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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. This afternoon the people on this panel are going to be testifying about weapons. And, I would like to take this time to introduce myself and the members who are going to give testimony. My name is David Braum and for military purposes my serial number was RA13766564. The Pentagon has a record of it and the paper can check it out. In Vietnam, in 1963 and 1964, I was a helicopter crew chief with the 119th Aviation Battalion, assigned to 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, headquartered at Pleiku, and operating out of II Corps. I went there under the adviser myth during the administration of John F. Kennedy and later Lyndon Johnson and I worked in I Corps, II Corps, and the Delta, so I've seen a fairly good section of Vietnam. My qualifications to be the moderator this afternoon for the Weapons Panel are that in civilian life I was, for five years, purchasing all materials and supplies for the United States Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Army and the CIA, and I worked for Columbia University's Government Contract Purchasing Division. The members of the panels this afternoon are: Dr. Bert Pfeiffer, whose subject will be defoliation in Vietnam; Mr. Art Kanegis, who will discuss automated battlefield equipment and anti-personnel weapons; Mr. Doug Hostetter, who will document actual effects of chemical and biological warfare programs on people, animals and crops in the Southeast Asian area; Mr. Richard Ward, who will show you the results of bombing in North Vietnam and Laos, and Mr. Wilbur Forester, former 1st Lieutenant with the American Marine, 11th Marine Division. He was an artillery officer and he will be here to provide testimony relevant to Art Kanegis' material on battlefield electronic equipment. I would like to make an opening statement and I quote, "Every violation of the law of war is a war crime," as published in the United States Army Field Manual 27-10, the Law of Land Warfare, page 179. We are going to be able to, if you need it, document the applicable laws under the Geneva Convention and various treaties should these questions arise later. I would like to begin by having Dr. Bert Pfeiffer introduce himself and give you his qualifications to discuss the subject of defoliation. Dr. Pfeiffer.

PFEIFFER. Thank you very much, Dave. I want to say that it's a real honor for me to have been invited by this outstanding group of Vietnam war veterans to participate in this very important meeting. First, I'd like to say that I am a biologist, professor of zoology at the University of Montana. I've taken my degree in Biology at the University of California, at Berkeley, some years ago. With respect to the thing I want to talk about, which is the chemical war in Vietnam, with particular reference to anti-plant chemicals, I would say that I, like many of my colleagues, have been greatly concerned about this massive use of these chemicals; they've never before been used for military purposes and we have been very concerned about what the short and long-term effects were. Our concern, which dates way back to when they were first being used, has been thoroughly confirmed by the evidence that I am going to present and some others will. My concern has led me to Indochina on three different trips. In '69 I went, sponsored by a group of scientists, Social Scientists for Social Responsibility. We spent about two weeks mostly with the DOD people with the Air Force. I flew with the 12th Air Commando Squadron on a couple of defoliating raids. We made one raid up into the Plain of Reeds, a heavy suppression mission. We'll get into that a little bit more later on. On my second trip, I was fortunate enough to be the guest of the Royal Government of Prince Sihanouk, the man who I still consider to be the legal ruler of Cambodia. We were in his country as his official guests, just about a year ago, 13 months ago, to inspect the damage caused by American defoliating aircraft in his neutral country, at that time, and I want to talk about that. A third trip took me into Laos and parts of North Vietnam. I might also say, I suppose it's pertinent to indicate that I had five years from '40 to '45 in the Armed Forces fighting the war against Fascism which we all know has not been completely won yet. I want to, as I say, talk about chemical war and go through this rather lengthy paper that I want to summarize and then show you some slides. The chemical war that the Americans have been carrying out in Vietnam and other areas in Indochina as we will see it, is of two components: one, anti-plant warfare, anti-herbicidal warfare and anti-personnel gases. I'm going to say a little bit about gases. Not very much, and spend considerable time with the anti-plant chemicals. These are known as herbicides because they do kill plants; they also in lesser amounts defoliate them; they remove the leaves; and they also damage plants (some of the agents) by drying them up. The one we use against the rice, Agent Bile, is a desiccating agent. It makes the plant die. Now, the other agents are synthetic plant hormones. When we put the slides on I'll show you the chemical formulations for them, but they are essentially called briefly 24D and 245T and picklerram and I want to emphasize one should not confuse these with things like DDT or pesticides. These chemicals act more or less like plant hormones.

They interrupt plant metabolism and in relatively low amounts do not have too much effect on animal systems although it has been found, and we'll hear more about this, Agent Orange the one most commonly used--something like 120,000 tons of this agent has been dropped upon Vietnam in the past 7 years by the United States--this has now been found to be highly toxic to experimental animals because it causes in a wide range of animals, chicks, rats, and guinea pigs a very high incidence of malformed offspring and stillborn young. Now the levels at which this will produce these pathologies in experimental animals is such that if the Vietnamese women are as sensitive as a laboratory rat is, they can very well ingest enough of these chemicals to produce malformed infants. As you know, there are many reports in Vietnamese papers about increasing numbers of malformed infants and this is a possibility. It's not proved yet that we may have created a really catastrophic situation with respect to future generations because of the use of these chemicals. The Department of Defense has recognized the toxicity of this Agent Orange which until last year was the most popular one in use and they have, as you probably all know, banned the use of this agent for any more activity at all in Vietnam. It's one of the most irresponsible situations, I think, one can imagine where for eight years they used a thing that they finally realized was too toxic and had to be removed. Now, there have been several groups of scientists who have assessed the effects of this chemical war, anti-plant warfare, on Vietnam. Dr. Shirley of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, myself, Dr. Orient, Dr. Westing and, very recently, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, concluded a study--in fact, they got back in September of '70, and they have summarized what all of us who have been there have found, and I want to quote now their summary--rather briefly--from their official publication called Science. This, that I'm going to read was published in the January 8, 1971 issue. It says, "As a result of the anti-plant chemicals dumped upon Vietnam, one-fifth to one-half of South Vietnam's mangrove forests have been utterly destroyed and even now, years after spraying, there is almost no sign of life. Half of these trees in the mature hardwood forests north and west of Saigon are dead and the massive invasion of apparently worthless bamboo threatens to take over the area for decades to come. Six point two billion board feet of merchantable timber has been destroyed at a loss to the South Vietnamese economy of a half a million dollars minimum. The army's crop destruction program which seeks to deny food to enemy soldiers has been a near total failure because nearly all the food destroyed would actually have been consumed by civilian populations, particularly Montagnards."

This AAAS team, made up of Dr. Maiselson, one of the country's leading biologists, found evidence of shocking deficiencies in the precautions taken by the U.S. military authorities to protect the civilian populations from needless attack under the Army's Crop Destruction Program. About five hundred thousand acres of arable land have been sprayed, good cultivable land, have been sprayed according to the Army's figures, the actual figures probably much more. This amounts to enough food, Maiselson and his group calculated, on the basis of that many acres having been destroyed, to feed six hundred thousand persons for one year was destroyed. This is concrete proof that the main purpose of this was not to deny food to NLF soldiers but to deny it to civilian populations in areas that we did not control. Most of this spraying has been in the food-scarce central highlands which is principally inhabited by Montagnards. This AAAS team this summer was flown over an area in Guang Ngai Province. (I'll show you one of the slides that they have lent me) where crop destruction operations had been conducted only a few days previously. They were accompanied by the chemical operations officer, a colonel, who had planned the operation, and he assured them that the fields destroyed were growing food for the NLF. The reasons given for his assessment were found by this official team to be all false. Although the officer said there were no dwellings below and none could be seen from the air, aerial photographs taken by the AAAS and a map in 1965 indicated more than nine hundred dwellings in the area suggesting that that target area had housed about, or was inhabited by, some five thousand, mostly civilian people. The boundaries of the fields seen in the photographs compared with ones in 1965 indicated no major crop expansion. The AAAS team concluded the land cultivation was just about enough to support people apparently living there. They said, "Our observations lead us to believe that precautions to avoid destroying crops of indigenous civilian populations have been a failure. Nearly all the food destroyed would actually have been consumed by such populations." Now I want to ask the question, "Does the use of these anti-plant chemicals violate the terms of the Geneva Protocol of 1925?"

This, as you know, outlaws chemical and biological warfare. The Nixon administration maintains that the use of anti-plant chemicals does not. However, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution last year making clear that those countries that voted for it viewed the Geneva Protocol as prohibiting herbicides in war. The resolution declares that any chemical agents of warfare which might be employed because of their direct toxic effects on animals, man or plants, is prohibited by the generally recognized rule of international law. The vote was 80 to 3 to ban anti-plant chemicals. Only Australia and Portugal joined the United States in opposing this resolution. Crop destruction involves violating more than the Geneva Protocol of 1925. It involves violation of two other rules of international law. They are both embodied in treaties which the U.S. has ratified. As you know, we have not ratified the Geneva Protocol, so we are not theoretically violating a law there. The first rule is from a 1907 Hague Convention. It prohibits employing poisons or poisonous weapons in war. The U.S. Official Army Field Manual on the law of warfare, which we've just heard referred to, clearly implies that this 1907 rule bans the use of defoliants to kill crops intended to feed civilian non-combatants, whether enemy or not. One of the crimes against humanity of which the German leader Goering was convicted was the denial of food, the removal of food, from occupied territory to supply German needs, and if this resulted in starvation, this was one of the crimes with which he was charged. The U.S. also supported the prosecution of Japanese military officials for the destruction of crop-growing lands in China. In 1949, the Geneva Convention, relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war, forbids occupying powers from destroying enemy farm lands except in the event of absolute military necessities. So we have the Hague Convention and the 1949 Geneva Convention which specifically ruled out poisoning food for civilians. According to Professor George Bun, who spoke three weeks ago at the AAAS convention in Chicago, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin and formerly General Consul of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, he concluded that American spraying of Vietnamese civilian food crops with herbicides is totally inconsistent with the rules of international law. In addition to spraying anti-plant chemicals in Vietnam, the U.S. has sprayed the neutral kingdom of Cambodia in April and May of '69, exactly one year before Nixon openly invaded the country.

As I said, I had the honor with Dr. Westing of Windham College in Putney, Vermont, to be the guests of the Royal Government who took us on a ten-day tour all through the defoliated areas. I'll show you some photographs. About 180,000 acres of Eastern Cambodia, what is called Fishhook, was sprayed by an agency of the United States government, the name of which we cannot find. The U.S. government is negotiating to pay something like twelve million dollars damage for this violation of Cambodian neutrality, but when one asks (I've asked Senator Mansfield, Senator McIntyre of the Armed Services Committee), they cannot find what agency of the government mounted this massive attack. It's a rather bizarre phenomenon that the files got lost or something. As a result of this attack, which most Americans probably don't know even happened, one-third of the rubber trees in production in Cambodia were damaged and it has very severely knocked out Cambodia's principal source of foreign exchange--rubber. In the area actually hit, rubber production fell 35% to 45%. Damages to crops other than rubber were estimated by the Cambodian government to be approximately 1.2 million dollars. The area that was hit was inhabited by about 30,000 people and their crops of pineapple, guava, jackfruit, and papaya were simply destroyed. Approximately 45,000 jackfruit trees were killed, and I think you know that the jackfruit tree is one of the principal sources of food for the peasants of Indochina. Now, in addition to anti-plant chemicals, we are, of course, using anti-personnel gases. The only ones that I know much about are CS, DM, and CN. CS is a fast-acting tear-gas. As you know, we have CS2 now which is very persistent. It is spread as small silicanized pellets and will last for many, many weeks. DM is a vomiting agent. CS and CN are so-called tear-gases. The U.S. has maintained that since these agents are in routine civilian use that they're just anti-personnel weapons. They do not constitute gas war. They are not lethal. However, I want to categorically state that there is conclusive proof that adamsite DM gas has killed people, civilians, and I want to read the letter. In 1967 I received a letter from Dr. Algy Vetama, the medical director of the Canadian Aid Mission to Vietnam. And he directed the TB hospital at Quang Ngai. Dr. Vetama wrote me as follows:

During the last three years I have examined and treated a number of patients, men, women, and children, who have been exposed to a type of war gas, the name of which I do not know. The type of gas used makes one quite sick when one touches the patient or inhales the breath from their lungs. The patient usually gives a history of having been hiding in a cave or tunnel or bunker, into which a canister of gas was thrown in order to force them to leave their hiding place. These patients that have come to my attention were very ill with signs and symptoms of gas poisoning similar to those that I have seen in veterans from the First World War treated at Queen Mary Hospital in Montreal. The mortality rate of adults is about 10%, while the mortality rate in children is about 90%.

This is from a respected member of the Canadian medical profession whom I have met and he has attested to the veracity of this letter. It seems clear to me that in using herbicides and anti-personnel gases, the U.S. is violating several international rules of law, some of which have been ratified by the U.S. government. I want to conclude by briefly mentioning another very serious violation concerning conventional weapons, the results of which I personally witnessed and photographed in Cambodia. This was about 200 miles north of where the defoliation occurred. It was an attack upon a Cambodian anti-aircraft position in late November 1969 in which 25 Cambodian soldiers were killed by 500-lb. bombs by F-100 fighter planes. It is the post at Dak Dahm, which is right across from the Special Forces camp at Bu Prang. I don't know if you people know where that is, up in the central highlands. Now, the reason for the attack was that the Cambodians had defended their air space by shooting an American observation plane, shooting it down, that had been flying over them. In response, the United States Air Force attacked this position, killed these Cambodian soldiers and attacked a hospital. I'll show you the destroyed, well-marked hospital; and they also attacked an ambulance. The United States government, on February 20th, 1970, issued a statement in which it apologized for this. The U.S. government expressed its profound regrets and condolences and requested the Royal Cambodian government to facilitate the payment of the equivalent of $400 to the next of kin of each twenty-five persons killed. I don't know how you assess the life of a Cambodian at $400 per person. I'm quoting the State Department now. "In addition, the U.S. expresses its special regret and apologies for the attack upon an ambulance, the character of which the pilots concerned inadvertently failed to distinguish." I saw photographs of this ambulance; it was a white vehicle, well marked with a red cross.

This incident was investigated by the International Control Commission. I talked with the Indian, the chief of that commission; he verified what the Cambodians told us and what we saw. This was sold in the United States as an attack upon a North Vietnamese Army artillery position inside Cambodia. This was the justification given for this attack. This was a complete lie. I can verify this. The only places that were attacked were well-marked Cambodian installations. There were no North Vietnamese anywhere in the area. I'd like to conclude this short presentation; then we'll switch to the pictures. It should be recalled that President Nixon, in his May 1st speech announcing the invasion of Cambodia, stated that the U.S. had always scrupulously respected the neutrality of Cambodia, and it was the North Vietnamese who were violating the territorial integrity of that kingdom. The attack upon Dak Dahm, with the destruction and killing of twenty-five Cambodian soldiers and the defoliation attack that I just described and that I will show you pictures of, show, I think, how far from the truth the President of the United States can stray. Could somebody get the lights and we'll run through these pictures, so you can see I wasn't making these things up. This is just a slide of types of chemicals, just to show I really am a scientist. I can go into... dicholorphenoxyaceticacid, that is.

(Next Slide) Now the next slide simply shows how it's escalated and only takes it up to about '68. I want to say that my friend, Art Westing, who just came back, has calculated that about 12% of the total land surface has been sprayed with these chemicals, something like 50% of the hardwood forests of Vietnam have been hit, a very high percentage of them having been killed, the merchandizable timber. This is not a Tarzan-type useless jungle. The timber industry is a very important part of the economy of Vietnam.

(Next Slide) Now this slide shows the way in which the spraying has been done. These are C-123 aircraft. They carry 1,000 gallons in their fuselage of the defoliant. The raid that we went on was a heavy suppression mission. We were accompanied by F-100 fighter bombers dropping CBUs because we have to get down just above treetops and fly quite slowly about 130 knots and then this is applied at a rate of about 27 pounds per acre. The maximum in my home state is two pounds per acre, so you can see there's quite a difference in the amount of stuff we put out over there. (Next Slide) These are some slides given to me by Dave Braum.

It shows you again C-123s. Now the interesting things are the Vietnamese markings on this one, but I'm told by Dave that this is flown by American pilots with Vietnamese markings on the aircraft so the U.S. government can say, of course, that this is the Vietnamese doing it, not us.

(Next Slide) Here's another shot. If you focus that, I think that they have pipes with nozzles. I think there's something like sixteen nozzles coming out the wings and tail and they lay down a very wide swath of this chemical. It comes out as an aerosol, and it falls on the roofs of houses if they're down below and this is what's pertinent here. I took this on the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. This is a typical situation in a village. The people during the monsoon collect their drinking water off rooftops. This pipe runs into a great big earthen cistern. You see, they sell them (the cisterns) in the marketplace. They're huge; they hold, oh, forty, fifty gallons, I guess, and we have calculated that, at the rate of application a spray plane dumped this Agent Orange on the roof of that house during the rainy season, enough stuff could wash into the drinking water of a pregnant woman so that if she's as sensitive as rats, she'd get enough dose to make a malformed offspring. Now, keep in mind that thalidomide, which also does this (what I'm saying is this Agent Orange is a thalidomide type agent), if it's like thalidomide, women are much more sensitive to it, in terms of malformations, than the rats were, but we don't know but what this isn't true of this Agent Orange.

(Next Slide) That's why it's been banned. It's no longer in use. This is what it does to chicks. We'll just run through these in a hurry. I was given samples of all three agents, Agent Orange, White and Blue, that we use over there, by the chemical operations at Tan-Son-Hut Air Base. I had them tested for toxicity by a (look at these malformed limbs on these chicks) U.S. Food and Drug Administration doctor, Dr. Jacqueline Veret. She found all of the agents that we use over there highly toxic to chick embryos in her preparations. Keep in mind that we're dumping tons and tons of this on these people.

(Next Slide) We now know that all of them are toxic. Now here's the way it looks when you fly over a sprayed area in the Saigon River Delta. This is down near Vung Tau and you can see a swath of gray.

(Next Slide) This is a healthy mangrove swamp. The reason that we sprayed in here was the freighters coming up from the South China Sea to supply Saigon have to go through these narrow channels and the military felt that it would prevent ambush if we defoliated the area, so just hundreds of square miles have been killed.

The next picture shows you what it looks like. We went sixty-five miles on PBRs down through there and these mangroves are killed. They're not sure whether they'll ever come back. Westing, who's a forester, the second time he was in there, couldn't see any sign of regeneration. These things were sprayed maybe eight years ago. There's nothing green at all. No birds, no nothing.

(Next Slide) Here's a close-up that Art Westing took. This is what you call a free fire zone and we went down on a BBR with our flak jackets and all. He made a landing here and took these pictures and took soil samples in August of this summer (1970). Now, I want to say a word or two about this because the same PBR that took the AAAS scientists down went down a week later and at the precise point where this picture was taken, where the Americans had made a landing, the NLF had brought up a forty-millimeter rocket and wiped out that PBR one week after my friends got off. Now, there's a lesson here, because it proves that this defoliation did not prevent the ambush. The other side got in there even though it was defoliated and did the damage that the Army said it was preventing.

(Next Slide) There's a very serious erosion problem. I think those of you who have had some ecology, know that happens when you remove the top comver of a forest. Now, here's a hardwood forest. These are dead trees; these trees are probably 150 feet high. They're logostromia...We saw a lot of them in Cambodia. They're a very, very valuable source of timber. This is the sort of tree that I said 6.2 billion board feet have been killed, particularly up and around war zone C & D, Tay Ninh northwest.

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