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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.

Part II

NAKAYAMO. I'm sure I don't have to go into detail about the racism and atrocities being committed against Asians, because you've been hearing that all week, or since Sunday. But the things that the brothers are relating have been happening in the United States since the Third World people have lived here. Now there's been a thing on relocation of Vietnamese from their homes to relocation camps. That strikes home pretty close, because my parents and grandparents, who were supposed to be American citizens, were relocated during the Second World War, and that just amplifies the racism that has been coming down in this country. And also, you know about the Indian brothers that this country belongs to. When Evan speaks, he can go into that, how they were robbed. But I want to go into the atrocities against the people here, because the people have been telling you how they treat the Asian brothers and sisters. Now they bring this home with them, and this has a great effect on the Asians here in the United States.

Just to bring this a little more personal, two personal friends of mine were hitch-hiking through Ohio and on the road a few of these people (I think they were people) got out of the thing and called them Vietnamese gooks and beat them so bad they were in the hospital for six months. Now things like this should also be investigated, because this is crimes that are committed here, too, against all people, working class and Third World people in the United States. And I feel some of the crimes here should be investigated in Washington because these are just as great in magnitude if not greater, because we are supposed to be free. I haven't felt free, because I guess I haven't been. Now you've heard of instances of genocide and murder in Vietnam.

I'd like to relate a few that have happened in the United States. Now you all know what happened in Chicago. The only black brother on the Chicago Eight was thrown in jail and they're going to try to keep that brother there. I said they're going to TRY to keep him there. Now this is just racism. Now this brother was trying to speak up for his rights and because he was black, he was treated worse than even the white radicals. Now there's got to be wrong there. You know they've been ripping off the Panthers all over the United States. For what? For their right to be free. That's just like the Vietnamese, they're fighting for their right to be free, so the military is oppressing all liberation struggles all over the world and here in the United States. Now this has to stop. We've been hearing about trying to get this war over, investigations and such into genocide. I'd like the people to get behind trying to end the genocide here and get behind some people like Angela Davis and free ourselves over here. I'd like to say Free Angela, and All Power to the People.

MODERATOR. I'd like to pose some questions to the panel. Anyone can answer them. I would like to know, were those black men who were considered troublemakers forced to the front before other men more qualified.

ROMO. If I can say one word before you go on, just one word about the Chicano, the Puerto Rican, the brown. If it's all right, thank you. The brown people, the Puerto Rican, the Chicano, suffer from a problem in America, not only of racism, but of a language and a cultural difference. The ghettoizing that goes on in his early life, his economic background of relegation to farm work, etc., puts him in position that when he goes in the service, the only thing the service feels he's qualified for is the front line and infantry duty. As a consequence, when he gets to the field, he cannot relate to his officers or NCOs. He can't understand the language and he can't understand the culture behind it. As I said before, the Chicano, the brown, the Puerto Rican, suffers statistically more casualties than any other minority and the white. I think this has to be brought out and it has to be stopped.

HANEY. My name is Evan Haney, and I would like to point out that if you took the Vietnamese war, of the American war, as it is, and compared it to the Indian wars a hundred years ago, it would be the same thing. All the massacres were the same. Nowadays they use chemical warfare; back then they put smallpox in the blankets and gave them to the Indians. You could just go right on down the line and name them out and they would be the same thing. One thing I would like to bring up about racism is that I have grown up with it all my life, and when I was small I was exposed to this, and I kept growing and learning. But it was so much that when I watched TV or something and watched the Indians and the cavalry, I would cheer for the cavalry. That's how bad it was. Right now a lot of Indian people are...they're not going back to the old ways, but they're thinking about the old ways. You can take any culture of these people up here on the panel, any culture of you out there, and if you look back into it deep, they had something good. Way back, they had it. And then people started getting into a money bag, and that's when it all happened. When we made treaties long ago, it was for as long as the grass shall grow and as long as the rivers shall flow. The way things are going now, one of these days the grass isn't going to grow...and the rivers aren't going to flow...

ROSE. I guess most of it's been said. All the brothers said real beautiful, all the Asian brothers, and my Indian brother here. I have been in the Marine Corps for ten years, ten long years in the Marine Corps. Went to Vietnam twice. When I looked around me in those ten years I found out who was really fighting this war, and all I've seen was Third World people and poor whites fighting this war. Most of the poor whites in the war were in the positions of power, more or less the sergeants and officers.

People can say, how Third World people go in the service and fight? All through the years we've been miseducated, all through high school, elementary school, and then we have one more choice left, and that's the military. To make this great big American splash, like in Hitler youth, we got to make our name in the sky. So we go into the service. My brother was there in 1965; he felt like it was his patriotic duty. I did the same thing in '65. "I'm going to wipe them all out, really do it, get my medals, really make it on the scene." Then you go out and they keep using words like Cong and slopehead and slanteyes. I said, "Hey, those are the same words they use in the States against me, against Third World people." They dehumanize these people so much that it's easy to go out and kill them or blow them away, because they are dehumanized, and it becomes in your mind, they become more dehuman to you. But as you go on, you've got to realize that this is foolish, you're killing our own brothers. So that out of ten years this is what I got out of it and it makes me very bitter. A lot I'd like to say, and I'm not going to say, because the rest is going to be practice. I have no more time to talk.

MODERATOR. I'd like to pose a number of questions to the panel and then we're going to open it up for discussion from the audience. I'd like to ask: Were the black soldiers, considered as troublemakers, ever forced to go to the field and qualified people were kept back?

LIGHT. They had their ways. Whitey would play this game. He'd have us ready to go in to the field before we even got over there. We were trained to go to the field back in the States so Whitey gets the typewriter, you get the rifle. That's the way it went down. You couldn't beat the game.

MODERATOR. I'd like to know, how did you think the Vietnamese looked upon you as people of color?

LLOYD. I had a few experiences, you know. I met quite a few Vietnamese, old women and children and to me they looked up to the black man--those that had been oriented properly-- looked up to the black man something like for help more or less. Most of the time we'd go in the village, we'd go in there with food or candy or clothes if we had it and the little kids were always around us and then some of them would come up and look for a tail and different things. When they run it down to you, they try to make you understand that you are part of them by being black in your blood line. We have the same blood that they have, something like, you know, it's just like about that. We related to them and why should we be fighting them and we're the same color? This is what it boils down to.

PANELIST. I'd like to speak to that just two seconds-- about how we feel. We went over in Vietnam the first time in 1965. Vietnamese people, because of the economic factor (and that most of the GIs over there, say more or less white, went into town and spent all the money)--the Vietnamese people in the towns looked at us more or less black people as down on because we were more or less discriminated against. White GIs discriminated against black GIs, who in the towns we had our own little section. We were outsiders, let's say. We were more or less discriminated against and when we went to buy something, they always would try to refuse it, or say what the brother said about our tails supposed to be growing, and always asking us if our tails were going to come out at 12 o'clock and all this kind of thing. And towards the end, the second time I went over in 1969, the most beautiful thing I ever seen when we was driving a truck come by a village and the Vietnamese people gave the power sign for black people. That was outasight.

AKERS. Something that's food for thought, when we went into Chu Lai, Vietnam, we did a lot of relocating Vietnamese villages after we had destroyed their original homes. Consequently, along with the homes we had destroyed their way of life. Their own crops were destroyed and, as you know, their religion calls for them not to eat cows or water buffalo or beef, for that matter, so consequently the animals that they depended upon for meat such as dogs and wild animals out in the forest were ran off by our constant bombing and heavy artillery fire. So consequently they became dependent upon the United States dollar to exist. We had changed their way of normal living. They were content to live the way they were, off the land, growing their rice and worshipping their God, and then when we come over there we destroyed their means of obtaining food.

We have destroyed their means of sustaining themselves whereas they had to figure out ways of getting money from us or getting food from us. It would get to the point where they would actually raid our garbage trucks, our dumps, and I don't believe no human being should have to stoop that low under any circumstances. This is the type of genocide that is brought down upon the Vietnamese people in Vietnam and what makes it so bad is the black man is given these details to dump garbage. So who is the Vietnamese looking at to get their garbage from? None other than the black man. That conscientious mind-psyching, psychological warfare thing is still ever so present in that regards.

MODERATOR. Okay, what we're going to do now, we're going to open up questions from the audience, so just raise your hand. The question was, were you ever forced into doing something that made you look bad in front of the Vietnamese people as a black man?

LIGHT. There were a number of these degrading things that they did. Like a number of blacks in the rear, they had jobs assigned to them like KP. And getting trash, etc., things like that there. And the viewpoint, you know, like from the eyes of the Vietnamese, like, this is the type of thing a degrading person would do. It was very few whites that had anything to do with this type of detail and like they're destroying our culture and the Vietnamese culture. Now the Vietnamese, like, this is the type of thing a ture at it was. Mostly they had black guards degrading person would do. It was very few whites that had anything to do with this to serve the rest of his time. More or less the black guys there were more harder than the white ones.

NAKAYAMO. I would like to add another point. What's happening in the stockades with the GIs is not only happening there, it's happening in the prisons in America also. And, if you know, that's where most of the revolutionaries come from.

AKERS. It was brought up before we came up here that there was quite a few of the veterans who wanted to say something about the way this is all run and the way things have been brought up and if there are any veterans out there that have something to say, raise your hand, or come up here, and say it, you know.

QUESTION. (Inaudible)

MODERATOR. Did you all hear the question? How does the USO serve the black GIs?

PANELIST. Like, the USO, they come over with a bunch of _____ like every other, out of every ten shows, you'll see one sister and chances are her background is not of being a Negro, you understand, like there's discrimination there too. What I'm trying to say, like, they supposed to be serving by coming over, you know, playing games with us, you know, and more or less, there's more or less a teasing factor to me 'cause they don't serve any purpose at all. Maybe one other brother can answer better than I can.

MODERATOR. Okay, this brother here.

STEPHENS. When all the USO shows came over, I was with the 101st, we stayed in the field. None of those shows ever came to us. The only time we saw it was in the papers and that's it. Don't know anything about it. I never even heard the USO overseas.


LLOYD. For one complete while I was in Vietnam I saw practically fifteen minutes on one USO show, and that happened to be a black group, the Dixie Cups, if anybody remembers, and that had to be a long time ago. But now, when we did come out of the field what did they have for us? Country and western. Yeah, country and western well, look, you, yeah, you can listen to any type of music but that is the only black show I know that has been in Vietnam while I was there and that was the Dixie Cups and we didn't get but fifteen minutes of that because we had to move out into the field. Now, if you want to see a good USO show, be in the rear echelon, go to Saigon, somewhere an infantry troop is not welcome until after they took over the embassy there. Then an infantry troop was welcome in Saigon. If the MPs would catch you in Saigon and find out that you was in the infantry, they would write you a DR.

MODERATOR. A ticket, a disciplinary report. Okay, I'll call on this gentleman...the question was, how does the black person feel after fighting in Vietnam, then returning to the States and the situation, racism, is still running rampant here.

BROOKS. Well, like, when I came back from Vietnam, we arrived in California; I expected a brass band or a parade or something when I got off the plane, but the first instructions were that when you flew, officers come off first, then the sergeants, then the lower sections, well, the minority really. I was surprised. I expected a parade, somebody putting a medal on me, you understand? But he told me, he said, "You're on a working party, to carry suitcases, you understand?" So this was my experience, after coming back from fighting a war, you understand, like this is the way they greet us with a working party.

LLOYD. In coming back, if you're a peon, as he put it, you're lucky to get back, because if it's an officer that has to come back and there's one man on the manifest (that's the shipping list) too many, now that officer because he wants to go home, he's going to knock one of those privates or peons off where he can come home but yet you don't want to come home bad as an officer.

QUESTION. Are you saying that if you being an enlisted man if it's your turn to go home and the officer is supposed to come home at the same time, and there's only one space that's left...

LLOYD. That's right. What they call it in the army is RHIP--rank has its privileges.

MODERATOR. Okay, thank you very much.

QUESTION. I think we're trying to find out what can the white community do to help the black man in the draft.

WILLIAMS. I think, you know, that draft counseling is a very big disappointment. I think one thing, we don't have the legal aid and another thing is information. This information has to be a concerted effort to get this information out to draftable young people, and this is one thing we as veterans are going to rap about while we're here in Detroit. How can we use the knowledge that we have about the military, about being drafted, to assist people in our community.

PERRY. I have a comment on that. Sometimes in the service, being drafted in the service, is preferable to a lot of black cats to standing out on the streets, 'cause it's pretty rough out here for them, you know. The service is sometimes the way out, like keep you out of jail, keep you from starving to death, but it's preferable to being on the streets at times.

QUESTION. Is there a religious conflict between the North Vietnamese who are mostly Buddhists, and the South Vietnamese who are...

SHIMABUKURO. Religious differences play no difference in the conflict, because they're all the same people. They don't care about the religion. They're not like people over here, you know, they don't fight over that petty stuff.

MODERATOR. The people in Vietnam are fighting for something very important to them and that's their liberation and unification, self-determination of their country. This comes first, so these differences haven't even come into effect because they haven't even been given a chance to get unified yet because we're still over there.

QUESTION. When I was in Vietnam, I

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