portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts united states

human & civil rights | imperialism & war | police / legal

were you aware that many documents detailing US atrocities in Vietnam...

those super-patriot's that wrap the flag around themselves to huff 'n' puff in good warrior style
will want to sink their teeth into this one, and give us their considered opinion as to WHY it is
these documents detailing US atrocities in Vietnam are missing...

-Caveat Lector-

Many documents detailing US atrocities in Vietnam missing

Sunday, December 21, 2003
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Michael D. Sallah and Mitch Weiss, (c)The Blade 2003

WASHINGTON -- Army agents have spent weeks reviewing thousands of documents chronicling a series of atrocities committed during the Vietnam War by an elite US Army platoon, but the worst war crimes by the unit may never be known.

The Series

For a complete presentation of all four installments described below, including audio interviews, photographs and graphics, along with follow-up reports, visit the Toledo Blade's index to its series. Day One: : The series opens with a report on Tiger Force's arrival in the Central Highlands and how the atrocities began.Day Two : The cover-up began before the killing ended. And by the time the Army finished its investigation -- which was sent to the Pentagon and the White House -- no one was ever charged. A justice system that promised to prosecute war criminals ended up protecting them.Day Three : Thirty-six years later, the reminders of Tiger Force's rampage through Quang Ngai province are everywhere, and the stories of the atrocities are still told by the Vietnamese villagers. To this day, the shooting deaths evoke anger in those who survived the attacks -- with some calling for former American soldiers to be prosecuted.Day Four : Many former Tiger Force soldiers say they're still haunted by their memories of the killings and mutilations of prisoners and unarmed villagers in 1967. Ten have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some have turned to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain.

Hundreds of records of the group known as Tiger Force are missing from the National Archives in suburban Washington, and the Army crime records center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Officials can't explain why the reports aren't available. "At this time, we don't know what happened [to the records]," said Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

A Blade series in October, "Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths," which was also published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, revealed the 45-man platoon killed and mutilated scores of unarmed villagers refusing to leave their homes.Some were executed as they pleaded for their lives -- in some cases their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs -- and others were blown up in underground bunkers.

The missing records include the first formal complaint filed against the platoon in 1969 and sworn witness statements by more than 100 soldiers in 1970 and 1971, according to National Archives indexes.The newspaper's findings showed the Army secretly investigated Tiger Force three decades ago, substantiating 20 atrocities involving 18 soldiers. But the case was quietly closed in 1975 without charges filed.

As a result of the Blade's series, Army agents are now sifting through hundreds of records of that investigation, looking for new evidence that could ultimately lead to charges against some of the former soldiers.

Missing are records of specific war crimes carried out by the special force during the first two months of the period in question -- events that included the slaughter of 35 women and children in a rice paddy, according to National Archives inventory reports.

It was during the platoon's patrols through the Song Ve Valley in June and July 1969 that soldiers began indiscriminately killing civilians, records and interviews show.

One witness whose sworn statements are now missing said he provided the Army with details about eight atrocities, including the execution of women and children by Tiger Force in a rice paddy.

Former Army journalist Dennis Stout said he was angry his complaints were no longer on file."How do you just lose records? I don't understand it," said the Phoenix contractor, who was a reporter for the Army's Screaming Eagle newspaper during the Vietnam War. "I met with Army investigators three times. They took my statements."

National Archive records show Stout filed eight complaints beginning on Dec. 16, 1969, leading investigators to interview soldiers over the next two years.

One of those witnesses eventually provided details of a war crime that sparked a separate investigation of Tiger Force in 1971 -- one that would last 41/2 years.

While those records exist -- the basis of The Blade's four-part series -- the reports stemming from Stout's allegations can no longer be found, despite inventory lists showing they were filed in the National Archives in 1972.

Stout, 58, said he did not know what happened to his complaints until he read The Blade's series. He has since contacted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who wrote a letter on Dec. 10 to Stout saying the Army had been put on alert to find the reports. "As soon as I receive an answer to my inquiry, you will be notified," the senator wrote.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a Democratic presidential candidate, said he wrote to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week after reading The Blade's series, asking about the missing records and why the case was never taken to a military court.

"First of all, why do records like those just disappear? It makes no sense," he said.

Army investigators continue to examine the Tiger Force case, including sworn statements and Army radio logs, but are refusing to comment on the status of the review. Officials said they're looking for new evidence and the reasons why no one was prosecuted, despite evidence from witnesses on civilians being executed.

Stout said his job as an Army reporter allowed him to travel among fighting units in the Song Ve Valley, where he says he witnessed mass executions. "Hundreds were killed, and I'm talking women and kids. It didn't matter. It was murder, and I will say that until the day I die. It was murder."

In one case, a medic pumped swamp water into the body of a prisoner who was later fatally shot, he said. Another incident centered on a young Vietnamese woman who was raped by 22 soldiers and then executed, according to an inventory of the records at the National Archives.

Gerald Pollock, a lawyer representing Stout, said he was with his client in 1969 when he filed his first complaints with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command. He said Stout has remained consistent in his statements about the attacks on civilians.

(The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, is the sister paper of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
Copyright 1997-2002 PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.