August 19, 1971
Is Placed at Slaying Scene
By Homer Bigart
Special to The New York Times
Ga., Aug. 18
slaying of several Vietnamese children, one of them in the presence
of Capt. Ernest L. Medina, was described today at the 34-year-old
Medina was talking on the radio when a member of his command group
shot a badly wounded boy who was making no attempt to escape,
John M Smail, an assistant machine gunner at Mylai, testified.
Medina was talking with his head down and I don't even know whether
he saw the incident," Mr. Smail said.
Other witnesses sid that elsewhere in Mylai, two terror stricken
boys were shot down along a trail, as were three children who
emerged from a hedgerow and approached some soldiers with hands
held out pleadingly, as though asking for food.
Captain Medina was not present when these children were slain,
the witnesses said.
After three days of testimony, Mr. Smail was the only one of 50
witnesses called by the Government who could place Captain Medina
at the scene of a killing.
F. Lee Bailey, the chief defense counsel, protested that the Government
prosecutors were employing "overkill" in redundant testimony
about slayings at Mylai with no direct attempt to implicate Captain
The defense contends that Captain Medina was unaware of the killing
of innocent civilians until late in the assault on Mylai 4, a
hamlet in Sonmy, South Vietnam, on March 16, 1968, and that he
gave a cease-fire order as soon as he saw that some civilians
had been slain.
The Government, accusing Captain Medina of responsibility for
"not less than 100" murders of South Vietnamese civilians
and with personally killing a woman and a child, contends that
he was aware of his soldiers' wanton conduct but decided not to
It on His Own'
Six prosecution witnesses left the impression today that civilians
were being killed throughout Mylai and that Captain Medina must
have been remarkably preoccupied and unobservant not to have been
aware of the killings.
All the witnesses testified that the assault on Mylai was uncontested,
yet the soldiers maintained a heavy volume of fire as they moved
through Mylai, killing people and animals.
Mr. Smail, a native of Kent, Wash., who said he was unemployed,
described the killing of a boy by Captain Medina's command group.
boy was 5 or 6 years old, bleeding from face and hands,"
Mr. Smail said. "Captain Medina passed by, followed by his
command group. The last member of that command group shot the
Under cross-examination by Mr. Bailey, Mr. Smail said the boy
was shot by Captain Medina's radio man, Frederick Widmer.
he received an order to shoot?" Mr. Bailey asked.
sir, he did it on his own."
Larry Polston, an Omaha shipping clerk, testified that the two
small boys found on the trail just outside the village were shot
by the leader of his machine gun team, Specialist 4 Robert W.
T'Souvas of San Jose, Calif. The Army dismissed murder charges
against Specialist T'Souvas last Jan. 22.
Leonard R. Gonzales of Richmond, Calif., described the shooting
in the village of a group of civilians, including a young mother
who was holding a baby.
Mr. Gonzales said he also observed troops throwing grenades into
a bunker filled with people who were "screaming, crying and
Frank D. Beardslee, a former jeep driver for Lieut. Col. Frank
A. Barker Jr., commander of the Mylai task force who was later
killed, testified that Captain Medina extracted information from
a prisoner by firing two shots over the prisoner's head.
Dennis M. Bunning, a chicken farmer from Raymond, Calif., told
of the shooting of three children who emerged unarmed from a hedgerow.
all seemed to be 9 years old," he said. "They were coming
toward us and they seemed to be asking for food. They were shot
at. They fell down."