I flew C7As in II, III, and IV Corps in South Vietnam from September '70 to '71. There were large vacant areas of formerly occupied terrain, dead. This was easy to see from the air. These areas were defoliated completely. The villages were gone. Former towns like Phouc Vinh and An Loc were disappeared. We left ghosts of artillery bases behind.
The strategy was to erase "enemy" activity in those areas by making them uninhabitable. This was done in a blatant pattern to the north, west and southwest of greater Saigon, with only a green ribbon running northwest to Tay Ninh, and another along the border with Cambodia from Djumap through Loc Ninh. There was greenery to the south, east and northeast surrounding greater Saigon. But the empty sides were extensive. I wonder what happened to the populace. Did any survive?
There were survivor-witnesses, according to Nick Turse. But those areas in the Delta where Speedy Express took place were not defoliated or de-populated, like the areas that we routinely overflew.
To the veterans who are offended by this article, look harder. We need more scrutiny into how we were used as a military force. Most of my fellow C7 cargo pilots would be offended, no doubt, by my assertion that we laid waste to terrain and populace. The urge to conformity and mainstream honor is the greatest barrier to the truth about the Vietnam War. The abuses of military power we brought down on many innocents, who were no threat to America or the world.
St. Petersburg, FL
Dec 21 2008 - 11:02am