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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. Brothers and sisters, or sisters and brothers, I'd like to present to you the veterans from Vietnam who will be testifying about the atrocities that took place and were created by American troops with the 1st Air Cav. Division in Vietnam. To give you a little history on the 1st Air Cav. Division, it is an air-mobile division; it was the first created and the 1st Air Cav. was the first air-mobile division to ever take place, or to function, in Vietnam. It arrived in Vietnam in 1965, in Qui Nhow. Now I'd like to introduce to you the first testifier, former Captain John K. Mallory. Mr. Mallory?

MALLORY. I'm Jack Mallory and I served as a captain with the Eleventh Armored Cavalry Regiment, which during most of my time in Vietnam from May 1969 to May 1970, was under the operational control of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. I served as Regimental Assistant Civic Action Officer and Civic Action Officer for the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cav. I'd like to say a few words about treatment of Vietnamese civilians by members of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The destruction of crops and killing of domestic animals was common whenever the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment operated in populated areas. Crops were destroyed in the building of defensive positions and animals were run over when the tracks--armored cars, tanks--ran through the villages. Civilian deaths were quite frequent, Vietnamese civilians were killed accidently when tracks and tanks running through their villages, often at excessive speeds, struck them, ran off the road, ran into their houses, hit their bicycles, etc. On at least one occasion, the village of An Phu, in Binh Long Province, was struck by artillery fired from Quan Loi Base Camp causing several casualties. A civilian riding on an ox-cart, just south of Quan Loi Base Camp, was intentionally struck by an American aircraft which came in out of the sky, hit him in the head, and traveled on. The man was killed; the aircraft was never identified. A helicopter, also never identified, dropped two white phosphorus grenades (they're incendiary grenades) into the village of Sa Troc, also in Binh Long Province, burning down several buildings and two small Montagnard children. In Loc Ninh, a young boy about twelve years old was attacked by two American soldiers, severely beaten, resulting in a broken arm. There is no reason known for this attack. On one occasion, a North Vietnamese Army nurse was killed by 11th Armored Cavalry troops; subsequently a grease gun of the type used in automotive work was placed in her vagina and she was packed full of grease. On several occasions, enemy graves were violated, their skulls taken out of the graves and used as candle-holders and conversation pieces. CS gas, better known as tear gas, was often used on civilians to chase them away from our positions where they came to sell, or to look for valuable American trash, in our trash dumps. On one occasion, this gassing of Vietnamese civilians was done by an American Army major. On another occasion, Vietnamese selling their wares in the area had their wares taken and destroyed by American troops led by two captains. One of them was myself. In August, in Binh Long Province, north of An Loc, six Vietnamese (friendly Vietnamese soldiers or civilians or regular Defense Group soldiers) were killed by helicopter gunships from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Although the CIDG area of operations was clearly marked on our tactical map in our tactical operations center, sheer carelessness of the duty officer from the 11th Armored Cav. led him to give our gunships permission to fire at armed Vietnamese in the area, although it was quite well known that there were friendly armed Vietnamese in that immediate vicinity. In general, U.S. attitues towards Vietnamese civilians were not inhumane per se, but they were certainly not human. The Vietnamese civilians were regarded much as America regards her own minorities--a pat on the head for a trick, a kick in the ------ for an imagined fault, and invisible the rest of the time.

MODERATOR. Okay. The next speaker or testifier is James Mackay, former E-5. James?

MACKAY. My name is James Mackay. I served with Headquarters Third Brigade of the Ninth Division from October '68 to August '69, and I served with the First Cav. from August '70 to December '70. Our AO was from Song Be north to Cambodia. During this time our helicopters, our Cobra gunships, and small observation helicopters would go out on search and destroy missions more or less where they'd go out and they'd shoot anything, any structures they saw. They'd shoot all structures; they'd shoot all people, be they men, women, or children--old men, children, whether they had arms or not. They'd shoot all livestock, destroy all food. They'd destroy everything they saw that was man-made. Also, to prove that they'd been getting body counts, the troop commander had given the order (not given an order, but let it be known) that the next time Vietnamese were killed, the body would be taken and dumped from two hundred feet right to Brigade TOC, right in front of the TOC, and this was done, and there was no reprimand to the officer. Explosives have been put in the dumps for the purpose of exploding and injuring men, women, and children while they're going through the trash--while they're going through this valuable trash. Consequently, one of my friends was blown and burned on the upper portion of his body due to the carelessness of the discarding of trash and purposely planting booby-traps.

MODERATOR. James, you stated that on the first time that an A-troop, recon missions, right?--the Cobra and the Loach-- when they fired on any moving target that meant men, women, and children? Right?

MACKAY. Right, this meant, anybody they saw whether they were men, women, or children, or whether they had arms or not. One kind of joke that went between the pilots was if they fired or not, upon anybody they saw, it was whether they waved or not. This was a kind of joke going between the pilots, but it didn't count, because they just shot anything they saw, any structures.

MODERATOR. Could you clarify on the booby-traps set into the fire-dump? They were charges from the artillery battery-- excessive charges from the artillery battery?

MACKAY. Right, excessive charges were thrown in the dump, and then fires were set so that they would burn people. At this time, when my friend was injured at the dump it was artillery charges that had been thrown away and set to go off. How they were going off, I don't know. I found that they were set there.

MODERATOR. The fires were set?

MACKAY. Oh, I heard, I had a lot of friends in artillery, and they told me many times when we were sitting around talking that they put charges out there. The excessive charges they don't use during their midnight missions, they'd put in the dump, and these are all supposed to be destroyed in a certain point through EOD and they were thrown in the dump for the purpose of going off.

MODERATOR. They were deliberately set up, so that the children or the young men, could walk into the dump, get close to the charges, and then they were set on fire and they'd go up relatively fast. Is that correct?

MACKAY. Right, and the dumps were all supervised. There was a supervisor there, but he was never there; he was supposed to be there. He was supposed to make sure that no ammunition was thrown away. There was not supposed to be any ammunition or any kind of explosive or inflammable material thrown in the dumps except trash, and consequently, when they were thrown in there, they were thrown in with the knowledge that someone might get hurt, and would probably get hurt when these burned or exploded grenades, etc.

MODERATOR. Thank you. The next testifier is former Spec. 4 Craig.

CRAIG. One incident I'm referring to is the Second Battalion, Eighth Brigade--their policy of mortaring the local dump every night. My statement reads: I was stationed in LS St. Barber, roughly between the months of March and August 1969. And it was battalion-originated policy to mortar the neighboring dump on the pretext "the gooks are scavenging food." It was proven that it was civilians from the town of Loc Minh. Roughly two a week were killed and occasional injury was often treated at the battalion first aid hootch.

MODERATOR. All right. Craig, let me ask you a question. How many black personnel, and when I say black personnel, how many black men, were assigned to your company?

CRAIG. Company strength varied between 80 and 120 and it was usually about a third.


CRAIG. A third of all personnel, yes.

MODERATOR. Let me ask you this. When you point, it's well known to all us vets that when initial fire takes place usually the first five people are the ones that got hit, is that correct?

CRAIG. That's true.

MODERATOR. How are blacks used as far as walking point? Explain that for me, Okay?

CRAIG. They're considered to be more adept at walking point. Plus the added factor, blacks came under a lot of blame for some of the so-called fragging that goes on. Anybody under suspicion found himself on point, usually pretty fast.

MODERATOR. Thank you. The next speaker, testifier, is former Spec. 4 Robert Wiktorski.

WIKTORSKI. All right, my first complaint would be on August, or in August, I worked in Quang Tri Province near the city of Quang Tri. We were on a searching mission...

MODERATOR. Excuse me, Robert, could you start off by giving your company, and your unit and the time you served in Vietnam?

WIKTORSKI. I was with Charlie Company, Second and Twelfth, First Air Cavalry, and I served there from May of '68 to May of '69. Now in August of '68, we were sent on a searching mission of a supposedly evacuated or deserted village. Now the policy of searching a village is that they take the whole company--that is about a hundred and sixty guys, it varies--and they put you on the line, and they're going to cover every square inch of this village, they're theoretically going to turn up every booby trap that was set in that village. And you can't always see the booby traps. Now, we took a bunch of prisoners there, approximately 30, and we were going to evac them for questioning--bring in a helicopter and lift them out. Now as the helicopter came in (they were going to remove the wounded also) we took fire; we received one mortar round. They got the civilians and wounded out and nobody was hurt as a result of that mortar round. We were given the order to move out again, and as we did, I turned behind me and some of the drag elements, some of the guys that were lagging behind, were burning hootches. It wasn't our policy to destroy anything, but for some unknown reason, somebody had set fire to about four hootches. It was also our policy to frag any suspected position. Now, every one of these houses in this village has an adjoining bunker in case of mortar attack--see, they're going to get it from either end; if they support the U.S., they're going to get attacked by the Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese. Now they used these bunkers that were adjacent to their houses more or less as an air-raid shelter, rather than a fighting position. Most of the openings, or the access holes to these bunkers were inside the houses so that if a person was in the house and something happened, they could run into the bunker. On that particular day, there was an order given to frag all suspected positions.

And it got to the point where we didn't so much look out for the booby traps as you were looking out for the guy next to you who was throwing grenades in every direction. You'd yell a term, "fire in the hole," when you'd throw a frag. And, like that just echoed all day, "fire in the hole". Now, the next day we continued on our sweeping mission and that night we set up a perimeter. I wasn't familiar with the area I was put in, so I took another man with me to sort of recon the area and I engaged a booby trap. I was wounded as a result of this. Now, if this village had been swept properly, or as it was supposed to have been, that booby trap should have been discovered. I was looking for booby traps, but they're pretty well hidden; they're pretty hard to see. Another incident I'd like to mention is at L.Z. Grant. This is near Tay Ninh in Tay Ninh Province. We had been hit; we were attacked. The landing zone itself was attacked at night by NVA soldiers. They had taken approximately 200 bodies on the wire, on the barbed wire, that were dead. To the best of my knowledge, they had only captured one prisoner and he was a high-ranking NVA official. Now, en route from L.Z. Grant to Tay Ninh for interrogation, this man was pushed out of the helicopter approximately a quarter mile from the perimeter, and consequently died as a result of the fall. On that same night that the base was attacked, they called in jet air support. The jets--they had jets in the area and they had helicopter gunships in the area working in a ------, you know, in just a scattered pattern. They asked the jet to move in a little closer to the perimeter for closer support. And the pilot, I guess, misjudged the perimeter and dropped a napalm bomb on one of the bunkers. As a result, one man who was formerly with my unit was killed. He had been put in the rear as a safer place to be because he only had 29 days left in the country. It was usually a policy where if you got within a short time of your DEROS date they would try and give you a position that would be less detrimental. Now, I don't know how detrimental that can be; the guy was burned beyond recognition. The only way we know it was him is because he was missing and he had a wallet on him. Another incident I'd like to mention was just after getting out of the hospital. My unit had pulled a big shift from up north in I Corps area to the III Corps area near Tay Ninh. And this was in Cu Chi. It's a large base camp; they have planes land there and it is pretty civilized. My unit was lining up for chow. We were going to go in and eat supper in the mess hall and the CO gave the order to spread it out in the chow line. Now the reason behind this is that when you're out in the field the guys get a little hungry and a little anxious for some hot chow and they tend to bunch up together. As a result, it can be pretty bad if somebody pops a couple of rounds at you-- like a mortar round could kill up to 30 guys, if they're grouped together and it's placed right. But in a big base camp, it's relatively pretty clear. Guys are walking around with baseball hats on, trucks are driving by, guys are swimming in swimming pools.

Our CO told us we had to wear our helmets in the chow line and spread five meters apart. Some of the guys expressed their, you know, feelings about this and the CO said, "All right, you're not going to spread it out," and went and got a fragment grenade and fragged our chow line. As a result, he wounded one of my ammo bearers. He wasn't hurt too bad, but what the heck, when you're fighting one enemy you don't have time to fight your friends, or your leader. Another incident happened up in the I Corps area. We had been working the Street Without Joy (it's adjacent to Highway One). It leads from a place called Wonder Beach almost directly to--at that time it was the Cavalry Headquarters--Camp Evans. We were told to establish a perimeter and setup positions, which we did and as the days passed, more and more people were coming to this perimeter, engineers and the like, and setting up barbed wire, and extending the perimeter--making it bigger. They were planning on making a large stationary camp in this area. Now in the early days of this, when there wasn't any barbed wire (it was just us guys on the line) they had us stringing barbed wire. I was on a barbed wire detail and that night I had to pull an ambush. The area we were in was hilly and small brush. You could see for miles. Clearly, for miles. And I commented to one of the guys who was on ambush with me, I asked him, "What makes you think that anybody is going to come walking along through the middle of nowhere? You know, just in the middle of the night, you know, helter-skelter?" and he said, "Well, we've got two bodies." We were given the order not to take any prisoners or wounded on this mission. If we ambushed anybody that night, they had to be killed.

They had taken two prisoners earlier, and they were shot and their bodies were placed approximately 30 yards from the perimeter site, from the ambush site, and Claymore (Claymore mines) were setup in a defensive position around the bodies in order to decoy, as bait. We never executed an ambush; nobody ever came along. So following about three days of this, a bulldozer from the engineering outfit came over and just pushed dirt over the bodies because they were starting to smell. And another incident I'd like to mention is that we were on a, just a random pattern of walking around in the jungle, near Nui Ba Den, near Tay Ninh, working that area, when we engaged the enemy. To the best of my knowledge, there were only two of them, maybe three at the most. One was killed as a result of it, and we were in the process of tracking the other one. Now that day ended and the next day came and we were still tracking this guy, when we, the point element, thought they saw something. So the CO got a little anxious and said, you know, let's get with the program: if you see something, shoot it. When you're the point element, and you figure that the first five, six, seven guys get hit in the initial volley of shots, you're not too anxious, you know, you're pretty cautious, and when you've got somebody who's sitting maybe two hundred yards back on a radio telling you to hurry up, you really don't appreciate it; he's not the one up there. So, this NVA apparently didn't have a rifle--we didn't find any rifle. He had a Chi Com pistol with him and a few hand grenades. Now, he had gotten to the point where I guess he was exhausted; he couldn't run any more, and with this hot pursuit on his trail, I imagine he was pretty scared. He threw a couple of frags at us, you know, in an attempt to hold off impending doom, and then took his own life. Shot himself through the head. He never once tried to surrender. I think we would have taken him as a prisoner. I don't think he would have been abused--we didn't usually make a habit of abusing prisoners. We sent them in the back, and possibly there they were abused, but not out in the field. We got rid of them too quick.

MODERATOR. Robert, I'd like to call you Rob, if you don't mind, to get on that last one that you stated, would you say that the actual main reason why he did shoot himself was that a superior force was after him and all he had was a pistol so his destiny was pretty well determined if he continued to fight? Or if he had yelled "Chieu Hoi" would you have taken him as a "Chieu Hoi". Or if he had thrown away his pistol, and yelled and put up his hands would you have taken him as prisoner?

WIKTORSKI. Well, the reason I said that he was probably pretty scared is because of what happened to his buddy. Now, upon killing the other member of his team, a lieutenant from either the 2nd or 3rd platoon (it wasn't my platoon) came up from the rear, saw the dead body, and seemed satisfied that he was dead. But then he took the body and set it up against a tree, crossed his legs, put a cigarette in his mouth, put a hat on his head, folded his arms, and then with a sharp instrument (he might have even taken a stick and sharpened it) took a Cav. patch and just tacked it to his chest and left it there--we left it there; we marched right on by it.

MODERATOR. All right, if I may explain to the audience that to mutilate a Vietnamese body or a Buddhist body (anything of the Buddhist religion or Hindu or Indian) is to violate their religious rites; to take any part off the body or to mutilate it means that the soul cannot go to heaven or wherever it's supposed to go. It lies in limbo, and to the North Vietnamese and to the Vietnamese, this is the most horrible thing that could ever happen. This breaks up the family dynasty that they have going. That's why we are told not to pet the little children on their heads because this directly offends the Vietnamese people. The head is the most, how would you say it, sacred part of the body. Now, to get back to Rob. The military tactics that are being used in Vietnam, when we were there and that are being used now, are vesting the lives of Americans and civilians for no necessary reason; this is through carelessness. Now, am I right, or am I wrong?

WIKTORSKI. Well, I have to state this from my own point of view. I didn't go over there because I wanted to, or because I liked it, but you have to do something, so I went over there. I think what happens, the way they get you into actually fighting--where the bullets are exchanged--is that when you're ambushed, or when you hit contact, usually, I'll say usually, somebody is hurt in the initial contact. So if you're following some guy and he drops in his tracks, are you going to turn and run? Or are you going to stay there and try and help the guy? The army puts you in a position where you are not obliged to the army itself, but to your friend. You know, the friends you made over there, the guys you live with. When one of them is hurt, you just can't leave him. If there was an initial volley of shots and nobody was hurt, we would withdraw out of the area, and we would call in support artillery, jets, whatever it took, until we felt it was safe to proceed. But when somebody was hurt in the initial volley, somebody had to stay there with him.

MODERATOR. In other words, what the military system is doing with the American troops in Vietnam is using them, the infantry troops, the grunts that hump the fields, is using them as bait.

WIKTORSKI. That's putting it kind of rough. I would say that the army put you in a bad position and you just got to make the best of it. You know, whatever comes, may come. Like I said, if nobody was hurt, all the guys would withdraw; nobody was for pushing ahead; nobody wanted to make contact. Everybody dreaded contact because usually with contact came injury and maybe even death. I know they never got me in a position where they would say, "All right, I need three men to go up here and do this or that." It was always, "There's somebody hurt up there," or something like that, and, "You guys get down there and help them." That kind of thing. It was never a voluntary basis out of the clear blue. When they sent us on patrols, I would have to say that the guys I was with kept it to a bare minimum as far as looking for trouble. We didn't poke our noses into places we didn't want to go. If the CO said, "Well, go out about two miles and turn left and circle back in," we might go out of sight and just sit down and wait a half hour and then come back in.

MODERATOR. Okay, to get back on to the same thing about the fragging in the villages, that specific village of Quang Tri. Was there any enemy activity in the village itself?

WIKTORSKI. Well, like I said, we received one mortar round, no small arms fire or anything else and the reason I don't think there was any enemy activity in it was because we would have heard the tube fired for one, if it was in a reasonable amount of distance, let's say within a mile. So it was pretty well out somewhere where we didn't hear it. And they just lobbed one round in. I think they were too far away to engage us in small arms fire. In fact, I went so far as to walk into a clearing and look over the terrain. It was all rice paddies and I found a sandal in the mud, right there, and I kind of got scared and I pulled back into the trees. But I believe that if there had been close enemy activity, I would have been shot at.

MODERATOR. Okay. When the men of your company fragged the shelters that the Vietnamese had in their houses, could there have been a possibility that there were children-- women, children, or older men--in the bunkers and if so, were there enemy bodies found after they fragged these bunkers?

WIKTORSKI. Well, like I said, I think they were used more or less as an air-raid shelter or a place of hiding rather than a place of fighting. There was no accessible fighting position. They were completely blocked off on the outside. The only access was through the inside of the house and it wouldn't make a very good place to sit and try to fight. But still and all, they made sure they fragged every bunker at least once. We never once in that whole village, in the two days that I remember did we ever find a weapon. We found a poncho, a wallet (an unidentified wallet) nothing in it, and booby traps and thirty civilians, about thirty civilians.

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