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Vol. 1 No. 4                     Saigon, Vietnam                     March 25, 1966


Unit                   Page Unit                  Page Unit                  Page Unit                  Page
1/35                                 1 3rd Bde                          1 Montagnards               3 Operation Garfield       1
121st Avn Co.              1 3rd Bde                          2 Montagnards               4 Pleiku PX                      2
2d Bde                           1 3rd Bde                          3 Operation Honolulu    1 USO - Ann Margret    3
2/35                                4 3rd Bde                          4


This fourth issue of Tropic Lightning News published in Vietnam was mimeographed on  legal-size 8½ x 14 paper.


   Second Bde. ended operation Honolulu at 9 p.m. Saturday when participating units began returning to their base camp at Cu Chi.  The operation, which started March 14, resulted in 45 Viet Cong dead, 18 captured and 51 suspects detained.  Of the total dead, 31 were killed on Saturday in four of 81 air strikes staged by the U.S. Air Force in support of the operation.  Another 112 Viet Cong were believed killed but were not confirmed by body count.
   The search-and-clear operation netted 54 enemy documents captured, seven small arms, five anti-tank rockets, 83 grenades, one grenade launcher, 350 rounds of .30 caliber ammunition, 500 rounds of 1.92mm ammunition, six 105mm rounds, 250 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, three rocket launchers and 27 and one half tons of rice.
   The brigade also seized nine mines, and 62 booby traps.
   Seven trenches, 16 tunnels, 172 buildings and 254 bunkers were leveled or destroyed.
   Nearly 3,000 artillery rounds were expended during the five days of the operation, which took brigade elements to an area near the Oriental River, 25 miles northwest of Saigon.
   Before the brigade returned to Cu Chi, they gave enough rice to last for six months to the farmer whose land had been used as a command post during the exercise.
   Meanwhile, 3d Brigade encountered an unknown sized enemy force early Sunday, killing 18 VC and capturing one in operation Garfield in Darlac Province north of Ban Me Thuot.
   The brigade has accounted for more than 90 Viet Cong dead since Garfield began early this month.
   During the operation, the Air Force has flown a total of 254 air strikes in support of brigade ground action.



   There are mornings when it just doesn't pay to crawl out of your tunnel.
   Take, for instance. the Viet Cong in Northern Darlac Province, where 3d Bde. has been conducting operation Garfield.
   When advancing infantrymen from 1/35th Inf. found a still warm communist field hospital, they discovered it had been evacuated so quickly that large quantities of medical supplies were left behind.  It was only a matter of how long it took to see what they had before the "Tropic Lightning" soldiers dispatched doctors and medical corpsmen, with the newly acquired supplies, into the Viet Cong harassed hamlets to begin treating the villagers.
   Armed with the captured medicine, Brigade Surgeon Dr.(Capt.) William R. Gardner, of Jacksonville, Fla., and his staff launched an extensive medical care program for Montagnard villagers around the brigade's Buon Brieng command post.
   Amazed by the high grade of the captured  (Cont'd on Page 3)


Unit Citation Awarded To Aviation Company

   WASHINGTON (ANF) - President Lyndon B. Johnson has awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation to the Army's 121st Aviation Company and its attached units for "extraordinary heroism" in Vietnam.
   The citation lauded the units for their "indomitable courage and professional skill while providing direct support for a Republic of Vietnam military ground operation in territory known to be dominated by insurgents."
   The action took place in the vicinity of Ca Mau on December 5, 1964, while the 121st and its attached forces were supporting the South Vietnamese 21st Infantry division.


Page 2                           TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS                           March 25, 1966



   If a small boy with a very big appetite wanted a gigantic stomach-ache, 3d Bde could accommodate -- provided the youngster had the cash to pay for 37,000 rolls of wild cherry Lifesavers.
   But it would take a man the size of Paul Bunyan with a set of whiskers like Bluebeard's to use the $11,000 worth of razor blades the brigade's post exchange (PX) officer, 2Lt. Larry A. Kaiser, has stocked.
   The PX business at Pleiku is big business.  So big, in fact, has it become that the exchange is thought to be the largest field PX in Vietnam, stocking an average of $250,000 of merchandise, which has been bought, begged or borrowed from virtually any source.
   Lieutenant Kaiser, lamenting the usual resupply problem said,. "We have been in operation here for over two months and have received only one shipment of merchandise we ordered and that was worth less than $1,000.
   "We know when Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), and supply sources at Qui Nhon have stock sitting around and we send out our trucks to pick it up.
   "In the case of Qui Nhon, brigade elements secure national highway 19 from the port city to the base camp near Pleiku to make sure the merchandise arrives safely.  These troops," he added wryly, "somehow don't seem to mind when it's for the PX supplies."
   Those supplies have begun to find their way into the hands of the brigade's men through a series of "sub-exchanges," which were set up to offer quicker service.
   Within 48 hours after Col. Everette A. Stoutner, brigade commander, offhandedly remarked it would be nice to have battalion PX annexes, Lieutenant Kaiser had set up two annexes.  "The only reason we didn't get the other five started," he said, "was because the units were busy on field operations.  But they'll be ready by payday."
   The new annexes greatly enlarge the PX's capacity, which had been limited to two wooden-frame tents, five general purpose storage tents and two conex containers to hold perishable items.
   While canned beer and soft drinks are hardly perishable, hot and dusty Pleiku makes them number one on the PX's best-seller list.  On one typical resupply day, the exchange received more than $40,000 worth of refreshments.  Within twelve hours after it had been unloaded, the stock of drinks had been inventoried and delivered to the brigade's units.
   "Our goal is to give the man in the foxhole anything he wants at anytime -- day or night," the lieutenant remarked.
   And he and his staff of five men try valiantly to do just that.  Initial problems of furnishing writing materials for 4,000 men were overcome when the exchange received a supply of $7,000 worth of stationery.  Another $3,000 shipment of chewing gum fattened the PX's inventory still more.
   Not content with the already grand operation, the PX staff is planning to construct larger, permanent buildings for housing and storing merchandise; mobile battalion annexes to provide the units on maneuver with cigarettes, soft drinks and some foods included in the stock.  Also in the wind is a mail order service for hard-to-get items.
   "Service to the troops," insist 3d Bde's PX employees, is fine, but they prefer to think that "The family who buys at the PX together stays together."


The TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS is an authorized publication of the 25th Infantry Division.  It is published weekly for all division units in the Republic of Vietnam by the Information Office, 25th Infantry Division, APO U.S. Forces, 96225.  Views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army.

Maj. Gen. Fred C. Weyand . . . . Commanding General
Maj. William C. Shepard . . . . . . Information Officer
Sp5 Dale P. Kemery . . . . . . . . . Editor



Page 3                           TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS                           March 25, 1966


3,000 WATCH

   Her arrival in Vietnam hardly rivaled the visit of a political, diplomatic or military leader for security preparations.  Indeed, it was as well publicized as -- possibly even more than -- the tour made by Playboy's Jo Collins several months ago.
   Since her advance press was good, more than 3,000 soldiers from 3d Bde. turned out with howling airmen and Special Forces troops to welcome Ann-Margret to Pleiku last week.
   The co-star of several movies, including "Cincinnati Kid," "Viva Las Vegas" and "Made in Paris," came onto the lowboy trailer "stage" wearing a transparent, flesh-colored blouse, black leotards and calf-high boots.
   During her 20-minute portion of the United Services Organization ( USO ) show, the starlet danced and sang four songs.  She sat on the edge of the stage and cut loose with "More," and then stood up to belt out "Frankie and Johnnie," swinging her red ponytail for emphasis.
   As a morale booster, Ann got Pfc. Timothy I. Milne, of Battle Creek, Mich., a member of Co. D, 65th Engr. Bn., on stage to dance.
   Traveling with the actress, Johnny Rivers, artist of several hit records, supplied backing, with Mickey Jones on drums and Chuck Day on guitar.
   Before the star went onto the stage, Rivers and Co. entertained the watching audience with music and gags.  Rivers sang several of his records, including "High on the Mountain of Love" and his hit of "Memphis."
   Autograph hunters managed to get their chance when they mobbed the stage following the show to get precious signatures from Ann-Margret and Rivers and his musicians.
   The show left Pleiku for another performance at Nha Trang.


(From Page 1)

drugs, Doctor Gardner said, "The packaging is not as neat as ours, but the quality and purity seem very good."
   Among the quantities of penicillin, streptomycin, chloroquine, sulfa and morphine, the soldiers discovered large amounts of caffeine and strychnine, two stimulants used by the Viet Cong to drive their fighters beyond their normal capacities.
   Some drugs bore labels indicating they were made in France, North Vietnam and Japan, while others were from Red China and the Soviet Union.
   As if the drugs weren't enough, the brigade also captured a number of surgical instruments, which, of course, have been added to the medics' disease-fighting "arsenal."
   With the medical treatment program in full swing, the villagers in Darlac Province can thank their unfriendly, neighborhood terrorist for becoming the friendly, neighborhood druggist.



   The wing of a live chicken is solemnly dipped into jugs of ruou can, Montagnard rice wine, and the priest of the village of Buon Brieng passes the drink to Colonel Everette A. Stoutner, 3d Bde. CO.
   In a rite rarely witnessed by Westerners, Col. Stoutner and four of his staff were being initiated as honorary members of the village. It was an elaborate thank-you offered by the Montagnards for the American's efforts to treat sick and diseased villagers in Darlac Province.
   The five soldiers had followed the village chiefs into the meeting house and sat down before the large jugs of wine used to solemnize the ceremony.  After blessing the wine, the priest, still holding the live chicken, placed a Montagnard bracelet on Col. Stoutner's right wrist.  He chanted a prayer.
   Properly initiated, the colonel sank a long, thin bamboo straw into the wine.
   As Col. Stoutner sipped the wine, which tastes similar to Japanese sake, the priest went through the initiation ritual with the other four "Tropic Lightning" officers.
   The meeting nearly completed, the five men got up to leave but were faced with a display of Montagnard generosity when a group of villagers entered the long house with gifts.  The villagers offered each man a bowl of rice, a fresh egg, and a live chicken, treats for soldiers who had been fighting the Viet Cong in operation Garfield.


Page 4                           TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS                           March 25, 1966



   Shortly after my arrival at 3d Bde., I accompanied the reconnaissance platoon from HHC, 2/35th Inf. as they entered a Montagnard village deep in the hills about 25 miles east of Pleiku.  The village, Ple Bong Mor, has a population of about 200.
   The Montagnard people, who are scattered throughout the central highlands in villages like Ple Bong Mor, are a hardy people, slightly taller and huskier than the Vietnamese, but not as tall as Americans.  They somewhat resemble the American Indians in Mexico and southwestern United States.
   Because of years of oppression, the Montagnards, or "mountain people," have congregated into the highlands where they live a farmer's life and willingly fight anyone who bothers them.
   The Americans, for one, do not bother the mountain people.  U. S. Army Special Forces teams have been in the area for years, working along with these people.  And once the bond of friendship had been established, the Montagnard proved to be a fierce ally.  Although we were probably the first Americans to have entered Ple Bong Mor, except for an occasional Special Forces team, we were warmly received.
   JEEPS FROM THE RECON platoon preceded us into the village and set up recoilless rifles and machinegun positions on the outskirts.  Then the remainder of us entered the village, only to be taken, immediately to the village par k where a funeral ceremony was being conducted.
   It seemed more like a wedding celebration than a funeral.  A small ensemble was playing  gongs of various sizes and shapes.  One man was beating on a large drum made of bamboo strips covered with buffalo hide.  About half the assemblage was doing a kind of snake dance to the music.  The others sat in small groups under the trees, drinking rice wine from large earthen jugs.
   AS WE WERE ESCORTED into the park, the village chief and his staff came forward and greeted us with deep bows, which we returned.
   As if they had been assigned as our escorts, members of the chief's staff moved to take each of us to one of the groups sitting under the trees.
   These people did not put out their hands and beg for charity but immediately invited us to sit down at their funeral ceremony and drink their wine.
   Walking to the funeral, we passed through most of the village.  Except for an occasional tin roof, the houses were built as they have been for a thousand years.  Civilization as we know it had hardly breathed on, these people.  We could see children everywhere.  Those less than a year old were carried in a blanket sling, either in front or in back, depending upon his mood or hunger.  One mother had a very young child in front, and one not too much older around back.
   IN THE VILLAGE square, the doctor who had accompanied us had set up a sick call.  At first, the people were shy, but with a little coaxing from the interpreter, and the realization that the doctor was there to help, they began to respond.  The coughing children were given penicillin.  Those villagers with festering sores and wounds were swabbed with peroxide and given soap.  That one cake of soap would clear up the sores which could become badly infected.
   Soon most of the village population had gathered in the square to watch the doctor work.  Capt. Mike McDonnel, 2/35th S-2, brought out his portable tape recorder and showed the people how it worked.  He allowed the chief and some of the other people to record their voices and then played them back to their amazement.  The captain also had a Polaroid camera with him.  He took pictures of the village chiefs, who were astonished when he produced the finished color print a minute later.
   Though we could have stayed to treat the sick until the supplies ran out, we had more than an hour's ride back to base camp, half of it through some rugged country, where the Viet Cong might very well be waiting for us.  We bade the chief goodbye and moved out of the village with machinegun-Jeeps to our front and rear.
   One visit to such a village makes a thousand posters pale in comparison.  Those destitute villagers are why we are here.


Thanks to:
The 25th Infantry Division Museum for sharing the 1966 volume,
Ron Leonard, 25th Aviation Battalion for getting and mailing the book,
Kirk Ramsey, 2nd Bn., 14th Inf. for creating this page.

This page last modified 08-12-2004

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