Library - Investigations
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Dellums Committee Hearings on War Crimes in Vietnam
Testimony of Steve Padoris (Delta Company, I/20, 11th Bgd, Americal Div)
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Dellums (House of Representatives) War Crimes Hearings Wednesday, 4-28-71, Washg'tn, DC Testimony Of Steve Padoris 1/20, with Bgd, Americal Div Los Angeles, California
PADORIS: My name is Steve Padoris, and I am 23 years old. I am from California and I was drafted into the Army. I served with Delta Company, I/20, 11th Bgd, Americal Div. I served with this unit from 7-69 to 3-70, until which time I was - I ran into a, well, that was it. Throughout my military training it was more or less the idea was pounded into our heads that we were just part of the machine. Such as what the Army more or less taught us that from as long as we were with this institution, that they would do our thinking for us.
It was our job more or less just to follow along and do as they said. Another problem pounded into our head was the fact that only - - the only good dink is a dead dink, and once you do feet over there you can't trust any of the people because you really don't know whether they are good or bad because like a lot of the villagers, they are villagers by day and VC by night.
Getting on here, a couple of specific instances which I would like to bring out. When I 1st got into the unit, there was a lot of excitement, and no 1 knew what to expect, but on this particular day right after I got over there, my company had moved out and went and set up on a hill, but throughout the day my squad had set up on this 1 hooch and all of us was more or less there to rest up for the day. During which time, well, let's see - it seems like my squad Sgt, which was an E-5, had apparently lost his comb that he was carrying around with him. Later on through the day he realized he was missing his comb and he went back there to the little hooch that we had set up. But the other day, well, there had been 2 children probably 6-7 years old, this little boy and this little girl, and as it turned out it was actually the little girl that had taken the comb. But in the meantime when this Sgt had realized his comb was missing, he went back there and he started asking questions and messing with the boy and messing up his hair and slapping him around. He had some shaving cream and he was more or less - well, he covered the boy's head with the shaving cream and during this time the little kid was petrified. I didn't know what was going on at all because the Sgt, he started by pulling the kid's hair and tearing at his clothes. When the kid denied that he took the comb, he went into the hooch and started tearing the hooch apart. He was tearing up work clothes, throwing them on the ground, more or less just terrorizing the kid and destroying the hooch. Well, since I was more or less inexperienced over there, well, it was a shock to me but I thought he was doing an injustice to the kid. I really felt sorry for the kid. But a little while later while questioning the Sgt, a couple weeks before, that is, I had got into the company, my company had run into quite a bit of shit and had during this time, well the tension was built up inside of them. All of that was going along with it' My Sgt told me, when I started questioning him, somehow he knew that they had it, he said. But this little kid just kept it and my Sgt told me that, "Don't worry. We are going to get the info and the way to do that is to terrorize them." It was that kind of an attitude.
So about 20 minutes after he started working on this little boy, the little girl came back from the rice fields and when she got there her brother started talking to her and telling her would she give back the comb. This went on for about 10 minutes. Finally, after she saw the damage that had been done and how scared the little brother was, she finally went to he corner where she had hidden the comb and she broke: it out and gave it back to the Sgt. But he did finally get his comb back. That was just 1 little incident.
To get on with a couple other incidents here - I actually took part in some of the burning, at which time our job is to move the people that had more or less remained behind and send them out to the compound that they had set up on Route 1.
During this time all of us, our job mainly was to destroy like other hooches that were standing and destroy the food that was left behind and more or less destroy everything that was standing. But a lot of these people were reluctant to leave, at which time we had to more or less try to persuade them to leave. Some of these people was pretty stubborn and well, to get them to move anyplace you had to push them around and hit them and on a couple of different instances after we had set the hooches on fire and the people were still reluctant to leave, we kept - well, I think we couldn't believe what was happening. But they would run in and out of the hooch trying to get the rest of their possessions. The other incident that happened took place around, I think it was about Jan when my platoon was just leaving the LZ and we were heading south, but at this time we were working with this squad of ARVN's and these 2 POWs were taken when we were checking out the bunker and we found these 2, they were dressed as Buddhas, dressed up like that. So we brought these people to the military aides. Females about age 20.
At which time the ARVN's started interrogation and more or less that was beating them badly with the sticks they had. They did that for an hour and we finally started to move to some of the other hooches and the buildings, but our platoon leader was with us, this lt. Now this PFC wanted to check something out where the ARVN's found these people and he had been an ARVN, and he deserted and was now - this POW was now a VC, but he had come to a couple of different bunkers and I sent him in 1st in case they were booby-trapped.
On this 1 bunker they had to take this Claymore mine in to blow out the bunker. About the 2d bunker they sent him into it and they blew him up.
Well, this suspected VC, we got him, we had captured him. The ARVN's that was with us did. and we were the 1's there. Our job was to check out the fields and bunkers and that more or less was it. But as it turned out they sent him into 1 bunker to check it out and rather than take him back for more interrogation, say to higher-ups such as the LtCols at the base camps that we had set up, well, they just more or less killed him and rather than give him a chance to get back out of the bunker after he had taken these Claymores and was setting them in there to blow the bunker away, they just blew it before he had a chance to get out. Rather than take him as a POW, they decided to do a job on him. Just kill him.
BURTON: So this is a suspected VC who took the Claymore in the bunker?
BURTON: and then the Claymore was detonated by whom? By the ARVN or by the Amer troops?
PADORIS: Well, I was there but I didn't actually see who did it. Well, I just assume it was the ARVN's. I think the attitude was, well, it wasn't I think it was just the genl feeling and attitude that it was done anyway. I don't think it really matters who actually did it. It was just more or less all of us involved.
DELLUMS: Does that conclude your testimony, Mr Padoris? Or do you have anything else?
PADORIS: Well, 1 other point that was mentioned before briefly was that there was 1 incident that my squad did not understand. Well, Mr Notley had testified before on this incident that the squad was out on a sneak, and all of these VC, a squad size of VC had come up the trail and was more or less standing around their positions and later on went into the other area. Well, they fired at them. But later the squad went back to the platoon and we moved out into this hill. I believe he mentioned, too, about the little boy that came running out. With most of these little kids it's really hard to tell.
Well, this little kid, like most of the kids that are there, was saying that I am GI #1 which means that you are really a good guy. But ave started asking him questions and he kept denying everything about the VC being there that night and from what I saw my squad Sgt was the 1 on guard when the VC came walking up and he was going to let us back into the vill. When this kid came out and after he questioned him and more or less he kept denying anything about the VC being there, he took, he just slapped him around pretty good.
A couple different times the kid flipped off the dike. He was hit just so hard. But to me it brings to mind in my personal opinion he was - I believe that this incident is more or less the same type that Lt Calley was involved. I believe this was more or less the same type of situation because he went, well, they hid behind everything. When you are there and the people are lying to you, it just is difficult.
Let's see, before I go on with this incident, my attitude and feelings were, to the people over there, were exactly - I couldn't care less what happened to any of them because I had buddies and friends shot and killed, wounded, too.
But it just all - it is a feeling that I have. I just have that feeling. I could actually care less whether they lived or whether they died. I think that the people themselves over there could even give us, about Amers being there because only - they think or they are interested in only raising their crops. They are more or less being self-sufficient, which is their only interest. They wanted to be left alone. I think the thing to do, well, I can't actually see why we are over there. I think that's it.