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Us shuns vietnam war crimes { October 20 2003 }

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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 05:33 GMT 06:33 UK
US shuns Vietnam war claims

The US Defence Department says it will not reopen investigations into alleged Vietnam War atrocities, despite new claims.
According to an investigation by the Ohio-based Toledo Blade newspaper, the elite Tiger Force unit of the Army's 101st Airborne Division killed hundreds of unarmed villagers over seven months in 1967.

Soldiers told the newspaper they had severed ears from the dead, stringing them on shoelaces to wear around their necks, and had dropped grenades into bunkers where children and women were taking refuge.

But a Pentagon statement said the case was more than 30 years old and there was no new or compelling evidence to justify reopening it.

An earlier investigation had been closed in 1975, even though it had established that members of the unit had committed war crimes.

'Hundreds killed'

The Blade for eight months reviewed thousands of classified army documents, national archive records and radio logs and interviewed former members of the unit and relatives of those who died.

Based on interviews with former Tiger Force soldiers it estimated the unit killed hundreds of unarmed people.

The way to live is to kill because you don't have to worry about anybody who's dead
William Doyle
In one incident, two partially blind men found wandering in a valley were shot dead, records show.

Platoon members had opened fire on 10 elderly farmers, killing four, on approaching a rice paddy.

"We didn't expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live. The way to live is to kill because you don't have to worry about anybody who's dead," William Doyle, a former Tiger Force sergeant now living in Missouri, told the newspaper.

Tiger Force, a unit of 45 volunteers, was created to spy on North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam's central highlands.

When the army investigation of the unit's alleged atrocities took place only three members were on active duty, said US army spokesman Joe Burlas.

The only way to prosecute the soldiers was under court-martial procedures, which apply only to active military members, he said.

Commanders, acting on the advice of military attorneys, determined there was not enough evidence for successful prosecution.

Legal experts say former platoon members could still be prosecuted or sanctioned by the army but that this is unlikely because of the time that has elapsed.

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