1971 Winter Soldier Testimony from Vietnam war participants
MODERATOR. Okay, Mr. Olimpieri, I wish you could… there’s some testimony here…you witnessed a 70-year-old man wounded about 20 miles southwest of Da Nang. Could you elaborate on this, please?
OLIMPIERI. Yeah. We were in a sweep in a rice paddy and the flank man spotted somebody and told him to halt and started running and I fired an M79 over the trees. It went off and the man went down and our Lt. told us to go over there and check and see if he had an ID and find out if he was dead or what was happening with him. We went over there and he was still alive. He was about 70 years old. I believe he was some sort of religious, like a monk or something like that, from his dress. He had an ID card and he was in pretty bad shape so they didn’t want to call in a MEDIVAC chopper so they told us to kill him. And the person who did the killing fired about six rounds in him and I had to tell him to stop. Right after that we told the Lt. what the situation was and he called in and said “Get rid of the…”. He told us to get rid of the ID card before we killed him. He called in one VC body count.
MODERATOR. So this man who was killed wasn’t even a suspect. He was civilian.
OLIMPIERI. Right. He didn’t halt when he was told so they shot him.
MODERATOR. Mr. Sachs, you testified that there was prisoners thrown out of a helicopter. Could you elaborate upon that subject?
SACHS. This was one of the big games. Whenever any prisoners were taken, the crewmen in the helicopters were in charge also of loading, in addition to maintenance on the aircraft would blindfold the prisoners, holding the blindfold on with heavy wire, safety wire. They’d bind their hands, bind their feet and maybe bind them into a fetal position and upon landing, rather than releasing them so they could walk off the aircraft, they’d throw them out–get the grunts to mark how far they could throw them and have little contests. This was done with officers observing, at least all company grade officers. There may have been a Major present too.
CAMILE. I was in the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, attached to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.
MODERATOR. You have some testimony here on the burning of villages, cutting off of ears, cutting off of heads, calling in artillery on villages for games, women raped, napalm on villages, all sorts of testimony of crimes against the civilians. Could you go into just a few of these to let the people know how you treat the Vietnamese civilian?
CAMILE. All right. The calling in of artillery for games, the way it was worked would be the mortar forward observers would pick out certain houses in villages, friendly villages, and the mortar forward observers would call in mortars until they destroyed that house and then the artillery forward observer would call in artillery until he destroyed another house and whoever used the least amount of artillery, they won. And when we got back someone would have to buy someone else beers. The cutting off of heads–on Operation Stone–there was a Lt. Colonel there and two people had their heads cut off and put on stakes and stuck in the middle of the field. And we were notified that there was press covering the operation and that we couldn’t do that anymore. Before we went out on the operation we were told not to waste our heat tablets on food but to save them for the villages because we were going to destroy all the villages and we didn’t give the people any time to get out of the villages. We just went in and burned them and if people were in the villages yelling and screaming, we didn’t help them. We just burned the houses as we went.
MODERATOR. Why did you use the heat tabs? Did you just light off the villages with matches or just throw the heat tabs in so it would keep burning?
CAMILE. We’d throw the heat tabs in because it was quicker and they’d keep burning. They couldn’t put the heat tabs out. We’d throw them on top of the houses. People cut off ears and when they’d come back in off of an operation you’d make deals before you’d go out and like for every ear you cut off someone would buy you two beers, so people cut off ears. The torturing of prisoners was done with beatings and I saw one case where there were two prisoners. One prisoner was staked out on the ground and he was cut open while he was alive and part of his insides were cut out and they told the other prisoner if he didn’t tell them what they wanted to know they would kill him. And I don’t know what he said because he spoke in Vietnamese but then they killed him after that anyway.
MODERATOR. Were these primarily civilians or do you believe that they were, or do you know that they were actual NVA?
CAMILE. The way that we distinguished between civilians and VC, VC had weapons and civilians didn’t and anybody that was dead was considered a VC. If you killed someone they said, “How do you know he’s a VC?” and the general reply would be, “He’s dead,” and that was sufficient. When we went through the villages and searched people the women would have all their clothes taken off and the men would use their penises to probe them to make sure they didn’t have anything hidden anywhere and this was raping but it was done as searching.
MODERATOR. As searching. Were there officers present there?
CAMILE. Yes, there were.
MODERATOR. Was this on a company level?
CAMILE. Company level.
MODERATOR. The company commander was around when this happened?
MODERATOR. Did he approve of it or did he look the other way or…
CAMILE. He never said not to or never said anything about it. The main thing was that if an operation was covered by the press there were certain things we weren’t supposed to do, but if there was no press there, it was okay. I saw one case where a woman was shot by a sniper, one of our snipers. When we got up to her she was asking for water. And the Lt. said to kill her. So he ripped off her clothes, they stabbed her in both breasts, they spread-eagled her and shoved an E- tool up her vagina, an entrenching tool, and she was still asking for water. And then they took that out and they used a tree limb and then she was shot.
MODERATOR. Did the men in your outfit, or when you witnessed these things, did they seem to think that it was all right to do anything to the Vietnamese?
CAMILE. It wasn’t like they were humans. We were conditioned to believe that this was for the good of the nation, the good of our country, and anything we did was okay. And when you shot someone you didn’t think you were shooting at a human. They were a gook or a Commie and it was okay. And anything you did to them was okay because, like, they would tell you they’d do it to you if they had the chance.
MODERATOR. This was told you all through your training, then, in boot camp, in advanced training, and so forth and it was followed on then, right on through it?
. . . CAMPBELL. The Vietnamese were gooks. We didn’t just call the VC or the NVA gooks. All Vietnamese were gooks and they were slant eyes. They were zips. They were Orientals and they were inferior to us. We were Americans. We were the civilized people. We didn’t give a —— about those people.
MODERATOR. Mr. Eckert, you stated that you witnessed an old Vietnamese woman shot by security guards in Quang Tri Province. Could you elaborate and tell us if she was a VC or a civilian?
ECKERT. I was up in Quang Tri visiting a friend of mine who was on security, which is like a rat patrol. They go out in the little jeeps and patrol the perimeter. We were out about five o’clock in the morning, just about coming in, when they spotted this old woman about–she looked about fifty but she was probably about twenty-five–and she was running across some trees and everyone in the jeep–no one was supposed to be out there, of course, it was not a free fire zone but from the hours from dusk to dawn there’s not supposed to be anybody out there, and if there is, you’re supposed to stop them, check them out, and eliminate them if you have to. So these guys decided that they would kind of play a little game and they let her run about fifty yards and they’d fire in front of her so she’d have to turn around, and then they’d let her run another direction and then they’d cut her off. This went on about a half hour until the time the sun started to come up. So then they decided it best to eliminate her as soon as possible, so they just ripped her off right there, and then the guy, the corporal that was in charge, he decided that they’d better check her out for an ID card just to be safe about it and they went over and, of course, she didn’t have an ID card; she didn’t have anything. Her only crime was being out probably tending to her buffalo before the time she should have been. These guys just took it upon themselves to waste her.
MODERATOR. What was the general attitude of the men in your unit toward the Vietnamese? Was this a common experience?
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BANGERT. . . . The first day I got to Vietnam I landed in Da Nang Air Base. From Da Nang Air Base I took a plane to Dong Ha. I got off the plane and hitchhiked on Highway 1 to my unit. I was picked up by a truckload of grunt Marines with two company grade officers, 1st Lts.; we were about 5 miles down the road, where there were some Vietnamese children at the gateway of the village and they gave the old finger gesture at us. It was understandable that they picked this up from the GIs there. They stopped the trucks–they didn’t stop the truck, they slowed down a little bit, and it was just like response, the guys got up, including the lieutenants, and just blew all the kids away. There were about five or six kids blown away and then the truck just continued down the hill. That was my first day in Vietnam. As far as the crucified bodies, they weren’t actually crucified with nails, but they would find VCs or something (I never got the story on them) but, anyway, they were human beings, obviously dead, and they would take them and string them out on fences, on barbed wire fences, stripped, and sometimes they would take flesh wounds, take a knife and cut the body all over the place to make it bleed, and look gory as a reminder to the people in the village.
Also in Quang Tri City I had a friend who was working with USAID and he was also with CIA. We used to get drunk together and he used to tell me about his different trips into Laos on Air America Airlines and things. One time he asked me would I like to accompany him to watch. He was an adviser with an ARVN group and Kit Carson’s. He asked me if I would like to accompany him into a village that I was familiar with to see how they act. So I went with him and when we got there the ARVNs had control of the situation. They didn’t find any enemy but they found a woman with bandages. So she was questioned by six ARVNs and the way they questioned her, since she had bandages, they shot her. She was hit about twenty times. After she was questioned, and, of course, dead, this guy came over, who was a former major, been in the service for twenty years, and he got hungry again and came back over working with USAID, Aid International Development. He went over there, ripped her clothes off and took a knife and cut, from her vagina almost all the way up, just about up to her breasts and pulled her organs out, completely out of her cavity, and threw them out. Then, he stopped and knelt over and commenced to peel every bit of skin off her body and left her there as a sign for something or other and that was those instances.
MODERATOR. Okay, there were American officers present when this happened or…
BANGERT. There were two super-secret. I know they were field grade officers, who were with MACV in Quang Tri Province in the area. They knew about it.
ECKERT. I think the feeling was pretty wide spread that these people were inferior to us and based on the training we received these people were not looked upon as even humans. If they had slanted eyes they were the enemy and the only good one was a dead one. And that was for the majority of the people in my unit, that was the only way they looked at it.
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BRONAUGH. Yes. Well, I was with the 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines, attached to them with Battalion FSEC.
MODERATOR. Which is the Fire Control Center?
BRONAUGH. Right. It coordinates everything for the Battalion Artillery and troop movement and everything. I had some spare time this particular day so I left the compound and went to a bridge where people usually go and swim and they had a detachment on this bridge, in total about two platoons of people. A 2nd Lt. in charge of the bridge and a gunnery Sergeant that was staff NCO of the bridge. There were people from mortars platoon, weapons platoon, there was a tank, there were a couple of mules with 106 recoilless rifles, two snipers, and assorted machine gun crews. This particular day I was going to go swimming and I was at this bridge and they had sent a patrol out from our battalion CP. They had gone north of the CP for about a half a mile or a mile. There was a few huts that comprised a small village north of the compound.
The bridge got a radio call that they had supposedly received a sniper round from this village. So the Lt. on the bridge told them to sweep the village. They swept the village and they called back that there was nothing found. There was nothing found, I mean, there were just people in the village and so the Lt. told them to burn the village. From my position, which was about 150 to 200 yards away, and there was a tree line in the way, smoke started coming up over the tree line and about this time, I guess about three minutes after the smoke started showing, there was a lot of screaming and just chaos coming from the direction of the village and a lot of people started running out of the tree line. From where I was standing, I saw maybe two or three male villagers and the rest were women and children–some of the children walking and some of them young enough to be carried, I would say under a year, maybe. The last thing I heard as a command was the gunnery sergeant told them to open fire to keep them back. Their village was on fire and they were in panic; they didn’t stop, so they just cut down the women and children with mortars, machine guns, tank, snipers were…
MODERATOR. There was a tank there also?
BRONAUGH. Yes. Well, the tank, the 90 millimeter gun wasn’t used because, I mean, it was too close a range, but they used the .50 and the .30 off the tank and all the troops that were at the bridge with M16s. The officer, a Lt., a few got close enough to where he used his .45. They used a few frag hand grenades.
MODERATOR. The fifty caliber. That was used specifically against the people?
MODERATOR. Right. Just for general information, the .50 caliber machine gun is specifically forbidden to be used against people. It’s an anti-vehicular weapon.
. . .
If I could get back to the Vietnamese woman I saw that was mutilated so horribly by that person, it didn’t really shock me because I think I talked about my first day in Vietnam.
You can check with the Marines who have been to Vietnam–your last day in the States at staging battalion at Camp Pendleton you have a little lesson and it’s called the rabbit lesson, where the staff NCO comes out and he has a rabbit and he’s talking to you about escape and evasion and survival in the jungle. He has this rabbit and then in a couple of seconds after just about everyone falls in love with it, not falls in love with it, but, you know, they’re humane there, he cracks it in the neck, skins it, disembowels it, just like I testified that this happened to a woman–he does this to the rabbit–and then they throw the guts out into the audience. You can get anything out of that you want, but that’s your last lesson you catch in the United States before you leave for Vietnam where they take that rabbit and they kill it, and they skin it, and they play with its organs as if it’s trash and they throw the organs all over the place and then these guys are put on the plane the next day and sent to Vietnam.
MODERATOR. Mr. Camile, you have testimony here of napalm being dropped on villagers. Could you go into this and kind of let us know what napalm is and how it was used and any of the results?
CAMILE. I really don’t know that much about what it is or what it’s made of. I just know that when it gets on you it burns and when they drop it from the planes, they usually drop two big canisters of napalm at a time. It just burns everything up, including the people. Many times we’ve called in air before we’d go into a village, or if we had a village where we’d lost people because of booby traps, we’d call in napalm and it just burns down the village and the people.
MODERATOR. Wasn’t it usually normal, or so-called operating procedure, you don’t fire until fired on, and on these villages, did you usually receive a lot of fire from them of the type that would say, we can’t take the village, you’ll have to call in napalm?
CAMILE. No, most of the time it was for safety. We’d napalm it first before we’d even go in just to make sure we wouldn’t lose any men without any fire whatsoever. It was just for our protection, supposedly.
. . .
And other times we used to use–we had mortar squads in the infantry used to avoid going into a village or something if we thought it might be VC infested or something like this, we’d send in Willie Peter mortars, 60 millimeters, and this would burn up the hootches –that explode–throwing white phosphorus on different hootches in the village. Start the hootches burning and also kill people. It’s probably one of the worst sights I’ve ever seen is a person that’s been burned by Willie Peter, because it doesn’t stop. It just burns all completely through your body. The only way you can end this burning is to cut off the air. It’s very difficult.
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KENNY. Yes, in many instances, particularly Operation Brave Armada which took place in Quang Ngai Province in the summer of ’69, circumstances would come up where there would be a patrol walking along, a single person or a small group of persons would be sighted at a distance of anywhere from, like, one to maybe five hundred meters. The standard procedure was to holler “Dong Lai!” which is “Stop.” A lot of times the civilians or Vietnamese couldn’t hear at that distance and if they didn’t respond immediately, the procedure was to have the squad or platoon open up on these people. Upon approaching the bodies it was usually found that these people had no weapons at all; that the only reason they hadn’t stopped was that they hadn’t heard or were frightened, and in order to explain these civilian bodies it was standard procedure to carry several extra fragmentation grenades in the field and these would be planted on the bodies in order to make them a Viet Cong rather than a civilian.
MODERATOR. Do you know whether this went on in other units besides yourselves? I realize this is hearsay, but from things that other people have told you.
KENNY. Yes, I understand from other people I have talked to that this was fairly standard
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QUESTION. A couple of people on the panel mentioned brutalities to women. Is rape and other sexual brutalities to women–brutality involving the vagina in particular–is that a usual feature of people on tour in Vietnam?
SIMPSON. Me myself, I think it’s pretty usual over there. Cause you’ll be out in the bush and you’ll meet women out on the trails. And the Marines over there, just like the Army and the Navy, are human. But they just don’t go about it the right way–they might stick a rifle in a woman’s head and say, “Take your clothes off.” That’s the way it’s done over there. Cause they’re not treated as human beings over there, they’re treated as dirt.
MODERATOR. And usually the platoon commander was present when this happened?
KENNY. That’s correct. On several instances, the platoon commander, a lieutenant, actually ordered this to be done.
MODERATOR. All right. Was anything ever said to you about civilians? What defined a VC? When they were dead, when it was just a body count?
KENNY. When a body was found, the general procedure was that if the body didn’t have a weapon it was a Viet Cong suspect. If a weapon could be planted on it, it became a Viet Cong and if the body had any other equipment other than a weapon, that is any piece of uniform or other equipment, it became a North Vietnamese and this was the general criterion that our battalion used to discriminate.
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PANELIST. Yes, in ITR in the Marine Corps you go through Infantry Training Regiment. They have a class on when you interrogate a POW or a villager what to look for–where they hide things. They stress over and over that a woman has more available places to hide things like maps or anything than a male. So it took about twenty minutes to cover where to search for a male suspect, and about an hour on a female. It was like everyone was getting into it pretty heavy like, you know, wishful-thinking, you know. But it seems to me that the philosophy over there is like somehow or another we’re more afraid of females than we are of males, because, I don’t know why, but the female was always like you never knew where you stood, so you went overboard in your job with her in all your daily actions. You doubled whatever you would do for a male. Because we always heard these stories that, like, the fiercest fighters were the females over there. You know, we didn’t want to be embarrassed by getting our asses kicked by a bunch of females. So that’s about it.
QUESTION. In terms of practice does that mean that women were treated especially rudely? You said “double everything.”
PANELIST. Yes, I would say so. Because it makes a lasting impression on some guy–some “zip”–that’s watching his daughter worked over. So we have a better opportunity of keeping him in line by working her over.
MODERATOR. Mr. Bangert did you have something to add?
BANGERT. Yeah, I think that in regards to women in Vietnam, first of all, you get this feeling sometimes when you’re over there that you don’t even think of their sex. This is really disgusting. You don’t even think of them as human beings, they’re “gooks.” And they’re objects; they’re not human, they’re objects. The general rule was a Vietnamese who is dead is confirmed Viet Cong and one who is living is a Viet Cong suspect. And that’s the way it was. Back to this specific instance where I talk about the disembowelment of the women–I think the person involved was a freaked out sexist, if that’s what you’re trying to get at. I think maybe he had problems. He had to be–he was in the Army for 20 years.
QUESTION. You were talking about mutilation of bodies and, in general, murder. I was wondering–how did you get rid of all these mutilated bodies?
CAMPBELL. A particular way that the people I was with got rid of bodies was on Operation Meade River in November ’68. There were some mutilated bodies. The Engineers blew them with C-4. They put 40 pounds of C-4 underneath the bodies and blew them. This was done for kicks; not just to dispose of them, but for kicks, to watch them go up.
. . .
SACHS. The incident I was talking about when they were making to see who could throw the gooks farther? It was done on the ground because it’s hard to mark them from 3,000 feet. However, it was an official policy that after every mission you fly, you have to fill out an After-Mission Report to show them all the good stuff you did during the day. Like, how many pounds of rice you carried, and how many Americans and how many gooks you carried. Well, we were given very specific oral orders from the Colonel on down: When you are carrying VCS, Viet Cong Suspects, you don’t count them when you get in the airplane, you count them when they get out of the airplane because the numbers don’t always jibe. And if one of them happens to get scared of heights and decides to get out, or something like that, or if he looks like maybe he’s going to try and raise some shit in the belly of the aircraft and the crewman has to kick him out, that’s none of your business; it didn’t really happen because you counted the men when they got off.
QUESTION. Did you ever witness anyone being thrown from a helicopter in the air?
SACHS. I’m a pilot and they’re below you and behind you and you can’t see.
PANELIST. Another method they used in regard to helicopters is sometimes when they captured three suspected enemy people they might take them for a joy-ride. They usually tie them up and put a blindfold on them and they’ll put maybe three guys in a C-54 and fly off. They’ll ask the guys in the air, “What is your unit?” and all this jive, and if they don’t cooperate, they just might take one of them and say, “Okay, take off the blindfold,” and just shove him right out. Now this gives us a psychological edge because apparently it works. When the other two guys come down to the ground, they’re scared and they cooperate more readily than they ever would before.
MODERATOR. Mr. Camile, you had some actual instances of observing Vietnamese being thrown out of helicopters.
CAMILE. On Operation Stone, I was on the ground and I didn’t see this Vietnamese pushed out, but I did see him come flying out and land over where we were.
MODERATOR. Perhaps he decided to take a little walk or something. Any more questions?
QUESTION. Mr. Bishop, could you elaborate some more on the circumstances of the killing of the four NVA nurses?
BISHOP. I didn’t say it in the testimony, but it’s written on my testimony sheet. The operation was Meade River, a very large scale operation. ROK (Korean) Marines were involved, U.S. Marines and Army were involved, and the ARVNs were involved. A cordon was set up outside of Da Nang and a big squeeze was put on right outside the airport. There were quite a few body counts as far as the enemy went. It was something like 1,300. The allies had something like 700 or 800 so-called dead–we never knew. On part of the operation, we had just gotten through making heavy contact and we went through a bunker system. It was a large bunker system and we found hospitals. We came across four NVA nurses that were hiding out in one of the bunkers. They were nurses, we found medical supplies on them and they had black uniforms on. The ROK Marines came up to us and one of their officers asked us if they could have the NVA nurses, that they would take care of them because we were sweeping through the area, and that we couldn’t take care of any POWs. So, I imagine, that instead of killing them, we handed them over to the ROK Marines. Well, we were still in the area when the ROK Marines started tying them down to the ground.
They tied their hands to the ground, they spread-eagled them; they raped all four. There was like maybe ten or twenty ROK Marines involved. They tortured them, they sliced off their breasts, they used machetes and cut off parts of their fingers and things like this. When that was over, they took pop-up flares (which are aluminum canisters you hit with your hand; it’ll shoot maybe 100-200 feet in the air)–they stuck them up their vaginas–all four of them–and they blew the top of their heads off.
MODERATOR. Any further questions?
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1ST AIR CAVALRY DIVISION, Part I
MODERATOR. Brothers and sisters, or sisters and brothers, I’d like to present to you the veterans from Vietnam who will be testifying about the atrocities that took place and were created by American troops with the 1st Air Cav. Division in Vietnam. To give you a little history on the 1st Air Cav. Division, it is an air-mobile division; it was the first created and the 1st Air Cav. was the first air-mobile division to ever take place, or to function, in Vietnam. It arrived in Vietnam in 1965, in Qui Nhow. Now I’d like to introduce to you the first testifier, former Captain John K. Mallory. Mr. Mallory?
MALLORY. I’m Jack Mallory and I served as a captain with the Eleventh Armored Cavalry Regiment, which during most of my time in Vietnam from May 1969 to May 1970, was under the operational control of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. I served as Regimental Assistant Civic Action Officer and Civic Action Officer for the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cav. I’d like to say a few words about treatment of Vietnamese civilians by members of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The destruction of crops and killing of domestic animals was common whenever the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment operated in populated areas. Crops were destroyed in the building of defensive positions and animals were run over when the tracks–armored cars, tanks–ran through the villages. Civilian deaths were quite frequent, Vietnamese civilians were killed accidently when tracks and tanks running through their villages, often at excessive speeds, struck them, ran off the road, ran into their houses, hit their bicycles, etc. On at least one occasion, the village of An Phu, in Binh Long Province, was struck by artillery fired from Quan Loi Base Camp causing several casualties. A civilian riding on an ox-cart, just south of Quan Loi Base Camp, was intentionally struck by an American aircraft which came in out of the sky, hit him in the head, and traveled on. The man was killed; the aircraft was never identified. A helicopter, also never identified, dropped two white phosphorus grenades (they’re incendiary grenades) into the village of Sa Troc, also in Binh Long Province, burning down several buildings and two small Montagnard children. In Loc Ninh, a young boy about twelve years old was attacked by two American soldiers, severely beaten, resulting in a broken arm. There is no reason known for this attack. On one occasion, a North Vietnamese Army nurse was killed by 11th Armored Cavalry troops; subsequently a grease gun of the type used in automotive work was placed in her vagina and she was packed full of grease. On several occasions, enemy graves were violated, their skulls taken out of the graves and used as candle-holders and conversation pieces. CS gas, better known as tear gas, was often used on civilians to chase them away from our positions where they came to sell, or to look for valuable American trash, in our trash dumps. On one occasion, this gassing of Vietnamese civilians was done by an American Army major. On another occasion, Vietnamese selling their wares in the area had their wares taken and destroyed by American troops led by two captains. One of them was myself. In August, in Binh Long Province, north of An Loc, six Vietnamese (friendly Vietnamese soldiers or civilians or regular Defense Group soldiers) were killed by helicopter gunships from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Although the CIDG area of operations was clearly marked on our tactical map in our tactical operations center, sheer carelessness of the duty officer from the 11th Armored Cav. led him to give our gunships permission to fire at armed Vietnamese in the area, although it was quite well known that there were friendly armed Vietnamese in that immediate vicinity. In general, U.S. attitudes towards Vietnamese civilians were not inhumane per se, but they were certainly not human. The Vietnamese civilians were regarded much as America regards her own minorities–a pat on the head for a trick, a kick in the —— for an imagined fault, and invisible the rest of the time.
MODERATOR. Okay. The next speaker or testifier is James Mackay, former E-5. James?
MACKAY. My name is James Mackay. I served with Headquarters Third Brigade of the Ninth Division from October ’68 to August ’69, and I served with the First Cav. from August ’70 to December ’70. Our AO was from Song Be north to Cambodia. During this time our helicopters, our Cobra gunships, and small observation helicopters would go out on search and destroy missions more or less where they’d go out and they’d shoot anything, any structures they saw. They’d shoot all structures; they’d shoot all people, be they men, women, or children–old men, children, whether they had arms or not. They’d shoot all livestock, destroy all food. They’d destroy everything they saw that was man-made. Also, to prove that they’d been getting body counts, the troop commander had given the order (not given an order, but let it be known) that the next time Vietnamese were killed, the body would be taken and dumped from two hundred feet right to Brigade TOC, right in front of the TOC, and this was done, and there was no reprimand to the officer. Explosives have been put in the dumps for the purpose of exploding and injuring men, women, and children while they’re going through the trash–while they’re going through this valuable trash. Consequently, one of my friends was blown and burned on the upper portion of his body due to the carelessness of the discarding of trash and purposely planting booby-traps.
QUESTION. It was stated by one veteran, I don’t know which, that on the last day, and I believe it was at Camp Pendleton, they were given a briefing by a sergeant, apparently, where they skinned a rabbit, disemboweled it, and he told them or instructed them that this is how it’s done. Can anybody else corroborate that?
MODERATOR. How many guys in Marine Staging saw this–the last day in Staging Battalion? I saw it myself in Staging Battalion. All those who saw it please raise your hands again.
MODERATOR. The question for those who didn’t hear it was in reference to the skinning of a rabbit as an example of “This is how it’s done in Vietnam,” or, “This is what happens in Vietnam.” In answer to the question, most of the Marines here did see it.
QUESTION. This is still part of Basic Training? Are we to understand that this is part of the course before combat in Vietnam?
MODERATOR. This is part of the Staging Battalion which is the last day before you go to Vietnam. Could we have the show of hands again?
[Note: A majority of hands were raised.]
QUESTION. Are there officers present at this?
PANELIST. Yes. It usually was a company formation. They made quite a spectacle of this. They made a moccasin out of the skin. A couple of dudes were playing with the organs. It was a really cool thing, I guess.
Full Testimony, 1971 Winter Soldier Event:
- Opening Statement of William Crandell
- 1st Marine Division
- !st Air Cavalry Division
- Weapons Panel
- 3d Marine Division
- Racism Panel
- “What Are We Doing To Ourselves?”
- Prisoners of War Panel
- Miscellaneous Panel
- Third World Panel
- “What Are We Doing to Vietnam?”
- 25th Infantry Division and Public Information Office
- 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and 173rd Airborne Brigade
- 1st, 4th, and 9th Infantry Divisions
- Americal Division
- Medical Panel
- Closing Statement of Don Duncan