“mountain people”

The only time I saw Montagnard villagers during my Vietnam tour was at LZ Buttons (Song Be). Perhaps the group was brought in from the jungle for questioning. I remember how primitive they all looked.

The real natives of Vietnam were the Montagnards. All they needed were a grass hooch, a banana tree, and a crossbow; they didn’t give a damn who ran the country.

Montagnard village during the Vietnam War

Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

In the final days of the Vietnam War in 1975 and immediately following, 1,000,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated from Vietnam and resettled in the United States. And in keeping with a 1960’s promise, 150,000 Hmong tribesmen of the US “Secret Army” in Laos were evacuated to our country in 1975. Yet only 3,000 Montagnards, our most distinguished and loyal ally, have reached the U.S. The Central Highlands of Vietnam is the ancestral homeland of the Montagnard tribes, a peace loving people with an ancient tradition of living in harmony with nature and the cosmic forces. But their great forests and rich lands became a battlefield for communist ambitions and opposing powers, compelling their involvement in two successive wars that raged for nearly three decades. Physically, the Montagnards are darker skinned than the mainstream Vietnamese and do not have epicanthic folds around their eyes. In general, they are about the same size as the mainstream Vietnamese.

Group of Montagnards are lining up for inspection


Montagnards Photo by Talmadge Cain 1st BN 50th Inf, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1968-1969


Filed under Vietnam War

Vietnam War Movies

No American conflict has been as big a gold mine for movies as Vietnam.

When “Apocalypse Now” was released in 1979, I took special interest in this movie. It featured my unit, 1st Squadron 9th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division.

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall)

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like victory”


Filed under Vietnam War

The Military Draft

Compulsory Military Service

About 60% of eligible men escaped military service during the Vietnam era; I was not one of them. The summer of 1969 I received my induction papers from Uncle Sam.

The last military draft in the United States (U.S.) was during the Vietnam War and resulted in protests that helped engender anti-war sentiment. Though the government has not required military service since then, all men currently living in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service System so that the government will have an idea of the population available in case the need for a draft in the future should arise.

Draft Board Classifications
The following is a list of Selective Service classifications
that could be assigned by draft boards:

A. Class I
1. I-A: available for military service
2. I-A-O: CO available for noncombatant military service
3. I-C: already in the military
4. I-D: reserve or ROTC
5. I-O: CO available for civilian work
6. I-S: student
7. I-W: CO performing civilian work
8. I-Y: other (catch-all classification)
B. Class II
1. II-A: Occupational deferment
2. II-C: Agricultural deferment
3. II-S: Student deferment
C. Class III
1. III-A: Extreme hardship, i.e. has a child or children
D. Class IV
1. IV-A: Prior active service or sole surviving son
2. IV-B: Official deferred by law
3. IV-C: Alien not currently liable for military service
4. IV-D: Minister of religion or divinity student
5. IV-F: Registrant not qualified for military service
E. Class V
1. V. Registrant over the age of liability for military service

The little-known protest of the Vietnam War staged from within the ranks of the military is explored in director David Zeiger’s 2005 revealing documentary. Despite the well-documented media coverage of Vietnam War protests that took place on college campuses across the nation, few people but the most ardent history buffs remain aware of the massive protests that flourished in U.S. barracks and military bases at home and abroad.

Sir! No Sir! A Film About The Gi Movement Against The War In Vietnam.


Filed under Vietnam War

USO in Vietnam

United Service Organization

The USO is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the troops by providing morale, welfare and recreation-type services to our men and women in uniform; G.I.’s “home away from home.”

Bob Hope USO Show in Long Binh 1970

Miss America USO Show in 1/9th helicopter hanger at Phuoc Vinh
Susan Anton (3rd from left)

Much of the entertainment in Vietnam was provided by Filipino house bands; they played mainly in EM and Officer clubs.
Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

Photo courtesy of Walker Jones


Filed under Vietnam War

Helmet Graffiti

Troops in Vietnam found a way to express themselves

When I arrived in Vietnam in March of 1970, one of the first things ‘Uncle Sam’ issued to me was a steel pot; the military called it the M-1 helmet. It felt like it weighed half a ton when you first put it on your newly shaved (basic training) head. A short time later, I traded it for a much lighter and more fashionable boonie hat.

Prior to the Vietnam War, what was most commonly seen on helmets were rank insignia and unit designations.

In this June 18, 1965 file photo, an unidentified U.S. Army soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet, in Vietnam. “Larry Wayne Chaffin, is the American soldier of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Iconic Vietnam War photo taken on June 18, 1965, by the late Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer Horst Faas. The war ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, to communist troops from the north. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Short Timers Calendar with Zippo

John Wayne signed helmets during his visit to the 7th Marines at Chu Lai in June of 1966 (SSG Fleetwood/Marine Corps/National Archives).

During Operation Ashburn, south of Da Nang in Decmber 1967, a member of the 5th Marine Regiment scans the jungle for signs of enemy activity (Sgt. Dickman/Marine Corps/National Archives).

From Armchair General Forum

A member of the 3rd Marines decorated both his helmet and his flack jacket (GYSGT Gus Apsitis/Marine Corps/National Archives).

A squadron leader’s camouflaged helmet helps him blend in with his surroundings during a mission in 1966 (U.S. Army/National Archives).



A soldier of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, relaxes June 24, 1970, before pulling out of Fire Support Base Speer, six miles inside the Cambodian border. (Photographer unknown)


The helmet says it all (Photographer unknown)


Filed under Vietnam War

Vietnam Nose Art

Legacy of Valor

Not to be confused with official markings or insignia, nose art personalizes an aircraft for its crew, because it is the crew members who name the aircraft and create the art, imbuing it with an identity of its own. ‘Nose Art’ is important as an historical and societal indicator over time, an example of folk art or popular expression, and a record of the past. Charlie Troop 1/9th Lift bird Cobra gunship Scout bird Bravo Troop 1/9th Lift bird Bravo Troop Cobra gunship The original Pink Panther nose art was designed by 1st LT Joe Waters (Weapons Platoon) C Troop 1/9th, 1st Cavalry Division

Mike Thompson (crew chief) 228th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, 1970-71 This and the following thirteen nose art photos were taken by Mike and provided to me by Mike’s brother-in-law Specialist 5 Jordan Green (Maintenance Platoon) Charlie Troop 1/9th, 1969-70


 W.O.1 Matthew Lawless with A Troop gunship


Image courtesy of Michael Dwyer, Sp 4, Victor call sign “Blivet” 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion Gladiator Huey CH-47 Chinook, South Vietnam Photo by David Parsley UH-1D Dolphin 605 “Ruptured Duck” with WO1 Boyd Mitchell and CPT Bill McCurry. Photo by Captain Bill McCurry, 1966-1967 CH 47 Nose Art Photo by John Lippert Sr. Song Be Province, Vietnam Photo by Dave Simmons Photo by Jerry Walker


Photo by John M. DeCillo


Photo by Joe Schwarzer


Col. Thomas E. Colvin, USAF (Ret.), Danang Air Base, Vietnam, 1969-70


‘Mr Groovy’ of the 11th ACR out of Blackhorse.
Photo by Lloyd Goldston III


Flew in from Bien Hoa to FSB Buttons December 1970
Photo by Joe Saad


Puff the Magic Dragon (Spooky) AC-47 gunship


Vietnam – weather girl


Filed under Vietnam War

Bridges over Vietnam

Bailey Bridge

Below are some photos Chris Bussells (31st HHC) provided of a Bailey bridge project built by the 31st Engineer Battalion over the Song Be River and completed in 1970. Chris worked on the design part of this project as a draftsman.

The original concrete bridge piers had been partially destroyed, and he needed to design formwork and reinforcing for the reconstructed piers. These photos were taken by Chris at the request of the operations officer, who wanted the photos for the unit historian. He had to turn over the negatives, but kept a set of prints for himself.


Below are views of an E-48 AVLB (Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge) deploying its bridge in the Central Highlands, 1968.
Photos by Tommy Truong79 Flickr







Filed under Vietnam War