Interview with Terry Whitmore

by Mark Lane

By permission of B.R.P.F.

Summary: "The following extracts are from an interview with Terry Whitmore, a 22-years-old Black American from Memphis. They are taken with permission from Mark Lane's latest book, Conversations with Americans (Simon and Schuster, New York, $6.95)." This blurb was in the 'Spokesman' - Rae West

So we were going to Hot Nam. We were in for two weeks more training. We were shipped to Pendleton in California; we got no leave. I arrived in Vietnam July 1967. We got a commercial flight from Japan to Vietnam. As our plane landed there were helicopters firing right near the airport; they were firing tracer bullets. Well, we landed in Da Nang and we knew that we were at war. I was scared. All we could see was this red line coming through the sky. We couldn't see the helicopters, it was too dark. And you think, man, that mother-fucker is right out there, and I'm here two hundred yards away, and you think this shit is for real, they are not playing now.

I was shipped to a unit south of Da Nang, I was sent to First Marine Division, First Battalion, Bravo Company. Bill White was sent to A Company. About a month later he stepped on a booby trap and got a medical discharge. His arm was blown off or something.

I'm not ashamed to say it, a couple of days later when I got shipped to my unit I was scared, real scared. Everywhere you looked you saw a Huey, and you'd see flares pop-ups lighting up the sky. And you'd hear mortars and rifles and machine guns. And you'd know he's out there. But you can't see him. You hear the artillery rounds being fired. I got so scared I sat down one night and started crying, "O Lord, O Lord, take me out of this place." I'd only been there a week, and I hadn't even been out on patrol yet. A few days later it happened - it was the first time I was out in the bush. We had to set up an LP [listening post]. We went out that night and we walked for a long time. I saw my first guy get blown to fucking bits. He was a squad leader. He stepped on a box mine. He was told not to go out on the LP that night. He was short - he was going home in two weeks. The sergeant said to him, "You are kind of short, no sense your going out." He said, "Yes, I'm going. It'll be my last LP." He went. I walked over that mine, and then I heard this gigantic explosion. This guy had a pop-up flare in his jungle trousers, and the mine set that off. It lit him all up. It lit all of us up. It blew him away from the waist on down. That's what I saw when I looked up. Half a man flying up the air, all lit up in this fantastic white light with this deafening sound and blood flying all over. Then the flare burns out, and it's dark and quiet. No one says anything. Then one guy says, "He's got it. He's dead." Then a guy starts to yell, "You dirty mother-fucker slant-eyes, we're going to get you. We are going to carve our initials in your head." And soon we were all yelling - just screaming out into the dark jungle.

The platoon spent the night there. But one squad - my squad - was sent out on an ambush post. We broke up into twos. And I spent the night all alone in the jungle, just with one other guy. That was a long night. The next night we got ambushed. We were walking around on the sand dunes where there are no hiding places. There was a grassy hill with some trees on it. All of a sudden there was gunfire from the hill. It was the first time I'd been fired at in my life. In boot camp I've heard the slogan "Machine guns can't kill Marines." At this point I thought machine guns and any other thing could kill Marines. You learn it ain't like boot camp. That dummy you'd been beating on now is shooting back. In boot camp the dummy used to just swing around; this one here, he fights back. I heard a lieutenant - he was a boot lieutenant - I think he had less experience than I had. He starts yelling, "Let's get some fire on that hill." We were firing laws - that's a kind of rocket - up on that hill. We were just firing at the mountain. After we quit firing it was quiet. And somebody yells out, "Anybody got it?" And somebody says, "Who got it?" And George yells out, "Me!" Old George had a bullet hole in his leg. He just sat there in the grass just laughing. He's laughing and he's yelling. "Goddam, I'm hit." I crawled over to him. His leg was all bleeding. He said to me, "You know what this means?" He had been wounded twice before, and the rule is three and you're out. That's why he was laughing. He said, "Look at that, man, look at that wound, I'm hit, I'm getting out of this shit!" He's pointing to his leg and he's laughing. "This is my way out of this shit! Out. Out." Andy was the next most experienced guy in our squad. He takes the squad leader's position. Andy was a groovy guy, he's a white guy from Milwaukee. I get to learn the names of the guys, and I get to learn a little bit about the guys. Their names, where they come from. Then I met this guy named Kaminski, he's Polish. This guy is really crazy. If it hadn't been for Kam I would have probably cracked in Nam. He kept my morale going. He was so nutty. We could be in the middle of a fire fight with guys getting killed. And Kam would be down there laughing. I tried to get into his crazy moods with him. It helped me along. That was the first night me and Kam were together. We were sitting around a little deserted hamlet. Me and Kam had dug a little hole. And we were sitting in it. Then a Marine got shot that night by a Marine. This was a shock to me, too, but I was still learning.

This Kam guy through just about every battle we were in kept my morale. Then he stole so much. He was a real go-getter, man. He kept our squad loaded with stuff. Once in a while he'd get a ride into Da Nang, and he would buy something for the whole squad, he would always buy everything for the squad. He went to Da Nang and bought the whole squad there ambush hats, you know, the shit that the Australians wear. And Kam went back and bought this tape recorder, and he spent a whole bunch of money taping, you know, just playing the jukebox, records and stuff. Then he would bring it back and our squad heard the latest hits. He would go inside the battalion area and he'd get cards and things. This guy was a real gangbuster, man, I mean, he kept the morale for the whole squad, you know. He was point man. You know, like a scout. In fact, he was so nutty that not only our squad liked him but the whole platoon liked him. And then he got caught one night, man, they could have shot him for that shit. They call it sandbagging.

Somebody walked by, a sergeant who was checking or something. Then the boot lieutenant, he kind of dug Kam because sometimes Kam stole shit and took it to him. He didn't do anything but warn him, you know. Gave him an official warning, smiled at him, you know - "Poor Kam, don't do that no more" - give him a pat on the back, you know. He could have got shot for that. He was endangering the lives of everybody. Good old lieutenant. He was boot. He was sandbagging too. We get an order to go across some fucking waters. Charlie's shooting at us from the other side. Guy says, "Look, go overside there, we got the order." We were sitting and looking at the bullets coming over across the river, and we got the order to go across that. "I ain't going across that river," the lieutenant said. He radioed back that we were over there. But when the risk is deep, man, then fuck it. I saw Kam do something once. I saw him shoot an old lady. Kill her. I didn't dig that too much.

Q: Why did he kill her?

A: This was the first part of this massacre that we were in.

Q: What was the town?

A: I don't know. Just hamlets. Near Quang Tri, not far below the DMZ.

Q: When was it?

A: This was November 1967, right after Operation Medina. We were in these fucking mountains, and we're waiting. It was daytime. Kam was walking point. I'm walking cover man for him. Me and Kam and this guy named Jessup, we were tight, we were running buddies. All of us were experienced by now. We had been in numbers of battles and we were still alive. . . . So we heard a guy say, "We're moving out pretty soon." "Look, man," I say, "I can't cover you with a seventy-nine." You need an automatic weapon for covering. So he called Jessup up there. "Jessup. Need a cover man!" Here comes Jessup. As Jessup got to the open that I was just sitting by, a hail of fucking bullets came right across his head. Automatic fire. Pa-a-ang. God damn. And I started squeezing off that seventy-nine. Boom-boom. To cover him. And Kam started to fire off an automatic. So they sent out some radio signals to close in on that side, and we were going to close in on this side So I don't know if I killed these people or not, it's hard to say. But I saw some people - there were no children, some women, just some people, running across, to a hootch. Kam says, "Hey, man there goes Charlie - knock that mother-fucker out quick." So I just turned around, and I took good aim, and I fired on the hootch which I annihilated that mother-fucker with that grenade launcher, and the mother-fucker fell in 'cause I put about four rounds to it, and all of them were dead-eye hits. So if they stopped in that hootch, they were dead. But we didn't search the hootch. When we got to the hootch there was a bunker. We were like on an assault line - walking to it. Kam stopped and he looked into this bunker. "Look at this shit, man, look at this shit." And I walked over to the bunker, and there was this old lady, she was really an aged lady, maybe eighty years. She was coming out of this thing. So as I turned around, that split second, Kam unloaded half of his magazine into that lady. On automatic, you know, and it scared me, you know, because I didn't think he was going to fire. And I jumped. I just looked at Kam, for a minute or so I just stared at him. "God damn, man, you shoot that old lady?" So then I was scared to look into the bunker. The lady had to have been really messed up. And Jessup ran over to the bunker, and he looked, you know, and he started, "God damn, Kam, look at the shit, man, look what the fuck you did." So Kam, he pulls out a grenade, throws the grenade in the bunker. Blows that old lady's body to a million pieces. To damn near threads.

Q: Why did Kaminski do it?

A: Oh, he says he just wanted to do something

Q: Why did he kill her, though?

A: He didn't give any explanation.

Q: What do you think, I mean, you know the guy?

A: I don't know. Kam just stood there looking at what was left of the body. And he was frowning He had this weird look on his face. I started walking away. Then we started to burn down all the hootches with matches and lighters. There were people in them. When they tried to come our we shot them. We stayed around that place for a long time and we smelled burned-up bodies. That's a goddam horrible smell. Kam took a rag and tied it around his nose 'cause he couldn't stand the smell of the bodies burning. Guys were shooting up the livestock. Killing water buffaloes. My platoon was doing the cut-off for people who were trying to run from the burning hootches. Also people were running from the platoon at the other side of the hamlets. That platoon was doing the assault. They were killing them, massacring the whole village. Our job was to cut off the escape area. To kill any that came our way. We got them. We had them all blocked off between the two platoons. I got up on this little mount and there was about eight, nine or ten cows. And I fired my seventy-nine right in the middle of them - stampeded them. And they ran right into a machine-gun team that had been set up. Zap-zap-zap, they were all killed. Cut to pieces. It was a big kick. We were looking at these cows get slaughtered.

Then we were walking down this track - still moving. And we saw a fairly good-sized, nice little Vietnamese house. Andy says, "Whit, take your team up and take care of that house." I say, "O.K., man. Jessup, Skip" - he's carrying laws - so we cross this little creek into this house. I fired into the house before I went up there. Fired a seventy-nine in. It was a brick house Jessup goes up on one side, Skip goes up on the other side. They went wild. They went inside the house and started tearing things off the wall - wrecking everything. Then I went in the house. Me and Jessup started looking for money. A lot of them have money hid. Then we burned down the house and burned down everything around there. We started moving down the track.

Q: How many people do you think were killed in that massacre?

A: It would be hard to say - to know the exact amount. We wiped out those hamlets completely. But I don't know for sure how many had been there. You get these little hamlets - may be thirty people live there, and you get these hamlets maybe every fifty or one hundred yards. We just went through that mother-fucker and left nothing that I saw.

Q: How many hamlets did you go through in that sweep?

A: Thirteen hamlets. It was in a little valley.

Later that night I heard an officer give the order to kill the children. I was standing right next to him.

Some guy had stepped on a booby trap and they were calling for evacuation - for a helicopter to take him. So we had to set up a ring - for the helicopter to land - to guard the helicopter. I just happened to be standing alongside the officer when the radio man said "Look, sir, we got children rounded up. What do you want us to do with them?" The guy says, "Goddam it, Marine, you know what to do with them. Kill the bastards. If you ain't got the goddam balls to kill them, Marine, I'll come down there and kill the mother-fuckers myself." The Marine said, "Yes, sir," and hung up the phone. About two or three minutes later I heard a lot of automatic fire - and a lot of children's screaming. I heard babies crying. I heard children screaming their fucking lungs out. I heard 'em. And that got next to me. I heard a machine gun go off. You know a machine gun when you hear it. There were a lot of children. It lasted only twenty or thirty seconds. We didn't, they didn't get all the children, though. 'Cause the next day we went into some other hamlets.

And I saw a little girl. It really bugged me - I knew her parents had been killed. She had her little brother with her. It had to be her little brother. She was carrying him. She was just standing there - like "What is going on?" She saw us tear the hamlet apart. They had two water buffaloes inside a big hole - I guess that's how they keep them at night. We walked up on this place. And five or six feet away is this big tree. And the little girl is standing at the tree, holding her baby brother. We're standing around this hole and Jessup says, "Look at this shit. We're going to have some fun." So these two water buffaloes, they can't run, they can't go anywhere. So Jessup takes two grenades, takes the pins out, and throws them into the hole and gets back. We heard this big explosion go off. The ground trembles. And, we hear the buffaloes - they're moaning. We walk over to the hole, look down at the hole. The buffaloes are all torn up. There was a big hole - as big as a person's head - in the side of the buffalo. You could see everything - his guts hanging out, everything, but he wasn't dead. He's just lying there and moaning. Jessup is flipping over this. Laughing. Then he says, going to put that mother-fucker out of his misery." And he unloads most of a magazine into the animal's head. This little girl is standing there looking at us. She don't know what to say. As we walk by she's just looking at us. Her little brother is crying, but she's just looking at us, sort of puzzled. Sort of in a daze. She was about five or six years old. The baby was less than a year old.

We left her under the tree. I don't know - I'm scared to say - but I think they killed that kid. I left. I didn't want to see it. I knew some guy was going to come along and shoot her while I was standing there - and I couldn't stand to see that. So I left. I'm sure some guy killed her . .

That was the only huge massacre I was in. But civilians got killed almost every day if we were around them. You'd be in a hamlet and a guy would say, "Hey, man, shoot that sonofabitch over there." The guy would turn around and fire an M-16 in his chest. Wiped out. It was a farmer - didn't have no gun. That's common - knock off a civilian for the hell of it.

Q: How were prisoners treated?

A: Prisoners? We didn't take too many prisoners. We caught one guy. Kam had caught this young guy - a little guy. We had this big black platoon sergeant. He walks over, grabs this little guy. The platoon sergeant stands about six feet five inches and weighs about two hundred pounds. He holds him by the collar and drives his knee into his stomach and groin. I thought he'd break the guy in two. Just looking at that shit hurt. We'd say, "Do it again, beat the shit out of him."

We were out on Monday the fifteenth, 1967. On that morning we moved out. We were way north. Right on the DMZ. Spotter planes had spotted a big movement. So we were sent out - Bravo Company was - to ambush them. We got to the Zone before daylight set in. I had my fire team all ready. I had my telephone. Each fire team had one. My team was spread out. I was reading jive magazines. All of a sudden I hear them call to the CP that they spotted two enemy, ten yards in front of them. So Kam calls in, "Lieutenant, we spotted two of these mother-fuckers about ten yards in front. Should we open up?" The lieutenant says, "No, hold it a minute." I throw my magazine down and load up.

About a minute later or so they open up. I heard those bullets go off. I don't know who started it, but everybody's firing. The lieutenant is on the phone. "White, keep your eyes on the rear." "Yes, sir." This lieutenant comes down the hill like God, talking loud. "Get on the fucking line." He's standing there like an idiot, yelling giving orders. "We're going to charge this way." He's a boot. I think he's been in about two months. He's a fool. He's screaming. I move my team over. I'm the senior seventy-nine man in the platoon. I hear the lieutenant - "Whit up." I report to him. "I want you to lay a couple of rounds into that bush over there." "Yes, sir." I fire off three rounds. Then the fool says, "We're going to move up. We're going to charge. We assault."

It was wide open. No place to hide. The lieutenant keeps on yelling orders - you just don't do that out there in a fire fight.

We walk out and five seconds later all hell breaks loose. That whole line in front of us opens up. We could see nothing but gunfire. And the first one to get hit is that lieutenant. He was standing three feet from me. And the impact of the bullet knocked him back and off his feet. Like a damn airplane taking off and crashing. The first thing I did was hit the ground. I was lying there in the open. Then I got up and turned around and ran. One other guy got up and ran with me. We were the only two in the platoon not killed, wounded or trapped. I got up behind this barn, me and this other guy. The lieutenant is about ten feet from me. And he is calling. Who is he calling? Me. He's crying, "Whit, I'm hit. Whit, I'm hit." I turned around and screamed to the other guy, "Cover me. Damn it, cover me." And I did a John Wayne. I went back to get the man cause he was calling my name.

Charlie did not shoot. He could have shot me easily. Like a damn sitting duck. But they let me go up there. There was no place to hide. They spared me. I know this. When I picked up the lieutenant, he was shot again - in the leg. But no one shot me. Why? 'Cause I'm black? I don't know.

I dragged the man behind the barn. He had a hole in his chest. His lung was punctured. He was gasping for air.

There was our radio man, Sully. He was calling in smoke rounds for protection. The smoke came in and it was possible to move. Sully and I pulled the lieutenant back. Then we called a couple of other Marines, "Hey, we need some help." Then I hear Jessup's voice screaming for medical aid. He's screaming "Corpsman" over and over. This hurts me cause I think he's hit. He and Kam were my closest buddies. Three other Marines try to help. And a round of automatic fire cut all three of them down. They were white.

One was killed. Two badly wounded, arms and legs. Then we saw a corpsman. It was his first time out. He was scared. I screamed at him, "That way, you mother-fucker - that way." And I was pointing towards Jessup. He had a roll-up stretcher on his back. I told him to throw it over to me. We put the lieutenant on the stretcher. We took two steps and Sully got hit. Sully was white. He looked just like Clark Gable. He had a mustache just like Gable. He used to trim it all the time in a foxhole. He couldn't believe he was shot. "They shot me. Can you believe it? They shot me." He was shot in the ass.

Now the smoke rounds are coming in. They sound like mortars. One landed just four or five feet from me. I dragged the lieutenant back. Then I see a black Marine and a white Marine - and they help me pull the lieutenant out.

Then I go back to see about Sully and Jessup. I take off my seventy-nine jacket with all the grenades and put my seventy-nine down, grab my forty-five and go back to the bushes. I start to call, "Sully, where are you?" The black Marine came back with me. We both grab Sully - he couldn't crawl, he couldn't move his legs. His bullshit had ceased then 'cause the pain had hit him. We dragged him out of there. We set the wounded in this bomb crater. A lot of guys were standing in there for protection. I say, "Look, I want someone to go back with me. I need one volunteer." I never seen nothing like it before. Nobody said anything.

So I took off alone to get Jessup - through the mud and bullets. I started to scream, "Jessup." After I called him three or four times he heard me and answered, "Over here."

The black Marines were behind me. They said, "Go ahead, we got you covered." I got up and ran five or six yards. Jessup, the corpsman and another guy was there. Jessup had not been shot. He was trying to bandage another guy - he was hit bad. The guy was going mad trying to run. There was another guy there with his head blown off. Jessup looks at me like he knew I wanted to ask who it was but was scared to - it might be Kam. I said, "Who is it?" He says, "It's Moe." He was one of my buddies also. I had late watch with him that morning. He was from a small town in Connecticut. That morning he was telling me about what he was going to do when he got back home. What he had waiting on him.

Andy was there too, near the side of a rock. And I said to him, "Where's the rest?" He said, "Up front. They're pinned down." I started crawling out, up front. I looked at Moe and started crawling up. Jessup threw smoke grenades in front of me. I crawled five or six feet to a bunker. There was a big rock there and two Marines in the bunker. They were frozen - they couldn't do anything. Another guy was there but he had been hit five times. He couldn't move. There was a machine gun in the bunker.

A guy came from behind me, jumped in the bunker and started firing the machine gun. I asked a seventy-nine man there to throw me his seventy-nine and some rounds. And I started firing from near that rock. The other guys there dragged the wounded guy back the same way we had just come.

So the machine gunner and I are there all alone.

Then the jets came. They started dropping red smoke right on us. Red smoke means "enemy position." And then I knew we were really in trouble.

Charlie knows what red smoke means. They knew the jets were going to come right in on them with explosives and napalm. So they had to get out. But instead of leaving we waited until Charlie jumped out of these holes - right in front of our position - and tried to run away. We had a good time. We started picking them mother-fuckers off. We popped them off. They had to run even when we were shooting, 'cause they had no chance if the jets came. We got a lot of them. There were five or six M-16s there, the machine gun, the seventy-nine. I was having a good time picking up one weapon, firing it, and then another.

Then we heard enemy mortars coming in on us. So we started to get out of there.

One of our tanks, in back of us, was picking up the wounded and the dead.

A mortar round landed a few feet behind me as I was crawling out. I caught shrapnel in my back and legs and arms. The concussion picked me up and threw me down on the earth. I couldn't see. I saw in waves and I screamed, "I'm hit." I couldn't feel my legs. I thought they had been blown off. I was afraid to look. The other guy was hit too. said to him, "How bad am I hit?" and he says. "Not too bad." Then I looked down at my legs. My jungle trousers had all been blown off, my legs were all blood. The guy says, "Let's get out. Let's go now." But I couldn't move. I was getting ready to die. I said, "Lord, let me die now." The jets were ready to bomb the area. Charlie was running by. I thought it was all over.

Then this guy takes my hand and starts to drag me. But my canteens on my cartridge belt slowed me down. Then he takes off my belt and pulls me.

Then the jets came in with high explosives. If it was napalm it would have killed us.

We just laid there while the bombs were exploding around us.

Then something happened that I will never forget. This tank came near us. We started yelling. This other Marine screamed at the top of his lungs, "We're hit. Come help us." The tank was only twenty yards away. I know goddam well they heard us. They heard us. Then the tank backs away. The mother-fucker turned around and left us - and we were down.

When the battle was just about over a platoon came in to count the dead - and they found us lying out there. They were surprised that anything lived through that bombing.

I went to a field hospital first. One of my GIs from Parris Island was there in the hospital. He had been in Nam two weeks. He got shot in that same battle I was hit in. He had been shot five times.

I saw the doctors look at me. They sort of shook their heads, wrote something down and then they gave me a shot and I was out. I woke up on an operating table at Phu By. The doctors gave me some more shots and I was out again.

I woke up in bed. I looked like a mummy. I was wrapped in bandages from my head to my foot. Next to me was my buddy Skip. He was in the next bed. He was real bad, shot in the stomach. I don't know whether he made it or not. Right across the way was Sully. He was on his stomach cause he had been shot in the ass. Our outfit really took a beating in that battle.

They strapped me on a stretcher - put me on a plane back to Da Nang, where I stayed at an Air Force hospital for a couple of days. Then I was flown into Cam Rahn Bay. I thought I was home when I landed there. Giant concrete air strip all lit up. Paved streets. Sidewalks. Nurses walking on the plane. I said, I'm out of that shit, I'm home. I had just woken up and I thought I was in America. Then I saw a jeep pull up with a sixty machine gun mounted on it, and I said, Oh, no, I'm still here.

They rolled me out of the plane onto a bus and shipped me to the hospital. It was real close to Christmas.

I was in an Army hospital there and I was telling those soldiers that I've been in the bush. That they had it easy while the Marines were fighting the war.

I was lying there in the bed and those guys come into the hospital, waxing the floors, scrubbing walls, moving beds out so it don't look so crowded. I knew that morning something was coming through, but I didn't know what. They never did that before. They said, "The man is coming." I said, "Who?" and the guy says, "LBJ."

Then a thousand newsmen with cameras and lights all come in. Then come some officers and President Johnson with Marshal Ky, and Westmoreland was there too. Johnson stops and talks to the wounded. The press is writing it all down and taking a million pictures. Then he comes over to my bed. Some officer says to him, "Lance Corporal Whitmore, wounded in action," etc., etc.

The President walks over with a Hawaiian shirt with a million colours in it and brown slacks. He grabs my hand and he says, "How are you doing?" I'm practically dying, but I say, "Fine, sir, just fine." He looks at me and says, "This job that you've done for your country, we appreciate that." Then he introduces Ky, a tiny little mother-fucker. He shakes my hand too. Then Westmoreland is there too.

Johnson sees I'm all bandaged and there's no place to pin a medal on me. So he pins it on my pillow. He says he knows I'm anxious to get back and finish the job. Yeah, very fucking anxious.

Later they sent me to Japan. I had a long operation - they were taking shrapnel out every day. I couldn't walk. The doctor says to me, "You will never go back to Vietnam." I tried to learn to walk again. It took a long time. From a wheelchair to crutches. I was on physical therapy - everything. I knew I was never going back to Vietnam. I tried to walk, but it was damn hard. It was like being a baby all over again.

Finally I learned to walk, with a bad limp, but I could move.

The hospital was crowded. Jesus, it was so crowded. They tried to get people out of there as fast as they could, as soon as they could move. They told me I was up for a Bronze Star or Silver Star.

On my twenty-first birthday I got my orders back to Nam. That was on March 6.

I had been walking for only two weeks. I could barely walk. I had a bad limp. They needed guys there in Nam and there was no room in the hospital.

I knew I wasn't going back to that hot hell of a jungle with fucking bullets. Not after I had had a taste of civilised life in Japan.

The black scene of Vietnam hit me again.

I had a Japanese girl friend. She was real cool. I never gave deserting any thought. My girl friend was strongly anti-war. Most Japanese are. And she used to ask me, "Why are you fighting in Vietnam?" And, goddam it - after all I had been through - I couldn't fucking tell her. I didn't know. After getting all shot up - "Why are you fighting in Vietnam?" and I had no answer.

I didn't know.

I kept thinking about the bombs, the killing, the tank that took off and left me.

Soon after that I deserted.
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