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Miscellaneous Panel
Moderators:

Jan Crumb, 28, SP/4, 18th Aviation Co. (December 1961 to October 1963)

John Kerry, 27, Lt. (j.g.), Coastal Sq., Coastal Division, 11 & 13, USNR (November 1968 to April 1969)

Veterans Testifying:

Michael McCusker, 29, Sgt. (E-5), Public Information Office, 1st Marine Division (1966 to 1967)

David Cohen, Naval Coastal, Division 11 (November 1966 to November 1967)

Sam Schorr, SP/4 (E-4), 86th Combat Engineers (September 1966 to September 1967)

Dennis Butts, 24, SP/4 (E-4), HHQ Co., 2/12, 25th Infantry Division and "E" Co., 4/39, 9th Infantry Division (September 1966 to September 1967)

Thomas Heidtman, 26, Pfc. (E-3), 3rd Bn., 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (October 1966 to November 1967)

Paul Williams, 24, L/Cpl. (E-3), "A" Btry., 1st Bn., 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division (May 1966 to May 1967)

Donald Donner, 24, SP/4 (E-4), 20th Brigade, 86th Combat Engineers (August 1967 to July 1968)

Joe Galbally, 23, SP/4 (E-4), 1/6, 198 LIB, Americal Division (October 1967 to April 1968)

Ed Murphy, 23, Sgt. (E-5), 1/6, 198 LIB, Americal Division (October 1967 to September 1968)

Timon Hagelin, 21, SP/4 (E-4), Graves Registration Platoon, 243 Field Serv. Co., 1st Logistics Command (August 1968 to August 1969)

Russell Kogut, 22, WO-1, 155 Assault Helicopter Co. (May 1968 to March 1969)

Dennis Caldwell, 24, CWO-2, "A" Trp., 3/17, Air Cav., 1st Aviation Brigade (October 1968 to October 1969)

Don Pugsley, 23, SP/4, 5th Special Forces (October 1969 to December 1969)

Steve Pitkin, 20, SP/4, "C" Co., 2/239, 9th Infantry Division (May 1969 to July 1969)

MODERATOR. This panel is comprised of various units from Vietnam which is why it's called a Miscellaneous Panel. Each vet will introduce himself, tell what unit he was in, what years he served in Vietnam, in some cases months, and briefly summarize what he will give testimony on. After the testimony we will talk very briefly about why these things happened and about the changes that occurred in them between the time they went and came back. So, we'll start at this end and work on down.

MCCUSKER. My name is Michael McCusker and I'm from Portland, Oregon. I was in the 1st Marine Division, in I Corps, in 1966 and 1967. I was discharged on 19 October 1967 as a Sergeant E-5. This ragged piece of paper here is a Xeroxed copy of my discharge papers. I was in the 1st Marine Division with the Informational Services Office which meant that I was an infantry reporter-photographer. I spent all of my time out in the field with the infantry on infantry operations. I went out with damned near every Marine outfit in all of I Corps from 1st Marine Division and 3rd Marine Division units. And so, these things in the field, the torturing of prisoners, the use of scout dogs in this torture, the Bell Telephone hour as has been described with the field phones, by seeing all of these units, I discovered that no one unit was any worse than another. That this was standard procedure. That it was almost like watching the same film strip continually, time after time after time. Within every unit there was the same prejudice; there was the same bigotry toward Vietnamese. All Vietnamese. There will be a panel tomorrow on the press censorship that a military reporter goes through. At this time I'm not going to speak much of that because we're going into detail in tomorrow's panel. Today I just want to mention a few atrocities of a larger scale that I saw. All three of them were ironically with the same battalion, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. All three atrocities happened in the month of September and October 1966.

Now the first one took place around September 6th or 7th 1966 about ten miles northwest of the Province capital of Tam Ky near the mountains. It was in a pineapple forest and a Marine had just been killed. He had been hit by a sniper and the entire battalion, in revenge, destroyed two entire villages, wiping out everything living, the people (and that was men, women, their children), all their livestock, burning the huts, destroying the paddies, their gardens, their hedgerows, just wiped them out--erased them. They did not exist the moment after the Marines were finished and they might never have existed. The next instance happened also in the same month of September when a squad of nine men, that was a Chu Lai rifle squad, went into this village. They were supposed to go after what they called a Viet Cong whore. They went into the village and instead of capturing her, they raped her--every man raped her. As a matter of fact, one man said to me later that it was the first time he had ever made love to a woman with his boots on. The man who led the platoon, or the squad, was actually a private. The squad leader was a sergeant but he was a useless person and he let the private take over his squad. Later he said he took no part in the raid. It was against his morals. So instead of telling his squad not to do it, because they wouldn't listen to him anyway, the sergeant went into another side of the village and just sat and stared bleakly at the ground, feeling sorry for himself. But at any rate, they raped the girl, and then, the last man to make love to her, shot her in the head. They then rounded up ten villagers, put 'em in a hut (I don't know how they killed them--grenaded them or shot 'em down), and burned the hut. They came back to the company area where it was bivouacked for the night while on a regular routine search and destroy mission. I personally came into contact with this when the squad came back, told their CO, who was a lieutenant, and they hastily set back off again towards that village with the lieutenant. I sort of tagged along in the rear and when I got up there they were distributing these bodies that were charred and burned and I asked what these bodies were. They said, "Oh, we were hit by an ambush. These were the people who ambushed, but we got 'em." Okay, I didn't want to ask them how they killed them because all the bodies were burned as if they'd been roasted on a spit. There was a tiny little form, that of a child, lying out in the field with straw over its face. It had been clubbed to death.

As later was brought out, the Marine that clubbed the child to death didn't really want to look at the child's face so he put straw over it before he clubbed it. The woman survived, somehow, and crawled to a neighbor; the neighbor ran off to the ARVN commanders. The commanders were rather angry, put pressure on the Marine Corps and these men were tried. However, they got very light sentences--a little slap on the wrist. I don't know exactly how much time they got nor do I know how much time they actually served, but they're on the streets again because I ran into one about two years ago in New York. The third atrocity was a village called Pho Duc which was farther northwest of Tam Ky, across the first range of mountains into several valleys. This area was not touched for two years until the Army started taking up operations in that area. Jonathan Shell wrote a very very graphic two-part story for the New Yorker concerning that area, mentioning that nobody had been in there for two years after the Marines had passed through. Nobody had to. There wasn't really much left after we went through. In this one particular village of Pho Duc another man was killed by a sniper. He was a lifer by the name of _____ and I really don't know whether a sniper blew him away or not because _____ was not one of the most popular men in the company. This involved Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and I believe it was the 1st Platoon with the Company Commander along. Well, the CO pulled us back. We were sweeping across the party when _____ got hit. He pulled us back and called in for nape, which is napalm, or which the military now likes to refer to as incendiary gel as if it were as harmless as Jello, an after-dinner dessert. But it was napalm. We walked into the ville after the fires burned down and there was an old man lying on a cot, burned to death with his hands stiff in rigor mortis, reaching for the sky as if in prayer or supplication forgiving us for what we had done. We walked past him and across the hedge row there was an old woman lying dead curled into the fetal position as if she had been just born. An old man lay beside her. Over the next hedge row there were thirty dead children. They had been lying out there in this courtyard for us to see them before we got into that village. They were laid out there by survivors who split into the jungle. Now these kids, thirty of them, none were over fifteen; some of them were babies. Some looked like they had just been sunburned, that was all. Their skins were a very ruddy, ruddy pink or scarlet color. Others were just charred with their guts hanging out.

Ironically it was my mother's birthday, 27 October, and I somehow seemed to feel that there were her children. An officer, a captain, walked up to me and said, "Well, Sgt. McCusker,"--remember I was the reporter--"do you see what the Viet Cong did to their own people?" And I said, "Captain, I saw our planes drop the napalm." He says, "Well, Sgt. McCusker, you had better write that the Viet Cong did it." I told the captain politely what I thought he should do to himself and I walked off. Now these things happened. Now these were some of the more gruesome things that happened, or more gruesome because of the numbers. But daily things like this happened, a kid shot down in the paddy because, well, it looked like an adult running away. I couldn't see, so we walk up to him, and it's a kid. The philosophy was that anybody running must be a Viet Cong; he must have something to hide or else he would stick around for the Americans, not taking into consideration that he was running from the Americans because they were continually shooting at him. So they shot down anybody who was running. I was in a helicopter once and I saw this farmer in a cart. Suddenly the farmer in the cart just blew into all sorts of pieces and the helicopter I was in was shaking like the devil. It wasn't hard to put it together because I watched the gunner finish off the rounds. He had extra ammo. The tortures started in the villages. Prisoners were picked up by the average infantrymen who really didn't have much idea of exactly what intelligence was needed. So, therefore, you're all prisoners. We'll let interrogators take care of it. The method of taking prisoners was that you take the villagers that were left in the village, not those that had run away. You tied them to a tree and get the dog handler to let the dog jump and bite at the person tied to the tree. Or again, with the field telephone, you wired it up to his ears, his nose, his genitals. This was done to women; I've seen it done to women. In Ben Song, which was the province capital, in a prison, this guy was telling me all about why war was hell. He took me down to this dungeon where South Vietnamese troops were pulling fingernails out of an old woman. There was an American captain standing by, rocking on his heels, rather enjoying the show. I could testify to the systematic destruction of village hospitals, by mortars, by air, by artillery, believing that if those hospitals were destroyed the Viet Cong could not use them for their wounded. I was also on an operation in the Rung Sat area just north of Saigon which is just mud flats, like the Mississippi delta at high water.

It was in April 1966 with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines again. They were a battalion landing team at that time. We came across a big NLF hospital complex and destroyed it out of hand. Now interestingly enough, in Portland, Oregon, where I was a medic in the student strike, we had an unauthorized hospital tent in what was called the park blocks out in front of the college. The city decided to destroy it because it was an unauthorized hospital. We did have patients in it, but these were unauthorized people too. They were long hairs. So the cops came in, the tactical squad with their sticks. They bloodied up about thirty of us pretty badly and did a lot more damage to perhaps fifty more. So not only in Vietnam do Americans destroy hospitals. It was graphically pointed out to the people in Portland that they were destroyed too by police power, except of course, the hospital was not officially authorized. nor are Vietnamese hospitals in the villages. Dr. Margarette, who was in Quang Ngai, can testify to the condition of the provincial hospital in Quang Ngai, the Vietnamese hospital for the province. That hospital is so overcrowded that they can't get anything done. People are dying in those wards; they just shove them off the beds and put somebody else on them. One of the reasons that that hospital is so crowded is because all the little hospitals within the villages were all destroyed. Quang Ngai, in that province of Quang Ngai, an entire war of attrition is being put across there. My Lai is in Quang Ngai; My Lai suffered that war of attrition. When Calley and his people went through there, it was not the first time anyone went through My Lai and put the torch to it, nor was it the last time. You can prove it by a Reuters dispatch of October 1969. They were doing it again, and in the villages of the whole Son My Province. The entire Quang Ngai area was slated for destruction. The Vietnamese were slated for relocation and forced urbanization, which is what is happening in this country as a matter of fact. So the methods don't differ. I guess, really, that's the end of my testimony, except right now, while I'm speaking, it's happening in all of Southeast Asia, some guys are going through what I did, what all of us did; they are going through it right now. The Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians are dying right now, at this exact moment, and they will continue to die tomorrow, maybe even next year. So remember that and maybe you're going to find one of these days an F-100 flying in napalm strike on a ghetto; you're going to find an F-100 flying a napalm strike on where the long hairs live. It's not too far off. They've used tear gas from helicopters already; they've used shotguns; they've blown away Black Panthers--it's not too far off.

COHEN. My name is David Cohen. I was with Coastal Division 11, USN over in Vietnam, stationed down in IV Corps in the Gulf of Siam, from November '66 to November '67. I left high school to enlist in the Navy. When I left the Navy, I was thoroughly disgusted with everything I'd seen and everything I was still seeing. I tripped around for a long time trying to figure out where I was at. And now what I'm doing is full time GI organizing, because I know, I'm convinced that one of the best ways to end this war is to get all the active duty GIs to say we are not going to fight your war any more. I can talk about the dehumanization of the Vietnamese. I can talk about the brutal treatment of the Vietnamese. But one thing that I saw, and that I participated in as government high-up promulgated policy, was the hiring of Cambodian and National Chinese mercenaries by Special Forces teams who operated in Cambodia, South Vietnam, other places. I only participated in operations in South Vietnam and Cambodia.

SCHORR. My name is Sam Schorr. I'm from Los Angeles. I was in the U.S. Army, 86th Combat Engineer Battalion in Vietnam from September 1966 to September 1967, in the area of Lai Khe, the Iron Triangle, the Mekong Delta around Dong Tam, Ben Luc, and Tan An. I was an E-4. That was the highest I ever got; they wouldn't promote me after that. I will testify to the destruction of crops and rice paddies, ripping off graves, random fire on civilians, recon by fire, indiscriminate firing in mad minutes, throwing people out of helicopters, throwing C-rations at kids along the side of the road, killing of water buffaloes, and last but not least, the whole major issue, the issue of fighting in this imperialistic war.

BUTTS. My name is Dennis Butts and I'm from Madison, Wisconsin. I was an infantryman with the 4th Division and the 9th Division in 1966 and 1967. My testimony will involve the killing of civilians, the playing of games with mortars--setting them so that they will burn down civilian homes, and also I will try to give my insight into why this happened.

HEIDTMAN. My name is Thomas Heidtman and I'm from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I served from October '66 to September '67; I served with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines all this time. I can attest to prisoners being shot. I've seen it; I've done it. Villages being burned was a common everyday thing in the "Burning 5th Marines." Prisoners were tortured. They were forced to carry other wounded prisoners on bamboo poles for up to seven hours. Women and children were brutalized. I've seen water buffaloes killed. Any time you have to dig a hole, you find a nice soft bean field. You destroy crops. Rice is contaminated with CS. For three months they were attempting to burn rice with illumination grenades, which never did work, but they kept on trying. Destroying villages was a common practice. On one occasion, a captain ordered the burning of a villa because we were staying in this area for a day and a half and it was "too close."

WILLIAMS. My name is Paul Williams of Fayetteville, Arkansas. I served from May of 1966 to June of 1967 in the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions. I was a Lance Corporal and I was a Forward Observer in the field. Among other things that I witnessed were POWs being beaten, the condition of children after air strikes had taken place in their villages, H & I (harassment and interdiction) fires, and most particularly the command that I received at Khe Sanh that after dark anything was a free fire zone for H & Is. Further, recon by fire, FSCC orders, at Khe Sanh, to do this on unidentified targets, and, in the northern part of Vietnam, the killing of unarmed individuals, destruction of houses, property, crops, the use of prisoners of war as pack animals, the use of CS grenades, the forced evacuation of villagers, and refugees being moved without prior notification, without time to pack their own personal belongings. In Operation Hickory, which was within the DMZ, we made an amphibious landing. We were given the order that anything north of the river there, which marked the demarcation line at that point, was to be considered a free fire zone.

DONNER. My name is Don Donner. I'm also from Fayetteville, Arkansas. I served with the 86th Engineers from approximately September '67 to July of '68. I'm going to testify about the refusal of medical attention to civilians wounded by Americans, the allowing of desecration of dead Vietnamese bodies by ARVNs, corroboration of the destruction of livestock, and many of the other things that have been mentioned.

GALBALLY. My name is Joe Galbally. I'm 23, I served as a Pfc. in the 198th Light Infantry Brigade from October of '67 to April of '68 when I was medivaced to Japan. My testimony will deal with the gassing of hungry children, the use of scout dogs on innocent civilians, indiscriminate leveling of villages, killing of livestock, and pollution of water supply. In other words, they made it totally impossible for these people to live in their ancestral homelands again.

MURPHY. My name is Ed Murphy. I'm 23, I was an E-4 rifleman in the 198th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, and I served in Vietnam from October '67 to September '68. I'm from Philadelphia.

HAGELIN. My name is Timon Hagelin. I'm from Philadelphia. I was in the Graves Registration Platoon attached to 233rd Field Service Company, 1st Logistic Division. I'll testify to the racism of human remains, the rape of women, the misconduct and child molesting of children, and just an all-around bad attitude of Americans towards Vietnamese and Vietnamese attitude towards Americans.

KOGUT. My name is Russel Kogut, I'm 22, I'm from Flint, Michigan. I was a Warrant Officer Helicopter Pilot with 155th Assault Helicopter Company in Ban Me Thuot. I will testify on illegal operations in Cambodia, on the destruction of livestock in free fire zones, burning of villages, forced evacuation of villages, and attitudes of Americans towards Vietnamese.

CALDWELL. My name is Dennis Caldwell, I'm 24 from Ypsilanti, Michigan. I was a Warrant Officer flying gunships from October '68 to October '69 in Vietnam. This was the Cobra Gunship Helicopter. I flew for the 3/17th Air Cav., which was not part of the 1st Air Cav. It was part of the 1st Aviation Brigade. I have testimony concerning the destruction of hootches, destruction of crops, destruction of animals, treatment of prisoners, and also, I have some comments on censorship which I witnessed.

PITKIN. My name is Steve Pitkin, age 20, from Baltimore. I served with the 9th Division from May of '69 until I was airvaced in July of '69. I'll testify about the beating of civilians and enemy personnel, destruction of villages, indiscriminate use of artillery, the general racism and the attitude of the American GI toward the Vietnamese. I will also talk about some of the problems of the GIs toward one another and the hassle with officers.

PUGSLEY. My name is Don Pugsley. I served as a Spec 4 as a Green Beret Medic in South Vietnam. I will testify about some of the little known organizations that worked within the Green Berets in South Vietnam. When I was in Vietnam I carried a Secret Classification and I had several close friends who had top-secret classifications. Also, I have a photograph that I was ordered not to take at Nha Trang. It's a picture of an aircraft that serves the specific units my testimony deals with. I also want to say a few words in the capacity of a medic regarding the most abused drug in South Vietnam, alcohol.

MODERATOR. Joe, you talked a lot about the use of dogs in interrogation, as well as the treatment which kids received and about rape. I wonder if you would elaborate on this.

GALBALLY. I'll talk about the rape first. As I said earlier, I was a Pfc. in an Infantry Company, which meant that there was about seventy-five of us turned loose on the civilian population in Vietnam. We would set up our night perimeter between three and four every evening. If we had passed any villages on the way to this night perimeter, there would be patrols mounted and sent out. On several occasions, one in particular, we sat upon a hill which was strategically important, I suppose. There was a village sitting at the bottom of the hill. We went back down to the village; it was about an eight man patrol. We entered a hootch. These people are aware of what American soldiers do to them so naturally they tried to hide the young girls. We found one hiding in a bomb shelter in sort of the basement of her house. She was taken out, raped by six or seven people in front of her family in front of us, and the villagers. This wasn't just one incident; this was just the first one I can remember. I know of 10 or 15 of such incidents at least. The gentleman on my left can corroborate my testimony because we were together the whole time; served in the same squad, the same company.

MURPHY. At the time most of this happened, our platoon leader was a minister. He's dead now so he can't really be found out and questioned. But when he got there, he was a pretty well high-character man because he was the minister. By the time he got killed he was condoning everything that was going on because it was a part of policy. Nobody told you that it's wrong. This hell changed him around. And he would condone rapes. Not that he would do them, but he would just turn his head to them because who was he in a mass military policy.

MODERATOR. Joe, you told me about a guy who collected ID cards. Do you want to talk about that?

GALBALLY. Okay. There was an individual, I won't mention his name, he was a friend of mine, a Spec 4, and he was, I guess you would say, the platoon hatchet man. Any time that he had a prisoner that nobody in the room wanted, this guy would take his ID card and tell him to "Di Di Mau" which is "run" in Vietnamese. The guy would get about ten feet, and get a full burst of automatic, which is 20 rounds, in the back. As I said I was medivaced in April of '68 and as of April I know that he had at least five or six ID cards also. He was, I guess, more or less proud of the fact that he was the hatchet man and was all the time showing everybody the ID cards. "Look where I got this guy and, how about this, and look at this." It was common knowledge what was going on. On certain occasions, if there was something that had to be done, the commanding officer would call up and ask for this guy by name over the battalion radio. I'm sure that somebody had to be monitoring this, you know, listening to it, but it was never stopped and no action was ever taken.

MODERATOR. Joe, you also said something to me about the dogs and wells.

GALBALLY. On occasions we were on the road. I don't know the name of the highway. As I said, I was a Pfc. and nobody ever told me much. It was between two LZs--LZ Baldy and LZ Ross. It was a fairly secure area. I don't think we ever received any fire. As I said, we were with a company of maybe 75 of us taking a break along the road. A Vietnamese civilian, wife and child, were riding down the road on a motorcycle, small motorcycle. Vietnamese were very ingenious and this guy had probably most of his possessions packed on the back of his motorcycle. We were sitting with this guy; I don't remember his name or rank. He had a scout dog with him. As the motorcycle was approaching us, he told the scout dog to get this guy. The dog jumped over the handlebars of the motorcycle, grabbed this guy off, had him by the leg and was really doing a job on the guy's leg. This caused the motorcycle to crash by the side of the road; the woman went one way, the baby went the other.

All the possessions were all over the place. When we got to the guy, the dog trainer took the dog away from the guy. We went through his pockets. He had an ID card and a pass. As it turned out, he worked at either LZ Ross or LZ Baldy and had a pass signed by some military personnel. His motorcycle was wrecked. His wife had to push it down the road. He followed, limping, because had blood pouring out of his leg, carrying most of his possessions and his young child. No action was ever taken against this guy. This was amusement, I suppose. There were at least 75 people watched this--four officers and I don't know how may E-7s and E-6s. Nothing was done.

MODERATOR. Timon Hagelin, you served with Graves Registration and I believe you have some observations on how Vietnamese are treated. In addition, I believe, you have some testimony about a young girl who was mistreated at Dak To.

HAGELIN. I was at Dak To at two different times. The first time was about a month after I got in the country. I came in country with the MOS of shoe repairman. And when I got to my field service unit they said that I had a choice of baking bread or picking up dead bodies. So I told them that I wanted to go to the field to see what was happening. They sent me up here. While I was on the base taking care of KIAs as they came through, I made friends with people in my company that I considered basically nice people. We used to get together at night and talk. I went down to a certain place where _____ or the Montagnards are just treated as animals. They know they're human beings but they really don't treat them that way. It's like they're a lesser thing; they're a lesser type human being. Anyway, it was a KIA from a straight force, a Mike force. That was Special Forces, you know. The Special Forces guy came in and he said, "I'll just put the body back on the runway because it's just a dead yard you know. Just leave him out there." This was the person that was supposedly helping these people out. And going out in the jungles with them was, "It's just a dead yard, you know; like forget about him." There was also an incident in Pleiku where the Special Forces E-5 from Pleiku did 'em a favor. He put a Montagnard body in one of our reefers turned on for American KIAs. When we had spare reefers that we didn't always use _____ refrigeration to keep the KIAs. The yard was in there for about five days. The guy that put him in there forgot that he was in there and the body was just laying inside this reefer for five days. That's like putting it in an oven. And finally, two of my friends were walking through the mortuary, and they smelled something. When they opened it up, the guy was really very _____ like, you know, he was really, after five days inside that thing. And the action taken against the E-5 that did it was Article 15--you know, they called him stupid.

MODERATOR. Why don't you explain to people what an Article 15 is.

HAGELIN. If the Army court-martialed everybody, they'd have court-martials all the time. So they made a lesser thing. A lesser way for them to burn you. If you do something wrong, they just take your money away from you. They took some of his money away from him for destroying a Montagnard body.

MODERATOR. Sam, you talked about recon by fire and mad minutes. I wonder if you'd explain these terms, as well as talk a little bit about the incident with the helicopter?

SCHORR. Recon by fire is when you go into an area and you're not exactly sure what is in the area. You want to find out, so you just fire into the jungle or into the surrounding vegetation in the hopes you hit the enemy or something. But they really didn't know who was out there or what was out there. And mad minutes is just where everybody on perimeter, around the base camp (you have bunkers all the way around it) opens up and fires away with all their fire power for about a minute, two minutes. I saw several incidents of recon by fire. This was on convoy duty. The convoy would stop. Tanks would pull out to the edge of the convoy. These are around inhabited areas; there were villages all up and down the highway. This was Highway 13, Thunder Road. And they would point their muzzles down into the vegetation and fire a canister round. Now a canister round has something like 7,000 oblong bearings in it. It's got a range of about 400 meters and it spreads as it goes. It goes in at an angle. Starts out at a small angle and just goes out like this. It's kind of like a Claymore mine. It just rips everything to pieces that's in the way. If there's anybody out there--any animal, any person, any kid, any hootch--it's going to be destroyed, flattened. Knocks trees to pieces. Regarding throwing people out of helicopters, I only saw one incident to this. I was coming out to do bunker guard during the day and right outside their perimeter, this was Lai Khe, there was an armored personnel carrier and a Huey chopper, which was warmed up and ready to go. There were people standing around the APC. There were five Vietnamese people. I do not know if they were civilians, Viet Cong or Viet Cong suspects. Three of them were wounded, had bandages on their bodies and their legs and their arms looked in bad shape. The other two were older men, somewhere around fifty years old. The Lieutenant from the armored personnel carrier and the captain from the chopper helped place these people in the helicopter. He got in the helicopter and took off. He got a couple of hundred feet up and three bodies came out. The lieutenant who was on the ground radioed up to the 'copter and he asked, "What happened to the prisoners?" The reply was point blank, "They tried to escape."

MODERATOR. Sam, you also spoke about the random destruction of crops, including some fields with graves, and shooting of people. Do you want to discuss that at all?

SCHORR. Right. The destruction of crops was fairly widespread. I was in an engineering outfit. I operated a bulldozer and also an earth mover, which is a very large piece of equipment for removing eighteen cubic yards of dirt at a time. When we had to build a base camp or we needed dirt for a road, we just drove off the side of a road into somebody's rice paddy and just started scraping away and taking their dirt. It didn't matter if the Vietnamese people there were using it at the time, or if they were going to use it at a future time. We just went in there and got it anyway 'cause we needed the dirt. Along almost all these rice paddies, they have graves on the dikes, at corners of the dikes, and these are the fathers, mothers, and grandfathers of the people who lived near that particular rice paddy. If there was a grave in the way, we just went right through it. I scraped up several graves into my pan and probably dumped it on a road somewhere. And there were sergeants and lieutenants watching it. They never said a thing. I was never reprimanded for doing something like this. Also, this was kind of a contradiction in army policy. When we were at a base camp that had a rubber plantation in it--this is thousands of rubber trees planted for the use of taking out the sap and using it for latex--when we ripped off a rubber tree we paid the French owner of that plantation 700 piasters per tree. This was the deal they had worked out. Somebody was getting rich off of taking down thee unused rubber trees. But when we did it to these local Vietnamese peasants, or anybody living around there, we didn't pay anybody anything. We just went off and did it. As far as random fire on civilians, this happened quite often, especially on bunker guard. You sit on bunker guard for a week, 24 hours a day and you get pretty bored. So we'd play little games. The Vietnamese would be working out in their rice paddies with South Vietnamese flags stuck in the rice paddy so you would know they were there. And we would try and knock the flag down. I had a machine gun. My friend had a grenade launcher. We would shoot all over the area and the Vietnamese would just take off for the hills. They thought we were friendly and they put the flag up there to let us know that they were there and we fired at it anyway. This was just out of sheer boredom and also because we just didn't give a damn. Also, we threw full C-ration cans at kids on the side of the road. Kids would be lined up on the side of the road. They'd be yelling out, "Chop, Chop, Chop, Chop," and they wanted food. They knew we carried C-rations. Well, just for a joke, these guys would take a full can if they were riding shotgun and throw it as hard as they could at a kid's head. I saw several kids' heads split wide open, knocked off the road, knocked into tires of vehicles behind, and knocked under tank traps.

MODERATOR. Dennis, if I can switch to you quickly because I remember you mentioned something about the rubber plants too and about payoffs. Do you want to discuss that and then talk about the destruction of that perimeter village?

BUTTS. I'm going to talk about the perimeter at Dau Tieng, which I was on for about two months. I spent about every night on it. Dau Tieng is on the Michelin rubber plantation owned by the French. When someone is not there on this perimeter protecting these rubber trees, well, they might be just a little bit confused or embittered at what they're doing. It came down from battalion. We wondered why we weren't too careful when we were in the rubber about getting mortared and battalion said the reason we weren't mortared was because the French were paying a volunteer fee to the Viet Cong for not mortaring the rubber. Where did the French get this money? Did they raise their prices on the rubber? No, they got it from the American government. So the American government was paying the French rent at Dau Thieng and then the French were paying the VC. The VC were carrying out the war in other parts of Vietnam with this money. This was part of why you might feel a little bit confused in Vietnam at what's going on around you. I'd like to talk about the general situation on this perimeter. It was really a confusing thing. I don't know if I can make it clear. We had concertina wire up. The people in the village were friendly. In these two months I never saw any sniper fire coming from that village. The girls would come in at night and stay in the bunkers with us and smoke pot. A lot of guys would go in the village and sleep in the village at night; they'd go through the concertina wire. And it was that friendly. The army has a policy of putting people who are in a rear echelon in the perimeters, such as cooks, mechanics, and mortar people (like I was at that time) who have really no experience at combat or anything and might feel a little bit uneasy at what's going on. They put these people on the perimeter, just after they've got off a day of being cook, or working in a motor pool. They're using World War II equipment also which wasn't designed for Vietnam, so they got 50 caliber machine guns for the mess halls. Well, the mess halls don't really need 50 calibers so they put them out in this perimeter. Now the perimeter of the village was about 150 to 200 feet from this 50 caliber. And anybody who knows what a 50 caliber can do can, if he can see any logic in that, I would like to know. But, anyway, they got this 50 caliber sitting there and the bullets on a 50 caliber are about that long (approximately six inches).

With some guys, not everyone, it just got to be a game of shooting at lights in the village. One night there was a light or something in the village, and this one guy, he was from a rear echelon, a mechanic, he was on this 50 caliber. He saw something and he opened up onto the village with a 50 caliber in about a ten second burst. Then the rest of the perimeter opened up. Not everyone, but a lot of firing. And all I could hear--it was just people screaming all of a sudden, people screaming, you know. So a few guys started yelling, "Come on, cut it out. Cut it out!" And everybody was wondering what was going on because there was no fire coming from the village. Then there was a big silence, and all of a sudden, just babies crying. And, you know, it just--every time I hear a baby cry right now, I--that comes back to me. In another incident that happened, at the same perimeter, up about 100 yards, and this gives a little bit more insight into why this thing happened. They had a man whom I know. He wasn't a close friend but I'd known him pretty well. And he just didn't want to be in Vietnam. He started out to be pretty straight, a pretty straight guy, pretty level-headed. He tried everything to get out of the army.

He took court-martials and Article 15s and he finally shot himself in the foot to get out of the army. They patched up his foot and sent him on this berm. He was on the berm and there were a couple of other guys there with him. I was on the next bunker and we had field phones in between us. There was a kid out there urinating. And this guy talked the other two and himself into shooting. Now, I think the other two guys shot. It was only about 150 feet away. I don't think they tried to hit him. But this guy did with a grenade launcher. They hit him with this grenade launcher and I don't know, he must have been about 13 to 15 years old, I witnessed this. We went into the village and he had shrapnel in his back. The medics did treat him and take him into the first aid station. This guy did not get a reprimand for this. He was just kind of given up on and he was still put in the field again. I don't know whatever happened to him, after that. But, I'm just trying to say the things that happened to people. They go in the army pretty sane or level-headed or adjusted. They tell the army that maybe they shouldn't be there and nobody listens. They just put them in a worse situation and this is how some of these things happen.

MODERATOR. I might just point out to the audience that a 50 caliber, which is the bullet which Dennis was talking about, is outlawed according to the Geneva Convention for use against people. It is not an anti-personnel weapon. It is actually anti-vehicular. However, in Vietnam it has been used by every unit as one of the major staples of weaponry for people. Paul Williams and Don Donner, you both talk about mistreatment of refugees amongst other things. I wish you two would amplify upon the mistreatment of refugees first.

WILLIAMS. Well, in Operation Hickory, an operation inside the DMZ, we were told that the reason for our being there was to evacuate Catholic refugees. We had a detachment of military police with my company at that time, who were to handle these refugees. After making our landing on about the second or third day, in May of 1967, I went out with the platoon to a village about 1,000 meters from our position. From all appearances the villagers had not been notified that they were to be evacuated and they obviously didn't want to be evacuated. About 30 or 40 villagers were rounded up; they were not given a chance to collect any of their belongings. They were taken back to our position where they were loaded on amtracks and taken down the beach. We were told they were being taken to Gio Linh to the refugee camp. I don't know what actual disposition was made of them after they left our position. On another occasion a couple of days later, we saw refugees about 1,000 meters in front of our position, moving south. I checked them out with binoculars to see if they were troops or what. They were all people carrying belongings on their back. There were no weapons present. The platoon that I was with at that particular time was in a position about 500 meters from the rest of the company and there were no officers present. Some of the men in the company, or in the platoon, rather, fired upon these refugees. They were too far away for any accurate firing. I don't know if any of them were hit, but there was no command given for them to cease. This went on until they got tired of the sport.

DONNER. First of all, I would like to corroborate a little bit which has already been said. I was with an engineer unit, the 86th, with the other gentleman at a much later date. The engineer unit is not allowed to have 50 calibers as a standard weapon. We had borrowed two 50 calibers from an infantry unit and we had them the full ten months that I was there. We also had borrowed an automatic grenade launcher from a naval unit, much the same as is mounted on Huey Cobras; a very, very effective anti-personnel weapon as far as killing and maiming goes. I'm an OCS drop-out. I decided I couldn't stand the extra year. It was a hard decision there at the last. But in OCS Fort Belvoir, Engineer OCS, Combat Engineers, recon by fire is a standard technique for convoy duty, which is taught to all the officers and suggested to be used. We often fired on flags in the field, both VC and VA flags, and South Vietnamese flags. We often shot water buffalo while on convoy sort of to relieve the boredom. Cleaned weapons, things like that.

We threw C-rations at kids. Part of the feeling behind this being the poor gooks are so hungry, you know, give them some food. We don't want these damn C-rations. Some of the people did a pretty good job of aiming the C-rations. I never saw anybody get killed because of one, but there were a few kids who were pretty fast jumpers. We were on a bridge site, building a bridge over the Com Nuong Choi River. We had the two 50s, one at each end of our position on the one side of the river. Standing orders were that at night time any sampan which came along the river was to be fired and sunk; any sampan. The two or three which I remember being sunk were basically sampans which had broken loose from neighboring villages. This was about fourteen, fifteen miles outside Saigon and had floated down the river. We had binoculars. We checked them out. We knew that nobody was in them, as close as we could tell. Standing orders were to sink them and it was a good chance to get in some target practice. Mad minutes we didn't do too much of. The one situation that I can remember was Tet '68 before we ever heard word that Tet had actually broken out. We'd spent the entire day with neighboring villagers, getting gassed up on rice whiskey (which is a very, very effective form of home brew) and many other forms of dope. When midnight rolled around we unloaded everything we had into the sky and it was quite a sight to watch the tracers climbing up and back down. Again, this is like fourteen miles outside of Saigon. I don't know how far 50 caliber bullets carry when shot in the air, but the entire circle of sky as far as could see around us was completely red with tracers going up--a fantastic sight. When I was in Vietnam I usually drove a jeep, except for a few weeks. It gave me a unique opportunity to get out and see the country which most of my fellow men didn't have. It gave me a unique opportunity to meet with the people. One time--I'm going to give some background so you can understand my feelings on it. I was running a steel convoy after we left the bridge site, back to Bear Cat. We had a large truck loaded with steel and it was barreling along about fifty miles an hour. I was in a jeep trying to keep anybody from a crossroad from getting in the way. So we were pretty well back to Saigon, back to Bear Cat, rather, past Saigon, past the last turnoff, and we slowed down to about thirty-five when an oil tanker came hustling around, moving much faster than we were. About two miles on up the road, we came upon an accident where the oil tanker had hit a civilian car. There were two kids in the car, boys, twins, about 12 or 14 and two older men. They were pretty well broken up. I got on the radio and called for medivac pretty fast. It took a while, but normal length of time, before there were medics out there and the kids were medivaced out with no questions asked.

Okay, that's the background. We were down at base camp Linda on the Mekong River, or just off the Mekong, rather, running a convoy up to Saigon again. Bunch of five tons, jeeps, vehicular stuff. We were about, I'd say, about ten to fifteen miles out of base camp Linda. We came upon a bridge with a village around it. The truck, oh, five or six vehicles ahead of me, made a dash for the bridge at the same time a forty-fifty year old Vietnamese civilian man was trying to go on the bridge. He was on a bicycle. He saw he wasn't going to be able to make it so he slipped off the bicycle, straddling it, trying to back it up off the bridge. The rear wheels of the five ton caught the bicycle, pinning him underneath it. The metal seat caught in his crotch and quite a bit of blood was pouring out. Our medic checked him over fast and said he couldn't do anything for him. They'd have to get him on to a different hospital or something. So, I got on the radio and called for another medivac which would take about 15 minutes to get there. I called in on the straight medivac band. My company was monitoring that band and, unfortunately, I guess, the CO of the company was walking by at the time. He came back and asked me what was happening. I explained we had a wounded Vietnamese civilian. He said not to do anything till he got there. Now this fellow's bleeding to death very fast, very fast. There's a crowd of thirty to fifty villagers standing around in a half-circle sort of watching, talking to themselves. So I argued for a couple of minutes and said, "Okay, you know, hurry up and get here." About five minutes later the civilian was in much, much worse shape. It was obvious that he was going to die by now. I called back to the company again and said, "We got to have a medivac now. It's not right just to leave this man bleed to death in front of his own people. We're the ones who wounded him, therefore we should at least try to show that we're trying to help him." Again the captain came back. Said, "Don't do anything till I get there. He's a civilian, you know." Another five minutes later and the medic brought my poncho to cover him up with. He was dead. About fifteen minutes, twenty minutes after that, the CO finally got there. He took quite a while leaving. The body was turned over to advisers working with the ARVNs that were guarding our perimeter and I don't know what happened to it other than that. But, you know, what can you say? What can you say? The other major instance I'd like to talk about was the one time that I actually saw a dead Vietnamese body. It sort of got to be a game with us. This was after Tet and there was a slight push by the VC later on in the year. Let's say this was around May '66 or so. They were trying to block supplies coming up from the southern Delta region to Saigon. And we were trying to keep Highway 4 open for those supplies. So every day we would go out and work on the roads. Dig up the mines and the VCs lay low and take a shot at us. We'd lay down beside the road and fifteen or twenty minutes later, we'd get up and go back to work. They'd take another shot at us. We'd lay back down again.

They didn't seem to be really, at that time, trying to kill us; it was more of a game. We had ARVNs providing our security. Whenever a shot was taken at us, we'd lay down and sweep the ARVNs through the area. They'd go through, say everything's fine, all clean, no VC. We'd go back to work and then get shot at again. Usually they'd go through a field until they received fire. As soon as they were shot at they would sit down, wait, call in our air strikes, our artillery. Then go forward again. The VC were wise to this. They wouldn't shoot at them. They'd run back to their shelters, wait for the air strikes, artillery to get over, then come back out and shoot. This time the ARVNs were being pushed by a new adviser who got them moving instead of calling in air strikes and they caught a VC who was hiding in a bunker. And they shot him. They towed his body back to camp, oh, four, five miles behind a jeep. They drug up outside our area. Everybody came up to look at the VC. After a while, there were quite a few GIs standing around. We were company size strength. Some of the people wanted to cut his ear off--this sort of thing. It was the common sort of thing which we understood as being done. I can't testify to any though. But quite a few of the EMs there, like myself, didn't particularly like the idea and notified the officers, at least the good ones, who also didn't like the idea. The ARVNs then took the body, sat it up along the roadside, and let it set. This is what it looked like four or five days later... Sort of frightening to realize I still have this on film. I almost forget about it because I don't like to look at the film very much. I don't like to be reminded. To the best of my knowledge there was no protest filed with ARVNs or the adviser working with the ARVNs at that time, about letting the body sit there. And part of the importance of this is that, as I understand some of the religions there, is that immediate burial is very, very important in their religion. It's as if you didn't confess before you died. There's no hope. It breaks the cycle of reincarnation if you're not buried, or if your head's cut off, or if the head is mutilated in any way. But to the best of my knowledge, there was no word said about it. The body was allowed to lay there and rot. There was another instance of a body laying beside the road which I drove by for about three days. There was some sort of a sign pinned on him, but it was in Vietnamese. I never did find out if the body was a Vietnamese civilian, a VC, a Vietnamese working for the Americans, or what. And I don't know if anybody else did either. One of the other things which I might mention is this sort of mad minutes which go on. Before I got to the bridge site, evidently one had gone on earlier.

Oh, six months earlier, or so. There was a very pretty, very vivacious little twelve, fourteen year old girl who lived within our perimeter at a hootch. She was permanently disabled. Her leg was stiff, would never straighten out again. She was on one side of the river and evidently somebody thought there was some VC over there and everybody opened up. Most likely everybody was messed up on some sort of dope or other. And she was wounded, could not be helped. To help balance it out though, I might say, that at least at Com Muong Choi, where we did get to know the people, we were fairly good about giving medical attention to anybody who needed it or to taking any Vietnamese who was wounded or sick to a hospital. In fact, I guess that was the only time that I really felt decent over there, was the three or four times that we took pregnant women over to have their babies.

MODERATOR. Tom, burning is something which is pretty much taken for granted in Vietnam but it's the destruction of dwellings which are inhabited by civilians that is a war crime. And, Tom, I think you wanted to talk a little bit about the burning of villages and the Marines and their nickname.

HEIDTMAN. My first day with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, I was informed that the nickname of the company was the "Burning Fifth Marines." Once, just before my first operation, we had a company formation, which means that the entire company who was going on the operation is fully equipped with everything they're going to take with them, including ammunition. At the time, our company commander was a 1st Lieutenant, who was hit on Hill 1100 in April, but he said that we're going out in the morning and we're going out on choppers. We're going out into an area west of Tam Ky. Then he said, "We're going to have a zippo inspection right now." And I would say approximately two-thirds of the entire company had zippo lighters. We held them up, lit them, demonstrated that they were filled, would burn. Then put them away. He smiled and let it go at that. When we went out, I would say 50% at least of the villages we passed through would be burned to the ground. There was no difference between the ones we burned and the ones we didn't burn. It was just that where we had time, we burned them. I've seen a gunnery sergeant take a .45 and kill six piglets that probably came from Americans because they had a big program to give the Vietnamese people pigs, ducks, and things like that. They were shot because their area, their pen, or whatever, was right next to a village or a hootch that was burning. The entire village, for about a quarter of a mile, was on fire with illumination grenades or zippo lighters. Everything was burned. Everything was torn down. All the animals were killed. Water buffaloes were shot and allowed to just lay right where they were. They were just shot right in their pen; they couldn't move. It's hard to kill a water buffalo, but when he's standing right there there's nothing much he can do. Everything is burned. On one particular occasion we had been moving on Operation Arizona, in April and May, we'd been moving constantly. About one hour just before dark, the order came right from our first lieutenant to first squad, which I was a member of, to go burn the village because it's too close.

We're spending too much time here. So my squad, myself included, went and put a zippo lighter to the village. Burned it. They were still inside the houses. They came outside and just stood there and cried and carried on. A short while later they wandered off. We don't know what happened to them. That was the only village in the immediate vicinity so we cleared the area more or less. Everything was liable to be burned or destroyed. We would stop along the side of a hill, going up a hill, just to check out the top which is a procedure the Marine Corps seems to adhere to. Every time we would stop somebody would be taking a machete or some such thing and chopping down banana trees. The people would slice potatoes and dry them out in front of their hootches. They would be scattered all over the place. They would just be kicked and destroyed. Men would urinate on these vegetables that were drying in the sun. If they complained they were definitely brutalized. That was a common procedure. The reason I came down here was because I've been living with this thing for two and a half years.

HEIDTMAN. There was an aura of hate in my outfit. I mean, a Vietnamese...there was no such thing to my unit as a friendly Vietnamese. Every Vietnamese was a gook. I've hardly ever heard the term Vietnamese. They were always gooks. There was no difference between a good one and a bad one except that the good one at the time is carrying no weapon but he's still fair game. The games that some of the Marines in my outfit played, myself included, would be to find older papa-sans with long whiskers, which I guess is the symbol of his identity in their culture, and they would just be cut. Every man in my outfit had at least a combat knife and they would just cut these whiskers. They would brutalize anybody who complained. We would move into a village and we would just sit down. We owned the village while we were there. These people would do what we told them, or they wouldn't be allowed to stay in their own house, or would be beaten inside the house. In one village we were using this particular hootch for the command post. There were officers, two officers and two senior enlisted men inside. The old grandfather appeared to be about sixty or seventy years old. He would not cooperate and go get water for some of the enlisted men and officers, so he was picked up by two Marines; each had a wrist and an ankle and they just pitched him in about 15 feet out the back door; he just landed there and split. To the Marines, there was no such thing as a free fire zone in my outfit. Everyplace was a free fire zone, whether it was 50 yards from the perimeter or five miles or whatever.

MODERATOR. A free fire zone for the information of somebody who just came today is an area designated by the command, whichever command has jurisdiction over an area, stating that anything in it is fair game. Any moving thing can be shot. Anything can be destroyed. It's a VC area. Many of these areas were designated such without any American presence for two and three year periods.

HEIDTMAN. One other thing that was more or less like a joke, like cutting the whiskers off, and it would get a laugh every time from somebody, was if we were moving through a village and there was a woman present. Her clothes, at least the top half of her clothes were just ripped. I've seen that happen and done it several times, probably thirty, forty times I've seen civilians with their clothes just...just because they were female and they were old enough for somebody to get a laugh at...their clothes--the top of their clothes, at least, would be ripped. Just torn right down. It only takes one hand to rip those kind of clothing. They're real thin silk or whatever, and they would be shoved out into the ditch and we'd just keep going.

MODERATOR. Now, when you first arrived in Vietnam you told me that they burnt a village just to show you how to do it. Is that true?

HEIDTMAN. Well, it was more or less demonstrated. We were on our first operation and it was an operation so it just followed the procedure. They were used to it and we were just shown how you destroy a village. How you cut anything taller than you are down, unless it's a big tree and will take time. Banana trees are chopped down. Everything is set on fire. My squad leader personally ignited the first two hootches and then just told us to take care of the rest so we could learn how this procedure was carried out. And he said, "Now you know that everything in the way gets burned," and we just proceeded to follow that procedure.

MODERATOR. David, you wanted to testify about U.S. operations in Cambodia as far back as 1967 and I think two others also have testimony on this subject with slides. Why don't you go ahead.

COHEN. I was in the Navy and I was on swift boats which are patrol boats. Their primary mission is board and search. And all they do is search every junket and sampan they see, looking for VC suspects and contraband. But it was a very mundane operation. It wasn't really exciting. I was really bored and I figured well, what the _____, here I am in a war zone, let's go see some war. So I went and I volunteered for any sort of special operations that were going on. Our base was on this island about fifty miles off the coast, on the Gulf of Siam, and there was this town right on the coast. It was called Ha Tien. There was a Special Forces, mercenary group, there which was a team of Special Forces who were provided with money. I mean, I've seen the safe full of the million piasters. They hired Cambodian and Nationalist Chinese mercenaries. Most of them were bandits, you know, who hired themselves out to anybody. They would go out on these operations. The base was five miles from the Cambodian border. So anything in that direction would have had to have been in Cambodia because we always went more than five miles in a northerly direction. I went out on operations with them anywhere between five and ten times. Sometimes it'd be out riding the boats and sometimes I'd be out relating to the Special Forces. Supposedly, my capacity was coordinating naval gunfire support. But fifty miles inland there are no naval guns that are gong to do that. The Special Forces maintained arsenals of unregistered weapons. That is, weapons that are not registered anywhere in the United States. Not even with the manufacturer. So that if anybody was captured, if any of the weapons were captured, there would be no American implicated. There would be no Americans implicated in anything that happened. Nobody ever wore uniforms. They wore either black pajamas or camouflaged fatigues and tiger greens. I would like to say that one of the reasons they hired mercenaries was because the ARVN troops realized that the NLF were really representative of the people and they didn't want to fight against the NLF. So they had to hire these bandits to do it. I saw NLF. We talked about racism here. The terms VC and Viet Cong is racist. The terms for the supposed insurgent forces is the NLF, National Liberation Front.

MODERATOR. Russ, I believe you were a helicopter pilot and participated in dropping Special Forces teams in Cambodia. I think at this time we might show your slides and you can explain that operation.

KOGUT. In July of '68 I worked with the Special Forces unit, B-50, out of Ban Me Thuot. Their main support were these air force helicopters here, the UH-I, and you'll notice there are no markings on the aircraft. We were just being used as backup because they were running more missions than they had aircraft for. And we supported them like this, on and off, for the whole year I was there and it continued after I was there.


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