Learn more about the Sixties Project.Recent additions to the Sixties Project site.Visit the Sixties Project Bookstore.Information about the SIXTIES-L discussion list.Information about the Sixties Generations conference.Explore the resources on the Sixties Project site.Reviews of books from and about the Sixties.Add your own story about the Sixties to our archive!Poetry from and about the Sixties.Our archive of primary documents from the Sixties.Special exhibitions on the Sixties Project site.A full map of the Sixties Project Web Site.Search the Sixties Project Site by keyword.
Texts made available by the Sixties Project, are generally copyrighted by the Author or by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., all rights reserved. These texts may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. These texts may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. A few of the texts we publish are in the public domain. For information on a specific text, contact Kalí Tal. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is dedicated to using electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.

Winter Soldier

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

Sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.

Part I

MODERATOR. All right, now, we're going to discuss with you the topic of racism, and we're going to try very hard to parallel different racisms with that in Vietnam. On my right is James Duffy from the 1st Air Cav. Division, Army. The first gentleman to my left is Scott Shimabukuro, and to his left is Evan Haney. As you know, Evan is Indian, Scott is Oriental, I am black, and James is white. Racism is really a kind of a heavy thing to get into. But then we've been really getting into heavy things tonight. So, let me start off by relating some things that happened in Vietnam that were outright racism. When I arrived in Vietnam during the first tour, which is back in 1968, I never, because I'm an Army brat, expected to find that the Oriental people would reject a black man for two reasons--for two main reasons. One, because he is of the minority group. We are not of the Anglo-Saxon heritage, and a lot of our plights are approximately the same, as far as living conditions, as far as the future, which holds nothing for the Vietnamese and holds nothing for blacks. But I was very shocked. It seems that the American government has established the class role in Vietnam also. They're not satisfied with starting it here with the upper class, the middle class, and the lower class, but they have to go out to Vietnam and do it too. The classes of which I'm speaking are the French Vietnamese, who are considered as the aristocratic Oriental. The straight-heritaged Vietnamese is the middle class, and of course, the Indian, better known as the Montagnard, is the lower class. Now to bring something really home, you go out and you look for a girl to shack up with, and you figure, if you're going to pay the money, who cares. But you run into the whole thing. A certain girl here will go with only white guys; a certain girl will go with only black brothers, and this girl will go with the American Orientals. But never, and I do mean never, would they ever go with their own men. If you can understand the parallel that I'm trying to draw, this is direct racism, and it's discrimination, however you want to put it. It not only took place in Vietnam, but in Bangkok, Thailand. It's supposed to be a haven for R & R, and the racism that exists there is very blunt; like it smacks you in the face like a brick wall. But let's get on to other people so you can understand what's really happening. Scott?

SHIMABUKURO. All of you have been here most of the day listening to how the Americans treat the Asian people, which are the South Vietnamese in this instance. I don't want to go into the rhetoric of Vietnam essentially because it goes deeper than that. It goes into American society, which is all of you people out here. You see, the military doesn't propagate, necessarily, the racism. The racism starts right back here in the United States and it is magnified when you enter the service. It has a great effect on the Asian community in the United States. It's obvious that military men have the attitude that a gook is a gook, and in the United States, before men go into the military, there's a great deal of this racism directed toward the Asians in the United States. But some men manage to make it into the service with an indifferent attitude. But once they get into the military, they go through this brainwashing about the Asian people being subhuman--all the Asian people--I don't just mean the South Vietnamese. All Asian people. I want to relate this as a personal experience that I encountered with I was in the service. Before I went into the Marine Corps, I grew up in an all-white and Chicano neighborhood and I encountered a moderate amount of racism; it didn't bother me much. When I went into the Marine Corps, I thought was going to serve my country and be brave, a Marine and a good American. As I stepped off the bus at UCMD, San Diego, the first words that greeted me were, the DI came up to me and said, "Oh, we have a gook here today in our platoon." This kind of blew my mind because I thought I was a pretty cool guy myself. But, ever since then, all the during boot camp, I was used as an example of a gook. You go to a class, and they say you'll be fighting the VC or the NVA. But then the person who is giving the class will see me and he'll say, "He looks just like that, right there." Which goes to show that the service draws no lines, you know, in their racism. It's not just against South Vietnamese or the North Vietnamese. It's against the Asian, as a people, all over the world. This is proved anywhere the Americans have gone in Asia. There's been a great deal of friction between the people--the Asian people and the military as an establishment. They have subjugated the people, under this guise of the people being less than human. This causes a great deal of problems for all Asians, all over the world, not just in Vietnam on in the United States. The problems that cause this blatant racism, when they come out of the service, is this attitude they have toward Asians which they carry over to all Asian people wherever they go. Therefore, this creates a great problem within the Asian community.

There was an incident in Georgia two or three months ago. It was in all the newspapers. Two visitors from Japan were beat up because they were believed to be gooks. Well, they were. But they were thought to be Vietnamese, and they were put in a hospital. Last summer a personal friend, whom I work with in Los Angeles, was traveling through Ohio, hitchhiking with a friend. They were taken as Vietnamese and they were badly beaten up. They stumbled into the police station and were laughed at. They went back on the street and somebody gave them a ride to some town away from where they were beat up. They were in the hospital for six months. This type of thing creates a great amount of animosity, not only in the Asian community, but in the black and Chicano communities because they can relate to this type of racism that exists in our society. In Vietnam the people will tell Americans when they see them, the white GIs, "All you guys are really cool, you know, we really think you're great." But I had many chances to come in contact, close contact, with the Vietnamese on person-to-person level and they did not think very much of the white Americans. They don't think much of Americans at all. But an incident of racism is the aspect of racism against Asian women, in particular. They are only a sexual object. You hear about how the girl can really, you know, do a good thing over in Japan or in Okinawa, or Korea, or Thailand. Wherever they go on R & R, they go to these countries where they're all Asians. This causes a great amount of distress among Asian women, because they are thought of as objects. An instance of racism that I encountered was when, in Vietnam, I desired to marry a Vietnamese citizen, a National. She said it would be no problem on her part, but that I would have to find out what I would have to go through to gain permission to marry her. There's a chain of command in the military when you start on your sergeant, the next step up above you. I went to my sergeant and told him what I wanted to do. He said I shouldn't marry this girl because she was a gook, which struck me as kind of funny because I was a gook also. But, besides this, he said, "She's not civilized, you know. You'll be so embarrassed with her when you get her to the United States that you'll want to get rid of her because she's a savage. She doesn't know how to live like a human." Well, you know, I just told the dude where to go and went to my gunnery sergeant; and I got the same from my gunnery sergeant, except he told me to come back in a week. I came back in a week and the same thing happened.

Finally when I got to my CO, he told me that there was a waiting period. And I said, "Well, how long is the waiting period?" He had my record book in front of him, and on it was my rotation date which was in approximately two months. Well, he set my waiting period for three months, so that by the time I got permission to marry this girl, I would be in Los Angeles. Now, it's instances like this that point out the insensitivity of the service as a system, which reflects their ideas of the society. Servicemen don't just have these ideas. They have to come from someplace. They come from the people in the society and they bring these ideas with them. These ideas come all the way from Agnew; he's very famous for some quotes that he's made. It's accepted all the way through American society that racism is a normal thing. A friend of mine went to boot camp, and the DI told him he wanted to see his wallet. He took out the wallet and he found pictures of these Japanese girls. He kept four of them; I guess he thought they were the best-looking four. He saw the picture of my friend's sister and he asked my friend, "What's your sister's name?" He gave the name and the DI says, "Oh, well, I had a whore in Japan with the same name. Is that her?" Now, it's things like this that cause a great deal of animosity. People wonder why some of the minority groups get loud. I'm surprised that the minority groups just don't go wild. It's things like this that people have to live with, all the minority people in the United States have had to live with since they're born. In particular the Japanese community has a problem with this because the Nisei, which is a second-generation who went through the war camp experience, tell us, "Well, don't worry about it. There's no racism. You know, we've worked hard; we're middle class now. We served in the 442nd Army Battalion; they were the most decorated. So we won the right to be Americans." Well, my father was in this unit, and he told me the same thing. He said, "You're an American now. I fought for you to be an American. All these Japanese men fought for you to be an American, so there's not that much racism." Like I said before, as I stepped off the bus, I was a gook, not an American. So this causes a great deal of problems.

HANEY. I would like to say that I was born in Oklahoma, and I went to school there all my life. While I was going to school I was taught the white man's ways, how he thought. I'm an Indian, but I'm not really an Indian right now. Back in World War II, the Indians were known as great fighters, and even to this day, all the Indians in Oklahoma either join the Marines, the Army, or Airborne because they have to be a man; and that's the position I was in. I went over to Vietnam and when I got there I didn't know what I was doing there, but I was there. I went tripping around the streets and I see my brothers there. I didn't know what was happening; it took me a long time to realize. But the thing that I finally realized was that the thing that is happening in Vietnam now is not new. Approximately a century ago it was General Sheridan, I believe, who said that the more you kill this year the less you'll have to kill next year. He wanted to find a person to do this, and the person he got was Custer. Custer went out into the countryside. It was during the winter when the people were holed up in the tents and wigwams. He may not have known it, but he was on a search and destroy mission. And he may not have known of body counts, but if he'd heard it, he'd have known what it was. That happened many years ago and it's still happening today, and I can see it; and a lot of the other people see it. I don't really have an explanation for this, why it's happened, but I do have an idea. It started in 1492 when Columbus was on his way to the West Indies for gold, silks, wealth, power. He just ran into the Americas, and it took him hundreds of years to pass through America. Now he's passed through America and he's going to Vietnam. That's where they are now. And they're still doing the same thing. I don't know how you people feel, but I was reading a story the other day about this rich landowner. He has a lot of land and this one poor man comes up because he doesn't have a place to live. He's gonna live on this land. The rich landowner comes up to him with a gun and he says, "Get off, you're trespassing on my land." This guy says, "Well, where'd you get it?" He said, "Well, I got it from my father." "Where did your father get it?" He said, "I got it from my grandfather, and he got it from his grandfather." The poor guy says, "How did he get it?" The reply was, "He fought for it." This other poor dude said, "Well, I'll just fight you for it right now." And that's where I'm at, man.

AUDIENCE. Right on.

HANEY. By the way, right now I live on Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay.

HUNTER. The next speaker is James Duffy.

DUFFY. I'm going to try and deal with white racism from maybe a little different point of view. When they were building this country, some folks got the idea that they would get all hung up on patriotism to the flag and not to the people. Because this country's predominantly made up of white people, white people started getting the idea that non-white people were the minority. You see that every day in the press. But if you get down to nitty-gritty, and start getting your mind out of the concept of America, and dealing with people all around the world, whites are the minority. Now in this country, the white people move on some kind of fantasy that if you don't look like them and act like them, there's got to be something wrong with you. This fantasy stems from the concept of them being the majority and, therefore, everybody should fall into place and follow them.

I'm of the opinion that racism, white racism, is a form of sexual deviation. The white people in this country are the only people I know of who are uptight about the most beautiful things in life--the human body and how people relate. They've lost track of reality; and by losing this track, they've violated the laws of nature, which has perverted our minds. We've been forced to seek some other form of release for this natural drive. Probably the easiest way to go about that is to build up your own ego and go on this super-ego trip which is called White Power play. You find that non-white people on this planet the most humane people on this planet Earth. I never hear about you know, people from Africa running over to America to rip off Rockefeller's oil wells. I don't hear about people from Asia running over to America to rip off Fort Knox. It's just that this sexual deviation--this not being able to deal with the reality that we're human beings--has manifested itself into this ego trip, where these white people have got to go out and prove themselves. And the way they do that is through oppression of other peoples. They've developed this sense of--what the _____ is the word--it's greed, man. It's greed.

It's a fantastic desire for material wealth, which you don't find in countries that are made up of non-white people, that haven't been subjected to white people that we haven't had a chance to pervert as yet. I think once you start to understand the concept of a world of people, and not just a United States, you start to look around the world and see what's going down. If the white people of America would start looking at reality from a different perspective, they'd find out that they are the minority and the way they've been living is perverted.

If they can start to deal with their humaneness--their humaneness--they'll be able to deal with all their sisters' and brothers' humaneness no matter what they look like. If we can move on that logic, we can advance to a point where there won't be any more racism. Racism is a manifestation of the white man's mind by dividing people, just like he's divided this country from the rest of the world. We've got to first start dealing with our own humaneness and that's something we haven't been about for the past three hundred years--the humaneness--other than personal profit and greed.

HUNTER. You know, it's just one big power play and that's what Vietnam is, a power play. That's what it is in Cambodia, a power play. That's what it is right here, the racist issue right here in our own backyards, a power play. The whole thing is that money means more to man than the human body does or than his brother does. And like man, you know, nature's the most beautiful thing we have. You don't have to pay for it; you don't have to run out and plant the trees just to get it, because they'll grow. You know, they were here long before we came about. But they're going now. They're almost gone. And why? Because man is sick. He wants this thing called power, and this thing called power means money. In order to get money and power, you must step on people, and you must forget that you're human. And one of the main reasons, and the only reason, to have power is to be over someone else. The absolute power is what? It is to be over all. For me to have absolute power would mean that I would be absolute over all. That is racism. That's a form of racism. That's the form of racism that we're taking on right now in the United States. That's the form of racism we're interjecting in Vietnam and all the Asiatic states. That's the racism that's been inflicted on the blacks, the Indians, the minority whites, Spanish-speaking people. I don't know if we're getting it across to you about how this is affecting us in Vietnam, but let me say this. You know, when you have minority groups here and you kick them in the _____, I'm going to be very blunt with you now--you send them over to Vietnam, after you've been kicking them in the _____ all this time, you expect him to fight your war, right? Well, let's say the Man expects them to fight the war. And he goes on over there, he fights this _____ up war, and he gets kicked right smack-dab in the _____. Right while he's over there fighting the war. Then the Man turns up. And the guy says, "Well, look, I'm not going to get kicked in the _____ anymore. You leave me the hell alone."

And what happens? He's not left alone. He's thrown in the stockade because he's creating racial disorder. And what you heard about in LBJ (U.S. Army Stockade in Long Binh, Vietnam), let me tell you something. A third of the people that were in LBJ were blacks and

Continue Reading Testimony

Updated Thursday, January 28, 1999

This site designed by New Word Order.