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Dellums Committee Hearings on War Crimes in Vietnam
Testimony of Guadalupe G Villarreal (D Company - 6 Light Infantry Bgd, Americal Div)
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Dellums (House of Representatives) War Crimes Hearings Wednesday, 4-28-71, Washg'tn, DC Testimony Of Guadalupe G Villarreal D Company - 6 Light Infantry Bgd, Americal Div Racine, WI
VILLARREAL: My name is Guadalupe Villarreal. I am from Racine, Wisconsin.
I was drafted in 1967 and I served in Vietnam for 1 year. I arrived there in 12-67 and served to 12-68. I was assigned to Company A, 1st Bn, 29th Infy, I96 Light Infy Bgd.
In being assigned to my company I was also told that I was very fortunate to be in this company because as usual the thing that is said is of course that this company has the highest body-count in the Bn.
This I think is the usual thing said to a new guy that arrives in any company. Also I was sort of, I don't know, impressed or something. But I they of course told me that the name of the company was "The Death Family" and at a later date this name was changed to "Black Death," at which time patches were made available to anyone who wanted them and they could wear them, of course.
Now this patch depicted a death symbol with a sickle with blood dripping down, and this kind of thing. This is nothing usually of course not allowed.
I mean, say in the States. This is something that is like, well, it is breaking the uniform, but yet because you are doing this is allowed over there.
This makes you feel that you are more like death. This is what you are supposed to do.
I will try to be very brief and I will give an idea as to what the usual orientation was that was given. 1st of all, you should not trust anybody. At no time would you consider them, you might say as anything but gooks and of course then the next thing was that the only good gook was a dead gook.
This I think was common knowledge that everyone refers to them as gooks.
Another thing was that of course the air strikes were behind you so you had nothing to worry about. Everything was available to you.
The next thing was of course to keep up the good work and of course this meant that you had to keep up the reputation of the company to keep the high body-count up. We operated in the hills south of Danang and north of An Khe.
This is 30 miles south of Danang.
Now the standard, you might say, operating procedures were of course the search and destroy mission. This of course meant that you usually burned every hooch to the ground. You destroyed all source of food.
Now, no distinction was ever made as to what should be considered as the mere subsistence for the people. You just destroyed everything. Whether they starved was not important because this is something that supposedly might come to the hands of the VC.
Another standing operation procedure was the FREE-FIRE ZONES. In the FREE-FIRE ZONES, as you know, you shoot anybody that runs or invades you in any kind of way. It is funny, or - well, 1 can't explain it but in the genl area we worked around this and I would say maybe it was an 80-mile-sq area.
Within this 80-mile-sq there was 1 vill classified as "friendly" and then of course this only extended to 200 meters beyond you might say the perimeter of this vill.
So this area was mostly all FREE-FIRE ZONES. So it was with this understanding that it was a FREE-FIRE ZONES that everything was fair game. If at any time you saw people in any way trying to avoid you or run away or make suspicious movements, that was free game. You could go ahead and shoot them and kill them.
What strikes me is that how did these rules come about? You would think that of course the people would live in this non - FREE-FIRE ZONES. But yet 100's of people lived outside of this and of course these people, even though they had their hooches there, they were still considered to be sympathizers, or regular VC. So of course they were all free game.
This of course means that anybody of draftable age is considered to be this free game. This is classifications which are used to describe them because it would seem all of a sudden everybody becomes an expert at determining age over there. What constitutes draftable age.
and that of course was somebody able to carry an arm.
This could be a 10-year-old to 50-year-old. Just supposedly you knew who they were supposed to be.
Now these people, for example, there was 3 things that happened: they would be killed, beaten up, or usually they were killed. Otherwise they were beaten up and interrogated out in the field.
They would be whipped or you might say pistol whipped or whatever and they usually - I can't recall of any instances there, but they were sent back to the base camp to the FSB. Of course they were again beaten up and such.
That just gives you a SOP as far as that.
I would like to go to another subject and make it brief, but I would go into specific incidents. 1 took place in 4-68 when a supposed ambush was set up in broad daylight. If you can understand that. It is a war, and you just can't do this. You can't ambush in broad daylight but this of course is done.
At the time I was by the company CP and we heard some firing. Well, we went back to where the firing was and I was told to escort a medic back to take care of any wounded people.
When we got back, there were 4 dead people, 4 women and 1 little kid, too.
But I guess their only mistake was that they came up behind the company and they were trying to be relocated. They wanted to be flown out to a refugee camp that they had there.
Yet we got a 4-body-count out of it. I don't understand it. This was the situation with the men, women and children and yet they counted them as a body-count. There was 1 woman and 1 kid who were badly wounded. They were evacuated. I sort of can't be dramatic about it because it just happened. Nothing was ever said.
Nothing was ever questioned.
CONYERS: Well, what happened?
VILLARREAL: Well, these 4 people were killed. 1 man, a woman and a little kid in a supposed ambush, in broad daylight. Now this is impossible. You don't do this. Anyway, as far as getting to specific incidents again, another was we had received sniper fire and we called in artillery and of course there was this 1 group of hooches there and they were all hit by arty.
There was nobody killed because they all went into their bunkers on the river but there was 1 in particular, 1 particular woman and that for some reason she was walking along 1/2 - running across a dike and she was shot.
I personally - I guess I took part personally in the firing only because you were told to. You were told, "Here, you got to do it." Everybody was shooting, and if you were not to do it, you know, they were yelling, "What the hell you doing there?" That was the method. Anyway, when we checked her out it turned out she was an old woman. At the time it struck me because I really thought for somehow, some reason a was personally responsible in this incident.
It happened with a resupply shipment, and on that day the Bn chaplain came in and had services for the guys - at which time I went up to talk to him and I said that it was kind of - I was kind of guilty and I wanted to talk to somebody about it.
Suddenly I felt, I really felt bad and all he said was, "Well, we all see things in war that we don't like, that we don't want to see." and he said, "Well, could you help it?" and I told him that yes, I could, I guess I could.
Maybe I shouldn't have shot. and he says, "Well, it could have been VC, right?" and I said, "Yes, it could have been." But he sort of rationalized it away and he gave me the statement of "Let's pray to God that He will give us courage and strength to carry on with the mission." Now this upset my thinking with the religion. He was praying for God to give us courage and strength to keep doing what we were doing.
Well, from there on I never attended any more services. But another instance I would like to relate is, when the VC were brought to the support base, they were of course hooded with sandbags over their heads and they were tied around their necks and dragged all the way up the hill.
Then of course they would be set up by the Bn Cmdr's bunker. They would set out there in the sun and the people would go around them and kick them and such.
On 2 occasions I saw that 2 scout teams with scout dogs would be led up to him to bite him and this particular thing - I don't know.
After hearing all this it seems like this is all insignificant, and it doesn't - it isn't as bad as killing 30 people. But I just want to relate it because this is what did happen.
Another incident that was common practice was of course where the squad leaders and asst squad leaders would practice to call in arty, because you never knew supposedly when you would have to do that.
But what you do is you set on a hill and everybody would get their maps out and they would choose, actually choose hooches at random. No attention was paid to whether they were occupied or not. For the most part they were not.
However, what you would do is shut up your map. Now you have the forward observer there and then you call in a training mission. You call for a phosphorous round to effectively burn out some hooch, and you give your coordinates there and you adjust your elevation and such and you call in the arty.
All of this was to give you training as to how if at any time you had to call it in, you would know how to do it.
But no attention was ever paid to the people. They could have chosen trees or hills or something characteristic of the land but no, they would rather choose hooches because that would be like killing 2 birds with 1 stone where you could get the training mission in and also kill somebody, I imagine.
CONYERS: Excuse me, for the record, hooch is a Vietnamese home, is that correct?
VILLARREAL: That is correct. and of course since supposedly again this is going back to this thing about the FREE-FIRE ZONES, since it was a FREE-FIRE ZONES, that meant that nobody should be there and even if they were there they weren't supposed to be there. So therefore that made it all right.
In order to give everybody else a chance to get their say in, I guess that's about all I will say now. Thank you.
DELLUMS: Thank you very much for your testimony. I would like to introduce Congressmen Don Riegel (R-Michigan). Thank you very much for coming.