vietnam war: us army

During Operation “Bushmaster”, a member of Company “L” (Ranger), 75th Infantry, wearing camouflage makeup sits alone with his thoughts while waiting to participate in an assault mission against North Vietnamese Army forces in Vietnam in August of 1971. Photo by SP4 John L. Hennesey, 221st Sig Co.

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On this date in U.S. Army SF history……09-July 1963: U.S. Army Green Berets began organizing and training tribesman in the Central Highlands of Vietnam into the Civilian Irregular Defense Group.

The CIDG program was devised by the CIA to counter expanding Viet Cong influence in South Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Beginning in the village of Buon Enao, small A Teams from the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) moved into villages and set up Area Development Centers. Focusing on local defense and civic action, the Special Forces teams did the majority of the training. Villagers were trained and armed for village defense for two weeks, while localized Strike Forces would receive better training and weapons and served as a quick reaction force to react to Viet Cong attacks. The vast majority of the CIDG camps were initially manned by inhabitants of ethnic minority regions in the country (especially Montagnard), who disliked both the North and South Vietnamese and therefore quickly took to the American advisers. The program was widely successful, as once one village was pacified, it served as a training camp for other local villages.

By late 1963, the military felt that the program was a great success, but also that the CIDG units and Special Forces units were not being employed properly, and ordered Operation Switchback, which transferred control of the CIDG program from the CIA over to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. The CIDG Program was rapidly expanded, as the entire 5th Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Forces, moved into Vietnam, and the CIDG units stopped focusing on village defense and instead took part in more conventional operations, most notably border surveillance. Most of these were converted to Vietnam Army Ranger units in 1970.

After being captured by Vietnamese soldiers in 1965, Admiral Jeremiah Denton Jr. became a prisoner of war for almost 8 years. In 1966, his captors forced him to participate in a televised North American press conference where he secretly communicated by the use of Morse Code that American soldiers were being tortured. Denton repeatedly blinked his eyes during the interview to spell out the word “T-O-R-T-U-R-E”. The US Navy saw his signal, and began an operation to rescue Denton and some 50 other prisoners. Denton’s genius can be seen in the full video below:

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U.S. Army Captain Robert Bacon leading a patrol in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. 1964.

Col. Bobby Bacon, then a captain, was featured on the June 12, 1964 cover of LIFE magazine. The photo, taken by Larry Burrows, shows Bacon leading a group of South Vietnamese soldiers through rice fields in the Mekong Delta. Bacon served two tours of duty in Vietnam. Among his decorations are the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with two valor devices. Bacon was stationed at Fort Jackson from 1976 through 1983.

He graduated West Point with a bachelor’s of science in communications in 1956, and was a classmate of Norman Schwarzkopf. He is now retired and living in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

©Larry Burrows: Vietnam photos
©Susanne Kappler: Current photo

**The soldier in the 6th photo is not Capt. Robert Bacon. When I find his name, I’ll add it. The source where I found the photos identified him as Capt. Bacon. Thank you for the correction @remythejester!