You have a, in your report, you have, let me see...some of the frictions and problems you had in terms of Vietnamese-US relations. I wonder if you could talk of what would be a typical thing that would cause you real, real problems in terms of US-Vietnamese relations in, in, in your province? What was the sort of thing that were consistently causing you problems and what did you try and do about it?
A major source, and probably the philosophical problem between Americans and Vietnamese, were our very different missions. Ah, now this was spoken of often enough in the French literature, but we had exactly the same problem. The Vietnamese had a, a mission of protecting the people. The American responsibility, the American main force units were killing the enemy. Now, that an enemy might be shielded in a village or that it might be difficult to tell from the rest of the Vietnamese people where he was hiding himself ah didn't make killing him less a priority.
So, I think our basic problem in dealing with the Vietnamese were these very different priorities. Yeah. And you've heard the body count decried in all, in every bit of literature. Everyone who was in Vietnam were as dissatisfied with that as a measurement of how well we were doing as members of the press were, as the persons in the United States were. But it was very difficult to measure what was happening. And at, in that day, we had a serious concern with measuring to understand how well we were doing.
Our problem really was the introduction of a very large American force into a culture that we could not hope to understand without an ability to understand the language, without long and arduous training. We didn't understand. Our priorities were very different. The Vietnamese priorities, they di, they understood us as little as we understood them. We essentially were very foreign bodies occupying the same ground. The, the frictions were inevitable.
Ah, just the use of a highway was ah was a very dangerous thing. It was a dangerous thing because American soldiers worried about ambushes driving very large trucks, using the same poor highways, which, if they weren't paved were easily mined, were concerned with their lives, with their mission. Result: We had a lot of Vietnamese run over. Ah, if you look at a firefight, you have the same problem. It's very difficult for men in an airplane to understand, one, where he is or to be very, very discriminating in what he hits. I think the, the, the best quotation this subject came from my most valued colleague, John Paul Vann.
I give you the quotation. John used to say that the best weapon to kill a guerrilla with is a bayonet and the worst weapon is an airplane, and the next best is a rifle, and the next worse is an artillery shell. Well, the tools we were using were not the sort of tool that was required to work in this kind of war. Airplanes and artillery shells cause friction in a heavily populated area.