Friday, May 15, 2015

Gang Rapes and Beatings, Brothels Filled with Teenage Prostitutes -- The Depths of American Brutality in Vietnam

Gang Rapes and Beatings, Brothels Filled with Teenage Prostitutes -- The Depths of American Brutality in Vietnam A powerful excerpt from Nick Turse's new book, 'Kill Anything That Moves' exposes the horrors committed by the U.S. By Nick Turse / Metropolitan Books January 19, 2013
The disdainful attitude that led American troops to gleefully cut off ears and run down pedestrians by the roadside was even stronger when it came to a group that, for the young soldiers, was doubly “other”: Vietnamese women. As a result, sexual violence and sexual exploitation became an omnipresent part of the American War. With their husbands or fathers away at war or dead because of it, without other employment prospects and desperate to provide for their families, many women found that catering to the desires of U.S. soldiers was their only option. By 1966, as the feminist scholar Susan Brownmiller observed, the 1st Cavalry Division, the 1st Infantry Division, and the 4th Infantry Division had all already “established official military brothels within the perimeter of their basecamps.” At the 1st Infantry Division base at Lai Khe, refugee women—recruited by the South Vietnamese province chief and channeled into their jobs by the mayor of the town—worked in sixty curtained cubicles kept under military police guard. Jim Soular of the 1st Cavalry Division recalled the setup at his unit’s compound, known as Sin City.
You had to go through a checkpoint gate, but once you were in there you could do anything. There were all kinds of prostitutes and booze. The [U.S.] army was definitely in control of this thing. The bars had little rooms in the back where you could go with the prostitutes. I know they were checked by the doctors once a week for venereal diseases.
At Dong Tam, the 9th Infantry Division camp, the sign on a large building next to the headquarters read “Steam Bath and Massage.” The troops knew it by a different name: “Steam ’n Cream.” The building boasted approximately 140 cubicles filled with Vietnamese women and girls. At another U.S. compound, the prices of sex acts were announced at an official briefing, and, for a time, “little tickets had been printed up . . . blue ones for blow jobs, and white ones for inter-course,” recalled one patron to an army investigator. GIs paid a dollar or so for the former and around two for the latter Everywhere, every kind of sex was for sale. “At the entrance to the MACV compound in Qui Nhon, a six-year-old girl is offering blow jobs,” wrote one journalist sizing up the sex-work scene. “One night early on in my stay,” he reported, I found myself with a thirteen-year-old girl on my lap insisting “we go make lub now” in the bordello her mother had thrown up opposite an American construction site. The bordello is made of sheets of aluminum somehow extricated from a factory just before attaining canhood. You can read the walls of the structure from a distance. They say “Schlitz, Schlitz,” in rows and columns, over and over again. The girl wants $1.25. With some difficulty I refuse. Later in the war, even walking as far as the camp entrance would become unnecessary, as certain bases began allowing prostitutes directly into the barracks. “Hootch maids,” who washed and ironed clothes and cleaned living quarters for U.S. servicemen, were also sometimes sexually exploited. As one maid put it, “American soldiers have much money and it seems that they are sexually hungry all the time. Our poor girls. With money and a little patience, the Americans can get them very easily.” And other women working on bases fell victim to sexual blackmail. One such case was revealed in an army investigation of Mickey Carcille, who ran a camp mess hall that employed Vietnamese women. By threatening to fire them if they did not comply, Carcille forced some of the women to pose for nude photographs and coerced others into having intercourse with him or performing other sex acts. In addition to sexual exploitation, sexual violence was an every-day feature of the American War -- hardly surprising since, as Christian Appy observed, “the model of male sexuality offered as a military ideal in boot camp was directly linked to violence.” From their earliest days in the military, men were bombarded with the language of sexism and misogyny. Male recruits who showed weakness or fatigue were labeled ladies, girls, pussies, or cunts. In basic training, as army draftee Tim O’Brien later wrote in his autobiographical account of the Vietnam War, the message was: “Women are dinks. Women are villains. They are creatures akin to Communists and yellow-skinned people." While it’s often assumed that all sexual assaults took place in the countryside, evidence suggests that men based in rear areas also had ample opportunity to abuse and rape women. For example, on December 27, 1969, Refugio Longoria and James Peterson, who served in the 580th Telephone Operations Company, and one other soldier picked up a nineteen-year-old Vietnamese hootch maid hitching a ride home after a day of work on the gigantic base at Long Binh. They drove her to a secluded spot behind the recreation center and forced her into the back of the truck -- holding her down, gagging, and blindfolding her. They then gang-raped her and dumped her on the side of the road. A doctor’s examination shortly afterward recorded that “her hymen was recently torn. There was fresh blood in her vagina.” On March 19, 1970, a GI at the base at Chu Lai, in Quang Tin Province, drove a jeep in circles while Private First Class Ernest Stepp manhandled and slapped a Vietnamese woman who had rebuffed his sexual advances. According to army documents, with the help of a fellow soldier Stepp tore off the woman’s pants and assaulted her. The driver apparently slowed down the jeep to give the woman’s attackers more time to carry out the assault, and offered his own advice to her: “If you don’t fight so much it won’t be so bad for you.” Again and again, allegations of crimes against women surfaced at U.S. bases and in other rear echelon areas. “Boy did I beat the shit out of a whore. It was really fun,” one GI mused about his trip to the beach resort at Vung Tau. The sheer physical size of American troops -- on average five inches taller and forty-three pounds heavier than Vietnamese soldiers, and even more imposing in comparison to Vietnamese women -- meant that their assaults often inflicted serious injuries. Sometimes, Vietnamese women were simply murdered by angry GIs. One sex worker at a base in Kontum, known as “Linda” to the soldiers there, was gunned down after she laughed at a customer who, according to legal documents, “thought she was going to go out with another G.I.” On March 27, 1970, in Vung Tau, several Vietnamese prostitutes became embroiled in an argument with a soldier over payment. He assaulted a number of them and stabbed one to death. Most rapes and other crimes against Vietnamese women, however, did take place in the field -- in hamlets and villages populated mainly by women and children when the Americans arrived. Rape was a way of asserting dominance, and sometimes a weapon of war, employed in field interrogations of women captives to gain information about enemy troops. Aside from any such considerations, rural women were generally assumed by Americans to be secret saboteurs or the wives and girlfriends of Viet Cong guerrillas, and thus fair game. The reports of sexual assault implicated units up and down the country. A veteran who served with 198th Light Infantry Brigade testified that he knew of ten to fifteen incidents, within a span of just six or seven months, in which soldiers from his unit raped young girls. A soldier who served with the 25th Infantry Division admitted that, in his unit, rape was virtually standard operating procedure. One member of the Americal Division remembered fellow soldiers on patrol through a village suddenly singling out a girl to be raped. “All three grunts grabbed the gook chick and began dragging her into the hootch. I didn’t know what to do,” he recalled. “As a result of this one experience I learned to recognize the sounds of rape at a great distance . . . Over the next two months I would hear this sound on the average of once every third day.” In November 1966, soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division brazenly kidnapped a young Vietnamese woman named Phan Thi Mao to use as a sexual slave. One unit member testified that, prior to the mission, his patrol leader had explicitly stated, “We would get the woman for the purpose of boom boom, or sexual intercourse, and at the end of five days we would kill her.” The sergeant was true to his word. The woman was kidnapped, raped by four of the patrol members in turn, and murdered the following day. Gang rapes were a horrifyingly common occurrence. One army report detailed the allegations of a Vietnamese woman who said that she was detained by troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and then raped by approximately ten soldiers. In another incident, eleven members of one squad from the 23rd Infantry Division raped a Vietnamese girl. As word spread, another squad traveled to the scene to join in. In a third incident, an Americal GI recalled seeing a Vietnamese woman who was hardly able to walk after she had been gang-raped by thirteen soldiers.139 And on Christmas Day 1969, an army criminal investigation revealed, four warrant officers in a helicopter noticed several Vietnamese women in a rice paddy, landed, kidnapped one of them, and committed “lewd and lascivious acts” against her. The traumatic nature of such sexual assaults remains vivid even when they are couched in the formal, bureaucratic language of mili tary records. Court-martial documents indicate, for instance, that after he led his patrol into one village, marine lance corporal Hugh Quigley personally detained a young Vietnamese woman -- because “her age, between 20 and 25, suggested that she was a Vietcong.” The documents tell the story.
After burning one hut and the killing of various animals, the accused with members of the patrol entered a hut where the alleged victim was. The accused, seeing the victim, grabbed for her breast and at the same time attempted to unbutton her blouse. As the victim held her child between the accused and herself, she pulled away. At this time, the accused pulled out his knife and threatened to cut the victim’s throat. The baby was taken from the victim and then the accused took the victim by the shoulders, laid her on the floor and then pulled her blouse above her breast and lowered her pants below her knees. The accused then knelt by the head of the victim, took his penis out of his pants and made the victim commit forced oral copulation on him. After a few minutes of this act the accused then proceeded to have non-consensual intercourse with her . . . The same witnesses who saw the accused commit these alleged acts will testify that the victim was scared and trembling.
Quigley was found guilty of having committed forcible sodomy and rape. Some commanders, like an army colonel who investigated allegations of rape in an infantry battalion, nevertheless sought to cast Vietnamese women as willing participants. Writing about the heavily populated coastal regions of I and II Corps, he conjectured that in those areas “the number of young women far exceeds the number of military age males,” so the local women undoubtedly welcomed the attentions of American troops as a means to “satisfy needs long denied.” Assuming that all Vietnamese women longed for intercourse with armed foreigners marching through their villages, the colonel blithely concluded, “The circumstances are such that rape in contacts between soldiers . . . and village women is unlikely.” The colonel’s theory about universally willing partners becomes even more preposterous when we consider the shockingly violent and sadistic nature of some of the sexual assaults. One marine remembered finding a Vietnamese woman who had been shot and wounded. Severely injured, she begged for water. Instead, her clothes were ripped off. She was stabbed in both breasts, then forced into a spread-eagle position, after which the handle of an entrenching tool -- essentially a short-handled shovel -- was thrust into her vagina. Other women were violated with objects ranging from soda bottles to rifles. Excerpted from KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse, published by Metropolitan Books,

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