Full letter of ex-Army Captain Rowan Malphurs on US bombing of Cambodian hospitals

US Senate, Armed Services Committee, Bombing in Cambodia, Hearings, 93rd Cong., 1st sess., July and August 1973, 319:

MIAMI, Fla., August 6, 1973.

SIR: I am writing this letter because I feel that the truth should be known about the U.S. involvement in Cambodia in 69-70. I further feel that the legislative body of our government should be fully cognizant of what the military is doing. And I particularly feel that U.S. Senators should be aware of all military secrets. Therefore I have certain information that I would like to communicate to the Armed Services Com.

I was the Team Chief, Special Projects Team, Imagery Interpretation Branch of the Combined Intelligence Center Vietnam. In this capacity I worked on what was known as the French Leave Area of Cambodia. I planned photo reconnaissance reports on the results. Certain areas of this area became restricted and only certain individuals became briefed on [Operation] MENU. MENU was further broken down into areas called Supper, Dinner, etc.

It is this program, MENU, that I will address myself to.

My team furnished information to [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] 32 Targets for the bombing of MENU.

J2 Targets planned the bombing from information received from the Special Projects Team. The Air Force namely 12th RITTS photographed the areas and then a special team of photo interpreters comprised of Army and Air Force personnel read out the results. I observed the reading out of this photography then I hand-carried the resulting reports to my boss, Major Terry Gladfelter, U.S. Army and to the U.S. Director of [Combined Intelligence Center, Vietnam], Col. Ed Dizalio, U.S. Marines.

I saw on several occasions where possible hospitals had been bombed. On one occasion I was told by the expert photographers that included Sergeant E-7 Bill Dankam, U.S. Army, that a particular bunker complex was in fact a hospital. On another occasion I observed a Red Cross on a building that was partially destroyed by bombs.

Special film was used for bomb damage assessment. The resulting photography was called colored little lookers.

As far as personal reactions to the bombing go I found that all individuals concerned felt it was a good thing. After all the Communists were infiltrating through Cambodia accomplishing something worthwhile. The fact that it might be illegal never occurred to us.

As far as the reactions to the hospitals being bombed the prevailing attitude seemed to be that it was a good thing since, after all, the enemy might be trying to fool us. Anyway we generally felt that Brother Charles (short for North Vietnamese  Soldier) deserved anything he got. I can recall that on one assessment one individual was particularly happy that in fact we did bomb a hospital.

About my feelings toward this whole thing I must say that I feel that we had no business being involved in Southeast Asia. I think it is utterly tragic that 45,000 Americans lost their lives there. I think we were tricked and cajoled into becoming more involved there. And I think the South Vietnamese for a long time relied upon us to fight their war. I think the war was essentially a Civil War. I just wish I knew what to say for my fallen comrades—the injustice of it all. How does one simple soldier tell the world of his profound sorrow at what happened? I cannot.

Very respectfully,
ROWAN D. MALPHURS
Captain, U.S. Army, Retired.

[A hat tip to Greg Grandin at The Nation for pointing out the existence of this letter]

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