Michael Hunter, 24, Sgt. (E-5), "B" Co., 5/7 Air Cav. Reg., 1st Air Cav. Div. (February 1968 to February 1969), "H" Co., 75th Rangers (Att. to 1st Air Cav. Div.), "I" Co., 75th Rangers (Att. to 1st Inf. Division) September 1969 to March 1970)
John Mallory, 24, Captain, 1st Sq., 11th Arm. Cav. Reg., 1st Air Cav. Division (May 1969 to May 1970)
James Mackay, 20, Sgt. (E-5), HHQ 3rd Brigade, 9th Inf. Div. (October 1968 to August 1970)
Douglas Craig, 22, SP/4, "D" Co., 2nd Bn., 8th Brigade, 1st Air Cav. Division (December 1968 to August 1969)
Robert Wiktorski, 22, SP/4 (E-4), "C" Co., 2/12 Air Cav. Reg., 1st Air Cav. Div. (May 1968 to May 1969)
David Stark, 25, SP/5 (E-5), 524 Military Intelligence Detachment (October 1967 to October 1968)
James Duffy, 23, SP/5 (E-5), 228 Avn. Bn., 1st Air Cav. Div. (February 1967 to April 1968)
Kenneth Ruth, 26, (E-4), HHQ Co., 2/12 Air Cav. Reg., 1st Air Cav. Div. (February 1966 to February 1967)
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. attitues 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.
MODERATOR. James, you stated that on the first time that an A-troop, recon missions, right?--the Cobra and the Loach-- when they fired on any moving target that meant men, women, and children? Right?
MACKAY. Right, this meant, anybody they saw whether they were men, women, or children, or whether they had arms or not. One kind of joke that went between the pilots was if they fired or not, upon anybody they saw, it was whether they waved or not. This was a kind of joke going between the pilots, but it didn't count, because they just shot anything they saw, any structures.
MODERATOR. Could you clarify on the booby-traps set into the fire-dump? They were charges from the artillery battery-- excessive charges from the artillery battery?
MACKAY. Right, excessive charges were thrown in the dump, and then fires were set so that they would burn people. At this time, when my friend was injured at the dump it was artillery charges that had been thrown away and set to go off. How they were going off, I don't know. I found that they were set there.
MODERATOR. The fires were set?
MACKAY. Oh, I heard, I had a lot of friends in artillery, and they told me many times when we were sitting around talking that they put charges out there. The excessive charges they don't use during their midnight missions, they'd put in the dump, and these are all supposed to be destroyed in a certain point through EOD and they were thrown in the dump for the purpose of going off.
MODERATOR. They were deliberately set up, so that the children or the young men, could walk into the dump, get close to the charges, and then they were set on fire and they'd go up relatively fast. Is that correct?
MACKAY. Right, and the dumps were all supervised. There was a supervisor there, but he was never there; he was supposed to be there. He was supposed to make sure that no ammunition was thrown away. There was not supposed to be any ammunition or any kind of explosive or inflammable material thrown in the dumps except trash, and consequently, when they were thrown in there, they were thrown in with the knowledge that someone might get hurt, and would probably get hurt when these burned or exploded grenades, etc.
MODERATOR. Thank you. The next testifier is former Spec. 4 Craig.
CRAIG. One incident I'm referring to is the Second Battalion, Eighth Brigade--their policy of mortaring the local dump every night. My statement reads: I was stationed in LS St. Barber, roughly between the months of March and August 1969. And it was battalion-originated policy to mortar the neighboring dump on the pretext "the gooks are scavenging food." It was proven that it was civilians from the town of Loc Minh. Roughly two a week were killed and occasional injury was often treated at the battalion first aid hootch.
MODERATOR. All right. Craig, let me ask you a question. How many black personnel, and when I say black personnel, how many black men, were assigned to your company?
CRAIG. Company strength varied between 80 and 120 and it was usually about a third.
MODERATOR. A third?
CRAIG. A third of all personnel, yes.
MODERATOR. Let me ask you this. When you point, it's well known to all us vets that when initial fire takes place usually the first five people are the ones that got hit, is that correct?
CRAIG. That's true.
MODERATOR. How are blacks used as far as walking point? Explain that for me, Okay?
CRAIG. They're considered to be more adept at walking point. Plus the added factor, blacks came under a lot of blame for some of the so-called fragging that goes on. Anybody under suspicion found himself on point, usually pretty fast.
MODERATOR. Thank you. The next speaker, testifier, is former Spec. 4 Robert Wiktorski.
WIKTORSKI. All right, my first complaint would be on August, or in August, I worked in Quang Tri Province near the city of Quang Tri. We were on a searching mission...
MODERATOR. Excuse me, Robert, could you start off by giving your company, and your unit and the time you served in Vietnam?
WIKTORSKI. I was with Charlie Company, Second and Twelfth, First Air Cavalry, and I served there from May of '68 to May of '69. Now in August of '68, we were sent on a searching mission of a supposedly evacuated or deserted village. Now the policy of searching a village is that they take the whole company--that is about a hundred and sixty guys, it varies--and they put you on the line, and they're going to cover every square inch of this village, they're theoretically going to turn up every booby trap that was set in that village. And you can't always see the booby traps. Now, we took a bunch of prisoners there, approximately 30, and we were going to evac them for questioning--bring in a helicopter and lift them out. Now as the helicopter came in (they were going to remove the wounded also) we took fire; we received one mortar round. They got the civilians and wounded out and nobody was hurt as a result of that mortar round. We were given the order to move out again, and as we did, I turned behind me and some of the drag elements, some of the guys that were lagging behind, were burning hootches. It wasn't our policy to destroy anything, but for some unknown reason, somebody had set fire to about four hootches. It was also our policy to frag any suspected position. Now, every one of these houses in this village has an adjoining bunker in case of mortar attack--see, they're going to get it from either end; if they support the U.S., they're going to get attacked by the Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese. Now they used these bunkers that were adjacent to their houses more or less as an air-raid shelter, rather than a fighting position. Most of the openings, or the access holes to these bunkers were inside the houses so that if a person was in the house and something happened, they could run into the bunker. On that particular day, there was an order given to frag all suspected positions.
And it got to the point where we didn't so much look out for the booby traps as you were looking out for the guy next to you who was throwing grenades in every direction. You'd yell a term, "fire in the hole," when you'd throw a frag. And, like that just echoed all day, "fire in the hole". Now, the next day we continued on our sweeping mission and that night we set up a perimeter. I wasn't familiar with the area I was put in, so I took another man with me to sort of recon the area and I engaged a booby trap. I was wounded as a result of this. Now, if this village had been swept properly, or as it was supposed to have been, that booby trap should have been discovered. I was looking for booby traps, but they're pretty well hidden; they're pretty hard to see. Another incident I'd like to mention is at L.Z. Grant. This is near Tay Ninh in Tay Ninh Province. We had been hit; we were attacked. The landing zone itself was attacked at night by NVA soldiers. They had taken approximately 200 bodies on the wire, on the barbed wire, that were dead. To the best of my knowledge, they had only captured one prisoner and he was a high-ranking NVA official. Now, en route from L.Z. Grant to Tay Ninh for interrogation, this man was pushed out of the helicopter approximately a quarter mile from the perimeter, and consequently died as a result of the fall. On that same night that the base was attacked, they called in jet air support. The jets--they had jets in the area and they had helicopter gunships in the area working in a ------, you know, in just a scattered pattern. They asked the jet to move in a little closer to the perimeter for closer support. And the pilot, I guess, misjudged the perimeter and dropped a napalm bomb on one of the bunkers. As a result, one man who was formerly with my unit was killed. He had been put in the rear as a safer place to be because he only had 29 days left in the country. It was usually a policy where if you got within a short time of your DEROS date they would try and give you a position that would be less detrimental. Now, I don't know how detrimental that can be; the guy was burned beyond recognition. The only way we know it was him is because he was missing and he had a wallet on him. Another incident I'd like to mention was just after getting out of the hospital. My unit had pulled a big shift from up north in I Corps area to the III Corps area near Tay Ninh. And this was in Cu Chi. It's a large base camp; they have planes land there and it is pretty civilized. My unit was lining up for chow. We were going to go in and eat supper in the mess hall and the CO gave the order to spread it out in the chow line. Now the reason behind this is that when you're out in the field the guys get a little hungry and a little anxious for some hot chow and they tend to bunch up together. As a result, it can be pretty bad if somebody pops a couple of rounds at you-- like a mortar round could kill up to 30 guys, if they're grouped together and it's placed right. But in a big base camp, it's relatively pretty clear. Guys are walking around with baseball hats on, trucks are driving by, guys are swimming in swimming pools.
Our CO told us we had to wear our helmets in the chow line and spread five meters apart. Some of the guys expressed their, you know, feelings about this and the CO said, "All right, you're not going to spread it out," and went and got a fragment grenade and fragged our chow line. As a result, he wounded one of my ammo bearers. He wasn't hurt too bad, but what the heck, when you're fighting one enemy you don't have time to fight your friends, or your leader. Another incident happened up in the I Corps area. We had been working the Street Without Joy (it's adjacent to Highway One). It leads from a place called Wonder Beach almost directly to--at that time it was the Cavalry Headquarters--Camp Evans. We were told to establish a perimeter and setup positions, which we did and as the days passed, more and more people were coming to this perimeter, engineers and the like, and setting up barbed wire, and extending the perimeter--making it bigger. They were planning on making a large stationary camp in this area. Now in the early days of this, when there wasn't any barbed wire (it was just us guys on the line) they had us stringing barbed wire. I was on a barbed wire detail and that night I had to pull an ambush. The area we were in was hilly and small brush. You could see for miles. Clearly, for miles. And I commented to one of the guys who was on ambush with me, I asked him, "What makes you think that anybody is going to come walking along through the middle of nowhere? You know, just in the middle of the night, you know, helter-skelter?" and he said, "Well, we've got two bodies." We were given the order not to take any prisoners or wounded on this mission. If we ambushed anybody that night, they had to be killed.
They had taken two prisoners earlier, and they were shot and their bodies were placed approximately 30 yards from the perimeter site, from the ambush site, and Claymore (Claymore mines) were setup in a defensive position around the bodies in order to decoy, as bait. We never executed an ambush; nobody ever came along. So following about three days of this, a bulldozer from the engineering outfit came over and just pushed dirt over the bodies because they were starting to smell. And another incident I'd like to mention is that we were on a, just a random pattern of walking around in the jungle, near Nui Ba Den, near Tay Ninh, working that area, when we engaged the enemy. To the best of my knowledge, there were only two of them, maybe three at the most. One was killed as a result of it, and we were in the process of tracking the other one. Now that day ended and the next day came and we were still tracking this guy, when we, the point element, thought they saw something. So the CO got a little anxious and said, you know, let's get with the program: if you see something, shoot it. When you're the point element, and you figure that the first five, six, seven guys get hit in the initial volley of shots, you're not too anxious, you know, you're pretty cautious, and when you've got somebody who's sitting maybe two hundred yards back on a radio telling you to hurry up, you really don't appreciate it; he's not the one up there. So, this NVA apparently didn't have a rifle--we didn't find any rifle. He had a Chi Com pistol with him and a few hand grenades. Now, he had gotten to the point where I guess he was exhausted; he couldn't run any more, and with this hot pursuit on his trail, I imagine he was pretty scared. He threw a couple of frags at us, you know, in an attempt to hold off impending doom, and then took his own life. Shot himself through the head. He never once tried to surrender. I think we would have taken him as a prisoner. I don't think he would have been abused--we didn't usually make a habit of abusing prisoners. We sent them in the back, and possibly there they were abused, but not out in the field. We got rid of them too quick.
MODERATOR. Robert, I'd like to call you Rob, if you don't mind, to get on that last one that you stated, would you say that the actual main reason why he did shoot himself was that a superior force was after him and all he had was a pistol so his destiny was pretty well determined if he continued to fight? Or if he had yelled "Chieu Hoi" would you have taken him as a "Chieu Hoi". Or if he had thrown away his pistol, and yelled and put up his hands would you have taken him as prisoner?
WIKTORSKI. Well, the reason I said that he was probably pretty scared is because of what happened to his buddy. Now, upon killing the other member of his team, a lieutenant from either the 2nd or 3rd platoon (it wasn't my platoon) came up from the rear, saw the dead body, and seemed satisfied that he was dead. But then he took the body and set it up against a tree, crossed his legs, put a cigarette in his mouth, put a hat on his head, folded his arms, and then with a sharp instrument (he might have even taken a stick and sharpened it) took a Cav. patch and just tacked it to his chest and left it there--we left it there; we marched right on by it.
MODERATOR. All right, if I may explain to the audience that to mutilate a Vietnamese body or a Buddhist body (anything of the Buddhist religion or Hindu or Indian) is to violate their religious rites; to take any part off the body or to mutilate it means that the soul cannot go to heaven or wherever it's supposed to go. It lies in limbo, and to the North Vietnamese and to the Vietnamese, this is the most horrible thing that could ever happen. This breaks up the family dynasty that they have going. That's why we are told not to pet the little children on their heads because this directly offends the Vietnamese people. The head is the most, how would you say it, sacred part of the body. Now, to get back to Rob. The military tactics that are being used in Vietnam, when we were there and that are being used now, are vesting the lives of Americans and civilians for no necessary reason; this is through carelessness. Now, am I right, or am I wrong?
WIKTORSKI. Well, I have to state this from my own point of view. I didn't go over there because I wanted to, or because I liked it, but you have to do something, so I went over there. I think what happens, the way they get you into actually fighting--where the bullets are exchanged--is that when you're ambushed, or when you hit contact, usually, I'll say usually, somebody is hurt in the initial contact. So if you're following some guy and he drops in his tracks, are you going to turn and run? Or are you going to stay there and try and help the guy? The army puts you in a position where you are not obliged to the army itself, but to your friend. You know, the friends you made over there, the guys you live with. When one of them is hurt, you just can't leave him. If there was an initial volley of shots and nobody was hurt, we would withdraw out of the area, and we would call in support artillery, jets, whatever it took, until we felt it was safe to proceed. But when somebody was hurt in the initial volley, somebody had to stay there with him.
MODERATOR. In other words, what the military system is doing with the American troops in Vietnam is using them, the infantry troops, the grunts that hump the fields, is using them as bait.
WIKTORSKI. That's putting it kind of rough. I would say that the army put you in a bad position and you just got to make the best of it. You know, whatever comes, may come. Like I said, if nobody was hurt, all the guys would withdraw; nobody was for pushing ahead; nobody wanted to make contact. Everybody dreaded contact because usually with contact came injury and maybe even death. I know they never got me in a position where they would say, "All right, I need three men to go up here and do this or that." It was always, "There's somebody hurt up there," or something like that, and, "You guys get down there and help them." That kind of thing. It was never a voluntary basis out of the clear blue. When they sent us on patrols, I would have to say that the guys I was with kept it to a bare minimum as far as looking for trouble. We didn't poke our noses into places we didn't want to go. If the CO said, "Well, go out about two miles and turn left and circle back in," we might go out of sight and just sit down and wait a half hour and then come back in.
MODERATOR. Okay, to get back on to the same thing about the fragging in the villages, that specific village of Quang Tri. Was there any enemy activity in the village itself?
WIKTORSKI. Well, like I said, we received one mortar round, no small arms fire or anything else and the reason I don't think there was any enemy activity in it was because we would have heard the tube fired for one, if it was in a reasonable amount of distance, let's say within a mile. So it was pretty well out somewhere where we didn't hear it. And they just lobbed one round in. I think they were too far away to engage us in small arms fire. In fact, I went so far as to walk into a clearing and look over the terrain. It was all rice paddies and I found a sandal in the mud, right there, and I kind of got scared and I pulled back into the trees. But I believe that if there had been close enemy activity, I would have been shot at.
MODERATOR. Okay. When the men of your company fragged the shelters that the Vietnamese had in their houses, could there have been a possibility that there were children-- women, children, or older men--in the bunkers and if so, were there enemy bodies found after they fragged these bunkers?
WIKTORSKI. Well, like I said, I think they were used more or less as an air-raid shelter or a place of hiding rather than a place of fighting. There was no accessible fighting position. They were completely blocked off on the outside. The only access was through the inside of the house and it wouldn't make a very good place to sit and try to fight. But still and all, they made sure they fragged every bunker at least once. We never once in that whole village, in the two days that I remember did we ever find a weapon. We found a poncho, a wallet (an unidentified wallet) nothing in it, and booby traps and thirty civilians, about thirty civilians.
MODERATOR. Thank you very much, Robert. The next testifier we have is former E-5 David Stark. David.
STARK. Yes, I'd first like to clarify my unit which was the 524th Military Intelligence Detachment. It had no direct connection with the 1st Air Cav. I'm not part of this other unit. I was in Vietnam from October '67 to October '68 and I had the opportunity, the unfortunate opportunity to be there during the original Tet offensive in Saigon. I have two photographs here that were taken from my house. I lived in a rented French building in Cholon, which is a district of Saigon. The picture on the top right I took one day from a water tower on the roof of our house. That fence, the barbed wire fence in the foreground which isn't clear to people sitting too far away, is on the back perimeter of our house. The picture encompasses an area of approximately one quarter square mile. It was taken approximately January 29 or January 30 right about at the beginning of the Tet offensive. The second picture, on the bottom left, which is labeled "after," was taken just less than two full days later. This was a result of a bombing run called in on a rumored number of 300 Viet Cong living in the area. Where that information came from, I'm not quite sure. That was not part of our unit's doing. There was a Korean compound down the street. A Korean general's house who was active in that movement and I think the figure 300 came from them. The Koreans later related to us during the clean-up phase they reportedly found somewhere from 1,300 to 1,400 bodies. Due to the nature of my job in Saigon I had friends in other units (intelligence units in Saigon) and one of these friends took me to an interrogation compound located between Cholon and Tan Son Nhut. I myself, at that compound, witnessed minor beatings of Viet Cong prisoners, especially in chairs where they would be strapped down and their legs would be beaten. I also saw in that same compound (I didn't see it used on an individual), but I saw an apparatus I can only describe. It was a fence about seven feet high and it had high hooks mounted in the wood. I was told that the prisoners were stripped of clothes, placed up against this fence, and approximately ten to fifteen feet away there was a pipe sticking out of the ground on the top of which there was mounted a high pressure water nozzle, the same type you would be familiar with on a fire hose. I was informed that prisoners would be placed up against this fence and this high pressure hose would be turned on, for any period deemed necessary, I guess. I also saw in the building a table with a piece of apparatus on it that I was told was the inside of a field telephone and it did look like a field telephone to me. I have seen them a number of times. This was taken out of the case and it had two long wires, electric probes that I was told were used on all parts of prisoners' bodies for electronic type torture. The way this operates, there is a crank on a field telephone and when this is cranked it builds up enough power inside to transmit over the wires a strong enough signal to ring the other person's telephone. I don't know the voltage of it, or what, but I understand it is very painful. I was just told that the faster you crank it, the higher the voltage, so I guess the more you crank it, the more information you got.
MODERATOR. David, and to the rest of the panel also, if there is a feeling that I am baiting you into answering a question, just tell me to cool it. David, how many North Vietnamese were supposed to have occupied Cholon?
STARK. The entire area of Cholon?
MODERATOR. Right. That vicinity that was burned.
STARK. That vicinity in the pictures?
STARK. I couldn't really estimate that number because the area was a refugee area--not a sanctioned government refugee area--just an area where people saw space and moved into and built houses out of whatever was available. It was a very highly concentrated population, I'm sure, because the houses are just stacked on top of each other and right next door to each other and many people live in single room dwellings, so I'm sure there were several, several thousand people in that area.
MODERATOR. What about the enemy activity in that area? How many people? The troops, an estimate that was related to you?
MODERATOR. The enemy activity, right. The troops that had supposedly moved into Cholon?
STARK. Oh, well at the onset of the Tet offensive there was a great deal of fire activity all throughout the city. The highest concentration of activity was in Cholon, Phu Lam and Phu To which are all suburbanite districts of Saigon. It's not in downtown Saigon. It's as a neighboring area within the city limits would look to Detroit, I'm sure. And the activity was very indiscriminate sniper fire, occasional rocket rounds, mortar rounds, this sort of thing.
MODERATOR. But yet there were thirteen hundred bodies counted?
STARK. Approximately thirteen hundred bodies were picked up after, during clean-up period.
MODERATOR. All right. Thank you, David. The next speaker, a former E-5, James Duffy. James.
DUFFY. I served as a machine gunner, on a CH-47, Chinook helicopter with Company A, 228th Aviation Battalion, 1st Air Cav. Division, from February '67 to April '68. Most of our missions we flew alone and we had a wide variety of missions. One such mission was a gas run where we loaded the ship with twelve 55 gallon drums of what I was told was CS gas which we dropped into a well traveled path in the An Lo Valley. We were told that gas would be effective for a number of weeks; it would remain there. Another mission was a defoliation run on our own perimeter in An Khe--that was the base camp at the time. The perimeter was occupied by GIs, grunts, pulling guard duty, and also Vietnamese civilians from the neighboring town who were allowed to chop wood there. So both our people and theirs were exposed to the defoliants. And when I first became a gunner, I was told the company policy was to return fire from all guns when fired on. To continue fire until our supply of ammo had been expended. This was usually thousand round belts that we kept in each of the two M-60 machine guns. Also the crew chief, myself, and the flight engineer had M-16s with as much ammunition as we wished to fire. It was quite usual that there would be a sniper outside a village in the foliage, in the trees, and if we took fire from one sniper we'd return fire on that sniper and then continue to spray the entire village with machine gun fire and M-16 ammunition until we either ran out of ammunition or we had flown so far away from the village that we could no longer reach them with the weapons. Now, the thousand round belts we used in the machine guns were usually straight tracer rounds so during the dry season (when the Vietnamese live in these hootches made of C-ration cans and straw huts) the tracers would set fire to the huts so the ones that we didn't get with ammunition we could try and burn them out. The free fire zones were posted on the operation map in the operations tent and this gave us a policy to kill anything that moved within that area. On one operation, I was flying an LZ. We took fire when a round hit one of our fuel pods and one of the jobs of a crew member is also to pull maintenance on the ship--and the more maintenance you have to pull the less flying time and the less chance you get to kill gooks because that's the mental attitude that the army forces you into. So we were kind of mad that we had taken a round in the fuel pod, so after leaving the LZ we requested the pilot fly over the area we had taken the round from so we could get whoever it was that had fired at us. We were all pretty up- tight about it, and as soon as we left the LZ, I noticed a contingent of Vietnamese peasants chopping wood and I decided, well, if the Vietnamese can fire a round into my ship, then I can fire as many rounds into the Vietnamese as I want to.
So I swung my machine gun onto this group of peasants and opened fire. Fortunately, the gun jammed after one or two rounds, which was pretty lucky, because this group of peasants turned out to be a work party hired by the government to clear the area and there was GIs guarding them about fifty meters away. But my mind was so psyched out into killing gooks that I never even paid attention to look around and see where I was. I just saw gooks and I wanted to kill them. I was pretty scared after that happened because that sort of violated the unwritten code that you can do anything you want to as long as you don't get caught. That's, I guess that's, what happened with the My Lai incident. Those guys just were following the same pattern that we've been doing there for ten years, but they had the misfortune of getting caught at it. And rotor wash from the helicopters was a very effective and sadistic weapon. Chinook helicopter is basically a cargo ship; that's what it's designed for. I forget the weight you can pick up with one, but when you've got a full load, you can put out a rotor wash at certain times that approaches a hundred miles an hour. Some of the things we used to like to do was in the morning the people from hamlets and villages go out to a designated field to defecate and if we'd be on an early morning mission, we'd spot them, make a swoop in, and we could get up to a hundred twenty knots, about a hundred thirty miles an hour. And as you swoop in with the ship, just as you approach, the pilot would flair the ship on its tail, and the rotor wash would spin around and hit the people, blowing them over through the sand and their defecation. This was one of the things that we did for kicks. Rotor wash was also used to blow down the huts, literally blow down the villages; like I said they are made out of straw and junk. So we'd come in and flair on a ship and just blow away a person's house. Also, the Vietnamese, when they've harvested a crop of rice, put it out on these large pans to dry and that harvest is what is supposed to maintain them for that season--what they're supposed to live on. We'd come in to flair the ship, and let the rotor wash blow the rice, blow their entire supply of food for that harvest over a large area. And then laugh, as we'd watch them running around trying to pick up individual pieces of rice out of a rice paddy. Over an area larger than this room. It was also used to spook water buffalo. The Vietnamese when they plow their fields and rice paddies they follow the rows of plants which are fairly straight. And if we'd spot somebody plowing his field, we'd make a run on him. That would spook the water buffalo and the water buffalo would take off in any old direction with that plow ripping up the field and usually the farmer being dragged with the plow through the field. Once we were picking up a sling load of ammunition and the army had a habit of putting pick-up zones and drop-off zones right near well traveled roads, you know, roads traveled by the local villages.
So we were hovering over this sling load of, I think it was Howitzer rounds, and I was hanging out the window observing what appeared to be a twelve year old Vietnamese boy standing there watching us. And as we lifted up with the load, the rotor wash increased because of the weight and it blew him into the path of a 2 1/2 ton truck with trailer which killed him instantly. The psychological effect is something I'd like to bring out here to you people. When that happened, my first reaction, and my flight engineer who was observing this too, our first reaction was, I guess, you would call normal. It would be horror, pain, and then I realized that I caught myself immediately and I said, "No, you can't do that," because you develop a shell while you are in the military. They brainwash you. They, they take all the humanness out of you and you develop this crush which enables you to survive in Vietnam. And if you let that protective shell down, even for a second, it could mean, it's the difference between you flipping out or managing to make it through. And I caught myself letting the shell down and I, and I, tightened up right away. And started laughing about it and joking about it with the flight engineer. He sort of moved on the same logic because I guess he thought it sort of knocked his shell down too.
MODERATOR. Excuse me, Duff. We're running out of time.
DUFFY. All right.
MODERATOR. Quickly, could you go over the mistreatment of the POWs and the feeding of the Vietnamese the poisonous food?
DUFFY. All right, all right. When we picked up POWs to transfer them to a POW camp, they'd be blindfolded and their hands would usually be tied behind their backs. On a few occasions, not often, I and other people would pistol whip them with our .45s and when that wasn't cool to do, because maybe we had a, you know, somebody flying the ship that really wasn't hip to how to off the gooks, then we'd just kick them around as we walked around the ship. Also, on the ship, when we hit the LZ at times, we'd drop the ramp down halfway and, like I said, these people are blindfolded and tied and we walked them off the ramp and it was literally like walking off this table blindfolded with your hands tied. So they'd just fall flat on their faces. Also, during test flights, we'd go to a specific area where the pilots could check out the controls and this would attract a lot of Vietnamese. We'd throw out the C-ration cans that we didn't like and, after they thought they were getting a lot of food, we'd hand them cans of 5606 which is helicopter hydraulic fluid and very poisonous. And I observed one kid, that I handed a can of hydraulic fluid, take a good healthy drink out of it before his mother knocked it over, knocked it right out of his hand, and he was immediately sick right after that happened. In one incident we were flying back from Khe Sanh Valley and we took fire from six NVA which caused the ship to explode in the air and make a crash landing. Now, on the way down, because our company policy was to just keep on firing, I had fired at all the military targets I could spot and I looked out across the field and I spotted a Vietnamese woman peasant running away from the ship. I fired a burst of about six or seven rounds into her back before we fired, before we hit the ground. When I was being questioned as to what happened about two weeks later by a captain in my company, I told him what we did and what I did. We both had a good laugh about it. That was pretty much company policy. Also in Hue, during the Tet offensive in '68, I observed American fighters and bombers (Phantoms) dropping bombs and napalm into very crowded streets full of civilians. I don't know how many people were wiped out in that place. They blamed that on the NVA. Also, I was flying tail gun at the time on one mission into Hue, and just for kicks, the pilot told me to spray a house with my M-16. I don't know if the house was occupied, but the area was occupied by civilians. This was common policy. Kill anything you want to kill, any time you want to kill it, just don't get caught.
MODERATOR. Thank you, James. Before we go on to the next one I'd like to ask all the veterans that are in here to please leave and give your seats to people that are trying to come in. It's imperative that these people get in and understand know what's going on.
Our next speaker is Kenneth Ruth, an ex-E-4 of the United States Army.
RUTH. My job while in the service was medic. I was attached out to different companies at different times. I'd just like to say that each of us could go on all day talking about atrocities that we witnessed, every veteran in here, not just the guys up here. Each of us saw many, and many of them we all participated in, so I am not going to run into a whole bunch that I saw. I'd just like to name a few. At one time we were securing, which means that we set up a perimeter around it to protect it, and you know you might sit there for four, five, six, seven days, and so we wanted to make sure our weapons were in order. What you do is you test-fire your weapons, just shoot 'em off for about two minutes or so into the distance. Well, we were told one day that we had to test-fire our weapons and be prepared to do it. Well, many of us knew that on the other side of these bushes, out in front of us, was a whole village of people, and that if we did test-fire our weapons, those people would be in jeopardy. So I approached the platoon leader and the platoon sergeant and told them this--that there were civilians on the other side of the village beyond the bushes. I was told first of all by the platoon leader that he just didn't care, and when I told the platoon sergeant about it, he said he'd shoot a Montagnard as fast as he would a Cong, so it didn't make any difference to him. Nobody else cared. This is the general attitude. You know, Vietnamese aren't humans, they're targets. And one other thing I'd just like to point out is when I was one time attached out to the Special Forces once in a while they needed a medic, and I was usually, I usually "volunteered" to go along with them. And one time--I have some slides of this--can you show these slides?
MODERATOR. Can we have those lights dimmed, please?
RUTH. See, I'd just like to point out some of the intelligence and modern interrogation methods used by the modern and sophisticated war machine. This first one will just give you an idea of how we go into a village and get information on enemy movements and things like this. This is our Special Forces. You can't see it too well, but that big guy there, the guy on the far side of the picture there, he's a Special Forces officer or probably an enlisted man, a sergeant, and first of all we go into the village and ask people who they think are Viet Cong.
(Next Slide) So we were given two people that we were told were Viet Cong. See, what we do, is we took these two guys out in the field and we strung one of 'em up in a tree by his arms, tied his hands behind him, and then hung him in the tree.
(Next Slide) There you can clearly see the prisoner being strung up into the tree. Somebody point out that Special Forces man on the far side of the picture, the big guy. That's him right there. That's a Special Forces man. He's running the whole show, and this is all under their command and everything, and it's not the Vietnamese. Now what we did to this man when we strung him up is that he was stripped of all his clothes, and then they tied a string around his testicles and a man backed up about ten feet and told him what would happen if he didn't answer any questions the way they saw fit. Now all we had to go by was that we were told that he was a suspect by other villagers. Now the other villagers weren't going to point out themselves, and somebody had to be pointed out. So they'd ask a guy a question: "Do you know of any enemy units in this area?" and if he said, "No," the guy that was holding that string would just yank on it as hard as he could about ten times, and this guy would be just flying all over the place in pain. And this is what they used--I mean anybody's just going to say anything in a situation like this to get answers out of him. And then when they were done, when the guy was just limp and hanging there, the South Vietnamese indigenous troops who worked with the Special Forces, went up there and then to get kicks, would run their knife through his ear and carve little superficial wounds on his body, not deep ones, but just you know, trickle it down his body to make fun of the guy.
We took a guy to the other end of the village, and we didn't do this, all we did was burn his penis with a cigarette to get answers out of him. And if--I'm sure people understand what that would be like if it was done to yourself or to your children. Like I said, this is just one of the things I saw. I could just go on all day. All of us could. And every GI in this room could say the same thing. But it's not just us. Everybody knows this. It isn't just Lieutenant Calley. I was involved, I know there are so many other people involved in all this American policy in Vietnam.
MODERATOR. I might state that Kenneth Ruth is a police officer and is working on his Master's Degree in Education. All right, the last testimony that we have to give is from myself. I am Michael Hunter, 24. I served in Vietnam two tours, the first tour was from the 1st Air Cav. Bravo Company 5th/7th Air Cav. and the second tour was the 1st Infantry Division, I Company, 75th Rangers, Lurps (LRRP) about 40 miles west of Saigon. The first thing I want to bring to you is that I arrived in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and Bravo Company, 5/7 was already outside of Hue. I flew out, and the second day that I was in the field, we came across a boy--he couldn't have been any older than fourteen--his arm was half, I'd say, 90% blown off. It was hanging by the skin, I mean it was hanging up to here. I requested--as a matter of fact, I didn't request--I demanded, from the medical NCO, that we had there that something be done about him or else he'd die. He was so far gone, as far as deterioration, that he was stinking. You couldn't stand too near his body. The NCO said, "No, I don't want to waste my medical gear. It's no use now wasting our medical gear, because if we make contact we're going to need it. We don't have that readily available medivac or the ships to supply us medical aid." I told my CO and he said, "Well, we don't have the time to stop and help him. He's going to die anyhow. We've got to move on because we got a mission to perform." That was the first incident. Later, in between Hue Phu Bai and Camp Evans, which is also in the I Corps area, we came across and had an awful lot of fire fights with mainly the NVA. After the fire fight was over and the NVA were laying on the trail, we would approach the bodies, we'd shoot again to make sure that they were dead and then we'd carve--and I would say we, meaning myself also--carve Cav. patches (what you see on that gentleman's arm right there) into his chest. And after that, if that wasn't sufficient (and this was done quite a few times) the heads of the bodies were cut off and they were placed on stakes, jammed down on stakes, and were placed in the middle of the trails and a Cav. patch was hammered into the top of his head, with Bravo Company's "B" written right on the top. Now this hasn't happened just once or twice, it happened five or six times. It didn't happen just in Hue, Phu Bai, it happened around the Tay Ninh Province also, when the First Cav. moved north or south. We also dug up bodies, bodies that had been dead, gone for about three or four weeks when we weren't making that much contact, and we would take the skulls and do the exact same thing--put them on the stakes on the trail, put another Cav. patch on it, plus we would use them for body counts, repeated body counts, and what I'm saying, so no one will just misquote me, is that the body count given to the American public is extremely exaggerated. Every bunch of hootches that we came across (and I may say we didn't take activity around the roads unless we were resting) of huts numbering them six to twelve and on up, whether they were occupied or unoccupied, were burned.
And if we didn't have the grenades or satchel charges to destroy the sanctuary holes for the Vietnamese, then we would tear them apart by hand. This was a standing order for Bravo Company 5/7, and it was standing order for 5/7 alone. As far as CS gas, we always used CS. CS is the most powerful gas that can be used that will not kill you. It can create bodily harm if you're close--extremely bad burns. My CO of Bravo Company, 5/7 gave an order, or I should say, gave permission to all the senior NCOs the officers, and the enlisted men who were on guard on the outposts, to use CS on the civilian population who were congregating around the fences or the wires. Now this particular area was a rest area no more than 50 feet from a village directly on a road, and directly between a road and a bridge. The Vietnamese farms or their property lay on the other side of the bridge. They had to go past this bridge to get there. Smoke was constantly thrown outside the fence area at people walking by, and when the kids, and I do mean kids, four years old, ranging up to sixteen years old, came around the fence to sell GIs cigarettes, or candy, or beg for food, they were CSed. And what I mean is they were gassed. This didn't happen just once, it happened constantly, the whole time we were there and when we were in the base camp also. And when we didn't use CS out of the grenade we used CS out of the canister round of the M-79, which, if you're hit by it, you can be killed. We were in a free fire zone just outside of Camp Evans and an old man, age 68, (I must say we could not tell that he was 68 at the time) was approximately 100 meters away from us cutting pineapple. It was very visible that he was cutting pineapple, and that he did not have a weapon. What he had was a machete. Machetes are carried in Vietnam by almost every civilian that works in the field and by the children. I was ordered by the senior NCO that was backing me up at the time, right behind me, to open fire. I opened fire and killed the man that was 68 years old. We found identification on his body stating that he was not a VC, not a Viet Cong, not an NVA. He was a civilian and he did live in the nearby village, which was no more (and this was a free fire zone, I may add) than 1,200 meters away. That was his farmland that he was cutting down--the crops on the farmland. It was reported to the battalion that this was a body count. He had a weapon--the weapon being the machete. Suspected VC. I served with I Company, 75th Rangers, excuse me, H Company, with the 1st Air Cav., and as you know, we do not have permission to cross the Laotian border. Up around A Shau Valley, which you might have heard of, or might not have, we crossed twice. When I say we, I say the teams that I was with, and we located enemy positions--how large the enemy was, its capability, and so on. That is not the thing. The fact is, we crossed a border line illegally. And you haven't heard anything about that yet.
QUESTION. Could you give us a date on that, Mike?
MODERATOR. As far as a date, as far as crossing the Laotian border, that took place in March 1968, twice. That was just prior to the Ashau Valley incident involving the 1st Air Cav., I, One Second. I also served with the 75th Rangers, I Company, attached to the 1st Infantry Division, just outside of Saigon. Prior to my getting there, in March, April, May, and June of '69, one helicopter of Lurps was sent across the Cambodian borderline, and I may add this was also illegal because we had no right in sending troops over there. The chopper was lost. It was hit by a B-40 rocket round and exploded in mid-air. We lost seven Lurps and four crewmen. Another time, another team was sent across the borderline, dropped off just short of it, walked across, and was never heard from again. To this day they are missing in action, presumably killed in Vietnam. Now, as far as atrocities, my company, Bravo Company, 5th of the 7th, when we were outside of Hue shortly after the Tet offensive, went into a village (and this happened repeatedly afterwards) and searched for enemy activity. We encountered a large amount of civilian population. The civilian population was brought out to one end of the village, and the women, who were guarded by a squad and a squad leader at that time, were separated. I might say the young women were separated from their children and the older women and the older men, the elderly men. They were told at gunpoint that if they did not submit to the sexual desires of any GI who was there guarding them, they would be shot for running away. And this was best put in the language as best possible for the people that cannot speak Vietnamese and they got the point across because three women submitted to the raping of the GIs. I think that pretty well does it.
QUESTION. Mike, back to the body count. Were the body counts just enemy or were they men, women, and children? You said they were grossly exaggerated. Does that include the men, women, and children?
MODERATOR. A body count is a body count. I mean, that's exactly what it says. When the battalion commander calls up and says he wants a body count, if there are men, women, and children laying out there, he gets a body count of that many people. And usually we'd count about five bodies and it gets back there and it's about 25 or 15 bodies.
UNIDENTIFIED PANELIST. I'd like to add something to that. I know on numerous occasions, when we would receive contact in the field, we would call in support--artillery, gunships (by that I mean helicopters) and, if necessary, jet fighters. Now, every time someone is killed, there is kind of a dispute over who got him. So the Air Force claims one, the Artillery claims one, the Infantry claims one, and the gunships claim one. So you've got only one body, but you've got four people claiming it. Ah, I don't know, it was my distinct impression that during periods that I was over there, that we weren't winning the war.
MODERATOR. OK, I'll open it up to the press now and to questions, for a brief amount of time because we are way overtime as it is now.
QUESTION. I am not clear on the point I think Robert was making, or somebody else over there, about the role of the point men and how the black GIs are used as point men. This is not clear. I don't understand that. Could you amplify that point?
ANSWER. The point man is a function where the company moves in three ranks, somewhat like a wedge. The point man is in the middle column in the front. If there are any booby traps with a wire, the wire hits him. Any enemy in a concealed position waiting to ambush, day or night--the point man sees him. The point man should be super-alert, super-apprehensive but at the same time collected enough to function. Like if he gets shot at and he is pinned down, he should be able to not only keep things cool to his front, but at the same time get word back exactly what he thinks is up there. It's extremely dangerous. Most point men are volunteer. If they are volunteer, they're gung ho and got their just-come-uppance. Or the practice of fragging, which you might have heard about where certain career-motivated personnel have to be disciplined by the EM (enlisted men). Standard procedure is the first time to put a CS grenade in his lodging. You know, he sleeps on a cot, most other people sleep in the mud. If he still doesn't straighten up, hand grenade or claymore. This happened to our master sergeant in 8th Brigade.
QUESTION. My name is _____ and I'm from the Detroit Women's Media Co-Op. I have a couple of questions. The people mentioned that there was brutality done to people's testicles and stuff like that. I just wanted to know if that kind of specifically sexual brutality to men is done a lot, you know, is a lot of brutality aimed at a guy's penis and stuff like that because people talk about what they've seen with the...
MODERATOR. Do you want any one of the panel to answer that question?
ANSWER. Anybody that knows about it.
MODERATOR. Yes, Dave. The question was about the pictures of people torturing the men by wires and other means by using their testicles. Is this done frequently?
STARK. I can't speak too much for the frequency of it, as much as for the reason. There are two basic reasons for it. One is that if you are looking for information, you seek the most sensitive areas of their body. If you're out in the field, you basically want to degrade them more. And attacking their sexual organs would be more degrading that their arms or legs.
MODERATOR. Okay, we are extremely overtime. Okay, the last one, since you had your hand up. Go ahead.
QUESTION. I was in Vietnam with a service project that was a private program. It wasn't anything to do with the government. I lived in An Khe, in a refugee camp. I didn't see torture, but I heard a lot of stories because I spoke Vietnamese, from the refugees there. And I think that it does no good to tell of all these atrocities unless you explain what you understand of why we are in Vietnam and I learned one Vietnamese phrase very well from these people "De Quoc My" it means American imperialist.
AUDIENCE. Right on.
SAME QUESTIONER. Please, each of you, try and explain what you understand from this. Whey are you working in the Police Department after being in Vietnam? These people are working at the base for $.50 to $1.00 a day. And they have to eat rice from the United States. They were rice farmers. They left their villages because they had been forced to leave them and forced to work on the American base because there was no alternative. They were filling sandbags, cutting grass, doing anything. Their kids couldn't go to school because they had to sell peanuts and pop to the soldiers. They hung laundry, which was given to them to wash as a security measure by the GIs. They have machines on the base. This was in order to give them some means of income. They washed it by hand.
UNIDENTIFIED PANELIST. Could you come down, please, to the room at the end of the corridor? I'd be glad to rap with you about that. If you were over there and you want to know how the GI looks at it--the ideologies--and you referred to him being a cop now--The difference is believing in what you are doing and being forced into what you are doing. I'd like to talk to you later about that.
SAME QUESTIONER. Who is the enemy?
MODERATOR. Well, I'm sorry. I wish we could sit up here all day and talk to you, but we are 45 minutes overtime and we're keeping other people from coming up and testifying to atrocities that happened in Vietnam. At this time I'd like to thank you, the press, and my brothers and sisters out there, all of you, and thank you very much. I forgot to remind you that every person that sat at this panel for the 1st Air Cav. has stated that they would swear, under oath, for everything that they have said.
Last Updated Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 07:22 PM MST; 12,012 Hits