MODERATOR. Okay, Frank, what was the purpose of these Sat Cong badges? For what were they designed--to up the morale, to up the body count, or what?
SHEPARD. Yes, up the body count, up the morale, make the men want to kill. As it said in the leaflet, it was, you know, "trained killers." The unit is full of trained killers.
MODERATOR. Another interesting thing that was brought out, these badges were made up at the local Vietnamese laundry.
SHEPARD. Cost the taxpayers 11 cents apiece.
MODERATOR. Eleven cents apiece?
SHEPARD. All it is really, if you can't see it that well, it's just a cloth; it's regular OD [olive drab], really and it had the letters "Sat Cong" labeled on it, in hand, you know, or in a sewing machine. It's covered with plastic, and the ring at the top is to hang it over your button. They wear these to the field. Covered with plastic so the rain and the mud won't get at it. And people can see that you're a killer.
MODERATOR. Okay, do you have any evidence for the press that this actually did take place, other than your saying
SHEPARD. Yes, I do. I have two letters from the Defense Department admitting that the Sat Cong badge was initiated
in my unit. They say the practice was discontinued after this letter was written. As I say, they do admit that it did happen.
There's no question in their mind that it did happen. They pretend that they don't know the purpose for it, but as I say, I
have the orders that were issued. I know the purpose for it, and everybody that was there knows the purpose for it. They
say they can't do anything about this; they couldn't prosecute the individuals, as they indicated they would if they could,
because the commanding officer and the brigade commander were killed in a helicopter crash. Well, that's kind of funny.
In the Calley case they say that they can't prosecute the higher officers because it's an individual thing, and there they
turn it around. It's another inconsistency.
MODERATOR. If they wish to take action, then somebody has signed their name to this, and there is a live
SHEPARD. Yes, I believe he's responsible for it. I think he was, he was taught in the Army that the reward system is a
good system, and you should be given something to spur your men on to kill, and want to kill. I think this just came out
of his own mind; I think it's sort of an isolated instance. But it is, of course, part of our general policy.
MODERATOR. Thank you very much. Scott, you and I talked about upping the body count before. Could you tell us
some of the ways in which this is done, and some of the reasons for it?
MOORE. As I explained before, with our battalion, and the 9th Division in general, there was this tremendous
competition between the colonels. Vietnam is not a land war; as you gained land in other wars, your efficiency report
would go up; in this war, it's based on body count. The more people you kill, the better efficiency report, officer's
efficiency report, you get. So what happened here is a case of the colonels going into competition, and making up more
bodies than they really had. And this was, of course, passed on down to the company commanders, platoon leaders, and
the squad leaders. So, _____, we were reporting stuff, water buffalo in some cases, and shadows.
I remember one time I called artillery into a wood line, where I received sniper fire, and didn't check the wood line, and
called in a three body count; this went on all the time. Other fire fights, the count would be 80, 90, and personally I only
saw two, three bodies. So it's a totally inflated system. What's happened is, the American public's been lied to. The
Army's stated that we've got a kill ratio of one to thirteen, and yes, it's one to thirteen, because of this inflation. But it's a
lot of bull.
LENIX. Going along with what Scott said, I was involved in an action on January 6th, where Alpha Company, 2nd/39th
was ambushed. The ambush was effective; Alpha Company lost a lot of people. It turned out to be more than my
company Bravo Company, which went to help them. Quite a few battalions were trying to get everyone out. Well, in the
process, there were air strikes, artillery all night. We had spooky overhead kicking out flares with miniguns. The area
was saturated. I imagine the expenditure in dollars would run into a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand dollars
worth of ordnance was expended. And we had lost twelve lives. Well, in order to justify this, they had to do something,
so the next day we swept the area. I personally swept a large area with my company, and saw no bodies, none
But the next day, or when the next issue of the paper came out, there was a body count of a hundred and one, and it was
telling what a great victory it was for 2/39 to have been able to produce these bodies. There were none--no bodies at all.
So there's where your thirteen to one comes from. I saw twelve of ours, but I didn't see thirteen of theirs--I didn't see any
of theirs. So I really don't think we're gaining anything in the war, except losing people. Because we found nothing.
There was no evidence that a conflict had even taken place; there was no evidence of a fire fight. Nothing.
But we got a hundred and one bodies. And a hundred and one bodies from just mud and dirt is really I think a fantastic
story to tell. But it doesn't happen just once, because as Scott has said, it's happened many times. And I'm sure everyone
down the line could tell you two, three, five, ten occasions when they were with a unit, got absolutely nothing, and the
body count was six, three, two. You'd be on an LZ and they'd say, "What's your body count today?" You'd say,
"Nothing." And they'd say, "Well, we need bodies."
So everyone would face the outside, shoot a magazine, and then you'd just call in and say, "Well we got six." And you'd
never move from where you were; you'd just shoot your weapon and call them in and say, "Well, we got six," and then
you'd fly out. And this is what the higher echelon people wanted to hear. They didn't care what you were doing, or how
you were getting it; they wanted bodies, and that's where civilians came in also.
MODERATOR. Mark or Scott? John has testified that there were rewards offered in his unit for bodies. Was this
practiced in your unit either on the company or a higher level?
MOORE. No, it was mostly a pat on the back, this sort of thing. As I remember, the sniper units in our unit, for so many
killed, I've forgotten the exact number, they received an award or decoration like a Bronze Star or a Silver Star,
depending on how high the kill was. And a lot of snipers would go out at night and shoot a few rounds, or usually not
shoot a few rounds because of security problems, but they'd come back and say they shot two or three people, and then
of course that would add up.
MODERATOR. Okay, back to John Hartner again. John was in Operations at Headquarters for the 4th Division. He's
brought back quite a bit of information, very interesting information, I might add. One thing which I think would be
very worthwhile for all of us to hear, it's a bit lengthy, but I'll run through it fast, is the total take, I guess you'd call it,
for the 4th Division's entire Cambodian operation. These are the official figures which were turned in to the 4th
Division. Later on, if you want, you can check them against whatever the newspapers said. For the total entire 4th
Killed in action 81
Starlight scope 1
Rifles (SKS, Carbines, etc.) 9
Piasters (money) 39, 840
75mm recoilless rifle (Chicom) 1
120mm rounds 3
M-79 LAAWS 2
SAs (small arms) 4,153
60mm rounds 27
82mm mortar rounds 46
B-40 rounds (B-40 rockets were used much the same as the bazooka in the U.S. Army) 6
Pounds of TNT 45
Pounds of medical supplies 770
Pounds of corn 300
Pounds of rice 21,288
Pounds of salt 361
Pounds of potatoes 920
Sewing machine 1
This was for the entire Cambodia excursion for the 4th Division. This is the thing which is saving our boys in Vietnam
by going after them in a neighboring country. Against the Geneva Convention.
MODERATOR. Is there anyone else on the panel who has anything on this?
PANELIST. We never really had that much incentive for body counts. But this is slightly related. You know, everybody
likes souvenirs. That's sort of like an American pastime. I went to visit a friend. There was a Connex--it's a metal box
that they ship goods over to Vietnam in, and they're big enough for a man to walk in. On top of it was a set of ears
drying in the sun. This was right behind the battalion TOC, which is Tactical Operations Center. They could not help but
see a set of ears on Connex, you know, drying in the sun. I thought at first that it was revolting, but after a while I
thought, you know, hey man, maybe I want a souvenir. One of these days when I come across a body I'll get myself a
finger or an ear. When I went over there, it was a revolting idea. But then, you know, once you did kill a body, you
could bring back the souvenir that you did kill it.
MODERATOR. Are there any questions from the press?
QUESTION. In reference to the incidents of the higher-ups coming over and asking for the body counts, your having
none, and turning around and shooting into the air and then reporting--do you have any opinion as to why you were
asked to go to the trouble of expending that ammunition? In other words, why did not the higher-ups simply choose a
number out of the blue sky? Why were you asked to participate?
LENIX. It's very simple. You key the mike on your radio, and say, "In contact." In the background you have, of course,
small arms fire. Then about ten minutes later you call in and say, "We got six." So, he knows you're playing the game;
and you know you're playing the game; but, it's the game. And therefore he's convinced they must have got them; he
heard the small arms fire. He's convinced and apparently that frees his spirit.
QUESTION. Is there a dynamic going on in which the officer, the higher-up, tries to implicate the rank and file men
such that both of them are in the game?
MODERATOR. Are there any other questions from the press?
QUESTION. How big is the 4th Division?
HARTNER. Well, I couldn't tell you right now in numbers; at that time it consisted of two brigades. If you look on that
sheet of paper, I believe we had six battalions or seven battalions. Of course, the size would fluctuate constantly, too,
within each of your battalions. There were six battalions: in each of your battalions you had your supporting companies,
such as artillery, maintenance crews, headquarters companies, etc. and then you had usually four infantry companies
ranging between a hundred and fifty and a hundred men each.
MODERATOR. Are there any other questions?
QUESTION. I have a question to the guy in the light shirt on the badges. What did the Viet Cong do when they caught a
man who had a Sat Cong badge?
SHEPARD. That's a good question. I'm afraid you'd have to ask them. But I would imagine it would anger them
somewhat. They could see that he had this thing that represented the life of one of their comrades. If he were wearing a
badge saying that he had killed an American, I imagine it would upset you. I don't know if he would be treated too
kindly, but I don't recall that situation.
MODERATOR. Perhaps we'd better also ask, how you came by the badge?
SHEPARD. Well, I have sticky fingers by nature, so I confiscated this one from battalion headquarters. This is an
unauthorized badge, by the way, so, no commander has the authority to create this, so, I'll pay the government back their
11 cents any time they're ready.
MODERATOR. Okay, the question from the floor was, how does a GI who has been trained through his life to believe
that the Vietnamese are people, and that we're defending their freedom, and all this other _____ that the government
puts out, how do you take him and turn him into a killer, and how does he justify that? Well, I can answer for myself.
First of all, you're never really taught that the Vietnamese are human beings, not in the Army and not out. It's the whole
racist policy of the government. You're not taught that blacks are human beings; you're not taught that Indians are
human beings; you're not taught that Vietnamese are human beings. You're not taught that anybody except a white
American is a human being. And this is basically what happens. So when you get into the Army, all they have to really
do is teach you how to use a gun.
DONNER. It could probably be answered very simply. The quickest answer which I think would be most truthful, is
how many Japs did John Wayne kill last night?
MODERATOR. I think there was one more question.
QUESTION. Is there any way of determining what percentage of the body count actually represents bodies?
LYTLE. They used to report body counts, after H & Is, or after a battle, or something like that. If it looked like in the
Starlight Scope that there was maybe ten people moving, we'd fire out there. Then if there wasn't any movement, we'd
say, "Okay, we got ten," or something like that. And this would just add up, each night, from each battalion and you'd
end up getting like 40 or 50 body counts per day, without sometimes ever seeing any bodies.
MODERATOR. I'd like to answer that also. In my unit, I was with the 1/26th Infantry, First Infantry Division, in the
entire year I was there, my platoon actually killed maybe five VC. We turned in a body count of close to a hundred from
my platoon alone. And I know the other platoons were doing the same thing. So that's how accurate it is.
MOORE. I think in my time on the line in Vietnam I saw in a combat situation maybe 35 dead enemy and that's it. And
before I left the battalion, the body count over a seven month period was a thousand, two hundred.
QUESTION. Do any members of the panel have any information on lowering of American body count? In other words,
covering up how many are truly dead. I know this question was got into quite a bit this morning with the Airborne
LYTLE. I know of one instance. We haven't been able to prove anything about this, but there was one battle we fought
for about a day. I was told that we lost a company of men. It was never reported back here in the States. There was never
any report of it. It kind of seems strange to me.
QUESTION. You wouldn't have any idea about the total number of Americans killed there. The figure is approximately
LYTLE. I don't know. I really don't, I can't tell you.
HENRY. When I was in Vietnam there were 11 support people for every infantryman over there and the casualty rate
was running, I'd say from my own experience, like five to one--five infantry people for every one support person. When
you get blanket statistics on your local news in black letters and you see 800 Americans dead you're thinking in terms of
500,000 GIs and that's not the way it is. You have got to divide that number by 11 and subtract a few. I remember when
we were supposed to be deescalating, one of the many times, and my mother wrote to me how good it was becoming.
Well they don't report by division or by brigade. You can't check. Now I'm sure the Army wouldn't falsify people, KIAs,
but they might spread it over a month or something. Like it doesn't really matter to you whether your son dies last
Thursday or the week before. The only point is that you're going to get your letters back that you wrote him, they'll
make sure of that, and you'll get a flag and an honor guard and more than likely a Silver Star or a Bronze Star. It all
depends what his rank was. It's pretty cold-blooded, the whole thing. You just got to accept that. I imagine they're telling
you how many people are really dead, but I'm sure they're not telling you, like, in a meaningful way--who is dying.
When I was in the 9th Division we got some people from I Corps because they were not having much contact and they
put them down in the Delta in the 9th Division. You don't hear about that either.
MODERATOR. I think that what we're trying to say is that the total number which is reported may be correct. I would
have my doubts on that. It's too easy to mail out 400 letters saying your son died and report 200 in the press. Carl, you
have a number of slides. Would you care to go through them, numbers 3 through 7, and talk about them?
RIPPBERGER. This first slide here shows a prisoner of war. He was being interrogated. The way they tried to get him
to talk is by making him stand in front of a pile of Viet Cong bodies that we had picked up and stare at them.
(Next Slide) The same POW was forced to sit probably from 6 to 8 hours by this pile of bodies in the hot sun.
MODERATOR. Carl, how long had those bodies been there? One day or what?
RIPPBERGER. They were killed at approximately three in the morning and they were not taken away until three or four
in the afternoon. This is a shot of five or six GIs going through the bodies looking for souvenirs. In this picture there is
a lieutenant and a captain overlooking what's going on.
(Next Slide) This was earlier in the day. This fellow here, he could not speak Vietnamese and periodically he walked up
to the prisoners and hit them. A few times he kicked them. This went on quite a while till they moved these young kids
here into the pile of bodies. This is a shot of our interrogator. The M-16 has an open flash suppressor at the end and
three prongs which are about a half inch long. He took them and forced them into this prisoner's nose and he twisted
them. It's extremely painful.
MODERATOR. I believe that's the last slide. Earlier you said something about these people being forced to sit by the
bodies. Is that what you meant?
RIPPBERGER. Right, we took our POWs and forced them to sit and look at the bodies. This went on for hours.
MODERATOR. Officers were present at all times, right?
RIPPBERGER. Yes, field grade officers were present all day long, they were flying in and out. This was a major fire
fight. This happened on June 19, 1967.
MODERATOR. For the benefit of people who don't know the military, field grade is major and above. What was their
RIPPBERGER. Nobody seemed to care. They were extremely happy that we had a body count. That's how they got their
medals. I might add that some of the officers after this fire fight received medals for flying over in a helicopter. Bronze
Stars and Silver Stars and medals of this type. During the fire fight they were nowhere near the area. They received
MODERATOR. Was this one isolated incident or did this happen numerous times?
RIPPBERGER. No, this happened often. Any time we saw any action things like this went on.
MODERATOR. Mark, I believe you have something to say about mistreatment of prisoners.
LENIX. Right. Well, as has been mentioned before, making the prisoners extremely uncomfortable was just sort of the
accepted rule. We were on an operation in the early part of '69 where we encountered three VC. One was KIA. He was
killed in the contact and another was wounded. His wound was too serious to be treated by the medic, but not so serious
he'd have died if we could have got him dusted off. He was laying there and the medic said, "I can't do anything for him,
we're going to need a dust off." Well, apparently the commanding officer decided that a dust off wasn't necessary and
had one of the Chieu Hois or one of our Tiger Scouts, who were Vietnamese, interrogate the man. He was laying on the
ground on his back and apparently was in shock. The Tiger Scout muttered a few words in Vietnamese and then shot
him through the joint of the elbow. It was a grotesque scene. His arm just sort of flopped around on the ground and he
had to be in shock because there was no expression of pain. He had no expression on his face at all. He shot him a few
more times and then eventually he just put the muzzle of his weapon to his head and blew him away. I don't believe that
the Geneva Convention regards this as fair treatment of prisoners.
RICE. We had very little contact with prisoners, actually our company never ran into too many of them. On occasions
we took detainees. Whether they were Viet Cong or not was not determined at the time. Officers would take them and
with the Tiger Scout perform interrogations, field interrogations. Sometimes including beatings. Other times the
favorite trick--especially in the Delta where you have a lot of water, you just take him down to the water and dunk him a
few times until he starts talking. Just hold him down longer each time, until he talks. That was the main way to get
information from people. Now these were not confirmed VC. These could have been civilians, because a lot of them
were shipped out on a helicopter later on to detainee centers.
MODERATOR. We were talking earlier about a VC who had been wounded. Do you want to try and relate the story as
best you can.
RICE. Right. Our company was sweeping northeast of the city of Jon Trong in Jon Trong District in Cam Hoa Province.
When we came across this paddy, our point element broke into this paddy which was being worked by the farmers.
There were old men and women with water buffalo and children working in the field. They commenced to yelling "La
De" which means "Come here" in Vietnamese and the people started running when they saw the Americans. At this time
someone noticed a young man, of approximately military age, taking off down a paddy dike. The point element opened
up on him and finally brought him down. He received a gunshot wound in the head.
MODERATOR. May I ask, was he carrying a weapon?
RICE. No, he was not. The only thing he had was a transistor radio. We came up to him and found the transistor. I do
not know whether he had an ID card or not. Our medic went up to him and started treating him. At this time we were
ordered on up the road. I got about ten feet up the road and another member of my platoon said one of the sergeants had
slit his throat.
MODERATOR. Okay, this again is almost hearsay evidence, but the medic did leave the body? Did it just stay there, or
RICE. No, the medic left the body. We left the body laying on the dike, and went on.
MODERATOR. So in other words, the person was abandoned, even if his throat was not slit.
RICE. This is true.
MODERATOR. Okay, what happened? This is sort of interesting. I remember on the Cambodian invasion one sewing
machine was captured. Did the transistor radio get recorded as captured?
RICE. The transistor radio wound up in our hootch where we used to listen to it.
MODERATOR. Ron, you were speaking to me yesterday about a POW compound. Could you elaborate on that?
NEWTON. Just vaguely. I saw it only once. We usually don't keep any prisoners in a support outfit. They set one up for
a while and transported them in. I was there very early in 1966, but I only saw one incident where prisoners would try to
put their fingers through the wire. Something anybody would do. They would put their fingers through the wire and
guys would take the butts of their rifles and smash them. Just like you see in the movies, just like John Wayne again.
That's probably the only incident I could recall. I saw one beating at the same time. I don't know any details about it. I
just saw the physical aspects of this beating.
MODERATOR. This POW compound, was it just a wired-in area without any shelter at all?
NEWTON. Yes. I think it was temporary. I don't think they were supposed to be kept there. I don't know how long it
existed. I only saw it once.
MODERATOR. Bill Rice, could I ask you one more question about that incident of the farmer, or VC, one of the two,
whichever it was. Was there an officer present with your group?
RICE. Yes, it was a company operation. We had lieutenants and a captain.
MODERATOR. Thank you. John Henry, you and I talked a bit about the interrogation of prisoners. Do you want to go
into that, please?
HENRY. When he was talking about holding people down under water until they talked, I've seen that. I've seen LRRPs
interrogate prisoners, knock out teeth, and then hold them under water. But pretty soon a chopper comes in and takes
them to wherever the final disposition of them is made. But the point is, you don't know if these people are VC or just
civilians. You're so indoctrinated that women and children are a lot of times more dangerous than old men and old
women, which is why I think so many women and children get killed, just because of the poop that's handed down when
you first get to country.
MODERATOR. Mike Farrell, we also talked about this a little bit. You mentioned one instance of a sergeant working
with a POW. Would you like to talk about it?
FARRELL. I didn't see this. This is again "alleged." Here's another instance. We were out in the field and we came
across a woman in a hootch. She was by herself. It was an older woman and she didn't want to leave her house. They
wanted to take her with us to detain her. She was treated in a very humiliating way. She was dragged by a GI and her
blouse was ripped open. She wasn't wearing anything underneath and one person went up there and made an attempt to
cover her up. But then, as they were crossing a bridge, the woman jumped. It was right on the edge of a mangrove
swamp. There was a stream there; they were crossing the bridge and the woman jumped into the water. She was never
seen again. Nobody in our unit ever saw her again, so she could have drowned, she could have swam under water, she
could have gone anywhere.
MODERATOR. Barry, we were talking earlier about an operation your unit went on where quite a few prisoners were
HOPKINS. Yes, I think it was in April. I don't remember the province. It was pretty close to our fire base--Fire Base
Moore. They reported that they had seen six VC. They eagle-flighted men in there and we started coming in on these
hootches. It was wide open and there were a lot of hootches. We started going to each one and there were about five or
six VC in each one. They were all real young, like about 18, 19 years old. We got 32 prisoners. They reported that there
were that many and just a few more that were killed by the helicopters and our own men. I think they divided them up so
we could have those evenly. There was more VC there than what they thought. The major came in and he and I
witnessed one of my friends chasing one of these kids. He stabbed him and the kid just didn't want to die. So he took
him in the moat and drowned him and it took a long time to drown him. He just didn't want to die. I couldn't dig going
out, walking all that ways, and bringing in all these prisoners like these other guys. I just stuck around where the major
was and was helping tag all the prisoners that they brought up. We used wire and string, wrote a number on it, and tied it
around their necks to tag them. We had six women that we brought in. Some of my friends were really messing around
with these women. When they jumped off the helicopter when we brought them into camp, there were newsmen there.
They were filming this.
MODERATOR. On the operation bringing them back there was quite a bit of mistreatment, but unfortunately, your
friend, when they did get back, mistreated a prisoner in front of newsmen's cameras, right?
HOPKINS. Yes, to me, this was sort of just like My Lai. He was caught, and for that he was prosecuted. There was a lot
of mistreatment. We stood there and watched these leeches on these people's backs. They would suck out enough blood
(they would be about five inches long) and these young guys would just fall over and nothing was done.
MODERATOR. No medical attention was given to them?
HOPKINS. None at all, and the major was standing right there. He observed us tying these tags around their necks and a
lot of the mishandling of the women and the young men.
MODERATOR. Are there any questions on treatment of POWs?
QUESTION. Yes, I'd like to know, you said that when this guy was caught, he was shipped out or something like this.
At any other time was there any reprimand for mistreatment of prisoners? Who was the one by and what type would it
HOPKINS. No, this man was the only one that I could recall, and I don't think that it ever got out of our battalion. The
colonel and the major worked it out, his papers were drawn up, and he was just sent to another company. He was still in
the 9th Division, but other than that nothing else was done to him. They just wanted to get him out.
PANELIST. It's kind of a rampant depersonalization of humanity, you know.
QUESTION. What exactly is a dust off? What would they do with the bodies of the dead VC? What kind of burial do
they give them?
MODERATOR. A dust off is a medivac. It's a chopper which comes in (a helicopter) to rescue (not exactly rescue) to
pick up wounded personnel and to take them back to back areas for treatment. what do they do with the dead bodies of
VC? Okay, what does the trashman have to say?
HENRY. They just leave them there and they rot. Then the people come and bury them. The same people who rebuild all
the bunkers that we blow up.
MODERATOR. I think this is a perfect lead-in to our next session. Basically, what has Vietnam done to ourselves. Carl,
you have another picture and I think it is very applicable.
RIPPBERGER. The next slide is a slide of myself. I'm extremely shameful of it. I'm going to show it to you so you can
see this sadistic state of mind that my government put me into. I'm showing it in hope that none of you people that have
never been involved ever let this happen to you. Don't ever let your government do this to you. Okay--that's me. I'm
holding a dead body--smiling. It's on the back of my armored cavalry assault vehicle. It's there because everyone in our
platoon took two bodies and put them on the back ramp, drove them through a village for show, and dumped them off
at the edge of the village.
MODERATOR. Does anybody else have anything particularly they want to add to this?
FARRELL. Yes, the brutalizing effect it has on yourself. We were out on eagle flights. This is just where a small unit of
men go out on helicopters. They are set down, they sweep a couple of thousand meters, and they are picked up from
their objective to go to another area. You just go out for a day; the object of it is to try and catch the Viet Cong by a
series of quick movements like jumping--leapfrogging. We'd been in contact all day, no matter where we went. We
didn't produce very good results. Choppers finally came in to pick us up to take us back. I was sitting on the helicopter. I
was the machine gunner at the time. I was sitting in the door of the helicopter and then all of a sudden I felt the crew
chief kick me out of the helicopter. You know--unload, unload. I looked over and see one helicopter with its blade
starting to slow down, so I figured that it had been shot down. As soon as I got off the helicopter, I got out from
underneath the blades and I noticed there was a farmer in the distance, about four or five hundred meters, riding his
water buffalo back from the field. I jumped off the helicopter and opened up at him with my machine gun. He was just a
civilian farmer and I shot at him. But thank God I missed him. It was just the severe frustration of being shot at all
MODERATOR. Part of the reason for the attitude of Americans is sort of a racial thing. We are seeing it right now. We
don't understand Vietnam. We think they're less than we are. We don't understand their personnel; we don't understand
their customs; we don't understand their entire culture. Ron, would you like to talk about it?
NEWTON. I arrived in Vietnam in '66 in the summer months just before the monsoons. The first night we were there
we were going on convoy because we were trying to get the 4th Division through to Dragon Mountain Base Camp near
Pleiku. This has already been mentioned, but I'd like to add to it. I saw C-rations being thrown. I threw C-rations. I'm
not proud of it. I saw people pointing weapons at people just trying to scare them a little bit. I saw people locking up
and loading. Finally we put up base camp, talking about the women we were going to mess with and the people we were
going to kill. Support is really boring. You don't get to kill anybody out there; you just get to support, whatever. Now
this is '66, mind you. I was in a tearoom, a bar, in Pleiku one afternoon.
I saw an officer complaining about a watered drink. He picked up the Vietnamese girl that he thought had watered the
drink, grabbed her by the neck, and lifted her up. He was about 6 foot or more. Lifted her up, raised back, and slapped
her hard. And you know what? They carried her out of that room. I don't know what happened to her. But everybody sat
back down and started drinking. You know, nothing was thought about it. This happened all the time, abuse of the
people. It was like we were uncaged animals. We were bored...bored and we wanted to do something, you know. It's like
the guy coming to the big city and he wants to do something. We were able to create inflation in Pleiku. As an analogy,
it would be like you trying to purchase a regular $100 apartment for $300. Now that's beyond my means. I think it's
beyond a lot of people's means. These people could not purchase apartments. They couldn't buy food any more because
we were paying whatever the people wanted. The prices just kept going, going, going. Finally the general put Pleiku off
limits because of the inflation, because we were driving the women to prostitution so they could feed their kids. We
were driving all the people to corrupt activities just to keep alive. We were driving these people. And this is racism. We
were the supreme race. These people were nothing.
MODERATOR. One question which has often been asked, "If this is the way we feel about the war, then why are we
here now rather than before we went?"
NEWTON. I was a hawk.
MODERATOR. John, you and I have talked about his to some considerable depth. You have just been over recently (in
Vietnam). You mentioned being in some of the Moratorium-Mobilization things. Would you care to read that letter for
HARTNER. I'm different from some of the people on this panel, in that I was very against the war before I went to
Vietnam. I marched in the two Moratoriums of '69. The night before I left my home, I wrote a letter to my Senator,
that's James Pearson of Kansas. "It is very difficult to write a letter so extremely important to me, and I hope to my
country, because I'm afraid some mistake might be made in its interpretation. For several years now, our involvement in
Vietnam has been a prime concern of mine as it should be for all. I have spent considerable time studying the history of
our involvement, the development of our policies concerning this problem, and its current trends. My conclusions, Sir,
is that we have made a horrible mistake; a mistake that has cost not just billions of tax dollars, but what is most
important, is that it has cost thousands of lives, both American and Vietnamese. Since life is the most precious gift that
God has given us, it seems to me that before a country requires a man to face the possibility of death, it should give him
a very clear and definite reason. This, I believe, our administration has failed to do. So often, I have wished that I could
approach our President, and ask him to please give me the answers to several questions, which I believe are so
important. I've wanted to ask him why the elections were never held, the Geneva Conference set up; why we fired at
Tonkin Gulf; why it appears that the military industrial complex has so much power in the government policy; why we
believe that the number of lives sacrificed has been worth it; why we believe that our democratic ideal is so right for the
Vietnamese people. Since I have already stated my opinion concerning our involvement, I'm sure you understand the
answers I hold to these questions and others like them. This is also very important to me, because I do love my country.
I love the freedom it has given me. It has allowed my family to grow happily. It has allowed me to receive the type of
education I desire, and to choose the profession I wish to engage in. It has allowed my mother to raise her family in a
joyful environment, and it has allowed my father to speak freely to his congregation. These are only a few of the reasons
I have for respecting, loving and wishing to spend the rest of my life in this country. There is, however, a conflict, for
you see this country which has allowed me to hold and express my opinions publicly has now placed me in a situation
where I could be tried and jailed for these beliefs; in a few days, I will be leaving for Vietnam and I'm going not because
in any way I believe what we are doing is right there, but because this is what my government is now requiring me to do
in order to spend the rest of my life here. But I must also stand up for what I believe in and for this reason, unless in
some way or by someone I can be shown that what I believe in is wrong, then I will not be able to participate in any
offensive actions. So this freedom of belief may lead to a restriction of my physical freedom. I urge you, Sir, to please
do all within your power to aid in ending this confusion. Peace means so very much. Thank you for your time."
MODERATOR. I think that's what we're trying to say here today. Peace means so very much.
Last Updated Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 08:07 PM MST; 5,171 Hits