It was late
in April, 1968 that I first heard of "Pinkville" and
what allegedly happened there. I received that first report with
some skepticism, but in the following months I was to hear similar
stories from such a wide variety of people that it became impossible
for me to disbelieve that something rather dark and bloody did
indeed occur sometime in March, 1968 in a village called "Pinkville"
in the Republic of Viet Nam.
that led to my having access to the reports I'm about to relate
need explanation. I was inducted in March, 1967 into the U. S.
Army. After receiving various training I was assigned to the 70th
Infantry Detachment (LRP), 1lth Light Infantry Brigade at Schofield
Barracks, Hawaii, in early October, 1967. That unit, the 70th
Infantry Detachennt (LRP), was disbanded a week before the llth
Brigade shipped out for Viet Nam on the 5th of December, 1967.
All of the man from whom I later heard reports of the "Pinkville"
incident were reassigned to "C" Company, lst Battalion,
20th Infantry, llth Light Infantry Brigade. I was reassigned to
the aviation section of Headquarters Headquarters Company llth
LIB. After we had been in Viet Nam for 3 to 4 months many of the
men from the 70th Inf. Det. (LRP) began to transfer into the same
unit, "E" Company, 51st Infantry (LRP).
In late April,
1968 I was awaiting orders for a transfer from HHC, llth Brigade
to Company "E," 51st Inf, (LRP), when I happened to
run into Pfc "Butch" Gruver, whom I had known in Hawaii.
Gruver told me he had been assigned to "C" Company lst
of the 20th until April lst when he transferred to the unit that
I was headed for. During the course of our conversation he told
me the first of many reports I was to hear of "Pinkville."
Company 1/20 had been assigned to Task Force Barker in late February,
1968 to help conduct "search and destroy" operations
on the Batangan Peninsula, Barker's area of operation. The task
force was operating out of L. F. Dottie, located five or six miles
north of Quang Nhai city on Viet Namese National Highway 1. Gruver
said that Charlie Company had sustained casualties; primarily
from mines and booby traps, almost everyday from the first day
they arrived on the peninsula. One village area was particularly
troublesome and seemed to be infested with booby traps and enemy
soldiers. It was located about six miles northeast of Quang Nh,ai
city at approximate coordinates B.S. 728795. It was a notorious
area and the men of Task Force Barker had a special name I for
it: they called it "Pinkville." One morning in the latter
part of March, Task Force Barker moved out from its firebase headed
for "Pinkville." Its mission: destroy the trouble spot
and all of its inhabitants.
told me this I didn't quite believe that what he was telling me
was true, but he assured me that it was and went on to describe
what had happened. The other two companies that made up the task
force cordoned off the village so that "Charlie" Company
could move through to destroy the structures and kill the inhabitants.
Any villagers who ran from Charlie Company were stopped by the
encircling companies. I asked "Butch" several times
if all the people were killed. He said that he thought they were
men, women and children. He recalled seeing a small boy, about
three or four years old, standing by the trail with a gunshot
wound in one arm. The boy was clutching his wounded arm with his
other hand, while blood trickled between his fingers. He was staring
around himself in shock and disbelief at what he saw. "He
just stood there with big eyes staring around like he didn't understand;
he didn't believe wh.at was happening. Then the captain's RTO
(radio operator) put a burst of 16 (M-16 rifle) fire into him."
It was so bad, Gruver said, that one of the men in his squad shot
himself in the foot in order to be medivaced out of the area so
that he would not have to participate in the slaughter. Although
he had not seen it, Gruver had been told by people he considered
trustworthy that one of the company's officers, 2nd Lieutenant
Kally (this spelling may be incorrect) had rounded up several
groups of villagers (each group consisting of a minimum of 20
persons of both sexes and all ages). According to the story, Kally
then machine-gunned each group. Gruver estimated that the population
of the village had been 300 to 400 people and that very few, if
this account I couldn't quite accept it. Somehow I just couldn't
believe that not only had so many young American men participated
in such an act of barbarism, but that their officers had ordered
it. There were other men in the unit I was soon to be assigned
to, "E" Company, 51st Infantry (LRP), who had been in
Charlie Company at the time that Gruver alleged the incident at
"Pinkville" had occurred. I became determined to ask
them about "Pinkville" so that I might compare, their
accounts with Pfc Gruver's.
When I arrived
at "Echo" Company, 51st Infantry (LRP) the first men
I looked for were Pfcs Michael Terry, and William Doherty. Both
were veterans of "Charlie" Company, 1/20 and "Pinkville."
Instead of contradicting "Butch" Gruver's story they
corroborated it, adding some tasty tidbits of information of their
own. Terry and-Doherty had been in the same, squad and their platoon
was the third platoon of "C" Company to pass through.
the village. Most of the people they Came to were already dead.
Those that weren't were sought out and shot. The platoon left
nothing alive neither livestock nor people. Around noon the two
soldiers' squad stopped to eat. "Billy and I started to get
out our chow" Terry said, "but close to us was a bunch
of Vietnamese in a heap, and some of them were moaning. Kally
(2nd Lt. Kally) had been through before us and all of them had
been shot, but many weren't dead. It was obvious that they weren't
going to get any medical attention so Billy and I got up and went
over to where they were. I guess we sort of finished them off."
Terry went on to say that he and Doherty then returned to where
their packs were and ate lunch. He estimated the size oif the
village to be 200 to 300 people. Doherty thought that the population
of "Pinkville had been 400 people.
Doherty and Gruver could be believed, then not only had "Charlie"
Company received orders to slaughter all the inhabitants of the
village, but those orders had come from the commanding officer
of Task Force Barker, or possibly even higher in the chain of
command. Pfc Terry stated that when Captain Medina (Charlie Company's
commanding officer Captain Ernest Medina) issued the order for
the destruction of "Pinkville" he had been hesitant,
as if it were something he didn't want to do but had to. Others
I spoke to concurred with Terry on this.
It was June
before I spoke to anyone who had something of significance to
add to what I had alreadybeen told of the "Pinkville"
incident. It was the end of June, 1968 when I ran into Sargent
Larry La Croix at the USO in Chu Lai. La Croix had been in 2nd
Lt. Kally's platoon on the day Task Force Barker swept through
"Pinkville." What he told me verified the stories of
the others, but he also had something new to add. He had been
a witness to Kally's gunning down at least three separate groups
of villagers. "It was terrible. They were slaughtering villagers
like so many sheep." Kally's men were dragging people out
of bunkers and hootches and putting them together in a group.
The people in the group were men, women and children of all ages.
As soon as he felt that the group was big enough, Kally ordered
a M-60 (machine gun) set up and the people killed. La Croix said
that he bore witness to this procedure at least three times. The
three groups were of different sizes, one of about twenty people,
one of about thirty people and one of about 40 people. When the
first group was put together Kally ordered Pfc. Torres to man
the machine-gun and open fire on the villagers that had been grouped
together. This Torres did, but before everyone in the group was
sown he ceased fire and refused to fire again. After ordering
Torres to recommence firing several times, Lieutenant Kally took
over the M-60 and finished shooting the remaining villagers in
that first group himself. Sargent La Croix told me that Kally
didn't bother to order anyone to take the machine-gun when the
other two groups of villagers were formed. He simply manned it
himself and shot down all villagers in both groups.
of Sargent La Croix's confirmed the rumors that Gruver, Terry
and Doherty had previously told me about Lieutenant Kally. It
also convinced me that there was a very substantial amount of
truth to the stories that all of these men had told. If I needed
more convincing, I was about to receive it.
It was in
the middle of November, 1968 just a few weeks before I was to
return to the United States for separation from the army that
I talked to Pfc Michael Bernhardt. Bernhardt had served his entire
year in Viet Nam in "Charlie" Company 1/20 and he too
was about to go home. "Bernie" substantiated the tales
told by the other men I had talked to in vivid, bloody detail
and added this. "Bernie" had absolutely refused to take
part in the massacre of the villagers of "Pinkville"
that morning and he thought that it was rather strange that the
officers of the company had not made an issue of it. But that
evening "Medina (Captain Ernest Medina) came up to me ("Bernie")
and told me not to do anything stupid like write my congressman"
about what had happened that day. Bernhardt assured Captain Medina
that he had no such thing in mind. He had nine months left in
Viet Nam and felt that it was dangerous enough just fighting the
did, in fact, occur in the village of "Pinkville" in
March, 1968 I do not know for certain, but I am convinced that
it was something very black indeed. I remain irrevocably persuaded
that if you and I do truly believe in the principles, of justice
and the equality of every man, however humble, before the law,
that form the very backbone that this country is founded on, then
we must press forward a widespread and public investigation of
this matter with all our combined efforts. I think that it was
Winston Churchill who, once said "A country without a conscience
is a country without a soul, and a country without a soul is a
country that cannot survive." I feel that I must take some
positive action on this matter. I hope that you will launch an
investigation immediately and keep me informed of your progress.
If you cannot, then I don't know what other course of action to
I have considered
sending this to newspapers, magazines and broadcasting companies,
but I somehow feel that investigation and action by the Congress
of the United States is the appropriate procedure, and as a conscientious
citizen I have no desire to further besmirch the image of the
American serviceman in the eyes of the world. I feel that this
action, while probably it would promote attention, would not bring
about the constructive actions that the direct actions of the
Congre.ss of the United States would.