A: I just want to start with some background information. Where exactly were you born?
C: Brooklyn, New York.
A: What year?
A: When did you move down to Gainesville [Florida].
C: I moved to Gainesville in December, 1970. When I was about four years old my parents
moved from New York to Hialeah. I grew up in Hialeah. I went into the Marine Corps
after I for out of high school and then went to Dade Community College. I graduated
there and transferred up tp Gainesville in 1970.
A: How was growing up in Hialeah?
C: Hialeah was the poorest section of Dade County. We were on food stamps and things
were hard growing up during that time. If you went to school with holes in your clothes
people beat you up and made fun of you. I was Jewish and I got jumped a lot for killing
Jesus. I did not understand what that was about, but basically what happened was, I just
learned. I would come home crying and then my father would kick my ass. He told me to
be a man so I just had to fight back, which made me fight back. By the time I was in
junior high school I became one of the guys, so to speak, in my high school, so things
were a little bit easier.
In my high school was had a choice of taking academic courses or vocational courses and
I took vocational courses because I wanted to do something fun. I had wood-shop,
metal-shop, machine-shop, graphics [and] drafting. I learned a lot of neat things. People
would bring home their report cards, I got to bring home stuff that I made and I liked
that. In general, I did not like high school because it was very authoritarian. Different
people had different ways they learned. The way I learned was, in my brain I have these
file cabinets. There are files in them [and] information that I learn has to go in the files. If
I do not have a file for something, I do not get it. I need to fit in a place [and] understand
why I am learning something.
I remember in junior college, in history, we were studying [the] French Revolution. We
had this test and at the bottom of the test I wrote that what I thought was important about
the revolution was why was there a revolution? What pissed the people off? What could
the government have done to placate the people and meet the people's needs? Why didn't
the government do that? What other options did the people have? Instead, the test was all
about when did this battle take place and who was the general here. It was all names and
dates and multiple choice. I could not remember that kind of stuff, there was not place for
it to fit. I could remember ideas, but I could not just remember minute pieces of
information. I did not understand why is was even important. The importance should be
the ideas. He called me in to talk to me and told me that he agreed with my comments,
VWV11: Camil, Page 2 -
but that he had so many classes that there was no way he would be able to grade tests if
he did not have multiple choice. I was thinking gosh, I thought higher learning, college,
easy grading tests, I did not think that was how it worked. Anyways, that is just sort of
how my brain works and how I work.
I hung out with a group of guys in junior high school and high school. We went to the
Everglades camping and we would go hunting. We would hunt for rabbits and take them
to a place knows as "colored town", where black people lived. We would sell them for
50-75 cents a piece, the rabbits. Then we would take the money and go to a liquor store.
There would always be somebody sitting outside and we would give them the money and
get a bunch of quarts of Budweiser or Busch. We would sit in the woods and get drunk.
Our method of transportation for the most part was hitchhiking where we went. We did
not have to worry about stuff. Today is a different kind of world; it is not that friendly
[and] I worry about my kids all the time. I liked after school. All the kids would come
out, we would play baseball or tag football in the street, and when the cars would come
we would move out. It was enjoyable growing up.
A: When you joined the army, you enlisted on your own, correct?
C: I joined the Marine Corps, which is a very important distinction to make. I joined in a
program called the delayed enlistment program. That program is what is responsible for
eighty-percent of the enlisted people in today's military. It is finding the kids in high
school and they get to finish high school. Once you find out, the time in high school
counts toward being in the service. The pay scale is such that after the first six months
you get a pay raise. Also, rank is based on something called time in grade. You start off
as a private, but when you go to boot camp you are a higher rank than the other privates.
Because you signed up early although they signed up early too, so you are really not that
different. The recruiters make you believe that there were a lot of benefits. Plus the fact
that there was a draft, the recruiters would say you are going to get drafted as soon as you
graduate high school and if you sign up now you get these benefits, you get to choose
what service you want to go in, you get to go with your buddies. I went in on the buddy
plan with some buddies. I signed up in high school and about three days after graduation
I was getting off a bus in front of Paris Island. I picked the Marine Corps because the
Marine Corps motto was the Marine Corps builds men. Growing up in the '50s' and '60s'
I would say the most important thing for a young male was macho, to be tough, to be a
man. I wanted to be a man and I wanted to be a Marine. In high school we had to write a
career paper, which was a requirement on two careers. I wrote on two careers and one
was a lawyer and one was a recon Marine. I joined the Marine Corps.
A: What would you say was the main reason for joining the Marine Corps?
C: I would not say there was a main reason. Number one, I was taught by my parents that I
lived in the best country in the world and that in this country we had freedoms. I was the
duty of all males once they graduated high school to serve their country. As a parent I
VWV11: Camil, Page 3 -
geared my kids up for college, my parents geared me up for the military. I just thought
that was my job, just like high school that was my job. You just listen to your parents and
your parents tell you what do to and [that] you have to go to school and you have to have
at least a C and then you go into the service. I never thought there would be anything
else. There was that, plus there was the recruiters and the girls liked them walking around
in their medals and shit. Impressing girls was really important ro the high school boy.
Then [there was] the fact that there was a draft and I was going to go anyways, so I could
get extra benefits. It was all those things together.
A: How could you best describe your basic training experiences, your first experience being
in the Marine Corps?
C: The first thing I would say is fear. This first day when I woke up I though I was having a
bad dream. The job of the Marine Corps boot camp is to totally erase the civilian, and on
a blank chart start over and build a Marine. The things that go on there you never
experienced before. You come in at night and you get off the bus in the middle of the
night and you cross this line and then these people start yelling at you. They stick you on
a bus and the guy driving slams on the fucking brakes and gets up and says I hear
somebody talking, you think this is funny, you know what, I am going to kick your
fucking ass, somebody wants to fight here? [We were like] whoa, what's going on man?
He gets back and drives. Then you get off and get into this room and they make you
empty everything out and they take everything away from you, your bags that you
brought and everything in your pocket and then you go to bed. All of a sudden the lights
go on and a big steel trash can starts bouncing on the floor. These guys are running up
and down the barrack pushing over beds yelling and screaming at people to get their
attention. They are grabbing people and throwing them against the wall. We are trying to
wake up and it was really scary trying to think. We outnumbered them, there were about
eighty of us and three of them, but they were in total control.
The rules were very strict. You could not speak without permission. If I needed to go to
the bathroom, I had to learn a new vocabulary. So I say, sir, private Camil requests
permission to speak, sir. He says what do you want scumbag, or what do you want
maggot. You know you are not used to being talked to like that. Sir, private Camil
requests permission to make a head call. That means I wanted to go to the bathroom.
Then they could say yes [or] they could say no. On one occasion the drill instructor said
to me, is it an emergency? I said, yes sir. The drill instructor said show me. I had to run
around the barracks three times going [making siren noises] because it was an
emergency. I came back to my position to stand at attention and request permission to
speak again to go to the bathroom. The drill instructor on occasion would say no. We are
going to wait a half-an-hour and if you don't pee or shit on yourself I am going to kick
your ass because you lied. You said it was an emergency. Then I had to decide, am I
going to shit on myself or pee on myself, or am I going to get my ass kicked. So you were
starting to get choices and options, of which none were good.
VWV11: Camil, Page 4 -
There was one occasion when the drill instructor told me to jump. So I jumped in the air
and the drill instructor said, private Camil, who gave you permission to come down. Now
I knew that he knew that I did not have the ability to defy gravity, but it did not matter.
My answer was, no one, sir. He grabbed me by the belt and punched me in the stomach
until I finally fell down, and then he kicked me a couple of times. He said private Camil,
my three-year-old daughter can take harder hits than that. So, it's the kind of treatment
you're not used to. That's the mental part, [but] there are a lot of physical parts.
Basically, there is a limit that you can put on yourself, how much I can lift, how far I can
run, what I can do and you find out that you can go way past that limit if somebody kicks
your ass and makes you do it. Once you are able to get past that limit it builds a lot of
confidence. In boot camp, there is an obstacle course and you have to learn how to swing
across ditches on ropes, climb ropes [and] climb buildings. We had drown proofing,
where you had to hang in water for hours with your uniform on to learn if you fall off of
a ship how you are supposed to survive. [You learn] karate, judo, boxing, [and] tons of
stuff. You intimately learn the forty-five caliber pistol [and] the M-14 rifle. You learn
your general orders, you learn the rifle creed, which you have to memorize, which
basically says, this is my rifle and without me it is useless and without it I am useless.
In the Marine Corps I would say there are three golden rules. They never said that, but I
would say that. Number one is, a Marine can never disobey an order. Number two, a
Marine can never leave his post or sleep on guard duty. Number three, a Marine can
never have a dirty weapon. That's the importance of that weapon, that is your life. If it is
not working you are fucked. Once you graduate that training you are really proud and
there is a big difference. I would call that training to be brain-washing and conditioning,
but I would say that it made a man out of me and I would say that I would never would
have been able to survive Vietnam without that training. Even though that training was
hard, I was the kind of person who needed to get my ass kicked to get with the program.
A: How long after basic training were you sent to Vietnam?
C: I graduated boot camp in September of 1965. Then I went to ITR, for October of 1965
and November of 1965, that's infantry training. It is more or less like boot camp but not
as strict except now you are learning tactics, mountain climbing and that kind of
conditioning, how to work as a unit, how to fire as a unit [and] how to advance by fire
and that kind of stuff. Then I went home on leave sometime in November. I had
Christmas leave. I reported to my unit probably in December, went home on Christmas
leave, came back probably in January of 1966, I requested orders for Vietnam my first
day there. I went home on leave. I went to Camp Pendleton for training [and] it was
mountain climbing, escape and evasion [and] more tactics. I arrived in Vietnam on
something like March 20, 1966.
A: Prior to arriving in Vietnam, did you have any knowledge of why the United States was
fighting in Vietnam?
VWV11: Camil, Page 5 -
C: You know this kind of pisses me off, but my teachers in high school tried to teach me that
shit, but all I was thinking about was am I going to get laid this weekend, what party am I
going to go to, how can I earn enough money to get some booze, [and] what day are we
going to skip school and go to the beach. School to me was more social. I remember I
was in a class, a government class, and the teacher said there is a war in Vietnam, and
many of you are going to end up there after you graduate, and some of you are not going
to come home alive, so it is important to know about. If we could end this war by
dropping an atomic bomb on Saigon, how many people would be for it? Everybody
raised their hands. Then the teacher said, Saigon is the capitol of the side that we are on.
Why would we want to bomb the side we are on? He impressed upon us the importance
of learning about what was going on in Vietnam because it was going to have a large
impact on our lives and that was all I knew. I did not pay attention to anything else. My
basic understanding was, South Vietnam was our ally. It had been attacked by North
Vietnam. They are Communist. They are trying to take over the world and our job is to
stop them over there before they come here, and that was really what it was.
A: How could you best describe your first few days in Vietnam?
C: This first thing was a kind of disbelief because growing up as a kid you see all these war
stories [and] all these war movies and it is all WWII and Korea. It is all the boats coming
up, the guy is running through the water and getting on the beach [and] having to fight
your way. It is not getting off a fucking plane, at the airport, without a gun, without a
rifle. So that was kind of strange. That was the first thing, going to war and getting off a
plane at the airport just seemed strange to me. Flying over I could see pock marks and
stuff on the ground, when we were flying into Vietnam, so I knew something was going
on down there. The second thing would be the heat. Walking down the ramps of that
plane the heat was just overwhelming, it was really hot. That was really my first
impression. Then you get off the plane [and] you go to a building and you give them your
orders. They look up your name on a list and they tell you okay, you are going to go
sleep in these barracks tonight. Tomorrow at 0900 hours you are going to wait over there
where it says B and a truck is going to pick you up and take you to this place. The place
was called Alpha North. My original MOS, military occupation specialty, in the Marine
Corps everyone starts off as infantry and has infantry training. Then you get your job
specialty and mine was direct fire artillery. Basically, somebody is out there fighting and
they need support. So they call in coordinates on a map, and you have a little chart and
you run a range projection protractor. You put a little pin in the map and you run this
thing over to it and you read the range to the target and what the azimuth is. You have a
little piece of paper and figure some shit out. You give some number to somebody else
and they are on the guns and they turn the wheel and they put the number on the wheel.
Then they turn it until the bubble is level and another guy does it this way. Then when
they are level, they fire. An artillery will shoot six or seven miles and drop on whatever
you want it to drop on top of. That was sort of what my original job was when I reported
into this until.
VWV11: Camil, Page 6 -
When you first report into this unit you meet the commanding officer and you are first
assigned into a part of a unit. The unit was called an artillery battery, alpha battery, first
battalion, Eleventh Marine. Then the battery is divided into two platoons: gun platoon
and headquarters platoon. Gun platoon are the guys who are on the guns that shoot the
guns. Headquarters are the communication people that fire directions control and all that
kind of stuff. So, I reported to there. I draw a weapon and what is called 782 gear, which
is a helmet, a flak jacket, a canteen, the cartridge belt, first aid packet [and] a shelter hat.
Then I get assigned a bunk, which is a cot in a tent. Then I get my first duty, and as the
new guy in the unit, my first duty is guard duty. So, I have thirty days guard duty. In the
nighttime I have guard duty and the daytime, after being able to have a certain amount of
time for sleep, I have training and work detail. That was my first month.
On April 18, which was like my third week there, we were attacked and overrun. In less
than a month I was in my first battle. In that first battle, the enemy won. I was on guard
duty when they attacked and they came through our position and they destroyed camp.
That is a huge, traumatic event for a person. It was a learning experience, a growing up
experience. For me it changed who I was. The day before that I was a boy with Marine
training and the day after that I was a man. A man in the sense of how men were looked
at then. Now, I would say I am not quite sure. Basically, when I first came into that unit
people said, where you from, and I said Florida. They said, Manes is from Florida, a guy
named Manes. So, I met him and he was the first guy who I befriended, because we were
both from Florida [and] he was from Jacksonville. That night we were overrun, he was
killed. So that next day, after the reinforcements came to out camp, we got out of our
fighting positions. We took the dead Americans, the dead Marines and we put them next
to a bonfire and covered them up with ponchos. All the wounded people, helicopters
came and got [them out]. All the dead Vietnamese were thrown into the back of trucks.
All their gear, we stacked up for inventory. Then we found blood trails.
Actually, before we followed blood trails, I pulled the ponchos off of each of the Marines
to see who they were, and I saw one of them was Manes. I was 19 years old, and I
thought this is really real. There are people whose job it is to kill me and they are allowed
to do that. There is no timeout and there is no second chance. This is a really serious
thing I got myself involved in and I have to really pay attention if I want to be alive. I
hate the Vietnamese for what they have done. The people who attacked us were called
sappers. They were suicide bomber people. They had explosives strapped on their bodies
and they just jumped into the bunkers and blew themselves up. Plus, they had machine
guns and mortars and rockets, and they kicked our asses. I though that I was there
because the South Vietnamese were being invaded by the North Vietnamese. So, I
decided at that moment, when I was looking at Manes, that I hated the fucking
Vietnamese. I would kill every fucking one of them I could, and I would have no feelings
for them, and that if they were dead they could not hurt me or my friends. So I was not a
nice person after that.
Then we followed the blood trails trying to find the ones that got away. We came upon
VWV11: Camil, Page 7 -
this man sowing a field in a rice paddy. [He] was an old guy, and he had clack pajamas,
pants rolled up so they would not be wet, he had a long mustache, hair coming out of his
chin [and] he had a white turban on. I went up to him and I said where did the VC go. He
said cambiet, which means I do not understand. Let me go back for just a second. I went
to Vietnam without learning one thing about their culture, without learning the language,
without learning the history of Vietnam. With no information, just like we have done
with the guys in Iraq, no fucking difference. There are so many similarities between these
two wars that it is hard to [explain] the differences. Except, one people is Arabic and one
people is yellow and the location, [but] everything else is the same. Anyway, I asked him
a second time, where did the VC go? And he said cambiet. I pulled out my bayonet and
slit his throat. [He was] an unarmed old man, but I was really pissed about what
happened that night. I just had become a different person.
Technically, there are rules of war about what you are supposed to do, about what you
are not supposed to do. But there are no referees out there throwing a flag giving you
fifteen yards because you clipped. The basic deal is, if I have to cheat to stay alive, who
gives a shit. Who is not going to cheat to stay alive? What is the purpose I am serving
here? The purpose is to win. The job of the Marine is to destroy the will of the enemy to
resist and you do that by making the price he is willing to pay, more than he is willing to
pay. So, we just fucked these people. They were between a rock and a hard place. They
lived there, they had nowhere to go, and we did not understand their culture, their
language or anything. We just destroyed their villages [and] we killed innocent people all
the time. In our training we were taught that we were going to a guerilla war. In a guerilla
war people do not wear uniforms and in order for the guerillas to survive, they need the
support of the people. The people will hide them, the people will give them food, the
people will give them water, the people will give them medicine and the people will give
them intelligence. If you remove the people from the area, where you are having enemy
contact, there is no one to help the enemy and you will be able to destroy the enemy. So,
people were in the fucking way and we had to get rid of them. Sometimes they were
rounded up and we gave them to somebody else and I do not know what happened to
them. Sometimes we just killed them. We burned down villages, we burned the crops so
there would ne no food for the guerillas, we threw the dead bodies into the wells so there
would be no water for the guerillas. Now you are not supposed to do that kind of stuff.
We were operating in places called free fire zones. We are on missions called search and
destroy. We are measuring our success by body count. Now, a lot of Vietnam Veterans
do not like me saying this stuff. They feel, I did not commit any war crimes and I did not
do anything fucking wrong. You are giving us a bad name. The U.S. did everything it
was supposed to do. Well this three-legged power. Free fire zones. The soldiers on the
ground make the policy, that was official U.S. policy. And now I know that free fire
zones are against the Geneva convention [and] I did not know that before. But that policy
was official U.S. policy. Anybody who operated in a free fire zones committed a war
crime, whether they know it or not. Search and destroy, that was a war crime, people who
did that committed war crimes. To them they are just following orders, they are just
VWV11: Camil, Page 8 -
destroying enemy villages. The idea that the way that you measure success [was] by who
can kill the most human beings. Well, you are measuring your success by who can pile
up the most dead bodies, [then] you end up with lots of dead people. To me, now that I
look back on that it was extremely barbaric. What is civilized about that? How can you
call yourself a civilized world, when you are measuring success by who can kill the most
human beings. But at the time I did not see it that way At the time they were like
bowling pins. I wanted to have a high score. That is how Marines are measured, you win
medals, you kill the fucking enemy. The more ruthless you are the more you are looked
In my fitness report, from Vietnam, which I have upstairs, it says Sergeant Camil is
extremely cool under fire and can be trusted to accomplish a mission and will do the
necessary jobs that need to be done from time to time, like slitting someone's throat or
whatever the fuck you need to do. The way that we acted to those people, I would not
want another country to come into the United States and do to us. I guarantee you that.
So that means it could not have been right. A lot of the guys I know are pissed at what
the Vietnamese did to us. Well, I was wounded twice and I was pissed about it when it
happened. But now I think, what was I doing there? I was really occupying their country,
trying to force my will upon them, my brutality. What would happen if somebody did
that to the United States?
Let's just say for instance, another country who is powerful, says you know, in the
United States they do not really have free elections. They have electronic voting with no
accountability. All of the politicians are responsive to the corporations. The tax code
fucks the people. There are forty-five million people without health care. We are going to
go over there and have some regime change and give these people what they need. Even
though I may agree with all the reasons they are saying, we have weapons of mass
destruction [and] we are the only nation that has used weapons of mass destruction. We
have used mass destruction on our own people. That anthrax that was sent around was
U.S. Army anthrax. Nobody got in trouble for that. We have to go over there and have a
regime change. Even though every fact that they say would be true, I would fight them.
As a citizen, I do not want them kicking in my door, fucking my wife, tearing up my
fucking house [and] doing what the fuck they want. I do not want them stomping my kids
on the fucking street. I do not want them messing with my family. Nobody wants to be
occupied. I would not want it, why would I think that they want it? Why does anybody
think the Iraqi's want it? The paper calls them insurgents. They are anti-occupation
forces. They have a right to self-determination and to run their country their own way.
Just because we do not agree with their form of government, who made us God? Why
does everybody have to do what we say? Because we are the biggest guy on the block
and might makes right. Well, when I went to Vietnam, I was taught by my parents that
what we were fighting against was the idea might makes right and the idea that the end
justify the means. Now that's what my country stands for. I do not understand that the
public does not get it and that it is okay with the public. It is just like fucking Vietnam
and it pisses me off. Right now they are saying we cannot quit. If we quit all those guys
VWV11: Camil, Page 9 -
that died would have died for nothing. Well, once it got up to 58,000 that was enough to
throw down the fucking ... So where is the cutoff point where you do not let people die
for nothing, and then it becomes we are not going to put any good after bad. Why can't
they see this shit? It bugs the shit out of me that we send guys over there without any
body armor [and] without armored vehicles. They gave us M-16's that did not fucking
work. They experiment on the guys over there, giving them all kinds of cocktail drugs
that have not even been approved by the FDA, for possible attacks by chemical or
biological weapons. They spray us with fucking agent orange. You are just guinea pigs.
You come back and no one gives a shit about you. The fucking reserves and national
guard guys that are coming back, they are getting discharged and not getting any benefits.
It is just incredible what is going on here and that it is acceptable. To me it is just like
Vietnam and it bugs me a ton. When I think about Vietnam I would say, what did we buy
with the sacrifices that we made? We got a black marble wall in Washington. To me, the
only way that it would be worthwhile, that it would have been a sacrifice that was worth
it, was if my country would have learned from it and would not have done it again. So,
the fact that they are doing it again, to another generation, is like kicking sand in my face.
It is like shitting on all those guys' names that are on the wall. It really disturbs em a lot.
After WWII, they changed the policy of how soldiers would operate. Up until that time,
people joined in a city, they went in as a group and they fought as a group. But then when
that group was wiped out, that city would be devastated. So, they said we are going to
split everybody up so that does not happen. So, now that they are using the national guard
and reserves, they are back to that where units are getting their asses kicked over there
and then some small town in Louisiana, or someplace loses all its young men, and its
firemen and policemen. It is just incredible what this thing is doing and nobody seems to
really give a shit. It is hard for me to talk about Vietnam without thinking about Iraq.
A: I know eventually you became a forward observer. What would you say was an average
day for you as a forward observer?
C: Normally when I talk about Vietnam, I talk about the worst days. So, I spent about 600
days there and I probably talk about the twenty worst days and all those other days I
really do not think about. Basically, as a forward observer I am attached out to an
infantry company, and that company is part of an infantry battalion. So that battalion has
a battalion headquarters. So somewhere out in the middle of Vietnam, in the jungle, is a
battalion headquarters and there is a map and that map has what is called a TAOR, the
total area of responsibility. Some people call it the tactical area of responsibility. We are
responsible for everything in that area, so the main battalion CP is in the middle, let's
say, and then there are four companies to a battalion, so one company stays in the
battalion area, they provide security for the battalion and all of the motor pool, and sick
bay and all the stuff that takes place. The other three companies each go out to someplace
in that map and they are called company areas. Then each company has three platoons, so
one platoon is always in that company area guarding it, and the other two platoons are on
what is called platoon patrol bases, where you just go out for days walking around. You
VWV11: Camil, Page 10-
got a map and you have been assigned to checkpoint A, checkpoint B, checkpoint C and
you walk around and look for people to kill, and that is what you do. So, in the daytime
you are walking through the jungle, looking for people to kill [and] at nighttime you set
up a perimeter and you also send out a squad patrol. So you are always basically walking
around looking for people to kill and 80- percent of the time, even more than that,
nothing is going on as far as enemy contact with people. But, everyday as you are
walking along people are stepping on things and blowing up. So you got to stop, you got
to stop the bleeding, you have to setup a perimeter of security [and] you have to call in a
medivac helicopter to come in and get the wounded guy. And that goes on every day. I
cannot impress upon you. You live in [an] apartment you said, so there is a parking lot
and I do not know if that parking lot is by your front door or further away, but just
imagine every day. You know where Tigert Hall [building on the University of Florida
main campus] is and you know where the Plaza of the Americas [plaza on the University
of Florida main campus] and people step on things and blow up. Would you be willing to
walk from Tigert to the Plaza?
Everyday we walked through the woods, we saw people blow up and we walked through
the same woods the next day and people would blow up again. And we did that every
day. To me, everyone who did that deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor. Just for
that. I cannot tell you how fearful it is walking around placed where you have see your
friends being blown up. Then every once and a while, we would run into some of them
and fight some of them. They would ambush us, or we would have a nice ambush and
ambush them, or we would have what is called an operational intelligence that sighted a
bunch of them somewhere, and we would go with a bunch of guys and attack, and have a
big battle. Out of those 600 days there may have been twenty battles, but all those battles
were horrific kind of battles.
In one of them I was on a nineteen-man patrol, twelve of them died, and everyone else
was wounded except for three of us. Actually they sent people out to rescue us and those
people took casualties. So when I think about Vietnam, I think about that. I do not think
about when nothing was happening or when I was washing my clothes in the river, or
sitting down eating a meal, or reading mail from home. In our TAOR these company
bases had names based on what it looked like on the map. So we had one place called
horseshoe. We had one place called the island in the sand dunes. We had one place called
the mud flats. We would go from the horseshoe to the mud flats, from the mud flats to the
island, from the island to the CP. So you basically would be out for ninety days and then
you would come in for thirty days, but those thirty days that you were in, you were still
going on patrols every night and you were still going on the operations, everybody went
on the operations. But, you were working out of the main CP, which meant hot food and
[you] would be able to shower and have toilet paper. There are certain things that you
would never think of. Like there are things that people, and I would say you, I do not
really know how important toilet paper is. Imagine not having it and being in the woods
all the time. How important is it to be able to take a shower? To put clean clothes on? To
come out of the rain? To have a cold drink on a hot day? So one of the things that you
VWV11: Camil, Page- 11 -
learn is, you learn the importance of things in the military that we take for granted.
A: Now I know you served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
C: Sort of, when my first tour was up I signed to stay. So, officially it was called extending
my tour. So it was not two separate tours, it was one long tour. For the Marine Corps a
tour is thirteen months and I only spent twenty months. So that is how much I spent,
A: What made you sign up for that second tour, could you have gone home?
C: Yes. I could have gone home, but some of what I am going to say may seem
contradictory. You get kind of drunk on power, you get kind of addicted to adrenaline. It
is not fun when you are losing, but it is really exciting when you are winning, and I am a
little ashamed to say that I found it exciting killing other people. But, I am telling you the
truth, but my values have changed some and I doubt you could change the feelings I had
when I was over there. And it was fun. It was sort of like when you are bowling, and you
throw the ball and you get a strike, and it feels good inside. When you get someone in
your cross hairs, and you squeeze that trigger and you see then fall down, you feel good.
It makes you feel real good. There is also a kind of camaraderie, which you cannot
understand. Police would understand, firemen would understand, [but] not to the extent
of another soldier. I shared a toothbrush with other Marines. In my high school class I
would have been made fun of for that. When you sleep I will cover you ass, when I sleep
you cover my ass. That is what is important. We want to stay alive. We love each other,
we protect each other, we help each other. I get mail and you don't get mail, [then] I will
share my girlfriend's letter with you, you get mail [and] I don't get mail then you share
your girlfriend's letter with me. We are very close and that kind of camaraderie, which I
think is very good for people to be warm with each other and to be caring with each
other. You do not have that in society. Our society is a dog-eat-dog, capitalist kind of
society, where amassing wealth is what it is all about. And getting to the top and it does
not matter who you have to step on to do it. So, there is this camaraderie, this addiction to
power, this addiction to adrenaline and then there is the psychological part.
What is a man? Well, I was taught growing up that a man does not leave his friends in a
fight, even if it means getting your ass kicked, you do not turn tail and run. So, when my
time was up to go home, all my buddies were still going to be there. I am deserting my
buddies is what I thought, I am deserting my buddies. Plus, I still got two more years to
go [and] I am going to end up coming back over here, but I am going to be with
somebody else. I want to be with my buddies. Plus, I get thirty days free leave. So I
signed up to stay. Then the second time I was wounded, I was really shook up about it. I
was shook up really bad and I was saying to myself yo are really fucking dumb, you
could be home. You are really fucking stupid. I though that I was going to die and I was
really scared. It was the only time in my whole life when I ever considered killing
myself. Most of the people around me were dead and I did not see anyone around me
VWV11: Camil, Page 12-
who was not dead or wounded. We were totally surrounded and overrun. I was out of
ammo. I was wounded and I was crawling to the people who were dead to get their
ammo. And I am thinking, I do not want to get captured and tortured. So, I will save one
bullet for me and when it is the last bullet I will use it on me. And then I was thinking,
that means I will really be dead. And that means it is over. I did not want to be dead, but I
did not want to be tortured. So I decided that I would be able to make them kill me. That
I would not be taken alive, that I would fight until they killed me. We had about
forty-seven men out of 200 that were killed or wounded. I did not like that experience. So
then they were going to send me home and I asked to stay again. And I asked to stay for
the same reasons that I just told you how this could be. I did not really want to stay, I was
scared shitless. But I did not have the courage to admit that I was scared shitless. I am a
Marine sergeant. This is what Marines do, they fight in a war. So I asked to stay and my
commanding officer said, you had enough, you are going home. I was so grateful that he
did that, that he could see I was past the point of staying, that I was used up. And I really
A: Once you got back to the states, what did you do?
C: Well, what happened was I reported back to Camp LeJeune, to India battery, third
battalion, Tenth Marines. I became a platoon sergeant because I was [a] senior NCO, for
headquarters platoon. My general job is to wake people up in the morning, to make sure
the barracks are cleaned, get them their chow, have them at morning formation, make
sure everybody is here, find people what they are supposed to do for the day and get them
off to do that stuff. The Marine Corps had schools and they kept sending me to schools.
So whenever a quota came in for a school, they would send me to a school. So I went to
nuclear, biological and chemical warfare school. That was at camp. Then I went to Little
Creek, Virginia to embarkation school. I taught regimental higher direction control
school. I went to survey school. I went to NCO school and we went on a med-cruise.
That meant all around the world were ships, American ships. And on those ships are
Marines and if the shit hits the fan it is the job of those Marines to be the first responders,
to get in there and get things under control. We went on a Med-cruise [Mediterranean].
Our unit had six ships. We go to other countries and we play war games and we have
liberty. I went to the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Malta, Sardinia, Germany and
played war games with different countries and spent liberty, got souvenirs, got laid and
got drunk. It was an enormous experience for me because they did not like Americans
anywhere we went. And I thought that everyone wanted to be like us. And that we were
the smartest and the best, and they just wanted our fucking money. They did not like us,
of course, we were very ethnocentric and arrogant. You get off the ship at two in the
afternoon and you have to be back on ship by two in the morning. So, you cannot go very
far. You have to wear your uniform and all the people there in the port town know you
are there to get drunk, and to fight, and get laid, and to buy souvenirs. They just want
your money and that is what we did basically. As a platoon sergeant, I was on shore
patrol so I got to stay out later and it was my job to break up fights, to arrest people, to
have that kind of authority.
VWV11: Camil, Page 13 -
The experience of being on a ship sucked really bad. We were on a ship called the LSD,
that is a flat bottom ship. We were in a storm and everybody was throwing up and
sloshing back and forth on the floor, and the smell was making me sicker. Well, I will tell
you, when we got back to Europe, I was so sick that I asked to go back to Vietnam, if I
could fly from here. I did not want to be on a ship anymore. That is how sick I was. And
they said if you want to go back to Vietnam, you have to extend your time in the Marine
Corps for another four years and there was no way that was going to happen, I was
getting out when my time was up. I was not going to stay. What I resented mostly was
doing, having to do stupid stuff, listening to people who were ignorant because they had
been in longer than me [and] it didn't make sense to me how things operated. I got a kilo
of pot in Barcelona. I got a kilo of hash in. My men, on my ship that I was on, it was
really a Navy ship, but we didn't get seasick anymore. We smoked dope and that was
illegal, but I didn't really give a shit. I smoked dope in Vietnam, that is where I first
started smoking dope. But I never smoked in the field. I also went on a Caribbean Cruise
and that was just basically to an island of Puerto Rico called Diegas, where we played
war games for about a month. The Marines climbed down the side of the ship. We
attacked the fucking island. We set up artillery. We fired at target on the island. Planes
fly over and they are dragging on long ropes drones and the guns on the ships are going
pa-pa-pa-pa-pa at the drones. It is just playing war. That is basically what you do, just
training for war.
And I'd say one of my more significant jobs I had was besides NCO, noncommissioned
officer of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, [which] meant I took people though
the gas chamber, taught people how to give themselves injections and that kind of stuff. I
also taught riot control school. I was a senior NCO, for the tenth marine regiment riot
control. And we were on standby all the time to go to demonstrations, because there were
demonstrators. And when you are in the service all the news you really get is letters from
your family and what you read in the Marine Corps newspaper, really the Navy Sea
Tiger. You don't really get any outside news, anything that is contrary to U.S. policy. So
I hated the anti-war people. I remember when I was in Vietnam, I read in the Sea Tiger
that there was an anti-war concert in San Francisco and that Joan Baez and her friends
were collecting blood and the blood was going to Canada and being sent to Vietnam, for
the Vietnamese, to North Vietnam. I read that and I was outraged. I said fuck, I could get
killed by some fucking commy with American blood in him. That really made me angry
and really hate those people.
When you are in the Marine Corps and are stateside, you are really thinking about going
home for the weekend and getting laid. Friday you get off and you have to be back by
Monday morning. But all the time we are getting put on standby and we can't go home
because some fucking asshole demonstrators are having a demonstration in Washington
and we're on standby. So not only were these people un-American, but they were fucking
with my weekends. So I didn't like them. The rules that you teach people are when we go
into a city we're not the judge, we're not the jury. Our job is to protect lives and property.
We are not authorized to kill people. We are only authorized to shoot to wound, in order
VWV11: Camil, Page 14-
to protect lives and property. And I thought shoot to wound huh, what if there is a
fucking sniper in a building? What am I supposed to do shoot him in the fucking ear, give
me a break. I am hardcore, two years of combat, what the fuck, what's this shoot to
wound shit? I am a head shooter. I shoot people in the head, that's where I shot people.
So we are on standby and I say look, when we got to Washington if one person throws a
rock or a bottle at us, I want everybody to empty one magazine into the crowd. A
magazine is twenty rounds. So, when you are telling a couple hundred men that what they
are going to do is aim their rifle at the demonstrators, and have each of them shoot twenty
rounds point blank at them. That's what I told them to do. My commanding officer found
out and I was removed from that duty. At the time, I meant it. Fuck these people, they are
un-American, they are communist sympathizers, they don't like our country, fuck them.
They're going to fuck with my weekend, we'll teach them.
A: What made you do a complete 180 by changing your support for the war to against it?
C: It was a number of things. Education was one of those factors. Basically, I didn't like
high school, but when I got out [of] the Marine Corps my parents weren't there to tell me
what to do, the Marine Corps wasn't there and all of a sudden I was in charge of myself. I
[thought] I'd be a cop. Shooting people is fun, so I thought I'd be a cop. I tried to be a
cop and I wasn't accepted. I wasn't accepted because in the lie detector test they asked
me have I ever murdered anyone and I said yes. And they said where? And I said in
Vietnam. And they said have you ever murdered anyone in the United States and I said
no. They said that's okay. Then they got to drugs and said have you ever used drugs? I
said yes. Where did you start using drugs? Vietnam. What kind of drugs? Marijuana.
That's okay. Have you smoked since you've been back? Yes. Sorry we can't hire you.
And I'm thinking all the destruction I took part in, and I'm bad because I smoke
marijuana, because it helps me get through it. I can't believe it. So, what am I going to do
to get money, I can go to college on the G.I. Bill. That's why I went to college. To get
some fucking money and figure out what I'm going to do.
Number one, I have direct knowledge of what Vietnam really is, and now I am reading
the newspaper and they aren't really saying the truth. And I listen to the radio and they
don't say the truth, and the TV, they don't say the truth. But I'm thinking the people in
charge, they have all been to college, they have access to secret information, you have to
trust your government. There must be a reason. You shouldn't question that. So I didn't
think about it. And then studying history I started learning things that blew me away.
Howard Zinn's book, The People's History, opened my eyes so much, seeing a different
side of history. When I learned that Ho Chi Minh was our ally in WWII. That we trained
the Vietminh. That we armed Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh [and] that they were our
allies against the Japanese. That we knew the importance of self-determination and
independence. They were somebody fighting against colonials, just like we had. And
somebody who was our ally. We promised, you help us save our American pilots that got
shot down by the Japanese, you can have your country back.
VWV11: Camil, Page 15-
And then us, after the war saying we changed our mind, fuck you. And we are going to
give you back to France because they are an important ally, and they were devastated in
WWII, and they need your resources to gain their strength. Since they don't even have
resources to fight you, we are going to pay for it. And we are going to arm them. To me,
this isn't what it was about. So I started my brain thinking, so all these things started
coming together in my brain. I graduated from Miami-Dade and I transferred up here to
the University of Florida. And let me say, before I graduated, they had anti-war
demonstrators there and they would wear black armbands and I would wear my Marine
Corps jacket. And I would bump into them and try to pick fights with them. I really hated
them. Then I transferred up here to the University of Florida and I read the Alligator that
Jane Fonda was coming to speak. I wanted to see what a movie star looked like. Me and
some friends smoked a joint and we went down to Graham Pond, and played Frisbee and
smoked another joint out in the open, it was no big deal back then. She came and spoke
and she struck a cord and basically she said that we are lucky to live in a democracy. And
a democracy cannot really function if the people are not concerned. And that the
government is lying about the war in Vietnam, they wouldn't have committed. War was
being carried out in the people's name and the people's money, and they weren't being
told the truth. And that is was the duty of every patriotic Vietnam veteran to make the
truth known to the public. Without truth, it is just [a] symbolic democracy, your pulling
the lever, but it doesn't mean anything. I believed that the public had the right to know
the truth. I also wanted recognition for my sacrifices. When I was growing up as a kid,
you go to war, you have medals and there are big parades, and everybody is thankful and
you're a hero. Well, that didn't happen to me. I got two Purple Hearts, I was wounded, I
killed lots of people [and] where was my thanks?
I agreed to participate in a forum called the Winter Soldier Investigation. They said they
had this forum going on in Detroit and they would like me to come. So they flew me to
Detroit. I testified at the Winter Investigation. I met people from the Vietnam Veterans
Against the War, which was an organization based in the northeast United States, and
after three days of testimony there was a meeting of all the people there and they said
let's make this a national organization. And let's work against the war, and we agreed to
do that. That was in January of 1971. I graduated from Miami-Dade in December of
1970. I moved up here in January. I head Jane Fonda. I go testify in January, January 31
and February 1 and 2 was the Winter Soldier. Then there is a meeting in February in New
York of all the people who are willing to work against the war. We drew up the
constitution, the bylaws and divided the country into twenty-eight parts. I had the
southeast United States and went to work, working against the war.
A: Going back, I remember when you came to my class, you talked about how the FBI tried
to kill you in 1970. Could you explain that?
C: Well, actually it really started in 1971. I start Vietnam Veterans Against the War. We
start demonstrations. We had the Winter Soldier hearing. And all of a sudden I'm in
trouble. In January of 1972 I was arrested for kidnapping, and kidnapping for ransom. I was
VWV11: Camil, Page 16-
put in jail, I had no bond and I was facing the death penalty. I spent ten days in jail and a
lawyer comes, Larry Turner. My mom had called a friend of hers who was a judge, who
called a friend of his who was a lawyer in Gainesville, who fixed me up with Larry
Turner. And he came and he represented me. As it turned out, on the day they said I had
done this, I was having dinner with a U.S. Senator, a senator from Alaska in St.
Petersburg. So I had a really good alibi. My bond got reduced. I got bonded out of jail.
After about 230 days we filed a motion in the state of Florida and after 180 days in a
felony trial in Florida, if they don't have a good reason, the charges are thrown out. So
the charges were thrown out. So I got arrested in January and 180 days would be August,
so probably in July or August they were thrown out. Then in February I got arrested for
sale and possession of marijuana. Then in June I got indicted by the Grand Jury. In a
six-month period I had three busts.
A: The third one was when you were a part of the Gainesville [Eight]?
C: Yes, the third one was the Gainesville Eight. Then the kidnapping charges were thrown
out. The jury found me not guilty of the drug charges. The jury found us not guilty on the
Gainesville Eight charges. A cab driver taking the prosecutor to the airport and the FBI
guy, after the trial heard the FBI guy and the prosecutor talking about we're going to get
Camil. Federal agents come into town and shoot me. I'm charged with sale and
possession of marijuana, and sale and possession of cocaine. I'm assaulting federal
agents [and] resisting arrest with violence. I survived the shooting. Not only did the jury
find me not guilty, but the federal jury recommended the agents be indicted for attempted
murder and nothing happened to them.
The years later, between 1985 and 1987, I get my freedom of information papers. And I
find papers calling for my immediate neutralization as a threat to national security, which
would have been very helpful back when all that stuff was happening. When you come
back from Vietnam, you have an attitude, a kind of chip on your shoulder, at least I did
and many of my friends did. When the authorities were fucking with me I'd say what are
you going to do, send me to Vietnam. I have already had the worst thing that could
happen. You can kiss my fucking ass. So the authorities didn't know how to deal with us.
They were used to intimidating people and they weren't able to intimidate us. And the
police were afraid of us because we stood up to them and fought back. It was a whole
new thing for them and this country. The government was really concerned of having
such a large group of combat experienced people, who were anti-government and willing
to use force.
A: Were you badly wounded when they shot you?
C: Well, I almost died and now I'm alive and fine. So, I don't know, I don't have any scars
or disability. Basically, I have a little hole, which I don't even know. [Scott show the
interviewer his bullet hole] See that mark there, that's where the bullet went in and right
here is where it came out. Right here is where they had to put tubes in to pump blood out
VWV11: Camil, Page 17-
of my lungs, so I wouldn't die from that. So that was kind of a traumatic experience,
although I had already been wounded twice before, I have the presence of mind, I mean
I'm a survivor. I want to survive. It pissed me off what happened. I was in the hospital for
two weeks, I was released from the hospital [and] I was home about a week and my lung
collapsed. I went back into the hospital for more time and then I got out and everything
was okay, although I lost partial use of one lung. That effected my stamina. My
flexibility is a little bit affected from scar tissue. Sometimes there is a little pain, but it
doesn't stop me from doing anything I want to do.
A: What really happened with the Gainesville Eight?
C: The reality was that under the constitution of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, any
kind of action that took place came under the control of the regional coordinator of that
region. So when the Democrats and Republicans decided to have their conventions in
Miami Beach, that automatically came in my region. The organization decided to make it
a national issue and have a national demonstration down there. First of all, I'm on the
board of the national organization and I'm a coordinator. And I'm also responsible for all
of the logistics. We would have meetings where regional coordinators would plan the
general scope of what we were doing and I'm in charge of making it all happen for
Florida, getting permits, getting places for people to stay along the way. Providing
logistical support. Gathering intelligence from the planners of the demonstration, from
the police and being prepared for whatever might happen. Basically you prepared for the
worst and whatever happens you are ready. You have contingency plans. Like the United
States has contingency plans on what to do if we are attacked by Mexico or Canada, but
that doesn't mean we are going to use those things, it doesn't mean it will happen, but
you are ready and you are prepared.
I knew from demonstrations that we had here locally, the heavy-handedness of the cops.
We knew that they infiltrated. We knew that they tried to fuck things up. We knew that
they beat people up. We knew that they planted drugs [and] all kinds of stuff like that. So
we knew that they weren't playing fair and we believed that we had superior authority
than they did because we believed that the highest authority in the country was the
people. And the president, the Supreme Court and the Congress are public servants. We
are their employers. They are the employees [and] we are the employers. It is our job to
tell them what to do. It is our job to make sure they do their job. It is not our job to kiss
their ass. We were prepared to exercise those duties and we felt that unlike yourself, you
are guaranteed all these rights under the constitution. How did you get those rights? You
inherited them. I fucking bled for them, so if they belong to anybody, they belong to me.
We felt very strongly about that.
And we were told that the government was going to shoot someone at the convention.
That they were going to blame it on the anti-war demonstrators. That they were going to
raise the five drawbridges that linked Miami Beach to the mainland, and that they were
going to wipe out the anti-war people. Se we said we can't allow that to happen. What
VWV11: Camil, Page 18-
are we going to do about it? Well, we don't have an army. We can't take them on. If we
go onto the beach with weapons that's going to justify their actions. So we have to figure
out something else. So, that was my job. So my plan called for taking those five
drawbridges by force, lowering the drawbridges and blowing the mechanisms so the
bridges could not be raised. In riot control, one of the things you learn is that you never
boxed in the people you are trying to control. You gave them an avenue of escape. If you
give them no avenue of escape, they are going to fight. What you are trying to do is move
them someplace where they can be better controlled and won't be harmed. You box them
in and they will be forced to fight. We had to open the box so part of our plans called for
taking the five bridges and blowing the mechanisms. So there were teams of people
assigned to each group.
The plans called for attacking all police stations, fire stations and federal buildings, in
Dade County and Broward County, Florida. And there were teams that were assigned to
those targets. Each team got four targets. If the instruction was given to move, they took
the ones they wanted, it was up to them. I did not know who the team members were. The
structure was I took people who I trusted and I made them team leaders. These people
were coordinators for different cities. Then it was their job to pick team leaders from
people in their area they trusted. Those team leaders job was to assemble a team. So that
team leader who had a three-man team, did not say who his team was to the team leader
above him. And that team didn't tell the team leader above him because he didn't know
and I didn't know. If one person got arrested on a team then he only knew who was on
his team and there was no way he could get everybody else. The structure was based on
the Algerian Revolution model and Israeli model. Those two models were on teams in a
double blind way. If you tortured me, I couldn't tell you who the people were and if they
tortured people they couldn't tell who the other teams were. There was no way it could
The purpose was to create diversionary actions, hit and run actions. Not to have a battle,
but to do what the Viet Cong did, strike and leave. That would cause those forces on
Miami Beach, who were violating the rights of the American citizens that were
demonstrating, it would force those forces to come off the beach and go protect their
property. Then we would be able to, without arms on the beach, evacuate the wounded
and allow the citizens their freedom. So that was our plan. Each step of aggression,
moving up the chain was guided by the rules of engagement of riot control, which I was
taught. Which was you use the minimum amount of force necessary to protect lives and
property. The minimum amount of force necessary. We are all military trained. We are
using military rules. We are using tactics that we are familiar with. We have a chain of
command. We never had a plan, which is what we were charged with, to go down and
disrupt the convention and cause violence. I'm walking down the street. I see you across
the street and you are being mugged and robbed. I can run across the street and as a
citizen make a citizen's arrest and I can help protect you. That's legal. But what if ten of
us are walking down the street and we see ten people robbing you, or beating you up or
raping you? We can go over there as a group and help you. That's protective
VWV11: Camil, Page 19-
self-defense. We adopted that policy. Well, what if that group is policemen? Well, you
have rights and if they are violating your rights we took an oath when we went into the
service to uphold the constitution of the United States. It doesn't matter to us whether it
is Communists trying to take away those rights or law enforcement. Those rights are to
be protected. We took an oath to uphold and protect those right and we will.
A: Especially with the importance of this past election still fresh in our mind, I was
wondering when you first met John Kerry and how close you two stayed?
C: Well I'd say that when I first met John Kerry, I didn't really know I met John Kerry. He
wasn't anybody special or more special than anybody else. He was taller than some. He
dressed better than most. He spoke differently than most. He was an officer, when most
of us were enlisted men. For me, when we formed the national Vietnam Veterans Against
the War, it was born out of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War that was in the
northeast United States. So they already had a structure and already had certain people
who had been doing this stuff I just joined. So when we voted on who our leaders were
going to be, I voted for people who were doing it and knew what the hell they were
doing. And John Kerry was one of those guys. He was nominated by people from the
northeast who has worked with him. I didn't know where everybody fit in, but all the
people who became national executive committee members, who were really the
administrators, John Kerry, Al Hubbard, Scott Moore and Mike Oliver were people who
had been involved against the war already.
Us new guys, I was a regional coordinator and I had no anti-war experience whatsoever. I
didn't really know who we were. But I took my job very seriously and the regional
coordinators made policy. The executive committee carried out that policy and did not
have a vote. So, when we would meet every three months to discuss what our politics and
what our policy was going to be, when we voted, John Kerry didn't have a vote. Why
should I lobby with him? He is just one of the guys who is supposed to do it, what we say
we want done. But, when we did the march on Washington, John's testimony before the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee was based on what he heard at the Winter Soldier
Investigation. Most of what he testified about was things that I said. And I had met with
naval intelligence and I gave them a sworn statement, everything I said. I had my maps
from Vietnam, I gave them map coordinates, I gave them everything. John believed my
testimony to be true and he relied on that when he testified before the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. He never said all Vietnam veterans do this. He said that I was at a
hearing in Detroit and this is what I heard the veterans say. This is some of what they
said. So what he said was factual and true. And as far as his depiction of what I said, I
stand by that.
I was supposed to be on the Dick Cavett show with him. It was supposed to be me and
John versus O'Neil and another guy. And then when we got there O'Neil just wanted to
go on by himself and the other guy wasn't there, I don't remember why it was just
O'Neil, but O'Neil said it would be unfair to have two against one. So I had to sit in the
VWV11: Camil, Page- 20-
back room and O'Neil kept saying, well John you testified about this, did you ever see
this, you testified about that, did you ever see that? And John said no, but the guy who
did is in the back room, bring him out, and they wouldn't bring me out because it was
unfair. So they weren't really trying to get to the truth, which is what it should have been
about. And when he talked about unfair, how many years have we had a one-sided story
from the government? So, we were providing the balance, from my point of view. I went
there with him, so we spent some time together before that and after that in New York.
Afterwards, we went to the home of one of the people from Peter, Paul and Mary, yeah
from Peter, Paul and Mary, a tall guy, Peter [Yarrow]. I don't remember his whole name,
but we went to his house because John knew him and we spent some time over there.
Richard Hudson, who lives here in Gainesville was with us. So although I saw him at the
Winter Soldier investigation, I didn't really know who he was. At the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee he was our president. He was at every meeting. We discussed
policy, he chimed in. [At] the march on Washington we had a disagreement. Basically,
we were ordered that we couldn't sleep on the mall. We had an injunction. It went to the
Supreme Court. On the third day we were in Washington, the Supreme Court ruled that
we couldn't sleep on the mall. And we took a vote and John basically said that in order to
maintain our credibility with the public, we had to abide by the law and if the Supreme
Court, the highest law in the land says we can't, so we have to abide by that.
My point of view was we are the people, we are the highest authority. It is our property,
the people's property. We are the boss of the Supreme Court. We pay their salary. We are
citizens. We have earned the right as veterans to come here. If we can sleep in the mud of
Vietnam, we can sleep here. We have the right to come to our capital and give grievances
to our government. And there was a vote. And the vote was something like 470-400 and
my side won. But, John Kerry did not sleep on the mall. He slept somewhere else. He
wasn't going to violate the law. And I slept on the lawn. So that gives you a kind of
example of the person that he was. He is really not a radical. They tried to pin him as a
radical, but John is not a radical.
Then there was an occasion when we were in Washington and a group of about seven of
us were selected to go to Senator [Philip] Hart's [D-Michigan] house to represent the
organization and meet with the senators. And we showed the Winter Soldier film there
and we lobbied the senators. Then I got into a disagreement with Senator [J. William]
Fulbright [D-Arkansas] and I wanted to know why he voted for the Gulf of Tonkin
Resolution. And he said the president asked us not to tie his hands. But I said the
constitution gives us three branches of government for checks and balances. And if you
do what the executive branch wants done, so their hands won't be tied then that gets rid
of that check and balance. It doesn't make any sense to me. I don't understand. And he
said well, you don't understand. And I said that's what I'm saying, make me understand.
And he just said you don't understand. That was the end of the conversation. He kind of
felt ambushed. And I kind of felt, hey these guys are running the country and they aren't
smarter than me [laughing]. This is ridiculous. This is a fucking senator. When we left
the house, John and I and two other guys walked down the walkway, walking past the
VWV11: Camil, Page 21 -
hedges down the sidewalk, and two of the guys stopped and pulled out this liquor that
they had stolen from the basement of Senator Hart's house. So John gets really pissed. He
says, what the fuck is wrong with you guys? We need them to stop this war. We are
working to stop this war and you are stealing from them, you just fucked our credibility.
Well, you guys are going to take that shit back and fucking apologize. And they said fuck
you. And we said we are not going to let you take the alcohol. And they left. John and I
picked up the case, went back to the house and knocked on the door. Mrs. Hart answered
and John said, I'm really embarrassed. He was really apologetic and humble. Mrs. Hart
said, honey there is so much booze down there, they aren't even going to know it is
missing. Take it to the boys on the mall. And John said absolutely not. And we left the
two things there. That made me like him because I thought that what he did was right.
And I agreed with that. So there were several kinds of occasions where I would stand by
him. But we would argue about stuff on other occasions and not agree with stuff. That's
basically our relationship.
I got a letter from him when Nivosia spoke, his book came out. And they were going to
have the opening for it and they wanted me to come to Washington for it, but I didn't do
that. Then I saw him during the campaign, here in Florida and we talked for a minute or
two. Then I was working on the campaign and then the shit hit the fan about the oral
history stuff and I was asked to drop the campaign. And I'm not a really good
compromiser. I'm an American citizen and I have a right to be involved with the
campaign in Washington. But, I'm still a citizen here and I work on the campaigns, so I
formed my own group. We were called All Veterans for Kerry and we were independent
of the Democratic Party, and independent of the Kerry campaign. Although, I wouldn't
do anything to hurt the campaign, when the Swift Boat veterans started their stuff I
back-channeled the campaign and said look, I got an affidavit that I gave to naval
intelligence, use it. These guys are lying their fucking asses off. I want to fight back and
they said no, we think that it will just be throwing fuel on the fire. We will ignore it, it
will go away. These people have no credibility. And those people just pounded away and
pounded away without a response and it killed me to not fight back. But, I felt that I was
going to be a team player. And that getting rid of Bush was more important than my pride
or me defending myself, and that I would abide by what they wanted. And a lot of
veterans from around the country called me up and said, you have go to get these fucking
guys and I said no, I have to stay out of this.
Then we lost the campaign and I was thinking, well maybe if we fought back we would
have made a difference. But then I thought, had I fought back and we still lost, I'd be
getting the blame. And my shoulders aren't strong enough to carry that kind of weight.
So, I'd make the same decision again. I wasn't happy with it, and I felt that we should
fight back. I was disappointed in Kerry. He is a liberal, not a radical. And that is what's
wrong with the government. They are liberals, they don't want to offend anybody. They
stand on both sides of the fence and the fence wears away their balls, and they have no
guts. It disturbs me a lot. Like when he said wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. I said
that's right. And then he said, but knowing everything I know now, if I still had to do that
VWV11: Camil, Page 22 -
vote over again, I would still vote for it. Well, what the fuck does that mean. That's really
speaking out of both sides of your fucking mouth. How is anybody supposed to think that
you have backbone? What the fuck does that mean? I don't even know what that fucking
means and I know you. It just pissed me off. The problem with the Democratic Party is
that their strategy is, we will try to be as close to Republicans as we can because that way
we will see what direction they will go, and that way we will get some of the undecided
vote and win. Well, that's not working. You have to invigorate your base. You have to
give them something to fight for. You can tell them why the other guys sucks, but that
doesn't mean that they will like you. You have to give them a reason to get off their ass
and work for you and vote for you, and Democrats don't do that.
A: Just a couple more questions I want to ask you. You touched on earlier the situation in
Iraq. How much does it upset you to see the same thing as Vietnam happening all over
again in Iraq?
C: It upsets me more than I can say. I'm a counselor for the G.I. rights hotline. I take a lot of
calls for these guys complaining and I try to help them. This weekend we have an event
coming up, it is alternatives to the military. We believe that people being enlisted into the
military have a right to informed consent. They have a right to know everything. Like
they don't know when they join, that once their contract is over they can be kept in
against their will. They don't tell you about stop laws. Those recruiters, they have a quota
and if they don't get that quota they are going to fucking Iraq. So basically, to stay out of
Iraq they have to get you to go in their place. They are not going to tell you about the
down side of the military. They are going to tell you about all the pay you get, saving up
money for college and all these benefits you are going to get. You will be able to see the
world and all this cool stuff. Be able to drive a tank [and] shoot a machine gun. They are
not going to tell you what it is like to see your buddy lying there, bleeding to death. They
are not going to tell you what it is like to come home without any legs or arms. They are
not going to tell you what it is like to listen to people screaming because they are burning
to death, because you just torched their fucking place. They are not going to tell you that
they changed the rules and not give you the things they promised you. People have a
right to know what they are getting themselves into. One of the ways of keeping our
country in line is not giving them the resources they need to commit the crimes that they
are committing. And some of those resources are children.
A: What kind of advice would you have for someone that just graduated high school, and
wanted to join the Army of Marines, and go fight in Iraq?
C: I'd want to know why. If there why was weapons of mass destruction or 9/11, then I
would explain to them how Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. I would try to make them
see the facts. If they talked about wanting to have a job, well there are other kinds of
jobs. I would really recommend you go to college or junior college first and get an
education first. That's really, really important. I might talk about who is really over there
fighting, it's the poor kids. Some of the calls that I get from these guys that are serving in
VWV11: Camil, Page- 23 -
Iraq. And they are sitting on a fucking Haliburton truck, guarding a Haliburton driver that
is making $75,000 dollars a year. Why is that? Why is he risking his fucking life for this
guy making all this money? Why is it that those guys went over there without the body
armor they needed? Why is it they went over there without the armored vehicles they
needed? Why is it that there was no fucking plan? Just like in Vietnam, no fucking plan.
The plan is we will kick ass and make them do what we want. That was the plan in
Vietnam and that was the plan here. And what is your life really worth? You can get
everything out of life that you really need without having to do that. And I am really not
against the military. The military really made me grow up. The military benefits put me
though college. But, you have a right to know the truth about it first, and the fact of the
matter is, it is the way that the politicians use the military. And they are using the military
illegally from my point of view.
I would express all that stuff to the person and if the person still wanted to go in, I would
be supportive of that person. Because I am not against the military. I am not a pacifist. I
just believe that you don't murder people because they don't agree with you. And to me
the definition of war is organized murder. And what this kid going in has to understand is
that once you go to war you are not going to be you anymore. The person who comes
back is going to be different and you are never going to be able to not have these ugly
pictures in your brain. You are going to be a different person and there are such a large
amount of guys that have psychological problems from war, Vietnam, Iraq. As a parent I
tell my kids, act like an adult. Solve your problems like an adult. Be civilized, it is
organized murder. And we are going to beat you into submission. We are going to kill
your husbands and your fathers and your sons, until you do what we say.
And I just think that war is wrong. And I think that there ought to be an international law
and an international court, which there is, but the U.S. is no part of it, just like the U.S. is
not part of Kyoto [Kyoto Agreement on Global Warming]. I feel that war should not be a
reasonable means of conflict resolution. I feel it should be a crime for international arms
dealing. That cause much more damage than the international drug trade. The chief
recourse, the chief export of the United States is weapons systems. That employs lots of
Americans. I think it is a crime that parents work in a factory, they produce weapons, we
sell those weapons to another fucking country and then what that does, it enables that
country to be oppressive against its people. And that country allows us to exploit its
workers and its resources. And if it gets a government that doesn't allow us to do that,
then we send out sons to that country to fight against those people, who have been armed
by their parents. I got a problem with that. I just think people need to look at the big
picture and if exporting arms is your major industry, then it is in your national security
advantage to have wars because what good are arms if they are not used up. If people
have arms they are not going to buy anymore. This is capitalism. We need that flow. We
need that growth. And what product gets used up faster than arms? You shoot a bullet
once, you have to replace it. You drop a bomb once you have to replace it. So that's just
great for capitalism, it is great for job growth, it is great industry. So it is in the national
security of the United States for the CIA to make sure there are places for us to sell our
VWV11: Camil, Page 24 -
arms. So we are complicit in this international murder that goes on. And I am against all
of that. And to me anybody who has seen war up close, wouldn't want to come home
with the memories that I have, and they wouldn't want their families to suffer what I
made the Vietnamese suffer. If I don't want it to happen to my family, I'm a hypocrite if I
want it to happen to your family. And where are these fucking moral values that [are]
supposedly in this country, [that] this election was won on. When I hear Christians
talking about an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth. Well, I am a Jew and that is the Old
Testament. You guys got your own fucking Bible. You have the New Testament and that
is about pacifism and peace. That is about turning the other cheek, and about honoring
the sick and the poor and the homeless. And it is about helping those people. What we are
doing ain't that.
A: With you time in Vietnam, have you suffered a lot of post traumatic stress?
C: Oh, for sure. I have bad nightmares. I have obtrusive thoughts. And I have worked on
them for a long time. And the talks that I give are really hard to give. But the only reason
I do it is because I think that is the only way people are going to learn, from direct
experience. Reading a book you aren't going to get it. When people see the pain in me
when I give my talks, I think that reaches something in them that they don't get out of a
book. And I feel that a lot of people have what is called survivor guilt. Why did I live and
other people die? And I feel that it is my job, I was allowed to live and it is my job [to]
make sure people understand what is going on in war. And that I owe that to the future.
To me, that is why I was allowed to live, to do this job.
A: Okay, just one final question. I was just wondering if there are any projects you are
working on or any future plans that you have?
C: Well, right now I have three candidates running for City Commission in Gainesville. I
have one candidate running for City Commission in Alachua and I just put a candidate in
office in Micanopy last month. So I am very involved in electoral politics. I am on the
executive committee of the Sierra Club. I am a very strong environmentalist. War causes
more environmental destruction than just about anything. But to me, all parents have in
common [that] they want their children to have it better than they had. And they want to
leave the world better off than they found it. We want life to continue. I don't think I
could find anybody, except maybe Christians, who want Armageddon to come so they
can go to heaven. They are looking forward to Armageddon. I am not. I want life to
continue. I think that in order for life to continue there has to be air for people to breath.
So protecting the air only makes sense. There has to be water to drink, to feed our
animals with and to raise our crops. And there has to be land to raise those animals and
crops. So we have to protect the land, and the air and the water if we want life to
continue. It is a no brainer for me.
The battles that we have to fight in the Sierra Club, as environmentalists, against the
people that are trying to destroy the fucking environment. All they care about it money
VWV11: Camil, Page- 25 -
and now it is incredible to me the shortsightedness of Americans. We are really bad,
we're really bad. I do a lot of work on the environment. It is very important to me. I am a
counselor for the G.I. Rights hotline. People that are in the military, you know I didn't
like when I was getting fucked over in the military, I would have wanted someone to call
and help me. Well, now I am going to fight back for people who are in the military now.
When I first became a counselor for the G.I. Rights hotline I told them I'll take this thing
and I'll do this shit, but I am not going to help people stay in the military. I am not going
to waste my time with that crap. People want to get out, I will help them. Well, I have
had only one case where someone wanted to get out. Everybody else wanted help and I
helped everyone of them as best as I could. To me, it is not really about the war, or the
military. It is about, this person is in a jam and they need help. And if I was in their shoes
I would want somebody to help me. And the government is fucking them. And they need
to know what their rights are. So I get to study and I know what their rights are, so I tell
them. I want to provide them with information. So I am very involved in that kind of
stuff. And all kinds of issues that are decided in electoral politics. To me, I don't really
like rules. But I think that people in charge are corrupt. But, if I am going to have to live
under those rules, let me try to put the people in charge, who are people who aren't
corrupt, and people who think like me. So I have an avenue of making change that is
non-violent. And I am willing to work at that avenue as long as its transparent. But, the
idea that a country like India with 600 million people, votes with electronic voting
machines and they have a paper trail. They are a third world nation. Here we are, we
can't have a paper trail? I go to Publix [and] I get a fucking piece of paper. I get
accountability. I can't have accountability in my elections? There is something really,
really bad about that. Why? So, there are lots of issues that I work on. The internet
provides a lot of power for communication. But the downside is that there is more
information than I can digest. So I feel behind all the time. I have to limit what issues I
am dealing with because there is so much crap going on everywhere, and so much
information buries me. And a lot of people get depressed about that. So I just focus on
what I am best at. And I am best in the environment, peace and justice, civil rights,
anti-war and electoral politics. And that's where I am at.
C: Scott, thank you very much. I appreciate you letting me interview you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]