Born on the 4th of July – Interview to Brian Wilson, Viet Vet and activist

Brian Wilson in Vietnam

Brian Wilson in Vietnam

Brian Wilson tells himself and his experience in Vietnam first and as activist later, where he came back home. A concerned analysis that is no ristricted to a man only, but to the reality around us.

To begin, may you introduce yourself to me? How old are you? What was your military corp, what was your rank in Vietnam? Decorations? Where did you fight?
I was born on July 4, 1941 in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. I served in the US Air Force (USAF) from 1966-1970. I was a 1st Lieutenant in Viet Nam in 1969 as commander of a special Air Force combat security unit patterned after Army Rangers. I was mostly in the Mekong Delta where my unit was the combat security force protecting the planes and people at Binh Thuy airbase, and for a short time we provided extra security at Phan Rang airbase along the central coast of Viet Nam when it came under increased rocket attacks. I received no special awards of commendations.

When did you enlist, and what were your motivations?
I tried to enlist in 1964 but was turned down for  physical health reasons. But 2 years later when studying in law school I was drafted (conscripted) into the Army. By that time I was no longer interested in serving in the military tho I believed at the time in the merits of the US involvement in the Viet Nam war. Before having to report to the Army I enlisted in a USAF into their officer training program in September 1966.
What was your relation with Usa politics when you moved to Vietnam? In this way, what did you feel about your Nation before to move to the war?
I had been raised a conservative in a conservative family in a conservative rural area of upstate New York. Fighting Communism was a US pastime in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. I believed that the USA was an exceptionally noble society and that Communism was exceptionally evil, and that the USA was obligated morally to defeat the Communists.
About your military training…what do you remember?
After graduating from 12 weeks of USAF Officer Training School in November 1966, I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. Then I graduated from the USAF Security Police Training School, followed by completing study at the USAF supported Traffic School at the Northwestern University in Michigan. In late 1968 I was selected to be an officer in the ranger-like Operation Safeside as a combat security unit and went thru 12 weeks of USAF ranger training at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky before sent to Viet Nam in March 1969 where my unit was dispatched to Binh Thuy airbase 90 miles south of Saigon in the Delta.

Brian today

Brian today

What was your first thought when you arrived in Vietnam? What did you think to find and what did you really find?
When we landed on a C-123 plane at Binh Thuy it was near midnight on March 8, 1969 and the base was under mortar attack as we hurried off the plane into bunkers that were shown to us by host units at Binh Thuy. I was scared and anxious, not knowing what was going to happen.
What were the conditions of this asiatic country when you were in?
The Delta is mostly water and rice paddies. Water everywhere. Most people outside the cities of Can Tho, Vinh Long, Sa Dec, etc. were rice and fishing farmers.
What kind of military operations did you share? Was enemy invisible, and why? Why were Vietcong dangerous, what did you feel about them?
My main task was coordinating my fire teams and outgoing mortar units in night security operations around Binh Thuy airbase. It was primarily a defensive duty, protecting CIA planes, A-5 and A 37 fighter bombers, and other aircraft and helicopters. “Enemy” was not visible as they operated mostly at night. The National Liberation Front (Viet Cong is the derogatory name) were dangerous to us because we had invaded their country and as illegal occupiers they were fighting against us in efforts to force us to leave.
I also had a special extra duty to assess the “success” of bombing missions and discovered that all the targets I investigated were undefended inhabited fishing and farming villages where virtually everyone was murdered by bombs, napalm, and gatling machine guns.
What was your relation with your american and local comrades in arms? And the relation with local people into villages and cities?
I quickly turned against the war after witnessing the mass murder of Vietnamese civilians from our daily bombing missions. I was quickly considered a “VC” sympathizer and was marginalized by my superiors. I occasionally drove my jeep into nearby Can Tho city and some outlying villages where I came to respect the Vietnamese people and knew they were right in defending their country from myself and all of my “comrade in arms.”
By reading and watching movies, I saw that some Us soldier came crazy, and they used violence with local farmers. Is it real? Were you a witness of these situations?
I witnessed pilots, both South Vietnamese and US, who enjoyed their low flying turkey shoots murdering virtually everyone in these villages during daytime bombings.
When you came back home, what was the welcome? What about your feelings?
I was sent home ear;y due to my emerging political views of opposition to the US war. I was outraged and I joined the anti-war movement upon my return even tho I was still in the USAF fro one more year.
What was your sacriface? It was useful?
My “sacrifice” was in effect to serve as a mercenary for US imperialism and it was useful in that it woke me up to the historic pattern of US belligerance and international criminality. I was discharged honorably as a Captain after the USAF decided not to court martial me.
How much time did you have employe to feel again at home? Did you follow a rehabilitation program?
I tried to forget Viet Nam when I returned. Once out of the military I did not hang out with veterans, did not want to think of myself as a veteran, and did not offer to tell people I had been in Viet Nam in my new civilian life. I went 12 years before I experienced a flashback to a scene in a village after it had been bombed with over 100 dead civilians. I then went to rap groups with other veterans, and to this day go to therapy every month, even tho I have been out of the military for 40 years.
Actually, what do you feel about your war experience? How often is it in your mind? Your repentances? What do you feel about your Nation today?
My war experience was both traumatic and epiphanic. I think about it every day. I have a photo on my wall at home with a young injured Vietnamese girl after an attack on her village and I ask her forgiveness on an almost daily basis. I think the USA is pathological culture founded on 3 genocides – stealing land from Indians murdering millions with impunity, stealing labor from Africans murdering millions, and stealing resources around the world in many countries murdering millions, impoverishing billions, with impunity. I am neither a patriot or a nationalist. I am a world citizen in recovery as a White Eurocentric male striving to re-integragte with nature and the earth.
Actually, are you an activist anti-war..In which situation you got peace campaigner and what about your activities?
I have been anti-war since 1969 while in Viet Nam and have been involved in many actions over the 40 years – fasting, tax refusal, blocking actions of civil (dis)Obedience, etc.
May you tell me how you lost your legs…
In 1987, I was participating in a peaceful block of munitions on a train destined for Reagan’s wars against the poor in Central America when I was run over by the locomotive accelerating to more than 3 times its 5 mph speed limit. Unbeknownst to me I had been investigated as a FBI domestic terrorist suspect and the Department of War (Pentagon) authorities running the train said I was planning to hijack the train and ordered the train crew to speed up the train and run over me and 2 others (who escaped serious injury).
Do you believe in enviroment protectios as way of life?
I believe in living simply and small while moving slowly striving for right livelihood with my neighbors and nature. I am not a subscriber to the modern, high tech way of life.
What’s your relation with the religion? Is this relation changed after Vietnam?
I subscribe to no organized religion. I grew up as a Baptist, then became a Unitarian-Universalist, and now am eclectic with some Buddhist leanings but without being a Buddhist.

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