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[speaker]: Hello this is Jean Van Word. Today I have with me 3 veterans of the Vietnam War who will be speaking about their experiences in Vietnam and how they feel about the war. Our guests are members of a recently formed organization called Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The opinions that they'll be expressing here today are entirely personal opinions and do not represent those of the group. Our guests are Dave Brom, Mark Donnelly and John Horowitz. [Mark]: I'm Mark Donnelly, uh, I served in the navy from 1963 to 1966. I was on the aircraft carrier Midway when she was off Vietnam through April of 1965 'til late October. I think when I went over there I was really for the war and, uh, I thought that this was a good thing to do that we were stopping communism in Asia. Well I got out there, I was the executive officers yeoman and any big bureaucracy there's always people that don't have anything to do so I spent a lot of time a lot of my time reading, besides going on amm- unition work and parties. And, uh, the more I read and the more I stood back and
observed what was happening from our ship, I really began to be get against the war and I think one of the major things that bothered me was the attitude of the the guys on the ship and the people that came out to it. We were detached from the war, we didn't see the the damage we had caused. I'm out on the ship we were maybe 100 miles off the coast and all we knew was the planes left the ship with bombs and they came back empty. But really began to bother me more was when all sightseers came out and they came in droves on our ship every day people are just coming out to see the war for example, we had Lyndon Baines Johnson's pastor out there and I I don't know what he was he was out there for. He wasn't a navy chaplain, an army chaplain, he was just sight seeing. The head of the veterans for foreign wars came out there, may get the red carpet treatment and they flew into various places in Vietnam and everybody had to wait hand and foot on 'em, treat 'em like kings and then they go home and they they didn't serve any act of purpose over there and I just began to wonder, are these people coming out to watch our boys die to
watch us to stop communism? And I s- I started questioning the war I started asking my superiors questions. We had spent quite a bit of time talking sometimes about the war. They talk about how we were bombing VC territory. They have a thing they called free zones where they drop a bombs or rockets or shoot up anything that's moving and, uh, anything that's killed in that area is considered C- C. And I wondered how they you know how they established this free zone territories and the the way they did it was they drop leaflets over a certain area and tell the people to get out because by a certain date that we would start bombing there and anybody in the area was considered VC. Well it's, uh, I think it's a little difficult to understand that the Vietnamese feel very, uh, closely related to their land they they their ancestor worshipers in a sense and th- their land is is very sacred to 'em and to tell 'em to get up and move out to move into a government area where there's not going to be adequate facilities for 'em, is really
criminal. But this is what we were doing and then anybody left in that area, if they didn't get out by themselves were just they just drop bombs on 'em and then I started questioning the accuracy of our bombing because I had access to a limited number of photographs although I didn't in why I wasn't a photo interpreter so I didn't see the results of all our raids. But I can remember the standard joke on the ship when we were out there and, uh, the standard joke was that the first day the photo plane would fly over and take pictures of what we're going to destroy. The next day we'd start a raid. In the morning we drop bombs all over within a mile of the bridge trying to destroy it and if we didn't get it then, we come back in the afternoon and maybe on the restruck restrike they would drop one of the spans and, uh, I started quesstioning the accuracy of the bombing because of the photographs I saw of one barracks area they had destroyed. You could look and you could see buildings that obviously were no military value that were destroyed, blown up across the road maybe you know a full block away from where they were dropping the bombs. Well after I got off my
the carrier Midway I was assigned to a photo squadron that had detachments of planes on the variations sh- carriers out on the fleet. And, uh, one of my job's there was typing personal letters for the commanding officer. These letters for the most part were sent to wives whose husbands had already been shot down, some of 'em were prisoners of war, etc. And, uh, it really used to bug me because some of the things he said in the letters were were very personal. And I used to have to place a long distance phone calls and one of the pilots would get shot down. And it really started bothering me. I can remember that one woman had gone all the way to Hong Kong because her husband was a prisoner of war and she felt she had to be near to him so at least he wouldn't feel like he had been deserted. Uh, these things really bothered me, they really started to get to me because you write these letters, one woman had photographs sent to her by some crank that were just sort of body mutilated and the big question mark is this your husband now and uh, these things starting bothering me, granted there's cracks in the world but if this war wasn't going
on, these women wouldn't have to live like this. I can remember in last the last summer I was in the navy when our planes attacked the fuel dumps that were in north Vietnam. They all these big statements about the handle on war machine will grind to a halt in 8 weeks. Well that's been well over a year now and the handle war machine hasn't grinded to a halt and I just beginning to feel that we're very our military is very frustrated right now and they they just can't seem to stop this and they just think that more bombing is the answer. And I just don't think more bombing is the answer. That we're just killing innocent people that are that aren't really involved in this war. I can't think of the north Vietnamese people as being storm troopers or the gestapo. They're human beings just like the people in south Vietnam are because they're under communism doesn't make them some kind of ogre or anything like that. Something has to be done to stop this war now. If the American people find out that they're boys are coming back from this war questioning it, questioning our policy in southeast Asia, that maybe then the American people will start start
to think about it and not take everything our government says as the truth. [John]: Uh, my name's Johnathan Horowitz, uh, I was stationed in Nha Trang, Vietnam and I was a security military policeman most of the time and, uh, my involvement in south Vietnam was more direct than Mark's. As I was exposed to the people of south Vietnam a large percent of the time and as a result I, uh, got to be very friendly with some of them and, uh, grew to like them a great deal. And one of the things that, uh, really worried me more than anything when I first went over I didn't really know what to think about the war. I didn't know whether it was right or whether it was wrong but I can remember my first real vision in Vietnam was, uh,
when we sailed into Qui Nho'n harbor and the people who lived there road out on boats and, uh, actually fought amongst themselves for the garbage which, uh, was disposed from the ship and, uh, I really began to sort of ya know wonder, what's going on here? Where these people have to like fight for garbage and trash and and, uh, salt water soaked garbage at that. And, uh, finally we got down to, uh, Nha Trang and, uh, we were set up to do, uh, security work guarding officers and their villas. And, uh, well we lived in tents a- there's a little bit of animosity right there to begin with and, uh, the doing this, I got to know many Vietnamese they'd come walking up to us and, uh, try to
talk to us and after a certain amount of time mainly through the children many of us learned to speak a little bit of Vietnamese and, uh, a lot of them learned how to speak a lot of English and so we could really communicate, uh, on a firsthand level. What really amazed me was the the complete poverty that these people lived in and even then a fairly metropolitan area and it was not unusual to see children 3 years old stark naked and children 5 years old only partially clothed. And just really like destitute I was still really uncertain as to how I I really felt. I I wasn't sure if you know if we continued our effort, would this alleviate the poverty that, uh, 20 years of war it caused in Vietnam or not. But,
uh, the more I saw, the more poverty I saw and Nha Trang became a refugee center and its population exploded. The, uh, economy became rapidly inflated during the influx of the American troops. And, uh, things didn't get any better, things got worse. I was very fortunate in that uh, I formed a few very strong relationship ships with the Vietnamese people and I still write letters with one of my Vietnamese friends and recently I received a letter from him and, uh, there was one line that he wrote in that letter which I don't think I'll ever forget. He said, from the time I was born until today, I have never known peace and, uh, this this man's about 20 5, 26 years old. And that sort of, uh, a horrifying thing to
think about. I just don't know what what can be done really I I think, uh, it has to be resolved, the fighting has to stop. These people, uh, will not be beaten down either, north Vietnamese or south Vietnamese I don't believe they have, uh, a lot of national pride and they're strong people even though they're small and and they're wonderful people. I didn't, uh, I didn't really see any action. We were attacked, uh, on the 26th of December at about 2 o'clock in the morning. But I did see one night I remember when I was doing regular military police work, uh, we had to do an escort for water to the hospital from the water point which is about 5 miles away. And that night they they flew in, a whole company of
American soldiers. All they could get of the company and it was just completely wiped out there were about 60 men that they flew in who were wounded they'd left behind, uh, 'bout 30 who were dead and there were some 40 who were still missing. And this sort of brought it you know onto the American level you know like what's happening to our guys out there and it was just sad to see and what was really sad to me was that there was no apparent reason for it. [Brom]: I'm Dave Brom and I was a helicopter crew chief with the army in the central highlands in Vietnam from late 1962 until 1964. And in the course of events I was called upon to go out into the field and to perform and assist the people of Vietnam when possible
and all the time that I was doing this, my impressions were building. And I found that they were conflicting with what was said by my superiors and what I thought in my own mind to be realistic. I would go on support missions whose purpose was to resupply villages that had been terrorized by the viet cong and to evacuate wounded personnel of the American armed forces and the Vietnamese army. Also from time to time, I was involved in a tactical assault mission which required us to load small groups of Vietnamese army men on board are helicopters, take them to a position in a free zone and let them off and let them engage and try to destroy the viet cong. Uh, doing these missions, uh, we
we would build up quite a bit of tension and, uh, in trying to release these tensions we would get together after the missions and talk things over. And still many of us including myself had no real concept of why we were called upon to do the things that we were asked to do. It's not too inconceivable to realize that you wish to help your fellow man. Particularly if he looks like you and thinks like you but to go to a foreign country with an alien culture that you don't understand and I certainly didn't understand it and to try to become an integral part of a movement which was alleged to be leaning toward a democratic government, uh, I found it very difficult to relate to this. It did not seem realistic and as a result of this, uh, I kept to myself for a long time and then little by little I got used to the idea that, uh, this was a job
and I had to do it because I was part of a military group and I had been disciplined to do it but when I came back to the United States and I saw a great deal of the protest movement and heard many people claim that it was communist inspired and that people were doing this for, uh, publicity or that they had the wrong motives. I again question myself, I said what really are the motivations behind this desire to disengage with the Vietnamese conflict and for that matter, why should we really be there at all? And, uh, then I began to hear the statements, uh, we are protecting a democracy in southeast Asia. We are trying to establish a democracy in southeast Asia. These things didn't ring true because of what I had seen. Not one single incident that I could relate, uh, quite depicts the
horror and the damage and the suffering that is being caused by this war without ever having achieved the purposes that wars usually are intended to achieve. And I find now that I have a great lack of confidence in the people who are carrying out this war because discrepancies in what is said publicly and what actually happens, are too obvious to those of us who have been there and this is frightening because we'd try and place a trust in the people that we elect to represent us. These people are not stupid. They must realize that there is a definite line between what they are saying and what is really happening. This is frightening to think that we have put people of poor judgment or poor intention in positions of power and that they are able to commit the resources both economically and what's more important in human life to a course that will lead us
to god knows where. Uh, this constantly, uh, upsets me. It becomes an emotional point with me which I would like to stay away from. But it's very difficult because I watched my buddies die, I went to school with the people. I can't accept their dying without a just cause. I'm not a great dove I think that a war to protect our country would be a just war but we're not protecting our country. The domino theory, uh, doesn't seem realistic to me because of the concept of nationalism is too strong in all of our associations of small nations' they want to retain their independence, they're not about to allow themselves to be run over and I just don't know what to make of it. But I do know one thing, very deep down inside that a lot of human beings are dying needlessly. [interviewer]: We're repeatedly told by President Johnson that
we're helping the south Vietnamese people defend their country against armed aggression and takeover by north Vietnam. Do the people of north Vietnam see it this way? [John]: Um, that that's a very hard question to answer. Um, above all the people of south Vietnam are very polite and if you asked them a direct question like that they'll very often just sort of politely smile at you for an answer. I can remember though talking to one man who had, um, been with the viet minh against the french as a small boy about 12. When we weree talking about the viet cong he said, oh, the viet cong's very bad. And I said, well why and he said, well they it's of they don't have enough materials, it's very cold, it rains a lot and they don't have tents. But, uh, there's nothing about, uh,
the viet cong you know like, uh, being bad guys it was just more that it's uncomfortable to be a a viet cong and and, uh, he decided that he'd had enough of that when he was 12 years old. Sometimes somebody will come up and say to you, oh thank you for coming over here, you don't realize how much we appreciate it and then this is sort of gratifying in a way that that was an exceptional thing to have happen, uh, happened to me twice I think in the 8 months that I was there. As I say most people just sort of evade the question rather than really answer it. [Brom]: My experience with the Vietnamese people was on 2 levels and of the military people that I encountered, most of them were in the army because this allowed them a great economic advantage over being a common, every day Vietnamese peasant. Now the
ferocity of their emotions was, uh, can only be described as apathetic. They were there because it was to their advantage. I think a few of the younger ones really believed some of the things that were said that they were resisting the aggression but when I got down into the villages, this is what I found. On the surface, that people supported whoever was in power in Saigon. Underneath their most basic desire was to be left alone, to go about their daily lives and really deep down inside I think a great many of them sympathized with the viet cong because the viet cong in their origins are south Vietnamese. They are made up of peasants probably a few aristocrats whose indoctrination has not been western. And they feel that they can play the game of trying
both sides of the fence, uh, they will take whatever economic advantage they can out of the situation and I can understand well that they would want to because they are poverty stricken. But, uh, by and large at the time that I was there, I found the people very apathetic and only wishing to to live from day to day and hoping that they get the chance. [interviewer]: If you've been engaged in a battle or if you come in to a suspected viet cong territory, is there any way that you can tell a viet cong or north Vietnamese from the south Vietnamese? [Brom]: Well to start with, the concept of zoning an area in Vietnam so that you can say it is a secure zone or a free zone is determined in this manner where there's a large concentration of American military personnel and also a large detachment of Vietnamese regulars or a home defense force
group and the area hasn't been attacked for several months and no violent activity has occurred and this is assumed to be a safe area. The free zone is anything outside of this. And this is usually determined by a mountain border or river border or a highway. Now, once you go outside of the secure zone, the first thing you do is you cock your guns because there really is no way to tell when you're going to be fired upon. The way we were told sort of in jest but also it's kind of serious too, to determine the difference between a Vietnamese who is loyal and a viet cong is as follows: he runs from you, he shoots at you or he's dead. Now that was the way we told the difference. Now these weren't written orders but it was a mutual understanding between our superior officers and the men that when we had a
body count, we would count 3 persons, 3 viet cong for every body we found in a free zone, whether we found a weapon with him or not. And this was perpetrated on the concept that the viet cong dragged their dead away from a battle zone. Now this is ridiculous in tactical terms because the only thing you want to do when you're being whipped in a battle is to disengage. You don't have time to drag bodies away and hide them. What went on out there in the free zones is another story. Uh, several of my fellow crew chiefs used to amuse themselves by taking pot shots with their machine guns and you don't have to be too accurate with a machine gun to hit what you're shooting at especially when you fly at low level as we did. A lot of the men used to amuse themselves by taking shots at farmers and water buffalo. And this rankled me because, uh, in America you go out and you buy a truck in
order to move your products to market. Your possessions are important to you in this country and here are people with superior weapons considering that the people on the ground only had plows with which to defend themselves with killing the sole support of a family for their their own amusement. We were warned not to do it but who's to stop you when you're out on your own? We would hit targets and then later on describe the targets in glowing terms as being destroyed. Now if I said today we destroyed a hydro plant this conjures up visions of pumping equipment and, uh, large canal networks. Well those canal networks are there but they certainly aren't large and the only hydro equipment I ever saw was 2 Vietnamese women standing on a little dike moving a water wheel by foot power to lift water from a local stream up into a rice patty. [interviewer]: Mark?
[Mark]: Dave said something about killing a water buffalo. I can remember an incident on the ship. The captain used to come across every night and tell the results of our raids during the day. This was to give the the crew a feeling of involvement with the war because we are as I say we were detached from the war. And I can remember one night he came acr- over the one MC which is the PA system on the ship and he was telling about a water buffalo we had destroyed that day with a ?bull putt? missile. Now a ?bull putt? missile is a great big electronically guided thing they used to blow up bridges. And he said they hit a water buffalo that day by accident and it destroyed it and as he said this, 2 pilots walked by and just laughed about it. And as dave says, this water buffalo might've been the sole support of some family. I mean, uh, this is the man's most important possession. This is what he plows his rice patties with. And it was destroyed and 2 American pilots and I I don't like to generalize and condemn all pilots but to these 2 pilots, it was something it was to be
laughed at. Like Dave says, we just don't realize what we're doing with all our sophisticated weapons of war to this poor southeast Asian nation. [interviewer]: John? [John]: And in relation to your question about telling, uh, uh, viet cong from a regular Vietnamese, uh, in Nha Trang, uh, we had a very nice beach on the south China sea and, uh, it was an R&R area. R&R is a rest and relaxation. There's an R&R area for our men out in the hills ande jungle and, uh, I was talking to an intelligence officer one night at has, uh, villa and he said, well you know this is a vc R&R area too. And I said [laughs] you're kidding and he said, uh, no I'm not. Uh, it's just sort of an unwritten agreement that we have you know and and their men come down and you know they've had a hard time out in the hills for a couple months and they come down, take it easy by the seashore for a few days and they
go back out. And, uh, I thought he was joking but I heard that several other officers also mention this and I thought it was sort of an incredible thing. [interviewer]: We're told again and again that civilian casualties are unfortunate and infrequent byproduct of the Vietnam conflict. Did you have much acquaintance with a civilian casualties? [Brom]: Now in terms of combat, casualties, uh, in the civilian population, I didn't see this too often because I would go into an area, we would attack it and we would leave and go back and get more troops until the area was saturated. But considering the targets, the nature of the targets being villages, uh, I could not help but doubt the fact that, uh, we weren't attacking you know civilians because what is a village, it's a place where people live. It's obviously not a military installation.
And occasionally I would pick up a child who had been burned, uh, during a pre-strike by our air force dropping napalm and by the Vietnamese air force, uh, who were not really interested in dropping the napalm where it should've gone. They would drop anywhere because they wanted to get back to base and, uh, go to the officers clubs and drink beer and many times you would see aircraft with Vietnamese markings flown by Americans because the Vietnamese pilots wouldn't go out. But, uh, back to the point that, uh, civilians are being hurt. It's very implausible in a war to think that civilians are not going to be hurt. They have no means of defending themselves. They have no place to run because the war is all around them. I've had people ask me in my own family even, what's it like up front? There is no front it's all around you 24 hours a day. Eventually you yourself become somewhat of an animal when you live with the thought that the viet cong operate
at night and that any minute you can be pulled out of bed to go out on a mission or if they're really active in your area you may be sleeping and suddenly find a mortar shell in your lap. So the the idea that there's any security by being a civilian is ridiculous. If you can help people you do I mean no one can stand and watch a baby bleed to death I mean a guy would rip up his clothes to make a tourniquet. But to to see the looks on these people's faces if they didn't suffer physical damage, what we've done to their minds with the loud explosions, the terror that you see in their eyes when you going in to evacuate them. [interviewer]: Mark? [Mark]: When I got down to the photo squad and I was assigned to after getting off the carrier Midway. I worked as the CO's personal ?inaudible? also worked in a legal office. And the legal officer was a a photo recon pilot and one day day he and I got in the discussion of whether there were civilian casualties because at that time, we were our government was very vehemently denying the fact that oh maybe several died but there
weren't very many in north Vietnam. And I finally asked him point blank and he said yes he's quite sure there were lot of civilian casualties from the photographs he looked at. He was sure that that our bombs weren't necessarily falling in the right spot and I had another lieutenant commander tell me that that he was glad he was a photo recon pilot that he didn't wanna be responsible for dropping the bombs. I can remember one time on Midway we had 2 pilots who had driven who had flown A1, uh, aircraft which is a propeller ?inaudible? aircraft and they had shot down a meg. And one of 'em very jokingly said, that yeah whenever I had a bomb leftover and we were hitting a bridge I used to make sure it landed in the town at either end of it. Now you have to consider the the atmosphere at the time everybody was joking and laughing but just the idea that he would even think this a- and if he did do it and I can remember walking out of the office just just fuming I had to go over into my office to sit down
because I just couldn't believe that somebody could just off handedly say I used to make sure when the bombs landed in the town. [Brom]: I would like to to disagree with a an idea that you didn't voice specifically. But this claim to naivety about what we're doing is ridiculous. Every pilot in the United States navy and air force with the exception of I think in the marine corps where they have 1 or 2 flying sergeants, is a college graduate. Now a college graduate should have a fair amount of intelligence. He also has 2 eyes. 2 very good eyes or he wouldn't be a pilot. And to say that I didn't know where the bombs landed when in fact every combat aircraft has a gun camera and even though he's not firing once the arm switches are turned on the cameras go to work also automatically. To ever make the claim that we didn't know where the bombs landed or that we didn't know where our ammunition hit, is ludicrous and a boldface lie. So that
anyone who claims this non-knowledge is a liar. [Mark]: As long as we're talking about impressions of Asia, this is one of the things that made me question everything that was going on in Vietnam was all that I had seen throughout Asia. Now my ship had been to Japan, the Philippines to Hong Kong and, uh, I really began to wonder we were talking about being in there for free elections this is the most important thing. Free elections and democracy. This is the most important thing that we're there for. And, uh, I I I'm not a I'm apolitical at the time now and I'm not communist, I'm democrat, I'm not republican, I'm not anybody. But it seems to me that this this whole argument of whether you're going to be a democrat or a communist loses a lot of its impact when you're not eating. You go to Hong Kong and here's a British crown colony and there was a woman who ran an orphanage in Hong Kong that used to come out to the ship to get our edible garbage to take back. And I really
wonder whether it really matters to the Asian people, the people in south Vietnam who runs the government as long as they're eating. Uh, democracy presupposes a a tremendous responsibility on the people and I th- think right now that the Vietnamese people like they've said before, just wanna be left alone and, uh, that I think that, uh, this this whole idea that the north Vietnamese government represents some ultimate evil called communism and that though the government is imposed upon the people from above. Granted there were no free elections evidently in north Vietnam but one thing I do know that all north Vietnamese people or many the north Vietnamese people Vietnamese people have weapons. They have guns because when our planes come over Vietnam, they don't fly at a high altitude because the sam missiles will get 'em. So they'll come down to a low altitude. And when they come down to a low altitude, they're susceptible
to anti-aircraft fire and every other thing that can be thrown up at 'em and I remember one particular day when they were we decided to go after the sam missile sites. The air force and the navy combined and they were gonna go sam missile huntin'. They were gonna go knock 'em all out. And that day 7 aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft fire, people coming out on their roofs and firing any kind of weapon they have. And it seems to me that if all these people have all these weapons and this government is so evil, why don't they overthrow it? But they haven't overthrown it, they seem to be solidly behind it. Now I don't think Ho Chi Minh is an angel, I don't think that that necessarily that the communist government there is the best but it has given a a degree of stability and the people aren't being killed. And I think this idea that we're fighting for democracy in south Vietnam is ridiculous because someday in the future if we keep going on with this war we're going to turn the south Vietnamese we're going to say you're free now here's your country you can vote and everything like that. But they're going to look around and there's going to be
nothing left to be free for. I mean we're literally destroying their country, defoliating tremendous sections of it. Bombing everywhere and there's going to be nothing left to be free for and they still won't be eating and I I this is what I wish American people would start thinking about. It's more this this abstract form of government you know democracy is the ultimate good and communism is this the ultimate evil is wrong. There's different answers to different problems to different questions and, uh, I don't say that democracy therefore is bad or communism is good but I think you have to think in terms of how the Asian people think about it, the south Vietnamese people and what it boils down to, is they want their bellies full. [interviewer]: From your experience what generally happens to suspected o- viet cong prisoners? [Brom]: On several occasions I was I was given a responsibility of both flying viet cong prisoners back to interrogation points and, uh, I often wondered what happened to the prisoners afterward.
One time during a my stationing in a place called Ban Me Thuot. 15 viet cong prisoners had been brought in and had they were interrogating them and apparently had finished and I was sitting in my helicopter, uh, enjoying the sun and the brief rest we had from flying. And, uh, the Vietnamese army people who were being led by a team of special forces personnel, uh, were responsible for these prisoners. They had finished their interrogation and they tied the hands and feet of the Vietnamese prisoners. I don't know whether they were north Vietnamese or south Vietnamese. They tied their hands behind their back and their legs together. Laid them down on the ground in a row and the Vietnamese army man, an arvn got in the truck, which was an American made, 2 and a half ton army vehicle and drove the truck over their heads. Well I couldn't eat for the rest of the day.
You don't forget things like that. You don't sleep very well after seeing something like that. And all of my training militarily told me that this was wrong. Not including the concept that under the Geneva Convention you accord prisoners, some sort of humane treatment. What was the purpose of this? They had them as prisoners, they were unable to do anything, they weren't able to defend themselves. And it was done and their dead and nothing will bring them back to life. From time to time, we would fly viet cong prisoners who had important information, who had been wounded, to the nearest army hospital. And, uh, one of the American crew chiefs was flying as my gunner and we were flying a medical evacuation mission. We had 2 special forces men who had been wounded and a viet cong prisoner who was purported to have something of a
high rank. He would be on the level of a commissar in the military establishment. He was badly wounded and our medic had suspended a bottle of plasma, gamma globulin from the ceiling of the aircraft and had run a tube into this man's arm so that h- we could keep him alive 'til we get into the hospital. And I turned around and I saw my gunner pinching off his blood supply who's playing like cat and mouse with a human being and it was not within his responsibility to be god and to say this man shall live or not. And I told the aircraft commander and he told the gunner to stop it and, uh, he wanted to talk to him when we got back. Nothing ever happened to him because he did this and later on I asked what had happened to the the prisoner that they had taken in the Nha Trang and I was told that he had died. And I said, well how did he die, did he die in a hospital? He said, no we got the information from him that we wanted and he was taken out and killed by the arvn's. This is the sort of thing that happened while I was there and I have
no doubt that it's still happening. Recently, uh, we heard that some people who were in the infantry were being prosecuted because they had taken a viet cong prisoner or several viet cong prisoners aside from the patrol that they were with and kill them. Now these were 2 enlisted men and when they came up for court martial because of their actions, they claimed that they had been told to get rid of these prisoners by their officer who was a lieutenant. As it happened, uh, the results as they now stand are that the enlisted men are spending around 10 years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and the officer was cleared of any charges. Now having a fair knowledge of military discipline, having lived under it for 3 years, I find it hard to believe that anyone would detach himself from a patrol which would be his greatest safety, take 2 prisoners out without having, uh, advised the officer who was in charge of the patrol and
execute them. It just doesn't ring true and yet the results are in. So what are we to believe? I think things are being done and I saw things being done that are not humane. They cannot be tolerated. I have heard them excused on the grounds that well they do it to us and more than once I had gone out to pick up dead bodies, a special forces people who had been mutilated. They had been castrated, had been shot between the eyes, uh, had had words carved on their bodies and had notes pinned to their bodies. This is what we're going to do to all of you. This happens. It's a terror tactic. But this doesn't excuse us, who practice judeo christian morals in our society. [John]: When I was, uh, in Nha Trang one day, uh, I was detailed to guard a viet cong wounded prisoner in the 8th field hospital. He had a rather large wound in his side. The doctor can in and
looked at 'em and he turned to me he said, uh, you're in charge of this prisoner? And I said, yes sir. He said, well if any intelligence men wanna talk to him, they can talk to him here. Don't let them take him for a helicopter ride cause he's my responsibility until I sew 'em up tomorrow and, uh, I was literally stunned by this because I'd I'd heard stories about how they take men for a ride in a helicopter or a cargo plane and, uh, threatened them with being thrown off at high altitude and, uh, then they talk ya know the prisoner will talk and then sometimes I hear they are kicked out. Ya know at an elevation of a few thousand feet and it really happens. [Brom]: Uh, this is true. I know of, uh, one crew chief who was not assigned to my unit. He was with the 120th
aviation detachment in Saigon. And, uh, as it turned out, we were stationed in the United States together later when I returned from Vietnam. And this fellow bragged to us that he had been one of the people who had thrown out a viet cong prisoner. And I said, John, uh, why? He said, well we had about 7 of them with us and, uh, we decided that we'd convince the rest of them to talk instead of being gentle at first. You know we just made it clear that we wanted what we wanted and you'll give it to us or else. So they threw one out just to make sure. And, uh, I said, well did the others talk? And he said, well I don't really know what they said he says because the Vietnamese interpreter wasn't too interested. He wanted to throw 'em all out. And this is the way things happen. This is the way things are happening. I have no reason to doubt it because I've talked recently with some friends of mine who are still in the army and were on leave. So again I say, what are we to
believe out of what we hear? You can believe the press or you can believe us because we were there and we saw it. [interviewer]: How do American soldiers in Vietnam react to peace demonstrations back in the states? Mark? [Mark]: Well most of the time, the guys really don't talk about it a lot. They're more interested in their immediate needs. But when I was out there, I think there was a there was quite a bit of distortion about who these demonstrators were. And the reason I felt I had to the straight skinny as the term in the navy is used, was that my brother was one of these peace demonstrators. I can remember one day, the head of the veterans reform ?wars? came a- board our ship, one of the visitors that came out to see the war. And he talked to the crew about the demonstrations and he said, don't worry about these demonstrators, they're just dirty communists, ?beatnik's?, socialist and all the other little names you can use to call people. And at the time, I was standing out in front of the executive officer's cabin and he called me in just
as soon as it was over and he said, Donnelly what'd you think of that speech? And I said, well sir I don't think it was the truth. I think some of these people demonstrating against this war are very intelligent and they got some questions I think oughta be answered and they're not all dirty ?beatnik's? and communists, etc. Well he looked at me for a minute and then he said, what do you think the crew thought about it? I said, oh I'm sure the crew took it fine. And, uh, this was the the impression they try to give you that the demonstrators were just beatniks, hippies and people that didn't take baths. And, uh, this is what I think for the most part. The guys out there believe although they I don't think it really bothers them that much they just don't wanna be be bothered with it. I think think it bothered me the most if anything what of was just sitting there knowing that people are back in the states with their feet up in the air and watching tv and drinking beer. I just wanted to get back to it. [John]: Oh, well in my company, uh, I'd say there were about 5 people who really got upset about the
demonstrations. Most people just as Mark says, uh, didn't really pay too much attention to it or sort of joked about it and thought it was pretty funny, really. And then there was a small group of people who, um, really sort of thought about it and, uh, I think appreciated it in a way. Very few people thought that these demonstrators at home were betraying them. I think this is, uh, an idea which some groups like the veterans of foreign wars try to perpetrate you know that these people are betraying our boys in Vietnam and and, uh, I think that maybe I said about 5 people in the whole company really felt like they they were being stabbed in the back and nobody else really worried about it that much. [Brom]: Well I know, uh, that in my unit we felt very strongly about it. Uh, we had a very direct role to play in the combat and we figured what the heck, here we are laying our lives on the line and suffering all these discomforts and these people back in the states, uh, they're having a high old time
and I'm fightin' off bugs and slogging through mud sometimes and dust and rain and and I didn't think very much of it. But you know at the time, I really didn't think very much at all because I was too tired. Uh, as as Mark said, it was the immediate need that counted, uh, and in truth we didn't hear a heck of a lot from home. It wasn't that they didn't try to provide us with, uh, good mail service, it's just that you don't write home and tell your mother, gee mom, Johnny got hit yesterday in the gut. You say, uh, the weather's lousy and, uh, the food is bad. But none of us, uh, thought about saying, what's the real scoop on these people back in the states? How do you really feel and I believe that at the time the American people really didn't know, uh, in mass what was going on, what is going on. I still don't think that the American people know because the mass media is, uh,
being deceived by the news releases that are made. At the time I was in Vietnam, there were about 15,000 American military men both in advisory capacities in an actual combat roles and they claimed something like, uh, 300 casualties. I came back to the states and I thought, wait a minute. 300 casualties? In my own time, I had carried at least 50 American servicemen who were dead and a host of others who were wounded and I was just one person and I multiplied this by the fact that there were 25 aircraft to a unit and stretched this out over the whole country, it couldn't be true. Uh, now I believe that there's a truthful reporting of American deaths because there's no way to escape it. Too many communities which only, uh, saw 1 or 2 boxes come home during 1963 and '64 now find, 15 and 20. And these communities are beginning to put these things together and it's
beginning to disturb them and it should. People should be disturbed by, uh, a needless death. [interviewer]: Did you find that most of the American soldiers in Vietnam felt that they were fighting for a just cause? [Brom]: Well, uh, most of the guys that I worked with felt nothing in terms of, uh, why they were. Most of us felt we had a very dirty trick played on us. Of the guys that I was stationed with, most of us figured well, we're in the army, we don't have anything to say about it, we don't make the plans. The guys that actually stood up in the unit in the the beer hall at night and said, hey man, and he says, we've got no business being here, we're getting killed for nothin'. They'd say, oh sit down you're just sour grapes cause you didn't get an R&R or somethin' like this. We'd find ways to excuse what we were doing. We'd look for any kind of justification to excuse it but I think most of us deep down inside were pretty depressed over the fact we had to be there and had to do what we were doing. [John]: There's a a concept in the army of, uh,
concept of shortness and, uh, this has nothing to do with height. It has to do with the amount of time you have left in the army. And uh, I don't think that one day passed of where at least every man in our unit talked about how short he was and even if he'd just gotten there and had, uh, 364 days to go. That, uh, that's that was the main thing that occupied most of our minds. How much longer we had to stay over there or how much longer we had to stay in the army and not that we were fighting to free an oppressed people. [Mark]: As far as the guys on the ship, I think that most of 'em really never gave it that much thought because they were detached from it. They didn't see the results of what happened after those bombs were dropped from the planes on our ship. I think most of them probably felt that we were stopping communism in Asia but they never really gave it any thought. The department of defense will put out a little pamphlet, why we are in Vietnam. 25 questions and answers and I don't give the answers they give you the questions too. And it all boils down to this,
we are in Vietnam to stop communism. If we don't stop them here, we will have to stop them in Hawaii or San Francisco and this is they try to simplify the whole matter and say this is why you're in Vietnam in a little pamphlet and the guys will read this to say OK and, uh, like I say, the people on our ship were were detached from the war. So I don't think they had strong feelings either way. They they couldn't become emotionally involved about the poor Vietnamese people because they never saw the poor Vietnamese people. [interviewer]: What sort of recourse would one have if he came to ha- disbelieve in what he was doing while he was there? [Brom]: As far as I know, the only recourse you have is to serve your time and get out. Because in the military, the only way that you can make your opinions known is by talking to your fellow enlisted man because there's a very definite strata and it's respected on both sides by the superiors and the enlisted men by the officer corps. Uh, a lot can be lost
by opening your mouth in the army and I'm sure this is true of the navy and the air force. I know of people who have said things and have had their promotions blocked because of it. I know of people who've had, uh, restrictions placed on their personal off duty activities because their views were contrary to those expressed by the majority. Uh, I don't say that the military should be a democratic establishment because if it were it couldn't operate. And we are all veterans here, with your exception and, uh, it's obvious to us that we wouldn't want the military to operate in any other fashion. But there is no mechanism within the military structure to make complaints about political policy or military policy. The only office that I know of where you can make a a complaint would be to the inspector general's office and this would only be related to service conditions such as poor food, poor medical
care, uh, abuse of an individual by a non commissioned officer or an officer. These things you can deal with because there are regulations that cover them. Uh, I think that anyone who got up in the army right now and I understand that there are several people who have, uh, and are either being investigated, uh, are being restricted or actually have been court- martialed for their views and actions. I think you would find it very, very rough going. [John]: I know of one case and I think this is probably a very isolated case. Of a man who was in the, uh, first cavalry. And he had taken part in quite a few operations and, uh, one morning he just got up and picked up his rifle and walked down to the supply tent and turned his rifle in. Well fortunately, he had a fairly sympathetic
CO who had him reassign that, uh, I think that this is a very isolated instance. [Brom]: I think fear of retribution is the guideline in the army, uh, as I knew it. [Mark]: Oh, definitely, definitely the the people in the upper echelons of the of the military service if they decided they don't like somebody or somebody's creating waves, they can step on 'em in a minute and they can step on 'em in the most vicious way military wise. And I myself you know I think this is the feeling of most of the people in the the Vietnam vets. We don't want a unruling military. We think the ru- military should be ruling. Perhaps this is why we're speaking out now because now we're not subject to the military. Uh, you just don't have no way once you get in in, I feel no way where you're not going to get an awful lot of trouble to say I'm against this war, get me out or sign me to a unit in the states because I think if you if you were in the states and said I'm against this war and don't send me to Vietnam cause I'm
not going that they'd probably send you just to prove that they could send you. [interviewer]: I imagine it would be quite easy for an American soldier to unwillingly violate the cultural norms of the Vietnamese people. Was was any at- attempt made to sort of prepare you for what Vietnam was like before you went? [John]: Um, well I I know that, uh, on the troop ship I went over on, uh, certain companies were issued a little pamphlet telling about Vietnam's sort of like a holiday guide to France or something only this was prepared by the defense department. Our outfit never got any. We were indoctrinated before we went over about you know why we were there and and when I walked out of the indoctrination session, uh, it seemed to me like it was they've given us a lot of good reasons why we shouldn't be there. [laughs] But, uh, not really any preparation was consciously made. But, uh, once we were there, uh, they they did make
some effort to keep us from treading too hard on the Vietnamese tradition by, uh, for instance of the new year's, uh, celebration Tet in Vietnam is a very big thing and it's very easy to do something wrong, completely unknowingly. And um, as a result they put the town off limits for the whole week. [Brom]: From time to time I was allowed to go to the city of Saigon from the central highlands. And quite frequently I would see that, uh, the place was becoming very westernized. Uh, the Vietnamese girls that worked in the nightclubs would try and sing western songs. The more prosperous section of Saigon shows definite influences of French culture as would be expected considering their period of occupation. And to see that grafted onto an oriental culture and then to see a western influence grafted on, is, uh, I won't say appalling, it's interesting. Uh, it's also very amusing but
now in retrospect, uh, I find it very irritating because once again, you must realize that economics play the important role and where a Vietnamese man used to be the breadwinner in the family now his daughter brings in more money in a week then he could bring in in half a year just by hobnobbing with the G.I.'s. And, uh, our free wheeling and free spending has had a tremendous impact, both on the natural markets in Vietnam and on the black market in Vietnam and, uh, all over southeast Asia because we're not just in Vietnam we're all over the place.
Vietnam Veterans Against The War
Producing Organization
WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
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The Riverside Church (New York, New York)
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Program Description
Vietnam War veterans who oppose the war being interviewed by Jean Benick. The veterans include Mark Donnelly, Jonathan Horowitz and Dave Bromm. They recount their experiences.
Recorded at WRVR
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Created Date
Veterans--United States; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, American
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Interviewer: Benick, Jean
Panelist: Horowitz, Jonathan
Panelist: Donnelly, Mark
Panelist: Bromm, David
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Riverside Church
Identifier: cpb-aacip-e5eff6e3d6c (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Generation: Master
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Chicago: “Vietnam Veterans Against The War,” 1967-09-08, The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023,
MLA: “Vietnam Veterans Against The War.” 1967-09-08. The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <>.
APA: Vietnam Veterans Against The War. Boston, MA: The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from