I have listed below more than ninety articles dating from the revelation of the My Lai massacre in late1969 until the fall of 1971 in which American war veterans presented compelling, eyewitness testimony on the “true nature of the Vietnam War.” Over and over in these accounts the veterans charged that Vietnamese civilians were routinely subjected to atrocities that resulted from policies designed and executed at the highest levels of American civilian and military wartime leadership.
While accusations that the U.S. was engaged in “genocide” against the population of South Vietnam were expressed early and often by the antiwar movement from the war’s outset, the overwhelming majority of the articles cited here appeared in big city mass circulation daily newspapers. They are contained in a clipping file I maintained while working with the Citizens Commission of Inquiry which organized public forums for veterans to testify about war crimes they had witnessed or participated in while serving in Vietnam.
We conscientiously gathered the press accounts of CCI’s organizing track record, fortunate to have had access to an out-of-town newspaper stand available in Times Square, New York City. At the same time CCI never engaged a clipping service, which I am certain would have increased many fold the citations I have presented here. In some cases there are multiple accounts generated by a single press event, cited here to demonstrated how widely we were able to get the war crimes message out within the U.S. media during the course of CCI’s brief existence.
Some of the most respected reporters and war correspondents of their generation covered these stories to include Richard Dudman, Neil Sheehan, Nat Hentoff, Nicholas von Hoffman, Homer Bigart, and Jules Witcover. Some annotation has been added where I felt it would be useful.
1. “New Anti-War Group Writes GIs,” William Serrin. Detroit Free Press, May 21, 1967. A veterans group in Detroit, Veterans Against War, held war crimes at Wayne State University. The reporter describes them as “carbons of the Bertrand Russell International War Crimes Tribunal.” One veteran activist from that group, Nick Medvecky, remains active with VVAW.
2. “Letter From a Vietnam Veteran,” Major Gordon Livingston, M.D. Saturday Review, September 20, 1969. A West Point graduate and regimental surgeon with the 11th Armored Cavalry under Col. George S. Patton, III. One of the most eloquent antiwar statements ever written by a veteran of the war, Livingston with considerable understatement concludes, “that Americans simply do not care about the Vietnamese.”
3. “Vietnam Genocide,” a special supplement published by the Guardian, December 8, 1969. Among several articles on the massacre at Song My (My Lai), including one titled, “One tragic village among thousands,” is an article by Ralph Schoenman, “War crimes follow ‘Standard Operating Procedures.” Schoenman had recently completed several years of work with the Russell Tribunal, which had been publicizing the accounts of war crimes provided by the North Vietnamese, which had been dismissed as propaganda in the western media. There’s also an article by former Green Beret Don Duncan, “What makes an atrocity,” and an article on chemical defoliation in Vietnam.
4. ”Peace Group to Set Up Panels on Atrocity Charges,” New York Times, November 30, 1969. The article reports “the formation of citizen’s commissions…where former soldiers would provide first-hand evidence of war crimes… including electric torture and killing of prisoners [as] part of an American policy in South Vietnam… carried out on orders from those higher up.”
5. “Viet Atrocities Hearings Set for 11 Cities,” Timothy Ferris. New York Post, February 14, 1970. Jeremy Rifkin of CCI announces hearing in the U.S. for Annapolis, MD, saying that “the committee will examine whether specific U.S. military policy in Vietnam now in effect are in fact war crimes.” CCI quickly abandoned this posture of an open-ended inquiry.
6. “Viet Cong scalps were GI souvenirs US deserters say,” Toronto Daily Star. March 5, 1970. CCI’s first press event actually took place in Toronto. Dr. Gordon Livingston participated, as did two American military resisters who had deserted their units for Canadian exile. Thereafter, CCI would only permit vets with honorable discharges to testify, not from lack of solidarity with the exiled GI resisters, but to enhance the credibility of the veterans’ eye witness testimony in the eyes of the U.S. media. Within two years, Tod Ensign and I would form the Safe Return committee to work specifically on the campaign to win amnesty for military resisters living in exile and underground in the U.S.
7. “Anti-War Group Plans Meeting in Annapolis,” The Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], Mar. 6, 1970. While Tod was in Toronto, Jeremy was in D.C. to drum up media interest in our next event.
8. “War crimes unit stages Vietnam horror showing,” by Don Frese. Evening Capital [Annapolis, MD], March 12, 1970. “Photographs, motion pictures and slides of dead and maimed children were used to convey the horror of the Vietnamese War… The inquiry… is intended to show how war crimes fit into our overall war policy.” And in one paragraph, the reporter writes that an “ex-soldier told of his involvement I widespread bombing of villages and defoliation of the land. ‘We were told to kill everything that moved.’”
9. “Eyewitness report on U.S.-Viet horrors.” The Baltimore Afro-American, march 17, 1970.
10. “Rebel Officer Cite My Lai,” Cy Egan. New York Post, March 17, 1970. Lt. Louis Font, a West Point graduate attending Harvard grad school, announces he will refuse orders to Vietnam, in an act of ‘selective’ conscientious objection. Font will go on to help found the Concerned Officers Movement, and to work closely with CCI.
11. ”War Crimes in Vietnam,” a flyer announcing a Teach-in at New York University, March 17, 1970. The meeting, featuring the Citizens Commission of Inquiry, “will document the truth about genocidal massacre of the civilian population of South Vietnam.” This was a big moment for me personally; I met Jan (Barry) Crumb and joined VVAW, and soon began to work full time with CCI.
12. ”U.S. Army Veteran Alleges Vietnamese Civilians Slain,” the Springfield Union [Springfield, MA], April 7, 1970. West Point graduate and former Infantry Captain, Robert Bowie Johnson, quoted in the article, said, “‘irrational acts’ of servicemen in Vietnam are traceable to the ‘irrational policy of the United States in Vietnam.’”
13. “Group Tells ‘True Nature’ of War: New massacre claim probed,” Adam Fisher. Springfield Daily News, April 6, 1970.
14. U.S.Army Veteran Alleges Vietnamese Civilians Slain.” The Springfield Union, April 7, 1970
15. “Ex-Pilot Alleges Civilian Slayings,” Douglas Robinson. The New York Times, April 7, 1970.
16. “Army Opens Probe of New ‘Atrocity.” The Miami Herald, April 8, 1970. This, and a similar article by UPI, reported that the Army intended to investigate the charges we had made at the Springfield press conference.
17. “Army Probes New Charge of Viet Deaths.” The Evening Star [UPI], April 8, 1970.
18. “3 Viet Vets Charge ‘Routine’ Use of Torture by U.S. Troops,” by Timothy Ferris. New York Post, April 13, 1970. Here CCI is quoted on precisely what Jonathan Schell says he learned from Nick Turse’s book only in 2013, that “The U.S. military machine was [a]… system in which torture was standard procedure and extrajudicial executions common.”
19. “They’d Probe Pentagon on ‘Atrocities,” New York Daily News, April 14, 1970. At this press conference, where I gave an account of torture I had witnessed personally, CCI called for an “investigation of the Pentagon by some independent agency. It’s absurd for the Pentagon to investigate itself for war crimes.”
20. Ex-GIs Charge Viet Prisoners Were Tortures,” Jim Stinglet. Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1970. CCI had held simultaneous press conferences in LA and NY, featuring the eyewitness testimony on torture by six war veterans.
21. “GIs reveal new atrocities,” Guardian, April 18, 1970. By this time coverage of CCI’s work in left newspapers was rare.
22. “Two ex-GIs say troops torture prisoners in Vietnam,” by Douglas Crocket. The Boston Globe, May 8, 1970.” Larry Rottmann and I were were joined in this press conference by Noam Chomsky, who revealed information on the secret war in Laos, which the media essentially ignored.
23. “‘67 Yank forays in Cambodia,” Chicago Sun Times. May 8, 1970. This UPI story did, however, pick up on Rottmann’s testimony on having participated in covert operations in Cambodia, the other “secret” war that had just become widely known with the official U.S. invasion of that country.
24. “Ex-Intelligence Officers List War Crimes Witnessed,” Dave O’Brien. Boston Record American, May 8, 1970.
25. “Torture Techniques Reported,” The Militant, May 8, 1970. The only coverage we ever received in the SWP organ as far as I can recall.
26. “‘Unofficial’ atrocities attributed to Pentagon,” Richard W. McManus. The Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 1970. Jeremy Rifkin is quoted saying, “Individual soldiers should not be made scapegoats for Defense Department policy.”
27. “Parallel News,” Nat Hentoff. The Village Voice, May 14, 1970. Hentoff got hold of and reprinted here the article by a New York Times reporter about CCI’s April 14th news conference on torture that the paper had apparently killed. The Times failure to run this story was also the subject of a letter to the paper’s editor, April 21, 1970, signed by the Princeton International Law expert, Richard Falk and several other sponsors of CCI.
28. “Badges Given by U.S. Unit for Killing Enemy: Ears Accepted As Evidence,” Tom Nugent. Detroit Free Press, June 10, 1970.
29. “Pacifists Offer My Lai Defense,” Timothy Ferris. New York Post, July 7, 1970. CCI charged that only enlisted men and low ranking officers were being tried for their roles in the My Lai massacre, “scapegoating a handful of GI for military strategies and policies conceived at the highest levels of government.”
30..“Ex-GIs Tell of Torturing Prisoners,” by William Greider. The Washington Post, July 19, 1970. The big news for me in this article was that Bill Greider was able to corroborate my allegations of torture through an interview with the Interrogation Officer in my 11th Infantry unit.
31. “Ex-GIs Describe Electric Torture of Viet Civilians,” William Greider. The Des Moines Register, July 20, 1970.
32. “Ex-GIs Recall U.S. Brutality.” The Providence Journal, July 20, 1970.
33. “Viet Veterans Hit ‘Torture’ by U.S. Units,” The Evening Star [UPI], July 20, 1970.
34. “Vietnam Veterans story: GI Torture of Prisoners.” San Francisco Chronicle, July 20, 1970.
35. “LIer Charges US Tortured Vietnamese.” Long Island Press, July 20, 1970.
36. “Atrocities in Vietnam Said, ‘a Way of Life,” Carl Shires. The Richmond News Leader, August 18, 1970. “We were told the only good gook was a dead gook,” testified former marine and admiral’s son, T. Griffits Ellison.
37. “Veterans Say They Saw U.S. Atrocities in War. The Washington Post, August 18, 1970.
38. “Torture of Viet Cong described by ex-GI,” The Detroit News, August 18, 1970.
39. “Veterans Tell of War Crimes.” St. Louis Post Dispatch [UPI], August, 18, 1970.
40. “Ex-Officer says Cong tortured on his orders.” The Minneapolis Star, August 18, 1970.
41. “Tales of War Cruelty.” S.F. Examiner, August 18, 1970.
42. “Electric Shocks Get Viet Cong to Talk.” Wheeling News Register, August 18, 1970.
43. “Veterans Describe U.S. War Crimes.” Winston-Salem Journal, August 19, 1970.
44. “Vets Report on Brutality.” The Richmond Evening News, August 19, 1970.
45. “Vietnam Vets: Yanks Commit Atrocities Daily.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 26, 1970. A CCI hearing in Minneapolis followed that in Richmond. Our purpose, we explained, was to place “responsibility for the war crimes… on the joint chiefs, the administration and board members and stockholders of large defense corporations.” And,“to explain the real nature of the war and put pressure on them to stop.”
46. “5 Vets Charge Murder,” Joseph H. Trachman. The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 20, 1970. I told the assembled media that CCI’s purpose was to “enlist public sentiment for the convening of an international tribunal, similar to Nuremberg…”
47. There is an article in the Swedish newspaper, Afton Bladet, October 25, 1970, reporting on the testimony I had given before a meeting of the International Enquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam several days later.
48. “War Atrocities Termed Commonplace,” by James Long. Oregon Journal, October 28, 1970. A CCI coordinator is quoted saying, “The My Lai massacre is a logical outgrowth of policies set at the highest level – individual soldiers do not account for genocide.”
49. “Jane Fonda’s newest cause: probing US ‘war crimes,’ by Evelyn Keene. Boston Sunday Globe, November 1, 1970. There was definitely a put-down tone in this article toward Jane, but it announced our plans for the Winter Soldier Investigation.
50. “City to Hear of Vietnam ‘Crimes,” Peter Benjaminson. Detroit Free Press, November 3, 1970. Jeremy Rifkin announces the upcoming Winter Soldier Investigation to the Detroit media.
51. Detroit Police Department Inter-office Memorandum. November 7, 1970. This 4 page memo was generated after the cops received a phone call from Lee I. Schulte, manager of the Detroit Veterans Memorial Building, which had been engaged by Tod Ensign, “Coordinator-Counsel “for the Winter Soldier Investigation. It reports on “a discreet confidential check with forces at Wayne State University regarding a Tod Ensign who… was a student” there in 1965. The memo noted that “Detroit and Windsor will be the scene of an unusual early December denunciation of “American War Crimes” in Vietnam, if the ambitious plans of two national antiwar groups [CCI and VVAW] bear fruit.”
52. Articles became to appear prominently throughout the U.S. on the beginning of the trial of 1Lt. William L. (Rusty) Calley for his role in the My Lai massacre. For example, “U.S. Details Case Against Calley,” Homer Bigart. The New York Times, November 18, 1970; “Witnesses Back My Lai Sergeant,” Douglas Robinson. The New York Times, November 18, 1970.
53. “War Foes Blame U.S. Commanders for Viet Atrocities,” by Richard Maynard. The Washington Post, November 24, 1970. This announced CCI’s National Veterans Inquiry, to begin in Washington the following week.
54. “Nuremberg III,” by Nat Hentoff. The Village Voice, November 26, 1970. Hentoff here essentially challenges the rest of the media to pay attention to CCI’s upcoming National Veterans Inquiry.
55. “Slaughter not unusual: ex-GI,” William McGaffin. Chicago Daily News, Nov. 28-19, 1970.
56. “Viet Vets Telling of Atrocities.” New York Post, December 1, 1970. The article begins, “Twenty honorably discharged Vietnam war veterans presented eye-witness accounts today of incidents in which Viet-women and children were tortured, mutilates and even massacred by U.S. and allied ground forces.”
57. “Antiwar Group Hears of ‘Crimes.’ The New York Times, December 1, 1970.
58. “Vietnam atrocities told: Military intelligence involves systematic use of electric torture and beatings,” Jerry Oppenheimer. The Washington Daily News, December 2, 1970.
59. “Ex-CIA man speaks of Vietnam killings.” The Times [London], December 2, 1970.
60. “Veterans Tell of Atrocities,” Richard Dudman. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 2, 1970.
61. “Viet Veterans Tell of GI Atrocities,” Powell Lindsay. The Pittsburgh Press, December 2, 1970.
62. “City Ex-GI Tells of Shelling Peasants.” The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, December 2, 1970.
63. “Billings Veteran to Testify At ‘War Crimes Inquiry.” Billings Gazette [Montana], December 3, 1970.
64. “We could hear them screaming,” Jerry Oppenheimer. The Washington Daily News, December 3, 1970.
65. “A Tale of Torture and Murder.” The Daily Freeman (Kingston, N.Y.), December 3, 1970.
66. “Viet Veterans Recall War Crimes.” The Charlotte Observer, December 3, 1970.
67. “Ex-GI Says He Saw Americans Commit Executions, Atrocities.” The Florida Times-Union, December 3, 1970.
68. “Yanks tortured Red prisoners, two GIs testify.” Chicago Daily News, December 3, 1970.
69. “Torture was policy, Viet war vets say.” The Cleveland Press. December 3, 1970.
70. “Red POWs Pushed Off Copter, Witness Says.” Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1970.
71. “GI’s threw 2 Viets to death, agent says.” The Detroit News, December 3, 1970.
72. “Psychological Slavery: A Commentary,” Nicholas von Hoffman. The Washington Post, December 4, 1970.
73. ‘War Crimes’ Inquiry Hears of Bombing.” San Francisco Chronicle, December 4, 1970.
74. “Veterans Ask Inquiry Into Alleged Atrocities,” Jules Witcover. Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1970.
75. “War Veterans at Inquiry Feel ‘Atrocities’ Are Result of Policy.” The New York Times, December 4, 1970. The Times wrap-up on the three-day National Veteran Inquiry.
76. “New Vietnam Atrocity Charges Little Noticed; War Veterans Make Allegations of Bizarre Tortures, Crucifixion of Enemy Soldiers,” Jules Witcover. Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1970. Witcover commented: “One of the major handicaps facing both Congress and reporters through the years in trying to learn what has happened in the Vietnam war has been that too often there has been only one source of information – the U.S. government.”
77. “‘We can’t sleep man,’ Veterans Inquiry into War Crimes,” Lucien K. Truscott IV. The Village Voice, December 10, 1970.
78. “Why doesn’t somebody do something?” Nat Hentoff. The Village Voice, December 31, 1970.
79. “Taylor Says by Nuremberg Rules Westmoreland May Be Guilty,” by Neil Sheehan. The New York Times, January 9, 1971. This may have been the CCI’s biggest publicity coup.
80. “Five Officers Say They Seek Formal War Crimes Inquiries,” by Neil Sheehan. The New York Times, January 13, 1971. This was the second article that week by Neil Sheehan on CCI’s work. Shortly thereafter, Sheehan broke the Pentagon Papers story in the Times. He already had them from Ellsberg well before the articles ran on CCI, or so I was told by the late John Simon, former editor of the Times Book Review who had commissioned the omnibus review of the mounting literature coving topics specifically or generally related to the war crimes issue, which would run in March 1971.
81. “4 Officers Challenge To Brass on Policies in South Vietnam,” Lee Dye. Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1971. This was the second of back-to-back press conference that CCI organized for member of the Concerned Officers Movement, who sought to bring war crimes charges against their commanders under provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
82. “For a War Crimes Inquiry,” Editorial. Newsday [Long Island, and New York City], March 22, 1971. Newsday, under the helm of Bill Moyers then as Publisher, I believe, may have been the only mainstream newspaper in the country to editorialize on behalf of a war crimes inquiry.
83. ”Should We Have War Crimes Trials?” by Neil Sheehan. The New York Times Book Review,” March 28, 1971. An omnibus review of the contemporary literature on the war crimes issue, in which Sheehan comes down hardest on the American air war in Vietnam.
84. Between the National Veterans Inquiry and the Dellums Hearings on War Crimes, both of which were organized by CCI, the Winter Soldier Investigation was held in Detroit between January 31 – February 2, 1970. The event, as Jeremy Rifkin had predicted, did not receive much attention in the mainstream media, owing to its location in Detroit. But WSI was covered extensively in the antiwar press at the time, and received a major publicity boost a year later when the film Winter Soldier premiered at Cannes and at the Whitney Museum in New York. The rest is history.
A funding proposal circulated in March 1971 by Winter Film, which would produce the documentary, tells the story: “The Winter Soldier Investigation received no national radio or television coverage. Outside of minimal Detroit coverage the only media has been WBAI (New York).” To the extent the war crimes organizing effort among Vietnam veterans is remembered today, however, it is because of the Winter Soldier Investigation.
News of Lt. Calley’s conviction on March 29, 1971 engendered a divergence of opinion in the liberal and antiwar communities, where some found themselves uncomfortably in agreement with the hawks, but for very different reasons.
85. “My Lai Verdict is Denounced; Calley Lawyer, Congressman Agree.” The Providence Journal, March 30, 1971. The Congressman was California antiwar Democrat Ron Dellums, who was quoted saying, “I think it’s a mistake to make one man the scapegoat for national policy.” The Calley verdict, he said, “makes imperative congressional action on the war crimes issue.” Dellums then promised that if the House failed to take action, he would hold hearings on his own.
86. “Liberals Seek War Crimes Inquiry, John W. Finny. The New York Times, March 31, 1971. Dellums’ threat to hold hearings was vehemently opposed by the then chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Edward Hibert, Democrat of Alabama.
The Dellums Hearings, organized by CCI, took place at the end of April, and were widely covered; citations for some of that coverage follows here:
87. “House Panel To hear Of Alleged Torture-Murder Policy in Viet,” The Baltimore Sun, April 28, 1971.
88. “Ex-GI Alleges 30 Slayings Near Mylai,” by Richard Halloran. The New York Times, April 28, 1971. CCI witness Danny Notley made public the Truong Khanh massacre at the Dellums Hearings. The massacre was soon confirmed.
89. “5 S. Viets Back Ex-GI on Atrocity.” Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1971. An enterprising UPI reporter based in Saigon, tracked down residents of the village where the massacre had taken place, and was able to provide corroboration of Notley’s testimony.
90. “Charges U.S. Coverup on New My Lai,” Emile Milne. New York Post, Monday 10, 1971.
91. “Another My Lai; U.S. Command Drags Heels,” Lynn Newland. New York Post, May 10, 1971.
92. “Notley Urges Inquiry on War Tactics,” Michael Gelter. The Washington Post, May 11, 1971. As in so many cases when similar allegations were made by veterans in this period, the Pentagon attempted to shift attention from the atrocity with the counter-charge that the veterans were remiss in not reporting the incident at the time of its occurrence, or that they refused – as Notley did – to provide the names of those who had been responsible. It was CCI policy to never “name names,” not even those of the officers (except those of high rank) who may have been in command at the time the atrocity was committed, because doing so would involve “drawing attention away from civilian and military higher-ups responsible for the overall strategies.”
93. “War crimes’ precedents discussed at Harvard forum,” Joe Pilati. Boston Globe, May (?) 1971. CCI’s Tod Ensign, who was also Danny Notley’s attorney, attended this forum on behalf of our group.
94. “General, Ex-Aide Accused of Murdering Vietnamese,” William Beecher. The New York Times, June 3, 1971. I was particularly gratified by this development since I had served in the 11th Light Infantry Brigade under then Colonel John Donaldson, known to many there as a “gook hunter” who flew around dropping fragmentation grenades on unarmed peasants at work in their rice paddies. Even though the accusation had come from his own pilot, the charges were eventually dropped, since Donaldson claimed those he shot were Viet Cong soldier fleeing from American forces.
95. “House Unit Disclosed Civilian Killings in U.S. Backed Program,” Felix Belair, Jr. The New York Times, July 16, 1971. An obscure Congressional sub-committee on House Government Operations launched what was perhaps the only official government investigation on U.S. war crimes, focused on a particularly draconian military policy aimed at the assassination of Viet Cong cadres called the Phoenix Program.
96. “U.S. Aide Defends Pacification Program in Vietnam Despite Killings of Civilians,” Felix Belair, Jr. The New York Times, July 20, 1971. The “aide” in question, William E. Colby, an intelligence operative who supervised the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, was soon to be appointed Director of the CIA. During his appearance before the House Government Operation subcommittee, “Two Republican representatives… charged that Operation Phoenix had been responsible for ‘indiscriminate killings of civilians… in violation of the Geneva Conventions.”
97. “Phoenix Program Details: ‘Sterile, Depersonalized Murder’ Plan, by Mary McGrory. The Washington Post, August 3, 1971. The article reports on the testimony two veteran witnesses, Bart Osborne and I, presented under oath before the same House Government Operations Committee, to refute the testimony of William Colby. As far as I have been able to determine, this was the first testimony by veterans under oath before an officially constituted committee in Congress on war crimes committed by American troops in Vietnam. My testimony was analytical and dry; Bart’s was sensational and got all the press. Both can be seen here: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jksonc/docs/phoenix-hcgo-19710802.html.
98. A similar article also appeared in The New York Times, “Ex-Soldiers Report Vietnam Slayings,” August 3, 1971.
99. “Pacification’s Deadly Price,’ Kevin Buckley. Newsweek, June 19, 1972. Buckley, who had spent four years reporting from Indochina, blew the whistle on Operation Speedy Express, the 1968 American offensive which claimed thousands of Vietcong killed, and produced an insignificant number of weapons, leading Buckley to conclude that majority of the casualties were civilians. Buckley’s principal contention was that the so-called Pacification program had depending on heavy bombardment of rural villages and led to the indiscriminate killing of an essentially non-combatant population.
*The bibliography on what the historian and Vietnam War apologist Guenter Lewy calls CCI and VVAW’s “war crimes industry” is limited. It includes, Standard Operating Procedure, by James Simon Kunen, (Avon1971); The Dellums Committee Hearings on War Crimes in Vietnam, (Vintage 1972), and my own memoir, Vietnam Awakening (McFarland 2007). There are also several titles devoted to The Winter Soldier Investigation.