Sunday, May 7, 1972

Advisers: Ready To Stay, Die

by Spec. 4 JIM SMITH
S&S Staff Correspondent

KONTUM, Vietnam
--A combat-hardened band of U.S. Special Forces-trained Montagnard soldiers is prepared to defend the tiny U.S. compound here to the death and their American advisers say they will stay and die rather than be rescued by helicopter if they are told to leave their men behind.

"We may have to escape and evade out of here to Pleiku on foot," one of the Americans said Tuesday, "But it that's what we have to do, we will.

"Their devotion is unequaled," a rock-jawed sergeant said. "They act like machines --automatically. They assault, withdraw, set up and blow Charlie away. Best jungle fighters I've ever seen. Your average has five years of combat experience. There's not an American here that hasn't been saved at one time or another by a Montagnard."

Several of the Montagnards said they believe the Communists will not try to overrun Kontum City for a few weeks. "They'll wait until we think they're not going to come," said 21-year-old Rahlam Peo, who said he had been with this unit and Special Forces since 1967.

"We're afraid," 21-year-old Kiem Ya said, "but if the VC come here we're ready for them. We'll listen to the Americans. If they tell us to stay and fight, that's what we'll do. If they want us to leave, then we'll leave."

The MACV compound is almost deserted now but for a handful of American advisers. The Montagnard man the perimeter bunkers each night. A mortar flare bathes weapons and men in an eerie light every few minutes.

The Montagnards like to imitate the Americans. They wear patches saying "Main Airborne" or "Texas Rangers." Some of the men wear their hair shorter in length. The Americans wear bracelets and other trinkets signifying brotherhood with the tribesmen.

"If you've ever heard a Montagnard say 'You die, I die'" the sergeant said, "you know how we feel. No, we're not running out on them."

"Advisers: Ready To Stay, Die", by Spec. 4 JIM SMITH S&S Staff Correspondent, KONTUM, Vietnam, published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Sunday, May 7, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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