Dr. Jon Bjornson, 37, Major, Psychiatrist, Flight Surgeon, Deputy Surgeon, USASC, 8th Field Hospital, Nha Trang (May 1964 to April 1965)
Michael Erard, 29, SP/5, 3/503, 173rd Airborne Brigade (April 1969 to March 1970)
Dr. Joseph Grosso, 31, Captain, General Medical Officer, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Field Hospital, Nha Trang (April 1967 to December 1967)
Dr. David Galicia, Major, Psychiatrist, 3rd Field Hospital, Saigon (July 1969 to June 1970)
Jeff Dubrow, 22, HM3, 1st Med. Bn., U.S.S. Sanctuary (June 1969 to June 1970)
David F. Fortin, 20 (E-4), H & S 3rd Medical Bn., 3rd Marine Division
Gary Steiger, Sgt., 366th United States Air Force Dispensary, Da Nang
MODERATOR. This panel is concerned with medical aspects, medical affirmation of problems in Vietnam. My name is
Jon Bjornson. I was formerly a Major, U.S. Army Medical Corps. I have my DD-214 right here, which is an honorable
discharge form. I was a psychiatry-neurology consultant in Vietnam through 1964-1965. I also functioned for five
months as a Flight Surgeon in the Mekong Delta and was Deputy Surgeon, United States Support Command at the time.
I must admit that I wasn't happy with our policy in Vietnam before I went there, even in 1964, just after the overthrow
of Diem. When I came back I was extremely disgusted and I resigned my commission. I'd like each of the panel members
to introduce themselves, if they would. Why don't we start with you, Mike?
ERARD. My name is Michael Erard. I served as a Medic with the 173rd, 3rd/503rd.
GROSSO. My name is Joseph Grosso. I was a General Medical Officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam.
GALICIA. My name is David Galicia. I served as a psychiatrist, 3rd Field Hospital, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam.
DUBROW. My name is Jeff Dubrow. I was a Hospital Corpsman on the U.S.S. Sanctuary in Da Nang.
FORTIN. My name is Dave Fortin and I served as the driver for the 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Marine Division in
STEIGER. My name is Gary Steiger and I served as a Medic in the 366th USAF Dispensary at Da Nang.
MODERATOR. Thank you. The first thing we will try to demonstrate is the variance of treatment, which was not
medically sound, in terms of preference for patients. That is, Americans got the best treatment. If an ARVN had the
same type of problem, wound, what have you, he got the second best. Prisoners got the worse by far. And we're going to
take it by subjects. Mike, why don't you start off with something about how prisoners were treated by our medical
ERARD. We had a policy whereby prisoners were given just the basic treatment. In other words, maybe just a bandage
or field dressing was put on a wound. We were instructed--and this was battalion SOP--that we were to expend no
medical supplies on them. In other words, specifically we carried a small bottle of serum albumin, 500 cc, to be used
for people who were in shock or had serious wounds. When we went out in the field we were told this costs $25. It's
never to be used on a gook, meaning both Vietnamese and prisoners.
MODERATOR. Anybody else want to comment on it? Dave, what about you? What have you seen happen with
FORTIN. Basically, in regard to this, a lot of various instances. But I can relate one specifically to you. A prisoner
would be brought into triage, which is where they get their basic medical treatment before they go on to their specific
needs like operations which had to be performed directly by a doctor. Well, in triage, a prisoner would be interrogated.
They'd come down with ITT, which is Intelligence Translations people, and they'd try to get information from the
prisoners. If the prisoner wouldn't give information out to the questions they asked, they'd use various ways of torture.
They'd poke at his wounds. I've seen them stand a prisoner up who had a stomach wound; his shoulder was torn up.
They generally harassed the prisoner until they could get information out of him. I don't even think he could speak. He
was in pretty bad shape. They took him to an operating room and in the operating room he wasn't treated by a doctor,
such as Americans were. I know sterile conditions were less than normal in this case. Rather than having a doctor who
would work on an American, they'd have Corpsmen who were practicing or getting experience from working on the
prisoners, treat them. He was in pretty bad shape. They had very little regard, whatsoever, for the concern of him once
they got him out of the operating room. Their attitude was like, okay, we got to do it so we're going to do it, you know,.
But, like, who cares whether he lives or dies. It's just something that has to be done. There was one doctor present.
Other than that, the Corpsmen did all the major work. They set bones, very sloppily. If you set a bone sloppily, it's going
to come out crooked. They don't care. You've heard all this through the testimony. You're dehumanized and yellow
people are not even human. You have no regard for them, so you don't care what happens to them. And the prisoners
more so than anyone else. Instances like this go on all the time. This is just one I could bring up. I don't know what
happened to him once he left that operating room.
MODERATOR. David, you said there was an American doctor present when they tortured this guy?
FORTIN. When the interrogation people came in, he was still in triage. He was laying on a stretcher. He was in really
bad shape. ITT is intelligence. It's translations; it's getting information from prisoners and working a little bit with
civilians. But they came in. There's a doctor present. The doctor's not concerned with intelligence. They had a captain in
this case, who is a Marine officer, and two ARVN, South Vietnamese intelligence people. One of which was an officer,
one of which was a staff officer, or staff sergeant. And they're the ones who interrogated him. The officer was present.
He ignored the interrogation. As a matter of fact he almost went along with it. He didn't actually touch the prisoner, but
he didn't say anything to stop the torture, or whatever you want to call it, that was going on.
MODERATOR. Jeff, what about treatment of ARVN or civilians?
DUBROW. I worked in the surgical unit on board the Sanctuary. And most of the minor surgical procedures that were
done on the Sanctuary were done in the recovery room. Such as debridgment of wounds around minor suturing cases,
things like that. An ARVN soldier came in one day. I set him up for his procedure. It was a debridgment of a wound and
it's done under a local anesthesia, like xylocaine or novocaine. I set the tray out and I drew up 10 cc of xylocaine. The
ARVN was pretty apprehensive about what was going to be happening to him. So we had the interpreter tell him what
was going on and he calmed down. About five, ten minutes later he was screaming like crazy, you know. I ran over to
see what was the matter and I noticed that the syringe hadn't been touched. And the doctor was performing this
procedure without anesthesia. He had done this about ten times. I'd seen him do it. And he was a lieutenant commander,
by the way, which is like a major, so he knew better. Also the same doctor claimed in some cases he was rushed, like
from one case to another. Like in suturing cases, I've seen him perform suturing cases without the use of sterile
technique. In other words, no gloves. And it only takes 15 seconds to put a glove on, you know. So there was no excuse
for that. This is, like I said, done only on ARVN soldiers, not American soldiers. Another doctor, who was a lieutenant
commander also, performed 27 out of 30 negative laparotomy cases. A laparotomy is cutting into the abdomen and
exposing the intestines and repairing any tear or wound that would be in the intestines. The x-rays would come in with
the patient from triage, or from x-ray, or wherever, and I put the x-rays up on the screen. So I saw every x-ray that came
in on these patients. And you could see a metal fragment in the intestines. It stands out like a sore thumb. It's just like a
big, you know, lump in the middle of nothing. You can really see it. If, let's say, an ARVN or Vietnamese civilian
would come in with a fragment wound of the arm or leg, or something like that, he would automatically order a
laparotomy to be set up on him. We can't question him because I'm only an E-4 and he was a lieutenant commander. So
I had to do what I was told. So, he would do these cases that didn't have to be done and a laparotomy can be an easy
case. If there's a frag there, he could take the frag out, repair the wound and that's it. Sometimes it can be a very bad
case. There would be a lot of bleeding. I've seen fellows from a simple fragment of the stomach die in surgery. And he
would do these cases and they wouldn't have to be done. And like I say, there was 27 out of 30 negative cases. That's
about all I have to say.
MODERATOR. At an American hospital he would be kicked off any staff. Tell me, Jeff, you're pretty knowledgeable
about medicine. How much training did you have?
DUBROW. I went to basic Hospital Corps School and orthopedic Technician School in Philadelphia, and OJT OR
technician in Vietnam.
MODERATOR. And what are you doing now?
DUBROW. Civilian hospitals somehow think that Navy Corpsmen, Army Medics, or whatever, the only thing they're
good for would be making beds and passing out bedpans. They think the training we have insufficient. And they won't
give any ex-Medics a chance to prove themselves. So Medics won't work in a lot of civilian hospitals because after what
they've done in Vietnam, or in the service, even if they haven't gone over there, they don't want to push bedpans around
all day. They want to get down to the nitty-gritty and really get into some work. But they can't do this.
MODERATOR. You probably do most things a nurse can do, right?
DUBROW. Most things nurses can do. I can do probably more than a nurse can do. Nurses cannot suturize. I've sutured.
I've debrided wounds where nurses can't.
MODERATOR. What about the triage? Gary, you want to explain what triage is? And how it worked in terms of
STEIGER. We worked six days a week in Vietnam in our dispensary. And you can get pretty bored on your days off
because there really wasn't a heck of a lot to do. And there were, I think, six hospitals in the area including the ship that
Jeff was on. Oftentimes the Air Force Medics would go to the Navy or Marine Hospital. I worked quite a bit in those
places and triage is a system whereby the patients are divided into three main categories for treatment.
If you have a person coming in who is really badly wounded, he may have a limb or two missing, or multiple shrapnel
wounds or whatever, and they expect him to die, he's placed in a category "expectant." Right after those people come the
guys that if they weren't treated immediately would possibly die. In the "expectant" category, the chances are they
wouldn't make it even with surgery. And the third category is a delay in which the guys come in, maybe have minor
wounds, or things like this. When patients came in, not only to the Navy hospitals and others, but when they came in to
our casualty staging flight where I worked, these patients would usually be the ones that were treated last. You could
have an American come in in an expectant category and there was no way that he was going to make it. And the doctors
would oftentimes treat him before they would treat an ARVN soldier or NLF soldier, or whatever, in a lower category
who had a really good chance of making it if he was taken care of. Most of the time the Corpsmen would give him basic
first aid and that was it. You weren't supposed to use any more of your supplies on them than was absolutely necessary
to get them out of your facility and into a Vietnamese hospital. Now the prisoners that I saw that we handled were taken
into our hospitals where they didn't receive treatment. I mean, it's, it's no way to...I lose the words. I mean they were
lower than worms as far as these people were concerned. I mean you don't treat worms and you don't treat ARVN. It
was about the same thing. We'd bring them in on a medivac. The Air Force flies cargo planes. They're hooked up for
carrying litters and they carry wounded personnel and so forth on them. A C-130 would come in which could maybe
carry 60 American wounded, and it would have over 100 Vietnamese on it. Well over 100. Stacked on top of each other
and everything else. These people'd get off. They'd be taken off the plane. You'd have a man who's say in a body
cast--you know, cast from his neck to his knees--and he'd be walking down the ramp and somebody would trip. This guy
would fall three feet. He'd maybe had half the bones in his body broken and the doctor'd spent hours in or working on
him, and they'd drop him from three feet. They'd put them into buses, and they were tossed into the buses more than put.
They would take them down to the ARVN hospitals instead of taking them to a place where they could be treated.
They'd be taken there and even if the ARVN didn't have the facilities--which they don't have--to treat these patients, we'd
leave them anyway. The prisoners were transferred. There's several hospitals where they take care of these. One was
where John was at, one at Vung Tau, and there's one at Chu Lai. And it was common knowledge amongst the people
that were working on the flight line transferring these prisoners that they were turned over to the Koreans. It was a
standing joke that in the Korean hospital if you had a patient who was really bad off, and you were sending someone
down there who wasn't quite so bad off, and they didn't have the beds, the one in the bed that was going to die anyway
would either be shot, or something else done to them, so they'd have room. And this happened all the time. The patients
that we got in our casualty staging flight would set up in the end of the ward; if you were lucky, you could give them
some water. It wasn't worth your time to treat them. That's the way I saw it. Unless we can realize that those people are
human beings, that we're killing human beings over there, that they are the same flesh and blood of which we are...I
don't know. We're just not human beings ourselves.
MODERATOR. I'm going to kind of throw this open to you, as I'm sure you've all had experience with it. There's a
program in Vietnam which probably was the first major attempt at "pacification" called the Medical Civil Action
Project. This was begun about six moths before I got there under MACV and then later all the medical units were, to
some extent, rewarded, reinforced, encouraged to become involved in Medical Civil Action, which the press built up.
Joe, why don't you start off on MedCap. What's it all about?
GROSSO. Well, in general, it was an attempt to use the practice of medicine as a propaganda device. Essentially it
consisted of bringing into a village personnel and equipment to give the impression that some kind of a treatment
facility was being provided for people. That, itself, was well- meaning, but the program involves the sporadic and often
the inadvertent distribution of antibiotics of all kinds; both oral antibiotics and injectable antibiotics. This in itself is a
very dangerous procedure and one which can ultimately disturb the normal bacterial flow which these people have
carried for so many thousands of years. Now, while I was in Vietnam, of course, the Surgeon General's office issued a
proclamation stating that no tuberculous disease would be treated. However, it was obvious at the time that the Medical
Civic Action Program personnel had been attempting to treat tuberculosis in the villages with inadequate doses of
antibiotic and this certainly is a practice which is detrimental, both to the people who have tuberculosis and to the other
people in the village. Most of the other practices that were common in the MedCap program I believe to be contrary to
what I had been taught in medical school. I believe most of us, even the lay public, is aware that to treat someone
inadequately with antibiotics is a dangerous process. However, this is something that went on all the time in the
villages. And it wasn't the fault of any of the medics who distributed the antibiotics because they certainly couldn't be
responsible for a command policy which allowed a jeep with medical supplies to go into a village. Oftentimes the jeep
would go into the village and the villagers themselves would procure the medicine from the jeep; would just take the
medication right from the jeep. The medical personnel there were not able to control two or three hundred villagers
picking at a medical chest filled with outdated, surplus medicinals. And I should add that more often than not, the
medications that we used in the medical program were out of date, were surplus, were things that we had no use for in
our medical operations for the military.
MODERATOR. Any more comments about MedCap?
STEIGER. Well, the Air Force also had a MedCap program and I participated a half dozen times in this program. It
wasn't an officially sanctioned thing, but it was something that the people in our dispensary got together. I could back
the doctor up on the fact that the only supplies we were ever allowed to use were the medicines that were outdated and
the supplies for which we had no use. Things which had been sitting in Connexes, which are large steel storage boxes,
since World War II. And there was no way that you could guarantee there was any kind of sterility, that any time these
drugs would serve any purpose at all. We had no means, the majority of the time, to check out whether the people that
we were treating were allergic to any of these drugs, and yet they were still given. They were given on a one-time basis.
You know you can't treat some of these diseases on a one-time basis. You know you give people pills for two or three
days and it's not effective at all. There were only one or two Vietnamese doctors in the province that would work with
us. The rest of them refused.
MODERATOR. Where was that?
STEIGER. Da Nang.
MODERATOR. That's one of largest Vietnamese hospitals in the country.
STEIGER. Sometimes, the patients would come through, get their pills and they'd go back into the lines. And the
Vietnamese interpreter, which we had, was supposed to go through and make sure that these people didn't come back
for additional dosages of their medicine. And, on occasion, people would be removed from the MedCap line because
the interpreter said they were either VC sympathizers or they didn't need treatment or something like this. We had no
way to verify whether they needed treatment or not because none of us spoke Vietnamese and the whole thing was really
phony. It didn't serve any purpose at all except for propaganda.
MODERATOR. When I was in Vietnam they had both a polio epidemic at one point, and a cholera epidemic, very
severe. Were there any immunization programs? Any of you in MedCap immunization programs?
GROSSO. There were no immunization programs. There was no organized preventive mental health program that had
any central authority. Everything was on a village basis. It was an attempt to put a jeep with some kind of personnel into
the village. There was no preventive medicine or vaccination programs, to my knowledge.
PANELIST. The way our MedCap program worked is we never hit the same village twice, so I don't think there could
GROSSO. That was my experience, too. As a matter of fact the program was to hit as many different villages as
possible. And not to hit the same village again and again. Evidently the propaganda impact could be best utilized by
hitting a village once and then moving on to another village.
MODERATOR. Why did they do that? I don't understand.
GROSSO. I don't understand it either.
MODERATOR. Didn't you just say that you had to give in a list or something?
GROSSO. No, the only list was the list kept by the interpreter. The interpreter would make a list of names in a large
book. A ledger, that would be submitted to the command when we returned from the village. And I was led to believe
that at the end of the month the names registered in this book would be submitted to a higher command as some
indication of our pacification work in that area. Whether the villager was treated or not, the mere fact that he had come
up to the jeep and sought treatment allowed us to enter his name in the ledger. He then became recipient to American
PANELIST. Well, all we did, we just kept the numbers--we didn't even keep a book--and the numbers we brought back
to the dispensary were given to the hospital commander.
MODERATOR. What would you say, Joe, is the overall effect of MedCap as far as pacification or meeting the needs of
GROSSO. The conversations that I was able to have with Vietnamese nurses who provided interpretation for us, was
that the program had very little effect on community health. Actually, it's my belief that the program had a detrimental
effect, because it usually would preclude the possibility of the village people going to the province hospital or some
central diagnostic facility where a clear-cut indication for treatment could be obtained. Once the military physician had
seen them and done anything, even if it involved the saying of a few words or the giving of an aspirin, the primitive
Vietnamese would think that he had received treatment, that he had received the best the earth could offer and after that
he wouldn't avail himself of any further help. So I would say that overall the program was detrimental to the community
health--to the village health.
PANELIST. Joe, another reason here. I just thought of this. Was the use of Vietnamese interpreters to help you make a
diagnosis? Often a Vietnamese could come up and say something to the interpreter and point to his stomach and you
would get back, from the interpreter, stomach ache. And that would be your only basis for making a decision on what
kind of medication or anything. I mean there's a million things that can be wrong with the stomach and, you had to go on
that judgment. You couldn't say to the Vietnamese, "You'll be all right." You had to give them something. Even, even if
it was just an aspirin or something because they expected this from the Americans. And I got to a point if I couldn't
make a positive diagnosis on something I'd give a shot of worm medicine so I figured I wasn't doing any harm and I
might be doing a little good because most of them, especially the children, had worms. So they wouldn't feel slighted
anyway. But, many times I couldn't, in conscience, give them something, especially an antibiotic, that might harm
them--so I gave them worm medicine.
GALICIA. Insofar as medical coverage for Vietnamese in Saigon, Third Field Hospital, this was the only hospital in the
Republic where the nurses wore whites. We had our hospital set up in what was an ex-school.
MODERATOR. Madam Nhu's School as I recall.
GALICIA. Yeah, that's right. It was altered many times over to affect a hospital. The hospital itself was good. It was a
very sterile place and the type of treatment that was dished out there was of top-notch variety. I cannot fault the hospital,
in that regard. We used to get ARVNs, VCs, sometimes VC prisoners, our own people and civilians. After all, Saigon is
a city of three million people now because of the war. It's mushroomed from its 750,000 it was a few years ago because
that's where they're coming, from the rural sections. Now these people knew it was a hospital and when they came in,
they were actually refused treatment in the emergency room. They might get a cursory going over if they were brought
in by our ambulance to the triage areas. The standing order was that if he was in such rough shape that he might die any
moment, you just stuck a bottle of V5W, glucose water, in his arm. You use a plasmic spander or something so that
then they can be taken to the ARVN hospitals. The standard word for the civilians was that they go to Choi Rhe hospital.
I was in Choi Rhe hospital and I know why they didn't want to go there. There were two and three people to the
MODERATOR. We have a picture. Can you show the slide?
GALICIA. The beds were full of *censored*roaches.
MODERATOR. This is a typical Vietnamese hospital.
GALICIA. Whatever care these people got in Choi Rhe was mostly what their family gave them because they would
have the family stay with them. They were very shorthanded. After all, this is a backward country. We all know that. And
the number of trained people there, the number of trained personnel is limited. And even when the facilities were
available within our hospital that was the standing order. And I know this because I lived there daily.
MODERATOR. (First Slide) Here's a hospital in Ban Me Thout but almost every province hospital looks this way and
some are worse and more crowded.
PANELIST. The one at Da Nang was a lot worse.
GALICIA. The one at Choi Rhe was a lot worse also. In contrast to this I'd like to go on to say that, however, where it
concerned Vietnamese officials, we took care of the Prime Minister, his family and anybody who had any position or
any authority within the Vietnamese government, this kind of thing. You'd know they were there because there were a
dozen cars, there was all kinds of personnel to protect these people, and we actively treated these people. This was a
time when you would finally see my commanding officer, whom I would prefer to leave nameless. This man was an
internist. He was a fully qualified internist, but he never practiced a day of medicine when I was there. His rounds
consisted of glad-handing all the VIPs that happened to be in the hospital at any one particular time.
Within the family of the hospital, itself, I remember one occasion in which I overheard one of my techs talking to a girl
who worked within the hospital, hospital cleaning, and I heard him say something about me. And he said, "Well, why
don't you talk to the Doc, he's a pretty straight guy, maybe he'll do something for you?" I learned that this girl's brother
was ill. She lived out in the alley and after all she did work for us; this kind of made her part of the family. You would
have thought that at least maybe these people would be treated. I went with this girl later on to her family's home, and I
determined that this was a five year old boy who had pneumonia. I went back and I asked if he could be brought in. I was
flat out told no. I then asked if I could have the medication to go out and treat him and I was again told no. So I stole the
penicillin and went and treated him anyway.
MODERATOR. Two days ago there was a Weapons Panel here and there was an expert from the American Friends
Service Committee who discussed what he called the automatic or computer-run battlefield. He showed a number of
very sophisticated, what we call anti-personnel weapons, which are to be used in this automated battlefield--which is,
incidentally, one of the reasons why we can cut down our troop numbers in Vietnam. Some of these weapons can kill
everything within a 60 yard radius, everything. It was a surprise to me that they are actually in use there now. Mike, you
had a little personal experience with one.
ERARD. We were hit by our own artillery fire with three of the rounds. We were on a hill and we had ambush sites out
around the hill. And somehow, either through our own error, or through a computer error, we were fired on. We
received three 105 rounds right over us. Then the next three was this anti-personnel type round 105. When it hits it
explodes. Inside the canister are small pellets--they look something like a hard ball, only a bit smaller.
These things explode and I believe there are about six or eight of these in a 105 round. They explode out and they can be
set for different times. The ones that hit us exploded about a minute after it landed. We didn't know that this round was
being used either, until we took shrapnel from it. Everybody up on the hill took shrapnel in this. These can be set from a
minute, but I understand they can be set up to hours and days as to when they actually go off. That was my personal
experience. I never treated a Vietnamese with that type of wound though. It's a regular type shrapnel type wound.
MODERATOR. Joe, you've seen what they do. What do they do?
GROSSO. Well, I didn't exactly see the weapon, but I had to police the remains of a command post that was hit with an
anti-personnel bomb. It was our command post, unfortunately, which received an 800-pound anti-personnel bomb one
evening. And thirty members of the command post were killed. The parts and remains of the bodies had to be policed
and the damage done is considerable. There were no survivors. Bodies were devastated and destroyed, some beyond
DUBROW. I don't remember exactly what the dates were, but in 1969, whether through sabotage or error or what, the
bomb dump at Da Nang Air Base blew up. It was a Marine bomb dump. There was a village that was right adjacent to
the bomb dump and I was assigned as a medic to the demolition team that was there, defusing the bombs, and things like
that. There were literally thousands of these things that Mike was describing--guava bombs which had a concrete outer
shell filled with high explosives inside, timed ones, and things like this. As I understand it from talking to friends of
mine who were working at the First Medical Battalion, which was near Freedom Hill at Da Nang, they treated many of
the people in the village for shrapnel wounds which were received from these types of bombs. They flew out of the
bomb dump and landed in the village.
MODERATOR. I guess all of you have seen what happens with napalm. Anybody want to describe what happens or
what you've experienced with our use of napalm to kill VC? What does napalm do and what have you seen?
PANELIST. In Dong Ha, located about 18 miles south of the demilitarized zone, they have a children's hospital. It's all
Vietnamese children. Mainly they're all civilians. They had a lot of children in there for treatment of diseases. There was
one specific child I saw. I asked the child what had happened to him, and he said he'd been hit by napalm. His face, from
his right eye around the back of his head (and had no ear), on down to the middle of his chest, was like one big mass of
scar that'd just grown together. He'd been treated, but there's not a whole lot they can do for him. There's several of
these cases, you know. I'm sure these people could tell you.
MODERATOR. Who else saw it? Anybody else see napalm?
GALICIA. I saw the effects a couple of times. One I distinctly remember was a lady I used to see out in the yard in
between two of the wards. This lady'd been burned beyond recognition, facial-wise. She had no face. Her eyes were left
and they had somehow or another grafted some skin over the front of her head. She had some sort of an orifice left that
she could take food through, but that's about it. She'd been the victim of napalm.
PANELIST. On our trips to the Da Nang provincial hospital and to the other hospitals in the city, when we took our
Vietnamese patients down there, I recall seeing several dozen over the period of a year--men, women and children--
who'd been hit by napalm and were in essentially the same condition as has been described. They were scar tissues.
These people were like kids with arms that were grafted to their sides because they had no skin left on the inner part of
their arm. Kids that were, like, two, three, and four years old. They would never be able to lead a normal life because the
scar tissue had been allowed to build up. There was no physical therapy program. I believe the only one in Vietnam is
run by the American Friends Committee in Quang Ngai and they have the facilities to treat only a very small percentage
of these people. There were a fairly large number, several dozen, that I saw at Da Nang burned by napalm.
MODERATOR. I have a sort of anecdote about napalm. I had a date with a representative of Dow Chemical Company
who told me that most of these burn injuries were due to the fact the Vietnamese were using gas stoves and they were
blowing up. Vietnamese use charcoal. How about white phosphorus? White phosphorus, I might add, is generally used
for marking positions. It's absolutely against the Geneva Accords to use white phosphorus for military purposes. Did
GALICIA. Before we have any testimony concerning that, I think it's worth adding that white phosphorus is not
something that if it hits you, you can put out. You have to carve it out, because it'll burn its way straight through
anything, especially, if you're speaking in terms of humans. It burns through anything: flesh, bones, till it gets to the
other side and falls out.
PANELIST. There's only one way you can even temporarily stop it and that's to smother it. You can't keep something
smothered for an extended amount of time.
GALICIA. Why? Because it reignites?
PANELIST. It just continues to burn, unless it is kept away from air.
GALICIA. Right. It ignites with air.
MODERATOR. Have you seen any white phosphorus injuries?
DUBROW. I saw several patients who supposedly had been burned (I saw them in the Naval Hospital) by something we
were told was white phosphorus or Willy Peter. I can't say for certain. It chars its way through. As I understand it, the
Marines in our area would use what is called a pop-up flare, which is a handheld flare that you shoot up into the air and
fire at Vietnamese. I do know that these patients did come in and were treated for this after they had been burned.
PANELIST. In our battalion, when we were in Bau Loc, which is in Lam Dong Province, the mortar platoon used white
phosphorus with their HE rounds. The officers and platoon leaders were issued white phosphorus grenades. They were
used, not as markers, but during fire fights or in a village to either scare out people or burn it down.
MODERATOR. Next thing is gas. This is also against the rules set down in the Hague and Geneva Conventions. We
used a combination of gases there called CS, CN and I think DM. These are a nauseant, a mucous irritant, and a tearing
gas, a lacimating agent. I knew we used these because I saw them used. On Christmas Day in 1964, we were attempting
to recapture eight Americans somewhere in the area of Tay Ninh. We were attempting to recapture Americans who had
been captured by the Vietnamese. They were going to blanket a large area near the Black Virgin Mountain where they
thought these prisoners were. They mixed this gas on a soccer field which was adjacent to an airfield on one side and the
hospital for Tay Ninh on the other side. They had large drums, they would mix them, and they would put them in a
rocket pod of an armed helicopter.
While they were mixing them, a helicopter landed improperly behind the area where they were mixing and a large cloud
of gas settled over the entire city of Tay Ninh including us. That included the hospital. Now these gases are said not to
be lethal. Unfortunately they are lethal if you have pulmonary disease. If you happen to get nauseated and vomit when
you've had abdominal surgery, it can be pretty serious. And if you happen to have an open wound with a nerve exposed,
it will cause direct nerve damage. This whole hospital was covered with this gas which poured down over the area.
Anybody else seen the effects of this nonlethal gas?
GROSSO. My only recollection doesn't include observation of the use of gas, but I recall four or five prisoners of war
who were dying in the Tuy Hoa general hospital, one of our general hospitals, of pulmonary edema. The nurses there
informed members of our brigade that these prisoners had been in tunnels and gassed. They did have pulmonary edema
from my observations, at least, and according to the physicians who were attending them.
PANELIST. Something I can relate concerns a chemical. I don't even know exactly what chemical is used. I just saw
what happened to children in the Dong Ha children's hospital from various use of chemicals and a lot of the other things
you people have been seeing the last few days. Gas possibly could have been the cause of these things. I'm not really
sure. There was a whole ward of about 12 little kids who had been born deformed because of gas, chemicals, whatever
agents were used in the country by the United States. But these kids were deformed. One kid's feet were turned around
and he was walking on the joints of his ankles. His elbows were also inverted. His hands were backwards.
MODERATOR. My guess is that you're talking about defoliating agents. There are three versions--White, Blue and
PANELIST. I couldn't exactly say what chemical or what defoliants caused it.
MODERATOR. Was this in an area where they were defoliating?
PANELIST. They defoliated portions of the whole country, so you can't designate a specific area. At least in this place I
MODERATOR. Agent Orange, which is sometimes called 245T, is known to be teratogenic or cause birth defects in a
number of experimental animals. Supposedly now it's outlawed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and supposedly
we have stopped using it in Vietnam. However, the Vietnamese are reportedly still using it. We have dropped 40 million
pounds of this agent on Vietnam.
PANELIST. My understanding is that a mother would come in contact with it through their drinking water most of
which is rain water. They have a barrel outside of their house, a catch basin on top of the house, and the water runs
down into the barrel. Everyone drinks out of this water and a woman, if she drinks about a quart of this water, can cause
damage to a child while she's in pregnancy.
MODERATOR. Dave, why don't you tell us about some of your experiences with U.S. military personnel problems of
drug addiction or drug abuse?
GALICIA. We went into this subject somewhat extensively on Sunday when we were talking about what we do to
ourselves but I think it's worth repeating. I went there as a fully trained psychiatrist and that makes me have enough
brains in my head, supposedly, to come up with a standing diagnosis for any one individual. Our policy, and the
regulations which I worked under, precluded my being able to send people out of country for further treatment. I could
make a positive diagnosis of severe physical addiction to a drug such as heroin or opium. In this country we consider
this a big enough disorder to hospitalize people and we take them away from the source of the drug. There was no way
to take people away from the source of the drug in Vietnam. That doesn't come as any new bit of information to any of
the vets here. You get drugs anywhere. There is no problem where that is concerned. I dislike to use the word, but I can't
really think of another one. I was monitored where this was concerned.
It took two days for the medivacee to get on a plane and get the _____ out of country. He went to Tan Son Nhut on the
next day, he rested there for a day, and then he got on the plane and went the following day. So this left plenty of time
for my write-ups to go up to Long Binh to the office of the Psychiatric Consultant from the Surgeon General's office
for Vietnam. If I tried to push something through like this, I would get a phone call, be told that this simply was not
policy and that what the _____ was I doing trying to medivac this person out of country. The one person that stands out
largest in my memory was a black kid who came in on six different occasions. He had shot up to 30 cc of heroin or
opium a day, 4 cc at a crack--seven or eight times a day. And if this is not addiction I don't know what is. He would be
taken by the MPs back to some MP unit, then be released to his company commander again because there is such a
rampant problem they didn't have space for these people. They didn't know what the _____ to do with them, so they
ended up giving them back to the company commander.
The company commander may or may not have been an understanding guy; he'd try to put the man back to work, and, of
course, this man would be back in the hospital again. I harbored a few of these people for a while. Most of my patients
were on Ward 8. I would sneak these people up to Ward 9, which was a convalescent ward, and again I constantly got
bombarded from the hospital, itself, because regulations there said I couldn't keep anybody for more than 30 days--I got
called down front many times, accused of harboring individuals, and I confessed to it, but these were the people who
had been in so many times that, you know, it was like clockwork--three days or four days from the time I let them out,
they'd be back. I kept trying to tell people this and I kept getting turned off. Nobody ever offered me an explanation as to
what I should have done with these folks except wean them off the drug at that particular time. Don't worry about their
Their ETS or their Deros day (their day for leaving) would rotate around some time and I'd be rid of that problem. I'd
just have another one to handle. And this is about the way it went for me, all year long.
MODERATOR. You didn't have any methadone?
GALICIA. I was denied methadone. I don't know why the _____ I was denied methadone. I broke people on thorazine. I
might say that it served the purpose and most people adequately came down. But that doesn't take away from the
addiction and it's not the drug of choice. Anybody who has any medical school training knows that. It's a simple
proposition and I think that one of the things that was put forth was that it was too expensive and, you know, that's a
crock of _____. It's a cent and a half a tablet.
MODERATOR. In terms of hard drug use, that's heavy use of barbiturates, heroin, speed, how many of these guys
started over there? Have you any idea?
GALICIA. Well, I don't have figures because I never kept figures. It would have made a tremendous study, I suppose,
for somebody's article. But, I felt so sick inside most of the time, I wasn't really concerned with articles. I'd say that
probably one out of two or three out of five of the people who came in would outrightly confess to me that they had
taken nothing (in the United States). Maybe they'd smoked some pot while they were in this country, but that was about
the extent of it. And, I don't know what their purpose would have been in lying. I really don't know.
PANELIST. Just about any kind of drug that you can think of from heroin on down, if you couldn't get it from one of
the guys in the hospital, it could be bought downtown.
GALICIA. It was no problem to get drugs up on the ward, even. While I'm at it, there's another thing I'd like to get my
licks in on. I'd forgotten about it till right now. When I came into country I was shown my office. The office was in the
back of an area which had been the dayroom. And that would have been okay. The dayroom had some things we could
have used almost for therapy. At that time it had pool tables, Ping-pong tables, card tables. This place had been turned
into a Special Services Library and had been carpeted much the same as the carpeting on this floor. Rows and rows of
books had been put up. Most of the time the _____ thing just went to no avail.
It was a good showpiece for people who came in to see Third Field and nurses in white, etc. But the psychiatric office
(it had a real fancy name--Chief of Department of Psychiatry and Neurology) was fine, except there were no other
psychiatrists and there was no neurologist. So I was it. I had a social worker and two techs. And then I had to fight like
_____ when they went home to get some more techs to replace them. The area, the type of degradation I felt this
particular service of medicine was held in was incredible. Here I sat with my office in the back of a Special Services
Library. This wasn't bad enough. We continued under this. But my inpatient service was on an open medical ward and
I'd just like to describe the ward very briefly to you. This was a huge ward that was subdivided much the same way as
these pillars subdivide. On that side, and back away from the nursing station, and on the other side, back away from the
nursing station, were medical patients. You know, they had pneumonia, this kind of thing.
Down the sides from the nursing station, because it seemed like the best thing to do, the psychiatric patients were
housed. This would include anyone from a psychopath to a neurotic to a psychotic. And the kicker to this is that in the
middle was the intensive care unit for cardiac patients who were on monitors. What I'm telling you is the truth. This
could be confirmed. Off to the left, by the way, was the renal unit, which was the only renal unit in Vietnam and, briefly,
if you're in the renal unit, you're in there because you just can't make pee. And that's because you've got so many other
injuries that your kidneys shut down so they put you on a machine that drains all your blood out, filters it and cleans it
out for you, and then puts it back in. I had a paranoid patient walking around in there one night. I was told, after I left the
ward, talking about how people were drawing knives on him, etc., etc. You know, if you're in a state of paranoia, and
you're walking around seeing people that are having all their blood taken out of them, and you go for a further walk and
you see people on cardiac monitors, it's pretty bad.
MODERATOR. The next subject is: What have we done to the Vietnamese people with venereal disease?
GROSSO. It's a strange subject to talk about. My contribution would be the observations about our brigade's activities
in the Dak To area when we used military personnel, military equipment, and military time to construct a large wooden
framed restaurant which was staffed by Vietnamese girls. I believe there were at any time from 12 to 14, who provided
services for an entire brigade of about 4,500 men on a volunteer basis, alphabetically. The charge was approximately
$2.50. It required a great deal of time, materiel, and manpower for the medical company to examine these women
several times a week. So it was more or less command policy that prostitution be part of the military operation.
GALICIA. I can add to that. In the travels I had to the south, each and every one of the battalion areas of the 3rd Brigade
of the 9th Infantry Division, located 40 miles south of Saigon, had, under the army sign for the PX (Post Exchange)
buildings that were erected for the purpose, supposedly, of a steam bath and massage. Each one of these things had a
medic and I talked to these medics. Some of these medics had a full-time chore--to examine the GIs who wanted to
partake of this particular service. I'm not so much against the service, myself, as I am the fact that these were
Vietnamese people and they were being used in this fashion. If you want to be a prostitute, I guess that's your own
business, but I'm not so sure that that was the case. I just don't know.
We were developing strains of gonococcol organisms that were so virulent we were having a very difficult time
eradicating them from people. We didn't see much syphilis. That's not worth talking about. I don't know what the
treatment for an average strain of gonorrhea or gonococcus would be. I suspect it's in the realm of a million and two
tenths penicillin. But the standing order over there was a combination of 4.8 million units of penicillin IM, and
something like 16 tablets of 250 mg. tetracycline per day for three or four days running and then a continued dosage
after that. A lot of the times this really didn't do the trick either. There were still people who were having difficulty and I
think the long range thing, when we're talking about what we do to the Vietnamese, is that when we leave, it stays.
MODERATOR. How about treatment on the Vietnamese? You know, can he get all these drugs to kill that
GALICIA. No. It's not really available to them. Earlier in this panel I indicated to you that I stole the penicillin to treat a
PANELIST. At Da Nang the same situation existed everywhere. Outside of the military installations, you had houses of
prostitution that were either built by the military or at least maintained by the 95th Evacuation Army Hospital at Da
Nang. On the road leading to it were four houses, and the women, the prostitutes, who worked there, received their
treatment from sympathetic doctors and corpsmen who worked at the hospital--the Evacuation Hospital there. We had a
very large number of Air Force personnel at our base. We had an immunization clinic for the GIs and the longest lines
for any of the immunizations were the penicillin lines for VD. If one of the Vietnamese women came in, whether she
worked on the base or wherever she worked, claiming that she had caught VD or gonorrhea or whatever from a GI, she
was always refused treatment on the grounds that if you treat one, you have to treat them all.
MODERATOR. Are there any last comments?
STEIGER. I have one that I would like to make. Jeff can back me up on this because he was there and he saw the same
thing. From the 95th Evacuation Hospital and from other hospitals in the area, when we received patients, they all
funnelled their patients into the 22nd Casualty Staging Flight, where I worked, to be medivaced to another base in
Vietnam, which is usually Cam Ranh Bay or out of the country to Japan or the Philippines or to the States. We would
receive Korean, American, Australian, or whatever. We'd get men who had been wounded and had not had their
dressings changed for days. We would receive patients who had had amputations of the legs or arms, and when we tried
to change the dressings on these patients, we would find that they were hard. I mean, it was an Ace-wrapped elastic
bandage, like you used in athletics. They were solid, and the only thing that had been done for them was to pour
Batadon, which is an antiseptic, over these wounds. After you soaked them and got them down, there were maggots
inside, and these were our own men. This is the medical treatment they received. And this isn't like a thing that happened
just once. It happened all the time.
MODERATOR. This was one hospital?
STEIGER. This was specifically from the 95th Evacuation Hospital. And those kinds of things go on over there all the
PANELIST. We had one GI who came in who had a big gaping wound on the lower part of his leg. The dressings hadn't
been changed in about three weeks. I think it was the original battlefield dressing he had on. Why, I don't know, but it
STEIGER. This is the superior medical care we had.
GALICIA. I was the recipient of some information today that made me think back. I went home to get this, because I
think that this man (who for all good reasons remains nameless) was shipped to us from the 91st Evacuation Hospital in
Chu Lai. I think that this man, as the story was given to us, was a recipient of some of our own misdirected fire.
Whether he was or whether he wasn't, I don't believe really serves any purpose. This man had so many diagnoses, and
this is a photocopy, or a transcript of the admission note when he came in, that they ran out of space on this paper and
put the rest on a second one.
I sort of keep it as mere testimony of not only what these kind of weapons can do but what I was part of. I've many times
thought about throwing it away, but I never did and I really don't know the reason for that. I suspect I do somewhere.
This man had a penetrating wound of all his extremities--face, chest, abdomen and genitals. He had a perforation of the
small bowel, contusion of the transverse colon, laceration of the liver, a transection of his distal ureter on the right, a
ruptured bladder, a wound open-- penetrating of the rectum, fracture of the pelvis, rupture of the right spermatic cord,
rupture of his _____, fracture of some of the bones in his leg, contusions of his lower left lung lobe, a hemathorax,
which is blood of the thorax, acute renal failure and peritonitis. And the thing about it that really struck home with me,
was that he was admitted to our hospital on 22 June 1970. He was to go home on 16 July 1970.
MODERATOR. Thank you. I would just like to share with you one last comment. During my last three days here, I
think all of us have been extremely frustrated by the lack of national press coverage. We came from many parts of the
country, often at our own expense, and this isn't the only country where there is a blackout on news. We're not sure why.
We feel that what we had to say here was significant. And we all can prove we were in Vietnam. Here is a Saigon
newspaper which I have saved--an English language newspaper. It's quite obvious that they did not want us to get certain
kinds of information, and in terms of the hearings that you have heard in the past three days, it is obvious that somebody
does not want the American people to hear what we had to say here. Thank you.
Last Updated Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 07:43 PM MST; 7,737 Hits