CAP 2-7-2 was on a joint operation in Thanh Quit with an ARVN unit. In our unit it was SOP to turn Viet Cong suspects (VCS) over to the Vietnamese for questioning. Before this incident we had always sent our prisoners on their way via vehicle from 2nd CAG or company HQs. We didn’t even know where they were taken, just that most were never seen again. During this particular operation we turned our VCS over to the Vietnamese on the spot.
At some point during the operation I heard a commotion coming from a substantial house in one a ville we were sweeping. There were ARVN soldiers standing around, but nobody on guard so I just walked in. There were a dozen people in the large main room of the house. All were Vietnamese aside from one American I had never seen. He was wearing clean Army fatigues without insignia. I remember he was wearing a white t-shirt, which was unusual.
A VN civilian, dressed like a farmer, was tied to a wooden bench on his back. They had put a cloth like a kitchen towel over his face and one soldier was steadily pouring water onto the towel. The man on the bench was choking, gagging and trying to scream. But each time he opened his mouth, more water went in.
His whole body convulsed and strained against the ropes that tied him down. Blood seeped from under the ropes. He strained his head in all directions trying to avoid the stream of water, and the tendons stood out in his neck with strain.
When the man pouring water stopped, the victim continued gagging, retching and sobbing. Then the VN started pouring water again. Nobody was asking any questions. They just stood around watching and smoking.
I was disgusted. Torture was against everything we were trying to accomplish in the CAPs. So I walked out and went to Willie. I told him, “Hey, they’re torturing a guy in there.”
He frowned, looked at the house and said, “It’s their business. Let’s get out of here.”