I was quickly reminded of this account by Col. David Hackworth of one experience in Vietnam:
So I wouldn't be too quick to judge soldiers for thinking that way, it's almost a natural response to being in that kind of situation.Q: You were once flying in a helicopter over the Delta and you saw some people running along and you thought, "they're civilians, they're children..."
Hackworth: Yes, one day we were doing what was called 'eagle flies,' which is a platoon of infantry in helicopters -- five, six soldiers per helicopter -- and I was controlling everything in a command and control helicopter. The pilot in the front seat of my helicopter said, "There are four enemies streaking across the field. Request permission to fire." As commander, I would grant that permission. I looked down and saw four little kids, so I said, "Negative. Those are little kids, they're just playing hooky from school or something. Leave them alone." And I went ahead and inserted my platoon and let them maneuver through the area. Suddenly they took fire from those 'poor little kids,' who were probably no more than twelve or thirteen years old and had stashed their AK-47s. So I was wrong.
My previous experience had been up in the highlands. That was one of my first days in the Delta and I was learning that just about anybody in that battlefield, sadly enough, was a hostile.
Peoples Century | Guerrilla Wars | Col. David Hackworth