Vietnam Will Win: Unity and the Minorities

M’Nong guerillas, Central Highlands, 1963. Photo: Wilfred Burchett.

In their approach to the complicated question of South Vietnam’s racial minorities and religious groups, it is not surprising that NLF and U.S. policies should be diametrically opposite. To the classic “divide and rule” U.S. policies used by all colonialists, the NLF has replied with a “unite and resist” program. This led them to solve problems of racial and religious difference for the first time in the history of the South Vietnamese people. First they were solved within the NLF leadership, where the leading racial minority groups, religions and sects were strongly represented within the Central Committee, then within Front administrative and mass organizations and finally by policies of racial and religious equality put into effect throughout the NLF-controlled areas. These policies became an object lesson and a powerful source of attraction for the Saigon-controlled areas.

Among third world nations with mixed populations, as in many Latin American countries and in South Vietnam, in particular, the ethnic minorities occupy the strategic highlands areas, the natural guerrilla bases used in the first stages of most armed revolutions. The success of the NLF in smoothing out racial and religious contradictions thus was of extremely vital importance.

Former Vietminh cadres have told me that not enough attention was paid to this question during the anti-French resistance war and as a remit many difficulties arose in some of the minority areas-especially the highly strategic Central Highlands which run like a spinal column down the whole length of South Vietnam’s frontiers with Laos and most of the frontier with Cambodia up to the approaches to the Mekong Delta. In some areas, at that time, the Vietminh fell into traps set by France’s “divide and rule” tactics.

Winning over the tribal minorities is a long-range task, complicated by the fact that most of them had no written language, many of their spoken languages were extremely difficult to learn and – for very good historical reasons – they deeply mistrusted the Kinh or ‘Viet’ ethnic majority from the plains. But during the first resistance, Ho Chi Minh sent volunteers, mostly youths whose families had been wiped out by the French, up into the highlands area to integrate themselves with the tribal peoples, ready to devote themselves to the long and complicated task of winning their confidence. It meant adopting their customs, wearing their hair long, filing down their teeth in some cases, eating rotted raw meat, learning the languages and above all studying their conditions and problems. This was done from 1946-47 on and it yielded some important results during the first resistance war. But the time was too short to produce really effective results. Those cadres with whom I have spoken have all insisted on the very long, patient nature of such work.

Tran Dinh Minh, who at 14 years of age had responded to Ho Chi Minh’s appeal for volunteers to live and work with the tribes people and who had been with them for 14 years at the time I met him in late 1963, said: “Once you have gained their confidence, it is forever… They have a highly developed sense of secrecy, discretion and loyalty rare to find among other peoples. They never breathe a word of what a trusted cadre tells them… Even under the most ferocious torture they will never betray a secret or the whereabouts of a cadre.”

It was typical of the farseeing conceptions of Vietnamese revolutionaries that people like Tran Dinh Minh were sent to study the terrain and to sow seeds which could only yield harvest 15 or 20 years later. This investment of cadres was not approached only from the viewpoint of tribal support for the first resistance or in expectation of a second resistance war. It was seen as essential pioneer survey work to get to the root of tribal problems and aspirations, preliminary to bringing their living standards up to those of the Kinh people, with the least possible disruption of tribal customs. It was the start of a process to bring them public health and education, starting with the working out of written scripts for their languages, and developing into a battle against illiteracy. However, it is also true that the tribes people occupy the most strategic areas of South Vietnam, the most suitable for revolutionary bases and the most important to keep out of the hands of any enemy. An invader who could firmly occupy the Central Highlands and convert them into a safe base area, could dominate South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the southern parts of North Vietnam. The French and later the Americans understood this very well.

After cadres like Tran Dinh Minh and others had established confidence by exemplary tribal behavior and outstanding work in the ray (the slash-and-burn hillside patches where the tribes people grow their corn and glutinous rice); and after they had gained sufficient mastery of the language to understand tribal history and problems which often lay buried deep in people’s hearts, to be prodded out after years of patient searching, only then could they begin quietly working to settle inter tribal quarrels, then intergroup quarrels and finally to try to do away with the deep mistrust the tribes people had for the Vietnamese in the plains. (Throughout history they had known the latter only as tax collectors and the police and troops who came in their wake.)

US-Diem repression[1] in areas where the work of the cadres had been weak revived the old tribal-Vietnamese animosities, but where the work had been done well, it brought confirmation of the fact that the minorities and Vietnamese alike suffered from the same enemy.

In Phu Yen Province, for instance, where the Banar and Rhade peoples predominate, “Vietcong suspects” were rounded up and taken off to be concentrated in “strategic hamlets” around Xuan Phuoc village in the highlands and the tribes people from Xuan Phuoc were rounded up and concentrated in the lowlands. The tribes people realized that although the oppressors were Vietnamese, there were also Vietnamese who were oppressed like themselves and who had been dragged away from their homes and ancestral villages as they were dragged from their beloved forests and mountains, both of them beaten and cursed. As things developed, militants among the Vietnamese peasants in the lowlands did their best to ease the lot of the tribes people in their concentration camp village, at first procuring some clothing, then gradually organizing mutual help to stage an uprising. At Xuan Phuoc, the cadres found little difficulty in setting up contacts between the “Vietcong suspects” and tribes people in the area.

U.S.-Diem policy was deliberately to foment hatred between the Vietnamese and the tribes people to the highest degree, and this was done on a huge scale by setting up “agricultural colonies” of conscripted Vietnamese laborers on the richest of the tribal lands, bulldozing out of existence the forests on which the existence of the tribes people depended, carving out coffee and rubber plantations and condemning the tribes people to living death in concentration camp villages in the plains which were intolerably stifling and humid for them.

With the formation of the NLF and its program for an autonomous zone for the tribes people, similar to the two such autonomous zones in North Vietnam where ethnic minorities completely run their own affairs, the work of uniting the tribespeople themselves and uniting them with the Kinh was given an important new stimulus. Intertribal solidarity meetings were organized at which generation-long feuds were settled merely by talking things out and arriving at the inevitable conclusion that it was the French colonialists and their puppet Bao Dai who had fostered inter tribal quarrels in their own interests, and that now it was the U.S. imperialists and their puppet Ngo Dinh Diem who were up to the same old tricks.

American policy aimed to divide the tribespeople from the Vietnamese people and from the Saigon government as well, in order to put them under direct U.S. control. The Americans knew that the NLF promise of autonomy for the tribespeople was extremely popular, so they sent in agents also promising “autonomy” – under American sponsorship. U.S. attempts to dominate the tribes people, incidentally, were a source of great contention between “strong man” Nguyen Khanh and General Harkins during the period that Khanh was in and out of power in Saigon. The CIA had ambitious schemes for setting up Special Forces commando groups composed of tribes people, wiping out those of military age who refused to be conscripted and herding the rest of the population into concentration camps in the plains. U.S. strategists wanted the Central Highlands for themselves; they wanted the “montagnards,” as they called the tribes people, in military formations under U.S. command to be used as instruments of U.S. policy, entirely bypassing Saigon, a double cross which even generals Thieu and Ky were not prepared to accept. The task of the commando units, which the CIA hoped to establish all over the Central Highlands, was not only to wrest the area out of Saigon control, but to suppress the tribes people themselves by selectively arming one group to suppress another.

This long-range American plan, initiated before an American Command was set up in Saigon in February 1962, was described in part in the testimony of Donald Duncan[2] at the second session of the International War Crimes Tribunal.

“The primary job of Special Forces up to the summer of 1964,” testified Duncan, “was the implementation of the CIDG [Civilian Irregular Defense Groups] program. This was started back in 1961 as a means of organizing ethnic groups within Vietnam, such as various montagnard tribes, and eventually it came to include the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai and some people of Cambodian extraction within Vietnam. The main purpose of this was, starting with the montagnards, to neutralize their struggle against the Saigon regime. There have always been problems between the montagnards and the ethnic Vietnamese and the Saigon government.

“Hopefully, the idea was to build them into self-defense units for village self-defense. It had the added advantage – I happened to read this in an official report – of being one way of circumventing the Geneva Agreements of 1954, which prohibited the establishment of new military bases within the southern zone of Vietnam. So by calling these things village self-defense units, or self-defense units, they in fact circumvented that provision of the agreement…”

Duncan had access to many top secret policy documents of the Special Forces. The report to which he was referring must have been drawn up years earlier, because by mid-1956 the U.S. government had already officially supported Diem’s repudiation of the Geneva Agreements. Certainly by the end of 1961, when the first U.S. helicopter crews started arriving, there were no longer any scruples about openly establishing “new military bases” in South Vietnam. Washington’s schemes to convert the Central Highlands into their main strategic base in Southeast Asia were possibly worked out immediately after the Geneva Agreements were signed.

“Of course,” continued Duncan, “the camps they set up are not in the village. They are invariably set up next to the village, isolated from it by minefields, punji stakes, barbed wire, etc. In fact, in many areas the villagers are not allowed into the camp for security reasons, meaning they don’t trust the people in the village they’re defending. And in many cases the strike force, the combat group of the civilian community defense effort, was not even from the village itself. In other words they were imported from other areas of the country…” And had Duncan been still better informed, he would have known they were not even from the tribal groups they were supposed to be “defending.” As to the CIA role, Duncan testified:

“Originally it was, and it remained so up until 1964, a CIA program. The CIA having come up with the idea, of course, did not have the field personnel to conduct the program in the field. Special Forces were made available to the CIA for the purpose of running it in the field. All the funds, the money for the Program, came from CIA sources, directly or indirectly. Another purpose of the CIDG program was to try to set up intelligence nets throughout the countryside emanating from these camps. Again the funds, the money for the agents, came from CIA sources…”

Referring to a main camp at Ben Sar Pa, just west of Ban Mé Thuot in one of the most strategically important areas of the Central Highlands, Duncan testified: “Of course the reason for the location of this camp, which was in a montagnard area, was that they wanted those people at least pacified, to stop them from harassing the government or stop the government from harassing them. You may recall that this is a camp which went out of existence in 1964. It was one of the camps where the montagnards’ revolt took place against the South Vietnamese government. The camp was destroyed by South Vietnamese Rangers, a company attached to Project Delta…”[3]

From the parts of Duncan’s testimony cited, three facts emerge: that there was a long-standing U.S. interest in using the montagnards; that montagnard units from one region were supposed to repress tribes people in another region; that South Vietnamese troops from the same Special Forces program were used to suppress the montagnards. It is difficult to find a clearer illustration of “divide and rule.”

The montagnard uprising at Ban Mé Thuot took place on September 20, 1964, when some 2,000 of 4,000 conscript trainees revolted and took over the whole base. Seizing six U.S. instructors including the base commander, Colonel Freund, as hostages, they invaded Ban Mé Thuot. After taking the radio station, they broadcast demands for autonomy and threatened to execute the Americans if any attempt was made to suppress them. Their demands were partly motivated by the NLF program of an autonomous zone, partly by FULRO[4] (discussed in detail below). This was the biggest insurrection of the ethnic minorities, but it failed.

While Ranger battalions moved into the area, Freund bought time. The leaders of the revolt (one of whom later related the events to me) were told by Freund that “your trouble comes from the Vietnamese in Saigon, not from us. We are very decent people and the thing to do is to put yourselves entirely under us. If Khanh [then in power in Saigon] doesn’t pay you properly, feed you properly – we will. You just send a petition to our ambassador in Saigon that you want to be directly under the United States. We will look after you. Your idea for autonomy is very good We’ll help you get it. We don’t like these Saigon Vietnamese any more than you do. What you do to them doesn’t worry us…” The remit was that the Vietnamese instructors were all killed, the Americans spared and Freund succeeded in turning the revolt into a temporary U.S. advantage by planting the idea of removing the montagnards from all vestiges of Saigon control.

Some of the insurgents made a break for their villages; about 47, including my informant, took off with the arms they had seized, to join the NLF; another group joined up with FULRO and others remained to be rounded up by the Rangers and herded into other camps. Freund and the other Americans went unscathed and for a time American efforts were intensified to gain control of the Central Highlands from the NLF and Saigon, especially by trying to capture the FULRO organization which, the revolt revealed, had strong support among certain of the montagnards, especially those whom the French had previously used against the Vietnamese and especially against the Vietminh.

Although FULRO did represent certain aspirations of the montagnards[5] and reflected something of the situation in the Central Highlands, it was doomed to fail because it was also an expression of the “divide and rule” policy as it was totally and blindly anti-Vietnamese. Among its supporters and behind-the-scenes advisers were some Frenchmen with sentimental attachments to the tribes people and who were probably genuinely outraged by the U.S.-Diem extermination policy. But they also encouraged the total anti- Vietnamese line of the FULRO leaders which meant rejecting any cooperation with the NLF, which was lumped together with the Diem regime as “Vietnamese” and thus to be shunned.

Elements among the FULRO leadership completely swallowed the line of the local CIA agents that the Americans would be their most loyal allies and generous supporters in their struggle against Vietnamese of any kind, the Saigon regime, the “Vietcong” or anything in between.

At the Phnom Penh Conference of the Peoples of Indochina in Cambodia in March 1965, FULRO leaders joined in the general condemnation of “U.S. imperialism” and pledged support for common action by the peoples of Indochina, but they went back to the Central Highlands to accept U.S. support for their struggle against Vietnamese of all categories. The results were predictable.

When Washington found a new “strong man” in the shape of Air Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky and the latter squarely asked whether Washington was supporting a South Vietnam which included the Central Highlands and the montagnards, or was supporting the montagnards against the rest of the country, there was no choice. Washington officially abandoned the montagnards and the promise of autonomy given to the FULRO leaders.

Officers and men of FULRO units who turned up fully armed to present themselves for duty at American “Special Forces” units found themselves received by Ranger battalions of the Saigon government, disarmed, herded behind barbed wire and eventually forced to act as coolies and arms and baggage carriers for the Saigon troops.

At the beginning of August 1965, there was another revolt at Ban Mé Thuot in which Special Forces camp conscripts also took part. Two hundred of the latter made off with their arms and were hunted down by American planes and helicopter-borne troops. In December of the same year, there was still another revolt which ended with four FULRO leaders being publicly executed at Pleiku. This marked the total abandonment of American support for the tribes people, as such. But it did not end their recruiting of montagnards into special mercenary units, entirely under U.S. control and considered completely expendable.[6]

The Buddhist revolt in Hué-Da Nang in the summer of 1966, like the FULRO movement, was bound to fail – in spite of support for the Buddhists on the part of Saigon army units in the northern provinces – for the same fundamental reasons. They were revolts in isolation, outside the “unite and resist” conception of the NLF. (Details of the Buddhist-Army revolt, being much more widely known than that of the montagnards, are discussed here only briefly.) Neither the Struggle Movement Committee set up by the Buddhist hierarchy in Saigon in April 1966 nor the Buddhist Revolutionary Struggle Committee set up in Da Nang about the same time was capable of giving real organized leadership. The FULRO movement was capable of inspiring regional sentiments, just as the Buddhist revolt inspired national sentiments, but both revolts were carried out in isolation from the far broader national movement which the NLF represented.

At the time that Saigon troops were closing in on Da Nang and Hué, during the most critical moment of the Buddhist revolt, the NLF broadcast appeals over their Liberation Radio, on May 19 and 20, 1966, offering united action in the common cause. However, the Buddhist hierarchy, with Thich Tri Quang as their spokesman, refused. The movement was crushed, and hundreds of people, including officers and men of the Saigon army who had rallied to the Buddhist cause, lost their lives uselessly.

This was the final proof for many rank-and-file Buddhist supporters that only the NLF had the necessary organization and militant spirit to carry the fight through to the end. The same sort of conclusions were drawn also by those tribes people from the Central Highlands who had been misled by FULRO promises of quick and easy victories, with the United States as an ally.

CIA agents in the Central Highlands – and they included a certain number clad as missionaries – had grasped that once the confidence of the montagnards was gained, they were completely loyal. But the CIA had ignored the converse, that betrayal of that confidence was repaid by total hostility. In fact, the Americans had never fully won the confidence of the tribes people, as the frequent revolts inside the Special Forces camps demonstrated. And once the U.S. betrayal was clear for everyone to see, then montagnard loyalties were lost for generations. The killing of half a dozen U.S. missionaries at Ban Mé Thuot during the 1968 Lunar New Year revolt was symbolic of this.

Once the FULRO movement was bought over, crushed and discarded by the Americans, tribal chiefs who until then had remained aloof from the NLF started making contacts. Patriotic elements within the armed forces in the northern provinces who had supported, then become disillusioned by the Buddhist leadership in the Hué-Da Nang uprisings, also began to develop ties with the NLF.

For many youth among their ranks, the montagnard and Buddhist revolts clarified the issues and revealed that isolated uprisings in the end could never succeed and the future was with those who advocated a unified national resistance. The events of 1966 swept away regional, separatist and sectarian illusions, and thus the ground was prepared for the type of united struggle expressed in the 1968 Lunar New Year offensive and the people’s uprising which accompanied it.

On December 6 and 7, 1967, U.S. newspapers carried headlines such as “Vietcong Massacre” or “Worst Atrocity Of The War” with appropriate news stories to describe the alleged killing of 121 “montagnard civilians” by NLF forces and the burning down of their villages.[7]

What had really happened? NLF forces in a surprise attack on November 28 wiped out a battalion of the First U.S. Infantry Division at Bu Dop, capital of Phuoc Long Province, near the Cambodian border in a valley at the southern limits of the Central Highlands. A second battalion from the same division was sent to replace the one put out of action. On the night of December 2-3, NLF forces attacked a post held by Saigon forces at Dak Son, about 9 miles north of Bu Dop, completely destroying it. The post controlled two “strategic hamlets” in which some 2,000 montagnards were concentrated.

As usual in such cases, as soon as the military control post was eliminated, the montagnards tore down the barbed wire and made off for their mountain villages, setting fire to their barracks before they left. On December 3, two companies of Civil Guards set out in pursuit, shooting down any stragglers until the Civil Guards encountered an NLF ambush and were annihilated to the last man, 130 in all. The whole complex of military posts in the Dac Son area was destroyed. Three days later, NLF forces attacked the U.S. replacement battalion about three miles north of Bu Dop, at the same time making a mortar attack against a nearby Special Forces camp and a U.S. command post on the local airfield. The replacement battalion also was put out of action and the NLF forces occupied the battlefield, destroying two 105mm artillery pieces and six 106.7mm mortars, and seizing large quantities of arms and equipment. Of these actions from December 2 to 8, the American press reported only the alleged “massacre.” However, there was a real massacre by U.S. planes which bombed and strafed some of the escapees in open country before they could get back to their villages. About 1,000, mainly women and children, eventually crossed the border into Cambodia. Later the Americans sent in “missionary” agents to try to win them back.

If one compares the “Vietcong massacre” story with another published less than a month later by New York Times correspondent Bernard Weintraub, then matters appear in their true perspective. Datelined January 2 from Thanh An (about 15 miles southwest of Pleiku), Weintraub’s story is headlined “Showcase Camp for Refugees is Beset by Problems,” and because of its revealing nature it is quoted at length. Weintraub wrote as follows:[8]

“Three or four times a week, the helicopters bounce onto the grassy landing pad of the montagnard resettlement camp here and the visitors climb out – American Senators and Representatives, retired generals, columnists, television personalities and movie stars.

“The camp, a showcase project, is on the itinerary of most visitors. They receive a 10 minute briefing and trudge past the rows of tin-roofed homes where the smiling tribesmen wave and eagerly pose for pictures.

“Beneath the apparently untroubled mood of the camp, however, there are growing problems that are worrying American officials, who say privately that the resettlement project is in trouble.

“In the last six months more than 700 tribesmen have fled the camp, 11 hamlet chiefs have been kidnapped, Vietcong propaganda has steadily increased, the Vietnamese rangers guarding the camp have angered the montagnards and dissatisfied the American advisers….

” ‘They were oppressed by the V.C. in their villages,’ said Maj. Patrick H. Foster, the assistant civic action officer of the Fourth Division’…they made a request to be protected.’

“Other American officers say that a major reason for the move was to create free artillery and air-strike zones in the villages and that the montagnards were stunned as the soldiers moved into their villages and packed them aboard Chinook helicopters for the relocation site.

” ‘I’ve never seen such fright in my life,’ said one American officer, who recalled that the tribesmen carried chickens, pigs and packs of clothing as they climbed aboard the helicopters…

” ‘The V.C. have no trouble whatsoever coming in here or going out,’ said one American official.”

I once asked Rechom Brieu of the Jarai ethnic minority, a member of the NLF’s Central Committee and secretary general of the General Movement for Autonomy of the Tay Nguyen,[9] why the Americans employed Vietnamese troops to guard the “strategic hamlets” where the tribes people were detained, in view of the latter’s traditional hostility toward Saigon troops and U.S. efforts to win over the montagnards.

“At first they wanted the tribes people to ‘defend’ themselves,” replied Rechom Brieu, a stocky, dark, smiling man. “They distributed over 10,000 weapons in the Kontum-Pleiku-Ban Mé Thuot areas alone, and told them to use them only against the ‘Vietcong.’ They were good weapons, better than those given to the Vietnamese puppet troops in the area. This was to impress our people that the Americans considered the tribes people superior to the Vietnamese, and that they would look after them better than Saigon. But the tribes people handed over plenty of these weapons to us; sometimes they came themselves with their weapons, sometimes they just gave them to us; in some cases they lent them and we handed them back temporarily when we knew the Americans were going to make an inspection. The Americans tried to buy the young men as soldiers. If they were conscripted into the Saigon Army, they got only 1,500 piastres a month, while the Americans offered 5,000 a month to join units which would be under their direct control some fell for this, partly because of the money, partly to avoid serving with the Saigon troops. But when they met our forces they did their best to avoid contact; if they had to fire they would fire wildly. The Americans started taking the weapons back, arresting – and even executing – some who could not account for theirs. But they soon stopped that when a few American advisers disappeared; ‘probably eaten by tigers,’ our people would say.

“So they brought in Saigon troops to guard the camps. This was to stop our people from breaking out and going back to the villages, but also to poison relations between the tribes people and Vietnamese. Within the camps they mixed up ethnic groupings, favoring one, discriminating against another. But it did not work. Everyone in the camps saw they were oppressed by a single enemy, the Americans who forced them out of the forest and bombed their villages. The Vietnamese were only puppets. Our people knew there were ‘other’ Vietnamese by this time, those of the NLF. Conditions in the camps forged a new type of solidarity born of common suffering. Our cadres infiltrated to organize resistance and struggle for better living conditions within, the camps themselves. Our policy of ‘unite to resist’ proved stronger at every level than the enemy’s ‘divide and rule.’

“In our villages in the liberated areas, we did everything to get people to unite in work and struggle. Compared to the controlled areas and camps, it’s really the difference between night and day. Our men can go hunting when they want to; grow their rice where they want to. They can sing and bang their gongs – strictly forbidden in the controlled areas because the Americans think they may be signaling – and live a really free life. Public health, education and economic affairs are developing at a level and tempo we never dreamed of a few years ago. In the controlled areas, there is no hunting, my cultivation is impossible because the rays are far from the villages and people are allowed to move only in daylight hours in areas close to the houses – there is nothing but forced labor, conscription, taxes, theft, prostitution and corruption. That is why all the tribes people look toward the liberated areas and our autonomy movement, in which all tribal groupings are represented, united now as a single family.”

At that time (August, 1966), Rechom Brieu estimated the population of the liberated zones in the Central Highlands at about 600,000 or two-thirds of all the tribes people, with their own administration and elected headmen and other officials elected at village, district and provincial level. (In the Saigon-controlled areas, all officials were nominally appointed by Saigon – but actually by the U.S. advisers at provincial and district level.) NLF units then operating in the area were formed almost entirely of the ethnic minorities functioning at company level in separate tribal groups under their own officers, but integrated at battalion and regimental level. A few units were officered by Vietnamese cadres like Tran Dinh Minh, who had identified themselves with the tribes people for 15 or more years.

During the 1968 Lunar New Year offensive and nationwide uprising, the tribes people also rose up throughout the Central Highlands area to destroy the detested stockades and camps, taking off in tens of thousands back to their forests and highlands. At the same time their armed units swept into Pleiku, Ban Mé Thuot, Kontum and Dalat, striking the most highly guarded enemy sanctuaries, engaging American and Saigon troops in fierce hand-to-hand combat, destroying key military installations, seizing and distributing vast stocks of arms, sweeping out the U.S.-Saigon administrators and executing individual Americans and police chiefs who were singled out because of their especially bloodthirsty activities.

The Têt uprisings in the Central Highlands as elsewhere represented an unprecedented triumph for the long, painful step-by-step development of ‘unite to resist” policies, initiated by the revolutionaries more than 20 years earlier.


[1] See Chapter 11, Vietnam: Inside Story of the Guerrilla War.

[2] Donald Duncan was a highly decorated Special Forces sergeant who had served as an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He had served as an operations and intelligence specialist with the Special Forces in South Vietnam from March 1964 to September 1965 and briefed such officials as General Maxwell Taylor, Ambassador Lodge, General Westmoreland and even Defense Secretary McNamara on Special Forces activities.

[3] Project Delta was a Special Forces intelligence-gathering operation, “a special unit” explained Duncan, “because we could no longer depend on Vietnamese intelligence sources for any accurate information.” Duncan was associated with Project Delta because, as he said, “my specific job in Vietnam was gathering intelligence.”

[4] Front Uni pour La Libération de La Race Opprimée (United Front for the Liberation of the Oppressed Race).

[5] Among the five-point demands formulated at the time of the Ban Mé Thuot revolt was one that “solutions must be found for the resettlement villages which have infringed upon the land of the peoples of the Central Highlands and for the highland villages which are surrounded by military camps and as a result do not have enough land to make a living…”

[6] The betrayal and physical liquidation of the FULRO movement is partly described in literary form, the names of leading personalities thinly disguised, in Les Petits Soleils by Erwan Bergot, Editions France Empire, Paris, 1966.

[7] Editor’s note: The New York Times, Dec. 7, 1967, reported that the number killed “was more than 100,” in the first paragraph of its story, “Civilian Toll Big in Vietcong Raid.” However, in the third paragraph, quoted here in full, it was stated in the Time‘s non bylined account:

“A first report said that 300 civilians had been killed. This figure was lowered later to about 20. Then the United States Embassy announced that 47 civilians had been killed and 40 to 50 hospitalized for burns.”  Disregarding the discrepancy between the two paragraphs, the Times continued its story, saying in the fourth paragraph that the number was more than 100. Then in the seventh paragraph a “spokesman” for the U.S. Embassy is cited as saying that 49 montagnard Revolutionary Development workers had been in the hamlet which had been raided and 47 of the 49 were “missing.” “Revolutionary Development” workers are CIA-trained agents, a fact not mentioned by the Times.

[8] New York Times, January 3, 1968, page 4.

[9] Tay Nguyen, literally “Western Plateaux,” is the Vietnamese term for what in French is known as the “Hauts Plateaux ” and in English the “Central Highlands.”

NEXT: Chapter 12 – Self-Defense

Wilfred Burchett was an Australian journalist, who covered World War II, the Korean War and the war in Vietnam. His many books include Shadows of Hiroshima, Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist and Vietnam Will Win. Burchett died in 1983.