Stuff that never happened…
Three American soldiers who participated in the March 1968 attack on a Vietnam village called Pinkville said in interviews made public today that their Army combat unit perpetrated, in the words of one, “point-blank murder” on the residents.
“The whole thing was so deliberate. It was point-blank murder and I was standing there watching it,” said Michael Bernhardt, Franklin Square, N.Y., now completing his Army tour at Fort Dix, N.J.
Bernhardt was a member of one of three platoons of an Eleventh Infantry Brigade company under the command of Capt. Ernest Medina. The company entered the Viet Cong-dominated area on March 16, 1968, when on a search-and-destroy mission. Pinkville, known to Vietnamese as Song My village, is about six miles northeast of Quang Ngai.
Bernhardt, interviewed at Fort Dix, said he had beem delayed on the operation, and fell slightly behind the company, then led by Calley’s platoon, as it entered the village.
“I walked up and saw there guys doing strange things. Ther were doing it three ways. One: They were setting fires to the hootches and huts and waiting for people to come out and then shooting them up. Two: They were going into the hootches and shooting them up. Three: They were gathering people in groups and shooting them.
“As I walked in, you could see the piles of people all through the village…all over. They were gathered up into large groups.
“I saw them shoot an M-79 (grenade launcher) into a group of people who were still alive. But it (the shooting) was mostly done with a machine gun. They were shooting women and children just like anybody else.
“We met no resistance and I only saw three captured weapons. We had no casualties. It was just like any other Vietnamese village–old Papa-san, women, and kids. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember seeing one military-age male in the entire place, dead or alive. The only prisoner I saw was about 50.”
An Army communique reporting on the operation said that Medina’s company recovered two M-1 rifles, a carbine, a short-wave radio and enemy documents in the assault. The Viet Cong body count was listed at 128 and there was no mention of civilian casualties.
Another witness to the shootings was Michael Terry, Orem Utah, then a member of the C Platoon of Medina’s company and now a sophomore at nearby Brigham Young University. Interviewed at his home, Terry said he, too, came on the scene moments after the killings began.
“They just marched through shooting everybody,” he said. “Seems like no one said anything…They just started pulling people out and shooting them.”
At one point, he said, more than 20 villagers were lined up in front of a ditch and shot.
“They had them in a group standing over a ditch–just like a Nazi-type thing…One officer ordered a kid to machine-gun everyone down, but the kid just couldn’t do it. He threw the machine gun down and the officer picked it up…” Terry rememberd.
~St Louis Post-Dispatch
November 20, 1969
(Excerpted from Reporting Vietnam, Part Two, American Journalism 1969-1975 The Library of America)