay for intelligence from the line companies back to battalion. I also had responsibility for anywhere from one to three Kit Carson Scouts — which were Viet Cong defectors who worked with us — and worked with the line companies in their combat patrols and operations.

First thing I’d like to say is that it doesn’t take any inhuman being to perform the acts that everybody has been talking about so far. I consider myself an average person, and I consider most of the people that I worked with in the Marines average people.

The first incident I’d like to relate happened about March 1967 on Operation De Soto, which was in around Duc Pho area. We had captured — not captured, we had picked up some people, detainees, about three men, age about thirty or so, and we began questioning them. ¶

During that time a helicopter flew in and our battalion commander, who was a lieutenant colonel, came down, and was interested in what information we were getting out of these people. We weren’t getting very far at all. We were beating them slightly at that time. ¶

He instructed me to take one of the prisoners down into this ravine with this scout dog, which is like a German shepherd. It was a vicious dog, it had to be muzzled all the time. ¶

We brought this prisoner down into the ravine. His hands were bound behind his back, and then the muzzle was removed from the dog and he was shoved into the dog. The dog leaped on him and started biting him and this kind of thing.

This did not result in any good information either, so the colonel instructed one of our combat engineers to take some detonation cord — which is a cord about the size of this wire here, it’s an explosive in itself. He was to tie it around a tree, set a fuse and blow it up. The tree maybe was about this big around [gestures with hands, showing diameter of approximately seven inches] and it toppled over. ¶

Then the combat engineer was instructed to tie another piece of det cord around the prisoner’s neck, and attach about a minute fuse to it. The pin was pulled and the fuse went and by this time the prisoner was willing to talk, and it was taken off. ¶

That’s one instance of the type of technique which was sanctioned — not only sanctioned but ordered — by a lieutenant colonel.

I was in on quite a few interrogations. Most of them were out in the field. They were just preliminary interrogation to more or less determine who I thought was suspicious enough to be sent back to a professional interrogator. I was not a professional interrogator. ¶

But I have witnessed on one occasion, about May of 1967 in Dai Loc area, a professional interrogator to use the radio to get information. The crank radio, with elec- {4257c3} trical wires hooked up to this person’s ears to get information. ¶

But most of the time it was just beatings and this kind of thing to get information out of somebody.

To get off the treatment of prisoners — these people, by the way, I should mention, were just detainees; and all that means is that they may know something about Viet Cong activity. Maybe there were some Viet Cong moving in that area, and these people were living in that area, and we assumed that they might know something about the Viet Cong. It did not imply that they were Viet Cong or were sympathetic to the Viet Cong, but just that they knew something about their activities. ¶

These were primarily what the professional interrogators interrogated. ¶

Very seldom did we pick up any actual hard-core Viet Cong or NVA.

I’d like to move on out of the treatment of POWs a bit — except for one more, excuse me, one more incident which happened about October 1967, and we were on a patrol and we picked up an old man about sixty years old, and he was beaten to death on the way back into the compound. He was just a suspect. There was no real information about him that would lead us to suspect him as a Viet Cong, and we just told — the person who had beat this person to death — just told the officer back at base camp that this person had fallen off the tank.

Well, there’s many, many incidents I could recall, but it’s just repeating most of the things that have already been said by everybody else. And so I’d just like to leave it here, and — anybody have any questions?

Floor.  You said that you don’t characterize yourself as an inhumane man. Now how do you explain how otherwise humane people commit inhumane acts?

Turgeon.  Okay. Well, I think it’s mainly what I call brainwashing in the military training, and also that most of the people are pretty young and easily impressed by any propaganda that the military might give them. And it’s just the whole nature of the war, the atmosphere, etc., that just makes an ordinary person degenerate.

Moderator.  If there are no further questions, we’ll go on to the next witness, Richard Altenberger.

Richard Altenberger

Moderator.  Richard, would you first state your name and unit, and the time you were in Vietnam?

Altenberger.  My name is Richard Altenberger. I was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, separate, in Vietnam from May 1965 to August 1966.

Moderator.  Would you just briefly describe some of the experiences in Vietnam with your combat unit?

Altenberger.  Well, I was with the Aviation Brigade, and when I first arrived at Bien Hoa with the brigade, in May, I was a driver for the aviation battalion commander, and every day the commanding general of the brigade would have a briefing. ¶

After several months in Vietnam, after one of the briefings, our company commander came back to our hootch and he said that the general put out that whenever a unit would go through a village, nothing would come out alive — animals, domestic animals, cattle, crops, everything would be destroyed.

I had some slides, but they got misplaced so we can’t see them.

And then I was, I transferred onto a helicopter as a door gunner, and I seen the general’s orders carried out. ¶

They’d go into a village, burn it down. I can’t say I seen any women or children executed, but villages were destroyed. That’s about all my activities over in Vietnam.

Moderator.  Could you give us approximate dates, within a month or so, of these policies of destroying these villages?

Altenberger.  The approximate date would {4258} be about the end of July, when the order came down that the villages would be destroyed.

Moderator.  What area of Vietnam, roughly, was this policy carried on in?

Altenberger.  Well, we were in the Bien Hoa area; we worked in the Ben Cat area. Three times we went into the Iron Triangle and cleaned it out — every time it was supposedly cleaned out.

Moderator.  Are there questions for Richard?

Floor.  What happened when you came into a village and you found a population?

Altenberger.  I was not with the infantry, I was in aviation, I flew with the general in his helicopter.

Floor.  Did you ever hear him, give any orders, from the air, the aviation helicopter, as to what to do with the civilian population?

Altenberger.  No, the general was on a sidebeam radio, which he had — he was in contact with his ground troops and only his ground troops could hear him.

Floor.  I’d like to pursue that just one step further. Did they ever send helicopters down to remove the people, make them into refugees? Was that your experience?

Altenberger.  We have moved refugees into camps — take them out of villages and put them in camps.

Floor.  Did you ever hear the general ask for larger body counts, or make references to torture, or the use of the field telephone, any things of this sort?

Altenberger.  No.

Floor.  Did you ever hear the general make statements to things that you now feel were wrong?

Altenberger.  No, except to annihilate villages.

Floor.  What did the general say?

Altenberger.  Well, like I said. At this briefing he said all villages, domestic animals will be flattened. Animals, people — nothing would come out alive.

Floor.  As a door gunner, what orders were you under?

Altenberger.  Well, as a door gunner, we were instructed not to shoot until we were fired upon. As I say, my experience in Vietnam was very limited compared to the fellows that talked before me. Flying with the general, you don’t see much action.

Moderator.  Can we have one more question?

Floor.  When you were flying with the general or in any other command-post-type vehicle, did your craft ever receive orders or a request to come into a heavy fire zone and evacuate American wounded, and then refuse to do so?

Altenberger.  No. As a matter of fact, I’ll put a point in for the general. He went in and took some people out.

Floor.  Did you ever carry prisoners of war?

Altenberger.  No.

Floor.  Were you a door gunner on a CFC ship, a radio ship?

Altenberger.  Yes.

Moderator.  Okay. I’m sorry, we’re running so far behind, we’ll move to next witness, Bob Connelly, and then after that we’ll have a presentation by the two psychiatrists that are on the schedule. I’m sorry for these changes, but the session this morning was longer than we anticipated.

Bob Connelly

Moderator.  The next veteran who will be testifying is Bob Connelly. Bob, would you state your name again slowly, and tell us who you are?

Connelly.  My name is Bob Connelly, I was with the 2nd of the 8th Cav, 1st Air Cav Division. For the first nine months, nine and a half months over in Nam, I was an infantryman, and the last two months I worked with G-2 division headquarters in Phuc Vinh, and I was working as an operations {4258c2} secretary keeping the daily journal. I was over there from April of 1969 to April of 1970.

I’d like to start out with the first incident I saw over there which was on LZ Carolyn, and it was on the date of May 6th and 7th. ¶

We came under a ground attack on this LZ. It started at 1:00 at night — which was a habit they had, of starting late — and it went till 5:00 in the morning, when dawn started to come. ¶

After that we kept out {sic: up?} our artillery barrages called blocking forces to keep anybody from clearing out of the area until we could get enough daylight to move out. ¶

When the daylight did come, we moved out and we started rounding up, counting the dead, rounding up wounded, and taking prisoners. ¶

Out of this there were thirty prisoners taken, but there were also between fifteen and twenty prisoners that were killed in the field there. ¶

They’d come out of their foxholes in the field there, like they’d come out of their foxholes or whatever they were in and they’d start yelling “Chieu Hoi, Chieu Hoi,” which is “surrender,” and they’d start yelling this and they’d get shot down — depending on who was there and what their feelings were. ¶

And a lot of the wounded were, just weren’t bothering with, so they were eliminated too. ¶

This kind of thing carried out more or less while I was there. ¶

We took about ten prisoners the whole time I was over in Nam and out of the ten of them, five of them were killed out in the field before they were even evacuated, depending on whether we had a place to move them out or if we’d have to carry them with us for a while. ¶

If we had to carry them with us for a while, it just wasn’t worth the trouble. ¶

And we had out of these one that was wounded, was Medvacked; and as soon as they left the ground, they were gone for about a minute. I was operating as platoon RTO at the time on the Medvac net, and I received a call from the helicopter pilot that I could increase the body count by one from this ambush, because the man had fallen out of the helicopter.

Moderator.  We heard Professor Neilands speak to the problem of tear gas and CS gas used in Vietnam. ¶

Did you have any experience with that while you were over there?

Connelly.  Yes, I did. ¶

Well, as our unit went, which was typical of the cav, every person in the unit was required to carry three gas grenades, CS gas grenades, plus we had the grenade launchers which also carried ten rounds of CS. ¶

And then we had this new thing that came out, which was a tube about this long, about three feet, and it was called persistent CS, and any time we came across any kind of village-bunker complex or anything else, we popped a fuse on it and left it in there. ¶

This stuff we were told was supposed to last from six to nine months, depending on the weather and when the monsoons came. ¶

And we used the stuff extensively, and, like, if we’d get a contact, like in a bunker complex; this happened four or five times, the first thing we would do when we opened up, we’d fire CS into this, and start calling in artillery and then just lay on a barrage of small-arms fire with the machine guns and weapons, and as we did this, as they came out of the bunkers from the CS, we just cut them down.

Moderator.  When they came out of the bunkers, how were they coming out? Did they have their weapons, were they firing, or—

Connelly.  Every now and then one would come out firing, but the majority of the time they’d come out there, they were holding their eyes, they couldn’t see what they were doing. They were coughing, gagging, screaming, and we got them.

One thing that I found as a discrepancy is when I got this rear job back at G-2, in the operations center. I was typing up the daily journal, which is the 1st Air Cav’s history and becomes a permanent record on operations of all troops for the day, and where the units were located, what their plans were, and {4258c3} everything else. This stuff was coming through me as a clerk back there. ¶

While I was out in the field, we had a Chieu Hoi bird, which is a psychological operation in which they try to talk them into surrendering, and if they surrender they send a bird down to pick them up and take them in for interrogation and then put them in a POW camp. ¶

Well, while we were out in the field I was on the battalion net — this is this platoon RTO again — and word came across on the net: there were fifteen of these people out in the field. They wanted to know if we could get to them. ¶

We were three klicks away and couldn’t, so then there wasn’t any way they could get the bird down there, because they were in a small field down there, waving at it. ¶

So they called in a cobra gunship, and then it was fifteen KIAs. ¶

When I went back to the rear, it had no mention of the Chieu Hoi bird or anything. When I started going back through the old journals, looking up actions and such I’d been in out in the field, it just had down: the gunship spots fifteen NVA in the field, fifteen KIA.

Also, another discrepancy I ran into over there was, we were operating off LZ Becky, around the end of August — this was in III Corps, Tay Ninh, in the Fishhook area. It was heavy concentration of NVA there, and it was right near the Cambodian border. And we logged up and we moved out, and we were sitting within a klick of the border, and we’d send two platoons over at a time for five-day periods on this log. We did this for three times. ¶

The platoons went over into Cambodia, they went in about 1 to 2 klicks, and as they’d set up at night — the reason I know it was Cambodia was since I was platoon RTO, I was map man and called in our night locations. ¶

So we called in artillery fire, got the spotting rounds, then I figured out the coordinates, plotted it on the map, and called it in for a night log so the battalion would know where we were at. ¶

Well, somewhere along the line things got switched around, because when I went back to division headquarters and looked it up, the coordinates had us anywhere from 1 to 3 klicks inside of Vietnam. We had never left Nam as far as they knew. Somewhere along the line between battalion and division something got changed around.

And another difference I found back there was like on body count. Like we’d get one killed out in the field, and back there they’d have two or three marked down on the daily journal.

Moderator.  Are there any questions?

Floor.  Throwing CS gas in bunkers — was this part of your training in this country?

Connelly.  The only CS training I had in this country was in basic, when they gassed us in a gas room.

Moderator.  If there are no further questions, we’ll move along.

Robert Lifton

Moderator.  Our next presentation will be given by Dr. Robert Lifton, I believe — who recently — in January, as a matter of fact — spoke before Senator Cranston’s subcommittee on veterans affairs. ¶

Dr. Lifton is a psychiatrist, well known. He has written several books, one was the winner of the National Book Award in science, that book was Death in Life, Survivors of Hiroshima. He’s also the author of Revolutionary Immortality. ¶

Dr. Lifton is here to speak to us and speak directly to the psychological problems involved in the soldiers’ committing war crimes in Vietnam.

Lifton.  Let me first just give you my background, and then maybe a few general remarks or observations on the psychological issues, and I hope you’ll raise questions of your own. Some of you have already raised in connection with other, people’s testimony, and I’ll try to speak to those. ¶

I’ve lived and worked in the Far East for a total of about seven years over the past eighteen or so, mostly in Tokyo, in Japan and in Hong Kong, {4259} but I’ve also made two trips to Vietnam, one far back in 1954 and one during the summer of 1967. ¶

I’ve also served as an Air Force psychiatrist in the Korean War. ¶

My kind of work that I do in general has to do with psychology in history, and the interplay of the two, and also with what we call extreme situations, situations that are unusually intense and that deal with death, and with life and death situations. ¶

And that includes work I’ve done in Hong Kong with Chinese thought reform, or so-called brainwashing, and also includes the work I did in Hiroshima that was mentioned, study of survivors of the bomb and psychological effects of the bomb. ¶

In addition to that, during the last year and a half or so, I have talked extensively to Vietnam veterans, mostly in informal dialogue rather than in a formal research fashion, about their experiences in Vietnam. ¶

I’ve tried to understand these from the standpoint of the psychology of the survivor, which I’m much interested in and tried to develop in my work on Hiroshima. ¶

Right now I teach at Yale Medical School as a professor of psychiatry.

I want to say first that one way to look at what goes on in Vietnam is to see the entire situation there as atrocity prone. It is an atrocity-prone situation. ¶

As so many men have said here so truly today, it does not require an abnormal person to commit atrocities. Atrocities are the norm, they become the adaptive, the well-adjusted form of behavior in Vietnam. ¶

One has to get a picture of ordinary moral standards being turned on their head, so that in many ways it takes the unusual man — somebody who is in some way idiosyncratic or not too well adjusted — to avoid atrocities. ¶

This is really turning things directly on their head.

I had occasion to talk to a man who had been at My Lai, who had not shot at all, and sure enough it turned out he was not too well adjusted in many ways. He was kind of a loner. He was not in with his group. ¶

So one has to get a picture of a total reversal of ordinary standards both morally and psychologically. ¶

This results from many things, including the sending of young Americans to a very alien place, fighting really against the ordinary people of a country, and being able to make no distinction between ordinary people and guerrillas or so-called enemies.

One point to make that I learned in my talks with returning Vietnam GIs, veterans, is the extent to which some of these atrocities were committed as in a dream, in a kind of dreamlike state. ¶

That is, when they would describe what they did or saw, groups of people would be going about in a situation where they weren’t focused sharply on the details of their landscape. ¶

Of course they knew what they were doing, but they were not responsive or focused in a direct and sharp fashion as they might be in ordinary life. ¶

And they themselves would describe the situation as dreamlike, in terms of lost-ness and dislocation, which again grows out of the very nature of our involvement in Vietnam.

I’d also emphasize very much what I call psychic numbing. ¶

Psychic numbing is merely a kind of desensitization. It is very much connected with the sort of brutalization that’s been described so eloquently by so many who’ve testified here today. ¶

In other words, as they said earlier, to cover your ass you must also cover your mind. You must not feel. ¶

And in Vietnam one undergoes a process of psychic numbing, both in service to survival, physical survival — because one has to do the things that are expected of one in one’s unit, one cannot “rock the boat,” as some have indicated, therefore one falls in with the atrocities. ¶

But one also must keep alive psychologically, and to do that, one cannot afford to feel. ¶

And psychic numbing moves very directly and quickly into a {4259c2} form of brutalization in which one ceases to be aware of the humanity of any Vietnamese, and indeed one ceases to be in touch with one’s own humanity.

I would stress also very much, because this is the legacy that veterans bring back, and that they have to cope with when they return to this country, the enormous fear, rage, confusion, and frustration that GIs feel in fighting in this war. ¶

Again this more psychological and personal side has not been brought out so much in the testimony today, and I want to emphasize it. ¶

They can’t find the enemy most of the time. They can’t trust anybody, or trust any indications, whether in the landscape or in other Vietnamese who are supposed to be their allies. There are no guidelines, no reliable signs of either safety or danger, and there’s no structure to the whole war. ¶

Again, you don’t have battle lines; you don’t have rules or customs of combat, the way you do in an ordinary war, as opposed to a guerrilla war like this one. ¶

This leads to this combination of fear, confusion, rage, and frustration, and it leads to a desperate need for an enemy. ¶

Under these conditions it becomes almost inevitable to make all Vietnamese the enemy, or to take, as happened at My Lai — and it’s been very well documented — as well as elsewhere — as documented here — to take elderly women or small babies, or whoever they might be, are the enemy, who has finally been made to stand still and lined up and engaged. ¶

And that is quite a deadly form of illusion.

Actually, deadly illusion is what characterizes our whole involvement in Vietnam. ¶

And I’d very much want to emphasize the relationship between the illusions surrounding our entire intervention in Vietnam — those are historical and political illusions — and the illusions associated with atrocity that I have described and that others today have described. ¶

In other words, the individual GIs sent to Vietnam under the illusory claim that there’s a viable American mission to stop communist invaders from the outside, when actually, of course, as we all know, it is a revolution that’s both nationalistic and communistic, from more than forty years standing. ¶

And moreover, it’s an internal revolution, a civil war, in its beginnings, in that country. ¶

Also the illusion of fighting side-by-side with a democratic regime who share American democratic ideals. ¶

I don’t have to tell this audience what an illusion that is, and that in this sense we have in essence merely a despotic and suppressive, inefficient and corrupt regime that we fight alongside. ¶

Now I mention these historical and political factors because they are absolutely inseparable from the illusions which produce war crimes.

The ultimate illusion has been referred to a number of times; I want to refer to it again in a psychological fashion — that is, the illusion of the body count. ¶

I’ve said elsewhere, and I repeat here, if a fair history is written about the Vietnam War, and what happened to Vietnam and to America, the central theme of that history will be the body count. ¶

Everything that’s wrong, that’s psychologically illusory and that’s morally evil in our involvement there is wrapped up in the phenomenon of the body count. ¶

First, take the illusion of the count itself. Well, we heard: it’s a totally unreliable count. Bodies are either counted or they’re made up, because that becomes the criterion for success. ¶

Even if the numbers were accurate, you well know, any of you who’ve studied guerrilla war in any way, realize that a body count tells you nothing in guerrilla warfare, because for each body you kill, that may give rise to ten or twenty or one hundred new guerrillas, depending upon the sense of what you’re doing there and how you kill that particular person. ¶

And of course, there’s the issue of which bodies you’re counting. That’s {4259c3} the ultimate issue. ¶

We learned very vividly, from the details about My Lai and the details testified to here today, that a good number, perhaps most, perhaps the great majority of the bodies counted in the body counts are bodies of innocent civilians. ¶

So there’s the illusion of the body count being enemies when they’re clearly bystanders — civilians, women, children, old men, what have you. ¶

So the body count is illusory in a statistical sense; it’s illusory as an indication of military progress in a war in which there is no military progress and no chance of military victory unless one totally pulverizes the entire country; but most of all in a moral sense. ¶

Think of what it means when you kill innocent people indiscriminately and then proudly count their corpses on behalf of an allegedly virtuous mission. ¶

Well, this is a form of moral schizophrenia, and the ultimate moral illusion.

What about the psychological legacy? ¶

I think it’s apparent from what I’ve said, at least some idea of it — and I don’t want to go on too long here about it, but clearly vets who come back, and those in the audience who are vets know this all too well, have to live with and cope with all of these factors that I’ve just described. ¶

They’re survivors of this extreme situation, but it’s a very tainted situation, they can’t help but feel that they carry some of this taint, as they tried to convey to you, I think, so well today. ¶

They must, like all survivors — and I learned this very vividly in Hiroshima, also I’ve learned it from the literature of concentration camp survivors — they must in some way cope with the situation they’ve survived and what they have done in order to survive. ¶

Because much of the brutalization is in the name of the struggle to survive. ¶

In the case of surviving a war, any veteran must examine his war, what he did in his war in order to survive, and what meaning or significance or justification he can find in what he did, and ultimately in the war itself. ¶

Well, in this sense, this is another sense in which the Vietnam War is very special, because it’s probably the least justifiable of any American war that we’ve ever entered upon, and it’s impossible for any veteran — even if he comes out a hawk — to really feel a deep sense of justification of a necessary job, well-done, with meaning and significance. ¶

That just doesn’t happen.

Now he may feel a psychological need to defend the war, because that may be a desperate struggle for finding significance in the war, wanting to find significance in order to in some way justify the suffering that he’s gone through. ¶

Or he may, in a way that I think is a more positive and constructive fashion, try to look directly at the true nature of the war, as the vets who testified here today have done, and to look underneath and expose the illusions in the name of a process of rehumanization, or re-sensitization. And that’s a very desperate and difficult struggle, I think, for Vietnam vets.

I guess I’ll close by saying that this process of adjustment, or really re-humanization and finding their way in American society, can never be smoothly or perfectly achieved. ¶

There is no clear path to resolution and people are bound to remain troubled, bitter, resentful toward their own country, again no matter how they feel about the war, because they can’t help but feel in some way victimized by some strange and unworthy cause. ¶

And what may really be the worst legacy of all then from the Vietnam War, in terms of its psychological impact on veterans but also upon the rest of society, is the widespread loss of faith in the moral legitimacy of the country and of its purposes and institutions, and in a way a similar loss of faith in life itself.

And that’s a lot covered over a very brief span, but I’d be glad to respond to any questions people have. {4260}

Floor.  Doctor, could you speculate on anti-social behavior of returned Vietnam veterans? For instance, do they have more difficulty than others in relating for instance to their wives, to their children? What difficulties do they encounter with blatant or subtle racism in this country? Do they tend to justify violence when they encounter it here?

Lifton.  Well, these are all very important questions, and the returns on these questions simply aren’t in yet. ¶

But there are some indications that there are lots of problems already occurring. ¶

After all, the pattern of psychic numbing is not that easy to dramatically overcome, just because you happen to return to the United States. ¶

And there’s lots of indication that many veterans retain strong patterns of numbing in their relations right in their family. There are a lot of indications of family difficulties, difficulties in relating to their wives and children, parents. ¶

It’s hard to say about antisocial behavior, but there will undoubtedly, and are undoubtedly a group of veterans who find it difficult to really get out of the habit of killing, and who in a desperate effort to in some way put together and justify what they have done, are attracted toward continuing violence. ¶

To some extent, that is true after every war, it may be a little bit more true after this war.

And about the issue of racism, and I don’t want to leave that out either, racism was of course a very important factor, it is still in Vietnam, because it enhances the pattern of dehumanizing the enemy. ¶

You can make your enemy more into a thing, if you have some reservoir, potential reservoir of racist feeling toward him. ¶

Now in coming back, if one happens to be a black GI and comes back to this country, his bitterness is likely to be multiplied just that many fold and he’ll undergo all the patterns that I’ve described for GIs in general but will have an added element of a sense of having been maltreated and victimized by his country, or his people having been maltreated over decades for a very long time. ¶

And I think we’ll also find all kinds of psychosomatic and psychological disturbances. ¶

But I think most likely the majority of vets will be in an in-between situation where they will not necessarily seek psychiatric care, will not necessarily engage in anti-social behavior, but will remain deeply troubled, maybe partially incapacitated in various ways.

Floor.  Dr. Lifton, the illusions that you spoke of that are the very foundations of the war, about there being a democracy to defend there, about there being invaders, are these illustrations cynically foisted upon the soldiers by people high up or would you say that everyone up to and including the President of the United States is subject to these illusions?

Lifton.  Well, unfortunately I don’t have access to all those high-ranking psyches, but I think it’s a mixture of an illusion born of our particular ideologies, the overwhelming force of a very simple— ¶

I’d say three elements in our ideology that lead us to this situation. ¶

One is communism as pure evil, no matter where it arises and in what way; American attitudes abroad as pure virtue, especially in stopping communism; and a very important element too technicism — a worship of technology — and a viewing of the most complex historical and political issues — here a forty-year-old revolution, of the kind that I’ve mentioned, that other people have written about in more detail — as “a job to be done,” with a kind of technical out, you look at the job, how do you get the where-withall to do the job and how do you do it, and often with very technical means in ways that I’ve described. ¶

That plus an element of cynicism — ideological fervor and then a kind of cynicism in defending what one considers {4260c2} to be an ultimately justified ideological position. ¶

I think they combine.

Floor.  What exactly do you think that a person’s experience in Vietnam, that is in terms of the institutions he has to relate to there, and the things he has to do, contribute to psychic numbing? ¶

Do you think that that might be a preparation for a lower level of behavior in the United States, for instance? ¶

You know, one of the parallels you might draw is, in Vietnam you have the two prongs of loyalty, that is, you die not only for your country but you die for the Cav — you know, for the 1st Cavalry Division. ¶

Now in the United States you eat your heart out not only for your country, but for General Motors. ¶

Do you think there is a parallel?

Lifton.  I see, you think the kind of loyalties that are asked in this country have a parallel to that. ¶

Well, yes to some extent. ¶

There is a certain parallel to all small or medium-sized group loyalty. Sometimes the immediate group can really take over one’s entire landscape, as you are implying. ¶

And when you are in Vietnam, I don’t think you think so much about the glories of the nation but rather how your unit will survive as a unit and how you can live up to your responsibilities to the guys around you. ¶

I think that the pattern you mentioned with General Motors is very much parallel. ¶

I think it’s true in all advanced industrial society, not just in this country, and I think it’s a tradition of war, also, to develop very intense small-unit loyalties, and it’s a condition of any situation where survival is threatened.

Floor.  Would you please clarify the action of the individual soldier at Vietnam when you say that he is ready to kill an innocent woman or child or man? ¶

Isn’t he under orders to do that? ¶

Or you impress me as if he was doing that under his own individual judgment. ¶

I’d like you to clarify that.

Lifton.  Well, it could be either or both. ¶

There can be orders, as some vets testified earlier today, to kill everything that moves, and therefore to kill everyone in a particular village. ¶

Or without those orders being directly given, there can be implicit in the knowledge of GIs that this is okay if you don’t get caught. ¶

What I’m saying is, in addition to that general atmosphere that’s created from higher up and from the nature of our entire involvement in Vietnam, there develops a psychology among GIs which grows out of desperation and fear, rage and confusion, and also — what I didn’t mention but which is very important — the loss of buddies. ¶

When you lose buddies in a war it’s an overwhelming experience of loss and guilt. You are a survivor in that immediate sense, and you have to in some way find significance in that buddy’s death, and find a way of giving significance to his death, giving meaning to it. ¶

And in wartime the traditional way of doing that is by plunging into combat and getting revenge on the enemy. ¶

Now in Vietnam you can’t find the enemy, or you don’t know who the enemy is. ¶

It’s very hard to get any direct revenge. ¶

It’s very easy to be simply enraged and overwhelmed by your own rage and guilt, and to seek the first Vietnamese and take it out on him as if he were the enemy. ¶

So all those situations converge on that sort of behavior.

Floor.  I have a two-part question. You spoke about the illusion system and the need for an enemy. You mentioned the black veteran who returns and how he might act this out. ¶

The first part of this question is, what extent would this need to have an enemy enhance or facilitate anti-black feelings on the part of white veterans? ¶

The second part of the question is — well, I have to give a little background to this. I would not be disturbed so much about the future of the men who testified here this morning; they are getting something out of their system. ¶

But you said that there will be a group of men who will neither seek help nor rid {4260c3} themselves of this. ¶

Is there anything that we could do, collectively, in terms of sort of defusing the psyche of this guilt, or the hostility, of the feeling of — well, I needn’t push it any further.

Lifton.  Right, now I understand both questions. ¶

The first question is to what extent this need for an enemy — can it lead white GIs to seek in black GIs that enemy, or at least toward any minority group. ¶

You mean in Vietnam or subsequently?

Floor.  Here in America.

Lifton.  Right. ¶

Well, I think that it can. ¶

I think that one danger, especially in those returning GIs who do not in any way make an effort to confront their experience but rather seek to bury it, ignore it, deny it, and justify it without coming to terms with it, there is a danger of moving toward what might be called chauvinistic politics, in which they will move toward right-wing causes, try to scapegoat a particular minority group and see in them all the causes for the country’s troubles rather than the true and more fundamental causes that lead to the war, the war itself and so on. ¶

This doesn’t mean that it will be true of the average veteran at all. ¶

It does mean that there may be a group of veterans who take this direction. ¶

It is one direction that a survivor of this kind of situation who does not, as you say, attempt to come to grips with his own experiences, could take.

Floor.  Would I be safe in saying then, that Nam has the real potential for enhancing racism, which is already extant in this country?

Lifton.  Absolutely, it does. ¶

After all, there is a tradition in which veterans come back from wars and then defend war, defend war-making in general. ¶

That is a kind of veteran survival ethos, that is all too traditional. You join certain kinds of veterans groups who become associated with chauvinistic politics of this kind — which tend to scapegoat people. ¶

And in this country it’s likely to be blacks because they are frequently scapegoats for so many things, and that is very much bound up with the return from war. ¶

After the Vietnam War, the tendencies are likely to be stronger because the frustrations are stronger.

Now it’s hard to say how to avoid that. ¶

We need enlightened attitudes in order to try to avoid it, and one way I see is the sort of thing going on here, which has to be expanded to a much broader scale, in which things are brought into the open. ¶

A country like a person has to dig, has to sort of descend into its own purgatory, the truth of what it has done and been, in order to emerge from it. ¶

I think that, for instance, many vets individually here will be strengthened as human beings for what they’ve done — not just here, but general spirit with which they come to terms with the most difficult and painful sort of material and experience. ¶

And I think the whole country has to in some way struggle toward that effort of confrontation of what the Vietnam War really is. ¶

That’s easier said than done. But I think we have to continue to think and write, not only about atrocities, incidentally but to put them in some perspective; because when people are hit over the head with atrocities and only atrocities, unless they are given some perspective or some understanding or interpretive understanding, they are likely to be turned off. ¶

And then they undergo, the audience undergoes numbing, or else they are likely to get angry and to defend the integrity or whatever of their country and deny them. ¶

Still, I think the whole experience must be faced.

Floor.  This man here asked a question about the leaders of this country, and how this relates and how the individual feels. ¶

I had Thanksgiving dinner at the White House. ¶

I’m a Vietnam vet at Walter Reed. ¶

And due to my political feelings I was kept {4261} at a table far enough away that I couldn’t actually hear what was being said. ¶

On the way back, on the bus, a man that was at the table — or rather the kind of person you are talking about, that justifies his actions — he, quote ¶

“I like the man that talks like that,” ¶

speaking of the President. A man that is willing to go in and save these GIs, speaking of the raid north of Hanoi and that president, Nixon — quote from this man said that ¶

“all North Vietnamese are barbaric.” ¶

End of quote. ¶

Now, I mean, if you can call people barbaric, or dinks or gooks, and you justify it in yourself when you have leaders in this country that go around and tell the ironworkers or the hard hats that it’s justifiable for people to beat up college students because your patriotic duty is coming in now, this is a feeling of patriotism — it wasn’t right. ¶

This happens to be Agnew’s speech a few weeks ago, reprinted in the ironworkers’ magazine. ¶

I think that when you go to this level of rhetoric, I just don’t know what to think about my country.

Lifton.  I much agree, I don’t think it requires any further comment. ¶

The statement is really one of the ways in which leaders, by their own tendency to dehumanize whole people and in a sense dehumanize themselves as well, really extend the process across the whole country. ¶

They have that influence, and I think that’s true. ¶

That is why one has to at every opportunity recreate Vietnam, all Vietnamese including perhaps especially North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, as human beings in terms of their struggles, and to face what we have done to them and to ourselves.

Floor.  In 1954, there were supposed to be elections in 1954 {sic: 1956}, and I’ve read some things that were written by President Eisenhower that said we couldn’t have these elections because 80 per cent of the population would have voted for their national hero, who was our ally in World War Two, because he was a communist. ¶

Now our foreign policy when we’re dealing with communism, people, if they were to have brought tractors over there instead of tanks. ¶

I mean, they could change the government three times a week, as long as you win over the civilian population.

Floor.  Dr. Lifton, do you see a problem of national guilt and humiliation parallel to that of what postwar generations in Germany went through in this country, in our postwar period, as we continue to reveal U.S. war crimes without providing a solution?

Lifton.  Yes, it’s very hard to know how to evaluate large-scale guilt or issues like national guilt, but certainly one can say that we see already in this country a widespread national struggle with, first of all with defeat, because we haven’t and can’t and won’t win the war in Vietnam — of course, the worst outcome would be if we tried to, in a complete sense — but also with guilt and confusion, and I think that the young in this country have already responded profoundly to that, to those emotions. ¶

I think the rest of us too are experiencing them. ¶

It doesn’t mean that everything that has happened — the so-called generation gap or at the university campuses — is a direct result of the war, but the war certainly did mobilize and intensify and in a way poison whatever was going to happen in a broad social/historical sense. ¶

Whether one would compare it exactly with Germany is hard to say. ¶

There are parallels, in terms of the widespread psychic numbing that is now being broken through to some extent as much of the country, more and more of the country, realizes that there is something terribly dirty that we have been involved with there, and this kind of inquiry that we are having today becomes more and more possible, and more and more responded to. ¶

I think that things can go either way in a country that does that. ¶

There are bound to {4261c2} be profound problems. ¶

There can also be elements of wisdom if one can try to cope with it, but it will take decades to deal with.

Moderator.  Just a few more questions.

Floor.  Does the psychic numbness have an a priori basis, in your estimation?

Lifton.  What do you mean?

Floor.  Before experience. Does the psychic numbness have an a priori basis in soldiers in Vietnam?

Lifton.  Well, I think of the situation in Vietnam, that kind of extreme situation, a situation dominated by illusions as I tried to describe, will create elements of psychic numbing in anyone. ¶

But then different people may have different degrees of it or different susceptibilities to it based upon prior tendencies.

Floor.  Do you see the problem as coming from an American base?

Lifton.  Yes, to some extent there is much in American life that tends to numb one, whether it’s large organizations, forms of racism, relationship to technology in this country — which is a source of very great numbing as people are beginning to realize and write about.

Floor.  Which would have the greater priority, racism or technology?

Lifton.  I don’t see it as either/or. ¶

I think that — you know Sartre has written that when you get a combination such as the kind we have now in Vietnam, of a revolution and guerrilla war fought by revolutionaries in a technogically underdeveloped country with intervention by an outside force from a highly developed, highly advanced technological country, you’re bound to get a situation that leads to genocide. ¶

And that’s true even independently of racism. ¶

However, there tends to be elements of racism that are added to that situation, because underdeveloped people tend often to be non-white and highly developed countries, technologically, tend to be white. ¶

So the element of racism contributes to it. ¶

I think it would be possible without the racism, but the racism intensifies it. ¶

I wouldn’t say either/or.

Moderator.  Just one last question.

Floor.  Dr. Lifton, do you see a relationship between the frustration of the left in this country and its inability to end the war and the rise in the use of violence among some elements of the left?

Lifton.  Very much. ¶

I think that there are many reasons for the increased militancy of the left, and for violence on the part of a small fraction of the left, though — and one has to add that — it is a tiny, minuscule amount of violence compared to the violence officially perpetrated by the government in Vietnam and elsewhere. ¶

But I think that that violence on the left, insofar as it does exist, has to do with a sense of the sort of moral inversion that I mentioned in this country, in which things are stood on their head, and a tremendous frustration and impotence in terms of altering the path and the policy, along with a more generally violent climate that the country takes on, as the illustrations that I mentioned are defended not only in Vietnam but defended at home. ¶

After all, much of the uprising of the left, primarily nonviolent, is an effort to puncture the illusions and protest the war. ¶

In putting down that protest, in whatever way it’s put down, there is a reaffirmation, so to speak, of the illusions, and a defense of the illusions. ¶

And defense of illusion in that way is likely to lead to violence. ¶

And I would emphasize the increasing violence of various kinds that the government is becoming prone to, and is a greater danger in the future on the basis of illusion.

Chaim Shatan

Moderator.  We now have with us Dr. Chaim Shatan, who is a New York City psychiatrist, who will also speak briefly to the problem of psychological effects of war crimes on the GI. {4261c3}

Shatan.  I’d just like to mention briefly that I was in Canada during the Second World War, and I was in the Canadian Officers Training Corps, in the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve, in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. ¶

After the war, I worked in veterans’ hospitals for two years, including one year as a psychiatrist. ¶

In 1956, at the time of the drownings at the Parris Island Marine training camp, I did a study of the drownings and of the Marine ideology that was being invoked to justify them at that time. ¶

Since it was 1956, I was unable to get the study published anywhere, even in a socialist journal.

What I’d like to do is to focus in more detail on some of the psychological processes that go on inside people when they’re prepared for the roles that Dr. Lifton was describing so eloquently. ¶

I think it’s important to get a picture of how this comes about, because I think that we’re all potentially capable of it, given the right circumstances. ¶

To put it another way, although what’s been done to the Vietnamese while saving them from communism is now becoming better and better known, we haven’t faced the fact that many of the two and one-half million American Vietnam veterans, although alive, are themselves victims as well as executioners. ¶

For example, a door gunner wrote to us, ¶

“I want to forget what death spasms look like, and what a rocket sound like. They suffer the defeat, but we’re paying the price each minute we live. We carried out the orders. We can never forget the look in their faces as they’re put to death. I’ll never forget.” ¶

A former Army medic insisted that no one could stand all the truth about Nam, that the revulsion would shake the fabric of everything. ¶

He said, we’re lied to and deceived, used, betrayed, and even our leaders are blind. Death and evil in quantities that are beyond imagination. ¶

He also says that three years after leaving Vietnam, he feels that war is still his spiritual condition within, the pervading fear is still with him, the psychic exhaustion, the unendingness of some things, never forgetting, loving a dead place in himself, which remains permanently dead, because of Vietnam.

So I think we’re entitled to ask at what spiritual and psychic cost to themselves were some Americans enabled to become mass executioners. ¶

How do even good men or men who want to be good, learn to do this? ¶

How do they learn to rack up the illusory casualty counts to earn promotions for their commanders? ¶

I believe that the American people and soldiers have been gradually habituated to accept torture, then atrocity, later massacre, and finally, though not yet, genocide. ¶

This habituation has been fostered whether wittingly or unwittingly by the nature of modern combat training in general, and by the unique character of this particular war. ¶

So first I’d like to say something about modern combat training. This has been vividly depicted in a number of journals and books in the last few years. ¶

One writer, Pierre Boulatte, photographed the first two months of West Point training, the most humiliating time of a cadet’s life, when he’s called a beast, and whipped into shape by unmerciful harassment and scolding. This is referred to as West Point’s proven method, interestingly enough, by Major-General Koster who was then — who recently resigned as commandant of West Point after having been for a while mentioned as a possible — for possible indictment in connection with My Lai.

West Point’s proven method subjects each beast to such tremendous physical and mental pressures all at once, that he must shed much of his individuality to cope with them. He is taught unquestioning obedience of all military orders. Later, he works off the strain by shouting, “Hate, Hate!” at his taunting instructor during bayonet drill. While being {4262} stripped of his individuality, each beast has a monumental task to replace this personality with something else.

There’s a hint of the underlying psychological process when Boulatte reveals that the humiliations and indignities are inflicted on the beasts by a group of selected senior cadets led by a king of beasts. The upper classmen, who were beasts once themselves, are eager to give as much as they once had to take. ¶

In the Marine Corps this process is called “harassing the troops.” The long succession of assaults and insults, like those formerly inflicted on the upper classmen themselves, slowly wipes out individual human dignity. Spit-polishing of boots and floors, privates forced to eat cigarette butts if an area hasn’t been policed to the sergeant’s satisfaction, rifle inspection, drill marching, and so forth. All accompanied by a clear cut impression that the GI and the officer are totally unequal.

This proven method has several effects. In the first place, the trainees are forged and welded like component parts into a single organism, like a human’ centipede. Mass human protoplasm, the unit becomes a complaint instrument, a thing, a tool. ¶

The inculcation of discipline trains each soldier to regard himself as only one cell of this larger organism, without his own will. Military drill compels the habit of obedience, all the cells respond to the will of the commander, even if he’s not himself present. ¶

By robbing them of independent thinking, drill trains men to carry out various movements as second nature and stimulates them to develop a feeling of corporate strength, of moving together as one man. ¶

Therefore, it’s only logical that the commanding officer, the CO, should have the powers of summary punishment as though he alone were the conscience of this organism. ¶

Of course it’s also taken for granted that some of the cells must die at the will of the commander and that the life or death of any one cell hardly matters to the collective body or unit.

A second effect of this proven method of training is that the crushing of each man’s spirit culminates in his psychological habituation to a lot of human suffering, his own suffering. ¶

Though this suffering is less obvious than that due to a mushroom cloud, it’s the first step in preparing him for genocide. By learning to devalue himself as an individual, he learns to devalue all human life. As one Korean War Marine wrote, ¶

“It is suggested that we take out our resentment on the enemy later.” ¶

Picture that, a thousand men with persecution complexes.

A third effect of this proven method, one that’s perhaps among the most subtle and maybe perhaps the most important, can be best summarized by the phrase, ¶

“if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” ¶

The frustration and mistreatment of the GI in training is accompanied by his being allowed only one outlet. Only one avenue of compensation remains for him to take care of his frustration, and this is to pattern himself after those who are training and persecuting him.

He learns to take them out by frustrating and dehumanizing the stinking gooks, the foreigners, just as he is himself dehumanized. Like a child playing dentist, he will try to impersonate his tormentor, he will try to imitate the officer’s or the NCO’s cruelty and aggression. He acts as well as talks like his drill sergeant or NCO. ¶

This change from passive submission to his superiors, to active subjugation of his inferiors is the soldier’s central means for surviving the unpleasant stresses he is compelled to endure.

To sum it up, obedience flows not from understanding but from mental mimicry. The external prohibitions and the commands and threats of his training are absorbed and built into the soldier’s conscience, altering it sometimes beyond recognition. He can now defend these ideas and these commands, be- {4262c2} cause they are now his own. ¶

As a result of becoming a fragment of a bigger unit and of adopting the attitudes of his superiors, the GI also becomes very dependent on his superiors. Like a child, he expects them to think for him, to know everything, and he endows them with great powers.

Now I’d like to say something briefly and connect it afterwards with what I’ve just said about some of the ways in which this war is so different and so unique in American experience. ¶

In the first place, it’s a war that’s conducted by a mega-corporation, the Pentagon. As General Walt, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, has said, restraint and concern for the people are nonexistent. ¶

This is also the first computerized war, a war in which the destruction of human beings and resources is equated with progress. The figures are nationally advertised, like the gross national product, the managers consolidate their power by increasing their productivity, and the product is the dead and wounded on both sides. Of course some of the products are quietly shipped home in Reynold’s Wrap coffins. ¶

I think that it’s important for us to note that not since the Nazis has a government judged success by the number of foreign human beings it kills. Officers, like Brigadier General George Patton, worship death as much as did the high priests of the Aztec skullracks. ¶

This is a different war in another sense, it’s a perpetual guerrilla war. Now Henry Kissinger has said that a cardinal maxim of guerrilla war is that the guerrilla wins if he doesn’t lose. A conventional army loses if it doesn’t win. ¶

Now Napoleon, who was one of the earliest practitioners of counter-insurgency, discovered in the Spanish Peninsular War that his only real weapon against the guerrillas was terror. ¶

And terror, permanent and universal terror, is the one true counter-insurgency weapon of the U.S. in Vietnam, regardless of the means by which it’s applied.

Now one of the things that happens to the GI as a result of the application of terror in Vietnam is that information has begun to leak out recently of the following important facts. ¶

U.S. terror tactics have been leading to an escalation of Viet Cong terror tactics by booby traps and mines, so that in the past few weeks 60% of U.S. deaths in action have been due to booby traps and mines. This has been borne out by medical officers, who say that the bulk of the injuries they’re now getting are from booby traps and mines, perhaps four or five times as many as only four or five months ago.

What I’d like to say something about now is how these combat experiences lead to feelings of vengeance on the part of the GI and to scapegoating. ¶

If the circumstances are sufficiently extreme, if enough chronic resentment is generated in the GI by goading from his own authorities and also by the experiences his buddies have had, and if only one channel of expression is available, the GI can become habituated to inflicting ferocious cruelty on others. ¶

A medic who spent the year in Vietnam and returned three years ago, vividly documents how the GI learns that his value is only a cut above that of the gook, that his life may be just as marked for extinction. He may actually serve his highest military function as a corpse, for when cover is a premium, a corpse can give excellent cover. ¶

This medic documents a visit to an apparently friendly village in which one man is blown up by a mine, the second officer is so destroyed that only his head and shoulders are found, a sniper is shot — a sniper shoots a man through the heart accidentally because the bullet happens to penetrate the zipper of his armored vest. ¶

After he lists all these, he then asks rhetorically, “Would you mind if we burned that village down now in a zippo party?” ¶

Well he doesn’t burn that village down, what he does instead is that {4262c3} he subtly takes it out on some of the Viet Cong wounded. ¶

He gives an example of putting a tourniquet on a wounded Viet Cong’s leg. Then he says, ¶

“No one could complain that I hadn’t treated him, but a pressure dressing really would have been better; gangrene wouldn’t have been so inevitable. I also didn’t waste any morphine on him. The boys punched him around, and pretty soon the gook told us everything he knew.”

A central factor in the brutalization of the GIs is that like the guerrillas, the GIs live like fish in the sea, but for the GIs it’s a hostile sea. ¶

There’s a total absence of structure, which Dr. Lifton referred to. ¶

There’s a feeling that the enemy is on all sides, that death comes from everywhere. It is utterly impossible for a scared GI in the dark to instantly discriminate between the non-uniformed foe and the civilian populace with whom they are intermingled. ¶

This form of environmental stress, the relative absence of meaningful patterns of cues, of stimulation is similar to being shipwrecked or being brainwashed. ¶

It has been studied both experimentally and naturally. It’s been called sensory deprivation, but I think a more accurate term is sensory dislocation. ¶

As a result of losing the normal cues which help him judge what’s going on around him, the GI can develop intense restlessness, suggestibility, hyper-alertness, hyper-suspicion, his thinking can deteriorate, and in extreme cases, he may become depressed, confused, and may even develop delusions and hallucinations.  ¶

ack of speech enhances all of these distortions of external reality, even more.

Now the way in which all of the defineable goals and guidelines are missing in Vietnam has already been described and I won’t repeat them. ¶

I just want to say that obviously this process adds to the GIs confusion and to his mounting fury and frustration. As his fury and frustration mount, his leaders can permit only one outlet, revenge and vengeance against the subhuman gooks, any gook. ¶

Accordingly, even South Vietnamese soldiers are devalued as human beings. ¶

Their hospitals are given blood considered unfit for American usage, morphine, is not wasted on them, the saying is, “No gook is ever an emergency.” ¶

General Westmoreland’s rules of engagement instruct the troops to use their fire power with care and discrimination. Such rules are patently absurd. They sound like a description of operating room techniques. ¶

Moreover, the examples set by officers in the field have far more prestige and authority for soldiers than mere words. ¶

Accordingly the combat soldier, seeing the rules of engagement flutter on all sides, is much more influenced by mere gook rules, body counts, and free fire zones.

The free fire zones is an original U.S. invention in counter-insurgency. It probably plays one of the biggest parts in habituating the soldier to terror. ¶

After the population of an area is forcibly removed, he can burn everything that stands, and shoot everything that moves, whether a North Vietnamese soldier or a child. ¶

In the ferocious climate of the free fire zone, General Westmoreland’s surgically precise rules are a farce. ¶

When you have a PhD in advanced fear, you shoot first, and investigate later. ¶

I won’t go into what was already said about retaliating for the loss of one’s buddies. Suffice it to say that it works in with all these other items that were mentioned.

To summarize, I think when you look over this whole process, the process of training, the process by which a soldier is brutalized and dehumanized himself, a process by which he learns that his life is not much more valuable than that of the enemy — step by step these processes lead to situations like My Lai. ¶

GIs who have been out in the field which they call Indian country, are natural- {4263} ly the most indiscriminate in their killing of villagers. They obliterate whole villages. Other veterans bear out some of the testimony which has been given today; the most vicious atrocities are usually perpetrated after someone has been hit by a sniper or lost a limb due to a mine or booby trap. Often the burden of a heavy field pack and the searing tropical sun can be enough to act as the last straw and set some GIs off on a vengeful course. ¶

These results are in line with one of the consistent finding of modern psychiatry and of combat psychiatry in particular. ¶

Nearly every man has his breaking point under enough stress, and if the stress permits a violent attack on the outside world this is at least as likely to occur as is an inner emotional upheaval of psychiatric symptoms.

In other words, we have to ask whether given sufficient stress every man has his Eichmann point. ¶

Psychological research on obedience has shown that even without war most men will tend to follow instructions to harm others if the instructions come from people in authority, and if the situation is one which makes the tormentor dependent on the authority. ¶

In combat authority is so absolute, and the context of dehumanizing Orientals so pervasive that mass murder becomes easy. ¶

The punishments for disagreeing with authority and the rewards given to and by those in command for killing, promote killing even more. ¶

Both the policies and the rewards come down the chain of command from the very top and many examples of this have been given. ¶

This step by step process becomes a logical development. ¶

It can begin very slowly, it can begin with something like John Sachs’ story in Esquire of the GI who is overcharged for a soda by a slow broad, but decides not to shoot her after all. He lets her go. ¶

Step 2 is that when he questions some villagers, he may beat up an old man and release everyone. ¶

Step 3 is questioning some villagers, beating up the old man and then killing him. ¶

Step no. 4 is wiping out a whole village. ¶

And when Captain Medina orders an accurate count of civilian casualties this order is at once countermanded by General Koster from his helicopter overhead. ¶

The more responsibility was taken by someone at the general officer level. ¶

For My Lai was only one of many instances of terror, only one of many instances of this permanent and universal terror, terror designed for its mass psychological impact by the policy makers at the very top.

I’d like to read you one quote before stopping. ¶

“There’s a strong temptation to dismiss the atrocities as an incomprehensible aberration that cannot have any possible bearing on normal lives and times. The truth is that they represent a new and different chapter in human experience and one from which we may learn new dimensions of human capacities for evil and good, selfishness and devotion, and that they are a logical if horrible development.” ¶

I wanted to quote this to you, because this quote is not about My Lai, this quote appears in a book published in 1947, The Other Kingdom by a French journalist David Rousette, describing the experiences in the concentration camps. ¶

I think it’s very important to notice how closely these same words can be applied to the news about My Lai and similar atrocities because it’s not impossible that we could set out on the same course as the Nazis once did.

Floor.  Doctor, could you tell us anything about the veterans you met with and the relationship between their service in Vietnam and their use of drugs? ¶

When I was there, like young people, perhaps sixty to eighty percent of the men smoked marijuana. ¶

I went back there this summer and I found that, you know, like guys were getting into very hard drugs such as heroin and we’re getting thousands of heroin addicts coming {4263c2} back to the United States. ¶

Could you tell us if you know something about this?

Shatan.  I think you know more about that than I do because I’ve had contact with relatively few Vietnam veterans. The work with veterans I mentioned before was work with veterans of the Second World War.

Floor.  When I was over there, when I first got there — but it really didn’t affect our operation — 40 per cent of my company smoked it continuously. As far as methodrine, they could get that from the hospital in quart bottles if they wanted it. We didn’t have a drug problem, we didn’t have any restrictions over its use.

Moderator.  I’d like to thank Dr. Shatan. ¶

Before closing today’s session, I’d like to announce that the inquiry will continue tomorrow. Testimony will begin at 10:00 a.m., and there will be a number of GIs whose testimony will detail the air-war activity in Vietnam.


Final Session


Moderator.  Good morning. ¶

I’d like to welcome you today to the final session of the National Veterans Inquiry into War Crimes in Indochina. ¶

At this final session we will have the eyewitness testimonies of seven Vietnam veterans.

Don Engel

The first veteran who will be testifying this morning is Mr. Don Engel, a former Marine captain and pilot.

Engel.  My name is Donald Engel. I’m a resident of Buffalo, New York. I am twenty-six years old. ¶

I joined the Marine Corps in 1964, August of that year. I went to basic. From there I took tests and went to Pensacola for flight training. After about twenty months of training, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and I received an MOS as helicopter pilot. ¶

Six months later I arrived in Vietnam. This was in November of 1966. I went over there with the 262nd Unit. While there I flew over five hundred combat missions, mostly, in the I Corps and DMZ.

Approximately April of 1967, I was working a two-plane light {sic: flight?} out of Khe Son. We got done at about five o’clock in the afternoon and I was eating my Charlies — C rations — up on a bunker, just looking at the countryside — Khe Son is on a plateau and you have a pretty good view, especially south. ¶

There’s a little village down there called Long Ve. I was just watching and all of a sudden I saw two F-4s, phantoms, coming out of the west, which would have been Laos at that time. ¶

These planes — it’s pretty easy for a pilot to pick out planes, I mean it’s your job and you know, you’re afraid of everything that moves when you’re in the air so there was no doubt about recognition. Although there was some question about it later, but it was resolved. These were two F-4s. Right south of this Khe Son, like I said before, is this town called Long Ve. ¶

Now, I’m very familiar with this town because we would resupply there just practically every day. There was an American advisory unit there with Montagnards — oh, I wouldn’t know what you would call them, Popular Forces or whatever they call them, I’m not too familiar with the terms.

Well, anyway on this particular day they were — they were — we put them out in the field — they were on an operation — for about two hundred men with the American advisers and the only people left in the village were older men, a small detachment to guard. ¶

It was an armed village, it had a helicopter pad clearly marked, about a 30-foot-wide circle with a big white H marked on it. It was really distinguishable from the air. ¶

These two F-4s — and it was not a free fire zone, besides that, you had to be cleared to fire in this area — these two F-4s just came out of the west and pickled their bombs on {4263c3} this village, just lowered, really lowered the boom. ¶

Of course we scrambled immediately, just tried to pull out the survivors. We flew until one o’clock in the morning, until the fog got too dense and we couldn’t bring anybody out any more. The only thing that actually we could fly that late was because of the fires, I mean it just lit up the whole sky. ¶

We pulled approximately one hundred and fifty casualties out of there. Most of the people we just left because they were dead. ¶

And — that, that was just about the worst thing I’ve ever seen, you know. It was just women and children — they had like — they were just burnt. ¶

They used CBUs on them, nape, everything you could think of.

Moderator.  Don, what are CBUs? I don’t know that everyone is familiar with that.

Engel.  These are cluster bomb units, they’re called. When they detonate they throw out little bombs about — oh, I don’t know — four inches in diameter, and these explode in turn, they’re definitely anti-personnel. And in a village like this, a flat village, they did one hell of a job, there’s no two ways about that.

Moderator.  From your knowledge of the situation, Don, was there any reason why these, why the village was bombed: Was there any action, any military operation taking place there?

Engel.  No, definitely not. At this time, especially in this area — these people had no clearance, first of all. ¶

Apparently — I don’t know if they thought they were in Laos, if, they thought they were in North Vietnam, because this is right up in the corner of South Vietnam and if you travel, you know, 600 knots, I’m sure they won’t know where they were all the time. ¶

Well anyway, the next day there was a sort of unofficial inquiry into it because everybody really got uptight, considering that these were all friendly forces, and definitely a friendly vill. You know. ¶

So the old pacification people came in and started giving out money to survivors and — but there was an Air Force general there, and a Marine general and a captain — a Navy captain — and these people were all trying to put it off on the other. ¶

In fact, it got so ludicrous after a while, they were trying to tell me, are you sure they were F-4s, are you sure they just weren’t MIG 21s or your painter flight. ¶

It was ridiculous, you know — there were no MIG 21s in South Vietnam at that time. ¶

Anyway, it turned out that these planes were — they were grey color and I thought they might have been Marines, because this is the color of their F-4s. The Air Force uses camouflaged F-4s. ¶

It turned out that they came from Thailand. But, I think that the pilot — I read a blurb about it a month later — I think the pilots were grounded and that was as far as it went. Grounded for maybe a week or two. Very ridiculous.

Moderator.  Did this investigation result in any, in any action? Was any situation resolved, do you know?

Engel.  No, not at all. ¶

A little sidelight: the Special Forces people, I guess, ended up bearing the brunt because about three weeks later, a team was murdered in their beds in the village. ¶

I can’t understand why though. But this is what happened.

Moderator.  Don, I have here that you flew missions into Laos. Would you tell us something about that?

Engel.  Yes, I can. This is— ¶

I started flying missions into Laos in about, I think, February of that year — this is in 1967 again. I guess they liked — they wanted you to get familiar with the area at that time. So they gave you two months off. ¶

They started sending us up to a place called Hue — Phu Bai, which is in the northern part of I Corps, about 7 miles south of Hue city, Hue citadel. And while there they made us paint our aircraft, all markings, took away our identification, made us sign papers that we’d never {4264} reveal what we did. ¶

Everybody, almost every 46th pilot in I Corps got a chance in the barrel, it was like he would go up there for two weeks and then get two months off and then go up there for two weeks. ¶

It was like dreaded, everybody hated it. I mean, just about every pilot knew about it, it wasn’t very top secret at all, but it was supposed to be. ¶

We used to work with the Special Forces team that was a battalion of Chinese mercenaries, they call them Chinese Nungs. They were paid soldiers, they used to bail them out of the Cho Lon district of Saigon, which is the Chinese district. ¶

At that time Chinese didn’t have any rights at all in South Vietnam so they, these people were mostly sixteen or seventeen years old and they would pay them on the incentive basis. Gear, so much money; rifles, so much money; mission, so much money; and they were very well paid compared to the South Vietnamese Army. ¶

While there, so we would go in there — what was happening in Laos that they were so concerned about was of course the Ho Chi Minn Trail, or the highway they were building back there was quite a unique highway. It was probably better paved than Highway 1. ¶

We put ninety-man forces of these Chinese mercenaries with American advisers and they would go in and cut the road — interdiction — would usually last about nine days, if they didn’t get in trouble, but usually they got in trouble. ¶

And then there was like a scramble to get them out all the time. ¶

We also supplied Royal Laotian battalions in Laos. This was a mistake on the blurb that was handed out: it says American, permanent American bases; these were not American bases, these were Royal Laotion Army troops. ¶

But also at this time of course Laos was a neutral country, and I think we still claim we don’t use American military men in Laos, which is a lot of crap.

Floor.  What year was this?

Engel.  This was in 1967. But it was going on in 1966 also. And I’m sure it was going on even before then. ¶

I was also contacted by Air America when at the close of my tour, to fly for them, which they operate mainly out of northern Thailand into Laos and Cambodia. I didn’t want it. I just couldn’t fly over there any more.

Moderator.  Are there any questions for Mr. Engel from members of the press?

Floor.  You mentioned something about two Special Forces troops being murdered by the—

Engel.  Yes, these were the advisers for the Montagnards at Long Ve.

Floor.  Why were they murdered?

Engel.  Why were they murdered? ¶

Well, these people were a little ticked off about all their women and children being killed when they were out on a mission for the Americans. ¶

So about three weeks later — their advisers, they just killed their advisers. ¶

Of course, right after that, there was — they started getting real hot up at Khe Son, and so everybody started pulling back anyway, so they didn’t really give a damn about the village anymore. It wasn’t useful to them any more.

Floor.  Do you have any idea how many people were killed?

Engel.  Oh, yes. It’s got to be, I think that one hundred and fifty was a conservative estimate. And the reason for the high death rate is because we had no place to take the wounded, we had to take them back to Khe Son and the fog rolled in, we couldn’t get any aircraft in to get them out of Khe Son, and there wasn’t proper medical facilities, there was just a reinforced company, I believe, at Khe Son at the time and it was I think maybe one or two doctors.

Floor.  Have you ever heard an explanation of why this place was attacked?

Engel.  No, there was no explanation. In fact, they knew they blew it. That’s the first time I ever seen the brass get so excited. They — I mean, there was other things that happened over there, and that was just passť, {4264c2} but they knew they blew it this time. They really got upset. ¶

But then they squashed it.

Floor.  Would you say that this village was a Montagnard village?

Engel.  Yes.

Floor.  Do you remember the days that you took troops into Laos?

Engel.  No, I flew into Laos, as I said, close to twenty times. You get a little time in and a little time off. ¶

There’s one particular incident which is quite interesting. A body snatch. ¶

An American soldier was killed, one of the advisers there, and they couldn’t get the body out at the time so they left the body in the landing zone, the LZ. He was there about three weeks, he was completely bloated and booby trapped, because we would take pictures of him every day. ¶

So the major of the Special Forces team had this fabulous idea of going in and said we’ll just go for the skull. Because of the teeth, he was afraid he could be identified with the teeth. And he had all sorts of grappling hooks and of course the body was deteriorating at this time and they were going to put us gas masks on so they could stand the stink. ¶

I refused the mission, I was relieved, I was sent back to my squad. I don’t know if they ever did it or not.

Floor.  How far did you penetrate into Laos? Did you go over the [inaudible] river there?

Engel.  No, we — I’d have to look at a map, I’ll tell you the truth. But it wouldn’t be more than 10 miles, 15 miles into Laos at any time.

Floor.  Did you have any LZs over there?

Engel.  Not that good. No. And there were also the opposite, we had a lot of trouble. We lost a lot of aircraft going to Laos. It was really, you know, it wasn’t a very good deal, everybody wanted to stay away from it, they avoided it. We used a conglomeration — we were the only ones who weren’t volunteers, first of all, everybody else was volunteers for this mission. You used Army gunships, Air Force A-1s, Sky Raiders, because they can stay on a target a long time. ¶

And the only reason they used Marine medium helicopters was because at that time there was no troop-carrying helicopters in the I Corps. The Army’s wise. This was an Army operation. ¶

The name of the operation by the way was Shiny Grass. It was SOG.

Floor.  Shiny Grass?

Engel.  Right, that’s the code name and the official name was SOG. And I believe it’s still going on.

Floor.  What’s the name of the troops?

Engel.  This is the name of the team, the battalion. This is their code name.

Floor.  Where were you before Pensacola?

Engel.  I was going to the University of Buffalo before I joined the Marine Corps in 1964. And I went — when I joined the Marine Corps I took a test and I went to Pensacola, I was commissioned out of Pensacola, I never went to Officer’s Candidate School at Quantico.

Floor.  Did you ever know what become of these guys? You said it was a hassle, like, getting them out sometimes. Did you ever have any idea what happened to them on the ground there? Were they effective or ineffective, did they always meet stiff opposition?

Engel.  Yes, most of the time they did meet stiff opposition. It was a very heavily guarded road. It was — in fact, one particular day we lost five aircraft trying to get them out. This is including fixed-wing. We lost two A-1s.

Moderator.  Thank you, Don. ¶

At this time I’d like to make note of Mr. Hans Frank, who is here as an observer. Mr. Frank is the Secretary General of the International Commission of Inquiry into U.S. Crimes in Indochina, and Mr. Frank is here today observing our inquiry. I’ve been asked to announce that he will be available for comments, interviews, etc., during the day and during {4264c3} the noon lunch break. ¶

We can now have our next veteran. Griff, are you going to introduce him?

Gary Thamer

Moderator.  Our next Vietnam veteran will be Gary Thamer who served in the Air Force as a forward air controller in Vietnam.

Thamer.  My name is Gary Thamer. I was a sergeant E-4. I was assigned to the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron in Ben Wha. From there I was assigned to a — I was a radio operator with a forward air control team with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

In November of 1967 — I was there from 1967 to 1968. In November of 1967, the unit was going on Operation Santa Fe. A free fire zone was declared which included part of Highway 1, it was just east of a city called Swan Lac. ¶

I have no idea if the population of this area was told that a free fire zone was declared in that area.

The first day that I had got word that this area was a free fire zone, a Vietnamese in a Lambretta motorcycle, which is the usual type of transportation they use over there, was found driving down the road. There was nothing unusual about the Lambretta, the man was not armed, he was not carrying anything on the Lambretta. But considering it was a free fire zone, the pilot decided — he saw this Lambretta, I notified the Army, the Army sent out two helicopter gunships, and they eliminated the Lambretta. The Lambretta was exploded with machine guns and the man was killed.

In January of 1968 we were operating out of Loc Minh which is very close to the Cambodian border. The unit sent a long-range reconnaissance patrol into Cambodia. About 10 kilometers inside of Cambodia, the long-range reconnaissance patrol received fire, enemy fire. They were pinned down. The pilot who was flying the aircraft called to me and said that he wanted some immediate air strikes. To get these air strikes I had to send in coordinates that were in Vietnam, to get the airstrikes. Three squadrons of F-100s were sent up there, bombed the area, and the Army finally sent helicopters in to extract the LRRPs, the long-range reconnaissance patrol.

Later on, in April of 1968, we ran an experiment in War Zone D. It was a classified operation. I don’t know exact details of the operation. I was on the radios when it took place. What happened was, a number of HC-130 cargo aircraft loaded with aviation fuel, barrels of aviation fuel, flew over this one area of War Zone D. They dropped the aviation fuel onto the ground, and then an aircraft went over, threw napalm onto it, and started a gigantic fire. What the idea of it was, was to start a large enough, fire so that you could burn out a huge, huge area of War Zone D so that we would not have to send troops in there to root out the Viet Cong, we’d just burn them out. This experiment didn’t work too well. I guess it had just rained, the jungle was kind of wet and the fire wasn’t very sustained. So the area that was burned was not that large. We never tried it again because it was not that effective.

Another thing I’d like to talk about is the use of cluster bomb units. We did use cluster bomb units extensively over in Vietnam. And the policy was that CBU would be used at any time as long as American forces would not be moving into the area after they were used. The reason for this being that there was a high dud rate of CBU, and that if Americans would go in there, this would constitute a hazard for them. They were afraid that these CBUs would explode on them. But as long as any American troops were not going into the area, these CBUs would be used extensively.

Floor.  Does that mean that if South Vietnamese troops were going into the area they would use CBUs?

Thamer.  I never really worked with the {4265} South Vietnamese so I didn’t really know, but we never took them into account if that’s what you mean.

Floor.  Did you go with these long-range patrols into Cambodia?

Thamer.  No, I didn’t. I was just a radio operator.

Floor.  They were radioing back to you?

Thamer.  Yes, they were.

Floor.  Did you observe any incidents of Viet Cong terrorism? Was the only terrorist activity that you observed American? Or were there also incidents of terrorists activity that were North Vietnamese?

Thamer.  Well, the only real terrorist activity that I’d seen on account of the North Vietnamese was in Lay Khe, when a zephyr group went into the officers club and he had central charges on him, and exploded them inside the officers club, killing some officers. ¶

Other than that I was usually with the headquarters unit. We did not spend too much time, the cavalry did not spend too much time in populated areas. We usually fought out in the jungle itself. ¶

And as far as terrorist activities, they usually occurred in populated areas, so I didn’t, I wasn’t exposed to anything like that too often.

Floor.  Do you know anything about the rules for establishing a free fire zone?

Thamer.  No, I don’t. All I do know is that when they were established, we just got it that they said, “This is now a free fire zone,” and we were told what area it was. The S-2 for the regiment would tell us, but he didn’t tell us the day that it would go into effect. Supposedly, they were supposed to warn the people in the area that a free fire zone was going to be declared. But I never knew of any time when they actually did.

Floor.  Was Colonel Patton your CO?

Thamer.  Yes, Colonel Patton was my commanding officer for the last month I was in Vietnam, not for the whole time.

Floor.  Did you ever see him in action?

Thamer.  No, I didn’t. I was being processed out most of the time that Colonel Patton was there.

Floor.  You said that CBUs were not used in areas where U.S. troops would go?

Thamer.  They were going to be moving in right after the bombing attack.

Floor.  How about — was that your unit policy or—

Thamer.  That was our unit policy. Because we were armored, in vehicles, and it would have taken a pretty heavy toll on the vehicles.

Moderator.  If there are no further questions, we’ll move on.

Steven Hassett

Moderator.  Our next witness will be Mr. Steve Hassett, who served with the 1st Air Cavalry in Vietnam.

Hassett.  My name is Steven Hassett. I spent three years in the Army. I enlisted in February, 1966, in the Army Airborne Program. I went through basic training, advanced infantry training, airborne school. ¶

I then went to Vietnam for a year, where I served as an infantryman with C Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Air Mobile. ¶

During my year as an infantry man I served as a machine gunner, as a machine gun squad leader, as a rifle squad fire team leader, as a rifle squad leader, and my last month as an acting platoon sergeant.

In my unit, throughout the year I was in Vietnam, I noticed that we consistently used a very high degree of fire power in everything we did. ¶

Most of my year, I spent in Bin Dinh Province on the central coast of South Vietnam, which, to my knowledge, was the second most productive rice-growing area in Vietnam. ¶

And it was our standard procedure to call in massive artillery fire, helicopter gun ships, and air force jet strikes if we had the slightest suspicion that there were Viet Cong or North Vietnamese in any {4265c2} village we went into. ¶

We would usually do this even though we had no evidence of any enemy presence in these villages.

I can think of one instance when we were moving out one morning in about my eighth month — it would have been about May of 1967. ¶

We moved out one morning and one of our patrols received some light sniper fire early in the morning, killing one man and lightly wounding another. ¶

For the rest of the day we moved through a very populous area at a fairly fast pace — calling in air strikes and artillery in front of us in what amounted to a wall — a wall of fire preceding us as we moved through the area. We moved through for a distance of any where from 3,000 to 5,000 meters, calling in this artillery fire, with artillery fire and air strikes on our side. ¶

All this for one or two snipers. We leveled this area. We burned all the little clusters of hamlets we went through. We went through this area so fast we did not have tune to search the huts or anything. ¶

We just lit them as we walked by, threw grenades in all the air shelter bunkers that were characteristic to that area — almost every civilian household had an air raid bunker. ¶

In the evening, when we went to bivouac, there were approximately 150 to 200 civilians following us, directly behind us because it was the only safe area. ¶

All the area in front of us and to our sides was still being pounded by artillery fire and air strikes.

As we bivouacked for the night, we killed all the livestock we could find in the area — cows, water buffalo, and pigs and then we drove the civilians off by firing shots just over their head and into the ground just in front of them. ¶

I don’t know what civilian casualties there were that day, though I would be very surprised if they were light, with the amount of fire we brought in on them and the indiscriminate use of the bombing. I’m sure many people were hit. ¶

I know just from my own experience, a pilot in a jet fighter can’t distinguish too well what the target is on the ground. During that day, my platoon got strafed on one occasion as we were crossing open rice paddies, strung out in a file on a rice paddy dike, and I don’t know how we could have been more clearly revealed as American troops than we were at that time. Yet we were strafed twice by F-100 jets. ¶

Reactions like this were fairly typical. To one sniper round or, again, even if we suspected something to be there, we would be able to call in artillery and air strikes on this basis and we did it — we did it for the entire year I was there.

As for our treatment of civilians, I didn’t see that much open mistreatment. ¶

It was quite common for us to slap civilians around if we thought they were moving too slow or kick them if they did not respond to our orders and, of course, we didn’t speak Vietnamese — they rarely did respond to our orders. ¶

If we told them to clear out of an area or we were trying to round them up for interrogation to be moved back — this was something we frequently did — if they were slow we kicked them, hit them with rifle butts. ¶

I’ve seen Vietnamese interrogators with us pistol-whipping suspects.

I remember one occasion, we were operating just for a period of about one week up near Duc Pho — you’ve heard the name before, some of the people that were in the Americal have mentioned it. ¶

This was before the Americal moved in there. We were the first Army troops up in the Duc Pho area. We had replaced the Marine unit. ¶

We were sweeping down the peninsula that led into the sea and two women and one or two children were wounded by one of our grenades. ¶

We were grenading all the civilian air raid bunkers again. We would just walk up to them, shout, “Come out, come out” in Vietnamese into the bunker, wait about ten seconds, fire a few shots in there — wait a few more seconds and flip the grenade in. Every bunker we did this to. ¶

One bunker — {4265c3} some women and children came out. A man went to flip a grenade in and it bounced off the jamb — the door jamb of the bunker-back into the women and children, wounding them — wounding two women and two children — one of the women quite seriously. ¶

Our company commander refused to allow the medic with us at the time to give the woman treatment. I don’t recall whether or not the medic wanted to give her treatment, but I remember the company commander made some sort of statement to the effect that leave her be, that the other civilians could carry her along and when we bivouacked for the night, which would have been in a few — in about two more hours, we would get her evacuated on a supply chopper. ¶

She died as the other civilians were carrying her along. We did evacuate the other woman and the one or two children.

As for body counts — the pressure in my unit was as intense it was in any other unit to produce a high body count. ¶

For a while, in my first few months there, they were offering a three-day pass to An Khe to anybody who killed, made a confirmed North Vietnamese or Viet Cong kill. ¶

By confirmed — it had to be reasonably sure that the man was an enemy soldier. You just couldn’t go out and kill a woman and say it was a Viet Cong. Though I know of a few cases where women were killed in operations and they were counted as Viet Cong in the body count, but the individual soldiers received no credit.

As for treatment of prisoners, I know in one instance, shortly after we had been in a major battle where we had lost about a third of our company, on the Cambodian border. ¶

The day after the battle — or two days after the battle — our battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel, called those of us who were — had made it through the battle together — there were perhaps sixty people there who had not been wounded and had not been killed in battle. ¶

And made a statement to the effect that he had felt that some of the people — one of our platoons had been overrun in this battle — that he felt that some of the people had been shot in the head at close range by the North Vietnamese who had overran them and because of this, he did not expect to see any prisoners from Charlie Company for a long time to come. ¶

We took this for what it was — just a blanket permission to kill prisoners rather than turning them in. Though we made very sparse contact for the next few months and I know of no cases in my company where anybody took a prisoner and killed him. Our contact was just too low.

In regards to protesting anything that we thought was a war crime — at the time, I know myself and everybody else there believed in what we were doing. ¶

When we burned a village we didn’t question the order, we thought it was the right way to fight a war. ¶

It wasn’t till my last few months that I began to think that we were being unnecessarily brutal in the field and that something was wrong in what the Army had told us to do and what we were doing — what the Army stated our mission was. ¶

A big phrase then was, “to win the hearts and minds of the people.” It was becoming increasingly clear to me that you don’t win the hearts and minds of the people by burning their villages and killing their livestock. ¶

But as an example of what would happen if people stirred up trouble or made waves, on one occasion, I antagonized my platoon leader, who was a second lieutenant — this was about my third month there — it was for an incident I won’t go into — it was a minor incident, it had nothing to do with my reporting a war crime or with anything that would have affected his career, it was something I did. ¶

At any rate he became very antagonized. It was the same day of the battle where we had lost a third of our company. It was about three hours after the battle. ¶

As a punishment for what I did, he {4266} put me out in a one-man observation post. This was within half a kilometer of the Cambodian border. For all we knew there was still a major part of a crack North Vietnamese battalion running around the area — that’s what we’d been fighting earlier in the day.

He put me out as a one-man observation post with no radio. ¶

Now it’s an unwritten rule in the Army that you never do anything alone when you’re in Vietnam. You always take another man with you when you’re in the field. If you go to the latrine you take another man with you. If you go to pick up your mail you take another man with you. If you go to put out a flare in the evening as you’re setting up, you take another man with you. You never go anywhere alone. ¶

They sent me out alone near the Cambodian border with no radio. I would have been — there’s no way I could have been — conducted an observation post or been able to warn them if I’d seen anything without this radio short of just running back in and saying that the Vietnamese are coming. ¶

I stayed out there, for I don’t know how long, perhaps a few hours, until the sun started to set and nobody had called in. For all I knew they’d forgotten me and on my own initiative I decided I had better get back into our lines before it got too dark or if I tried to get in someone would probably panic and shoot me. ¶

As I got back in, my company was putting on its gear and starting to move out. The lieutenant who had put me out there had apparently forgotten all about me. The men on my machine gun crew were — had said that they were just about to ask the lieutenant that to send someone out to get me when I came in, but apparently the lieutenant had forgotten about me. ¶

This is, like I say, this was a very minor incident. This happened to one or two others on different occasion, they were put out on one-man OPs without radios, and I’ve heard the threat used to a man who was questioning orders or something, that he would be a one-man ambush patrol at night. They’d just send him out there alone to be an ambush patrol on his own. ¶

Needless to say, you didn’t want to make waves when this type of thing could happen to you.

Moderator.  Are there any questions of Mr. Hassett?

Floor.  I’ve heard from many servicemen that when a commanding officer would do stuff like this, that servicemen would when they were out in the field, just shoot him.

Hassett.  This type of story went around a lot, that people felt the way; I know of no specific instances of this. ¶

I do know, again referring to the one battle on the Cambodian border, our company commander in that battle was wounded quite seriously and he was evacuated and was replaced by a new company commander. ¶

Had he not been wounded, I am sure that I could think of at least a half a dozen guys in my platoon alone that would have shot him at the first opportunity. They felt that he walked us right into an ambush. ¶

I know of no other time when people were antagonized enough to perhaps shoot an officer, but I have heard rumors of this being done. ¶

And, of course, again, when I was there, I was in what was almost exclusively a volunteer unit who felt that we were where we should be and that we were fighting for a good cause, and I’m sure that as time has gone on in Vietnam things like this would be much more apt to happen.

Floor.  You use the pronoun “we” kicked civilians, hit them with rifle butts, burned down their hootches, did you personally commit any of those acts?

Hassett.  Yeah, in my — it was about my eighth or ninth month that I began to realize that what we were doing was, like I say, was inconsistent with what we had been told, and up until that time I was a pretty {4266c2} typical soldier. ¶

I’d slapped civilians around; I’d burned houses. ¶

My last three or four months on a personal level I refused to do things like this but, of course, it did not stop it from being done.

Floor.  And what happened to you as a result of refusing to do things like that?

Hassett.  I just sort of got a reputation as an oddball. ¶

But at the time, I was, like, one of the most experienced men in the platoon and we’d had a very high turnover rate — I was one of the few people who’d stayed in that company for a full year without being killed or wounded or getting a bad case of malaria or something and having to be Med-vacked and they needed my experience too much to do any disciplinary action.

Floor.  What period did you say you were in Vietnam?

Hassett.  I was in Vietnam from August, 1966 to August, 1967.

Floor.  You say — you were talking about that it was standard operational procedure and that’s how you amassed fire support, and I’m very interested in this idea of — you advanced behind a “wall of fire.” That in fire-fighting, there was a fire going in front of you and on both of your flanks. ¶

Do you think that any period you were going through these areas too fast to search them adequately or were you just traveling through them destroying everything, or were you actually searching for Viet Cong?

Hassett.  In the one case, I said it. We were going — we were just out to destroy. We were going through too fast to—

Floor.  Every time?

Hassett.  It would vary. Occasionally we would move through on a fast sweep and just like glance in the house, if, you know, there was a rifle standing out in the corner, we’d see it, but we very rarely gave it a chance to — we very rarely went slow enough to make a thorough search of an area.

Floor.  So, it is generally true that on a search-and-destroy operation, it was more destroy than search?

Hassett.  In our case, it was.

Floor.  Was it definite in a free fire zone to always burn the village? To always destroy the village, always destroy life?

Hassett.  It varied. Generally, we always destroyed a village. Well, in a free fire zone, we always destroyed a village. ¶

Theoretically, a village in a free fire zone would be deserted, usually they would be, perhaps you’d get one or two civilians who’d come back to try and reclaim some of their valuables. Sometimes they moved — they had to move out quite fast. ¶

Most of the time when we went through and there were civilians there, we were not in a free fire zone.

Floor.  Were you ever on operations which evacuated civilians from a free fire zone?

Hassett.  I’ve seen civilians forcibly moved, I don’t know whether they were from free fire zones at the time or what. ¶

Most of the free fire zones that I knew that — as being clearly labeled free fire zones — were already established. ¶

And you could just tell, it was like a ghost town in what had been a very productive rice-growing area. ¶

I mean, you’d see hundreds of acres, whole valleys would be listed as a free fire zone from the mouth of the valley on back, and hundreds of acres of rice paddies would just be stagnant. The villages would be deserted. ¶

If there was anything standing we’d burn them. ¶

The instance that I cited earlier — where we went behind a wall of fire — was not a free fire zone, to my knowledge. It was occupied by civilians. ¶

Usually we used the rule-of-thumb that if the house was occupied, not to burn it, if there was civilians in the house at that very moment. ¶

Though quite frequently, a guy would come up behind a house, light the thatch roof and then walk around and look in the door and see civilians there and by that time all he could do was tell them to get out because once the thatch roof caught on the house went up in a matter of minutes. {4266c3}

Floor.  In your whole year operating in Bin Dinh Province, during that time, at one time or another, what per cent of the province, would you say, had been covered by a free fire zone and had been destroyed in this way?

Hassett.  I couldn’t say. As for destruction, it was quite extensive. As for what was officially listed as a free fire zone, I couldn’t say.

Floor.  Do you think the purpose of search-and-destroy was not just to search but simply to destroy? That you started at a free fire zone and you’d go through and, you know, you burn everything there and then you move to a free fire zone some place else and you go and burn that so that you get the people congregated around one place?

Hassett.  Roughly this is what happens. ¶

Of course, to my knowledge, American troops aren’t equipped to adequately search a village anyway.

Floor.  Why not?

Hassett.  You just don’t know what’s in it. ¶

I know of one case where in an area that was officially declared pacified, a man in my platoon took out a squad on a short patrol, went into a village and went into — saw a central rice storehouse and decided that there was too much rice in that village for the people there. ¶

This was — the man was fairly new in Vietnam — it was a pacified area — the village chieftain and two Popular Forces soldiers came up to him and protested his decision. ¶

It was also within a week or two after the rice harvest, after a biannual rice harvest, and presumably the amount of rice there had to last the village for six months. ¶

This man declared that there was too much rice, a helicopter was sent in and the rice was bagged and confiscated. A company commander and a battalion commander were aware of this decision. They were listening on the radios; he was talking to the platoon leader.

Moderator.  Excuse me, we’re going to have to move on, now. Mr. Hassett is available for interviews.

Kenneth Campbell

Moderator.  The next witness will be Kenneth Campbell.

Campbell.  Good morning. My name is Kenneth Campbell. I was a lance corporal with the First Marine Division in Vietnam. I was a forward observer, an artillery scout observer for Bravo Company, First Battalion, First Marine Regiment, First Marine Division. ¶

As a forward observer my job was to support the infantry company that I was attached to with artillery fire. ¶

As a Marine fighting in Vietnam, well prior to going to Vietnam, I went through the usual basic training in the special school for FOs. ¶

The things that I was taught were such things as, “the Vietnamese are inferior”; they were constantly referred to as slant-eyes, gooks, zips; and that there was little distinction between VC and suspected VC. ¶

And I was also taught in FO School that artillery was the greatest killer on the battlefield, and I was to use this whenever possible, and use it as much as possible. ¶

In mid-August of 1968 my company was at a place called Con Thien, which I believe is familiar to quite a few people. In Con Thien there is an observation post called OP 1. ¶

From this observation post I observed two villages north of the demilitarized zone. These were not in the DMZ; they were north of it, actually in the southern part of North Vietnam. ¶

I observed these villages through a pair of ship’s binoculars, which are quite a bit more powerful than regular binoculars; they are 20 by 120 power. And these villages were approximately ten miles away, but through these binoculars I could see them clearly.

Upon observing these vills, I went back to the FSCC bunker, which is the Fire Support Coordination Center. I went to a lieutenant there, who was at the time the officer in {4267} charge of the bunker. He was a personal friend of mine because he served as the FO team’s lieutenant when I first arrived in Vietnam, and then he was switched to the FSCC post after I was there for about three or four months. ¶

I mentioned the fact that I saw these vills and asked to fire on them. He gave me permission to fire on them, and I told him that they were — that there didn’t seem to be any kind of enemy activity there. But being as they were in a free fire zone I thought maybe I could fire on them. And he said yes, I could fire on them, and a good reason for firing on them is because they supply the NVA with food and support and that they were indeed the enemy also. ¶

So I went back to the observation post and I called in — directed — heavy artillery on these two villages. I directed 8-inch high explosive rounds, 175 millimeter high-explosive rounds and with mixed fuse. That is, a variable time and quick fuse. The variable time fuse would set the round off approximately twenty meters above the ground and would send shrapnel down and out, and the quick fuse would go off on the ground on impact. ¶

I fired both these missions, and observed the firing and I would make the approximation of about twenty-five, maybe even more, hootches destroyed, and I could actually see farmers, women and children, running from the exploding rounds, and some of them not making it. ¶

I believe that approximately twenty people didn’t make it to safety.

Moderator.  Approximately when was this?

Campbell.  This was in mid-August of 1968.

Moderator.  And what did you see when you were looking through those binoculars?

Campbell.  Before I called-in the strike?

Moderator.  Yes.

Campbell.  I saw two individual villages, several thousand meters apart, and I saw people walking through the rice paddies. It looked like they were working. There were water buffalo walking through just like any normal Vietnamese village.

Moderator.  Did you see any arms or ammunition?

Campbell.  No, I didn’t.

Moderator.  How many rounds did you call in on the two villages?

Campbell.  That’s hard to say. I called in quite a bit. A Marine battery of 175s consists of four guns, and I think maybe including the adjustment rounds, maybe twenty rounds of 175 and maybe about the same number of 8-inch. That’s including both missions.

Moderator.  Would anybody from the press like to ask Mr. Campbell a question?

Floor.  Yes. He called in this artillery fire in August of 1968. Here it is 1970, and you’re reporting it now as something that was wrong to do. What happened to you between then and now that changed your attitude toward, this?

Campbell.  Well, one thing that changed my attitude toward it was immediately after firing I — my radio man was with me at the time, he didn’t seem to take to the incident too well, to the actual firing. He didn’t say much but he didn’t look like he agreed very much with the idea, which gave me second thoughts. ¶

And after that, I thought quite a bit about it and I never fired any more missions on unarmed vills for no other reason than that they were supplying the enemy with rice. ¶

And after I got back from Vietnam I really started thinking heavily about it. I just came to the conclusion it was all wrong and that I must have been temporarily insane to be doing something like that. ¶

But the more I thought about it the more the whole thing was insane; the whole war was insane and this was common procedure and for an FO to wipe out a vill was one of the biggest things he could do over there. ¶

One of the, you know — it was like an honor to be able to really wipe out a vill with artillery and to show how great destruction is with artillery. {4267c2}

Floor.  Do you consider this an atrocity, Mr. Campbell?

Campbell.  Yes, I do.

Floor.  You said that you were told in FO school about the omnipotence of artillery. Can you think of other ways in which this kind of doctrine, this mystique was directed at the people using it?

Campbell.  I’m not sure I understand the question — other than the artillery schools?

Floor.  Yes. Did they indoctrinate you in the artillery school with the idea that artillery is the weapon in Vietnam, that artillery and air support are principal weapons?

Campbell.  This didn’t cease in FO school. I worked with officers in artillery at different times when I was in Vietnam, and this kind of indoctrination continued there. It was done — this type of indoctrination was pushed because they wanted us to have pride in the unit we were in and the type of unit we were in. So I guess that’s why they did it.

Floor.  The other thing is, who got the body count in this particular incident. Did anyone get the kill credit for it?

Campbell.  The artillery battery that fired it got the credit.

Floor.  For killing thirty people, right?

Campbell.  Well, it was approximately — I couldn’t say thirty, I’d approximately say twenty.

Floor.  How far away was this village from your observation post?

Campbell.  Approximately ten miles.

Floor.  Ten miles away.

Campbell.  Yes.

Floor.  So you counted approximately twenty body count from—

Campbell.  Ten miles away, that’s correct. The reason why I could count so accurately was like I said, these binoculars were very powerful. They were 20 by 120 ship’s binoculars. They were not something you could handle with your hands. It was built on a stand, and they were heavy — they must have weighed about thirty pounds. If you can picture a gigantic pair of binoculars weighing thirty pounds, they were like a telescope only with two lenses instead of one.

Floor.  Con Thien, in August of 1968, was a relatively peaceful place, is that correct?

Campbell.  Well, compared to what? In 1967 there was quite a bit of activity going on in Con Thien; it was being shelled daily. In 1966 it wasn’t being shelled daily, it might have been being shelled every other day instead.

Floor.  Given that situation what do you think the proper posture would have been for the artillery batteries in Con Thien?

Campbell.  The artillery batteries at Con Thien should have been firing at artillery batteries firing at Con Thien, not firing at villages.

Floor.  Did you always know exactly where they were?

Campbell.  No, we didn’t but we had — I don’t know exactly how strong the intelligence, our intelligence, was, but there was always need to be firing at either suspected NVA batteries or else known NVA battery positions. ¶

Even when we knew where the NVA battery positions were, we still couldn’t get them with artillery most of the time because they draw all these guns back into their positions in the hills. ¶

You could fire as much artillery as you wanted. Most of the time it wouldn’t get to them.

Floor.  Mr. Campbell, I’d be interested in your thoughts about the nature of the war?

Campbell.  My personal thoughts are that there’s actually two types of people in the U.S. Forces in Vietnam. ¶

Those who actively participate in atrocities and those who are also taught this indoctrination but don’t actually carry it out. But they don’t act against committing atrocities when they see them, because they are convinced that this is a necessity of war and that it happens in every war, so why should they come out and say something against it — that’s the rea- {4267c3} son these things continue to go on. ¶

Yes, I’m definitely against these atrocities being committed; I wish they would be stopped. ¶

And I hope that through my testimony and the testimony of the other people here at this commission, maybe the American people will wake up and realize these things are actually being committed and that this isn’t some fantasy story being concocted just to get people like Lieutenant Calley off the hook. ¶

These things are being committed.

Moderator.  In the interests of time we’re going to move on to the next witness. Will you save your questions for Mr. Campbell until the end?

Sam Rankin

Rankin.  My name is Sam Rankin. I’m from Billings, Montana. I served in the Peace Corps, 1966-1967, in India, graduated from Eastern Montana College in 1968, was drafted shortly thereafter. ¶

I was a combat medic with the 199th Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. 199th was stationed right outside of Saigon. ¶

The incident I’m going to relate to you this morning is one in which a hamlet in the Delta, about 15 miles south of Saigon.

We — on the night of June 14, 1969, that’s on a night ambush — under the impression that there was a VC force that was going to try and cross the river and come into this hamlet to get supplies, so the captain of the company stationed two platoons on each side of the village and another where they thought the VC unit would cross the river and I was at the spot where they thought they would cross the river. ¶

As it turned out — I feel it’s relevant to make the parallel between Army intelligence with this prisoner of war thing in Vietnam about a week or so ago — intelligence reports were approximately about three weeks old as we found out about after this whole thing happened. ¶

Anyway, we were under the impression that there was a VC unit in that area and we were all ready for it.

We were waiting to move into our final positions and while it got dark. And finally the two platoons upon each side of the village started moving into position and from a separate part of Nippo Palm, a jungle which was separate from the village, they received about ten to twelve of AK fire. No one was wounded, no one was killed — they took no casualties whatsoever. Of course, the first two platoons didn’t know quite what was going on. They couldn’t see where it was coming from and so on. ¶

They started shooting at the village, just a few rounds, just to see what would happen, see if they could get any return fire to be able to tell where it was coming from. They didn’t receive any fire. ¶

They called the captain who was with my platoon, and asked him what to do, of course, and he said well, get the star light scopes which is a thing in Viet Nam which takes the available light and it makes it real magnified so you could see in the dark if there’s any light at all. ¶

And they saw a lot of movement in the village.

Everyone was under the impression, especially that close to Saigon that all the hootches, whenever there’s a fire fight or any kind of firing around, at people supposed to get into their bunkers inside the hootches. Everyone thought this was kind of funny — this was the rationale later — and we thought that the VC were moving through the village when they saw all this movement. Naturally they assumed it to be the VC unit. ¶

The captain got on the horn — radio and called the battalion commander and asked permission to get two gun ships in and permission was granted. The gun ships were overhead shortly thereafter. We still had received no fire from the village.

Along with the gun ships there was a firefly, which has a giant spotlight on the side and he flew around and every so often he would turn it on and there was definitely a lot of movement. ¶

So the CO gave the {4268} okay for them to strafe the village with the gunships and they made about three or four runs firing mini gun fire and 2.75 rockets into the village. ¶

And of course, the hootches started to burn. I was about 1,000 meters away and I could see the people running about the village as silhouettes. Then the infantry unit opened up indiscriminately in the village, not heavy fire but the M-16 machine gun fire and M-16 rounds and a few M-79 grenades. ¶

Then the gunships came back in and expelled their load until they had just enough to get back to their base camps and they asked us if we wanted them to come back and we said no, that there wasn’t much to come back for.

The village was just about destroyed by then. ¶

The next morning the two platoons that were on either side of the village were called back and the third platoon went in to survey the damage with the captain. ¶

I was the only medic along — senior medic — and there was quite a few wounded people. The serious ones had already gone to our base camps to be treated by our medical facilities. And we had to police up the bodies, pick them up, and help the villagers — they were all crying and coming at us and talking to us — I suppose they were asking us why we did it and so on and so forth. I counted about fifteen myself. Mostly children and old women. ¶

I found out later that all the villagers did have IDs and that they all did live there.

There was two that were in doubt, but most of the villagers verified that they were inhabitants and had lost their IDs or some such thing. ¶

So it turned out that there was no VC unit in that area. We also looked for the expended AK rounds and any AK weapons, and found nothing whatsoever the next morning at all. ¶

In fact, the captain called the three lieutenants and told them to collect all the souvenir AK rounds from the troops. Whether they were used in the subsequent investigation, which did take place, I’m not sure, but I think they were. ¶

We were also told not to discuss this incident until the investigation took place. ¶

It was obvious that there had been a big mistake and everyone was cognizant of the fact that there was going to be an investigation. ¶

The thing I heard about how the investigation turned out — it — this is hearsay — that the battalion commander was transferred. Now whether he was promoted or demoted in that move I don’t know, but he did leave shortly thereafter. ¶

And that was the last of this — as far as anything official.

Moderator.  Could you spell the name of the village and give us it’s approximate location?

Rankin.  Can Giouc, fifteen miles south of Saigon — it’s—

Moderator.  What was the date again, please?

Rankin.  The 14th of July.

Floor.  What year?

Rankin.  1969.

Moderator.  What was the official body count recorded that day?

Rankin.  Well, they never did call in a body count. Through the medical facilities, which was what I was concerned with, they eventually did get an official twenty-three dead, but I don’t believe they ever did call it in as body count as such.

Moderator.  What was the reaction of the men in your platoon — you were the men that actually went in and counted bodies. What was the reaction among those men?

Rankin.  It may sound trite, but disbelief. ¶

I’d only been in the country about three months and I really didn’t know this thing — what a mistake it was, until November when I heard Captain Medina on the radio in Vietnam stating some particulars about the My Lai incident. ¶

I realized then that this thing did happen quite a bit and that — I was in the rear at that time, and I talked to quite a few {4268c2} of the soldiers, and it does happen quite a bit. ¶

So at the time — not much — I thought that was war — these things happen, but later on I realized what a mistake it was.

Moderator.  In your experience as a medic with infantry units, did you ever have occasion to see how prisoners or detainees were treated?

Rankin.  Yes, I was a medic with American advisers — I believe it’s called the Phoenix program. ¶

We went out on helicopters about twenty strong, mostly infantry and maybe a few military and intelligence officers, where there were supposed to be suspected VC holding out — just one or two in deserted villages and so on. ¶

We dropped down and would get them. ¶

And the military intelligence officers would treat them fairly rough — rough up, hit them, and so on and so forth, kick them; I never saw anyone murdered or extreme torture methods myself, but they definitely didn’t treat them, I’m sure, according to the Geneva Convention and so on and so forth — what they were supposed to follow.

Moderator.  Okay. Would members of the press like to ask Mr. Rankin some questions? We’ll move on to the next witness, then.

Philip Wingenbach

Wingenbach.  My name is Philip Wingenbach, I’m from Buffalo, New York. ¶

I spent two years in the Army — August, 1967, to August, 1969. I was a paratrooper, I was a medic with the 173rd Airborne. While with them I served with the 3rd Battalion, 503rd Infantry and E Troop 17 Cav. Like a Rat patrol. Gun jeeps. ¶

In February 1969 — it was during Tet, the Tet holiday, their big New Year holiday, and we were headed from Bay Lok, the 173rd base camp right next to Bay Lok city, to an engineer compound which was about five miles down the road. ¶

While we were going through the city, people were celebrating, a lot of people drunk, and you know, having a good time, blowing fire crackers off which they always do during Tet. We were leaving the outskirts of the village, and there were people blowing fire crackers off and our second man in the second jeep opened up on the village with a .50 caliber machine gun. ¶

As soon as he started firing, everyone else started firing.

There was eight guns used — four M.16 machine guns, two .50 caliber machine guns, and everyone had .79 grenade launchers. ¶

We opened up on them for about twenty, thirty seconds as we rode by. ¶

After we got past the village, we stopped and we went back. There were people coming out of the hootches screaming, crying, “No VC, No VC, We’re not Vietcong.” ¶

We went up to them and there were people laying inside the first four hootches in the village. Dead children, women, men — we didn’t count — we didn’t even stick around, because we knew what would happen.

Guys in my unit just wanted to kill people, that’s the way the 173rd was. They don’t care who they kill, as long as they’re Vietnamese, or gooks, as we called them. So, we left their village. ¶

The chief of the village made a complaint to Mac Vee: Military Assistance Command in Bay Lok City, and they brought it up to the colonel of the 3rd, 503rd battalion, who was in charge of the 17th Cav., it was a task force. ¶

And it was just whitewashed. All the guys in the platoon got together and, you know, said, we were fired upon. You know. Those firecrackers were AKs. ¶

There were no weapons found in the village at all. Every person had died. The village chief — count was eighteen, that they said, and there were six wounded. There was no weapons found. Every person that died had an ID card and they just whitewashed it. ¶

In the morning they called in every man to the battalion commander, one by one, in this inquiry. In the morning before everyone went in, the platoon sergeant had said at a formation, ¶

“You guys just remember {4268c3} the right story,” ¶

and that was it, and it was understood. ¶

Nobody wanted to incriminate themselves so it was whitewashed.

Moderator.  Phil, I’d like to try and emphasize one point. Did you or were you aware at all that you had received any enemy fire, or was there any resistance fire?

Wingenbach.  We said there was. We knew there wasn’t. It was just a thing. One guy started it and the rest of the guys started it. ¶

The platoon leader had no control over his platoon now. Anyone could start shooting their weapons and everyone else got into the act because — you know, it was fun, it was fun to shoot people. ¶

That was the thing with the 173rd: they loved to kill. They had a big record over there. They were the first unit in Vietnam. When they first went over there — from stories I heard from guys, they used to — all the prisoners or all their body count, they used to take the patch and nail them into their foreheads to let the Viet Cong know who killed them.

Floor.  When did this happen?

Wingenbach.  This happened in February 1969, right during Tet.

Floor.  Did you fire into that crowd?

Wingenbach.  Yes, I did.

Floor.  Have you told this story before anywhere?

Wingenbach.  No, I haven’t.

Floor.  Why have you waited until now?

Wingenbach.  I was indoctrinated pretty good through paratrooper school. And when I got over there, all the guys over there — gooks were gooks and you killed them. That’s what they were for. So we did it. I didn’t really bother me at the time. It didn’t bother me until I started thinking what really happened.

Moderator.  Excuse me. Perhaps we can continue with the questioning after Mr. Wingenbach has finished his testimony. He has two more incidents to relate. ¶

You were a medic over there, Phil. Did you have occasion to treat any wounded prisoners?

Wingenbach.  In December 1968, I don’t know the exact date, it was about the first part of the month. We were in a short fire fight. Like in about twenty seconds they took four prisoners — we took our prisoners — and three were killed. ¶

I was working on two of the Viet Cong that we had shot, supposedly Viet Cong. They had weapons so I guess they were. ¶

The platoon leader comes up to me and goes, ¶

“It would be nice if those guys could die. You know, they got pretty thin arteries there.” ¶

I told him, “If you want to” — I had just gotten in the country and it was like the first action I had been in and it was different shooting someone. ¶

It was pretty easy to shoot someone but to look somebody in the face and cut their arteries, I couldn’t do it. ¶

So I told him to do it himself. I guess he didn’t have the guts either. He called in the choppers and we evacuated our prisoners.

Moderator.  You have another incident regarding a Montagnard village that you engaged?

Wingenbach.  In April of 1969 we were going down a road about eighty miles west of Phan Rang and we had three gun jeeps. I was in the middle gun jeep and there were two in the front. We were about fifty yards apart. ¶

Supposedly, the rear gun jeep got one round of fire from this area of a village. The first front two gun jeeps didn’t hear anything. They started firing so we came back and the lieutenant ordered the guys to go in. I stayed on the road. I didn’t go in with them. ¶

The {They} just fired indiscriminately into hootches. No one was killed; nobody was in the village. There were livestock there. We found three old women in the field and an old man, that’s it. No weapons, no nothing. ¶

We burned every hootch down and killed all their livestock which was about three water buffalo, chickens, and a couple of pigs. {4269}

Moderator.  For no reason at all? Had you received any—

Wingenbach.  A rear gun jeep—

Moderator.  One round—

Wingenbach.  Supposedly we had received one round. No one heard it — except the three guys on that gun jeep. I doubt it very much, I don’t know.

Floor.  What was the name of your unit?

Wingenbach.  173rd Airborne Brigade. ¶

Also in May 1968, seven Viet Cong were killed in an ambush early in the morning and we were sent to pick up the bodies and — well, to guard them while the infantry unit was surveying the area. ¶

While we’re guarding them a platoon sergeant and a couple of other guys were stringing the guys with ropes, the dead bodies, hanging them around the neck, from the feet — they were naked bodies — in the trees and taking pictures of them in the classical hunter pose, you know with your foot on top of his body. “Take that picture.” That’s what they were doing. ¶

I think — I’m not sure — we dropped the bodies off between an ARVN compound and a 173rd Airborne compound, the 3rd Battalion compound. I think — I’m not sure — they took the bodies downtown and laid them out on the sidewalk to show the people what happens to Viet Cong. ¶

They were mutilated bodies completely mutilated.

Moderator.  Excuse me, Phil — in the incidents you’re relating, were there officers present? Were there people in a responsible position who would be controlling these types of actions?

Wingenbach.  Yes, there were. Officers loved to kill, too. They didn’t — no one cared. Any Vietnamese was a gook or a Viet Cong. They didn’t tell a difference.

Moderator.  I think we can take questions from the press right now.

Floor.  Was there ever any conscious attempt to put killer-type personalities or personalities who might be more prone to being ruthless in units like the 173rd?

Wingenbach.  The 173rd was an airborne unit and airborne-qualified people went into it. The airborne training you get is so indoctrinated. It’s just a kill, kill, kill thing. The three weeks you go through in jump school — you know, it’s always “The airborne’s got to be the best. It’s got to be the best and you got to have the most body count and you got to kill the most ...” {Ellipsis in the original} And you got to be the hardest, you know? “Airborne”, and that’s the airborne mentality.

Floor.  Were any of the troops under the influence of marijuana?

Wingenbach.  Yeah, a lot. During these incidents, no, they weren’t, but during the year I was over there, 173rd had a lot of people smoking grass, that’s for sure.

Floor.  What about legal counsel? Are you under legal counsel now?

Wingenbach.  No, I’m not.

Floor.  Is it too late now to be brought up on charges?

Moderator.  These gentlemen are civilians and they don’t come under military jurisdiction.

Floor.  You have no counsel?

Moderator.  Yes, we do.

Floor.  What’s the name of your counsel?

{Tod Ensign}

Tod Ensign.  I’m an attorney.

Floor.  You represent the group?

Ensign.  I represent them only in the sense that I’m safeguarding their legal rights.

Floor.  They are immune from prosecution now, is that correct?

Ensign.  Yes. Under existing law there is no jurisdiction once persons have terminated from active service. And I think I’ll point out here just briefly, that even if it were possible to try civilians, the government, as you’ll see from the three days of hearings, would have to try thousands, tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans.

Floor.  What’s the motivation to speak now {4269c2} instead of at that time? That you’re immune from prosecution now? Everybody has been asking “Why now?” Is this the reason?

T. Griffiths Ellison.  That’s not necessarily true because one of the things, especially in the units I served in throughout the Marine Corps, is that enlisted personnel are told time and time again never to question orders. “Follow through the orders.” ¶

If you have any questions after following through the order, whether it may be lawful or not, then ask the question. Now a lot of us asked questions after we followed those orders, but there was usually no follow-up, no investigations, nothing else. ¶

After the act has been committed, most everyone tends to forget about it.

Larry Rottmann

Moderator.  We’ll again move on to the next witness, Mr. Larry Rottmann.

Floor.  Where are you from, Mr. Rottmann?

Rottmann.  My name is Larry Rottmann, Columbia, Missouri. ¶

Friday, August the 13th, 1965, I enlisted in the Army. After approximately a year I went to Infantry Officer Candidate School. ¶

From the period June 5, 1967 to March 26, 1968, I served as the information officer for the 25th Infantry Division, based at Cu Chi, Vietnam. ¶

My duties during this period were to be officer in charge of the division newspaper, division magazine, division radio and television show, all other 25th Infantry Division information-disseminating means. ¶

During this time I was also the escort officer for visiting newsmen including network television crews, which any of you who have been there know means spending a lot of time in the field because as soon as the information personnel come to the division, the first thing they want to know is, “Where’s the action?” ¶

While serving in Vietnam I was awarded the bronze star and purple heart. I was honorably discharged from active duty as a first lieutenant on March 26, 1968. ¶

I’m the author of the 25th Infantry Division of Vietnam: A Combat History, published by McCall’s Corporation, and a contributor to a book titled The Indochina Story, a documentation of the war in South-east Asia by the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars at Harvard University.

Because of the nature of my assignment, which was one of McCusker’s sub-lieutenants in the Information Office at the division, I’m able to verify a great deal the things he said about procedures and information business. ¶

I’ll just take a few minutes to talk about one particular operation which all of you are acquainted with, that being Operation Junction City. It began February 22, 1967, and concluded May 16 of the same year. ¶

Although I did arrive in Vietnam in June of 1967, a month after the conclusion of that operation, I had many first-hand opportunities to visit War Zone C, in particular Tay Ninh Province where the bulk of that action occurred.

By June of 1967 the entire nine-hundred-square-mile Elephant Bar area had been declared a free fire zone, meaning that anything that moved in it would be shot, burned, or killed. ¶

Flying over that area in helicopters I could see how the defoliation had reduced the Jungle to just barren soil and dead trees. ¶

You probably all know how a typical operation of this kind occurs, with air strikes and so on and so forth. I’ll just give you a few figures. ¶

The Operation Junction City for the 25th Infantry Division began with B-52 bomb raids which dropped a total of 16,000 two hundred, five hundred pound bombs. ¶

There were also 1,757 air support sorties by Phantom and Sky Hawk attack bombers. The jets expended 1,648 tons of napalm, 1,104 tons of other kinds of bombs, and countless hundreds of thousands of 2.75 rockets and machinegun fire. ¶

After the prepping, the objects to be {4269c3} searched for by the ground crews: they looked for weapons, foodstuffs, medical supplies, bunkers, tunnels, or anything that could be of use to the enemy. ¶

Villages, hamlets, or any other signs of life were to be completely destroyed. ¶

Houses were burned, food confiscated, poisoned or urinated on; household items smashed, livestock killed or mutilated, banana trees and gardens destroyed, burned, uprooted. ¶

Twenty-one villages in Tay Ninh Province were destroyed during this operation: Af Trai Vai, Zamet — and I won’t go through all of them, I have a list of twenty-one if you’re interested. You can see them. I brought the map with me, the Joint Operations Ground Map, which you can obtain from the government map bureau, number 1501GNC487 which is standard issue to all ground combat units. I have the map here, I’ll be glad to show it to anybody, as well as the villages, later on.

On the censorship itself, we don’t have much time so I won’t go into detail but I can tell you a partial list of things that never left my office. ¶

In other words, if McCusker had written a story at brigade or battalion level and it got as far as me — if it got through his PIO at that level and through his commander, if it somehow managed to get up to me — these are things that would never come through. ¶

Now some of this is changed, which you’ll recognize, but this is as of June, 1968 — March, 1968: ¶

  ineffectiveness or mistakes of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam; ¶

  handling, processing, interrogation or treatment of POWs; ¶

  use of shotguns; ¶

  use of flame throwers either hand-held or track-mounted; ¶

  use of lethal or non-lethal gas, gas-dispensing methods or gas masks; ¶

  young VC, female VC; ¶

  Huey Cobra helicopters; ¶

  information on the size, accuracy, range or effects of enemy 122-millimeter rockets; ¶

  M-16 rifle malfunctions or deficiencies; ¶

  extent or damage of U.S. casualties from enemy attacks; ¶

  any story concerning enemy tenacity, courage or ingenuity; ¶

  marriage of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese; ¶

  U.S. soldiers’ use of pot or drugs; ¶

  conditions of U.S. military stockades; ¶

  anything about the CIA or CIA-sponsored activities like Project Phoenix or Air American; ¶

  anything about U.S. activities in Cambodia and Laos.

And to pause here for a few minutes. I was in Cambodia three times myself in 1967. It was not infrequent at that time for the United States to make incursions into Cambodia although not any more than ten or twenty klicks — kilometers — but it was a very frequent occurrence. ¶

  B-52 bombing errors; ¶

  ambushes or defeats of U.S. units; ¶

  bulldozing, burning, or other destruction of Vietnamese villages or hamlets; ¶

  anything about troop morale, pro or con; ¶

  information about captured enemy materiel was that of U.S. manufacture — weapons, food, clothing, Playboy magazines; ¶

  the term “NFL”; ¶

  napalm; ¶

  enemy armor or helicopters.

One other thing I want to bring up is that we’ve had a lot of talk about the body count, who ordered the body count, where’d the body count come from, who have the orders to collect the bodies. ¶

As of March, 1968, it was official MACV policy — MACV being the Military Advisory Command Vietnam — no matter how little contact was made during any given week, VC losses would always be at least two thousand KIA per week. ¶

That figure has since been downgraded as you probably know to one thousand. One thousand is the magic figure, gentlemen. No U.S. killed in any given week, but there’ll always be at least a thousand. ¶

Check it out.

To meet this figure each division was given an unofficial but very real quota of VC to report killed. ¶

During a visit by General Westmoreland in 1968, just the week following the beginning of Tet, I heard him tell the commanding general of the 25th infantry {4270} Division that the 25th Infantry Division needed to put more emphasis on “body count” — that’s a quote — “bodies,” end quote. ¶

The commanding general of the division passed on the pressure to brigade commanders who passed on to battalion commanders to company commanders to platoon leaders, squad leaders, and on down until every man was affected by this body count obsession.

Some U.S. units have large scoreboards on which the body count is kept. The unit that reports the highest body count gets public commendation. The soldier who kills the most VC by himself often gets an in-country R and R to Vung Tau, or even out-country to Australia or Hong Kong. ¶

I have seen GIs in the field get in fistflghts over who shot what VC, since the reward could be five days in Honolulu with the wife and kids. ¶

I’ve seen instances of doubling, tripling, quadrupling, etc., just on and on and on, of enemy bodies. ¶

I’ve seen accidental and deliberate killing of women and children counted as bodies. ¶

I’ve seen water buffaloes and monkeys counted as bodies, and many times I’ve seen bodies counted where there weren’t any bodies at all. ¶

I have had MACV officials call me back after submission of the Daily Situation Report — sit rep — and urge me to quote “dig up a few more bodies,” end quote, we don’t care how. ¶

And that does include digging them up: if you know where some are buried, go out, dig them up and count them. This had happened many times.

We’re just about out of time. I want to bring up one further point. ¶

Many people here have asked guys on the panel: “This happened last year, two years ago, three years ago — why? How come you bring it up now? Why did you sit on it?” ¶

Well, after the first year if you come back, after the first year it’s like shock, you know. Like you want to forget, like you don’t want to talk about it, like you don’t want to think about it. Like how many Vietnam veterans do you know who’ve had martial troubles, psychiatric problems? You just don’t want it to happen — you just want to wipe that all out of your mind. ¶

But then after about a year it starts bugging you and you have to talk to somebody about it. So you begin by talking to your friends. If they’re not receptive, you just keep talking to wider and wider audiences. You talk as far as you can, you talk to as many people as you can. You try to get the word out, you try to clear your head. ¶

Why do we speak up at all? ¶

Because we can’t sleep at night, that’s why. Because we can’t sleep. Because we can’t go to John Wayne movies any more and not cry. ¶

These are grown men we’re talking about, men with real feelings, men who know what they did, what they participated in, but can’t help themselves for feeling badly about it. ¶

It’s the way it is.

A really significant incident to point this out occurred on the Vietnam vets’ march over Labor Day from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Valley Forge {Operation RAW}. That’s probably one of the best-kept secrets in the whole world, but one hundred fifty Vietnam veterans marched that ninety miles on a blacktop road on a simulated search and destroy mission. ¶

One night I woke up — as is usual — in the middle of the night, couldn’t sleep. Everybody was sleeping in sleeping bags and blankets all over this farmer’s field — and I walked over to the can. As I walked, I walked through one hundred and fifty guys moaning, tossing, rolling, sitting up in their beds, smoking, doing anything they could to try to keep their mind off of it. ¶

We speak now because we have to, it’s as simple as that.

I’d like to close what I have to say with this thing that I wrote. Maybe it’ll help clear something up for you. I don’t read it because I think it’s great literature, but it’s sort of like real history. It’s something that I’d like to read. ¶

It’s entitled “We Are All Lieutenant Calley.” {4270c2}

“If you went, you too must share the guilt. The infantry man pulls the trigger that kills, the pilot drops the bomb that slaughters, the artillery man jerks the lanyard that maims, and the engineer plants the mine that mangles. But cooks, clerks, doctors, and chaplains are murderers, too, for there are no non-combatants in this war. Each soldier’s presence invites, entices, demands enemy attack, and the haphazard retaliation has the inevitable result: My Lai, Ben Tre, Tan Phuoc Trong, Ben Suc; a half million Asian bodies, four deaths on each and every GI conscience. Have you ever met a happy Vietnam veteran?”

Floor.  Mr. Rottmann, what do you know about the use of GV nerve agents in Vietnam?

Rottmann.  I’ve heard that it’s used.

Floor.  On this fact sheet here, it says that you’re going to make the first public disclosure of the presence of these nerve agents.

Rottmann.  The disclosure was made in Boston last spring at an inquiry that was held there at that time.

Floor.  By you?

Rottmann.  Yes, it was. You can read it. It’s in the New York Times, I believe.

Floor.  Tell us briefly what you revealed then.

Rottmann.  I just revealed that I had seen what I had seen what I believed to be and was told to be a nerve agent, at that time, at the Phen Ny airfield in Vietnam.

Floor.  Used in what way?

Rottmann.  Used in what way? To kill people. That’s about the only thing it’s good for. Some time in the fall of 1967.

Floor.  Do you have evidence of how you know that the official policy is to have two thousand KIA?

Rottmann.  I was told that over the phone.

Floor.  By who?

Rottmann.  By officials from MAVC.

Floor.  What officials, though?

Rottmann.  I don’t want to name any names. It goes along with the whole philosophy. If you name a name you blame a person. We blame everybody.

Floor.  That’s a fairly serious charge. Do you have anything at all you can cite as evidence except that somebody called up on the phone and told you that?

Rottmann.  Well, you can check the records and see. Just check the Pentagon release records every week and see if any time during that period the count fell below two thousand. Whether there was any U.S. casualties or not. ¶

Just check it out.

Floor.  That has nothing to do with the charge, though. Can’t you give anything to substantiate it?

Rottmann.  I’ve been told that. I don’t have it in writing. Okay?

Moderator.  I don’t know how this will add to the count of two thousand, but we will have testimony I believe it’s tomorrow from a member of Army forces over there that in the outfit he served with, they went out on three-day forays and if they did not have a sufficient body count — approximately fifteen per unit — that they had to stay out in the field. ¶

Now if that doesn’t indict body-count policy, I don’t know what does because that order came from a colonel and was approved by a general.

Floor.  I’d like to ask about your quoting William Westmoreland. When did this occur? What were the circumstances? He’s visiting the 25th Infantry?

Rottmann.  Right. Sometime following the Tet offensive, probably the first couple weeks in February. Things are pretty hectic then as you know. He did come to the division, he did speak to the commanding general at that time at a briefing in which I was present.

Floor.  You heard that with your own ears?

Rottmann.  My own ears, that’s right.

Floor.  Now what exactly did he say? {4270c3}

Rottmann.  “Bodies.” He wanted more bodies. That’s b-o-d-i-e-s.

Floor.  He said “I want bodies?” “More bodies.”

How far were you from the general when you heard him say that?

Rottmann.  Closer than you are to me. Ten, five to ten feet.

Floor.  You were there as part of the official party?

Rottmann.  I was the Division Information Officer. It was my job to be there.

Floor.  He didn’t say that to you, did he?

Rottmann.  No, he did not. He said that to the general of the division.

Floor.  Who was the general?

Rottmann.  You can check it out. It’s a matter of record.

Moderator.  Gentlemen, I think the time has run out for the first session.

Floor.  Did Westmoreland say any more about bodies than “I want bodies?” What else did he say?

Rottmann.  The general conversation just continued along those lines: the fact that pacification was passed (these are not quotes, this is just the general tone of the conversation), that pacification, medcaps didn’t prevent Tet, didn’t prevent the enemy from launching an offensive. You could build all the bridges you want, it didn’t delay the war.

Floor.  When did this happen again, this discussion?

Rottmann.  First or second week of February, 1968.

Floor.  What was your rank, I’m afraid I missed that?

Rottmann.  First Lieutenant.

Floor.  Would you say that that’s the policy now, that the emphasis remains on body count and not on — what do they call it — pacification?

Rottmann.  I can’t say. I haven’t been there for a while so I can’t say.

Moderator.  Gentlemen, are there any other questions for Mr. Rottmann, or any of the other witnesses?

Floor.  I was wondering if any of the other gentlemen can back up your emphasis on body count?

Moderator.  I think they already have. Several witnesses have mentioned it today and more of the witnesses will be giving testimony about the emphasis on body count through the rest of the session.

Floor.  Was that list that you were reading some kind of direction, an Army directive?

Rottmann.  It was an Army directive. It frequently came down in a thing called The Kolonel’s Kernels — both spelled with a K — from UCRV.

Floor.  Do you have a copy of that?

Rottmann.  Not a copy, I have some of the Kolonel’s Kernels if you’d like to see them later on.

Larry Rottman subsequently testified at the Winter Soldier Investigation (Detroit Michigan, January 31, February 1-2, 1971), 117 Congressional Record 9947-10055, at 10022-10031 (Panel: “The 25th Infantry Division and Public Information Office”) (U.S. Congress 92-1, April 6 1971, Permanent Edition); testified at a hearing on American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1971 (House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee, April 20 1971); and testified at the House Ad Hoc Hearing for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (April 23 1971).  CJHjr


Robert Osman

Moderator.  Our last witness is Mr. Robert Osman.

Osman.  My name is Robert Osman. I’m age twenty-two. I went to Vietnam in the end of June of 1968, and I served there with Charlie One-Three — that’s First Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division — until the end of July in 1969, I was attached to 81 mm. mortars. I spent about two months with the guns, then went out as a forward observer with Charlie Company.

Now we operated mostly up in Northern I-Corps Area, in the jungles and mountains. ¶

The first contact I had with Vietnamese civilians in the vills was in the first part of December of 1968, when we participated in a County Fair Operation. ¶

This is the type thing where we moved out in the middle of the nighttime and kind of walk all over the flatland, and at a certain time around dawn we converge on a vill, and all of a sudden the people are like surrounded. They can’t {4271} go in, they can’t go out. ¶

And then we set up for approximately a week, however long it takes, while the ARVNs come in and search the vill. ¶

The County Fair that I took place in, participated in, was kind of like a big gala operation as far as the Vietnamese were concerned. They brought in the ARVNs to search the place, there were public speakers, there were banners, flags, all sorts of rallies trying to gain support for the Vietnamese government I guess. ¶

However, they went through checking ID cards, checking civilians, and they had them rounded up in barbed-wire confines off in a different section, where they kept different classifications of the Vietnamese that they interrogated; they’d be the ones waiting for interrogation, Vietnamese suspects — Viet Cong suspects, excuse me. ¶

In these little compounds they had three or four little tin shacks set up.

This was in the desert. The sun was very hot, and the ARVN officers would interrogate the villagers in these shacks. ¶

The interrogations were conducted with rubber hoses. People were brought in — a few minutes later we’d hear them screaming. ¶

On one instance there was — I saw a Vietnamese girl, teenager, brought in. She came out about half an hour later completely black and blue. ¶

At the end of this operation they had a couple of six-bars, a couple of trucks loaded with Vietnamese civilians taking them away, and many of the villagers were running after crying, little kids running after mothers in the trucks, and I asked the Vietnamese interpreter just what was happening, and he said that these people were suspects, or people they needed information from, and they were taking them off for further interrogation, but they’d informed the villagers that these people were being taken off to be shot. ¶

This was my main contact with the civilians. ¶

This County Fair type operation was conducted regularly in the flatlands area of Northern I-Corps, up around what was called Leatherneck Square.

As I said, we spent most of the time up in the mountains. ¶

It was standard procedure to dig up any graves that we encountered. Frequently we ran into Montagnard villages, deserted mostly; any graves in that area, some quite old, with markers, we dug them up anyway. ¶

I don’t know whether the bodies were included in the body count or not. ¶

When we’d get a kill — well, on one particular occasion our company had been out on an operation, we’d sustained heavy casualties and we were coming back out of a valley, linking up with another company. ¶

Early that morning this other company had killed an NVA soldier. When we marched into their compound, they had the soldier crucified to a tree right next to the trail that we were marching in on. He was on their perimeter. He was nailed to a tree, he was wrapped around with det cord, he had C-4 packed on his head and a SHAPE charge was placed in front of him. ¶

After our whole company had marched inside the perimeter, Bravo Company captain had everybody gather around and they detonated the gook. There wasn’t just any trace of him left. They wanted to get it over with because there was brass coming out in the field later on in the day.

Moderator.  Bob, can you tell us what unit that was?

Osman.  Yes, this was with Bravo Company and Charlie Company, First Battalion, Third Marines.

Moderator.  Are there any questions now from the press?

Floor.  You say he was nailed to the tree?

Osman.  Right. Well—

Floor.  What did you say he had on him?

Osman.  Okay — he was nailed to a tree with his hands over his head like this. [Gestures, hands one in front of the other stretched above head.] He had det cord — which is detonation cord, it’s an explosive — wrapped around his middle. He had C-4, which is a {4271c2} plastic explosive, packed on his head and placed on various parts of his body around the abdomen. And there was a SHAPE charge — it’s a conical-type charge; I’m not sure what it’s used for but it’s pretty powerful — that was placed in front of him.

Floor.  Was he alive?

Osman.  No, he was not alive. He was dead.

Floor.  And then your commander marched you in and you stood around this tree and then it was exploded, right?

Osman.  Well, not exactly around. There was a lot of explosives. You see, he was by a trail that we had to march on to get into their perimeter, and he was nailed to the tree right by the trail. As soon as we had all marched in — it was the other company commander who had fixed this up as a surprise for us — and when we were all in then we stood up on the LZ and watched the explosion.

Floor.  Do you know who nailed him to the tree and who rigged up the explosives?

Osman.  Well, there were engineers up there. They were probably the ones to rig up the explosives. As far as who nailed him to the tree, I don’t know individuals, there were individuals of Bravo Company, who had set up the perimeter.

Floor.  American troops?

Osman.  Yes, American Marines. This was under the directives of the Bravo Company commander.

Floor.  What was the reaction among the troops when the explosion went off?

Osman.  Well, first, when we marched by, the reaction was favorable. As I said we’d just been in an operation where we’d sustained heavy casualties, and when we saw this — ah — gook nailed to the tree, like, you know, wow, that’s really great. ¶

Afterwards, when people started thinking about it— ¶

I know for myself when I marched by I thought, this is really cool. ¶

And then right after that, we were standing up waiting for it to go off, I was just thinking, you know — what are we turning into? ¶

What kind of people can do this?

Floor.  You didn’t think at the time of reporting that?

Osman.  No. At the time I wasn’t aware that there was anything wrong with it.

Floor.  Well, you said that you were aware there was something wrong with it.

Osman.  I mean, anything wrong legally.

Floor.  Do you have any idea how old this guy was? ¶

How did he look, did he look like an old man, young man?

Osman.  Well, he was an NVA, he was probably in his early-twenties.

Floor.  How was he dressed?

Osman.  He had on NVA uniform. Just green fatigues and a shirt.

Floor.  Grey fatigues?

Osman.  No, green — green.

Moderator.  Okay, thanks very much, Bob.

Before I summarize the National Veterans Inquiry, I’d like to introduce an active-duty Lieutenant who’s been here before listening to the testimony, Lt. Louis Paul Font.

{Louis Paul Font}
{16kb.pdf, 17kb.html}

Font.  I’m Louis Font, an active-duty First Lieutenant, United States Army, stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. ¶

I’ve participated in this conference over the last three days, and my primary concern is that the testimony not end here.

I feel very strongly that something must be done with the evidence that has been gathered over the last three days. I think it would be very sad indeed, and a sad commentary on our entire society, if this material were simply to end up on some college shelf, some college library shelf somewhere. ¶

I think that it is incumbent on each one of us to try to do something to disseminate this information to the public. ¶

I feel this very strongly.

There seems little doubt that if a hearing like this had been held three or four or five years, ago — and some of the testimony we have heard goes back that far — perhaps to- {4271c3} day we would not be having the My Lai trial. ¶

And perhaps My Lai would never have occurred.

Perhaps this testimony can be taken to Capitol Hill, in written form, or, even more hopefully, people may testify before some congressional committee. Perhaps this testimony can be used in some way directly with regard to the My Lai trial.

I’m an active-duty First Lieutenant, and there are several things that I can do, and over the next month or two I will be preparing and then executing one or more of the following options that are open to me. ¶

As an active-duty First Lieutenant in the United States Army, I am subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 138 provides that an individual can complain and call for an investigation of his commanding officer. ¶

My commanding officer, of the First United States Army, is a man who was very heavily involved — whose unit was very heavily involved — with regard to some of the testimony that we heard here yesterday relating to Cedar Falls Operation.

Furthermore, there is a ruling in the United States Supreme Court, United States v. General Yamashita {327 U.S. 1 (Feb. 4 1946)}. You may be familiar with this case. It holds, quite simply, that a commander is responsible for everything that goes on in his unit. And the Court went even further — to state that he is responsible whether he knows what is going on in his unit or not. ¶

I’m in process of consulting with legal counsel, and have been speaking with lawyers, and I may very well do something with regard to this precedent set by the United States Supreme Court in World War Two.

At any rate, what I’m simply trying to get across is that the hearings are nearing an end, and yet the war crimes continue; and that something should be done about this. ¶

And further, that what we have heard today are many incidents — different individuals, in many different places in Vietnam, but relating the same sort of information. ¶

It seems quite obvious that a pattern emerges. ¶

And that pattern, coupled with what I learned at West Point — that a commander is responsible for everything that goes on in his unit — makes it quite clear to me that what is going on in Vietnam is something for which someone other than a lieutenant, such as Lieutenant Calley and others, are responsible.

I feel strongly that if Lieutenant Calley is guilty of anything, then the generals, and perhaps even higher are far more responsible.

_____________________

 

Source: Congressional Record (cited below).

By CJHjr: Photocopied, scanned, converted to text (OCR: FineReader 6.0), formatted (xhtml/css), links, text {in braces}, text beside a green bar (   ), text in yellow boxes, bold-face, bold-italics, highlighting, added paragraphing (for ease of reading) marked with this trailing paragraph symbol: ¶ . The Congressional Record is formatted in three columns per page, and I’ve marked the beginning of each column {in green braces} (page number, column number).

SuWho? SuDoc CIS   DL

This document: National Veterans Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam National Veterans Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes, Washington D.C., December 1-3 1970), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 4238-4271 (U.S. Congress 92-1, March 1 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.4, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Robert Bowie Johnson Jr., Michael Paul McCusker, Daniel K. Amigone, Greg Motoka, Kenneth Barton Osborn, Norman Kiger, Gail Graham, Steve Noetzel, Edward Murphy, Daniel Alfiero, Louis Paul Font, Robert Master, Peter Norman Martinsen, T. Griffiths Ellison, Ed Melton, Chuck Hamilton, Elliott Lee Meyrowitz, Gordon S. Livingston, Greg Turgeon, Richard Altenberger, Bob Connelly, Robert Lifton, Chaim Shatan, Donald Engel, Gary Thamer, Steven Hassett, Kenneth J. Campbell, Sam Rankin, Phillip Wingenbach, Tod Ensign, Larry Rottmann, Robert Osman. Citizen Soldier (New York City) is the present-day successor to the Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes.

See also:

The first Phoenix hearings: Vietnam: Policy and Prospects, 1970: Hearings on Civil Operations and Rural Development Support Program (U.S. Congress 91-2, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings, February 17, 18, 19, 20, and March 3, 4, 17, 19, 1970, and Appendix, 7+750 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/2:V 67/17, CIS: 71 S381-2, OCLC: 119418, LCCN: 76610214, DL, WorldCat}.

The second Phoenix hearings: U.S. Congress, House Hearings: U.S. Congress, House Hearings, U.S. Assistance Programs in Vietnam (U.S. Congress 92-1, House Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Government Information, Hearings, July 15 {a.m., p.m.}, 16, 19, 21, and August 2 1971, 4+362 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.G 74/7:V 67/4, CIS: 72 H401-3, OCLC: 235387, LCCN: 71616178, DL, WorldCat}. Ensuing report: U.S. Assistance Programs in Vietnam (U.S. Congress 92-2, House Report No. 92-1610, House Committee on Government Operations, October 17 1972, 5+107 pages) {SuDoc: [Y 1.1/8:]92-2:H.RP.1610, Serial Set: 12976-6, CIS: 72 H403-19, OCLC: 540690, LCCN: 72603272, WorldCat} {Full text: pages 1-46 2.4mb.pdf, pages 47-97 2.8mb.pdf, pages 99-107 501kb.pdf, omitting page 98 and repeating page 107, instead, at the start}.

The third Phoenix hearings: Nomination of William E. Colby to be Director of Central Intelligence (U.S. Congress 93-1, Senate Armed Services Committee, Hearings, July 2, 20 {a.m., p.m.}, 25, 1973, 3+186 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.AR 5/3:C 67/3, CIS: 73 S201-27, OCLC: 800312, LCCN: 73603022, DL, WorldCat}.

Vietnam Policy Proposals: Hearings on nine proposed items of legislation to end the U.S. war in Vietnam (U.S. Congress 91-2, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings, February 3, 4, 5, and March 16, 1970, 5+405 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/2:V 67/16, CIS: 71 S381-7, OCLC: 78825, LCCN: 74606991, DL, WorldCat}.

Winter Soldier Investigation (Vietnam Veterans Against the War Inc., Detroit Michigan, January 31, February 1-2, 1971), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 9947-10055 (U.S. Congress 92-1, April 6 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.8, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}; 117 Congressional Record E 2825-2936 (U.S. Congress 92-1, April 6-? 1971, Daily Edition (green bound)) {SuDoc: X/A.92/1:117/???-???, ISSN: 0363-7239, LCCN: 80646573, OCLC: 02437919, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}.

American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1971 (U.S. Congress 92-1, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments, Hearings, March 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, April 1, 6, 20 {vvaw}, 1971, 9+583 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/1:P 93/4/971/PT.1, CIS: 71 H381-9, OCLC: 15634210, LCCN: 77612471, WorldCat}, witness: Larry Rottmann (volunteer coordinator, Vietnam Veterans Against the War), April 20 1971 hearing, pages 353-423 {3.2mb.pdf}, at pages 406-423. CIS: “Description of charged mistreatment of prisoners in South Vietnam by American forces; report of receiving Officers Candidate School instruction on the use of torture.”

Legislative Proposals Relating to the War in Southeast Asia (U.S. Congress 92-1, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings, April 20, 21, 22, 28, May 3, 11, 12, 13, 25, 26, 27, 1971, 7+726+12 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/2:AS 4/13, CIS: 71 S381-18, OCLC: 198272, LCCN: 79614140, DL, WorldCat}, witness: John Kerry (VVAW: Vietnam Veterans Against the War), Thursday April 22 1971, 11:05am-1:00pm, pages 179-210 {3.1mb.pdf}.

House Ad Hoc Hearing for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (U.S. Congressmen Jonathon Bingham and Paul Findley, presiding, Friday, April 23 1971, Venue: U.S. Congress, House of Representatives), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 13104-13118 (U.S. Congress 92-1, May 3 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.10, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Larry Rottmann, Forest Lindley, Les Johnson, Arthur Egendorf, Kip A. Kypriandes, Phillip Lowley, Vinny Giardina, Michael Paul McCusker, William W. Lemmer, Alex Prim, Robert McLaughlin, Jack Smith, David B. Maize.

Senate Ad Hoc Hearing for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (U.S. Senator George McGovern, presiding, Friday, April 23 1971, Venue: U.S. Congress, Senate, Room G-103 New Senate Office Building), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 15392-15405 (U.S. Congress 92-1, May 17 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.12, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Scott Camil, Vinny Giardina, Melville L. Stephens, Basil Paquet, Joe Nielsen, Dale Granata, Everett Carson, Forrest Lindley Jr., Samuel Miller, David A. Lamenzo, Jon Bjornson, Ken Provan.

Ad Hoc Hearings on Command Responsibility for War Atrocities in Vietnam {copy} (U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums, presiding, April 26, 27, 28, 29, 1971, 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Venue: U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Caucus Room, Cannon House Office Building), transcript, The Dellums Committee Hearings on War Crimes in Vietnam: An Inquiry into Command Responsibility in Southeast Asia (New York, Vintage Books, 1972, 13+355 pages) {LCCN: 79039897, ISBN: 0394717678, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Five West Point graduates (Fred Laughlin, Gordon Livingston {Iraq, copy}, Robert B. Johnson, Greg Hayward, Ron Bartek, Michael O'Mera), five former military intelligence special agents and PoW interrogators {to come: omitted from the linked source}, ten former Americal Division members (Gary Battles, Charles David Locke, Terry Mullen, Steve Padoris, Daniel S. Notley, John Beitzel, Guadalupe G. Villarreal, Daniel Barnes, Thomas Cole, William Toffling), overview of air war, pacification, and forced urbanization (John Sack, Kenneth J. Campbell, Randy Floyd, Elliot Lee Meyrowitz).

Bertrand Russell Tribunal, “International War Crimes Tribunal” (Stockholm Sweden, May 2-10 1967; Roskilde Denmark, November 20 – December 1 1967).

Tiger Force: “Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths: Tiger Force, an elite fighting unit in Vietnam, left a trail of atrocities in that country that have been concealed from the public for three decades.” (The Blade, Toledo Ohio, October 22 2003, February 15, March 28, April 6, May 2, May 12 2004).

This document is not copyrighted and may be freely copied.

Charles Judson Harwood Jr.

CJHjr

Posted August 28 2004. Updated May 26 2008.

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