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Testimony given in Detroit, Michigan, on January 31, 1971, February 1 and 2, 1971
MODERATOR. This panel is comprised of various units from Vietnam which is why it's called a Miscellaneous Panel. Each vet will introduce himself, tell what unit he was in, what years he served in Vietnam, in some cases months, and briefly summarize what he will give testimony on. After the testimony we will talk very briefly about why these things happened and about the changes that occurred in them between the time they went and came back. So, we'll start at this end and work on down.
MCCUSKER. My name is Michael McCusker and I'm from Portland, Oregon. I was in the 1st Marine Division, in I Corps, in 1966 and 1967. I was discharged on 19 October 1967 as a Sergeant E-5. This ragged piece of paper here is a Xeroxed copy of my discharge papers. I was in the 1st Marine Division with the Informational Services Office which meant that I was an infantry reporter-photographer. I spent all of my time out in the field with the infantry on infantry operations. I went out with damned near every Marine outfit in all of I Corps from 1st Marine Division and 3rd Marine Division units. And so, these things in the field, the torturing of prisoners, the use of scout dogs in this torture, the Bell Telephone hour as has been described with the field phones, by seeing all of these units, I discovered that no one unit was any worse than another. That this was standard procedure. That it was almost like watching the same film strip continually, time after time after time. Within every unit there was the same prejudice; there was the same bigotry toward Vietnamese. All Vietnamese. There will be a panel tomorrow on the press censorship that a military reporter goes through. At this time I'm not going to speak much of that because we're going into detail in tomorrow's panel. Today I just want to mention a few atrocities of a larger scale that I saw. All three of them were ironically with the same battalion, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. All three atrocities happened in the month of September and October 1966.
Now the first one took place around September 6th or 7th 1966 about ten miles northwest of the Province capital of Tam Ky near the mountains. It was in a pineapple forest and a Marine had just been killed. He had been hit by a sniper and the entire battalion, in revenge, destroyed two entire villages, wiping out everything living, the people (and that was men, women, their children), all their livestock, burning the huts, destroying the paddies, their gardens, their hedgerows, just wiped them out--erased them. They did not exist the moment after the Marines were finished and they might never have existed. The next instance happened also in the same month of September when a squad of nine men, that was a Chu Lai rifle squad, went into this village. They were supposed to go after what they called a Viet Cong whore. They went into the village and instead of capturing her, they raped her--every man raped her. As a matter of fact, one man said to me later that it was the first time he had ever made love to a woman with his boots on. The man who led the platoon, or the squad, was actually a private. The squad leader was a sergeant but he was a useless person and he let the private take over his squad. Later he said he took no part in the raid. It was against his morals. So instead of telling his squad not to do it, because they wouldn't listen to him anyway, the sergeant went into another side of the village and just sat and stared bleakly at the ground, feeling sorry for himself. But at any rate, they raped the girl, and then, the last man to make love to her, shot her in the head. They then rounded up ten villagers, put 'em in a hut (I don't know how they killed them--grenaded them or shot 'em down), and burned the hut. They came back to the company area where it was bivouacked for the night while on a regular routine search and destroy mission. I personally came into contact with this when the squad came back, told their CO, who was a lieutenant, and they hastily set back off again towards that village with the lieutenant. I sort of tagged along in the rear and when I got up there they were distributing these bodies that were charred and burned and I asked what these bodies were. They said, "Oh, we were hit by an ambush. These were the people who ambushed, but we got 'em." Okay, I didn't want to ask them how they killed them because all the bodies were burned as if they'd been roasted on a spit. There was a tiny little form, that of a child, lying out in the field with straw over its face. It had been clubbed to death.
As later was brought out, the Marine that clubbed the child to death didn't really want to look at the child's face so he put straw over it before he clubbed it. The woman survived, somehow, and crawled to a neighbor; the neighbor ran off to the ARVN commanders. The commanders were rather angry, put pressure on the Marine Corps and these men were tried. However, they got very light sentences--a little slap on the wrist. I don't know exactly how much time they got nor do I know how much time they actually served, but they're on the streets again because I ran into one about two years ago in New York. The third atrocity was a village called Pho Duc which was farther northwest of Tam Ky, across the first range of mountains into several valleys. This area was not touched for two years until the Army started taking up operations in that area. Jonathan Shell wrote a very very graphic two-part story for the New Yorker concerning that area, mentioning that nobody had been in there for two years after the Marines had passed through. Nobody had to. There wasn't really much left after we went through. In this one particular village of Pho Duc another man was killed by a sniper. He was a lifer by the name of _____ and I really don't know whether a sniper blew him away or not because _____ was not one of the most popular men in the company. This involved Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and I believe it was the 1st Platoon with the Company Commander along. Well, the CO pulled us back. We were sweeping across the party when _____ got hit. He pulled us back and called in for nape, which is napalm, or which the military now likes to refer to as incendiary gel as if it were as harmless as Jello, an after-dinner dessert. But it was napalm. We walked into the ville after the fires burned down and there was an old man lying on a cot, burned to death with his hands stiff in rigor mortis, reaching for the sky as if in prayer or supplication forgiving us for what we had done. We walked past him and across the hedge row there was an old woman lying dead curled into the fetal position as if she had been just born. An old man lay beside her. Over the next hedge row there were thirty dead children. They had been lying out there in this courtyard for us to see them before we got into that village. They were laid out there by survivors who split into the jungle. Now these kids, thirty of them, none were over fifteen; some of them were babies. Some looked like they had just been sunburned, that was all. Their skins were a very ruddy, ruddy pink or scarlet color. Others were just charred with their guts hanging out.
Ironically it was my mother's birthday, 27 October, and I somehow seemed to feel that there were her children. An officer, a captain, walked up to me and said, "Well, Sgt. McCusker,"--remember I was the reporter--"do you see what the Viet Cong did to their own people?" And I said, "Captain, I saw our planes drop the napalm." He says, "Well, Sgt. McCusker, you had better write that the Viet Cong did it." I told the captain politely what I thought he should do to himself and I walked off. Now these things happened. Now these were some of the more gruesome things that happened, or more gruesome because of the numbers. But daily things like this happened, a kid shot down in the paddy because, well, it looked like an adult running away. I couldn't see, so we walk up to him, and it's a kid. The philosophy was that anybody running must be a Viet Cong; he must have something to hide or else he would stick around for the Americans, not taking into consideration that he was running from the Americans because they were continually shooting at him. So they shot down anybody who was running. I was in a helicopter once and I saw this farmer in a cart. Suddenly the farmer in the cart just blew into all sorts of pieces and the helicopter I was in was shaking like the devil. It wasn't hard to put it together because I watched the gunner finish off the rounds. He had extra ammo. The tortures started in the villages. Prisoners were picked up by the average infantrymen who really didn't have much idea of exactly what intelligence was needed. So, therefore, you're all prisoners. We'll let interrogators take care of it. The method of taking prisoners was that you take the villagers that were left in the village, not those that had run away. You tied them to a tree and get the dog handler to let the dog jump and bite at the person tied to the tree. Or again, with the field telephone, you wired it up to his ears, his nose, his genitals. This was done to women; I've seen it done to women. In Ben Song, which was the province capital, in a prison, this guy was telling me all about why war was hell. He took me down to this dungeon where South Vietnamese troops were pulling fingernails out of an old woman. There was an American captain standing by, rocking on his heels, rather enjoying the show. I could testify to the systematic destruction of village hospitals, by mortars, by air, by artillery, believing that if those hospitals were destroyed the Viet Cong could not use them for their wounded. I was also on an operation in the Rung Sat area just north of Saigon which is just mud flats, like the Mississippi delta at high water.
It was in April 1966 with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines again. They were a battalion landing team at that time. We came across a big NLF hospital complex and destroyed it out of hand. Now interestingly enough, in Portland, Oregon, where I was a medic in the student strike, we had an unauthorized hospital tent in what was called the park blocks out in front of the college. The city decided to destroy it because it was an unauthorized hospital. We did have patients in it, but these were unauthorized people too. They were long hairs. So the cops came in, the tactical squad with their sticks. They bloodied up about thirty of us pretty badly and did a lot more damage to perhaps fifty more. So not only in Vietnam do Americans destroy hospitals. It was graphically pointed out to the people in Portland that they were destroyed too by police power, except of course, the hospital was not officially authorized. nor are Vietnamese hospitals in the villages. Dr. Margarette, who was in Quang Ngai, can testify to the condition of the provincial hospital in Quang Ngai, the Vietnamese hospital for the province. That hospital is so overcrowded that they can't get anything done. People are dying in those wards; they just shove them off the beds and put somebody else on them. One of the reasons that that hospital is so crowded is because all the little hospitals within the villages were all destroyed. Quang Ngai, in that province of Quang Ngai, an entire war of attrition is being put across there. My Lai is in Quang Ngai; My Lai suffered that war of attrition. When Calley and his people went through there, it was not the first time anyone went through My Lai and put the torch to it, nor was it the last time. You can prove it by a Reuters dispatch of October 1969. They were doing it again, and in the villages of the whole Son My Province. The entire Quang Ngai area was slated for destruction. The Vietnamese were slated for relocation and forced urbanization, which is what is happening in this country as a matter of fact. So the methods don't differ. I guess, really, that's the end of my testimony, except right now, while I'm speaking, it's happening in all of Southeast Asia, some guys are going through what I did, what all of us did; they are going through it right now. The Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians are dying right now, at this exact moment, and they will continue to die tomorrow, maybe even next year. So remember that and maybe you're going to find one of these days an F-100 flying in napalm strike on a ghetto; you're going to find an F-100 flying a napalm strike on where the long hairs live. It's not too far off. They've used tear gas from helicopters already; they've used shotguns; they've blown away Black Panthers--it's not too far off.
COHEN. My name is David Cohen. I was with Coastal Division 11, USN over in Vietnam, stationed down in IV Corps in the Gulf of Siam, from November '66 to November '67. I left high school to enlist in the Navy. When I left the Navy, I was thoroughly disgusted with everything I'd seen and everything I was still seeing. I tripped around for a long time trying to figure out where I was at. And now what I'm doing is full time GI organizing, because I know, I'm convinced that one of the best ways to end this war is to get all the active duty GIs to say we are not going to fight your war any more. I can talk about the dehumanization of the Vietnamese. I can talk about the brutal treatment of the Vietnamese. But one thing that I saw, and that I participated in as government high-up promulgated policy, was the hiring of Cambodian and National Chinese mercenaries by Special Forces teams who operated in Cambodia, South Vietnam, other places. I only participated in operations in South Vietnam and Cambodia.
SCHORR. My name is Sam Schorr. I'm from Los Angeles. I was in the U.S. Army, 86th Combat Engineer Battalion in Vietnam from September 1966 to September 1967, in the area of Lai Khe, the Iron Triangle, the Mekong Delta around Dong Tam, Ben Luc, and Tan An. I was an E-4. That was the highest I ever got; they wouldn't promote me after that. I will testify to the destruction of crops and rice paddies, ripping off graves, random fire on civilians, recon by fire, indiscriminate firing in mad minutes, throwing people out of helicopters, throwing C-rations at kids along the side of the road, killing of water buffaloes, and last but not least, the whole major issue, the issue of fighting in this imperialistic war.
BUTTS. My name is Dennis Butts and I'm from Madison, Wisconsin. I was an infantryman with the 4th Division and the 9th Division in 1966 and 1967. My testimony will involve the killing of civilians, the playing of games with mortars--setting them so that they will burn down civilian homes, and also I will try to give my insight into why this happened.
HEIDTMAN. My name is Thomas Heidtman and I'm from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I served from October '66 to September '67; I served with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines all this time. I can attest to prisoners being shot. I've seen it; I've done it. Villages being burned was a common everyday thing in the "Burning 5th Marines." Prisoners were tortured. They were forced to carry other wounded prisoners on bamboo poles for up to seven hours. Women and children were brutalized. I've seen water buffaloes killed. Any time you have to dig a hole, you find a nice soft bean field. You destroy crops. Rice is contaminated with CS. For three months they were attempting to burn rice with illumination grenades, which never did work, but they kept on trying. Destroying villages was a common practice. On one occasion, a captain ordered the burning of a villa because we were staying in this area for a day and a half and it was "too close."
WILLIAMS. My name is Paul Williams of Fayetteville, Arkansas. I served from May of 1966 to June of 1967 in the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions. I was a Lance Corporal and I was a Forward Observer in the field. Among other things that I witnessed were POWs being beaten, the condition of children after air strikes had taken place in their villages, H & I (harassment and interdiction) fires, and most particularly the command that I received at Khe Sanh that after dark anything was a free fire zone for H & Is. Further, recon by fire, FSCC orders, at Khe Sanh, to do this on unidentified targets, and, in the northern part of Vietnam, the killing of unarmed individuals, destruction of houses, property, crops, the use of prisoners of war as pack animals, the use of CS grenades, the forced evacuation of villagers, and refugees being moved without prior notification, without time to pack their own personal belongings. In Operation Hickory, which was within the DMZ, we made an amphibious landing. We were given the order that anything north of the river there, which marked the demarcation line at that point, was to be considered a free fire zone.
DONNER. My name is Don Donner. I'm also from Fayetteville, Arkansas. I served with the 86th Engineers from approximately September '67 to July of '68. I'm going to testify about the refusal of medical attention to civilians wounded by Americans, the allowing of desecration of dead Vietnamese bodies by ARVNs, corroboration of the destruction of livestock, and many of the other things that have been mentioned.
GALBALLY. My name is Joe Galbally. I'm 23, I served as a Pfc. in the 198th Light Infantry Brigade from October of '67 to April of '68 when I was medivaced to Japan. My testimony will deal with the gassing of hungry children, the use of scout dogs on innocent civilians, indiscriminate leveling of villages, killing of livestock, and pollution of water supply. In other words, they made it totally impossible for these people to live in their ancestral homelands again.
MURPHY. My name is Ed Murphy. I'm 23, I was an E-4 rifleman in the 198th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, and I served in Vietnam from October '67 to September '68. I'm from Philadelphia.
HAGELIN. My name is Timon Hagelin. I'm from Philadelphia. I was in the Graves Registration Platoon attached to 233rd Field Service Company, 1st Logistic Division. I'll testify to the racism of human remains, the rape of women, the misconduct and child molesting of children, and just an all-around bad attitude of Americans towards Vietnamese and Vietnamese attitude towards Americans.
KOGUT. My name is Russel Kogut, I'm 22, I'm from Flint, Michigan. I was a Warrant Officer Helicopter Pilot with 155th Assault Helicopter Company in Ban Me Thuot. I will testify on illegal operations in Cambodia, on the destruction of livestock in free fire zones, burning of villages, forced evacuation of villages, and attitudes of Americans towards Vietnamese.
CALDWELL. My name is Dennis Caldwell, I'm 24 from Ypsilanti, Michigan. I was a Warrant Officer flying gunships from October '68 to October '69 in Vietnam. This was the Cobra Gunship Helicopter. I flew for the 3/17th Air Cav., which was not part of the 1st Air Cav. It was part of the 1st Aviation Brigade. I have testimony concerning the destruction of hootches, destruction of crops, destruction of animals, treatment of prisoners, and also, I have some comments on censorship which I witnessed.
PITKIN. My name is Steve Pitkin, age 20, from Baltimore. I served with the 9th Division from May of '69 until I was airvaced in July of '69. I'll testify about the beating of civilians and enemy personnel, destruction of villages, indiscriminate use of artillery, the general racism and the attitude of the American GI toward the Vietnamese. I will also talk about some of the problems of the GIs toward one another and the hassle with officers.
PUGSLEY. My name is Don Pugsley. I served as a Spec 4 as a Green Beret Medic in South Vietnam. I will testify about some of the little known organizations that worked within the Green Berets in South Vietnam. When I was in Vietnam I carried a Secret Classification and I had several close friends who had top-secret classifications. Also, I have a photograph that I was ordered not to take at Nha Trang. It's a picture of an aircraft that serves the specific units my testimony deals with. I also want to say a few words in the capacity of a medic regarding the most abused drug in South Vietnam, alcohol.
MODERATOR. Joe, you talked a lot about the use of dogs in interrogation, as well as the treatment which kids received and about rape. I wonder if you would elaborate on this.
GALBALLY. I'll talk about the rape first. As I said earlier, I was a Pfc. in an Infantry Company, which meant that there was about seventy-five of us turned loose on the civilian population in Vietnam. We would set up our night perimeter between three and four every evening. If we had passed any villages on the way to this night perimeter, there would be patrols mounted and sent out. On several occasions, one in particular, we sat upon a hill which was strategically important, I suppose. There was a village sitting at the bottom of the hill. We went back down to the village; it was about an eight man patrol. We entered a hootch. These people are aware of what American soldiers do to them so naturally they tried to hide the young girls. We found one hiding in a bomb shelter in sort of the basement of her house. She was taken out, raped by six or seven people in front of her family in front of us, and the villagers. This wasn't just one incident; this was just the first one I can remember. I know of 10 or 15 of such incidents at least. The gentleman on my left can corroborate my testimony because we were together the whole time; served in the same squad, the same company.
MURPHY. At the time most of this happened, our platoon leader was a minister. He's dead now so he can't really be found out and questioned. But when he got there, he was a pretty well high-character man because he was the minister. By the time he got killed he was condoning everything that was going on because it was a part of policy. Nobody told you that it's wrong. This hell changed him around. And he would condone rapes. Not that he would do them, but he would just turn his head to them because who was he in a mass military policy.
MODERATOR. Joe, you told me about a guy who collected ID cards. Do you want to talk about that?
GALBALLY. Okay. There was an individual, I won't mention his name, he was a friend of mine, a Spec 4, and he was, I guess you would say, the platoon hatchet man. Any time that he had a prisoner that nobody in the room wanted, this guy would take his ID card and tell him to "Di Di Mau" which is "run" in Vietnamese. The guy would get about ten feet, and get a full burst of automatic, which is 20 rounds, in the back. As I said I was medivaced in April of '68 and as of April I know that he had at least five or six ID cards also. He was, I guess, more or less proud of the fact that he was the hatchet man and was all the time showing everybody the ID cards. "Look where I got this guy and, how about this, and look at this." It was common knowledge what was going on. On certain occasions, if there was something that had to be done, the commanding officer would call up and ask for this guy by name over the battalion radio. I'm sure that somebody had to be monitoring this, you know, listening to it, but it was never stopped and no action was ever taken.
MODERATOR. Joe, you also said something to me about the dogs and wells.
GALBALLY. On occasions we were on the road. I don't know the name of the highway. As I said, I was a Pfc. and nobody ever told me much. It was between two LZs--LZ Baldy and LZ Ross. It was a fairly secure area. I don't think we ever received any fire. As I said, we were with a company of maybe 75 of us taking a break along the road. A Vietnamese civilian, wife and child, were riding down the road on a motorcycle, small motorcycle. Vietnamese were very ingenious and this guy had probably most of his possessions packed on the back of his motorcycle. We were sitting with this guy; I don't remember his name or rank. He had a scout dog with him. As the motorcycle was approaching us, he told the scout dog to get this guy. The dog jumped over the handlebars of the motorcycle, grabbed this guy off, had him by the leg and was really doing a job on the guy's leg. This caused the motorcycle to crash by the side of the road; the woman went one way, the baby went the other.
All the possessions were all over the place. When we got to the guy, the dog trainer took the dog away from the guy. We went through his pockets. He had an ID card and a pass. As it turned out, he worked at either LZ Ross or LZ Baldy and had a pass signed by some military personnel. His motorcycle was wrecked. His wife had to push it down the road. He followed, limping, because had blood pouring out of his leg, carrying most of his possessions and his young child. No action was ever taken against this guy. This was amusement, I suppose. There were at least 75 people watched this--four officers and I don't know how may E-7s and E-6s. Nothing was done.
MODERATOR. Timon Hagelin, you served with Graves Registration and I believe you have some observations on how Vietnamese are treated. In addition, I believe, you have some testimony about a young girl who was mistreated at Dak To.
HAGELIN. I was at Dak To at two different times. The first time was about a month after I got in the country. I came in country with the MOS of shoe repairman. And when I got to my field service unit they said that I had a choice of baking bread or picking up dead bodies. So I told them that I wanted to go to the field to see what was happening. They sent me up here. While I was on the base taking care of KIAs as they came through, I made friends with people in my company that I considered basically nice people. We used to get together at night and talk. I went down to a certain place where _____ or the Montagnards are just treated as animals. They know they're human beings but they really don't treat them that way. It's like they're a lesser thing; they're a lesser type human being. Anyway, it was a KIA from a straight force, a Mike force. That was Special Forces, you know. The Special Forces guy came in and he said, "I'll just put the body back on the runway because it's just a dead yard you know. Just leave him out there." This was the person that was supposedly helping these people out. And going out in the jungles with them was, "It's just a dead yard, you know; like forget about him." There was also an incident in Pleiku where the Special Forces E-5 from Pleiku did 'em a favor. He put a Montagnard body in one of our reefers turned on for American KIAs. When we had spare reefers that we didn't always use _____ refrigeration to keep the KIAs. The yard was in there for about five days. The guy that put him in there forgot that he was in there and the body was just laying inside this reefer for five days. That's like putting it in an oven. And finally, two of my friends were walking through the mortuary, and they smelled something. When they opened it up, the guy was really very _____ like, you know, he was really, after five days inside that thing. And the action taken against the E-5 that did it was Article 15--you know, they called him stupid.
MODERATOR. Why don't you explain to people what an Article 15 is.
HAGELIN. If the Army court-martialed everybody, they'd have court-martials all the time. So they made a lesser thing. A lesser way for them to burn you. If you do something wrong, they just take your money away from you. They took some of his money away from him for destroying a Montagnard body.