1971: Veterans Testify at Winter Soldier Hearings

Vietnam Nightmares Under the U.S. Flag

Revolutionary Worker #1103, May 20, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org

On January 31, 1971 the Vietnam Veterans Against the War opened their Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit. Hundreds of Vietnam vets gathered to testify publicly about the atrocities they saw and committed in Vietnam.

One vet there said: "An estimated one million South Vietnamese civilians have been killed because of these war crimes. A good portion of the reported 700,000 National Liberation Front and North Vietnamese soldiers killed have died as a result of these war crimes, and no one knows how many North Vietnamese civilians, Cambodian civilians, and Laotian civilians have died as a result of these war crimes. But we intend to tell more. We intend to tell who it was that gave us those orders; that created that policy; that set that standard of war bordering on full and final genocide."

The U.S. Congress was forced to publish these Winter Soldier testimonies in its Congressional Record, April 5-6, 1971. A 110-minute video called "Winter Soldier" was also produced and is still available. The hearings are available online at the Sixties Project at

The following are excerpts from the testimony.

Search and Destroy

"I was in Vietnam from September 1968 to September 1969. In January 1969 we were on a sweep. We were on line through a series of rice paddies and villages in Quang Nam province, which is just southwest of Da Nang. We'd received a battalion order at that time and the order stated that this order would take effect from that day forward until a rescinding order would come through. It never came through in the next eight months, until after I returned, so the battalion order was always in effect. If while sweeping on line and passing by friendly villages, which we did, you received one round of any sort from a friendly village, the entire battalion was to turn on line and level that village. The exact wording was to kill every man, woman, child, dog and cat in the village."

"The bridge got a radio call that they had supposedly received a sniper round from this village. So the Lt. on the bridge told them to sweep the ville. They swept the ville and they called back that there was nothing found. 'There was nothing found,' I mean there were just people in the ville and so the Lt. told them to burn the ville. From my position, which was about 150 to 200 yards away, and there was a tree line in the way, smoke started coming up over the tree line and about this time, I guess about three minutes after the smoke started showing, there was a lot of screaming and just chaos coming from the direction of the village and a lot of people started running out of the tree line. From where I was standing, I saw maybe two or three male villagers and the rest were women and children--some of the children walking and some of them young enough to be carried, I would say under a year, maybe. The last I heard as a command was the gunnery sergeant told them to open fire to keep them back. Their village was on fire and they were in a panic; they didn't stop, so they just cut down the women and children with mortars, machine guns, tanks..."

Rape and Plunder

"I was a PFC in an Infantry Company, which meant that there was about 75 of us turned loose on the civilian population in Vietnam.... On several occasions, one in particular, we sat on 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 hooch. 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 such incidents at least."

"It's Just a Gook"

"Marine training starts from the first day you get into Boot Camp and doesn't end till the day you're discharged. When you're told something to do, whether to go to the bathroom or have a cigarette, or whether you go to bed or you get some free time to write a letter, you preface it or you end it with VC or gook or slope, kill, kill, kill. That's all you're told to do. Everything is done on a threat basis; if you don't do things the way you're supposed to do, this is what's going to happen to you. If you don't 'defend freedom' in Vietnam, the gooks are going to be there. They're going to be in California. They're going to be in Detroit.... They're going to be all over you. You've gotta go to Vietnam, you've gotta kill the gooks. They're no good. In Com School, I was in the hospital. Even in the hospitals, they're passing out pictures of mutilated bodies, showing this is what we do to the gooks, this is what's fun to do with the gooks."

Killing Garbage

"Our helicopters, our Cobra gunships, and small observation helicopters would go out on search-and-destroy missions more or less where they'd go out and they'd shoot anything, any structures they saw. They'd shoot all people, be they men, women, or children--old men, children, whether they had arms or not. They'd shoot all livestock, destroy all food. They'd destroy everything they saw that was man-made.... Explosives have been put in the dumps for the purpose of exploding and injuring men, women and children while they're going through the trash--while they're going through this valuable trash."

Rambo's Rabbit

"In Quang Tri City, I had a friend who was working with USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] and he was also with CIA. We used to get drunk together and he used to tell me about his different trips into Laos on Air America airlines and things. One time he asked me would I like to accompany him to watch. He was an adviser with an ARVN [Army of South Vietnam puppet troops] group and Kit Carson's.... So I went with him, and when we got there, the ARVNs had control of the situation. They didn't find any enemy, but they found a woman with bandages. So she was questioned by six ARVNs and...they shot her. She was hit about 20 times. After she was questioned, and of course dead, this guy came over, who was a former major, been in the service for 20 years, and he got hungry again and came back over working with USAID. He went over there, ripped her clothes off, and took a knife and cut, from her vagina almost all the way up, just about up to her breasts and pulled her organs out, completely out of her cavity, and threw them out. Then, he stopped and knelt over and commenced to peel every bit of skin off her body and left her there as a sign... You can check with the Marines who have been to Vietnam--your last day in the States at staging battalion at Camp Pendleton you have a little lesson and it's called the Rabbit Lesson, where the staff NCO comes out and he has a rabbit and he's talking to you about escape and evasion and survival in the jungle. He has this rabbit and then, in a couple of seconds after just about everyone falls in love with it... he cracks it in the neck, skins it, disembowels it, just like I testified that this happened to a woman--he does this to the rabbit--and then they throw the guts out into the audience. You can get anything out of that you want, but that's your last lesson you catch in the States before you leave for Vietnam."

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