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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

MODERATOR. Two days ago there was a Weapons Panel here and there was an expert from the American Friends Service Committee who discussed what he called the automatic or computer-run battlefield. He showed a number of very sophisticated, what we call anti-personnel weapons, which are to be used in this automated battlefield--which is, incidentally, one of the reasons why we can cut down our troop numbers in Vietnam. Some of these weapons can kill everything within a 60 yard radius, everything. It was a surprise to me that they are actually in use there now. Mike, you had a little personal experience with one.

ERARD. We were hit by our own artillery fire with three of the rounds. We were on a hill and we had ambush sites out around the hill. And somehow, either through our own error, or through a computer error, we were fired on. We received three 105 rounds right over us. Then the next three was this anti-personnel type round 105. When it hits it explodes. Inside the canister are small pellets--they look something like a hard ball, only a bit smaller.

These things explode and I believe there are about six or eight of these in a 105 round. They explode out and they can be set for different times. The ones that hit us exploded about a minute after it landed. We didn't know that this round was being used either, until we took shrapnel from it. Everybody up on the hill took shrapnel in this. These can be set from a minute, but I understand they can be set up to hours and days as to when they actually go off. That was my personal experience. I never treated a Vietnamese with that type of wound though. It's a regular type shrapnel type wound.

MODERATOR. Joe, you've seen what they do. What do they do?

GROSSO. Well, I didn't exactly see the weapon, but I had to police the remains of a command post that was hit with an anti-personnel bomb. It was our command post, unfortunately, which received an 800-pound anti-personnel bomb one evening. And thirty members of the command post were killed. The parts and remains of the bodies had to be policed and the damage done is considerable. There were no survivors. Bodies were devastated and destroyed, some beyond recognition.

DUBROW. I don't remember exactly what the dates were, but in 1969, whether through sabotage or error or what, the bomb dump at Da Nang Air Base blew up. It was a Marine bomb dump. There was a village that was right adjacent to the bomb dump and I was assigned as a medic to the demolition team that was there, defusing the bombs, and things like that. There were literally thousands of these things that Mike was describing--guava bombs which had a concrete outer shell filled with high explosives inside, timed ones, and things like this. As I understand it from talking to friends of mine who were working at the First Medical Battalion, which was near Freedom Hill at Da Nang, they treated many of the people in the village for shrapnel wounds which were received from these types of bombs. They flew out of the bomb dump and landed in the village.

MODERATOR. I guess all of you have seen what happens with napalm. Anybody want to describe what happens or what you've experienced with our use of napalm to kill VC? What does napalm do and what have you seen?

PANELIST. In Dong Ha, located about 18 miles south of the demilitarized zone, they have a children's hospital. It's all Vietnamese children. Mainly they're all civilians. They had a lot of children in there for treatment of diseases. There was one specific child I saw. I asked the child what had happened to him, and he said he'd been hit by napalm. His face, from his right eye around the back of his head (and had no ear), on down to the middle of his chest, was like one big mass of scar that'd just grown together. He'd been treated, but there's not a whole lot they can do for him. There's several of these cases, you know. I'm sure these people could tell you.

MODERATOR. Who else saw it? Anybody else see napalm?

GALICIA. I saw the effects a couple of times. One I distinctly remember was a lady I used to see out in the yard in between two of the wards. This lady'd been burned beyond recognition, facial-wise. She had no face. Her eyes were left and they had somehow or another grafted some skin over the front of her head. She had some sort of an orifice left that she could take food through, but that's about it. She'd been the victim of napalm.

PANELIST. On our trips to the Da Nang provincial hospital and to the other hospitals in the city, when we took our Vietnamese patients down there, I recall seeing several dozen over the period of a year--men, women and children-- who'd been hit by napalm and were in essentially the same condition as has been described. They were scar tissues. These people were like kids with arms that were grafted to their sides because they had no skin left on the inner part of their arm. Kids that were, like, two, three, and four years old. They would never be able to lead a normal life because the scar tissue had been allowed to build up. There was no physical therapy program. I believe the only one in Vietnam is run by the American Friends Committee in Quang Ngai and they have the facilities to treat only a very small percentage of these people. There were a fairly large number, several dozen, that I saw at Da Nang burned by napalm.

MODERATOR. I have a sort of anecdote about napalm. I had a date with a representative of Dow Chemical Company who told me that most of these burn injuries were due to the fact the Vietnamese were using gas stoves and they were blowing up. Vietnamese use charcoal. How about white phosphorus? White phosphorus, I might add, is generally used for marking positions. It's absolutely against the Geneva Accords to use white phosphorus for military purposes. Did we?

GALICIA. Before we have any testimony concerning that, I think it's worth adding that white phosphorus is not something that if it hits you, you can put out. You have to carve it out, because it'll burn its way straight through anything, especially, if you're speaking in terms of humans. It burns through anything: flesh, bones, till it gets to the other side and falls out.

PANELIST. There's only one way you can even temporarily stop it and that's to smother it. You can't keep something smothered for an extended amount of time.

GALICIA. Why? Because it reignites?

PANELIST. It just continues to burn, unless it is kept away from air.

GALICIA. Right. It ignites with air.

MODERATOR. Have you seen any white phosphorus injuries?

DUBROW. I saw several patients who supposedly had been burned (I saw them in the Naval Hospital) by something we were told was white phosphorus or Willy Peter. I can't say for certain. It chars its way through. As I understand it, the Marines in our area would use what is called a pop-up flare, which is a handheld flare that you shoot up into the air and fire at Vietnamese. I do know that these patients did come in and were treated for this after they had been burned.

PANELIST. In our battalion, when we were in Bau Loc, which is in Lam Dong Province, the mortar platoon used white phosphorus with their HE rounds. The officers and platoon leaders were issued white phosphorus grenades. They were used, not as markers, but during fire fights or in a village to either scare out people or burn it down.

MODERATOR. Next thing is gas. This is also against the rules set down in the Hague and Geneva Conventions. We used a combination of gases there called CS, CN and I think DM. These are a nauseant, a mucous irritant, and a tearing gas, a lacimating agent. I knew we used these because I saw them used. On Christmas Day in 1964, we were attempting to recapture eight Americans somewhere in the area of Tay Ninh. We were attempting to recapture Americans who had been captured by the Vietnamese. They were going to blanket a large area near the Black Virgin Mountain where they thought these prisoners were. They mixed this gas on a soccer field which was adjacent to an airfield on one side and the hospital for Tay Ninh on the other side. They had large drums, they would mix them, and they would put them in a rocket pod of an armed helicopter.

While they were mixing them, a helicopter landed improperly behind the area where they were mixing and a large cloud of gas settled over the entire city of Tay Ninh including us. That included the hospital. Now these gases are said not to be lethal. Unfortunately they are lethal if you have pulmonary disease. If you happen to get nauseated and vomit when you've had abdominal surgery, it can be pretty serious. And if you happen to have an open wound with a nerve exposed, it will cause direct nerve damage. This whole hospital was covered with this gas which poured down over the area. Anybody else seen the effects of this nonlethal gas?

GROSSO. My only recollection doesn't include observation of the use of gas, but I recall four or five prisoners of war who were dying in the Tuy Hoa general hospital, one of our general hospitals, of pulmonary edema. The nurses there informed members of our brigade that these prisoners had been in tunnels and gassed. They did have pulmonary edema from my observations, at least, and according to the physicians who were attending them.

PANELIST. Something I can relate concerns a chemical. I don't even know exactly what chemical is used. I just saw what happened to children in the Dong Ha children's hospital from various use of chemicals and a lot of the other things you people have been seeing the last few days. Gas possibly could have been the cause of these things. I'm not really sure. There was a whole ward of about 12 little kids who had been born deformed because of gas, chemicals, whatever agents were used in the country by the United States. But these kids were deformed. One kid's feet were turned around and he was walking on the joints of his ankles. His elbows were also inverted. His hands were backwards.

MODERATOR. My guess is that you're talking about defoliating agents. There are three versions--White, Blue and Orange.

PANELIST. I couldn't exactly say what chemical or what defoliants caused it.

MODERATOR. Was this in an area where they were defoliating?

PANELIST. They defoliated portions of the whole country, so you can't designate a specific area. At least in this place I couldn't.

MODERATOR. Agent Orange, which is sometimes called 245T, is known to be teratogenic or cause birth defects in a number of experimental animals. Supposedly now it's outlawed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and supposedly we have stopped using it in Vietnam. However, the Vietnamese are reportedly still using it. We have dropped 40 million pounds of this agent on Vietnam.

PANELIST. My understanding is that a mother would come in contact with it through their drinking water most of which is rain water. They have a barrel outside of their house, a catch basin on top of the house, and the water runs down into the barrel. Everyone drinks out of this water and a woman, if she drinks about a quart of this water, can cause damage to a child while she's in pregnancy.

MODERATOR. Dave, why don't you tell us about some of your experiences with U.S. military personnel problems of drug addiction or drug abuse?

GALICIA. We went into this subject somewhat extensively on Sunday when we were talking about what we do to ourselves but I think it's worth repeating. I went there as a fully trained psychiatrist and that makes me have enough brains in my head, supposedly, to come up with a standing diagnosis for any one individual. Our policy, and the regulations which I worked under, precluded my being able to send people out of country for further treatment. I could make a positive diagnosis of severe physical addiction to a drug such as heroin or opium. In this country we consider this a big enough disorder to hospitalize people and we take them away from the source of the drug. There was no way to take people away from the source of the drug in Vietnam. That doesn't come as any new bit of information to any of the vets here. You get drugs anywhere. There is no problem where that is concerned. I dislike to use the word, but I can't really think of another one. I was monitored where this was concerned.

It took two days for the medivacee to get on a plane and get the _____ out of country. He went to Tan Son Nhut on the next day, he rested there for a day, and then he got on the plane and went the following day. So this left plenty of time for my write-ups to go up to Long Binh to the office of the Psychiatric Consultant from the Surgeon General's office for Vietnam. If I tried to push something through like this, I would get a phone call, be told that this simply was not policy and that what the _____ was I doing trying to medivac this person out of country. The one person that stands out largest in my memory was a black kid who came in on six different occasions. He had shot up to 30 cc of heroin or opium a day, 4 cc at a crack--seven or eight times a day. And if this is not addiction I don't know what is. He would be taken by the MPs back to some MP unit, then be released to his company commander again because there is such a rampant problem they didn't have space for these people. They didn't know what the _____ to do with them, so they ended up giving them back to the company commander.

The company commander may or may not have been an understanding guy; he'd try to put the man back to work, and, of course, this man would be back in the hospital again. I harbored a few of these people for a while. Most of my patients were on Ward 8. I would sneak these people up to Ward 9, which was a convalescent ward, and again I constantly got bombarded from the hospital, itself, because regulations there said I couldn't keep anybody for more than 30 days--I got called down front many times, accused of harboring individuals, and I confessed to it, but these were the people who had been in so many times that, you know, it was like clockwork--three days or four days from the time I let them out, they'd be back. I kept trying to tell people this and I kept getting turned off. Nobody ever offered me an explanation as to what I should have done with these folks except wean them off the drug at that particular time. Don't worry about their addiction.

Their ETS or their Deros day (their day for leaving) would rotate around some time and I'd be rid of that problem. I'd just have another one to handle. And this is about the way it went for me, all year long.

MODERATOR. You didn't have any methadone?

GALICIA. I was denied methadone. I don't know why the _____ I was denied methadone. I broke people on thorazine. I might say that it served the purpose and most people adequately came down. But that doesn't take away from the addiction and it's not the drug of choice. Anybody who has any medical school training knows that. It's a simple proposition and I think that one of the things that was put forth was that it was too expensive and, you know, that's a crock of _____. It's a cent and a half a tablet.

MODERATOR. In terms of hard drug use, that's heavy use of barbiturates, heroin, speed, how many of these guys started over there? Have you any idea?

GALICIA. Well, I don't have figures because I never kept figures. It would have made a tremendous study, I suppose, for somebody's article. But, I felt so sick inside most of the time, I wasn't really concerned with articles. I'd say that probably one out of two or three out of five of the people who came in would outrightly confess to me that they had taken nothing (in the United States). Maybe they'd smoked some pot while they were in this country, but that was about the extent of it. And, I don't know what their purpose would have been in lying. I really don't know.

PANELIST. Just about any kind of drug that you can think of from heroin on down, if you couldn't get it from one of the guys in the hospital, it could be bought downtown.

GALICIA. It was no problem to get drugs up on the ward, even. While I'm at it, there's another thing I'd like to get my licks in on. I'd forgotten about it till right now. When I came into country I was shown my office. The office was in the back of an area which had been the dayroom. And that would have been okay. The dayroom had some things we could have used almost for therapy. At that time it had pool tables, Ping-pong tables, card tables. This place had been turned into a Special Services Library and had been carpeted much the same as the carpeting on this floor. Rows and rows of books had been put up. Most of the time the _____ thing just went to no avail.

It was a good showpiece for people who came in to see Third Field and nurses in white, etc. But the psychiatric office (it had a real fancy name--Chief of Department of Psychiatry and Neurology) was fine, except there were no other psychiatrists and there was no neurologist. So I was it. I had a social worker and two techs. And then I had to fight like _____ when they went home to get some more techs to replace them. The area, the type of degradation I felt this particular service of medicine was held in was incredible. Here I sat with my office in the back of a Special Services Library. This wasn't bad enough. We continued under this. But my inpatient service was on an open medical ward and I'd just like to describe the ward very briefly to you. This was a huge ward that was subdivided much the same way as these pillars subdivide. On that side, and back away from the nursing station, and on the other side, back away from the nursing station, were medical patients. You know, they had pneumonia, this kind of thing.

Down the sides from the nursing station, because it seemed like the best thing to do, the psychiatric patients were housed. This would include anyone from a psychopath to a neurotic to a psychotic. And the kicker to this is that in the middle was the intensive care unit for cardiac patients who were on monitors. What I'm telling you is the truth. This could be confirmed. Off to the left, by the way, was the renal unit, which was the only renal unit in Vietnam and, briefly, if you're in the renal unit, you're in there because you just can't make pee. And that's because you've got so many other injuries that your kidneys shut down so they put you on a machine that drains all your blood out, filters it and cleans it out for you, and then puts it back in. I had a paranoid patient walking around in there one night. I was told, after I left the ward, talking about how people were drawing knives on him, etc., etc. You know, if you're in a state of paranoia, and you're walking around seeing people that are having all their blood taken out of them, and you go for a further walk and you see people on cardiac monitors, it's pretty bad.

MODERATOR. The next subject is: What have we done to the Vietnamese people with venereal disease?

GROSSO. It's a strange subject to talk about. My contribution would be the observations about our brigade's activities in the Dak To area when we used military personnel, military equipment, and military time to construct a large wooden framed restaurant which was staffed by Vietnamese girls. I believe there were at any time from 12 to 14, who provided services for an entire brigade of about 4,500 men on a volunteer basis, alphabetically. The charge was approximately $2.50. It required a great deal of time, materiel, and manpower for the medical company to examine these women several times a week. So it was more or less command policy that prostitution be part of the military operation.

GALICIA. I can add to that. In the travels I had to the south, each and every one of the battalion areas of the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division, located 40 miles south of Saigon, had, under the army sign for the PX (Post Exchange) buildings that were erected for the purpose, supposedly, of a steam bath and massage. Each one of these things had a medic and I talked to these medics. Some of these medics had a full-time chore--to examine the GIs who wanted to partake of this particular service. I'm not so much against the service, myself, as I am the fact that these were Vietnamese people and they were being used in this fashion. If you want to be a prostitute, I guess that's your own business, but I'm not so sure that that was the case. I just don't know.

We were developing strains of gonococcol organisms that were so virulent we were having a very difficult time eradicating them from people. We didn't see much syphilis. That's not worth talking about. I don't know what the treatment for an average strain of gonorrhea or gonococcus would be. I suspect it's in the realm of a million and two tenths penicillin. But the standing order over there was a combination of 4.8 million units of penicillin IM, and something like 16 tablets of 250 mg. tetracycline per day for three or four days running and then a continued dosage after that. A lot of the times this really didn't do the trick either. There were still people who were having difficulty and I think the long range thing, when we're talking about what we do to the Vietnamese, is that when we leave, it stays.

MODERATOR. How about treatment on the Vietnamese? You know, can he get all these drugs to kill that organism?

GALICIA. No. It's not really available to them. Earlier in this panel I indicated to you that I stole the penicillin to treat a pneumonia.

PANELIST. At Da Nang the same situation existed everywhere. Outside of the military installations, you had houses of prostitution that were either built by the military or at least maintained by the 95th Evacuation Army Hospital at Da Nang. On the road leading to it were four houses, and the women, the prostitutes, who worked there, received their treatment from sympathetic doctors and corpsmen who worked at the hospital--the Evacuation Hospital there. We had a very large number of Air Force personnel at our base. We had an immunization clinic for the GIs and the longest lines for any of the immunizations were the penicillin lines for VD. If one of the Vietnamese women came in, whether she worked on the base or wherever she worked, claiming that she had caught VD or gonorrhea or whatever from a GI, she was always refused treatment on the grounds that if you treat one, you have to treat them all.

MODERATOR. Are there any last comments?

STEIGER. I have one that I would like to make. Jeff can back me up on this because he was there and he saw the same thing. From the 95th Evacuation Hospital and from other hospitals in the area, when we received patients, they all funnelled their patients into the 22nd Casualty Staging Flight, where I worked, to be medivaced to another base in Vietnam, which is usually Cam Ranh Bay or out of the country to Japan or the Philippines or to the States. We would receive Korean, American, Australian, or whatever. We'd get men who had been wounded and had not had their dressings changed for days. We would receive patients who had had amputations of the legs or arms, and when we tried to change the dressings on these patients, we would find that they were hard. I mean, it was an Ace-wrapped elastic bandage, like you used in athletics. They were solid, and the only thing that had been done for them was to pour Batadon, which is an antiseptic, over these wounds. After you soaked them and got them down, there were maggots inside, and these were our own men. This is the medical treatment they received. And this isn't like a thing that happened just once. It happened all the time.

MODERATOR. This was one hospital?

STEIGER. This was specifically from the 95th Evacuation Hospital. And those kinds of things go on over there all the time.

PANELIST. We had one GI who came in who had a big gaping wound on the lower part of his leg. The dressings hadn't been changed in about three weeks. I think it was the original battlefield dressing he had on. Why, I don't know, but it happens.

STEIGER. This is the superior medical care we had.

GALICIA. I was the recipient of some information today that made me think back. I went home to get this, because I think that this man (who for all good reasons remains nameless) was shipped to us from the 91st Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai. I think that this man, as the story was given to us, was a recipient of some of our own misdirected fire. Whether he was or whether he wasn't, I don't believe really serves any purpose. This man had so many diagnoses, and this is a photocopy, or a transcript of the admission note when he came in, that they ran out of space on this paper and put the rest on a second one.

I sort of keep it as mere testimony of not only what these kind of weapons can do but what I was part of. I've many times thought about throwing it away, but I never did and I really don't know the reason for that. I suspect I do somewhere. This man had a penetrating wound of all his extremities--face, chest, abdomen and genitals. He had a perforation of the small bowel, contusion of the transverse colon, laceration of the liver, a transection of his distal ureter on the right, a ruptured bladder, a wound open-- penetrating of the rectum, fracture of the pelvis, rupture of the right spermatic cord, rupture of his _____, fracture of some of the bones in his leg, contusions of his lower left lung lobe, a hemathorax, which is blood of the thorax, acute renal failure and peritonitis. And the thing about it that really struck home with me, was that he was admitted to our hospital on 22 June 1970. He was to go home on 16 July 1970.

MODERATOR. Thank you. I would just like to share with you one last comment. During my last three days here, I think all of us have been extremely frustrated by the lack of national press coverage. We came from many parts of the country, often at our own expense, and this isn't the only country where there is a blackout on news. We're not sure why. We feel that what we had to say here was significant. And we all can prove we were in Vietnam. Here is a Saigon newspaper which I have saved--an English language newspaper. It's quite obvious that they did not want us to get certain kinds of information, and in terms of the hearings that you have heard in the past three days, it is obvious that somebody does not want the American people to hear what we had to say here. Thank you.

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