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 III

LLOYD. Yes. And about two days after that we found an Indian fellow. He was just wandering around in the jungle. He had been wounded. Evidently it wasn't too serious and he had slipped away. And he ran down to us what had happened. The way it was he don't know how the officers or anybody made out because he figured everybody else was killed too. But that same day these four individuals were transferred to another unit or out of country, which we didn't know. We just knew that they had left the unit that day. When we brought this prisoner back he was back in the fire support base approximately a half an hour. And then after the word got around that the officers had ran, they were gone. We don't know where they went. To this day I don't know. And one time I was on my way home. We were in An Khe and while waiting on our plane, the airstrip was overrun by NVAs. They came through the old An Khe village side. The only ones left back there to defend it was the finance personnel, the clerks, and the cooks, more or less administrative people. So they took all the infantry people that were going home, issued us weapons right quick.

They ran us on out to the airstrip. During this time we had worked our way across the airstrip, and after we got everything organized and we finally took back the airstrip, we started going on little search and destroy missions in old An Khe. We ran into a few NVA that came to us Chieu Hoi and right on the spot where we're taking them prisoner a lieutenant came up. He said, "There's a three-day pass for any body. If you can prove that you've killed an NVA you have a three-day pass to Vuc To." That's the in-country R & R center. And right there at that point I actually with my own eyes saw a first sergeant and a lieutenant fight over who (the prisoners were killed; they were taken and killed right there on the spot) over who killed them. They just started to fight right there. And there's been quite a few incidents like that that I could recall. I have helped in torturing prisoners. One time the village chief came and said that he wanted to take the bodies and put them on display in Sin City where most of the soldiers went for entertainment. So that the rest of the people in the village, Viet Cong, NVA, would see 'em and leave. But he couldn't do this due to the fact that the majority of the bodies that were there that day either had their pinky finger joint cut off or their ears cut off. And at one time (we thought it was showing courage and bravery, or whatever you want to call it) we wore ears. We'd take them and catch them while they were alive; take an ear. The Vietnamese people believe if they die without all of their bodies they won't go to heaven and we would do this to two or three of them to get information from the rest of them.

MODERATOR. Thank you. The next speaker giving testimony will be Michael Erard, former Spec. 5, also with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

ERARD. I served with the Third Battalion, 503rd Infantry and I had two jobs. I was in the field for about four months as a line doggie transferred into a battalion and I served as the medic liaison with S-5. S-5 is what they call civil affairs to handle the Psy-Op operations, to handle the Chieu Hoi program for the battalion. The Chieu Hoi program is designed to get NVA and VC defectors to come over to our side and the specific instructions given out on a battalion level were that these people were to be treated differently than POWs. If a man, after a contact or during a contact, would raise his hand and say "Chieu Hoi" the Americans were supposed to give that man treatment. He was supposed to be set aside. He was supposed to be given receipts for his weapons.

None of his personal belongings were to be touched. This was the battalion SOP, but it was never carried out on a company level. On my whole tour there our battalion never took a live Chieu Hoi. There were many leaflets dropped. We found Chieu Hoi passes on bodies of dead VC and dead NVA, but we never took a person in. The feeling among the grunts was that they didn't trust the Chieu Hoi.

I went down with an officer to Saigon, to the national Chieu Hoi center to recruit these former NVAs to serve as what we called Kit Carson Scouts. These scouts would serve in a line company. They would serve as the point men on the line companies. For the most part they were mistreated in the battalion. They were not given proper equipment. They were saying, well, a gook doesn't have to have this. A gook doesn't have to have that. He was supposed to have the exact complement that a U.S. soldier had in the field, but he never got it. The soldiers didn't want a Chieu Hoi, a Kit Carson, in their platoon. We had to force company commanders to take a Chieu Hoi into the company.

The second incident, relating specifically as a medic, was an incident in the village of An Quan, which is in Binh Dinh Province, north of Qui Nhon. I was with Charlie Company, 3/503rd, and we had been suffering serious injuries, traumatic amputations, especially from booby traps. On two specific incidents, we had men who were picked up by supposedly a medivac chopper, but the chopper was a slick with guns on it. It had a Red Cross on it, but there was no medic on board; there were no stretchers. In the third incident we had three men who were seriously injured. The gunners from the slick jumped down and started to throw our wounded on board. I had two men in our platoon who went berserk, as it were. They beat up the two gunners on the chopper while the chopper was hovering about two feet above the ground. The pilot wouldn't even land. And it was not a hot LZ. We were not taking fire from anybody. They beat up the gunners because they were mad at the way our wounded were being treated. To add to this, our battalion did not have a medivac chopper of its own. When we wanted medivac, a dust-off, we had to call back to battalion headquarters and they had to call brigade. Then we got a clearance for the dust-off. This was a matter of fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes seems pretty quick over here, but over there it's a long time, specially when you have a man dying of a serious wound. There were numerous accidents around our LZ, LZ Uplift, which is south of Bong Son, in Bin Dinh Province.

We had a friendly village to the south of us. There were two times when Americans fired from the perimeter into this village. Working in S-5 I would go out and be part of the investigating team in which the American government would investigate the accident. Then we would pay them what they called a "solacium payment." Now the solacium payment was a condolence type payment, like you might send flowers to someone's funeral. It in no way implied or implicated us as the perpetrators of this. So we would pay them a certain amount of money for people lost. In one incident there was a woman and five children killed and I think a sum of $500 was paid for this. In another incident, right before I left, a young boy was out tending cattle. An M-79 was fired from the perimeter and he was seriously wounded. We could not take him to an American hospital. We spent about an hour just preparing him for surgery. He was not taken to an American hospital but to a Vietnamese hospital. This was battalion SOP, that you did not take wounded Vietnamese to American facilities. No payment was made and I went all the way to brigade on this. I tried to get payment for the family of this boy who died, but I was not able to follow it through. At the time I left, the S-5 officer there would not listen to me; the brigade S-5 would not listen to me. The last thing that I want to relate was the last mission that I was involved in in Vietnam. Our battalion was in the An Lau Valley in Bin Dinh Province which is west of Bong Son. Our mission was to interdict NVA infiltration down the valley. I was the medic, I was the senior medic on Fire Base Abby. Along these valleys there were small garden plots and graves. In the garden plots were potatoes and small fruit-type gardens, or truck-type gardens. Intelligence said that the NVA were using these gardens as sources of food. In the period of six weeks that I was there, I know of ten civilians, ten unarmed civilians, who were killed tending these gardens. Again, I had access to the TOC and to all the briefings. The battalion CO was upset that there were no weapons found with these people. They were shot while they were working the field and there were no weapons found with the people. It was covered up on the battalion level and these people were reported as VC. In fact, they were old men who were killed working these plots. Again, there were Psy-Op missions and Chieu Hoi passes were dropped in the area. But the fact was that these people were up there to visit graves. The graves were actually in the garden plots. I doubt very much if the people really understood that they weren't supposed to be in the area. The area was not a free fire zone. So prisoners were not taken. In regard to medical treatment of wounded Vietnamese, and this involves not only captured prisoners, but also any Vietnamese, when we went out into the field we were issued a small bottle of serum albumin, about 500 cc's. Our platoon sergeant said, "This is worth $25. Never use it on a gook." There were many occasions where a wounded Vietnamese was sent back or dusted-off with only a bandage to stop the bleeding when the man needed IV fluids to make it. He was not given that aid. We had to account for our bottles of serum albumin just as we had to account for our morphine. We were, we were not allowed to waste it on a Vietnamese.

MODERATOR. Allan Crouse, former E-4, also with the 82nd Airborne Division.

CROUSE. I would like to talk about the policies and the conditions of the people in our areas of operation. We had fire bases twenty, thirty miles north of Saigon and we had one battalion on the border. I was down there from January '69 to December '69. This was about a year after the Tet offensive and conditions were quiet. There was some light contact, but the North Vietnamese, you know, could not stage anything right around this area because it was too much. Peace prevailed around the area and with relatively light security. We were getting work done without harassment from the enemy. We got to know some of the Vietnamese people as human beings. We talked to them, with interpreters, and got to know some of these old papa-sans, trash, as the army says. I mean, these people do have so much intelligence and wisdom that it's just phenomenal. And you learn that they don't really want much materially because they never had anything. All they want is a chance for peace, to live off the land, raise their children peacefully. In the past it's just has been too much. They never knew anything else besides this war. It's just tearing everything up. We cleared about 2,000 acres north of Saigon, about twenty miles north, with many tunnels there, destroying the land.

MODERATOR. Excuse me, Allan, could you get into the dynamiting of villages?

CROUSE. Yes. Actually atrocities were not too prevalent there because the army felt it was close to a populated area and they didn't want any bad news. Just as the other man said, whenever the newsmen were around everything was nice. They went out of their way to keep calm. The army didn't want any atrocities around this area. But we would go through one or two villages where they'd practice their explosives. Just walk into these huts and destroy one or two.

MODERATOR. I will open up the floor right now to the press for questions.

QUESTION. I'd like to ask Bill Perry a question. What do you feel like, you men who go to Vietnam and are subject to such brutality? How do you feel this affects the individual when he comes back to the United States and sees things happening back here? How do you think the average Vietnam veteran that's done all these things, and gone through all these things, feels when he comes back to the States?

PERRY. People say we must stop the war. I feel it's so much more than this. The whole rich man's game has always been fear. They've always been very much into impressing us. Now here's the Empire State Building. Be impressed. Now here is the C-5A or some fantastic jet bomber. Be impressed. You know, be afraid of it. Here is a club. I'll bust your head if you don't stay in line. Be impressed. Be afraid. Competition is another thing that brings about fear. Like ever since we're little children. Come on, stupid, you're thirteen months. Why can't you walk yet? Then there's this fear that's always put into us by the movie people for instance. That all Africans are cannibals and all Indians are savages. Who are the real savages? Who is really creating this climate of fear--this climate of mistrust--this climate which makes us scared to death of the person sitting next to us? Who prevents us from loving each other? The whole fear thing is what's creating atrocities in Selma, atrocities in Phuc Vinh, atrocities in Angola, atrocities in Mozambique, atrocities in Montevideo. It's happening everywhere. We're afraid of ourselves. We're not allowed to love each other.

The whole life style of the Vietnamese people, their whole cultural and social way of life, is nothing but love. It's a kind of love we really lack in this country and a kind of love that we have to build. A kind of opening of ourselves, an honesty ourselves and a love for each other where you know there will be no reason to hurt anyone except perhaps to protect our love. You know, the kind of love which is called primitive or savage. The whole American policy is nothing but what you might call cultural imperialism. It's like a very clever form of racism. They've always been into trying to honkify white people as much as possible. Trying to make you whiter than white. Just taking their whole decadent culture, their whole cold-weather culture, their whole fear culture, their whole money culture, and push their fear, push this hate, push this mistrust, among all of us. It's this kind of thing some of us have felt all of our lives. You know, when I was sixteen years old, I used to hang out on street corners, drink wine with other kids, have a lot of fun, and be free. The cops came along and, bam, put me in jail for sixteen months. Said get a haircut and look like a honky. I got out of jail, you know, and I was being free for a while, having a lot of fun, and you know the Army said come with me. And, you know, bam, they give you a haircut, you look like a honky...and act like a honky. I came out of the Army and for two and a half years I was really having a lot of fun being free. My wife is Oriental; we have two children. We were stopped in New Jersey for possession of rifles and illegal weapons. Like the whole thing happened all over again. You know, they arrested me again cut off my hair.

You're a nigger lover. You're a pig killer. We're going to make you white. You know, cut your hair. You know, the whole thing. Don't be free--you're not allowed to be free. They put the children in the home. The whole thing about what are you doing--_____ to make more gooks? There are Vietnam veterans who have joined the police force and still carry the same racism. Telling my wife things like, "You get your orders from Chairman Mao, don't you?" All this weird paranoid fear they have. Fear that they've had, and we've had, since birth. It's on us to eradicate this fear. It's on us to dig on love, you know, to love each other--to learn how to love. The Vietnamese people dig on preserving their beautiful life style and they won us over by loving us. Loving us to the death of our honky culture. Loving us to the death of holding our white values. Loving us to the death of believing in technology. Loving us to the death of all the phony _____ they have always given us. And this is where it's at--digging on what they've told us are primitive cultures, you know, getting back into the sun, treating each other like real human beings, not competing, but really cooperating, and really loving while doing so. Like it's all we can do. We have to do it. It's just a question of getting it together and doing it.

MODERATOR. I have a release statement here to read to you. "To the brothers of Winter Soldier: Those of us who are still prisoners of the war machine would like to express our solidarity with those of you who have found the courage to expose what we are part of and what we are now facing. Hopefully your actions will move more of our brothers and sisters in uniform to join us in our resistance from within of the system which is responsible for the oppression of peoples around the world. Together we can bring that system to a halt. Keep up the struggle. Signed, The Brothers of the American Servicemen's Union, Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan."

And the last statem

Continue Reading Testimony

Updated Thursday, January 28, 1999

This site designed by New Word Order.