“I Never Wanted to Hurt Any Vietnamese”: Former Combat Medic Recalls Antiwar Resistance Within Army

Democracy Now has the article “I Never Wanted to Hurt Any Vietnamese”: Former Combat Medic Recalls Antiwar Resistance Within Army

Wayne Smith served as a combat medic in Vietnam. He joined the peace movement after he returned home. He spoke recently at the recent “Vietnam: The Power of Protest” conference in Washington, D.C.

Here is the video for which the article provides the transcript.

What drew my attention to this video was the quote:

It was also interesting for me, as a medic, who joined—and I never wanted to kill anyone, never wanted to hurt any Vietnamese. I resisted all of the attempts by the military sergeants and trainers to dehumanize the Vietnamese. They trained us to call them “gooks” and other horrible names. Obviously, I knew immediately that, had it been a war in Africa, we’d be calling them “niggers.” So it was—we resisted, and I resisted.

I experienced that Army training in 1967. I noticed and resisted the effort to dehumanize the enemy. Even an Army Chaplain had been enlisted in one of the presentations in our training of the dehumanization. I was “lucky” enough to be a little older than the average recruit, and to have already graduated from college. I was in a very strange group of trainees, many of whom were in a similar stage of life and experience as I was. I even remember one of my fellow trainees who had been in the Peace Corps. It was he who specifically raised objections to that Chaplain trying to dehumanize the people in Vietnam.

I understood why the Army needed to dehumanize the enemy. How else were they going to get normally civilized people to go out and kill fellow human beings? However, just because I could understand the reason for what they said in the “training”, I could never shake the knowledge that it wasn’t true and it wasn’t morally right.

I was also “lucky” enough to never be sent out of the country during my two years in the Army. I was never put to the ultimate test of trying to resolve the conflict between trying to survive and trying to preserve my moral beliefs.

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