Our company took over a good deal more of this mission, as I was told by a friend of mine who came back. We worked out of a base camp at Duc Lap down on the border. We put recon teams in consisting of two or three Americans and two or three hired, well, I can't swear that they were hired, but they were Cambodes or Montagnards, sympathetic with the U.S. --either for money or other reasons and we put these teams in. We went anywhere from one to three miles inside of Cambodia and, in the briefing that we received, they told us that their mission over there was to gather information on a known NVA unit that operated out of that area.
The NVA had a base camp there of approximately 15,000 of them by the estimates gathered from these reports, from these spies that we took in. These missions were secret. The President had knowledge of these. I am informed that a copy of what goes on, goes to him. I can't verify that so I shouldn't say it, I guess. But, these missions continued up until the time of our going into Cambodia on the legitimate side and now they're no big thing.
Other testimony I have would be corroboration of these mad minutes. These things took place in our compound. They were quite common. Also, evacuation of villages. On occasion in Da Lat, a village southwest of Da Lat, we evacuated all the inhabitants and the ARVNs went through afterward and burned the whole village. The livestock that they didn't kill, they stole and brought back for themselves. It was on a similar type operation at Tuy An on the coast. A whole peninsula on the coast was said to be uninhabited and we went out there on these little search and destroy things.
On one occasion they found a woman. We took her prisoner and she had a whole basement full of rice. They destroyed
the house and I believe they destroyed all the houses in the village. On one of these operations, as we were leaving the
pickup zone, which is where we operated out of, somebody gave the okay for all the crew members to load rocks aboard
the helicopter. Apparently, the province chief, who is like God in these areas, said that it was okay for the gunners and
crew chiefs to play bombardier by dropping rocks in the bay. He said anywhere over in this one part of the bay was okay
to drop rocks. We took off to go pick up the troops.
On the way we passed over this place, and all the crew members were throwing these rocks out. One sampan I know of
was hit and sunk. There were two people in it. They swam to shore and another old man was hit by an ARVN captain.
He threw the rock out and hit this old man right in the chest and at that speed there's little doubt of what happened to
him. The ARVNs burned the villages whenever they found rice because these missions were strictly one-day things and
they didn't have time to haul rice out or investigate. The province chief decided where everybody was going to live, so if
they didn't live where he wanted, they took the risk of having their houses burned. Free fire zones are all over the place,
wherever somebody decides to have one.
We had one where we regularly tested our gunships after they came out of maintenance. We took them out there, they
would check them out, and anything in there was a free target. On one occasion I was flying north near a village called
Ban Dong on a sniffer mission. For anybody not familiar with it this is a device in a helicopter which detects ammonia
scent emitted by humans. It's also emitted by monkeys. When they got a high enough count, they would bomb it, and
either get monkeys or VC by their book. On this particular mission the gunships had to turn back early because they
were low on fuel, and there was just myself with a sniffer and the commanding patrol ship which was a ways above me
with a map, I saw an elephant and made mention of the fact. The captain was in charge of the overall mission told me to
go back and look and see what was going on.
I went back. There were four adults and a calf. I circled them several times. There was no village in the vicinity, so they
were not friendly elephants, and there were no (this was by the captain's definition) there were no marks on the elephants
or packs or any signs of any people around, so I assumed they were wild. The captain assumed they were enemy and told
me to have 'em destroyed. So I had my gunners shoot 'em. And this is the price an animal pays for being wild in
Vietnam. The same thing goes for water buffalo. Several times I've seen water buffalo shot for sport. If they were on a
certain side of a ridge or on the other side of a river, they were considered fair game.
MODERATOR. Russ, you told us about taking Special Forces into Cambodia. Sitting at the end of the table is Don
Pugsley, who was in Special Forces with Project Delta. Don, do you have another slide to show and explain?
PUGSLEY. Well, first of all, it's kind of an involved rap, but just like our large universities have colleges within them,
the Special Forces in South Vietnam have different subsections within--A teams, B teams, and C teams, all of which
you know about through the media, movies, and that ridiculous song.
There are other subsections of this Special Forces that are not too well known to the people of the United States of
America. These are known as C & C North, C & C Central, and C & C South. I'd estimate about a hundred Green
Berets, and then I don't know how many more mercenaries, work in these different subsections. There is also an
organization known as Project Delta B-52, of which I was a member.
I will explain the functions of these units. I'd started off in 1964 as SOG, Special Operations Group. It evolved some
time between '64 and when I went to Vietnam, into C & C. C & C stands for Command and Control, which is just an
army term that has absolutely nothing to do in regard to explaining the unit it represents. C & C North's sole function
was to run reconnaissance and related missions into North Vietnam. C & C Central's sole function was to run
reconnaissance and related missions into Laos and northern Cambodia; C & C South did the same thing in Cambodia
Project Delta did the same thing only within country, within South Vietnam. I served with Project Delta as a Green
Beret Medic. I had a very close friend, who will have to remain nameless because he chose to make the Army a career,
who was a weapons expert. In Green Berets you are given a specialty--medics, weapons, demolitions, operations and
intelligence, communications. He carried a top-secret clearance because he wanted out of country. I carried a secret
clearance I worked in country. He was at C & C South. His first mission into Cambodia (and this is all prior to our
official invasion of Cambodia) was sanctioned by the CIA because all these C & C units take their orders directly from
the CIA. A man in civilian clothes, who my friend did not know, he would come into the room and say, "Okay, men,"
and put a map on the wall. "An aerial photograph shows that this particular NVA installation in Cambodia has armor.
We don't know if they're mock-ups or real. We want you men to go in on the ground and determine if they're real or
Then the man would leave the room and my friend and his fellow teammates decided whether they wanted to go in or
not. He went in, and encountered an approximate NVA company. He went in with another American and three
Montagnards. I might point out that Montagnards are not allowed to serve in the South Vietnamese Army because
they're considered subhumans, and contrary to what this man said down the table, I have never seen an instance where a
Green Beret was down on Montagnards.
Perhaps it happens, I never saw it when I was over there because the Montagnards, we really loved them. The
Montagnards women were never molested, ever. We just didn't touch them. They were something different than a South
Vietnamese. In his particular photograph here, this is a C-130 aircraft, right in front of it on the flightline is a C-123
aircraft. This photograph was taken from the Nha Trang airport. Nha Trang is the headquarters for the Green Berets, and
my particular unit was a gypsy unit. We had our main base in Nha Trang, but we went all over the country.
I was wounded and injured in a helicopter accident on the Cambodian border about fifteen klicks west of Kontum, the
highland. In the front, the first aircraft is an official American aircraft. It's got a different type of camouflaging. The
official camouflage of South Vietnam is a light sand, light green color. It carries numbers on the side of the aircraft that
register with our government plus the usual insignias, etc. This here is called the blackbird. It used to be known as the
SOG bird. This is a C-130. They have several C-123s, like the other one painted the same way and used for the same
functions. You'll notice that the only marking on it is a star here to the rear.
My friend flew in these--well, as a matter of fact, he flew into Nha Trang trying to visit me one day on this. People in C
& C fly only on these aircraft right here. He told me that the pilot and the copilot, all crew for this aircraft, were of
Chinese nationality. Not related to the Americans in any way. On the front right here, there's a boom which at the
moment is folded back. There's another identical one on the other side. When that boom is folded forward, it creates a
"V" with the apex of the nose. In that "V" is a winch.
For those of you people who saw the James Bond movie Thunderball, at the end of it, James Bond put on a rubber suit
which had a cable running up the back that went to a balloon up in the air. An airplane came by, snagged that rope, and
yanked him out of the water. This is what this is functioned for: to snap agents out of North Vietnam, Laos or
Cambodia when they get into hot spots and they aren't able to get choppers in to get the teams out. The uniform, etc., is
dropped in an aluminum cocoon and the man puts it on and is snapped out. This is the only aircraft I ever saw with that
particular device in the nose. I saw this device demonstrated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the United States
headquarters for all of our Special Forces. My friend did not wear a uniform. He carried a special weapon. I carried a
thing called a Car-15, which is a kind of a submachine gun, a cut-down version of the M-16 weapon. Only officers in
the regular army units carried them. All Green Berets carried them, those in C & C South specifically.
I carried a weapon known as the Stoner system, which is eight weapons in one. It incorporated silencers for silent
prisoner snatches in Cambodia. You'd wound the man in the leg, grab him and get out of there with the man. These
particular agents for C & C South carried cards, which I saw, that were from MACV which said to anyone stopping
these people, they have a right to carry whatever particular weapons found on them; they're not to be molested in any
way by MPs or what have you in the country.
In Nha Trang, when I was speaking to my friend, he had a friend with him who was in C & C South. We were at the bar
and he was telling me about all the craft they were putting on Cambodia, in regard to bombing, etc. This was when we
weren't supposed to be bombing. He also told me about a group of men within C & C South code named then as the
I said, "What do these Earth Angels do?" and he said, "Well, this guy here is an Earth Angel." This guy hadn't said one
word to me throughout the whole night, and he said, "I really don't know what they do. I know that they go in one and
two-man teams, they come back, and it's rumored that they commit assassinations and atrocities." I've heard that same
rumor, not only in Vietnam, but at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, several times from several different sources, sometimes
officers, so I just began to assume that it was true after a while.
MODERATOR. Dennis Caldwell, you were an attack helo pilot. If we could just move very quickly through your
testimony, we'd like to get to another area.
CALDWELL. I'd like to just briefly explain exactly how we worked, because you probably haven't heard much
testimony on this. I was a helicopter Cobra gunship pilot. I worked with another aircraft at all times; 90% of the time it
was called a hunter-killer team. A hunter-killer team goes out and does reconnaissance on certain areas. The other
aircraft that was with me was a small observation helicopter, normally OH6A Cayuse. Every morning we'd go out and
look at certain targets, certain coordinates that were given to us in the morning. We spent about two hours in the
morning, plus or minus an hour, sometimes all day, looking at targets, and also just before sundown we would do this.
During the day we were on call for any ground units that got into contact. I was told by the other pilots in the unit how
to tell a VC from a civilian--if they were running, they were VC. If they were standing there, they were well-disciplined
VC, and shoot 'em anyhow. They also told me that when we were flying over a village, or near a village, if people
started to leave the village, civilians, it was a good sign that there were VCs in the area, that they were expecting a fight.
While speaking with my hootch-mate (I had it pretty good over there in Vietnam, I had a mate) she says, "When
American helicopters come through, people run. They think they're going to be killed."
So you put these two things together, and you see civilians are in a kind of bad spot. Recon by fire has been
mentioned--I've seen this happen many times. I couldn't even begin to count. It was a perfectly normal, standard
operating procedure for my unit and many other units, to recon by fire. It's done with a mini-gun which fires (I can't
remember exactly what it is) three or four thousand rounds a minute. It was done using CS grenades; it was done using
27 5-inch rockets, with either ten or seventeen pound warheads of various combinations. As far as clearance to fire
went, my first three months I never heard of the term clearance to fire. If there was somebody that we thought might be
VC by his actions, by running or hiding, he was a dead man.
Ninth Division were people that we supported mainly when I first got to Vietnam. We had pretty much our own show.
We didn't have to ask anybody what to shoot. We didn't have to ask for clearance. After that we worked closer to
Saigon. We worked probably within a thirty or forty mile radius of Saigon in all directions, and we had extreme trouble
receiving clearance to fire. An Air Force Forward Controller, who coordinates air strikes from jets, told me one time,
"If you have trouble obtaining clearance to fire, just holler out that you're receiving fire, and we'll send jets in to bomb
the hell out of the place, whether or not you actually receive fire or whether or not there are any weapons in the area at
all." Free fire zones--I worked in many free fire zones.
It's kind of hard to number them because almost every day, someplace, we'd come in contact with a free fire zone. I've
seen hootches burned down which were not proven to be military targets. I've seen hootches CS'ed to drive people out.
When the people were driven out, naturally running away (who wants to hang around and breathe the CS for an hour),
they were killed. There was one night at Tan An, which is south of Saigon, I believe in Long An Province, February 23rd
of 1969. It was about midnight and somebody detected some movement out on the perimeter. Somebody climbed on
top of a hootch to see what it was. Well, actually what they were doing, was shooting at them. Somebody was trying to
get them out. It was a high ranking officer. We played around with them for a while. They didn't get anywhere, so they
sent our firefly ship up, which is Hue Vuey with a cluster of seven landing lights to light up the ground, brighter than
the sun, especially at night when you're looking right up at it. They sent the firefly ship up.
The Viet Cong had set up some rockets right outside the perimeter, rockets, BPGs, things like this. So they scrambled,
the gunships off and through the rest of the night, for approximately six hours, there were, I would say, at least ten full
loads of armament expended from Cobras in that area, plus several loaches. We scrambled the whole unit from Di An,
which is my home base. Di An was my home; they scrambled our whole unit to come down to Tan An and to work on
The next morning, the reports were that there were many civilians killed. This was the village on the south end of Tan
An, there were many civilians killed. There were reports of Americans killed by this attack. I believe there was one
injury. This is from the report that I got. In the same general area, probably within one or two blocks of the same exact
location, several months later we were working on a canal. We were just looking around, doing a recon with the firefly
and one Cobra. The firefly ship saw a man in a sampan. He was an old man with a bunch of nipa palm leaves in the
sampan. Because he was out after dark, he was killed by the door gunner of the Huey. I have seen a prisoner beaten. He
was in a cold area; no fire was received from this area. This was to the northwest of Saigon, to the south of Cu Chi. I
can't remember the exact location. We'd been called out to do a recon in this area. It's quite desolate. It was at least a
couple of kilometers from any real village, any settlement. Along this canal line, this man was hiding. I do not know
whether or not he was armed. But I know that there was no fire received in that area from any enemy soldiers. They
flushed this guy out. They tied his hands behind his back.
The water was approximately a foot deep in this rice paddy where they were working him over. I was watching from
approximately 500 feet. He was kicked. He was beaten in many ways. Kneeling in this water, with his hands behind his
back, I don't know if he was blindfolded or not. Being repeatedly knocked down into the water, set back upright, hit
again, and knocked down. Concerning 50 caliber machine guns, many, many times, I have seen them mounted on the
doors of Hueys, specifically to be used against ground troops. That's what you go up for is to kill ground troops. Go up
in conjunction with firefly ships used at night, used at day, and this is fairly well known among us. I have seen, several
times, C-123 aircraft working to the west of Saigon. There's a large river that's to the west of Saigon, runs roughly
north and south.
I can't remember the name of it at the moment, but beyond this river there is absolutely nothing left. There were
hundreds and hundreds of villages, marked on the map that I had with me, all kinds of names on the map, but you get
over that area and there's nothing there at all. It's all been wiped out long ago. Now the C-123s are going out to that area
with defoliant. I don't know exactly what chemical it was. I've seen formations of six C-123s out there, low level
spraying with Air Force jets providing cover for them. And, I believe there was one time we were to be on stand-by for
these people; in fact, I'm sure of it.
There was one time we were to be on stand-by for these people in that general area in case they ran into any ground fire.
I have seen a herd of water buffalo CS'ed, because nothing was going on, the pilot flying the loach was getting bored
and saw the water buffalo; he dropped one or two CS grenades on them and they stampeded. They crashed into a bunch
of foliage next to the river and they went head over heels into the river, you know; it just completely drove them crazy. I
don't know what happened to them after that. I don't know if water buffalo can swim or not. I never saw any of them
MODERATOR. We are running short on time and we do have a couple of things we wanted to do. One was to throw
the panel open to a couple of questions, but before we did that, many of the vets, particularly the vets participating in
this panel, have expressed the fact that they could go on and on for a long time, talking about various instances of
brutality, torture, rape, everything that's been talked about here for the last two days. But one thing they felt was very
important and which hasn't, in a sense, been done by many of the veterans was to say why this happened. What happens
to them that this happens and how these things came about. Steve Pitkin in particular felt the need to try and express
something about how these men become animals in a sense. I know several of the other vets on the panel want to
mention it very briefly. So Steve why don't you start off.
PITKIN. I've sort of got a little hassle by the idea of coming up here, sitting down and telling basically war stories to
everybody, because I'm sure, besides the FBI agents that we have in here, most of you people are against the war. Most
of you people know atrocities have been committed. The thing I sort of wanted to impress was that there are different
sorts of atrocities being committed. It doesn't necessarily have to be in Vietnam, although those are the ones that get the
most attention. But, I'm sort of directing this one at the present because I think one of the most atrocious things about
Vietnam is the way it was covered in the press. I guess it's sort of like you shouldn't have news reporters over there; you
ought to have sports writers, box scores and everything. I guess the war's winding down, because this week we only lost
27 men and because Richard Nixon said so.
But ask any one of those 27 men if the war's winding down. Bet you won't get an answer, you know. Well, what I'm
trying to say is one of the saddest experiences I had is when I returned from Southeast Asia and I was waiting to catch a
plane from Frisco Airport to Baltimore. It's like two o'clock in the morning or something and four long-haired people
came in. And, you know, it's okay with me, but they laughed at me and in a sense I really had to fight back tears, I didn't
say anything. I tried not to let it phase me that much, but we're not tin soldiers, we're people; the people they sent over to
Vietnam are blacks; they sent a lot of college graduates and college students over there. I don't know if this is a form of
genocide, but believe me, if you look up the definition, it sort of hints to it.
I feel that if people knew more the human part of the American soldier in Vietnam and about the enormous
underground and how well organized it is over there, they might have some second thoughts before they called me a pig
or before they called me a tin soldier, laughed at me. I figured before I went over to Nam I had a choice of either going
to jail or to Canada or making it over there. I figured that I was doing more in a capacity to attack it over there in
Vietnam, where the problem was actually happening, than I would be sitting in jail. Although, believe me, anybody who
does go to jail or does go to Canada, has my full support. I think it's an atrocity on the part of the United States Army (I
don't know about the Marines, Navy, or anything else) to allow eight weeks of basic training, nine weeks of advanced
infantry training, and then to send you against an enemy that's been fighting in his own backyard for twenty-five years.
The training that they gave us, the infantry, really amounted to nothing but familiarization with the small-arms weapons
and the explosives you would use once you got over there. We attacked a mock Vietnamese village in the snow at Fort
Dix. An interesting point: a lot of times when we were put on line to attack a point of something, you were told not to
fire until your left foot hit the ground. I remember asking a drill sergeant, "Do they really do this in Nam?" "Yeah, you
When I got to Nam it was like black had turned into white because I was totally unprepared. I was put into a recon unit
operating in the Mekong Delta. I hadn't been taught anything about the weather, the terrain. I had been taught a little bit
about booby traps, but that's really up to the guy who lays them; they can just be anything. It was just a hit and miss
thing. You go over there with that limited amount of training and knowledge of the culture you're up against and you're
scared. You're so scared that you'll shoot anything, that you'll look at your enemy and these people that you're sort of a
visitor to. You'll look at them as animals and at the same time you're just turning yourself into an animal, too.
I'd say that's got my head spinning a little right now. The fact that I was actually at one time sort of animal and that now
I have to come back and be civil again and people sort of expect a purpose and expect you just to have a definite
purpose. You know, you're going to school, yeah, you're going to work, yeah. But there's like more and more veterans
now that are just finding that there's no purpose, because nobody's ever given us one. The only purpose I had was
surviving and getting the hell out.
QUESTION. One of the things I really wanted to say, and I feel is really important, and points up that not only are they
using GIs to kill our sisters and brothers over in Asia, but they use GIs to police our ghettos and to scab in labor
disputes. They use GIs on campuses to put down dissenters and the main reason that they are able to do this is because
there's this huge isolation between civilians and GIs. GIs hate the way they look, I mean it's amazing the ends they go to
to disguise the fact that they're GIs. Wigs, God; and it's because people, civilians, don't relate to them. A short- haired
dude hitch-hiking they don't pick him up. They don't do anything and that's the way the military operates; they isolate
you from the people; they isolate you from each other; they just build on this isolation and your fear. Like I said before,
the only way that I think this war is going to be over is for active duty GIs to say that they're not going to fight this war;
not go over to Vietnam and not fight that war.
PITKIN. I'd say that the government, and a lot of the people who sort of run this nation, have been telling a lot of GIs
that the biggest detriment to our morale has been the long-haired, protesting, pinko sympathizer-type, but I think the
biggest lift for my morale came when I was lying in Okinawa in the hospital there and a girl wrote me about a place
called Woodstock, where 500,000 people had come together and it was so beautiful. It was the first time I smiled in a
PANELIST. I wanted to say something also. A funny thing happened when I was in basic training. They had this flick
about what is a communist and, it was pretty cool. They showed, you know, the dictatorship of the poletariat, socialized
means of production and the people relate on a socialist basis and they're trying to get rid of the government. Wow, that
sounds pretty cool, so I went up there, I went up to the guy, and I asked him, "Well, what's wrong with communism?"
And he goes, "What are you? A communist?" I said, "No, I just watched your movie and I think I'm beginning to
understand what a communist is." And they sent me on to somebody else and I was getting into trouble with that, so I
cooled it. I went over to Vietnam and I found out that the Viet Cong and the National Liberation Front are called
communists because they're fighting for people. I came back to the States, and got out, and I find out now that I have to
fight for people. And I'm called a communist. Well, _____ it, I am one.
MODERATOR. Apart from the suggestions which have been made now and we've been making in the past, I wonder if
one or two of you who did express a desire to say something about this earlier want to say something more about how
you actually went through a transition and about what it did to you. Particularly if you were against the war and went
over, or express your feelings as to how this came about and then we would like to take some questions.
DONNER. It wasn't till OCS that I started realizing some of the things that were being done to me. One of the things
that we found out after we had been in OCS for a while was that there was a purpose for all the Mickey Mouse
harassment which we were put under. We were put under immense physical strain, running several miles, several tens of
miles each day. We were put under, what is for the Army, at least, the intense mental strain, the studies there, but they
weren't that tough. We were put under intense emotional strain, being away from everybody, being not allowed to leave
the barracks for about five months. And we were told later that the purpose of this was sort of a Pavlov's dog type thing.
That after a person is put under immediate strain for a long period of time that he sooner or later snaps. After that snap
occurs, he becomes much more receptive any ideas which are given him and that was the entire purpose of all the
harassment. Well I started looking back and putting that together with AIT and basic.
The same forces were operating there. They shave your head. They make you lose your entire sense of identity. Instead
of reacting as the individual, you are reacting as a group. The group, honorary eliteness, that's not quite the word, but
it's forced upon you. You must react together or you're all punished. This continues and continues and continues. I was
lucky in the sense that when I was at OCS, Dr. Howard Levy was on trial, and Dr. Levy changed my thinking for me in a
very large fashion. He at least made some of the others think. I don't know what else I can say except for that. I'd like to
also point out that GIs are a repressed minority which should be able to relate with the black movement more than
anybody else in that each time you walk off that post and into the next Leesville, or Fleasville, or whatever the name of
the town is offpost, you're charged more money for anything you buy. You're hated more by the civilians, there. You
live in your own sort of ghetto which you usually escape from by going further out and growing long hair.
Unfortunately, our black brothers can't escape.
QUESTION. I'd like to ask one question of anybody on the panel, and that is did anybody here try at any point when he
was in Vietnam to fight the policy which called on him to do these things and if he did, what happened? Or if he didn't,
why didn't he?
MODERATOR. Does anyone want to tackle that?
PITKIN. You were so contained in how much liberty and how much mobility of thought that you were allowed in
Vietnam, while you were serving there, and due to the circumstances no matter where your head's at, you were under
somebody. If you're being fired at by the enemy, he really doesn't care who you are and you really don't care who he is. I
think one of the biggest ways the guys fought the army, or any policy, was through lingering or shamming. We had a lot
of guys who would use a P-38, which was something you open C-rations with, a can opener. They would cut their legs,
take a cotton ball and soak it with lighter fluid, tape it to these cuts, walk around in it, and some beautiful sores would
appear. Any way you could damage yourself.
The first time I walked into my unit, I walked in and a brother was laying on a bed, stoned out of his mind. Another
brother came down with a bat on his leg, broke it right in front of me and like, you know, I asked what's happening, and
he says, "Why don't you go out and hunt bush for a while and you'll find out!" That was about the only way you could
do it unless you fragged any of the officers or NCOs or got them out in the field or else beat the _____ out of them.
But a lot of times we found that we were such strangers to this game, and you had a captain and a lieutenant who knew
how to call in really good artillery; who could get your _____ out of a tight bind. You'd sort of, you wouldn't want to
frag him. But, the CID, which is over there, they tried busting a unit of grunts, who had just come out of the field for a
rest period; four of them were killed, this is before I got there, and they went to bust my unit when we got out of the
field, too. Five of them walked in with my captain, my lieutenant, and a lieutenant from Bravo Company and the first
one in line says, "You gentlemen are smoking the wrong cigarettes, I suggest you put them out." His eyes lit up, he
turned out and walked off with everybody. I turned around and every _____ guy in my platoon had his gun raised and I
guess he sort of got the message. I guess the idea behind that was that if we were out there and we didn't know if we
were going to be alive from day to day, I didn't want a man with spit shine jungle boots and starched fatigues coming in
and tell me he's going to put me away in LBJ for smoking a harmless weed.
MCCUSKER. I'm going to try and lead to it. It's going to be hard to articulate, in a way, because it's very complex. The
atmosphere of the military is definitely a repressed minority. It not only operates on, but it feeds on fear. The unity that
is pounded into you is yet a separate unity, because each is afraid of the other. Each is supposed to police each other and
keep the other from doing anything extreme which might get the unit in trouble because they're punished similarly
If one man does something, the whole outfit pays for it. So this form of unity is one yet built to separate you from each
other. Each man is supposed to know his way around a little bit. He gets to know how to get around regulations for his
own personal safety or he learns how to operate where he can keep some form of freedom for himself, however minor.
It could be the way he wears his clothes at particular times or what he does on the base. Like a young woman Marine I
was talking to on the airplane last night. She was telling me about these medics that she knows at Camp Pendleton who,
when many lifers come up for discharge, the medics can't find their medical records so these lifers are put on a medical
hold. They just say the records are somewhere in Japan and they can hang on for one or two years.
So there's many small ways in which you can try to screw up the brass and the lifers; from record books all the way to
fragging the guy and that happens many, many times. Now, within your own conscience, in the spectrum of war, that
whole Vietnam thing is based on fear. You're scared to death all the way over there.
You're told continually that you're going to die if you don't do this, if you don't do that. That every Vietnamese is going
to kill you; that booby-trapped babies are going to be sent against you and old grandmothers are coming to throw bombs
at you, which can be very, very true and in many instances is true, but the question is not asked why that old
grandmother wants to throw a bomb at you. That's the part of the discussion that doesn't occur. But even in Nam, as
many atrocities as there were and as many people committed atrocities, there were many, many who did not and tried to
prevent them in their own small ways. You could tell a man, "Hey, don't fire that hut or don't ding that round," and
sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't work. Men went on their own to not do those things.
They're having a problem in Vietnam right now, at least the military's having a problem in Vietnam; a lot of guys aren't
firing their guns. It's like World War II again. In the last parts of the war, they said maybe one out of seven were firing
their rifles. I think the average now might be one out of ten. Because now, like when I went over to Nam, there wasn't
really much political dissent. What political dissent there was, was squelched. So we didn't have too much to guide
The captain over there right now has had five years of a very strong anti-war movement that reached every level of
society and he knows what's going on. He's been pretty well educated outside the military education. So though he's
over there right now, he knows what to do and what not to do and what steps to take to prevent atrocities. So it comes
down to an individual consciousness and discipline of action, and when I say discipline, I killed men because I wanted to
survive. I didn't question why I should survive over the men I killed. I killed so that I could feel the guilts and question
myself as to why I wanted to survive and that's a bind in which we were all put.
Some men exceeded the self-defense and did a lot of things they would be locked up for doing here in the United States.
Vietnam has been pictured as a good football game; it's been pictured as a legal rumble. For a lot of people, it's been
that way. In the streets I learned how to feel like a Vietnamese, I've been clubbed; I've been maced. Now I have a little bit
of feeling and I needed that and maybe most of us need it. As a matter of fact, Portland, Oregon, itself, finally got
clubbed back in the spring and a lot of the white kids, middle-class white kids learned how to feel like a black man in
this country and like a Vietnamese in Vietnam.
There is only one real true way, unfortunately of learning something to your bones, and that's to have something try and
break them. Okay, so now many, many vets are out in the streets. The soldiers that they send against us are clubbing
down veterans who are trying to prevent them from going to Vietnam. These soldiers are clubbing us down so they can
have the privilege of going to Vietnam. The soldiers themselves don't consider it a privilege, of course, but I find that a
great tragedy. Because as more and more vets get out into the street and the soldiers are used against those vets, that to
me is a very great tragedy.
PANELIST. Yeah, but the soldiers that are used against vets in this country are enlisted reserve and National Guard and
they aren't going to go anyplace except to a meeting once a month and to summer camp every summer. Those are the
real cowards in this whole mess. People that split to Canada have guts because they're leaving their families behind.
MCCUSKER. Well, wait a minute. We ran a little jamboree against the American Legion in Portland this summer and
we had reformed ex-Marines who wanted to be elite and join the police forces and get into tactical squads. We had the
National Guard against us, who were the people that you spoke of, and they were in the guard for many, many different
reasons. Some pure cowardice, others because of mixed up emotions. Then we had Army units, regular Army units, and
remember the 82nd and 101st has been used to blow people away, so they infect at all degrees. Now the politicians in
Oregon were trying to raise the fear of Genghis Khan coming to Oregon, so that they could justify blowing us away.
In other words they wanted the parents to justify the deaths of their children. They almost succeeded because of their
propaganda and their fear-raising. That fear-raising is the same kind of fear-raising they use on each GI before he goes to
Vietnam. Get him so scared that his only morality is his own survival and he doesn't think beyond that. You've got the
POW issue here in this country. That's just an emotional issue to disguise the actual intelligent issue of what the
______ we're doing in that country. And as brought out this morning by Howard Zinn, it keeps us from questioning the
government that continually sends over more people to become prisoners.
Last Updated Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 07:59 PM MST; 5,235 Hits