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"If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities."
— Voltaire

Face of an Enemy?
Photo & Letter Left By An American Soldier
At The Vietnam Wall Memorial

Dear Sir,
   For twenty-two years I have carried your picture in my wallet.
   I was only eighteen-years-old that day we faced one another on that trail in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Why you didn't take my life I'll never know.
   You stared at me so long, armed with your AK47. And yet you did not fire.
   Forgive me for taking your life. I was reacting just the way I was trained, to kill VC…
   So many times over the years I have stared at you picture, and your daughter, I suspect.
   Each time my heart and guts would burn with the pain of guilt. I have two daughters myself now…
   I perceive you as a brave soldier defending his homeland.
   Above all else, I can now respect the importance life held for you.
   I suppose that is why I am able to be here today.
   It is time to continue the life process and release my pain and guilt.
    Forgive me, Sir

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Unrepentant Tiger Force Soldier:
"The Way to Live is to Kill."
Recalling Vietnam in 2003

Born: 4/15/43    Died: 1/6/06       
The Forgotten Hero of My Lai:
The Hugh Thompson Story

Amazon Books
Acadian House Publishing

US NEWS— Reviled, Then Honored For His Actions In My Lai

By Nell Boyce

Skimming over the Vietnamese village of My Lai in a helicopter with a bubble-shaped windshield, 24-year-old Hugh Thompson had a superb view of the ground below. But what the Army pilot saw didn't make any sense: piles of Vietnamese bodies and dead water buffalo. He and his two younger crew mates, Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, were flying low over the hamlet on March 16, 1968, trying to draw fire so that two gunships flying above could locate and destroy the enemy. On this morning, no one was shooting at them. And yet they saw bodies everywhere, and the wounded civilians they had earlier marked for medical aid were now all dead.

As the helicopter hovered a few feet over a paddy field, the team watched a group of Americans approach a wounded young woman lying on the ground. A captain nudged her with his foot, then shot her. The men in the helicopter recoiled in horror, shouting, "You son of a bitch!"

Thompson couldn't believe it. His suspicions and fear began to grow as they flew over the eastern side of the village and saw dozens of bodies piled in an irrigation ditch. Soldiers were standing nearby, taking a cigarette break. Thompson racked his brains for an explanation. Maybe the civilians had fled to the ditch for cover? Maybe they'd been accidentally killed and the soldiers had made a mass grave? The Army warrant officer just couldn't wrap his mind around the truth of My Lai.

Before My Lai, Americans always saw their boys in uniform as heroes. Their troops had brought war criminals, the Nazis, to justice. So when the massacre of some 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians by U.S. soldiers became public a year and a half later, it shook the country to its core. Many Americans found it so unbelievable they perversely hailed Lt. William Calley, the officer who ordered his men to shoot civilians, as an unjustly accused hero. But My Lai did produce true heroes, says William Eckhardt, who served as chief prosecutor for the My Lai courts-martial. "When you have evil, sometimes, in the midst of it, you will have incredible, selfless good. And that's Hugh Thompson."

On that historic morning, Thompson set his helicopter down near the irrigation ditch full of bodies. He asked a sergeant if the soldiers could help the civilians, some of whom were still moving. The sergeant suggested putting them out of their misery. Stunned, Thompson turned to Lieutenant Calley, who told him to mind his own business. Thompson reluctantly got back in his helicopter and began to lift off. Just then Andreotta yelled, "My God, they're firing into the ditch!"

Thompson finally faced the truth. He and his crew flew around for a few minutes, outraged, wondering what to do. Then they saw several elderly adults and children running for a shelter, chased by Americans. "We thought they had about 30 seconds before they'd die," recalls Colburn. Thompson landed his chopper between the troops and the shelter, then jumped out and confronted the lieutenant in charge of the chase. He asked for assistance in escorting the civilians out of the bunker; the lieutenant said he'd get them out with a hand grenade. Furious, Thompson announced he was taking the civilians out. He went back to Colburn and Andreotta and told them if the Americans fired, to shoot them. "Glenn and I were staring at each other, dumbfounded," says Colburn. He says he never pointed his gun at an American soldier, but he might have fired if they had first. The ground soldiers waited and watched.

Thompson coaxed the Vietnamese out of the shelter with hand gestures. They followed, wary. Thompson looked at his three-man helicopter and realized he had nowhere to put them. "There was no thinking about it," he says now. "It was just something that had to be done, and it had to be done fast." He got on the radio and begged the gunships to land and fly the four adults and five children to safety, which they did within minutes.

Before returning to base, the helicopter crew saw something moving in the irrigation ditch–a child, about 4 years old. Andreotta waded through bloody cadavers to pull him out. Thompson, who had a son, was overcome by emotion. He immediately flew the child to a nearby hospital.

Thompson wasted no time telling his superiors what had happened. "They said I was screaming quite loud. I was mad. I threatened never to fly again," Thompson remembers. "I didn't want to be a part of that. It wasn't war." An investigation followed, but it was cursory at best.

A month later, Andreotta died in combat. Thompson was shot down and returned home to teach helicopter piloting. Colburn served his tour of duty and left the military. The two figured those involved in the killing had been court-martialed. In fact, nothing had happened. But rumors of the massacre persisted. One soldier who heard of the atrocities, Ron Ridenhour, vowed to make them public. In the spring of 1969, he sent letters to government officials, which led to a real investigation and sickening revelations: murdered babies and old men, raped and mutilated women, in a village where U.S. soldiers mistakenly expected to find lots of Viet Cong.

Not all soldiers at My Lai participated in the carnage. Some men risked courtmartial or even death by defying Calley's direct orders to shoot civilians. Eckhardt doesn't think these men were heroes, because they didn't try to stop the murderers. But Colburn thinks they did the best they could. "We could just fly away at the end of the day," he notes. The ground troops had to live together for months.

The Pentagon's investigation eventually suggested that nearly 80 soldiers had participated in the killing and coverup, although only Calley (who now works at a jewelry store in Columbus, Ga.) was convicted. The eyewitness testimony of Thompson and Colburn proved crucial. But instead of thanking them, America vilified them. Many saw Calley as a scapegoat for regrettable but inevitable civilian casualties. "Rallies for Calley" were held all over the country. Jimmy Carter, then governor of Georgia, urged citizens to leave car headlights on to show support for Calley. Thompson, who got nasty letters and death threats, remembers thinking: "Has everyone gone mad?" He feared a court-martial for his command to fire, if necessary, on U.S. soldiers.

Gradually the furor died down. Colburn and Thompson lived in relative anonymity until a 1989 television documentary on My Lai reclaimed them as forgotten heroes. David Egan, a Clemson University professor who had served in a French village where Nazis killed scores of innocents in World War II, was amazed by the story. He campaigned to have Thompson and his team awarded the coveted Soldier's Medal. It wasn't until March 6, 1998, after internal debate among Pentagon officials (who feared an award would reopen old wounds) and outside pressure from reporters, that Thompson and Colburn finally received medals in a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

But both say a far more gratifying reward was a trip back to My Lai this March to dedicate a school and a "peace park." It was then they finally met a young man named Do Hoa, who they believe was the boy they rescued from that death-filled ditch. "Being reunited with the boy was just...I can't even describe it," says Colburn. And Thompson, also overwhelmed, doesn't even try.

Hugh Thompson Addresses Brigade On Ethical Duty in Combat

Hugh Thompson, retired with service in both the Army and the Navy, recently addressed the United States Naval Academy on the ethics of duty in combat. Mr. Thompson spoke at the annual fall ethics lecture hosted by the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics. In addition to addressing the Naval Academy, he set aside an afternoon to sign copies of his new book, The Forgotten Hero, in the Midshipmen Store, met with instructors on the core ethics course, and had an informal dinner with a small group of midshipmen. 

He began his presentation with a video clip of his story taken from "60 Minutes" interviewing him about his experience as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam followed by a subsequent trip back to the village of My Lai. Then he filled in the gaps and took questions. His story of courage and duty is taught in the required ethics course for midshipmen, but Mr. Thompson was able to bring urgency to his personal account of My Lai. This helicopter pilot was responsible for bringing a stop to the massacre being conducted in and around the village of My Lai. His job was to protect troops right outside of the villages and then draw enemy fire to his helicopter while covering the U.S. ground troops. Often this required him to fly as low as ten feet off the ground. Intelligence reports told American forces that the enemy lay in wait in the village of My Lai.

At one point, Thompson had to return to the base camp to refuel. He was gone less than an hour. When he returned to the village, he and his two crew members noticed villagers strewn about the ground. They also saw a mass grave site filled with bodies. Taking a closer look, he immediately noticed the bodies were those of women, children, and old men.  Flying over the gravesite, he realized that some of the people were still alive.  Aghast at what he saw, and then spotting a young child still alive, he asked one of the ground troops to escort the child to safety. In response, the child was shot dead on the spot. Coming to full realization, Mr. Thompson felt
immediate guilt saying he "felt responsible for the child's death."

Spotting three Vietnamese peering out of a bunker, he vowed to not repeat the same mistake. Instead, he positioned his helicopter between the Vietnamese and U.S. soldiers. "I was determined not to let the men I was supposed to be protecting commit anymore such acts," stated Mr. Thompson, remembering the incident. A short standoff ensued before he was able to coax the noncombatant civilians, who turned out to be ten people, not just three, out of the bunker, and he was able to arrange for their removal to safety along with a small boy pulled from the mass grave.

When asked if he would have fired upon his own men, he responded, "I had already given my crew members the order to fire back if fIred upon by the u.s. soldiers." The mission was subsequently shortened from four days to hours after he reported the incident to his chain of command.

When asked what he thought caused the ground troops' actions that day and why his reactions were different, he adamantly answered, "The quality of leadership found in their officers was poor. We all had the same briefs on the operation, but their officers did not follow their duty in leading their men."  Still emotional about the incident, he added that, "This is not war, and no American soldier should consider it such." When asked why he personally made his choice, he carefully explained, "I was raised in a strict family, probably considered abusive by today's standards, but we were taught right from wrong, and that was wrong." He spoke of the duty he was bound to honor by saving the lives of noncombatants from needless killing and the action he needed to take against his own comrades to change the situation.

He hopes that by speaking with people today, specifically future officers, that he can instill a sense of responsibility. His main message is, "Do the right thing, make the right decision, get
involved, don't accept negative peer pressure." For this reason, he also thinks ethics should be an integral part of the curriculum taught to future officers. A true American hero, he firmly
believes that one person can make a difference, but he "just has to make the right difference."

Mr.Thompson's presentation was part of the fall ethics lecture series supported through the generosity of William C. Stutt. The Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics sponsors this and a spring lecture series.

photo by NICK UT, 1972

From the Los Angeles Times
Declassified papers show U.S. atrocities went far beyond My Lai.
By Nick Turse and Deborah Nelson
Special to The Times
August 6, 2006

The men of B Company were in a dangerous state of mind. They had lost five men in a firefight the day before. The morning of Feb. 8, 1968, brought unwelcome orders to resume their sweep of the countryside, a green patchwork of rice paddies along Vietnam's central coast.

They met no resistance as they entered a nondescript settlement in Quang Nam province. So Jamie Henry, a 20-year-old medic, set his rifle down in a hut, unfastened his bandoliers and lighted a cigarette.

Just then, the voice of a lieutenant crackled across the radio. He reported that he had rounded up 19 civilians, and wanted to know what to do with them. Henry later recalled the company commander's response:

Kill anything that moves.

Henry stepped outside the hut and saw a small crowd of women and children. Then the shooting began.

Moments later, the 19 villagers lay dead or dying.

Back home in California, Henry published an account of the slaughter and held a news conference to air his allegations. Yet he and other Vietnam veterans who spoke out about war crimes were branded traitors and fabricators. No one was ever prosecuted for the massacre.

Now, nearly 40 years later, declassified Army files show that Henry was telling the truth — about the Feb. 8 killings and a series of other atrocities by the men of B Company.

The files are part of a once-secret archive, assembled by a Pentagon task force in the early 1970s, that shows that confirmed atrocities by U.S. forces in Vietnam were more extensive than was previously known.

The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators — not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.

Though not a complete accounting of Vietnam war crimes, the archive is the largest such collection to surface to date. About 9,000 pages, it includes investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.

The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese — families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing. Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity.

Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units, a Times review of the files found. They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.

Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, a Vietnam veteran who served on the task force, says he once supported keeping the records secret but now believes they deserve wide attention in light of alleged attacks on civilians and abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

"We can't change current practices unless we acknowledge the past," says Johns, 78.

Among the substantiated cases in the archive:

•  Seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died.

•  Seventy-eight other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.

•  One hundred forty-one instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.

Investigators determined that evidence against 203 soldiers accused of harming Vietnamese civilians or prisoners was strong enough to warrant formal charges. These "founded" cases were referred to the soldiers' superiors for action.

Ultimately, 57 of them were court-martialed and just 23 convicted, the records show.

Fourteen received prison sentences ranging from six months to 20 years, but most won significant reductions on appeal. The stiffest sentence went to a military intelligence interrogator convicted of committing indecent acts on a 13-year-old girl in an interrogation hut in 1967.

He served seven months of a 20-year term, the records show.

Many substantiated cases were closed with a letter of reprimand, a fine or, in more than half the cases, no action at all.

There was little interest in prosecuting Vietnam war crimes, says Steven Chucala, who in the early 1970s was legal advisor to the commanding officer of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. He says he disagreed with the attitude but understood it.

"Everyone wanted Vietnam to go away," says Chucala, now a civilian attorney for the Army at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia.

In many cases, suspects had left the service. The Army did not attempt to pursue them, despite a written opinion in 1969 by Robert E. Jordan III, then the Army's general counsel, that ex-soldiers could be prosecuted through courts-martial, military commissions or tribunals.

"I don't remember why it didn't go anywhere," says Jordan, now a lawyer in Washington.

Top Army brass should have demanded a tougher response, says retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, who oversaw the task force as a brigadier general at the Pentagon in the early 1970s.

"We could have court-martialed them but didn't," Gard says of soldiers accused of war crimes. "The whole thing is terribly disturbing."

Early-Warning System

In March 1968, members of the 23rd Infantry Division slaughtered about 500 Vietnamese civilians in the hamlet of My Lai. Reporter Seymour Hersh exposed the massacre the following year.

By then, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam at the time of My Lai, had become Army chief of staff. A task force was assembled from members of his staff to monitor war crimes allegations and serve as an early-warning system.

Over the next few years, members of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group reviewed Army investigations and wrote reports and summaries for military brass and the White House.

The records were declassified in 1994, after 20 years as required by law, and moved to the National Archives in College Park, Md., where they went largely unnoticed.

The Times examined most of the files and obtained copies of about 3,000 pages — about a third of the total — before government officials removed them from the public shelves, saying they contained personal information that was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

In addition to the 320 substantiated incidents, the records contain material related to more than 500 alleged atrocities that Army investigators could not prove or that they discounted.

Johns says many war crimes did not make it into the archive. Some were prosecuted without being identified as war crimes, as required by military regulations. Others were never reported.

In a letter to Westmoreland in 1970, an anonymous sergeant described widespread, unreported killings of civilians by members of the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta — and blamed pressure from superiors to generate high body counts.

"A batalion [sic] would kill maybe 15 to 20 [civilians] a day. With 4 batalions in the brigade that would be maybe 40 to 50 a day or 1200 to 1500 a month, easy," the unnamed sergeant wrote. "If I am only 10% right, and believe me it's lots more, then I am trying to tell you about 120-150 murders, or a My Lay [sic] each month for over a year."

A high-level Army review of the letter cited its "forcefulness," "sincerity" and "inescapable logic," and urged then-Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor to make sure the push for verifiable body counts did not "encourage the human tendency to inflate the count by violating established rules of engagement."

Investigators tried to find the letter writer and "prevent his complaints from reaching" then-Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Oakland), according to an August 1971 memo to Westmoreland.

The records do not say whether the writer was located, and there is no evidence in the files that his complaint was investigated further.

Pvt. Henry

James D. "Jamie" Henry was 19 in March 1967, when the Army shaved his hippie locks and packed him off to boot camp.

He had been living with his mother in Sonoma County, working as a hospital aide and moonlighting as a flower child in Haight-Ashbury, when he received a letter from his draft board. As thousands of hippies poured into San Francisco for the upcoming "Summer of Love," Henry headed for Ft. Polk, La.

Soon he was on his way to Vietnam, part of a 100,000-man influx that brought U.S. troop strength to 485,000 by the end of 1967. They entered a conflict growing ever bloodier for Americans — 9,378 U.S. troops would die in combat in 1967, 87% more than the year before.

Henry was a medic with B Company of the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. He described his experiences in a sworn statement to Army investigators several years later and in recent interviews with The Times.

In the fall of 1967, he was on his first patrol, marching along the edge of a rice paddy in Quang Nam province, when the soldiers encountered a teenage girl.

"The guy in the lead immediately stops her and puts his hand down her pants," Henry said. "I just thought, 'My God, what's going on?' "

A day or two later, he saw soldiers senselessly stabbing a pig.

"I talked to them about it, and they told me if I wanted to live very long, I should shut my mouth," he told Army investigators.

Henry may have kept his mouth shut, but he kept his eyes and ears open.

On Oct. 8, 1967, after a firefight near Chu Lai, members of his company spotted a 12-year-old boy out in a rainstorm. He was unarmed and clad only in shorts.

"Somebody caught him up on a hill, and they brought him down and the lieutenant asked who wanted to kill him," Henry told investigators.

Two volunteers stepped forward. One kicked the boy in the stomach. The other took him behind a rock and shot him, according to Henry's statement. They tossed his body in a river and reported him as an enemy combatant killed in action.

Three days later, B Company detained and beat an elderly man suspected of supporting the enemy. He had trouble keeping pace as the soldiers marched him up a steep hill.

"When I turned around, two men had him, one guy had his arms, one guy had his legs and they threw him off the hill onto a bunch of rocks," Henry's statement said.

On Oct. 15, some of the men took a break during a large-scale "search-and-destroy" operation. Henry said he overheard a lieutenant on the radio requesting permission to test-fire his weapon, and went to see what was happening.

He found two soldiers using a Vietnamese man for target practice, Henry said. They had discovered the victim sleeping in a hut and decided to kill him for sport.

"Everybody was taking pot shots at him, seeing how accurate they were," Henry said in his statement.

Back at base camp on Oct. 23, he said, members of the 1st Platoon told him they had ambushed five unarmed women and reported them as enemies killed in action. Later, members of another platoon told him they had seen the bodies.

Tet Offensive

Capt. Donald C. Reh, a 1964 graduate of West Point, took command of B Company in November 1967. Two months later, enemy forces launched a major offensive during Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year.

In the midst of the fighting, on Feb. 7, the commander of the 1st Battalion, Lt. Col. William W. Taylor Jr., ordered an assault on snipers hidden in a line of trees in a rural area of Quang Nam province. Five U.S. soldiers were killed. The troops complained bitterly about the order and the deaths, Henry said.

The next morning, the men packed up their gear and continued their sweep of the countryside. Soldiers discovered an unarmed man hiding in a hole and suspected that he had supported the enemy the previous day. A soldier pushed the man in front of an armored personnel carrier, Henry said in his statement.

"They drove over him forward which didn't kill him because he was squirming around, so the APC backed over him again," Henry's statement said.

Then B Company entered a hamlet to question residents and search for weapons. That's where Henry set down his weapon and lighted a cigarette in the shelter of a hut.

A radio operator sat down next to him, and Henry was listening to the chatter. He heard the leader of the 3rd Platoon ask Reh for instructions on what to do with 19 civilians.

"The lieutenant asked the captain what should be done with them. The captain asked the lieutenant if he remembered the op order (operation order) that came down that morning and he repeated the order which was 'kill anything that moves,' " Henry said in his statement. "I was a little shook … because I thought the lieutenant might do it."

Henry said he left the hut and walked toward Reh. He saw the captain pick up the phone again, and thought he might rescind the order.

Then soldiers pulled a naked woman of about 19 from a dwelling and brought her to where the other civilians were huddled, Henry said.

"She was thrown to the ground," he said in his statement. "The men around the civilians opened fire and all on automatic or at least it seemed all on automatic. It was over in a few seconds. There was a lot of blood and flesh and stuff flying around….

"I looked around at some of my friends and they all just had blank looks on their faces…. The captain made an announcement to all the company, I forget exactly what it was, but it didn't concern the people who had just been killed. We picked up our stuff and moved on."

Henry didn't forget, however. "Thirty seconds after the shooting stopped," he said, "I knew that I was going to do something about it."


For his combat service, Henry earned a Bronze Star with a V for valor, and a Combat Medical Badge, among other awards. A fellow member of his unit said in a sworn statement that Henry regularly disregarded his own safety to save soldiers' lives, and showed "compassion and decency" toward enemy prisoners.

When Henry finished his tour and arrived at Ft. Hood, Texas, in September 1968, he went to see an Army legal officer to report the atrocities he'd witnessed.

The officer advised him to keep quiet until he got out of the Army, "because of the million and one charges you can be brought up on for blinking your eye," Henry says. Still, the legal officer sent him to see a Criminal Investigation Division agent.

The agent was not receptive, Henry recalls.

"He wanted to know what I was trying to pull, what I was trying to put over on people, and so I was just quiet. I told him I wouldn't tell him anything and I wouldn't say anything until I got out of the Army, and I left," Henry says.

Honorably discharged in March 1969, Henry moved to Canoga Park, enrolled in community college and helped organize a campus chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Then he ended his silence: He published his account of the massacre in the debut issue of Scanlan's Monthly, a short-lived muckraking magazine, which hit the newsstands on Feb. 27, 1970. Henry held a news conference the same day at the Los Angeles Press Club.

Records show that an Army operative attended incognito, took notes and reported back to the Pentagon.

A faded copy of Henry's brief statement, retrieved from the Army's files, begins:

"On February 8, 1968, nineteen (19) women and children were murdered in Viet-Nam by members of 3rd Platoon, 'B' Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry….

"Incidents similar to those I have described occur on a daily basis and differ one from the other only in terms of numbers killed," he told reporters. A brief article about his remarks appeared inside the Los Angeles Times the next day.

Army investigators interviewed Henry the day after the news conference. His sworn statement filled 10 single-spaced typed pages. Henry did not expect anything to come of it: "I never got the impression they were ever doing anything."

In 1971, Henry joined more than 100 other veterans at the Winter Soldier Investigation, a forum on war crimes sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

The FBI put the three-day gathering at a Detroit hotel under surveillance, records show, and Nixon administration officials worked behind the scenes to discredit the speakers as impostors and fabricators.

Although the administration never publicly identified any fakers, one of the organization's leaders admitted exaggerating his rank and role during the war, and a cloud descended on the entire gathering.

"We tried to get as much publicity as we could, and it just never went anywhere," Henry says. "Nothing ever happened."

After years of dwelling on the war, he says, he "finally put it in a closet and shut the door."

The Investigation

Unknown to Henry, Army investigators pursued his allegations, tracking down members of his old unit over the next 3 1/2 years.

Witnesses described the killing of the young boy, the old man tossed over the cliff, the man used for target practice, the five unarmed women, the man thrown beneath the armored personnel carrier and other atrocities.

Their statements also provided vivid corroboration of the Feb. 8, 1968, massacre from men who had observed the day's events from various vantage points.

Staff Sgt. Wilson Bullock told an investigator at Ft. Carson, Colo., that his platoon had captured 19 "women, children, babies and two or three very old men" during the Tet offensive.

"All of these people were lined up and killed," he said in a sworn statement. "When it, the shooting, stopped, I began to return to the site when I observed a naked Vietnamese female run from the house to the huddle of people, saw that her baby had been shot. She picked the baby up and was then shot and the baby shot again."

Gregory Newman, another veteran of B Company, told an investigator at Ft. Myer, Va., that Capt. Reh had issued an order "to search and destroy and kill anything in the village that moved."

Newman said he was carrying out orders to kill the villagers' livestock when he saw a naked girl head toward a group of civilians.

"I saw them begging before they were shot," he recalled in a sworn statement.

Donald R. Richardson said he was at a command post outside the hamlet when he heard a platoon leader on the radio ask what to do with 19 civilians.

"The cpt said something about kill anything that moves and the lt on the other end said 'Their [sic] moving,' " according to Richardson's sworn account. "Just then the gunfire was heard."

William J. Nieset, a rifle squad leader, told investigators that he was standing next to a radio operator and heard Reh say: "My instructions from higher are to kill everything that moves."

Robert D. Miller said he was the radio operator for Lt. Johnny Mack Carter, commander of the 3rd Platoon. Miller said that when Carter asked Reh what to do with the 19 civilians, the captain instructed him to follow the "operation order."

Carter immediately sought two volunteers to shoot the civilians, Miller said under oath.

"I believe everyone knew what was going to happen," he said, "so no one volunteered except one guy known only to me as 'Crazy.' "

"A few minutes later, while the Vietnamese were huddled around in a circle Lt Carter and 'Crazy' started shooting them with their M-16's on automatic," Miller's statement says.

Carter had just left active duty when an investigator questioned him under oath in Palmetto, Fla., in March 1970.

"I do not recall any civilians being picked up and categorically stated that I did not order the killing of any civilians, nor do I know of any being killed," his statement said.

An Army investigator called Reh at Ft. Myer. Reh's attorney called back. The investigator made notes of their conversation: "If the interview of Reh concerns atrocities in Vietnam … then he had already advised Reh not to make any statement."

As for Lt. Col. Taylor, two soldiers described his actions that day.

Myran Ambeau, a rifleman, said he was standing five feet from the captain and heard him contact the battalion commander, who was in a helicopter overhead. (Ambeau did not identify Reh or Taylor by name.)

"The battalion commander told the captain, 'If they move, shoot them,' " according to a sworn statement that Ambeau gave an investigator in Little Rock, Ark. "The captain verified that he had heard the command, he then transmitted the instruction to Lt Carter.

"Approximately three minutes later, there was automatic weapons fire from the direction where the prisoners were being held."

Gary A. Bennett, one of Reh's radio operators, offered a somewhat different account. He said the captain asked what he should do with the detainees, and the battalion commander replied that it was a "search and destroy mission," according to an investigator's summary of an interview with Bennett.

Bennett said he did not believe the order authorized killing civilians and that, although he heard shooting, he knew nothing about a massacre, the summary says. Bennett refused to provide a sworn statement.

An Army investigator sat down with Taylor at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. Taylor said he had never issued an order to kill civilians and had heard nothing about a massacre on the date in question. But the investigator had asked Taylor about events occurring on Feb. 9, 1968 — a day after the incident.

Three and a half years later, an agent tracked Taylor down at Ft. Myer and asked him about Feb. 8. Taylor said he had no memory of the day and did not have time to provide a sworn statement. He said he had a "pressing engagement" with "an unidentified general officer," the agent wrote.

Investigators wrote they could not find Pvt. Frank Bonilla, the man known as "Crazy." The Times reached him at his home on Oahu in March.

Bonilla, now 58 and a hotel worker, says he recalls an order to kill the civilians, but says he does not remember who issued it. "Somebody had a radio, handed it to someone, maybe a lieutenant, said the man don't want to see nobody standing," he said.

Bonilla says he answered a call for volunteers but never pulled the trigger.

"I couldn't do it. There were women and kids," he says. "A lot of guys thought that I had something to do with it because they saw me going up there…. Nope … I just turned the other way. It was like, 'This ain't happening.' "

Afterward, he says, "I remember sitting down with my head between my knees. Is that for real? Someone said, 'Keep your mouth shut or you're not going home.' "

He says he does not know who did the shooting.

The Outcome

The Criminal Investigation Division assigned Warrant Officer Jonathan P. Coulson in Los Angeles to complete the investigation and write a final report on the "Henry Allegation." He sent his findings to headquarters in Washington in January 1974.

Evidence showed that the massacre did occur, the report said. The investigation also confirmed all but one of the other killings that Henry had described. The one exception was the elderly man thrown off a cliff. Coulson said it could not be determined whether the victim was alive when soldiers tossed him.

The evidence supported murder charges in five incidents against nine "subjects," including Carter and Bonilla, Coulson wrote. Those two carried out the Feb. 8 massacre, along with "other unidentified members of their element," the report said.

Investigators determined that there was not enough evidence to charge Reh with murder, because of conflicting accounts "as to the actual language" he used.

But Reh could be charged with dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the killings, the report said.

Coulson conferred with an Army legal advisor, Capt. Robert S. Briney, about whether the evidence supported charges against Taylor.

They decided it did not. Even if Taylor gave an order to kill the Vietnamese if they moved, the two concluded, "it does not constitute an order to kill the prisoners in the manner in which they were executed."

The War Crimes Working Group records give no indication that action was taken against any of the men named in the report.

Briney, now an attorney in Phoenix, says he has forgotten details of the case but recalls a reluctance within the Army to pursue such charges.

"They thought the war, if not over, was pretty much over. Why bring this stuff up again?" he says.

Years Later

Taylor retired in 1977 with the rank of colonel. In a recent interview outside his home in northern Virginia, he said, "I would not have given an order to kill civilians. It's not in my makeup. I've been in enough wars to know that it's not the right thing to do."

Reh, who left active duty in 1978 and now lives in Northern California, declined to be interviewed by The Times.

Carter, a retired postal worker living in Florida, says he has no memory of his combat experiences. "I guess I've wiped Vietnam and all that out of my mind. I don't remember shooting anyone or ordering anyone to shoot," he says.

He says he does not dispute that a massacre took place. "I don't doubt it, but I don't remember…. Sometimes people just snap."

Henry was re-interviewed by an Army investigator in 1972, and was never contacted again. He drifted away from the antiwar movement, moved north and became a logger in California's Sierra Nevada foothills. He says he had no idea he had been vindicated — until The Times contacted him in 2005.

Last fall, he read the case file over a pot of coffee at his dining room table in a comfortably worn house, where he lives with his wife, Patty.

"I was a wreck for a couple days," Henry, now 59, wrote later in an e-mail. "It was like a time warp that put me right back in the middle of that mess. Some things long forgotten came back to life. Some of them were good and some were not.

"Now that whole stinking war is back. After you left, I just sat in my chair and shook for a couple hours. A slight emotional stress fracture?? Don't know, but it soon passed and I decided to just keep going with this business. If it was right then, then it still is."

Times researcher Janet Lundblad contributed to this report.

* About this report
Nick Turse is a freelance journalist living in New Jersey. Deborah Nelson is a staff writer in The Times' Washington bureau.

This report is based in part on records of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group filed at the National Archives in College Park, Md. The collection includes 241 case summaries that chronicle more than 300 substantiated atrocities by U.S. forces and 500 unconfirmed allegations.

The archive includes reports of war crimes by the 101st Airborne Division's Tiger Force that the Army listed as unconfirmed. The Toledo Blade documented the atrocities in a 2003 newspaper series.

Turse came across the collection in 2002 while researching his doctoral dissertation for the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University.

Turse and Nelson also reviewed Army inspector general records in the National Archives; FBI and Army Criminal Investigation Division records; documents shared by military veterans; and case files and related records in the Col. Henry Tufts Archive at the University of Michigan.

A selection of documents used in preparing this report can be found at latimes.com/vietnam.

From the Los Angeles Times
Nick Turse, Deborah Nelson and Janet Lundblad
August 6, 2006
Decades-old Pentagon records show that Army criminal investigators substantiated seven massacres of Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians by U.S. soldiers — in addition to the notorious 1968 My Lai massacre.

Here are summaries of three of those incidents, drawn from files of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group.

Sept. 29, 1969

E Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division

Members of a reconnaissance platoon swept through the Que Son Valley, burning homes, slaughtering animals and clearing civilians. They killed an unarmed boy standing outside a cluster of huts and fired into one of the dwellings, killing three women and three or four children, according to an investigative report. The soldiers then executed an elderly woman and a baby.

The unit reported the victims as enemy killed in action.

In the next few days, members of the platoon raped a woman and a young girl and executed civilian detainees, investigators determined.

Pvt. Davey V. Hoag said he reported the killings to an officer but was ignored. Two and a half years later, he gave information to Army investigators at Ft. Lewis, Wash.

"The other guys wouldn't listen when I tried to stop them from shooting everything," Hoag said in a sworn statement. Other soldiers corroborated his account.

The investigation found sufficient evidence to charge seven soldiers with murder, rape or dereliction of duty. By then, at least four had left the service, and the Army declined to pursue charges against them.

A private still on active duty was charged with two counts of murder. He denied killing civilians. His commanding general, Maj. Gen. Robert C. Hixon, withdrew the charges, citing insufficient evidence, and gave the private an undesirable discharge.

Investigators said the evidence also supported a dereliction of duty charge against the platoon leader for failing to report the civilian deaths. The platoon leader said he had not heard about the deaths or any other war crimes by his soldiers. His commander decided against disciplinary action, citing insufficient evidence.


March 16, 1968

B Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry, 23rd Infantry Division

On the same day as the massacre at My Lai, soldiers from the same division killed an undetermined number of women and children in neighboring My Khe.

Witnesses told investigators that soldiers tossed grenades into shelters and shot women and children as they ran for cover or tried to flee. Over the next three days, members of the unit burned three sub-hamlets to the ground and tortured detainees with electric shocks, records say.

Officially, the unit said it killed 39 enemy combatants but recovered no weapons and suffered no casualties. Official South Vietnamese sources put the death toll at 80 to 90 noncombatants. Evidence of the killings surfaced during the My Lai inquiry, and the Army launched an investigation.

Platoon leader Lt. Thomas K. Willingham told an investigator that his troops had come under enemy fire and that he knew of no "unnecessary killings." He was charged with murder, but the charges were dropped on the advice of Army legal officers, who cited uncooperative witnesses and contradictory testimony. Other suspects had left the service and charges were not pursued.

A separate inquiry found a soldier had executed a boy during the assault on My Khe. The soldier, who had left the service, was not charged.


May 18, 1971

Troop A, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division

A U.S. helicopter "hunter-killer" team attacked a village in Cambodia with rockets and machine-gun fire, killing eight civilians, including two children, and wounding 15.

The team reported that they saw what appeared to be flashes of automatic weapons fire and "a number of motorcycles and bicycles" that looked like an enemy convoy. An Army investigation, however, found no reasonable basis for the attack.

After the assault, a U.S. captain landed with a platoon of South Vietnamese troops but "did not search bunkers for enemy forces," according to an investigative summary. "Nor were enemy weapons or other war materiel found."

The troops provided no medical treatment to the wounded and made off with "large quantities of civilian property, including tobacco, poultry, and radios, and the US cpt returned to the aircraft with a motorcycle."

The captain gave the motorcycle to his squadron commander, and "the incident was neither properly investigated or reported initially."

A captain, a major and a lieutenant colonel received letters of reprimand. No one was prosecuted, according to Army records.

— Nick Turse, Deborah Nelson and Janet Lundblad

Agent Orange Victims Gather in Vietnam To Ask For Long-Overdue Help
By Staff and Wire Reports
Mar 28, 2006

Vietnam War veterans from the United States, South Korea, Australia and Vietnam gathered in Hanoi Tuesday to call for more help for the many victims of the Agent Orange defoliant used by the U.S. military.

Deformed children born to parents Vietnam believes were affected by the estimated 20 million gallons of herbicides, including Agent Orange, poured on the country were brought to the conference as dramatic evidence of its effects.

"The use of Agent Orange in Vietnam produced unacceptable threats to life, violated international law and created a toxic wasteland that continued to kill and injure civilian populations long after the war was over," said Joan Duffy from Pennsylvania.

Duffy who served in a U.S. military hospital in Vietnam in 1969-1970, said the Agent Orange used there was more toxic than usual.

"In an effort to work faster and increase production of Agent Orange, the chemical companies paid little attention to quality control issues," she said.

"The Agent Orange destined for Vietnam became much more highly contaminated with dioxin as the result of sloppy, hasty manufacturing," she told the conference in Hanoi.

Last March, a federal court dismissed a suit on behalf of millions of Vietnamese who charged the United States committed war crimes by its use of Agent Orange, which contains dioxin, to deny communist troops ground cover.

The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) has filed an appeal, saying assistance was needed urgently as many were dying.

The U.S. appeals court was expected to make a decision in April.

Dioxin can cause cancer, deformities and organ dysfunction. Manufacturers named in the suit included Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co..

VAVA chairman Dang Vu Hiep said Vietnam's lawsuit against U.S. chemical manufacturers was meant not only to help Vietnamese victims, but also victims in other countries.

In January, a South Korean appeals court ordered Dow Chemical Co and Monsanto Co. to pay $65 million in damages to 20,000 of the country's Vietnam War veterans for exposure to defoliants such as Agent Orange.

Due to problems arising from jurisdiction and the amount of time that has elapsed since the war, legal experts said it will be cumbersome or perhaps impossible for the South Korean veterans to collect damages.

The chemical remains in the water and soil, scientists say.

"Thirty years after the fire ceased, many Vietnamese are still dying due to the effect of toxic chemicals sprayed by the U.S. forces in Vietnam and many Vietnamese will still be killed by the chemicals," said Bui Tho Tan, a war reporter who suffers from throat cancer.

"Those who committed the crime must be punished," he said.

The Beginnings of the Vietnam War
Robert Streyar

On September 2, 1945, representatives from the Emperor of Japan signed surrender papers ending World War II. On that same day a declaration of independence was signed by Ho Chi Minh and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was born. The proclamations said, "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among those are, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Now, if this sounds a lot like our own Declaration of Independence, that's because it is. Minh studied history while attending school in the United States. In 1919, Minh tried to convince President Wilson to endorse Vietnamese independence, but Wilson refused to meet with him.

During World War II, Minh was an ally of the United States and the Americans had given him money and weapons so he could fight the Japanese. Minh was certain that this would be rewarded by the United States, and in return, they would support Vietnamese independence after the war. We didn't. Instead we supported a return of the French.

At first, Ho Chi Minh tried to negotiate with the French. However, after talks collapsed, a war of independence broke out in Vietnam. From 1946 to 1954, we poured millions of dollars into coffers for the French military, so in effect we armed both sides.

In 1954, the unthinkable happened. The French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu. Many people in the Eisenhower administration wanted to go to war and replace the French but President Eisenhower, who had just negotiated a perilous peace in Korea, was in no mood to send American boys to Vietnam.

But others in the administration had different ideas, including Secretary of State Charles Foster Dulles. "I do not believe that in this contingency, the United States would simply say 'too bad we're licked and that is the end of it.' We can raise hell and the Communists will find it just as expensive to resist as we are now finding it."

So we set out to raise some hell. One of the first things we did was to create a government that we could call our own. Ngo Dinh Diem was installed as the ruler of South Vietnam. Vietnam had been separated at the 17th parallel, with Ho Chi Minh's forces ruling the north and the newly created Diem government in the south. Both sides had agreed to elections in 1956, but the U.S. had no intention in keeping their end of the bargain.

Diem had no support. He had no army. He had no popular appeal. Diem needed the American CIA to survive so the Saigon Military Mission was born. First, they paid off many of Diem's opponents in the south. Next they used physiological warfare to scare the largely but not exclusively Catholic refugees by transporting a million North Vietnamese refugees and turning them loose in the south. The effects of this influx of refugees had devastating effects on the south. Many of the displaced people became the early Viet Cong.

Diem had spent most of his time out of the country and had no knowledge of the inner workings of Vietnam. Because of this, he made two other tragic mistakes, which seemed logical at the time, but would prove to be a devastating for the Vietnamese. First, he ordered the French to leave, which removed any kind of government in South Vietnam. Next, because he suspected they were communists, Diem ordered the Chinese out of the country. This destroyed the commerce of South Vietnam because the Chinese were the middle men in Vietnam's economy. Now, when rice farmers brought their crops to market to exchange them for necessary goods, no one was there to trade with them.

The invaders from the north soon took land from the peasants, with the support of the American CIA, and refugees from the orth increasingly dominated the Vietnam government. In the name of anti-communism, the seeds of a war that would take the lives of two million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans, was born. We weren't trying to save Vietnam we were, in the words of Charles Foster Dulles, "raising some hell."

Sources: The Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg
JFK, The Cia, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy,
L. Fletcher Prouty.

Interview with Noam Chomsky
The deal we made with Ho Chi Minh during WWII was that in exchange for his support in both harassing the Japanese and more importantly, assisting the supply line to China, that the U.S. would recognize Vietnam independence after defeating the Japanese.

As is so often with U.S. policy, we repudiated this agreement after the Japanese were defeated. Ho Chi Minh obviously preferred democracy to communism, but had to become a communist to obtain support from Communist China and Russia.

China later admitted that they supplied 147,000 troops to Vietnam during the conflict. The Russian's Spetsnaz were also present, but I don't know of documentation to support this.

Meanwhile, the English, neutrals in this conflict, shipped supplies and arms to North Vietnam. We deferred mining North Vietnam harbors because English ships were "welded" to the docks, and the US did not want a diplomatic incident with England. U.S troops, and Viet Cong considered certain corporate plantations off limits to combat. Rubber plantations, fruit plantations were not involved in the conflict. If this sounds like the banana wars of Central America (Hail, United Fruit), it is strikingly similiar. Vietnam is considered the ricebowl of Asia. So, the famous Domino theory was advanced to justify propping up a puppet government in South Vietnam, to deny verdant rice fields to the 'communists'.

As in any conflict, there is always an economic incentive, coupled with the failure of diplomacy, bill to be paid with blood. The little known economic incentive is that, like the United States gulf coast, the offshore South Vietnam coast is an extremely rich oilfield. Diplomacy had already failed, so let the bleeding begin.

Prior to inauguration, John F. Kennedy met with Douglas McArthur and discussed U.S. policy in Asia. McArthur frankly told Kennedy that under no circumstances should the U.S. become involved in a land war in Asia. Korea was resolved only because Korea was a peninsular land mass which could be isolated from North Korea. A land war in Asia was a no-win situation, similar to a two front war in Europe.

It is believed that Kennedy, had he not been assassinated, would have reduced our military presence of 'advisors', and had already indicated this. Under Johnson, (a documented coward, ballot box stuffer, and holder of a medal for 'bravery' as the result of a shrapnel wound while flying as observer in the South Pacific, while the pilots with him who flew combat every day received nothing) the war was escalated, while effective counterinsurgency methods were discontinued (hearts and minds program).

To hold a piece of real estate, you must position a rifleman on every square mile you intend to hold. We would take a hill, then give up the hill. We would take a village, then give up the village.

Meanwhile, the U.S. was expending blood and hardware at a ruinous rate, with no clear objective of what we were trying to accomplish. Nixon took office in 1968, on a platform of ending the war (police conflict, since Congress had not formally declared war). He then embraced the idea that a land war in Asia was winnable, and continued the conflict into late 1973.

The North Vietnamese strategy was not to kill U.S. servicemen, (exceptions being snipers and airmen) but to maim and wound. Maimed and wounded servicemen, returning to the U.S., constituted a continuing propaganda source against the war, regardless of the individual serviceman's statement of support or non-support.

It is always economics.