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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.


MODERATOR. Mr. Bangert, there's an incident here where you found crucified bodies hanging on barbed wire fences and in the same incident you witnessed South Vietnamese civilians shot without provocation on Highway 1. Could you go into this and kind of see how they are related?

BANGERT. I can cover a couple of these at the same time. The first day I got to Vietnam I landed in Da Nang Air Base. From Da Nang Air Base I took a plane to Dong Ha. I got off the plane and hitchhiked on Highway 1 to my unit. I was picked up by a truckload of grunt Marines with two company grade officers, 1st Lts.; we were about 5 miles down the road, where there were some Vietnamese children at the gateway of the village and they gave the old finger gesture at us. It was understandable that they picked this up from the GIs there. They stopped the trucks--they didn't stop the truck, they slowed down a little bit, and it was just like response, the guys got up, including the lieutenants, and just blew all the kids away. There were about five or six kids blown away and then the truck just continued down the hill. That was my first day in Vietnam. As far as the crucified bodies, they weren't actually crucified with nails, but they would find VCs or something (I never got the story on them) but, anyway, they were human beings, obviously dead, and they would take them and string them out on fences, on barbed wire fences, stripped, and sometimes they would take flesh wounds, take a knife and cut the body all over the place to make it bleed, and look gory as a reminder to the people in the village.

Also in Quang Tri City I had a friend who was working with USAID and he was also with CIA. We used to get drunk together and he used to tell me about his different trips into Laos on Air America Airlines and things. One time he asked me would I like to accompany him to watch. He was an adviser with an ARVN group and Kit Carson's. He asked me if I would like to accompany him into a village that I was familiar with to see how they act. So I went with him and when we got there the ARVNs had control of the situation. They didn't find any enemy but they found a woman with bandages. So she was questioned by six ARVNs and the way they questioned her, since she had bandages, they shot her. She was hit about twenty times. After she was questioned, and, of course, dead, this guy came over, who was a former major, been in the service for twenty years, and he got hungry again and came back over working with USAID, Aid International Development. He went over there, ripped her clothes off and took a knife and cut, from her vagina almost all the way up, just about up to her breasts and pulled her organs out, completely out of her cavity, and threw them out. Then, he stopped and knelt over and commenced to peel every bit of skin off her body and left her there as a sign for something or other and that was those instances.

MODERATOR. Okay, there were American officers present when this happened or...

BANGERT. There were two super-secret. I know they were field grade officers, who were with MACV in Quang Tri Province in the area. They knew about it.

MODERATOR. Mr. Bronaugh, I believe you mentioned something earlier of the massacre of women and children in late March, early April of 1968. Could you go into that a little bit please?

BRONAUGH. Yes. Well, I was with the 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines, attached to them with Battalion FSEC.

MODERATOR. Which is the Fire Control Center?

BRONAUGH. Right. It coordinates everything for the Battalion Artillery and troop movement and everything. I had some spare time this particular day so I left the compound and went to a bridge where people usually go and swim and they had a detachment on this bridge, in total about two platoons of people. A 2nd Lt. in charge of the bridge and a gunnery Sergeant that was staff NCO of the bridge. There were people from mortars platoon, weapons platoon, there was a tank, there were a couple of mules with 106 recoilless rifles, two snipers, and assorted machine gun crews. This particular day I was going to go swimming and I was at this bridge and they had sent a patrol out from our battalion CP. They had gone north of the CP for about a half a mile or a mile. There was a few huts that comprised a small village north of the compound.

The bridge got a radio call that they had supposedly received a sniper round from this village. So the Lt. on the bridge told them to sweep the village. They swept the village and they called back that there was nothing found. There was nothing found, I mean, there were just people in the village and so the Lt. told them to burn the village. From my position, which was about 150 to 200 yards away, and there was a tree line in the way, smoke started coming up over the tree line and about this time, I guess about three minutes after the smoke started showing, there was a lot of screaming and just chaos coming from the direction of the village and a lot of people started running out of the tree line. From where I was standing, I saw maybe two or three male villagers and the rest were women and children--some of the children walking and some of them young enough to be carried, I would say under a year, maybe. The last thing I heard as a command was the gunnery sergeant told them to open fire to keep them back. Their village was on fire and they were in panic; they didn't stop, so they just cut down the women and children with mortars, machine guns, tank, snipers were...

MODERATOR. There was a tank there also?

BRONAUGH. Yes. Well, the tank, the 90 millimeter gun wasn't used because, I mean, it was too close a range, but they used the .50 and the .30 off the tank and all the troops that were at the bridge with M16s. The officer, a Lt., a few got close enough to where he used his .45. They used a few frag hand grenades.

MODERATOR. The fifty caliber. That was used specifically against the people?

BRONAUGH. Yes...Yes.

MODERATOR. Right. Just for general information, the .50 caliber machine gun is specifically forbidden to be used against people. It's an anti-vehicular weapon.

BRONAUGH. Yes, it was used in automatic and single fire, against human beings.

MODERATOR. There are many different types of ways that we have heard of people being mutilated, of villagers being killed, but there is one way that affects the people afterwards. They don't physically shoot them or hurt them at the moment and this is the use of chemicals. And Mr. Bangert, I think, has a good example here where he shows twenty deformed babies resulting from Agent Orange Defoliant Spray. Could you tell us what Agent Orange is and the type of deformity that was the result?

BANGERT. I used to work with the pacification program in Vietnam and I traveled extensively through Quang Tri Province. Specifically in the area of Quang Tri City and west, Trieu Phong District, I saw approximately, during my tour, twenty deformed infants under the age of one. It never made sense to me, I thought it was congenital, or something, from venereal disease, because they had flippers and things. I didn't understand what I saw until approximately six months ago I read a report that was put out by Stamford which talked about the thalidomide content within Agent Orange and it was common knowledge that Agent Orange was sprayed in the area and we used to see it about every three to four days where I was in Quang Tri Province. If I could get back to the Vietnamese woman I saw that was mutilated so horribly by that person, it didn't really shock me because I think I talked about my first day in Vietnam.

You can check with the Marines who have been to Vietnam--your last day in the States at staging battalion at Camp Pendleton you have a little lesson and it's called the rabbit lesson, where the staff NCO comes out and he has a rabbit and he's talking to you about escape and evasion and survival in the jungle. He has this rabbit and then in a couple of seconds after just about everyone falls in love with it, not falls in love with it, but, you know, they're humane there, he cracks it in the neck, skins it, disembowels it, just like I testified that this happened to a woman--he does this to the rabbit--and then they throw the guts out into the audience. You can get anything out of that you want, but that's your last lesson you catch in the United States before you leave for Vietnam where they take that rabbit and they kill it, and they skin it, and they play with its organs as if it's trash and they throw the organs all over the place and then these guys are put on the plane the next day and sent to Vietnam.

MODERATOR. Mr. Camile, you have testimony here of napalm being dropped on villagers. Could you go into this and kind of let us know what napalm is and how it was used and any of the results?

CAMILE. I really don't know that much about what it is or what it's made of. I just know that when it gets on you it burns and when they drop it from the planes, they usually drop two big canisters of napalm at a time. It just burns everything up, including the people. Many times we've called in air before we'd go into a village, or if we had a village where we'd lost people because of booby traps, we'd call in napalm and it just burns down the village and the people.

MODERATOR. Wasn't it usually normal, or so-called operating procedure, you don't fire until fired on, and on these villages, did you usually receive a lot of fire from them of the type that would say, we can't take the village, you'll have to call in napalm?

CAMILE. No, most of the time it was for safety. We'd napalm it first before we'd even go in just to make sure we wouldn't lose any men without any fire whatsoever. It was just for our protection, supposedly.

MODERATOR. Mr. Nienke, it says here that you used CS grenades clearing bunkers and hootches. Could you tell us if these were enemy bunkers or hootches or if they were civilian bunkers or hootches? Just exactly what was the incident?

NIENKE. I think every person who was in Vietnam who was in the infantry used CS, which is a gas, chemicals, Willie Peter--that's White Phosphorus--and we used these sometimes to clear bunkers and other times to destroy a hootch. We used to think that was kicks; there would be people in a hootch or something like this and we'd throw in a gas grenade and they'd cough and then we'd leave. And other times we used to use--we had mortar squads in the infantry used to avoid going into a village or something if we thought it might be VC infested or something like this, we'd send in Willie Peter mortars, 60 millimeters, and this would burn up the hootches --that explode--throwing white phosphorus on different hootches in the village. Start the hootches burning and also kill people. It's probably one of the worst sights I've ever seen is a person that's been burned by Willie Peter, because it doesn't stop. It just burns all completely through your body. The only way you can end this burning is to cut off the air. It's very difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED PANELIST. I'd like to add that white phosphorus is not supposed to be used for personnel. It's supposed to be used for marking and in artillery for spotting. But as you know, these rules are not too well followed most of the time.

MODERATOR. Mr. Olimpieri, you were in the same unit. You were Mr. Nienke's squad leader. Who was in charge of calling in on the mortars or ordering of the throwing of the CS grenades?

OLIMPIERI. Well, it was usually the officers, but I can remember times where we'd be sitting up on a hill, Nick and myself, and they used to have these things called "Pop-ups." You hit them on the bottom and it shoots like a green star cluster up in the air. It's used for location when somebody wants to find out where you are and we used to shoot them down into the village that was below and watch the people run around and we used to get big kicks out of it.

MODERATOR. Were there usually any officers present around this or was it usually known that this was done, wasn't it?

OLIMPIERI. Yeah, it was pretty well accepted. I mean, everybody did it.

MODERATOR. But nothing was said about it. The Vietnamese were considered...They were gooks, right?

OLIMPIERI. Right, nothing was said about it at all.

MODERATOR. Mr. Bishop, we were told that you were in Vietnam from '68 to '69. I believe this was before President Nixon said we had any troops in Laos or Cambodia at all. It says here that you entered Cambodia in pursuit of enemy between '68 and '69. Is this a true fact?

BISHOP. That's correct. We were on Operation Taylor Common. We were up in the mountains. We were operating just above the Laotian border where Laos and Cambodia meet. We were making heavy contact up there. We had quite a few losses and most of the operations we were holding were usually squad type or platoon type because the area was so thick and we couldn't send big units in there. We were very close to the border and very many times we were fired upon and we would chase the enemy back and you wouldn't know really how many grid squares you would go. We would come back to the unit and even though we knew we were close to Cambodia, we'd come back and the skipper would kind of get us all together and say like, "That was really a far out thing we did today and just for your own information we were in another country." This was general knowledge at the time that we were going back and forth into Cambodia.

MODERATOR. So you could say in effect that Mr. Nixon might possibly have been guilty of untruths in a matter that it was your company commander or platoon commander who told you that you had been in another country.

BISHOP. That's correct. The platoon commander didn't really tell us to go in there but once he found out that we were in there, because we report grid squares and our operations as we're moving, it was kind of a neat thing to do because we were in Cambodia and I'll admit that about the Nixon thing, really.

MODERATOR. Was there no distinction between the borders?

BISHOP. No, there's no distinction at all. It's on your map. You can't tell, like your border could be a tree line away and you just don't know. You can't tell.

MODERATOR. So you could have gone into Cambodia more than once then?

BISHOP. Oh, that's correct. We could have held patrols there and if we weren't informed about exactly where we were, then we wouldn't have known.

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Updated Thursday, January 28, 1999

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