Library - Investigations
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Dellums Committee Hearings on War Crimes in Vietnam
Testimony of Daniel Barnes (Americal Div)
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BARNES: My name is Daniel Barnes. I lived a life like any other normal kid. I quit schl in the 11-grade for some unknown reason and instead I went into the Army when I was 18. The idea I had was that my brothers had been in and they had served and they didn't say too much about it so it was a usual thing like following the country and following the family tradition and so on. So I went in with the idea of going into the Army that it was more of a privilege rather than more of a sacrifice, which is what it turned out to be.
I went in with the respect for it and so on. After getting through basic training where the main word was, "Kill Kill," all the time, they then pushed it into your head 24 hours/day.
Everything you said - even before you sat down to eat your meals, you had to stand up and scream, "Kill," before you could sit down and eat. Which I didn't think was very right.
In 3-69 after a 10-day leave they graciously gave me I went to Vnam and was assigned to the AmcalDiv and I went through the training schl that Gary was talking about before. I can recall some things that he was saying about how there was no dink like a dead dink. All the things they were talking about, and still the constant push for, "Kill. Kill. Kill," all the time.
You run into things that you don't like or you don't want to do. But this was the war.
So you would follow this all the way through. Then I was 1st assigned to Alpha Co and I was in the field for a month during which I saw nothing, I was just traveling from here to there. Then I was like drafted for the recon cmpy, to go into the 4/2 I in about May. Now when I 1st got into the recon cmpy, they had a patch on their clothes that some of them wore, I would say the old-timers that had been in the country longer, they wore a patch of a VC, and it was yellow and black and it was showing a VC in the midst of an explosion. But anyway, most of the guys wore them which, to me, didn't seem right. But when I went there I saw there was a Bn, and it had a chart there about the VC kills and how many kills each had, and recon was the highest in kills of all the cmpys that I had seen there. So I figured that I was probably going to run into a lot of action and that type of thing.
About in August 1 nite we were stationed on a hill 15 miles south of Duc Pho, just below a vill. We were there to watch the vill to see if there were any people coming in and out of the vill during the nite. For some reason the people that worked during the day had left about 5 o'clock. They all went home someplace else so there was supposed to be no 1 in the vill that nite. That nite they had spotted with the starlight scope, a nite device used to spot people or any object, but they spotted 2 people crossing the road into this vill. They called in the mortars immediately, which is about the same thing as arty batteries. But they fired approx a 4-round barrage, which was unnecessary, but they did it anyway. Besides being off target they burned about 4-5 hooches during the nite. The next morning the whole platoon moved across and down the hill and on across the road to check out this vill and we went in and checked it out and we couldn't find anything. No bodies. No blood. Nothing. Just a couple of burned-down hooches. Well, we reported this to the LT and his exact words were, "Leave nothing standing.
Burn the whole thing down." So we made torches out of rags and sticks and we used gasoline and we started burning the hooches down. By this time the people that were in the vill started coming back and naturally, like anybody would, they put up a big fight about the burning down of their houses and things. Well, they came and they started, you know, grabbing to try to grab the torches away from us, and crying and yelling, you know? Trying to grab the torches. At 1st it was just pushing, just pushing them away, and then it got to be pushing a Little harder with the rifles and it progressed. It got to be where a couple people got killed. I did not see the people being killed but there were 4-5 bodies laying on the ground. and myself, I was involved in burning these vills. Now the feeling at that time was that it was just a way of relieving yourself, where you had no way of relieving yourself and with all the pressures and everything in the military and the pressures of the war itself, and being scared 24 hours a day, and not sleeping, and being bitten by mosquitoes 24 hours/day and getting cold and so on, you are so aggravated and so fed up that it was just unbelievable. Now you had to take it out, you had to take your aggravations out on something. It was a real problem. You didn't let it just sit there.
lf they had said to burn down the hooches, it would relieve what you have in yourself and you just naturally did it. We went into this vill and an old man was sitting there, he was inside and he was about 70-80, and he was dressed in white clothes. He was the only man in the vill that I saw and I went in with another guy and this other guy started tearing the things down off the wall and things and naturally the old man protested. Now this other guy pushed the old man away and shot him in the head. That was really something.
It is really hard to explain the feeling of seeing someone falling for no reason at all, just really"it is really a bad act in the sense of the word to put it in that way. He was just laying there trying to stop us and to protect his home, and he was killed worthlessly. It shocked the hell out of me, which is the least I can say as to what it actually did.
Every hooch was burned down. The people started, of course, leaving the vill with what possessions that they had.
But the feeling of the guys was that the killing was nothing. It was nothing to them. It was just like going and locking your car door. That is the feeling that they showed. They showed no emotion for it at all. It really was so inhumane.
The emotion I felt actually was unbelievable. You know, its the 1st time I had ever seen anyone killed in person. If it was with a reason, then it might have been a little different. But it wasn't. It wasn't worth anything. Whether he was seventy, or whether he was 2. It didn't seem to matter. He was still killed. I just know it was an unbelievable thing. After that there were, while the vill was burning, the Col came flying over in his chopper, flying low. I guess he spotted the smoke from an LZ that was close by and he came over and I had the radio at the time so I could hear what was going on and he asked, "Whats going on down there?" The LT said, "Everythings all right. Don't worry about it." and the Col said, "Well, are you sure everythings all right?" and the guy said, "You know what I mean. Don't worry about it." and the Col said, "Okay, take it easy." and the Col flew off. That was the last we heard about it.
Approx 4-5 people were killed in that vill plus people that were burned by white phosphorus grenades that they were throwing at the hooches, plus the beatings and so on. For actually no reason at all this happened.
Another incident that I remember was the LZ had gotten pretty much fire.
The LZ Debbie. After a rocket and mortar attack the VC tried to get up a hill and a couple of them made it in. But quite a few guys were on there and they were really messed up bad, plus there had been a few that were killed.
Well, they found about 3-4 in the morning. This happened at nite, of course. In the morning they found 3-4 dead VC that were around the perimeter and they put them in choppers and flew maybe 150-200 feet above the vill and pushed the dead bodies out on to the suspected VC vill.
It is a terrorist tactic where if you do this you give them the message, "If you mess around with us, this is what we're going to do to you." That type of thing. It is a very gross warning. You could see the people, where the chopper was pushing these bodies out onto the vill, and they came back with the chopper empty so you can imagine that they dumped them all.
A few other incidents that were major were on the interrogations where we had been chasing footprints of a VC. He went into a vill and a woman and an old man were there and there was some animals around and so on. Well, they started to interrogate her and she naturally was, the word was "no bik" which meant that she didn't want to say anything. So she kept saying "Nothing. Nothing." "No bik. No bik." So they decided that they would throw her down a well, so they did it. 2-3 guys dumped her down a well and she was screaming and hollering and an old man came out from somewhere, I don't know where. But he was screaming and yelling because they had thrown her down the well. So they threw him down too. Well, they were both down the well then.
Then along with those 2 they started throwing in, well, there was a pig that went down the well, and a couple of ducks, and a few other things. They tried to get a calf, but it wouldn't get in there. So they had this calf halfway in there, stuck in the well. It seemed funny at the time - I don't know why, but just it was an unreal realization of what was really happening there. What they felt down there. The terror in their minds. What was felt with us was absolutely myself was absolutely nothing. Later when I thought of it, it was really something else.
As I walked away, I walked around the corner, I heard an explosion and I came back and there was scattered debris and bricks from the well all over the place. So I figured that someone had thrown down the well a grenade that caused the explosion, most likely a grenade.
Some other incidents were that we were in the rice bowl, a place called the rice bowl which is a U-shaped flatlands area with mountains around it.
Well, we were on nite patrol, sleeping in the day and moving at nite. We went into a vill and interrogated a man, if you call it that. They woke him up at nite there and threw him out of bed on the floor and threw a hundred million questions at him which, of course, he didn't understand any of it.
He was an old man. They found a shed there and like they opened the door and threw him in, and shot him, then closed the door. They just left him there.
Most of the incidents I saw in Vnam, and I didn't see as many as a lot of people did because after a real good friend of mine was killed I protested to go in the field and I was lucky to not be court-martialed.
But the way I felt about everything was that - the way I felt about everything that had happened and some of the things I had heard and seen and in really thinking about some of the things that had happened there, it was unbelievable, it was an unbelievable feeling of more guilt than anything because not because I was part of it, but because all Amers were part of it. I talked to an old man once there and I started talking with him and he didn't think the Amers ought to be there because it wasn't up to him, of course, to decide on a democratic govt. He didn't care if it was democratic or communistic. He didn't care as long as he could get up in the morning, plow his rice fields, and carry on a daily life and do everything like this. He wanted to eat at nite and just live a simple life, which is all he wanted.
He didn't want any more war or any part of it. But it was forced upon him.
He was the middleman, so to speak, and he got the wrong end of it.
No matter which way it came from he got the wrong end of it, whether it was from us or from the VC. He was terrorized from both ways. That is mostly what I have to say.
DELLUMS: We thank both you, Barnes, and Villarreal, for your testimony. Villarreal, I wanted to ask you a question: How did you, as a member of a minority group of Amer, react to the attitudes of the US troops going in and treating the people in this way?
VILLARREAL: Well, 1st of all, I guess they are indoctrinated and that is sort of a racist type thing that of course the gooks are gooks and they are inferior to us therefore, you just hear this statement. Well, if you kill 10 gooks for 1 Amer thats all right because thats how much they are worth. They would say that anybody would go along with that because thats what an Amer was worth, was worth so much more. The feeling is that if, of course, everybody condones it, only the fact that they are inferior to us, that they are something less than us, well, thats unbelievable. That their lives have really no meaning and this, of course, is the attitude that is shown to you and the 1s indoctrinated with it, this is indoctrinated into you from the 1st time you get into the Army until the time you leave. When you get there, this is the attitude that you find.
DELLUMS: Thank you.Barnes, many members of the Congress will publicly say that what you have told us today or in previous days are incidents, aberrations, isolated cases. How would you answer that?
BARNES: Well, nothing that happens in Vnam is an isolated case because it has happened before. Everyone is experienced in this in 1 way or another.
Now when you talk about the Congress, and they say that these are isolated things, where are the Congressman who sit up here, who should be listening to this, to listen to the so-called isolated cases, where are they to listen to what we have to say for a change? There are - none of them here.
DELLUMS: Thank you. I would like to, before I turn the floor over to Congressman Conyers, I would like to introduce my distinguished colleague from San Francisco, California, Congressman Phillip Burton. The floor is yours, Mr Conyers.
CONYERS: May I ask all the gentlemen if it would be a fair conclusion that if this Committee arrived at the opinion that all of the atrocities and instances of brutality that have been related here have been perpetrated in Vnam and are and have been condoned either directly or by indirection through the highest members of the military chain of cmnd? Would that be a reasonable conclusion for this Committee to arrive at in your judgment? and you may comment on this. If you desire to comment, you may.
VILLARREAL: I would say that not only at the highest level, but even here.
For example, it seems like a common joke was that if you ever had any problem, to just tell it to your Congressman.
Now as a personal experience I have right now, yesterday and the day before, I asked my Congressman to at least come down and listen. Now he is on the floor upstairs here. So I just wonder what effect it would have had for me to have written a letter to him. Right now he won't walk down 1 flight of stairs to come and listen to this. He doesn't want to listen, therefore apparently he knows all about it. and in a sense everybody is condoning it.
The responsibility - well, the people that make the policy, of course.
CONYERS: Would anyone else care to respond to that?
BARNES: I think that most of the high cmnd knew about the things that were happening and the " reasons that they didn't say too much about it or nothing was processed through about it was that the main thing was that the object was to go into Vnam, and the object was to most of the high cmnd, it was to kill. That was the thing. To come in and - I don't mean destroy in the sense of the word which is what they did really, but if a couple of civilians got in the way, "Thats not a big matter. Thats the price of war." Thats how they considered it. If they heard of mass murders usually it was an overpass, and it didn't have too much effect, that type of thing. They didn't care about it. They didn't have no feelings for the people at all.
Which is why most of it went on, of course.
BATTLES: The question was, do we feel as though the higher-ranking officials are the 1s responsible. Well, when you have, as we did, a couple 100 Vnam vets talking about this, many having been to Vnam, and if you heard the conversation, and the work of the Citizens Comm'n Inquiry here on Vnam down here on the Mall, also when the Vnam vets were here, and they of course after having gone through Vnam, and conducted themselves very well, and with the number of state representatives that they had from the different walks of life and the fact that they didn't run around doing these things in the US before they went over there, and these things happened as a result of this war, and they are from all different training camps all over the USA what else can it be? What else?
I would like someone to give me an alternative. What are they the result of? I would like to know that. Really. The question is just - its not a very good question. " It is just so plain. You know?
Yes. Definitely. But who are they? I would like to know who pulls the strings in this war.
CONYERS: Anyone else? Any observations on this question?
DELLUMS: Apparently not right now. Congressman Burton, the floor is yours.
BURTON: Did you rpt to any superior NCO or officer any of these incidents?
BARNES: Incidents that happened were - the NCOs like the E-7s and the Sgts and so on and so forth were in on this as much as the lower ranking. I mean, as far as that was concerned, they were in the platoon itself. But as far as going in and telling anyone about it like a Col or something, well he flew over it. He knew what happened. I didn't have to tell him anything. He knew about it. He understood what happened. As soon as he said, "Its all right, don't worry about it." Well, with that attitude, you figure if you said anything it wouldn't get you anywhere. and the people that you live with, well, these are the people that you live with and have lived with for maybe 2-3 months and you have slept in the same bunker and you ate with them and you grubbed with them and you were just as dirty as they were and just as filthy and shared the same rotten experiences and the crap that they went through. You went through it yourself. But you can't turn around and say that its not right for that person to kill. They may turn on you at some time and say that, "Thats too bad. What will you do about it?" That type of thing. How do you know if some nite when you're sleeping that this guy won't knife you or shoot you? Not saying that he would, but he has a rifle. I could have shot that old man, but he did it. I know better.
The way I felt was that he saw a lot of this. Now the recon is going to be in and out of there and as far as the People were concerned, well, there had been just so many changes in the recon unit that every time it went out there were 3-4 guys who were new. You would always get 3-4 guys who would get messed up and 3-4 new guys would come in. This would continue. Or the whole platoon might get wiped out and you would start all over from scratch.
It was the feeling that you were taking your anxieties out on these people.
BURTON: Is this the 1st public occasion that you have related the testimony that you have given us today?
BARNES: Well, I never had a chance to day - I didn't know the channels to go through to say anything about it. When I came from Vnam I got more of when I was in Seattle going home, there was a woman there who was asking what outfit I was in and she was saying, isn't that the AmcalDiv that Calley was in and the comment was made that, "You are another 1 of those killers." Thats 1 of the statements that I got from 1 of them. So I figured that if I started talking it would get me 1-2 places possibly. I would be with the rest of the guys who were laying dead in their graves, or it would get me absolutely nowhere. So mostly I just have told friends in our talking or just around myself as far as that goes. I haven't had a chance to speak publicly about it, no.
BURTON: What were the dominant factors that led you to decide to give this testimony?
BARNES: I think the most dominating factor was when the 1st day I called, and they said, "Raise your right hand. That was the 1st thing. Now when I came in the mili, what really the military was all about was what got to me. I think if you're going to have a military org it shouldn't be run by military well, but its not my place to talk about that. The military in the sense of the word, like you have to serve. You have to serve for your country because you live in your country, you have to serve for it, but do I have to go to Vnam to kill these innocent people for no reason at all?
For no reason at all, and should I go on that type of thing. Why can't I question? I was there, I know what it is.
BURTON: How long have you been out of the service?
BARNES: Since Oct. I stayed 6 months at Ft Hood after I got out of Vnam.
I was going to extend in Vnam, but I decided not to.
BURTON: Did you want to say something?
BATTLES: Well, you had a question, like was it reported. Well, there is a thing called the chain of cmnd in the mili, and if there are 2-3 higher-ranking people in your unit, the people who participated in it along with you, its just up to them to do that sort of thing. That is the chain of cmnd. and you can get court martialed if you don't follow the chain of cmnd. You are in a possible court martial situation in a combat zone for many reasons in Vnam while these atrocities are being committed and you don't want to question a heck of a lot of these goings - on around you - because you just follow suit. Because thats the way it is.
I think we should question - we should question the things that are going on underneath.