Statement of Michael J. Uhl,
a Public Witness

Mr. Uhl. Thank you.

My name is Michael J. Uhl. I am currently listed in the Army records as a retired first lieutenant by virtue of my disability.

Upon arrival in the Republic of Vietnam in November of 1968—

Mr. Moorhead. For the record you might give us your address here.

Mr. Uhl. I currently reside in New York City. I am using my parents’ address as my address of record: 35 Coppertree Lane, Babylon, New York, Code 11702.

Mr. Moorhead
. Thank you.

Mr. Uhl. Upon arrival in the Republic of Vietnam in November of 1968 I was assigned as the team chief of the 1st Military Intelligence Team — 1st MIT — 11th Brigade, Americal Division. I remained with the 11th Brigade until late May 1969, at which time I was medically evacuated, having contracted pulmonary tuberculosis.

The 1st MIT consisted of three sections: Counter Intelligence (CI), Order of Battle (OB), and Interrogation of Prisoners of War (IPW). My primary function was to administer the team and coordinate its efforts, in order to fulfill our mission of providing the combat brigade with tactical intelligence for immediate exploitation and security from compromise of its operations. By virtue of my military occupational speciality (MOS) I also had direct supervisory control over the CI section.

Through my testimony today I hope to convey, generally, a perspective shared by many of my veteran comrades. This is a perspective gained from the field, of those charged with the responsibility for {p.313} implementing ambiguous and often absolutely misleading directives, policies, and standard operating procedures. Most of these I believe to be based on fallacious analysis of the historical and contemporary Vietnamese situation, not to mention a fundamentally misguided concept of what the role of the United States should be in foreign affairs.

I do not make these charges lightly. For those who have strong beliefs in the many revolutionary concepts that first shaped our Nation, disillusionment does not come easily. Our system has evolved away from the best sentiments of Thomas Paine, Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, and thousands like them throughout our history.

William Jennings Bryan, in spite of his failings, summed up many of these sentiments before this very body {Indianapolis, April 8 1908}. At that time Congress was debating whether or not to withdraw American troops from the Philippines.

And so with the nation. It is of age and it can do what it pleases; it can spurn the traditions of the past; it can repudiate the principles upon which this nation rests; it can employ force instead of reason; it can substitute might for right; it can conquer weaker people; it can exploit their lands; appropriate their property; and kill their people; but it cannot repeal moral law or escape the punishment they decreed for the violation of human rights. * * *

Since this subcommittee is enjoined to hear testimony that bears on the efficiency and funding of governmental operations, I will try to make my comments relevant to these guidelines wherever possible. It is generally fairly obvious that at least with tactical level MI operations, waste and inefficiency are the rule, not exception.

It is not at all unpredictable, given what we have learned from the Pentagon papers, that my operational perspective of MI programs like Phoenix, for example, is diametrically opposed to the administrative perspective of former CORDS chief, Ambassador Colby.

For instance, Ambassador Colby gave the impression that Phoenix targeted specific high level Vietcong infrastructure whose identity had been established by at least three unrelated intelligence sources. In his prepared statement delivered before this committee on July 19, 1971, he cites several interesting statistics. Among these is the number of Vietcong infrastructure (VCI) successfully targeted and “neutralized” during the period 1968-May 1971. 1970 figures show 22,341 VCI “neutralized.” Colby thus would have us believe that the vast majority of these people were targeted according to the rules that he outlined.

This capacity on the part of MI groups in Vietnam seems to me greatly exaggerated. A mammoth task such as this would greatly tax even our resourceful FBI, where we have none of the vast cross-cultural problems to contend with.

What types of operations “generate” this supplementary body count then, assuming the figures are accurate? It was my experience that the majority of people classified as VC were “captured” as a result of sweeping tactical operations. In effect, a huge dragnet was cast out in our area of operation (AR) and whatever looked good in the catch, regardless of evidence, was classified as VCI.

MI personnel do not have an “active” combat role. Nevertheless, the 1st MIT had a reputation of being an aggressive unit that did not shy away from initiating and participating in combat patrols. On one {p.314} occasion, shortly after I had joined the team, I was on the land line, land communication, reporting to my commanding officer (CO) at division. In the course of giving him an account of the week’s activities, I mentioned that we had staged several MI patrols. He reprimanded me slightly, saying that he did not want to lose “valuable” MI personnel on routine combat patrols; replacements were hard to come by. He further informed me that the only justification for MI people to be on a patrol was for the purpose of hunting down VCI. From that point on, any “body count” resulting from an MI patrol were automatically listed as VCI. To my knowledge, in fact, all those killed by 1st MIT on such patrols, were classified as VCI only after their deaths. There was never any evidence to justify such a classification.

The IPW section, I would estimate — again I stress “estimate” — interrogated an average of 20 people per day.

Mr. Moorhead. Is that your team: 20 per day?

Mr. Uhl. Yes, sir.

These Vietnamese were generally turned over to MI by our various combat units, as VC suspects. There was an extraordinary degree of command pressure placed on the interrogation officer to classify detainees turned over to IPW as civil defendants (CD’s). As opposed to innocent civilians (IC’s) these are people adjudged to have violated Vietnamese law.

It was a foregone conclusion that the overwhelming majority of detainees could not be classified as prisoners of war (PW’s) since the conditions of capture did not meet the rigid criteria set up to make that classification. Therefore, the way that the brigade measured its success was not only by its “body count” and “kill ratio” but by the number of CD’s it had captured. ¶

Not only was there no due process, which we as Americans consider to be among man’s “natural rights,” but fully all the detainees were brutalized and many were literally tortured.

All CD’s, because of this command pressure, (the majority of our detainees were classified as CD’s) were listed as VCI. To my knowledge, not one of these people ever freely admitted being a cadre member. ¶

And again, contrary to Colby’s statement, most of our CD’s were women and children. ¶

Mr. Colby, in response to a direct question, denied that Americans actually exercised power of arrest over Vietnamese civilians. ¶

In Duc Pho, where the 11th Brigade base camp was located, we could arrest and detain at will any Vietnamese civilians we desired, without so much as a whisper of coordination with ARVN or GVN authorities. ¶

But the impact of this oversight in Ambassador Colby’s testimony pales when compared to his general lack of understanding of what is actually going on in the field.

I mentioned above that in order to be listed as VCI at least three different intelligence agencies had to target the same individual. Even if this were true, which it wasn’t in my experience, the most crucial omission in this progression is not even addressed. ¶

That is: what steps are taken to assure that information used to denounce any individual is reliable?

The 1st MIT employed 11 coded sources. These were indigenous subagents paid to provide us with “hot intel” on the VC personalities and movement in our AR. ¶

We had no way of determining the background of these sources, nor their motivation for providing American {p.315} units with information. ¶

No American in the team spoke or understood Vietnamese well enough to independently debrief any “contact.” None of us were sufficiently sensitive to nor knowledgeable of the law, the culture, the customs, the history, etc.

Our paid sources could easily have been either provocateurs or opportunists with a score to settle. Every information report (IR) we wrote based on our sources’ information was classified as (1) unverifiable and (2) usually reliable source. As to the first, it speaks for itself; the second, in most cases was pure rationale for the existence of the program.

The unverified and in fact unverifiable information, nevertheless, was used regularly as input to artillery strikes, harassment and interdiction fire (H&I), B52 and other air strikes, often on populated areas. ¶

We churned out a dozen IR’s per week, not because it was good or reliable information, but it was our mission. Furthermore, it was not possible, given the conditions in Vietnam, for a tactical unit to produce reliable and verified intelligence data.

The intelligence contingency fund (ICF), a classified fund, provides payroll and incentives for these essentially useless subagents. Moral, ideological, and political questions aside, literally millions of dollars must be squandered yearly in operations similar to the one I described extemporaneously, all over Vietnam; all over the world.

If one assumes, as I do, that Phoenix is a hoax — that thousands of Vietnamese are indiscriminately classified as VC — based on no specific targeting procedure — based on no evidence — then this is just one more colossal example of wasted funds and personnel.

So what, a few more millions are wasted among the billions wasted before them. ¶

As the troops return from Southeast Asia, the cost of this war will continue for many years to come. Those addicted to drugs will need extensive rehabilitation. ¶

Those scarred psychologically from having been executioners of brutal policies will not only seek medical and financial relief, but in a real sense, represent a human resource no longer willing or able to believe in the worth of American Institutions.

Mr. Moorhead. Thank you very much, Mr. Uhl.

Before we question you, we will hear from Mr. Osborn.

Mr. Osborn, you may proceed.

Page 1     Commentary