Working as a military lawyer during the Vietnam War was anything but normal for a Pauls Valley Rotarian who took some time to describe the craziness he saw, complete with dodging gunshots.
Les Nunn says quite a bit was packed in his one year of service there in 1969-70 working as a combat JAG, which is the legal work of a judge advocate general.
That meant a lot of investigations and work in the field that included life and death situations with enemy combatants firing at him on a regular basis.
“You learn to deal with fear and realize fear is an emotion,” Nunn said during a recent PV Rotary Club meeting.
“With emotions we don’t think, we just react. If somebody is shooting at you, you should be thinking logically but that didn’t happen.
“I got shot at a bunch, and I shot back a bunch.”
Nunn was in the Air Force when he performed all kinds of military-related legal work both before and after he arrived in Vietnam.
“I did a lot of legal work for pilots going to Vietnam,” he said about his time in California before being shipped to Vietnam.
“My responsibility was anything in the day-to-day activities of Air Force personnel that did not involve criminal conduct.
“There was a total of 236 combat JAG’s in Vietnam over a 15-year period. That’s at most 10 lawyers at any one time. We were quite busy. Seven days a week we started at 8 o’clock in the morning and usually go to about nine at night. That was every day. There was never any time off.”
One of his duties was determining how much compensation went for damages coming from bombings.
“I would be paying people for damages before the medics even got there,” Nunn said.
“I was involved with the legal end of the treatment of prisoners, the interrogation of them, at what point does it become torture. I was trained on treaties and how you can treat prisoners.”
Nunn’s investigative work includes all kinds of stories of cases and defendants he once represented.
One involved the inquiry coming after a soldier writing home to his grandmother claimed the military was trying to kill him because the food was so bad.
Once he even had to track down what happened to the materials sent from the U.S. to build a gym for soldiers there in Vietnam.
As is turns out the materials were sent to the wrong place, so the gym wound up being built there.
Nunn later did venture over to the criminal side as he defended a number of military personnel accused of things like murder, manslaughter and assault.
On one case he defended a soldier accused of stealing $100,000 in cash from the CIA.
In another a soldier used a grenade to threaten a Vietnam business owner as a way to get his fired girlfriend her job back.
Another case involved the discovery of nearly 900 pounds of pure, raw opium on a military plane.
Nun also describes time time he spent in base bunkers with enemy soldiers located just yards away in tall grass. He said they got so close because they knew it was safe as the American soldiers needed to first get permission to fire any shots.
Nunn’s time in Vietnam later came back to haunt him as in recent years he battled the cancer coming from Agent Orange, a chemical used in bombing runs at that time.