September 26, 2004
Winter Soldier Tales (1)By Steve Gilbert
This is the first of a series of excerpts from the so—called Winter Soldier Investigations held in Detroit, Michigan from January 31 through February 2, 1971.
The Winter Soldier Investigation was a project of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War. It was primarily funded by Jane Fonda and Mark Lane. John Kerry, who was soon to be a spokesman and national coordinator of the VVAW, served as one of the moderators.
The 'testimony' from the Winter Soldier Investigation was entered into the Congressional Record by Senator Mark Hatfield on April 5, 1971:
VETERANS' TESTIMONY ON VIETNAM —— NEED FOR INVESTIGATION
Hon. Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon
Mr. Hatfield. Mr. President, the moral sensitivity of the nation has been aroused by the conviction of Lt. William Calley. More clearly than before, this incident has focused the fundamental moral questions that our Nation must confront regarding our conduct in Indochina...
There has recently been brought to my attention testimony relating to the policy and conduct of American forces in Indochina which has grave and very serious implications.
The testimony is given by honorably discharged veterans who had served in Vietnam, and was conducted by Vietnam Veterans Against The War. Three days of testimony were conducted in Detroit, Michigan, on January 31, February 1 and 2 of this year. This group, which represents 11,000 veterans, plans to send several thousand to Washington the week of April 19 to petition Congress for full Congressional hearings...
I believe that the allegations made by these Americans, who served their country in Vietnam, are so serious and so grave that they demand the full study by appropriate committees of Congress as well as by the executive branch.
The testimony and allegations raised by the experience of these veterans includes charges regarding: the torture and murder of suspects and prisoners of war captured by Americans and South Vietnamese forces; the wonton killing of innocent, unarmed civilians; the brutalization and rape of Vietnamese women in the villages; military policies which enabled indiscriminate bombing and the random firing of artillery into villages which resulted in the burning to death of women, children and old people; the widespread defoliation of lands of forests; the use of various types of gases; the mutilation of enemy bodies, and others...
I ask unanimous consent to have the testimony printed in the Extensions of Remarks.
There being no objection, the testimony was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
Winter Soldier Investigation Testimony
[The following remarks are excerpts from the first day's first panel, which was comprised of purported members of the 1st Marine Division.]
Opening statement of William Crandell
... The Winter soldier investigation is not a mock trial. There will be no phony indictments; there will be no verdict against Uncle Sam. In these three days, over a hundred Vietnam veterans will present straightforward testimony — direct testimony —— about acts which are war crimes under international law. Acts which these men have seen and participated in. Acts which are the inexorable result of national policy...
It has often been remarked but seldom remembered that war itself is a crime. Yet a war crime is more and other than war. It is an atrocity beyond the usual barbaric bounds of war. It is legal definition growing out of custom and tradition supported by every civilized nation in the world including our own. It is an act beyond the pale of acceptable actions even in war.
Deliberate killing or torturing of prisoners of war is a war crime. Deliberate destruction without military purpose of civilian communities is a war crime. The use of certain arms and armaments and of gas is a war crime. The forcible relocation of population for any purpose is a war crime.
All of these crimes have been committed by the U.S. government over the past ten years in Indochina. An estimated one million South Vietnamese civilians have been killed because of these war crimes. A good portion of the reported seven hundred thousand 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. We intend to demonstrate that My Lai was no unusual occurrence, other than, perhaps, the number of victims killed all in one place, all at one time, all by one platoon of us.
We intend to show that the policies of Americal Division which inevitably resulted in My Lai were the policies of other Army and Marine Divisions as well. We intend to show that war crimes in Vietnam did not start in March, 1968, or in the village of Son My or with one Lt. William Calley. We intend to indict those really responsible for My Lai, for Vietnam, for attempted genocide...
We are ready to let the testimony say at all.
Moderator. I'd like to welcome you all. This is the first Marine division... You've probably all heard the quotation "Ask a Marine". So after these gentlemen have finished their testimony, you'll be allowed to ask a Marine and find out what really went on over there.
Craig. My name is Stephen Craig... My testimony basically covers the maltreatment of prisoners, the suspects actually, and a convoy running down an old woman with no reason at all —— no provocation or anything. And bounties were put on our own men in our own companies if they were inadequate the field. And they were either disposed of, or wounded, or something to this effect just to make sure they were taken away...
Sachs. My name is Rusty Sachs... My testimony concerns the leveling of villages for no valid reason, throwing Viet Cong suspects from the aircraft after binding and gagging them with copper wire, and racism in the assignment of priorities to medical evacuations where white people were given priority over non—white people.
Camil. My name is Scott Camil... My testimony involves burning of villages with civilians in them, the cutting off of the ears, cutting off of heads, torturing of prisoners, calling in of artillery on villages for games, corpsmen killing wounded prisoners, napalm dropped on villages, women being raped, women and children being massacred, CS gas used on people, animals slaughtered. Chieu Hoi passes rejected and the people holding them shot, bodies shoved out of helicopters, tear gassing people for fun and running civilian vehicles off the road.
Campbell. My name is Kenneth J. Campbell... My testimony will consist of eyewitnessing and participating in the calling in of artillery on undefended villages, mutilation of bodies, killing of civilians, mistreatment of civilians, mistreatment of prisoners and indiscriminate use of artillery, harassment and interdiction fire...
Simpson. My name is Chris Simpson... I'll be talking about maltreatment of prisoners, destruction of villages, crops and animals.
Olimpieri. My name is Paul Olimipieri... My testimony is on killing civilians and killing livestock and destroying villages.
Nienke. My name is Fred Nienke... My testimony includes killing of non—combatants, destruction of Vietnamese property and livestock, use of chemical agents and the use of torture in interpreting prisoners.
Bishop. My name is David Bishop.,, My testimony is going to consist of my skipper, or my captain, killing prisoners. Throwing heat tablets or Trioxylene gas to children, four NVA nurses that were captured —— were POWs — were raped, tortured and then were completely destroyed —— their bodies were destroyed —— and free fire zones and health problems in Vietnam.
Bangert. My name is Joe Bangert... My testimony will cover the slaughter of civilians, the skinning of a Vietnamese woman, the type of observing our squadron did in Vietnam and the crucifixion of Vietnamese either suspects or civilians in Vietnam.
Bronaugh. My name is Jack Bronaugh... My testimony is about the indiscriminate murder of, in a sense, civilian women and children, torture of prisoners for fun and other reasons.
Kenny. Michael Kenny... My testimony mainly concerns the maltreatment and murder of Vietnamese non—combatants and the general maltreatment of the civilian population.
Delay. My name is Kevin Delay... My testimony concerns the falsification of body count reports.
Eckert. My name is Ted Eckert... My testimony deals with harassment fire from the air, burning of villages from the air, and black marketeering in De Nang itself.
[To be continued...]