Thurman P. Woodfork

DEHUMANIZING THE ENEMY

I was explaining to some friends how I didn’t get the “Dehumanizing the Enemy” indoctrination before I went to Nam when I remembered an incident that happened in Tay Ninh City when I wandered away from my friends. It was late in the afternoon and I was in a small jewelry shop looking around when these two little Vietnamese teenagers came in. They scowled at me and one of them slapped the butt of my loaded rifle as he passed behind me. The rifle was slung over my shoulder, and I probably shouldn’t have let them walk behind me, but they were so little – I figure I easily outweighed both of them together with pounds to spare – and so young looking that I didn’t really feel any danger.

At any rate, with a few glowers over their shoulders, they continued on their way through the shop and disappeared through a door at the back. The proprietor, who had been very affable up until then, suddenly became agitated and nervous and urged me to leave, saying, “You go now,” because he had to close up. First time I ever saw a Vietnamese back away from a potential sale. I left and he closed and locked the door almost before I got outside, so I took my dumb ass back to the truck where the others were waiting.

When I related what had just happened to me, I was told I was lucky that all those two innocent looking “kids” had done was slap my M-16. They could just as easily have slipped a knife into one of my kidneys when they walked behind my unsuspecting, unprotected back, and made off with the weapons and ammo that I carried. God does indeed have a soft spot for babies and fools.

Chalk it up to the drawbacks of a sparse two weeks of training, with no “dehumanizing” of the enemy. All the Vietnamese folks I had seen during daylight hours, up until then, had always been smiling and friendly. It finally occurred to me that some of them were not all that happy about the fact that big, oversized Nimnulls like me were in their country and that they had probably been through some “Dehumanizing the Enemy” indoctrinations of their own.