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Mr. Dergalis: 1960's
Mr. Dergalis describes a Vietnamese man he met. Mr. Dergalis describes how he feels about war.

George Dergalis is an amazing man with an equally amazing life story. Mr. Dergalis was born and raised in Greece in the mid 20th century. He was just 16 when in 1940, he lied about his age and joined the fight in Greece during World War II. His squadron fought hard and when the Germans invaded in 1941, Mr. Dergalis’s group had been split off from communications with the army and continued fighting for three months after Greece’s surrender. He was put into a P.O.W. camp but escaped to America. He went into battle later in the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

Mr. Dergalis is an artist and during Vietnam, functioned as a sketch artist and photographer to capture the complexities, horrors, and tragedies of the war. He made it through the war without having to fight but came away with a set of memories and experiences with which few of us will ever be able to compare.

Dergalis Gallery

Editor: We’ll be interviewing George Dergalis, so lets begin
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about where you were born and where you grew up?

George: I was born in Greece, raised there. And then suddenly, the Second World War came in, and first my father was drafted, then my brother, and then I got into it by basically lying about my age.

Q: How old were you at the time?

Mr. Dergalis: I was 16, and I ended up in an Albanian front, which was where the Greeks fought the Italians because the war was declared by the Italians against Greece. The Germans did not participate yet, but they were losing with us. Even though we were poorly armed, we had no airplanes, no tanks, from the 1800-1900 weapons; and mostly it was will power and the terrain. The terrain was very rough, rocky. We had donkeys and mules for transportation. There were no radios and such, at least we didn’t have any. The English had, but we didn’t. We didn’t have any other help from any nations; and so our main thing was, sneak on the base of the Italians, and steal their food, and steal their weapons. One way we took the tanks was to makes holes. And run where they were gonna be, the battle. Get in there and sit there and put a blanket on the wheels. They get caught in the blanket and they get stuck. They can’t go any further. And we get out, jump on the back, knock on the thing. The guy opens up, you throw a grenade and that’s it.


Q: Did you participate in many of these?

Mr. Dergalis: Ya I did it, just like everybody else, we were trained to do this. The other thing, the Italians, they had a ritual. After 6 o’clock, there were no battles. There was singing, and you can smell the good pasta. But we didn’t have. So we sneaked there while they were drinking wine and celebrating and try to get some goodies.

Q: Did you ever get caught?

Mr. Dergalis: No we didn’t. Part of it was, the Italians really didn’t want to have a fight. They were more for singing; they loved singing. They were sloppily dressed in many ways. They were not willing; they were hanging around the little cities trying to get a girl, so we were really progressing. We got pretty close to half of Albania, and that’s quite a bit for a small nation of 6.5 million against a nation of 35 million. And basically, they were well armed; they had airplanes, and the mountains. At a certain point the Germans seemed like they were fed up because they were asking them to get to the Mediterranean so they could get in, being their allies, and they were losing it so they came for help; and during that help, they parachuted down and got it. Surprise! It was very easy because they were well armed and they had the surprise factor. So, we ended up in a prison camp. Part of it strangely enough is that when the Germans attacked the rest of Italy they were actually a capitalization of the Greek army. They gave up and they released everyone to go home except us. Our group, which was pretty close to maybe 1,000 or 2,000 people at that time; and the reason primarily was because we didn’t know when these agreements had occurred, and we were still fighting, so they considered us as partisans, and that was deadly for us. So, we ended up in a prison camp, labor camp, etc. Anyhow, during 6 months before the war, I escaped and I said what? So my big question was, the reason I went to Vietnam was I was asked to volunteer. Ok, I was a civilian, I was teaching painting and my curiosity was why I constantly end up in war when really I did not want to be. The other thing was the curiosity; why are we fighting there? Why all these protests are going on for the country? That was another curiosity, which I think everybody has. America when they fought the 2nd World War, they did it Gung Ho. Went there and got it. Every one of them volunteered to go. And here their was a big battle, and protests against the war, so that curiosity made me want to go. And I was asked as an artist to go. The reason why they used artists was it started somewhere in the 1800's, the Civil War. They didn’t have reporters as organized, so they have artists who drew drawings of the combat. And in that age it was much easier because the way they fought the war was just stupid! They lined up and they walked into each other to see how many they got down. When you sit down and think about it, it’s so ridiculous; it’s so stupid. No one thought differently and they did it by the hundreds; they were just falling down getting killed. It didn’t make any sense. So, it was easy for an artist to sit in the corner and just draw and then, go after the battle and draw the dead ones. I mean, in the modern war it’s a different story. Because the combat is a really very broadened area, shells don’t land where you tell them to land, and everybody hides different places and etc. So you really have to find a way how you gonna do that. And the big question at first when you arrive there, its so different the country all together to begin with. So my curiosity first off when I arrived they told us to dress in a suit and it was 100 degrees there. But anyhow, the suit was new, and it looked out of place anywhere. And the second, I felt like a giant; and I’m short basically, I’m not that short, but I’m not a shorty-short. I feel like a giant. Little people. They were so little and small. It was amazing how I understood for the first time in my life how a tall person feels walking around. I really didn’t know. You always feel like it would be very comfortable. As a matter of a fact I always wanted to be tall, I think we all do. Because you think it’s an advantage, actually it isn’t, especially in war. You hide faster, you get lost faster, you can run faster, you’re less visible, so you really are an advantage when you are short. Anyhow, that was the first thing. The second is you felt from the moment you landed there that someone was always watching you, and they were basically. You don’t realize until you stay long enough there, you find out that; first of all I had a beard. Ok, now American soldiers, they were really crew cut, clean-shaven and in uniform. I was a civilian so they were immediately puzzled; and the second is that they didn’t realize that women were manipulators using the G.I.’s and everybody to find information. SO they’re so sweet, very attractive, very sexy; and they immediately invite you for what the call Saigon-tea, which each one of you can interpret it as you want to. So these were the constants but all along was a way to find from you why you are there, what you are going to be doing, where you going, how long you’re gonna be. Its subtle, but its constant and that’s how they collected information which would put bombs (boobie traps), to know where trucks or some transport are gonna move; and no one has experienced that before in the world, because when you occupied an area usually everyone is happy; happy to greet you in Second World War, or even Philippines or any place now is different; and everybody is so friendly but at the same time they observe you. A lot of GI’s that go out in town to the bars that don’t know. They just go there for the girls and the drinks, and their tons of them. And they’re all willing; that’s the other thing. And there’s so many willing you say, how come? So anyhow, that was another aspect. The other aspect is the kind of war you expect it to be, it isn’t. It is here and there and there and there and there, but it isn’t a frontline. So that’s a big difference from second world war where you knew that was the front line, and you tried to break in or if they occupied a hill you know for strategy you had to take over and go somewhere. It is different; here you have a base in one area, and then an area basically that is neutral that is their territory; the communist’s territory. So, you fly over from area to area and the roads that were available were built by Americans; they were continuously booby trapped with bombs and mines, so you’re best bet was to fly over, and that’s what we did. We had these bases where we flew from place to place and a lot of little towns were avoided, and that’s where these guys which were the peasants which were well trained came out and began to pick up the fight; kill a few and disappear. In a way very similar to what’s happening in Iraq right now but in a very different way, little more modern, but very very similar in that respect. So that’s one of the reasons why I went and the second is the kind of drawings that I chose to do. Once you're in a war, you realized that beyond the soldier there are victims, the innocent people. Because there are those who don’t wanna be part of any communist democracy, republican, socialist, they don’t care they don’t even know any of that. They wanna make a living, they wanna have their kids, they have a few goodies that they make in there lives and that’s about it, there’s nothing else. So if you wanna look at the victims in a way and say who are the suffering? Kids many times walk by in the streets and here’s a GI, they throw a bomb for the GI but kill another dozen people at the same time. You kinda feel sympathy for every one of them and say, "what a pity people cant live in peace," and in a way they are manipulating by some forces beyond their control. Because you don’t know really somehow how you get into it because once the government is threatened you wanna help it out you wanna go there and do something about it. So a lot of my drawing I did were really based on, for example this is a Vietnamese Nurse, look at the eyes, and can you trust that to be a nurse? And we hired these people to take care of our people. So you have to look at the character of these people. Do we know them, you see part of it is we are familiar to our own kind of people because that’s where we are brought in, but we don’t know oriental people so well. They have a mask and they disguise it so beautifully. You really don’t know what’s going on in there except in their eyes.

Q: What are these two pictures.

Mr. Dergalis: Ok, these were after a battle. These were what they consumed. Bullets, weapons, barbed wire that basically, these were sacks of sand. Every bridge were like that. They barbed wire everywhere in front of a hut, because, not only they fear the communist but they fear anyone breaking in. So, basically you find that everywhere, but also are little bridges. Not a big bridge, not even 10 feet, 20 feet long. Water buffalo to drive carts, lots of traffic, so you need to guard these areas which was a bridge once upon a time. They place some planks or metal to repair, then it gets blown up; stops all the traffic. And then of course when they stop traffic, they come up and attack. And, they make tunnels; I’ll show you some pictures. And the tunnels are right underneath you, and the cover them up with leaves, and they go for miles; they have hospitals and such. They are little people you gotta remember. You could enter, yet there are miles. You have to be a little thinner. You could not stand up. For us to stand in that position, you couldn’t do it for more than an hour, that would kill you already. You couldn’t stand up after that. So, they had to stand up and crawl in; and they did. So these were basically after the battle, these are the canned goods, the berries, everything they had. We had some little small units in front of villages that we wanted protected. They had a little radio, they had a hole, had a cover from the rain, they had a little opening so they could watch. They had a little refrigeration. That is barbed wire all over the place, and tin cans hanging, so if everybody tries to cut in they will hear the sound of the tin. And then they will get alerted and the spotlights that they had. And these would have maybe 6 or 8 men; the rest of the troops miles away. So these guys are pretty nervous up there They drink or eventually they start drugs; that made it tough, but they sneaked them there all the time so they really had to defend themselves. And of course they radio on for help and the helicopter can get there faster. But at night many times even the guys in helicopters could not find the direction. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you a little story where I ended up where they took me to the wrong pace where they took me to a place that was occupied by the communist already. Dropped us there and took off, so we had to look for survival. They do these things because the pilots are tired and overworked; they are young man like your age; they are not even officers yet; they’re just in the service they learn how to fix the things, they sweep most of the equipment out of it so its really raw material and the fly the damn thing. They know how to prepare, and they take off. Anyway, this one was a downed helicopter. Another thing when I arrived, I was stunned by the fact that when I arrived their was half a dozen airplanes that were broken up and burned. Part of it probably normal crashes. But that’s the impression you get you say “Uh- oh!” Now this is a little hut that they live in; its all grass and bamboo, and sticks; thats it. Usually they have a little piece of pond because of the rains, and they raise little fish in there, but also they have little stilts that is the bathroom. They walk on a little bridge, sit there and drop it; and kids take a bath in that water; and another thing, the boys have earring because they are rare. They’re born more girls in there than boys, soo in order to keep the evil away, they put earrings and dress them up like girls. Keep the hair long so the evil will not know. So really again, why there are more girls born. I don’t know really, but parents want to get rid of them. There are too many. They try to marry them, they get them to these bars, and of course they manipulate them and use them. Then, what we have is another drawing and it shows the girls and a little bit of everything. And now there are GI basically, you gotta remember also that they were the South Vietnamese army that were our allies. And they had these ship called Hope, and I’m going their cause I twisted my leg and had continuous pain in my knee and they could do basically nothing except gave me some pain pills for it and after two or three days it went away; but I went there and while I was there waiting for the x-rays I went around and tons of wounded soldiers both Vietnamese and ours on that ship called Hope. The red cross was on it, and it was parked there and they were continuously moving people in and out, in and out, and once they were very ill they flew them off to a different ship on the coast.

Q: Were you with a continuous unit the whole time?

Mr. Dergalis: No as a matter of fact here is a little map. It will give a better idea on what was there.

Q: Where was this from? Is this given to you by the army?

Mr. Dergalis: Yeah, by our government, yeah. They had cannons set up and every five minutes they were shooting on and on all night, day and night in many locations so that they would not come there. In the meantime of course, periodically we missed a few civilians and there are the stories you hear that I said. Because when the unit attacks that day, we were going to pay $75 for a cow they killed and $50 for the man, so the cow had a bigger price than the man. So we went there and that’s when I had a drawing and a Vietcong came up and grabbed a pipe out of my mouth. I said to myself that’s it cause he had a grenade in his hand. I thought uh oh. I continued to draw and he asked me to draw him, so I drew him, gave him the drawing, and then he left; so I was lucky, and my group that I was with told me not to go there, but I did not listen. There were many many things I feared.

Q: Did you take all these photos?

Mr. Dergalis: Ahh...some are taken; some were given to me by information officers. I could go anywhere I wanted, but I was attached to an information officer. Every unit has an information officer. And they usually dispatch a group to escort me to protect me; usually a captain or lieutenant with two or three soldiers and a radio on and some grenades to call the helicopters, and that was about the way I moved. And my decision would be when I felt tired there or there was nothing to do sometimes except you see soldiers sitting in barracks, drinking and sleeping. Here are some booby traps.

Q: Where would they put that?

Mr. Dergalis: They’d put it in the ground and make a hole. Just enough for your foot to go in, and of course its two feet deep so you couldn’t come up, and sometimes they would use bamboo sticks on the big holes; more like a hole for the whole body. They put the bamboo then leaves.

Q: Did you ever see anybody fall in one of those?

Mr. Dergalis: I’ve seen people fall in. They are big, very big. Some of these were given to me. This is another booby trap with the wires, so when you sneak in it is tighter, and then you try to pull out and when you release it goes right into you. Very sharp. Now this is how they treated some of their prisoners.

Q: Did you carry a firearm while you were over?

Mr. Dergalis: Yes. According to the area I went in the officer in charge their gave it to me; either a rifle or a pistol.

Q: Did you ever have to use it?

Mr. Dergalis: Not really. They had canals like that; so many, they were constant traffic, and what they did because they started expecting them, they put underneath the boat, a rope or a net, all the arms. And so they could go on, they had a little motor; a little stick with a motor; the same one that we have here. That’s the kind of traffic that was constantly going through the rivers and the canals, and you cannot check them all. It’s impossible.

Q: How wide were the rivers usually?

Mr. Dergalis: Some times they are only 10 feet wide; they are very narrow, more like in Florida. Part of it because they depend on the transport and all the vegetation. It is easier than during the rains they get. Some of these here were Vietcong originally, and then after they were given, they came back to us basically asking for freedom.

Q: Did you encounter any Vietnamese civilians?

Mr. Dergalis: Civilians? Oh yeah.

Q: What were they like?

Mr. Dergalis: Very nice. I met an architect there. I met a guy that studied at Harvard. He was a city planner so he had no job. He visited me and showed me areas I was interested to see. They were just like anyone else. They have restaurants and businesses, but a lot of it were prospering because the GI’s were coming into the city with money and it was very cheap; most of it was drinking and girls. You know, to do whatever you do with girls was 2 or 3 dollars, and every GI had more than 2 or 3 dollars; and drinking was very cheap, so there was plenty of that. And of course that corrupts also, very easily.

Q: You mentioned while they were on the tour there was a lot of drinking and drug use, was that ever a problem?

Mr. Dergalis: I think it became a problem with a lot of people because primarily there was confusion with a lot of people. It is hard to win a war when people at home are against you. I had two or three interviews with generals or other higher-ranking people and they said that we should pour concrete over the whole damn place because the mud. I think mostly for that. But then you had others who said that "we shouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t be fighting, we should leave, we shouldn’t invest money in it." So, you had a different opinion, but these were people in the service, so you felt it wasn’t convincing why we were there, and I felt that we were very restricted not to go full force and go over the parallel instead of staying in the south on the defensive, and go more on the offensive; especially the Marines. The general of the marines wanted a war but they wouldn’t let him; they didn’t want it because they felt the Russians and Chinese would get involved and it would be a problem like we had in Korea, but that uncertainty that everybody felt at home and the press was basically reporting more the disasters than the good stuff like they do know. There were a lot of good things happening there, they were building villages, they were more protective, the south had a good amount of armed forces that were very dedicated, trained by us. But we had a problem and that was that we didn’t believe in it. And the other thing sometimes the co-ordination. I felt personally that we were not prepared to fight that kind of war. We were not knowledgeable that we didn’t need the heavy tanks, troop carriers, bombing, any of that; that we really needed to have a different system. We should have had small groups of people that spoke the lingo of the local people because it’s very hard to come to a village and try to explain with your hands what you’re doing there and what you want. And, the few translators you had were mostly the Vietnamese who were unable to give us all the information we would have if we had our own people to train; and to go there with small groups and disperse ourselves just like the Vietcong did and get them on their own territory instead of waiting till the came up to move around and get them just like in Iraq now. I feel it is the same way; instead of moving with our unit and getting picked like flies. It’s as obvious as it could be (the military trucks). They color them, they star them in the same way as the uniform to have them basically go on patrol dressed like an Arab, they come now dressed like women. If we went there like Arabs at night with guns and went on patrol in their locations that way you get to know where they are where the come out from and get them on their territory you get more of them much more quickly. When you wait till they come out they come out in areas where you don’t expect them; it’s a different kind of war. Partisans had it good because nobody knew where they were gonna go, and the would sneak. Wait. Wait for patrols they knew they had girls working in offices or other people who were getting information for them. They just wait for them. One or two guys will do it. We should only hire our own people and not the locals no matter how much they told us they were for your government.

Q: So while you were there and taking all this in and talking to the GI’s and generals, what was your opinion on whether the war was a good idea or not?

Mr. Dergalis: Well I believe basically altogether war is wrong, and I’ll tell you why. Because truly if you sit down and think, in the end nobody gains. Now look at Europe. Greece, did not change, Italy, did not change, Germany, didn’t change, France is the same, Spain is the same. Nothing changed. They rebuild all the cities spend millions of it, billions actually, kill several million people, so I think it’s good to diminish the population so that may be the reason why they fight wars. But what’s the gain? In the olden days when you look at the crusades, there were gains. You know they wanted to take a castle, or a farm, they wanted to gain a city. What’s the gain today? Nothing except the influence. Is it worth it to lose X amount of dollars? I don’t fight anybody, I wanna work together and build something. I want the same ting everybody wants. Healthy family, somebody to work with. Not really dirt rich, I don’t want it, some do. You wanna be rich, work your tail off, don’t steal, you deserve it. But you know you look at it from that point of view, why not get all the people to work and peace. It’s a matter of as soon as your put tow people together of any kind, you’ll have a war, and if you put them one against the other with the arms, one’s gonna say, well maybe he’s gonna shoot me first, so I better shoot him now. Before you know it their doing it. Its one of the damn terrible parts of human life. For centuries and centuries we keep repeating the same stuff. You cannot at the same time have peace with one country either. Cause if you do, the others gonna get you. So here is where the problem is, can you sell the idea for everybody everywhere that you don’t want the war and they don’t. Then you have the fanatics, and the religious maniacs. That’s why I think religion should be kept private. Whatever they wanna believe they have a right to believe. If they are stupid enough to believe stupid things that’s okay as long as you don’t sell it to me or any body else. It’s a private world, sexually, however they wanna do it, wherever they wanna do it. It’s their problem, who wants to know? Leave them be as long as they don’t cause a problem. If they cause a problem, then get 'em, but that’s where I feel personally that after seeing the horrors of it, the pain of it, and also the losses of my family for three generations. Everything my relatives built, they lost because of war. But for what in the end? I didn’t want a part of it, I just came here and I ended up being drafted. I went because I felt this country deserves to be free and not happen what happened to the rest of the world because of Europe. Every other 20 years there is a war. That’s why I am for the fact that they are unifying now; maybe that will stop them from killing each other. Then there is the threat of Russia.

Q: Did you believe in the communist danger?

Mr. Dergalis: Ya you know, that I probably believe in more than you people because my father originated in Russia. He was an army officer in the Russia white Czar army. That’s how he ended up in Greece. He lost everything and went to Greece because they lost the war. He’s stuck in his head to hate communism so much so that every time I see a red star I don’t want to look at it because I don’t want to feel anger. Same with the hammer and cycle, when I see that OHH. It creates horrors in my thought because of all that I’ve read and because of what my father tells me. What he experienced in his family twenty something brothers and 16 were executed. After that you kinda say to yourself, I don’t think these are good people. When you lose that much...I don’t know. I think many people own something and they are not willing to lose it as much as people who have nothing. They always say, nothing to lose, so maybe by giving them capitalism, it will make a difference. But they have to be careful themselves who the people are that they elect because certain countries are prone to dictators, and it’s very easy to produce them. It’s very easy.

Q: Do you think the U.S. made a difference in Vietnam?

Mr. Dergalis: I think it made a difference in the sense now that we went back there promoting more democracy without saying it, without trying to sell it by being commercialize by giving them goodies. Then, we were there that’s what they wanted really, but then the North wanted to get the peace together because that’s another mistake that the United Nations did. They splitting countries. When you split them, sooner or later you want to unify.

Q: Did you see the Vietnamese Vietcong and the Vietnamese rebels as communists or as rebels that were trying to kick out an occupying force?

Mr. Dergalis: I think we’re very hard to know for two reasons, primarily because their symbol is red again, which is blood in many ways. That’s what their flag was. They didn’t use the national flag till now, so it’s really very hard to know, but the initial idea of the Mao who was the Chinese leader at that time and the Vietnamese leader, it was very similar. They were dominators in that respect; in their ideology. And I think that is where the problem is; when you try to force by force someone to think and believe something, you really are not allowing to let a person act by choice; that’s a problem. So, I think from that point of view it is forced on people, and it was more like that and I think it is very young people your age, it is very simple and easy to make people go to fight when you have very little at home. You give them a weapon, you give them food and shelter, you give them a girl and drinks every so often, and you say to them lets unify our country, our country should be prosperous, our country should be proud. All these wonderful words we use to get the sympathy. No one says, "Hey you guys I want you to go kill yourself." Have you heard a general say that? You want glory, you be a hero. See, if you do that it’s very easy to convince people; and then you say look if you really distinguish yourself and kill so many Americans, you get a medal, and of course, among themselves they respect the guy with a medal. It’s a symbol. It’s worth maybe $5 to buy a medal, but, the fact that it is given to you it means something because they appreciate what you did; and among your own colleagues they value you as a spectral because you distinguish yourself, and that makes you want do that. It’s similar to a dog: You give him a cookie, tell him to do certain things he’ll do it and expect a cookie. If you don’t he wont do it next time, but if he does get one, he’ll keep doing it; and then ask for a harder task. And he will do it sooner or later. We learn that way all of is in a way. Society is that way. If you look, sales; there’s a sale; look if you buy that, I’ll give you %10 discount. And you go and you buy it and he says look, if you buy that one too, I’ll give you %15. So you go broke saving money. It’s a system. I’ll tell you for example anytime people say look if you buy one more items of these I’ll give you free shipping, but it requires another $50. Now your shipping was only $6 or $9, but now you say "ohh free shipping." You hate shipping, because you never get anything except the arrival of a package, and you say I hate the damn packaging payment, so you pay $50. Make sense? But we all do it. The cars, they can’t sell the car so they say, I’ll give you $1,000! They pay you. In the meantime the guy put it up $5,000 before hand, the price. But he’s giving you $1,000 and you say "ohh he’s giving me something." That’s the same way the communists do it, we do it, the Europeans do it. Everyone does that to young people who they basically get them to fight a war. Now before that was your drafted because the wars were just. They were defense of your survival. Hitler was destroying people. He was going to take what he wanted to have, and the rest were going to be cooked, gassed, murdered, executed, you name it, every tool. The Russians were doing it too in Siberia, except they got labor out of them before they totally went. So, you have a choice. You fight those because it’s the survival of the species and you know that the future of those people isn’t gonna be any. None! Not for you kids, my kids, or anybodies kids. They gotta fight. But the other situation we don’t need it, to fight. But, there are things strategically that you need to think ahead. China’s big! China’s huge; 2 Billion people, where we are we hardly have 300 million, so we need to build our allies, and our allies can’t help because they are doing good economically. They don’t want to help, so what do you do? You try to inch yourself in strategic areas where in case you have to, you’ll survive. Otherwise, they’ll take over. This is another situation that you cannot choose yourself, somebody else may have to choose for us.

Q: Do you remember the My-Lai massacre?

Mr. Dergalis: Yeah

Q: How did you react to hearing about that?

Mr. Dergalis: Ok, I think the only way to explain to you even though it is to punish those people who do that., but in a situation you have to experience it with someone in the trenches who you are depending. Lets presume you are six or ten guys fighting in one area. As a group, you came from basic training, you are shipped to the same area, you look up to everyone in the frontline and you depend on each other. You see an attack and one of you has to be awake. You gotta be on guard. That means the rest of you can sleep. You share meals, you do everything together. You know each other almost more than you do your own wives or your own families because you’re under stress; you have fear day and night; and it goes for a long time. So suddenly, they attack a group of them that comes from a specific area and kill the group. And you left one or two of you alone. Your reaction initially is fear, but then anger. There is one or two of you that just went nuts, and they felt that village was instrumental in giving the nation or hiding the Vietcong, and then they went berserk. So from that point of view you say it’s almost self defense, but at the same time you say how do you punish just that? And you take a bomber; he’s up there, he’s flying, really think of it carefully; and you have a factory attack place. You aim at it, and you don’t know that thing the wind, the directional, the speed of the plane, everything varies how that bomb is gonna go and it hits an area with a lot of civilians. Are you guilty? And they do kill a hell of a lot of civilians with bombs. How do you judge? Can you judge? So in a war, a lot of things are excused. Things are forgotten. I think the people who do that and live with it are not going to be able to live with it. Either they do themselves in, or they cause enough trouble to get themselves in jail because again, humans do not analyze circumstances by which people collaborate either. As seeing people who collaborated to survive. They had to get a job. Civilians who get employed be people like us who occupy. We occupy the area and we get people who work for us jobs. Now all of the prostitutes of the world are girls who instead of going to work they couldn’t go to work either knowledge or the lingo or whatever. They spread their legs; that was the way to get chocolate and stockings from the GI’s; bring home food, canned goods. Later on, they cut their hair and the killed us. You have to find out how can you question the guilt of things during the war. The other day, I was seeing on the news there was a one of our soldiers saw someone moving in a mosque and he shot him. They put him in jail. Is that fair? I don’t think it is. Because the guy didn’t have a gun, but what would happen if he did? Its war. How do you react can you put soldiers where they can walk and see something but not react. This is a problem that’s very, very sensitive ;very difficult to explain.There Has to be some damn good lawyer to be able to bring that human quality to other people who are the judges to see that there was no malice in there. It was self defense; he saw a motion and he shot. Now we are trained as policeman or any place where you use a weapon. Part of your training is to react, and if you were trained town-to-town combat, the first reaction is you see a shadow you shoot. because that shadow could be someone aiming at you. See that’s the same as the My-Lai thing; How the guy went berserk. Maybe that’s why I went to Vietnam and other places; to see and understand human kind and how things are in life.

Q: What did you do to pass the time while you were there?

Mr. Dergalis: I didn’t have any time. No. not at all. From place to place, some of the guys their were clowns because they had it good. They were standing on patrol in an area, and they were going to stay there for three-four days possibly because boats were crossing by. My information officer said that it was an interesting area because you can see boats go by and you can stay overnight with them outside; and they had a cannon they shot every 5 minutes. Its ok I’ll go there. There was a helicopter to take me there; he told me everything; the Lieutenant will be on the ground. I got in the helicopter and he flew maybe 20-30 minutes. In the area through the hills and we got over this area and I see these guys and a few others in the helicopter and they dump them as they claim. They lower themselves so they aren’t on the ground; maybe 5 feet 6 feet and you have to jump. And I noticed that the guys that were jumping, they were going like that with their legs, and I was saying, now why would they do that? I said maybe it’s the same way that when you jump from a car or a truck its to maintain the motion, but then the helicopter was stationary, it doesn’t move. I also noticed that it drops you in an area of what looked liked a red patch, a big red patch. It looked like mud. It was mud. I had a Kodak, and I had a tape recorder for taping people and asking information, and my sketch material and part of why I always made that format, small page cause you couldn’t carry anymore stuff with you. So I came there and said ok here we go, I’ll jump. I jump into the thing, I tried to imitate the legs and suddenly, I began to sink beyond my knees, beyond my thighs to my waist in the mud. I couldn’t get out. If it wasn’t for one of the GI’s that came out and gave me his weapon and pulled me out by force, I would be permanently in there, because it was basically a bowl full of mud; and these guys got a big kick out of it! They were around laughing in their head. I had mud in my camera, my tape recorder was totally ruined. a lot of my sketches were gone. Pure mud. The other thing that they were doing for passing time was throwing their beer cans and shooting at them. That was my passed time cleaning my equipment. One is to take a bath in another hole. There was a narrow whole this big and he says, "Oh you can wash there." He didn’t tell me how deep it is. Again you know, how do you go into that hole? You can’t put one leg in you have to kind of go all the way in because I was mud up to here. It was splashed up my face and my back. Suddenly I felt myself go “woooaahh!” Sucked in! Eventually I washed some of the mud, not all and stayed wet for hours. But there the sun is 100 degrees; it didn’t take long to dry off, so that was the kind of clowning that they did. But then I spent time drawing; it takes time to draw. You get information question, draw weapons they collected, the boats that got by, and then assemble the ideas and by the sun set its night.

Q: During 1969 and 1970 when opposition to the war in America was reaching its height, what did you think of the anti-war protests and how did they impact the troops you were with?

Mr. Dergalis: It didn’t impact me personally, but I know that it impacts everybody there; those who heard it. The ones who were really in areas where they got information they definitely were very demoralizing. The drug addiction that came out after that a bit, and I think what you had was the local newspaper which usually gave you information that the service produced, you know armed forces., and then you had the radio which was radio Vietnam, and they said a lot of truth about the protests, but they always made the numbers very small; and they were feeling like possibly its gonna end up badly for the war.

Q: Well, we are about out of time, thank you very much for helping us out with the project.