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Winter Soldier

Testimony given in Detroit, Michigan, on January 31, 1971, February 1 and 2, 1971

Sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.

Need for Investigation

Hon. Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon
In the Senate of the United States
Monday, April 5, 1971

MR. HATFIELD. Mr. President, the moral sensitivity of the Nation has been aroused by the conviction of Lt. William Calley. More clearly than before, this incident has focused the fundamental moral questions that our Nation must confront regarding our conduct in Indochina.

The Department of Defense said in its recent statement relating to the Calley conviction:

The Department of the Army has had a moral and legal obligation to adopt a continuing policy of investigating fully all substantive allegations or violations of the laws of war involving American personnel.

Every allegation of misconduct on the battlefield--regardless of the rank or position of the person purportedly responsible--must be thoroughly explored.

There has recently been brought to my attention testimony relating to the policy and conduct of American forces in Indochina which has grave and very serious implications.

The testimony is given by honorably discharged veterans who had served in Vietnam, and was conducted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Three days of testimony were conducted in Detroit, Mich. on January 31, February 1, and 2 of this year. This group, which represents 11,000 veterans, plans to send several thousand to Washington the week of April 19 to petition Congress for full congressional hearings.

I, of course, have no way of ascertaining the veracity of all the testimony given, and I am not in agreement with certain of the statements and judgments made by those who testified.

However, I believe that the allegations made by these Americans, who served their country in Vietnam, are so serious and so grave that they demand the full study by the appropriate committees of Congress as well as by the executive branch.

The testimony and allegations raised by the experience of these veterans includes charges regarding: the torture and murder of suspects and prisoners of war captured by Americans and South Vietnamese forces; the wanton killing of innocent, unarmed civilians; the brutalization and rape of Vietnamese women in the villages; military policies which enabled indiscriminate bombing and the random firing of artillery into villages which resulted in the burning to death of women, children and old people; the widespread defoliation of lands of forests; the use of various types of gases; the mutilation of enemy bodies, and others.

A recurrent theme running throughout the testimony is that of institutionalized racist attitudes of the military in their training of the men who are sent to Vietnam--training which has indoctrinated them to think of all Vietnamese as "gooks" and subhuman.

Further, the thrust of the allegations made in the 3-day testimony is that such actions were the consequence of reasonable and known policy adopted by our military commanders and that the knowledge of incidents resulting from these policies was widely shared.

Several of the allegations made in this testimony would place the United States in violation of the Geneva Convention and other international agreements relating to the conduct of war which have been ratified by our Government.

Therefore, the necessity for investigating fully these alleged actions, and all evidence that bears on our actions in Indochina and the international agreements we have ratified cannot be overstated.

Therefore, first I ask unanimous consent that the testimony presented by over 100 honorably discharged veterans in Detroit be placed in the Congressional Record.

I realize that the testimony is very lengthy, but its full force and content must be made available so that it can be read and judged on its own merits.

Second, I will transmit this testimony to the Department of Defense and the Department of State and urge, in accord with its stated policy, that the evidence and allegations it contains be fully investigated.

Third, I urge the appropriate committees of the Congress to conduct hearings on the policies governing the use of military force in Indochina and their relation to international agreements our country has ratified.

Fourth, I recommend consideration be given to forming a special commission that would investigate in full these matters and would provide a forum to assess the moral consequences of our involvement in Indochina to us as a Nation and a people.

We as a Nation must find the proper way to honestly confront the moral consequences of our actions, and to corporately turn ourselves from the thinking and the policy that has degraded our moral posture and to recognize that out of contrition an self-examination can come a genuine rebirth of the ideas we hold as a people.

The testimony that follows and the steps I have advocated are presented with this hope.

I ask unanimous consent to have the testimony printed in the Extensions of Remarks.

There being no objection, the testimony was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

Continue Reading Testimony

Updated Thursday, January 28, 1999

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