Subject: ON WAR CRIMES : FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF
AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE, FRANCE.
19 November 2003
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
War Crimes is the subject of recent mail to the Grenoble Center for
Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements.
New research on the activities of the U.S. terrorist unit, the Tiger
during the Vietnam War, which was brought to our attention by Grenoble
student Ben Monange, reveals that wide-spread criminal activities by U.S.
military "special forces" in Vietnam had targetted the civilian population
before the Mylai massacre on November 16, 1968, when hundreds of men,
women, and children were murdered by American soldiers under the command of
Army Lieutenant William L. Calley, Jr. (Please see item A.)
Item B. is an article sent to us
by Professor Richard Du Boff. Sharonizing
Iraq describes the systematic targetting of civilian populations in Iraq in
order to terrorize the national independence movment that is growing in
Bagdhad and in the countryside.
We recommend to those readers who are interested in the history of state
terrorism the book by our research associates Ed Herman, Real Terror
Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda (South End Press, 1998)
And finally, we encourage readers to visit the web site of American
Populist, Jim Hightower, at http://www.jimhightower.com/. Hightower's
weekly commentaries, Jim Hightower's Common-Sense Commentaries, gives
important information on comtemporary American culture, on important events
inside the United States, and on the activities of American corporations
abroad. His writings are filled with wit and often sardonic humor that can
be found in the streets of America today --THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE
TELEVISED! For a recent radio discussion on war profiteering on the part of
the giant U.S. corporation, Haliburton, please see item C.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from Ben Monange :
Date: 2 November 2003
Subject: Student research in Grenoble on the U.S. "Tiger Force" in Vietnam.
Hello Professor Feeley,
Here are some articles taken from The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, which has just
published an extended investigation on several civilians massacre in
Vietnam. Those atrocities were committed by a special unit called “the
Tiger Force”. Of course the Army never acknowledged those mass killing of
unarmed civilians that occurred six months before the May Lai massacre.
Some historians interviewed by the Blade think that if the Army had
condemned the actions of the “Tiger Force”, the massacre of My Lai might
never have occurred.
I enclosed some of the most relevant articles from the series. The all
series is available on the Blade website at
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
EXECUTIVE EDITOR COMMENTARY
Massacre story needs to be told
By RON ROYHAB
BLADE EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Mike Ware of Haskins, Ohio, a veteran of the Army's 101st Airborne Division
who served in Vietnam during America's most controversial and divisive war,
reacted to an ad in The Blade last week that promoted the series of
articles that started on today's front page.
This series reveals for the first time anywhere that members of a platoon
of American soldiers from the 101st known as Tiger Force slaughtered an
untold number of Vietnamese civilians over a seven-month period in 1967.
After a 4 1/2 -year Army investigation concluded that at least 18 Tiger
Force soldiers committed war crimes, the matter was dropped by the Army.
The official files were buried in the Army's archives since 1975, and to
this day military officials continue to withhold them from the public.
Mr. Ware called The Blade to ask about our series. "Why do you have
That's a fair question, and one that other readers may be asking.
Why would we write about war crimes committed by American soldiers during
an unpopular war 36 years ago? Why would we spend eight months researching
records, interviewing more than 100 people, and travel to two provinces in
Vietnam, and to California, Arizona, Washington state, Indiana, Washington,
and several cities in Ohio and Michigan for this story?
This was a serious topic of discussion among Blade editors and the
newspaper's publisher and editor-in-chief, John Robinson Block. One reason
is that the public has a right to know that American soldiers committed
atrocities and that our government kept them from the public. We would have
been party to a cover-up if we had knowledge of these war crimes and did
not publish the story.
Wrongdoing on this grand a scale is always significant. It is important
know what happened and why it happened because that's how a democracy
functions. The people need to know what is being done in their name and who
In this case, we still don't know who made the final decision not to
prosecute. The Nixon White House received case updates of the Tiger Force
investigation in 1972 and 1973 at the request of presidential counsel John
Dean. Reports also went to Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and
Secretary of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway.
The decision not to prosecute was made more than a year after Gerald
became president in August, 1974, but it is not known how far up in the
Ford administration the decision went.
Assistants to Mr. Ford and Mr. Schlesinger said neither would comment.
Callaway said he has no recollection of the Tiger Force investigation, but
that if it were brought to his attention he would not have "swept it under
Former Warrant Officer Gustav Apsey, the lead investigator of the Tiger
Force case, said he was disappointed that nothing resulted from the cases
that had merit and is upset that some of these soldiers not only stayed in
the military but were promoted.
There is never a good time to write and read about war. The Blade's
investigation of these atrocities has nothing to do with today's conflicts
in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are publishing this series now because we
recently discovered evidence of the atrocities, and the truth has never
before been told.
Tiger Force was created in the fall of 1965 as a special highly trained
reconnaissance unit to find the enemy and report enemy positions to U.S.
air and ground forces. Its members wore special tiger-striped uniforms,
they could grow beards, and could carry their own side arms. The unit's
slogan was "out guerrilla the guerrillas."
After listening to details of the Tiger Force case, William Eckhardt,
prosecutor in the My Lai court-martial and now a law professor at the
University of Missouri at Kansas City, said, "What I see is a loss of
control and obviously ill discipline, far beyond what you would want in
Mr. Eckhardt said The Blade's investigation is important, but the public
also needs to know that most soldiers don't act this way.
"I think whatever public institutions do, good or bad, is subject to
scrutiny," he said. "This is something that should be open to scrutiny as
troubling as it is."
The Army, citing privacy concerns for former soldiers, says it will
release records of the Tiger Force investigation or records that could
explain why the case was dropped in 1975.
However, Joe Burlas, a retired major and now a spokesman for the Army,
The Blade series is "an important story. It's part of the history of the
Army. There's a lot of things different about the Army today than in 1975.
My hat's off to you for keeping up with that story."
In an interview, retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, who commanded the
1st battalion 7th Calvary at the 1965 battle of Ia Drang, said war crimes
by U.S. soldiers were not commonplace in Vietnam.
"That never happened in my outfit. It's morally wrong in the first place.
In the second place, it's against the Geneva Convention. But basically,
it's morally wrong to abuse or to kill innocent people."
One of the people who witnessed the atrocities 36 years ago, former
Force medic Rion Causey, told The Blade recently it was time that the Tiger
Force story was told.
"I tried to tell people about this 30 years ago. It was hard for them
believe. I'm grateful in many ways this is coming out. It needed to come
out. It needed to. I lived with this a long time."
Mr. Apsey, who led the Tiger Force investigation, said he is now relieved
that the case is being disclosed to the public after 36 years.
"You know, I'm going to bed peaceful as hell. Justice has been done."
This country has a long and proud tradition of behaving honorably on
foreign soil. It is because of that tradition, and because of the finest
traditions of American journalism, that we are compelled to publish this
report about American soldiers failing to live up to the proper standards,
and our government's failure to hold them accountable.
Some of the stories over the four days will not be pleasant reading.
think you should have the opportunity to read them all.
(Story was published on Oct. 19, 2003)
THE SERIES: Elite unit savaged civilians in Vietnam
It was an elite fighting unit in Vietnam - small, mobile, trained to kill.
Known as Tiger Force, the platoon was created by a U.S. Army engaged
new kind of war - one defined by ambushes, booby traps, and a nearly
Promising victory to an anxious American public, military leaders in
sent a task force - including Tiger Force - to fight the enemy in one of
the most highly contested areas of South Vietnam: the Central Highlands.
But the platoon's mission did not go as planned, with some soldiers
breaking the rules of war.
Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers.
Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were
tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One
soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.
Two soldiers tried to stop the killings, but their pleas were ignored
commanders. The Army launched an investigation in 1971 that lasted 41/2
years - the longest-known war-crime investigation of the Vietnam conflict.
The case reached the highest levels of the Pentagon and the Nixon White House.
Investigators concluded that 18 soldiers committed war crimes ranging
murder and assault to dereliction of duty. But no one was charged.
Since the war ended, the American public has been fed a dose of movies
fictionalizing the excesses of U.S. units in Vietnam, such as Apocalypse
Now and Platoon. But in reality, most war-crime cases focused on a single
event, like the My Lai massacre.
The Tiger Force case is different. The atrocities took place over seven
months, leaving an untold number dead - possibly several hundred civilians,
former soldiers and villagers now say.
One medic said he counted 120 unarmed villagers killed in one month.
For decades, the case has remained buried in the archives of the government
- not even known to America's most recognized historians of the war.
Starting today and continuing over the next three days, The Blade will
the platoon's troubling story.
DAY 1: Rogue GIs unleashed wave of terror in Central Highlands
By MICHAEL D. SALLAH and MITCH WEISS
BLADE STAFF WRITERS c THE BLADE, 2003
QUANG NGAI, Vietnam - For the 10 elderly farmers in the rice paddy,
was nowhere to hide.
The river stretched along one side, mountains on the other.
Approaching quickly in between were the soldiers - an elite U.S. Army
known as Tiger Force.
Though the farmers were not carrying weapons, it didn't matter: No one
safe when the special force arrived on July 28, 1967.
With bullets flying, the farmers - slowed by the thick, green plants and
muck - dropped one by one to the ground.
Within minutes, it was over. Four were dead, others wounded. Some survived
by lying motionless in the mud.
Four soldiers later recalled the assault.
"We knew the farmers were not armed to begin with," one said, "but we
The unprovoked attack was one of many carried out by the decorated unit
the Vietnam War, an eight-month investigation by The Blade shows.
The platoon - a small, highly trained unit of 45 paratroopers created
spy on enemy forces - violently lost control between May and November, 1967.
For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands,
killing scores of unarmed civilians - in some cases torturing and
mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public.
They dropped grenades into underground bunkers where women and children
were hiding - creating mass graves - and shot unarmed civilians, in some
cases as they begged for their lives.
They frequently tortured and shot prisoners, severing ears and scalps
A review of thousands of classified Army documents, National Archives
records, and radio logs reveals a fighting unit that carried out the
longest series of atrocities in the Vietnam War - and commanders who looked
the other way.
For 41/2 years, the Army investigated the platoon, finding numerous
eyewitnesses and substantiating war crimes. But in the end, no one was
prosecuted, the case buried in the archives for three decades.
No one knows how many unarmed men, women, and children were killed by
platoon members 36 years ago.
At least 81 were fatally shot or stabbed, records show, but many others
were killed in what were clear violations of U.S. military law and the 1949
Based on more than 100 interviews with The Blade of former Tiger Force
soldiers and Vietnamese civilians, the platoon is estimated to have killed
hundreds of unarmed civilians in those seven months.
"We weren't keeping count," said former Pvt. Ken Kerney, a California
firefighter. "I knew it was wrong, but it was an acceptable practice."
Many details of the period in question are unknown: Records are missing
from the National Archives, and several suspects and witnesses have died.
In many cases, the soldiers remember the atrocities and general locations,
but not the precise dates.
What's clear is that nearly four decades later, many Vietnamese villagers
and former Tiger Force soldiers are deeply troubled by the brutal killing
"It was out of control," said Rion Causey, 55, a former platoon medic
now a nuclear engineer. "I still wonder how some people can sleep 30 years
Among the newspaper's findings:
· Commanders knew about the platoon's atrocities in 1967, and in some
cases, encouraged the soldiers to continue the violence.
· Two soldiers who tried to stop the atrocities were warned by their
commanders to remain quiet before transferring to other units.
· The Army investigated 30 war-crime allegations against Tiger Force
between February, 1971, and June, 1975, finding a total of 18 soldiers
committed crimes, including murder and assault. But no one was ever charged.
· Six platoon soldiers suspected of war crimes - including an officer -
were allowed to resign during the investigation, escaping military prosecution.
· The findings of the investigation were sent to the offices of the
secretary of the Army and the secretary of defense, records show, but no
action was taken.
· Top White House officials, including John Dean, former chief counsel to
President Richard Nixon, repeatedly were sent reports on the progress of
To this day, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command refuses to release
thousands of records that could explain what happened and why the case was
dropped. Army spokesman Joe Burlas said last week it may have been
difficult to press charges, but he couldn't explain flaws in the investigation.
The Army interviewed 137 witnesses and tracked down former Tiger Force
members in more than 60 cities around the world.
But for the past three decades, the case has not even been a footnote
the annals of one of the nation's most divisive wars.
Thirty years after U.S. combat units left Vietnam, the elderly farmers
the Song Ve Valley live with memories of the platoon that passed through
their hamlets so long ago.
Nguyen Dam, now 66, recalls running as the soldiers fired into the rice
paddy that summer day in 1967. "I am still angry," he said, waving his
arms. "Our people didn't deserve to die that way. We were farmers. We were
not soldiers. We didn't hurt anyone."
But one former soldier offers no apologies for the platoon's actions.
William Doyle, a former Tiger Force sergeant now living in Missouri,
he killed so many civilians he lost count.
"We were living day to day. We didn't expect to live. Nobody out there
any brains expected to live," he said in a recent interview. "So you did
any goddamn thing you felt like doing - especially to stay alive. The way
to live is to kill because you don't have to worry about anybody who's dead."
Battle-tested platoon drew special mission
The Quang Ngai province stretches eastward from the lush, green mountains
to the sweeping white beaches of the South China Sea.
To the villagers, it was revered, ancestral land that had been farmed
To the North Vietnamese, it was a major supply line to guerrillas fighting
to reunite the country.
To the U.S. military, it was an area of jungles and river valleys that
to be controlled to stop the communist infiltration of South Vietnam. Gen.
William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, created a
special task force in 1967 to secure the province.
In a conflict marked by fierce guerrilla warfare, the task force needed
special unit to move quickly through the jungles, find the enemy, and set
up ambushes. That role fell to Tiger Force.
Considered an elite arm of the 101st Airborne Division, the platoon
formed in 1965 - often broke into small teams to scout the enemy, creeping
into the jungle in tiger-striped fatigues, soft-brimmed hats, with rations
to last 30 days.
Not everyone could join the platoon: Soldiers had to volunteer, needed
combat experience, and were subjected to a battery of questions - some
about their willingness to kill.
The majority of those men were enlistees who came from small towns such
Rayland, Ohio, Globe, Ariz., and Loretto, Tenn.
By the time Tiger Force arrived in the province on May 3, 1967, the
already had fought in fierce battles farther south in My Cahn and Dak To.
But this was a different place.
With deep ties to the land, the people of Quang Ngai province were fiercely
In this unfamiliar setting, things began to go wrong.
No one knows what set off the events that led to the deaths of untold
numbers of civilians and prisoners.
But less than a week after setting up camp in the province, Tiger Force
members began to break the rules of war.
It started with prisoners.
During a morning patrol on May 8, the soldiers spotted two suspected
Cong - the local militia opposed to U.S. intervention - along the Song Tra
Cau River. One jumped into the water and escaped through an underwater
tunnel, but the other was captured.
Taller and more muscular than most Vietnamese, the soldier was believed
Over the next two days, he was repeatedly beaten and tortured. At one
point, his captors debated whether to blow him up with explosives,
according to sworn witness statements.
One former soldier, Spec. William Carpenter, told The Blade he tried
keep the prisoner alive, "but I knew his time was up."
After he was ordered to run - and told he was free - he was shot by
The platoon's treatment of the detainee - his beating and execution
became the unit's operating procedure in the ensuing months.
Time and again, Tiger Force soldiers talked about the executions of
captured soldiers - so many, investigators were hard pressed to place a
number on the toll.
In June, Pvt. Sam Ybarra slit the throat of a prisoner with a hunting
before scalping him - placing the scalp on the end of a rifle, soldiers
said in sworn statements. Ybarra refused to talk to Army investigators
about the case.
Another prisoner was ordered to dig bunkers, then beaten with a shovel
before he was shot to death, records state.
The killing prompted a medic to talk to a chaplain. "It upset me so
watch him die," Barry Bowman said in a recent interview.
One Tiger Force soldier, Sgt. Forrest Miller, told investigators the
killing of prisoners was "an unwritten law."
But platoon members weren't just executing prisoners: They began to
In June, an elderly man in black robes and believed to be a Buddhist
was shot to death after he complained to soldiers about the treatment of
villagers. A grenade was placed on his body to disguise him as an enemy
soldier, platoon members told investigators.
That same month, Ybarra shot and killed a 15-year-old boy near the village
of Duc Pho, reports state. He later told soldiers he shot the youth because
he wanted the teenager's tennis shoes.
The shoes didn't fit, but Ybarra ended up carrying out what became a
among platoon members: He cut off the teenager's ears and placed them in a
ration bag, Specialist Carpenter told investigators.
During the Army's investigation of Tiger Force, 27 soldiers said the
severing of ears from dead Vietnamese became an accepted practice. One
reason: to scare the Vietnamese.
Platoon members strung the ears on shoe laces to wear around their necks,
Former platoon medic Larry Cottingham told investigators: "There was
period when just about everyone had a necklace of ears."
Records show soldiers began another gruesome practice: Kicking out the
teeth of dead civilians for their gold fillings.
Villagers resisted relocation orders
For Tiger Force, the fighting was unpredictable in Quang Ngai.
In the first three weeks of May, platoon soldiers were under frequent
sniper fire as they walked unfamiliar trails.
Booby traps covered the rolling hills and beaches.
On May 15, the unit was ambushed by a North Vietnamese battalion in
became known as the Mother's Day Massacre. From 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., the
out-manned platoon became trapped in a valley under intense fire.
By the time it ended, two Tiger Force soldiers were killed and 25 wounded.
Over the next few weeks, the platoon would change.
A new field commander, Lt. James Hawkins, joined the unit, along with
The newcomers arrived as the platoon was about to move into the Song Ve Valley.
The Army's plan was to force the villagers to move to refugee centers
keep them from growing rice that could feed the enemy. But it wouldn't be
an easy assignment.
Many villagers refused to go to the centers, which the U.S. State
Department criticized in 1967 for lacking food and shelter. Surrounded by
concrete walls and barbed wire, the camps resembled prisons.
Though the Army dropped leaflets from helicopters ordering the 5,000
inhabitants to the centers, many ignored the orders. "They wanted to stay
on their land. They took no side in the war," Lu Thuan, 67, a farmer,
Unlike most of the province, the valley - removed from the populated
by narrow dirt roads - was not a center of rebellion, say villagers and
historians. "We just wanted to be left alone," said Mr. Lu.
Lieutenant executed unarmed, elderly man
But no one was left alone.
The Song Ve Valley - four miles wide by six miles long - became the
of operations for Tiger Force over the next two months.
In clearing the land, the soldiers began burning villages to force the
people to leave.
It didn't always go as planned.
At times, villagers would simply flee to another hamlet. Other times,
For the soldiers, the valley became a frustrating place.
During the day, they would round up people to send to relocation camps.
night, platoon members huddled in camps on the valley floor, dodging
grenades hurled from enemy soldiers in the mountains.
The lines between civilians refusing to leave and the enemy became
One night, the platoon ran into an elderly carpenter who had just crossed
the shallow Song Ve River. Dao Hue, as he was known, had lived in the
valley his entire life.
He was walking to his village along the banks of the river on a dirt
he knew by heart.
On this night, he wouldn't make it home.
His shooting death on July 23 as he pleaded for his life would be
remembered by five soldiers during the Army's investigation.
It would also send a message to the people of the valley that no one
safe, leading hundreds to flee.
The platoon had been patrolling the valley and set up camp in an abandoned
village, where they began drinking beer delivered by helicopter. By dusk,
several soldiers were drunk, reports state.
At nightfall, the platoon received an unexpected order: Move across
river, and set up an ambush. What followed was a shooting that would be
questioned by soldiers long after they left Vietnam.
When Mr. Dao crossed the river, he ran into Sgt. Leo Heaney, who grabbed
the elderly Vietnamese man with the gray beard.
Immediately, the 68-year-old carpenter dropped his shoulder pole with
baskets on each end filled with geese.
"He was terrified and folded his hands and started what appeared to
praying for mercy in a loud high-pitched tone," Mr. Heaney told Army
He said he realized the man posed no threat.
Sergeant Heaney said he escorted Mr. Dao to the platoon leaders, Lieutenant
Hawkins and Sgt. Harold Trout. Trembling, the man continued to babble
loudly, witnesses said.
Immediately, Lieutenant Hawkins began shaking the old man and cursing
him, witnesses recalled. Without warning, Sergeant Trout clubbed Mr. Dao
with the barrel of his M-16 rifle.
He fell to the ground, covered with blood.
In a sworn statement to investigators, Specialist Carpenter said he
Lieutenant Hawkins the man "was just a farmer, and was unarmed."
But as medic Barry Bowman tried to treat the villager's head wound,
Lieutenant Hawkins lifted the man up from where he was kneeling and shot
him in the face with a Carbine-15 rifle.
"The old man fell backwards on the ground, and Hawkins shot him again,"
Specialist Carpenter said in a sworn statement. "I just knew he was dead as
half of his head was blown off."
Lieutenant Hawkins denied the allegations in an interview with Army
investigators on March 16, 1973. But in a recent interview with The Blade,
he admitted killing the elderly man, claiming his voice was loud enough to
draw enemy attention.
"I eliminated that right there."
But four soldiers told investigators there were other ways to silence
In fact, the shots ultimately gave their position away, which led to a
Said Mr. Bowman: "There was no justifiable reason that the old man had
Nearly four decades later, the villagers who found Mr. Dao's remains
they knew he was killed by U.S. soldiers.
His niece, Tam Hau, now 70, was one of the first to see her uncle's
the river the next day.
She and another relative, Bui Quang Truong, dragged their uncle's remains
to their village. "He was shot all over his body," she recalled. "It was
very sad - sad for all of us."
Soldiers intensified attacks in the valley
Four days after the shooting of Dao Hue, four Tiger Force soldiers were
wounded in guerrilla grenade attacks.
The platoon struck back.
Over the next 10 days, the soldiers led a rampage through the valley.
The area was declared a free-fire zone - a special designation that
troops didn't have to seek approval from commanders and South Vietnamese
officials before attacking enemy soldiers.
But Tiger Force soldiers took the words - free-fire zone - literally.
began to fire on men, women, and children, former platoon members said.
Two partially blind men found wandering in the valley were escorted
bend in the Song Ve River and shot to death, records show. Two villagers,
including a teenager, were executed because they were not in relocation camps.
While approaching a rice paddy on July 28, platoon members opened fire
10 elderly farmers.
The image of the bodies scattered across the green expanse has long
remembered by Tiger Force soldiers and the people of Van Xuan village.
By all accounts, the farmers thought they were safe.
They were too old to serve in the military and not openly aligned with
either side in the conflict, according to their relatives.
In the end, four were killed and others wounded in what several soldiers
told investigators was an unjustified attack.
The order to shoot came from Lieutenant Hawkins, the officer leading
patrol, records state.
One villager recently recalled the farmers were surprised when the soldiers
began firing. Kieu Trac, now 72, said he watched helplessly as his father
fell in the rice field with the others.
He said he waited for hours before crawling into the field in the darkness
to look for his father's body. He recalled turning over the corpses - one
by one - until he found Kieu Cong, 60.
The son and his wife, Mai Thi Tai, carried his remains back to the village
The bodies of three others, Le Muc, Phung Giang, and an elderly female
member of the Trang family, were later buried by relatives.
"The farmers didn't do anything … we didn't hurt the soldiers. All they
were doing was working in the fields," said Mr. Kieu, pointing to the spot
where his father and the others were killed. "They thought the soldiers
would leave them alone."
Another villager, Lu Thuan, who watched the attack from a nearby mountain,
said he doesn't remember how many were wounded.
"Some were injured," said Mr. Lu, now 67. "They couldn't run fast enough.
Others acted like they died."
Mr. Carpenter, one of the soldiers in the patrol, insists he did not
his weapon. "It was wrong," he said in a recent interview. "There was no
way I was going to shoot. Those people weren't bothering anybody."
He told Army investigators he was afraid to express his opinion. A culture
had developed in the unit that promoted the shooting of civilians - with
team leaders enforcing a code of silence.
Four former soldiers told investigators they didn't report atrocities
because they were warned to keep quiet by team leaders.
Ken Kerney, the former private, recalled in a recent interview the briefing
he received before joining Tiger Force.
"The commanders told me that ‘What goes on here, stays here. You never
anyone about what goes on here. If we find out you did, you won't like it.'
They didn't tell me what they would do, but I knew. So you're afraid to say
Villagers recently interviewed said they dug dozens of mass graves after
the soldiers moved through the valley.
Nguyen Dam, 66, recalled the grim task of burying neighbors and friends
whose bodies were left in the fields.
"We wouldn't even have meals because of the smell," the rice farmer
"I couldn't breathe the air sometimes. There were so many villagers who
died, we couldn't bury them one by one. We had to bury them all in one grave."
Platoon moved north, focused on body count
Days after the attack on the farmers, U.S. planes flew over the valley,
dumping thousands of gallons of defoliants to ensure no one would grow rice
there during the war.
For Tiger Force, the Song Ve campaign was over.
On Aug. 10, platoon soldiers - armed with new supplies and reinforcements
rode a truck convoy into a new area 30 miles north.
Known as the Quang Nam province, the vast landscape was covered by
triple-canopy jungles and intricate, enemy tunnels.
The mission was to control the province, but not in the traditional
The platoon became dragged into a battle that became a mantra of the
The success of a battle would be measured by the number of people killed
not by whether a village was taken, according to the sworn statements of 11
In what became one of the bloodiest periods of 1967, the Army launched
campaign on Sept. 11 known as Operation Wheeler.
The battalion commander who would lead Tiger Force and three other units
was Lt. Col. Gerald Morse, who had taken over the previous month.
The 38-year-old officer was described as an aggressive, hands-on commander
who rode in helicopters and kept in frequent radio contact with his units
in the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry.
Within days of taking over, Colonel Morse changed the names of the
battalion's three companies - an action questioned by investigators years
Instead of companies A, B, and C, they were now known as Assassins,
Barbarians, and Cutthroats - with a sign hoisted over battalion
headquarters bearing the new names. And Colonel Morse would go by the name
Under his command, Tiger Force was encouraged to forcefully patrol the
dozens of hamlets in the province.
But the soldiers soon learned this was different from the Song Ve Valley.
It was not only home to the Viet Cong, but a far more trained and
disciplined adversary: the 2nd Division of the North Vietnamese Army.
Though these enemy forces previously hid in the nearby Annamese Mountains,
they were now moving toward Chu Lai, the sprawling U.S. air base that was
home to Tiger Force and other units.
By early September, the enemy soldiers were setting ambushes for troops,
including Tiger Force.
"We soon found ourselves face to face with the enemy," recalled William
Carpenter, the former platoon specialist who now lives in eastern Ohio. "It
seemed like every day we were getting hit."
Within 18 days of arriving in the new operations area, five Tiger Force
soldiers died and 12 were wounded in fighting that left the remaining
platoon members bitter and angry.
The platoon - broken into groups of four to six soldiers - began attacking
villages with a vengeance, according to former soldiers.
"Everybody was blood thirsty at the time, saying ‘We're going to get
back. We're going to go back there. We're going to even the score,'" former
medic Rion Causey said in a recent interview.
He said he watched as soldiers took out their aggressions on unarmed
civilians who refused to leave their homes.
"I've never seen anything like it. We just came in and cleared out the
civilian population," said Mr. Causey, 55, now a nuclear engineer in
California. "It was a day by day by day thing."
In some cases, the Army dropped leaflets into villages warning people
to relocation centers.
If the people didn't leave, "they would be killed," Mr. Causey said.
To cover up the shootings, platoon leaders began counting dead civilians
enemy soldiers, five former soldiers told The Blade.
A review of Army logs supports their accounts.
For 10 days beginning Nov. 11, entries show that platoon members were
claiming to be killing Viet Cong - a total of 49. But no weapons were found
in 46 deaths, records show.
Mr. Causey recalls a report to commanders.
"We would call in on the radio - ‘seven VC running from hut. Shot and
killed' - Hell, they weren't running. We didn't know if they were VC."
Sgt. James Barnett told investigators he once raised concerns to Lieutenant
Hawkins that Tiger Force soldiers were killing people who weren't carrying
"Hawkins told me not to worry about it," he said. "We can always get
During the rampage, the soldiers committed some of their most brutal
atrocities, Army records show.
A 13-year-old girl's throat was slashed after she was sexually assaulted,
and a young mother was shot to death after soldiers torched her hut.
An unarmed teenager was shot in the back after a platoon sergeant ordered
the youth to leave a village, and a baby was decapitated so that a soldier
could remove a necklace.
During the Army's investigation, former Pvt. Joseph Evans - another
Force soldier - refused to be interrogated. But in a recent interview, he
said many people who were running from soldiers during that period were not
a threat to troops.
"They were just running because they were afraid. They were in fear.
killed a lot of people who shouldn't have been killed."
Grenades targeted civilians in bunkers
For villagers, it was a routine: Run to the underground bunkers for safety.
In every hamlet, there were shelters, supported by bamboo and brick
covered by leaves and brush.
To the civilians, it didn't matter whether the soldiers were American
North Vietnamese. They went to the bunkers when either approached.
When Tiger Force appeared on a path leading to a village 20 miles west
Tam Ky, the people scurried for cover.
Tiger Force soldiers told investigators they remembered seeing women
children crawl through the openings.
No one knows how many were inside, but it didn't matter.
When the soldiers reached the bunker entrances, they "knew what to do,"
Pvt. Ken Kerney told investigators.
Without trying to talk to the people below, the soldiers pulled the
on their grenades, and dropped the explosives through the holes.
Setting up camp nearby, soldiers heard human cries coming from the
underground shelters throughout the night.
But no one bothered to help.
For platoon member Charles Fulton, the night dragged on.
"We kept hearing human sounds which came from the direction of the
bunkers,'' he told investigators. "They were the sounds of people that had
been hurt and trying to get someone's attention to get help. Although
faint, they were clear."
The bodies eventually were removed by villagers, former soldiers told
investigators. No weapons were found in the bunkers, nor was there any
evidence the villagers were a threat to U.S. forces, according to witness
The next day, soldiers approaching the hamlet saw the bodies of women
children lining the roadway.
Soldiers achieved objective of 327 kills
Toward the end of Operation Wheeler, there was even greater motivation for
An order was given via radio one day that would be remembered by seven
soldiers years later.
A voice came over the airwaves with a goal for the battalion: We want
body count of 327. The number was significant because it was the same as
the battalion's infantry designation: the 327th.
Three former soldiers swore under oath the order came from a man who
identified himself as "Ghost Rider" - the radio name used by Colonel Morse.
Army radio logs show the goal was achieved: Tiger Force reported the
kill on Nov. 19.
In a recent interview, Colonel Morse, who retired in 1979, denied giving
such an order, saying it was "ridiculous ... I would never have done
anything like that."
During questioning by Army investigators, former Pvt. John Colligan
the order indeed was given.
In fact, he said the soldier who reached that goal "was to receive some
type of reward."
Sergeant Barnett told investigators he heard the same order over the
airwaves by someone who identified himself as Ghost Rider.
Three former soldiers said in recent interviews the goal was achieved
part through the killing of villagers.
Number of killings remains a mystery
No one knows how many unarmed civilians were killed by Tiger Force from May
through November, 1967.
Soldiers from the platoon killed 120 villagers in one month alone, former
medic Rion Causey said in a recent interview.
Former medic Harold Fischer recalled that most of the platoon were
"shooting people left and right."
"We would go into villages and just shoot everybody. We didn't need
excuse. If they were there, they were dead."
While the Army substantiated 20 war crimes against 18 Tiger Force soldiers
during their seven-month sweep across the Central Highlands, former
soldiers described 11 more in recent interviews with The Blade, including:
· Two elderly men killed during an unprovoked attack on a hamlet near Tam
Ky. One was beheaded and the other, who was wounded, was shot by medic
Barry Bowman in a "mercy killing," he said.
· An elderly man shot to death by Private Colligan near Chu Lai when the
soldier wanted to test a new 38-caliber handgun on a live target, Mr.
· Numerous villagers shot by Tiger Force members in a hamlet near Chu Lai,
said former Pvt. Douglas Teeters. The villagers were waving leaflets at the
troops asking to be relocated, but when enemy forces fired on the soldiers
from another direction, the troops opened fire on everyone in their sight,
said the former medic.
"We killed a bunch of them. I don't remember how many," he said. "But
remember when it was over, we just said the dead gooks were VC. But we knew
they weren't all VC."
And most soldiers just kept quiet, even if they didn't participate.
"Remember, out in the jungle, there were no police officers. No judges.
law and order," Mr. Kerney said in a recent interview. "Whenever somebody
felt like doing something, they did it. There was no one to stop them.
"So we watched and didn't say anything. We turned the other way. Looking
back, it's terrible. We should have said something. But at the time,
everybody's mindset was, ‘It's OK.' But it wasn't OK. It's very sad."
Changing war put troops on defensive
By the end of November, the long campaign was over.
In a story in the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes, Tiger Force's Sam
Ybarra was praised for the 1,000th kill of Operation Wheeler.
At a ceremony at the Phan Rang base on Nov. 27, 1967, medals were pinned on
the chests of Tiger Force soldiers, including Sergeant Doyle, who ordered
the execution of a farmer during the operation.
In the ensuing weeks, Tiger Force would leave the Central Highlands.
early 1968, the war was changing.
North Vietnam began its own campaign - the Tet Offensive - attacking
villages and cities in the south.
Tiger Force was sent to defend a base near Cambodia.
For medic Rion Causey, the war was no longer about killing civilians
defending American strongholds as the enemy moved toward Saigon.
As the base camp was overrun and soldiers were dying, he came to a grim
"The only way out of Tiger Force was to be injured or killed."
He was right.
On March 6, 1968, he was injured, and as he was lifted by the helicopter,
he recalled looking at the Tiger Force soldiers below.
"I remember just kind of saying to myself: ‘God help you guys for what
did. God help you.'"
Experts: Earlier Tiger Force probe could have averted My Lai carnage
By MICHAEL D. SALLAH and MITCH WEISS
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
c THE BLADE, 2003
MY LAI, Vietnam - Just before dawn, the ritual begins.
People gather around stone statues, some whispering prayers, others crying.
Every year, hundreds of Vietnamese travel to the memorial that marks
day the soldiers swept into the tiny village before sunrise expecting to
meet enemy soldiers.
Instead, the soldiers found a thriving hamlet.
In just 41/2 hours, the U.S. Army's 11th Brigade went on a rampage that
shook the American military to its core.
When it was over, about 500 people lay dead - unarmed men, women, and
children - some herded into a ditch and sprayed with bullets, their
bloodied bodies stacked on top of one another.
Much has been written about the slaughter on March 16, 1968, that helped
turn the American public against the war. The assaults spawned books and
magazine articles - with stark images of women and babies in a mass grave.
Thirty-five years later, the My Lai massacre shares powerful parallels
the Tiger Force war-crime case.
Both Army units patrolled the same province. Both set up their camps
same military base. Both carried out the same missions: search and destroy
- just 10 miles apart.
But there was a key difference. Tiger Force arrived in the province
months before the 11th Brigade.
Shortly after their arrival, the Tigers began mutilating bodies, killing
civilians, and executing prisoners, the soldiers later told investigators.
The atrocities, brought to the Army's attention in 1967, now raise a
critical question: If the Army had reacted to those complaints, could
safeguards have been in place to avert the rampage at My Lai?
Military experts say the massacre was merely the culmination of the
failure to take steps to stop the violence that had been growing against
the people of Quang Ngai province.
"There's no doubt that My Lai could have been prevented had the Army
cracked down on atrocities," said Michael Belknap, a law professor and
Vietnam veteran who authored the 2003 book, The Vietnam War On Trial.
"Remember, they heard rumors. They suspected some troops were out of
control," he said.
Months before the arrival of Lt. William Calley's 11th Brigade unit
Quang Ngai province, Tiger Force already was establishing itself there as a
A review of thousands of Army records, including affidavits, battle
reports, and logs, shows:
Two soldiers, Lt. Donald Wood and Sgt. Gerald Bruner, told investigators
1974 they complained to commanders in August, 1967, that Tiger Force
platoon leaders were killing unarmed civilians. But the attacks continued.
Tiger Force Sgt. Leo Heaney and two other soldiers were ordered to sign
affidavits in May, 1967, that they were not mutilating bodies after a
severed ear was discovered in an Army helicopter. But the platoon continued
the practice of cutting off the ears of enemy soldiers and civilians.
One battalion officer, Dr. Bradford Mutchler, told investigators in
that commanders were aware of rumors of Tiger Force war crimes in 1967 but
did not investigate in fear of what might be uncovered.
Beyond the records, other signs existed that could have alerted the
Tiger Force's practices.
In 1966, journalist Ward Just wrote in the book, To What End, that one
Tiger Force soldier was sending the ears of his dead enemies through the
mail to his wife in the United States.
Jonathan Schell wrote articles for the New Yorker magazine in 1967,
that soldiers from the 101st Airborne admitted to war crimes in the
province but refused to provide details. The articles didn't mention Tiger
Force, which was part of the 101st Airborne.
Several military historians said they had long suspected a dangerous
pattern of abuse against civilians in the province - eventually culminating
with the massacre at My Lai.
But they said the alleged practices had always been vague and
unsubstantiated until now.
"It's something we knew was going on, but no one ever came forward with
details," said Dr. David Anderson, editor of the 1998 book, Facing My Lai.
The lead Army prosecutor in the My Lai case said he tried to get
information about prior war crimes in the province.
"We had long suspected that things were getting out of hand there, but
was tough getting the South Vietnamese to cooperate," said William
Eckhardt, a law professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Prosecutors wanted the information to help bolster their case that My
was the consequence of an out-of-control Army in the province, he said.
Experts say the Army could have reacted to complaints about Tiger Force
alerting commanders - and investigating the accusations immediately.
"That would have sent a clear message that this was not going to be
tolerated," said Dr. Anderson, a Vietnam veteran.
More intensive training on war crimes and treatment of civilians could
been implemented in Quang Ngai province.
Dr. Anderson and others say the troops' exposure to international laws
1967 was minimal: Soldiers were given a brief lecture and a pocket card
with nine rules on the proper way to treat civilians.
Until the My Lai massacre, investigating war crimes in Vietnam was not
priority among commanders, records show.
In fact, the attack was covered up until an outraged veteran, Ron
Ridenhour, wrote letters to congressional and military officials a year later.
After an Army probe, Calley and others eventually were charged with
crimes, including murder. Of those tried, only Calley was convicted. He was
sentenced to life in prison, but his term eventually was reduced to 10 years.
After several appeals, he was paroled in 1975 after serving 31/2 years
under house arrest.
His assault more than three decades ago is still considered one of the
worst U.S. war atrocities of the last century.
Mr. Belknap, an Army lieutenant during the Vietnam War, said My Lai
continues to be studied by military historians, but perhaps a greater
understanding can be gained by looking at the events that led to the massacre.
"What [the Army] never learned - until it was too late - is that you
just kill unarmed civilians."
(Story was published on Oct. 19, 2003)
Above are some of the most relevant articles from the series, but the
entire series is available on the Blade website at http://www.toledoblade.com
from Professor Richard Du Boff :
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 12:17:54 -0500
Subject: Sharonizing Iraq...and producing "ballistics tests"
Philadelphia Inquirer Posted on Tue, Nov. 18, 2003
U.S. blasts Iraqi homes of suspects. Crackdown on insurgents levels
least 15 houses.
By Jeff Wilkinson INQUIRER FOREIGN STAFF
TIKRIT, Iraq. In a tactic reminiscent of Israeli crackdowns in the West
Bank and Gaza, the U.S. military has begun destroying the homes of
suspected guerrilla fighters in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, evacuating women and
children, then leveling their houses with heavy weaponry.
At least 15 homes have been destroyed in Tikrit as part of what has
dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone Two. Among them were four houses allegedly
belonging to suspects in the Nov. 7 downing of a Black Hawk helicopter that
killed six Americans. Those houses were leveled Sunday by tanks and Apache
Family members at one of the houses, in the village of al Haweda, said
were given five minutes to evacuate before soldiers opened fire.
"This is something Sharon would do," said farmer Jamel Shahab, referring
the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. "What's happening in Iraq is just
The destruction of the homes is part of a sharp crackdown on insurgents
the so-called Sunni Triangle, where guerrillas have downed at least two
U.S. helicopters, one a Chinook in Fallujah on Nov. 2, killing 16 U.S.
soldiers, and the other the Nov. 7 downing of the Black Hawk in Tikrit. On
Saturday, two more helicopters crashed, after one of them may have been
fired upon, killing 17 in Mosul.
U.S. forces struck dozens of targets yesterday, killing six guerrillas
arresting 21, the military said. The operation is expected to continue
through tomorrow, said Col. James Hickey, commander of the First Brigade of
the Fourth Infantry Division.
"Those four people used those houses as sanctuary, and we're not allowing
them to have sanctuary," Hickey said. "We're going to turn the heat up and
complicate their battlefield," driving them into the desert, he said.
"There they will be exposed and we will have them."
It was unclear whether the decision to destroy the houses was part of
overall strategy approved in Washington.
Yesterday, angry residents of al Haweda, where three of the destroyed
were, said the tactic would spawn more guerrilla fighters and perhaps spark
an Iraqi uprising similar to the Palestinian intifadah in the West Bank and
Farmer Shahab, 41, stood amid the rubble of the former home of 55-year-old
farmer Omar Khalil, who was arrested shortly before the home was destroyed.
The military said Khalil's son, who escaped, was one of the suspects in the
downing of the Black Hawk. Khalil's wife, Kafey, sat wailing near her
wrecked house. "I have no son. I have no husband. I have no home. I will be
Kafey Khalil said military officials first visited the house two days ago,
demanding that her husband turn in her son. He refused. Then about 10 p.m.
Sunday, the military returned, she said. "They started shouting at us: 'Get
up! Get out!' " she said. "They brought a big truck for us. It was so cold
we felt like we were dying. After five minutes they started shooting. We
didn't have time to get anything but blankets. They brought in the tanks
and the helicopters and started bombing."
After the shooting stopped, the women and children were released and
left at the scene, they said. They were sifting through the wreckage
yesterday, attempting to salvage what few items remained.
Two other homes nearby were also in shambles. What walls remained were
pierced by tank rounds. A small boy held up what was left of the family's
In the backyard of one home, a cow lay dead, its stomach split open
large-caliber round, its unborn calf half-exposed. A dog limped nearby, a
piece of shrapnel protruding from its body.
The Israeli military's practice of demolishing the homes of families
convicted or suspected terrorists has brought widespread condemnation from
human-rights groups and other governments - including that of the United
The State Department's 2002 human rights report, released in March,
such policies "left hundreds of Palestinians not involved in terror attacks
homeless." In September, department spokesman Richard Boucher criticized
Israel for destroying a seven-story apartment building in Gaza during a
raid on a Hamas leader.
There was no official reaction yesterday in Washington.
The military had promised a tough crackdown in response to the recent
in American military deaths and has launched two operations, Operation Iron
Hammer around Baghdad and Ivy Cyclone in the heart of the Sunni Triangle.
Hickey said that counterstrikes against resistance fighters around Tikrit
had been continuous but that Ivy Cyclone Two represented a higher level of
coordination using more advanced weapons.
For example, Sunday night's action included the launching of a missile
Baghdad, 55 miles away, at the abandoned home of a leading Saddam Hussein
deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al Douri, who is No. 6 on the coalition's most-wanted
list. A reporter and photographer were allowed to witness the destruction,
which was completed by laser-guided artillery fire.
Hickey said Douri's house was destroyed to deny guerrillas a meeting place,
though it was unclear that such high-tech weaponry was needed to destroy
the structure, which appeared completely looted. "We know exactly what
we're shooting at and why we're shooting it," Hickey said. "Collateral
damage won't be a problem."
Hickey promised no letup in the campaign. He also promised to deal harshly
with weapons violations. "If we see someone with a weapon," he said, "he
becomes a ballistics test," meaning the man is shot.
"You won't see guns in Tikrit," he said.
from Jim Hightower :
November 13, 2003
THE CHARGE OF HALLIBURTON
(Like a bad tamale, Halliburton, Inc. keeps repeating on us)
by Jim Hightower
This massive military contractor has a long history of weaseling into
deals that reap huge profits for the company's owners and executives. During
the Vietnam years, its Brown & Root subsidiary pumped money into Lyndon
Johnson's campaign coffers and then drew billions of dollars from us
taxpayers in profiteering funds from that war. Then, with Dick Cheney as
its CEO in the 1990s, it grew even fatter on military deals, including
getting Iraqi contracts to repair Saddam Hussein's war-torn oil industry.
Now, Cheney has moved up to vice president, Saddam has been declared
Great Satan, our troops are in an ongoing war in Iraq –but there's Halliburton . . .
still weaseling, still profiteering. Cheney's old company (which puts more than
$150,000 a year into his bank account) was first in line to get taxpayer funds from the
Bush-Cheney regime for rebuilding Iraq. Of all the companies in the world,
the Cheney-connected Halliburton got the non-bid contract to import gasoline
into Iraq. So far, it has been paid $700 million for this chore, with the
money coming not only from U.S. taxpayers, but also from a United Nations
fund meant to provide humanitarian aid in Iraq.
Lest you think Halliburton is humanitarian, it has been caught gouging
everyone involved. The company is charging $1.59 a gallon for the gasoline
that it delivers from countries close around Iraq. Yes, says
Halliburton, this is expensive, but after all, it takes a lot to distribute
fuel in a dangerous war environment.
We might swallow that . . . except that an Iraqi oil agency is able
gasoline from the same surrounding countries, deliver it in the same hostile
environment--and charge only 98 cents a gallon, 40 percent less than
Hey, Halliburton – in war, when the bugle blows, you're supposed to
Hightower & Associates
1802 W. 6th Street
Austin, TX 78703
Francis McCollum Feeley
Research Center Director <http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ciesimsa>
and Professor of North American Studies