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Letters from Readers - June 2011 - Vietnam

By Vietnam magazine 
Originally published by Vietnam magazine. Published Online: May 12, 2011 
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Unidentified Dollies Update
Regarding your April inquiry in Letters about the picture of Donut Dollies submitted by Dave Andrews. The photo was one of several taken by the Public Information Office for use as the 1969 Christmas card from the Donut Dollies at Cu Chi. The first names of the women pictured in the photo are: Sue, René (me), Linda, Marcia, Teri, Pat, Linda, Margot and Dorothy.

René Johnson
Tallahassee, Fla.

Tiger Onslaught Continues
My February letter questioning novelist Karl Marlantes' statement in the October Interview that he "saw a guy in our battalion get eaten by a tiger," was misinterpreted by readers. When I wrote that I had never heard of an incident like this, I was commenting on being "eaten by a tiger," which implies consumed (nothing remaining, body not recovered). Mr. Marlantes said "eaten by a tiger," not "attacked" or "killed."

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Rich Thurmond
Hoover, Ala.

In the February issue, a letter by Rich Thurmond questioned reports of tigers killing and eating soldiers in Vietnam. In February 1969, I commanded one of three battalions comprising the II Corps Mobile Strike Force (MSF), 5th Special Forces Group. On February 17, west of An Khe, a tiger breached the security of one of my company's night perimeters and attacked a Montagnard soldier. The noise awoke the sleeping indigenous soldiers. What was happening was soon obvious, and the entire company opened fire on the tiger, which was now dragging its prey outside the perimeter. The tiger escaped unharmed with its victim. After an unsettling period of time, the gunfire ceased but the tiger could clearly be heard chewing on its fresh meal.

I have an extract from the now unclassified MSF Monthly Operations Summary, which states, "On 17 Feb one MSF was attacked and killed by a tiger." I have two photographs from the Special Forces C-Team where the body was held in a refrigerated conex box for return to its family and village for burial. They clearly show the victim's throat has been torn open and the femur has been detached from the body. Although the femur cannot be seen in the photographs, it was completely devoid of flesh.

Clayton S. Scott III
Savannah, Ga.

I read the letters in the April issue on tiger attacks in Vietnam. I was with the 2/506 Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, and took this picture (above) in late 1970 on Fire Support Base Rakkasan in I Corp. I was told it was a 350-pound female that had walked into a night ambush. I guess we have to remember it was their turf.

Dennis Cox
Wallace, Calif.

No Fantasies About Fonda
Regarding the April book review of Hanoi Jane: War, Sex & Fantasies of Betrayal by Jerry Lembcke, every Vietnam veteran that I have spoken to over the last 30 years has exactly the very same opinion of Jane Fonda that I espouse. She was a traitor. Lembcke knows nothing about what those heroes went through in Vietnam. He, like most liberal college professors, seems to think that we working-class grunts are stupid, and need them to guide us. What a bunch of bull.

Ron Breithaupt
Taylor, Pa.

Another POW Rescue Raid?
In the February Interview, Sydney Schanberg's contention regarding U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) possibly left in Cambodia rings true. When I attended Counterinsurgency (COIN) School at Hurlburt Air Force Base in the mid-1970s, Brig. Gen. LeRoy J. Manor, the senior planner for the Son Tay Prison raid, was a speaker and detailed the raid at his presentation. Asked if there had been any other raids like Son Tay for American POWs, he detailed another, much smaller raid for two U.S. POWs in Laos who were being held deep inside a cave. After the enemy guards were killed, a lone rescuer crawled back into the cave and made contact with the POWs who were reportedly so scared that they refused to follow the rescuer out of the cave, forcing the raiding party to leave without them.

Years later, I contacted General Manor and asked him if he knew whatever became of those POWs. He resolutely denied that he had ever made those remarks to our COIN class and "didn't know what I was referring to." His denial lends credence to Schanberg's claim that American POWs were knowingly left in Southeast Asia.

Colonel Joe Potter, USAF (ret.)
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Who Was Hugging Whose Belt?
I enjoy Joseph Galloway's work, but I was disappointed that he repeated in his December article on Ia Drang the North Vietnamese claim that they neutralized U.S. firepower by a policy of "hug them by the belt buckle."
I served in the infantry in III Corps and a year in southern I Corps, facing the tactical challenge of driving the NVA from their spider holes. Much of the close fighting resulted from us trying to flush the enemy out. The NVA and VC showed bravery in these fights, but, in most cases, only left their holes in order to withdraw from battle. I know of occasions where the NVA attacked with the intent of overrunning outnumbered American units, but these were not instances of "hugging our belts." I don't question that the leaders in Hanoi wanted their troops to use the tactic, but in my experience, that rarely happened in the field. 

Robert Dyson
Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

Send letters to: Vietnam Editor, 19300 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176; or email: Vietnam@weiderhistorygroup.com. Become a fan of Vietnam Magazine on Face­book.



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