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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

WEBER. I'm the Jim that he's talking about. This had bothered me for a long time. Prior to going into service, I was a manager of a shoe store--it's a chain across the country. I had a relatively easy job, well paying job. And so I imagined I would be a flag waver because I had a little bit of money and I wouldn't care about, you know, I had a racist attitude. Of course, we all still have racist attitudes. I, I didn't care about anyone else. You know, I cared about myself and I, I got drafted into the army and it, it made quite a big change because I was waving flags all the time that I was on my train, you know, down to South Carolina where I got my murder training. And I...okay, I went in there, and my complete moral worth was completely destroyed. I mean I was a worthless human being. The worst thing that you can be in the military is to be called a civilian. And so they had to completely resocialize us, which they were very effective at doing. I didn't agree with everything, but I went along with it. Then I was sent on to advanced genocide training down at Fort Polk, Louisiana. And this, this is where I got, you know, this is where I started to hate, hate anything that wasn't exactly like me. Anything that wasn't a fighting machine. Gooks. You've heard that mentioned here for three days, but I don't think you really know what it means unless you know how much hate is instilled in one person, how much, how much really guilt, I mean...like if you're not white and 21, you know, forget it. And this is what they do. This is what they do. They turn you into a fighting machine and it's, it's so, it's so hideous some of the things. I mean we've gone into barracks and we've had like pictures of...well, they weren't pictures, they were like cartoons, with slant eyes, you know.

Everything was a slant eye and these little hats on the top, you know. And these were the people you were hating. They were positioned right above the gun racks, you know. No uniform or anything, just, just simply the profile of one, or maybe the face, full face of another. And this, this went on, you know, for sixteen straight weeks. By the time I had left Fort Polk, Louisiana, I wanted to kill my mother, you know. Or anyone, that, that wasn't, you know, completely in agreement with me. I wanted to just kill everything, you know. It's really bad. I went over to Vietnam with the same attitude because I, I had been trained and I knew I was an effective fighting machine. That I was going to kill everything in my path and it started out and it...it lasted for about one day. When I got there and saw the _____ being beat out of a few children, you know. And from there on, it was all downhill and, man, like I was a great American, and I think I still am a great American, you know. Just because you don't completely agree with something you don't understand, there was no reason why, you know, you should be a Communist and write with your left hand. And it's really wild. Through Vietnam these things just kept going and going on and going on. I can relate to you _____ that went on. I mean, like, you've gone through this, right, you've gone through the whole thing. But even the people that were on our side, man, even the people that were fighting with us, were still lower class, second class citizens, you know. Since there weren't that many, they were a complete different race. We would call them niggers, you know, in this country. Over there we call them gooks, you know. It's the same thing. They're second class citizens. It's a complete racism thing, you know. Okay, so what happened? Like even the people that are supposed to be on our side, they're supposed to be fighting with us. Right? I have an example here. This isn't an atrocity. You know, it isn't blood and gore. We went into a village and we searched, we searched the people and not everyone understandably could be in the military because someone had to, you know, work the land. Someone had to provide the food. Okay, who was going to do this? It was people...it was people that, you know, had special permits, special passes, special ID cards. Now these are the people that are on our side.

We went into a village and we took the ID cards off of people and sent them back to the rear. I have one here that the press can verify after. (Bill Schmidt of the Detroit Free Press is supposed to be writing this down. I don't know how far he's got with it.) I'd like to know what happened to this man. Not this man, but all of our yellow brothers. It's just a big racism thing. You know, they're all complete second class citizens and it's really, really hideous, you know. There's a number of things. And then, when I come out of the service, and I come back. I would go into, you know, the bars, to where my friends used to loaf and, you know, I would hear these same things going on, that went on before I left. But now, things had changed for me, see. Because I had seen what was going on. I had firsthand, you know, witnessed these things and I wasn't getting it from the Pittsburgh Press or the Pittsburgh Post Gazette or anything like that, man. I had seen it. And my father, my parents, had sent me clippings of these massive massacres that we had committed. My unit, the 196th, which weren't true. You know, simply weren't true. And, the same thing that's been brought up all day long about the body count. Everything is a bunch of lies. And you get people sitting back here, you know, back here, and, and they believe this stuff and that's what we've got to get out. I really believe it. Like I've said before, you know. I think this is being a true American. I think it's, you know, sticking up for your country. Damn it, I love this country and I can't see it being run by fascist pigs, you know.

PANELIST. I came here for a lot of reasons that were just mentioned by the previous people talking. I have bad dreams. I have nightmares. I have guilt feelings. I would like to see true self-determination by the Vietnamese people. But most of all, I think, primary and utmost, I'd like to see the war ended because I think that's the first thing we can do in order to get our country together.

MODERATOR. Pardon me, we have to cut this short. So we're just going to make one statement. We all belong to the unit that Lieutenant Calley belonged to. What's been brought out during this whole testimony is that it's a general policy and not an isolated incident. We're trained from basic training, AIT and OCS, to kill and that's what we're out there to do. It is not the fault of Lieutenant Calley. It is not the fault of the infantryman in his platoon, but the fault of the U.S. government and the U.S. military establishment. The whole system is nothing. It is set up to dehumanize us and to make everybody we see a nonhuman so that we can kill them. It would be impossible with our background to go into a village and kill a woman and child unless we looked at those people as nonhumans. And because of the service and because of the military establishment, that's how we look at the Vietnamese. If there are any questions, ask now, for we have a very short amount of time. Go ahead, ma'am.

QUESTION. Nobody really likes war. I don't like it either. If you go into a war, it's kill or be killed. Now, if you see a Vietnamese person there with a hand grenade sitting in the rice paddies, you better kill them or they'll kill you.

PANELIST. You've never seen that, lady.

PANELIST. Ma'am, we're not talking about a Viet Cong with a weapon. We're talking about a civilian. A person with a hoe in his hand. We're talking about a woman and a child in a bunker. We're talking about My Lai, which happens every day. Every day, ma'am. And it happens in the United States, too.

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