restricted access 8. Aftershocks
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243 CHAPTER EIGHT Aftershocks The 173rd Airborne soldiered on in Binh Dinh for much of 1971, getting a new commander in January when General Ochs was replaced by Brigadier General Jack MacFarlane. While the 2/503rd continued to guard Camp Radcliffe, the other three paratroop battalions scoured the mountains surrounding AO Lee and southwest of An Khe in Operations Greene Storm and Greene Lightning. In mid-March the 2/503rd was relieved from its defensive mission to join in Operation Greene Sure, which targeted the Cay Giep Mountains. But the brigade’s offensive strength did not increase for long, since by the end of April, the 1/503rdhad been reduced to zero strength and its colors flown home. The Sky Soldiers’ last major combat operation in Vietnam was Greene Gun, a combat interdiction operation in the Crescent Mountains and Base Area 226 that commenced on 21 April. After it was completed, the brigade’s remaining units began standing down for redeployment back to the United States. The 2/503rd left at the end of July, and the 173rd’s headquarters and the last two paratroop battalions were deactivated in August.1 This final phase of the brigade’s six years of distinguished combat service in Vietnam was marred by a series of events that threatened to tarnish its illustrious reputation. The first occurred on 24 January 1971, when NBC television correspondent Phil Brady broadcast an exposé about a major heroin operation located within LZ English at a building known as the “White House.” Brady reported that US Military Police could not raid the “White House” because it was Vietnamese property, and the GVN’s National Police refused to take action. He alleged that ARVN troops based at LZ English also sold drugs to American soldiers. Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird was so incensed that he fired off an angry telegram to Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, demanding an immediate investigation into Brady’s allegations. Moorer passed the request on to General Abrams, who responded with a report indicating that Brady’s story had been correct in most of its particulars. The “White House” was demolished within a matter of days.2 Just a few weeks after the “White House” broadcast, another wave of antiAmerican demonstrations broke out in Qui Nhon on 12 February—only this 244 Chapter Eight time, they were incited by the chairman and other members of the Province Council. Rioters threw rocks at American installations, vandalized places of business that catered to Americans, and burned a US Army jeep and roughed up its three occupants.3 As in December 1970, the demonstrations were provoked by incidents in which Vietnamese civilians had been killed by Americans. The first had occurred on 18 January, when a sixteen-year-old fisherman was shot and killed while trying to recover food containers that were being dumped overboard from a barge. The American soldiers were shooting at the containers to make them sink and continued to do so even though several fishing boats had swooped in to gather them up. Three days later, a Vietnamese schoolteacher was killed by rifle fire from a passing 173rd Airborne Brigade truck, which failed to stop. On 2 February came the death of a five-year-old boy who had been struck three days earlier by a stone allegedly thrown by an American. Finally, on 9 February, an American sentry mistakenly fired an explosive shell from his M-79 grenade launcher instead of an illumination round. It landed in the nearby home of an ARVN soldier, killing a seven-year-old boy and wounding four other civilians. Pacification Studies Group field evaluators concluded that deadly incidents continued to occur with such alarming frequency because “there had existed an ostrichin -the-sand attitude toward these offenders which bespeaks a certain mushiness in both [US] military justice and discipline. In the past, justice has been neither swift nor certain, and transgressors have been comparatively free to repeat their acts with impunity.”4 Ironically, the field evaluators also identified “the announced withdrawal of American troops” as one of the causes for both sets of anti-American demonstrations. Fears of abandonment and betrayal were rife after the 4th Infantry Division left South Vietnam and the 173rd Airborne Brigade was pulled off pacification duty. Though they deeply resented the Americans’ high-handed and sometimes life-threatening behavior, local civilians had little confidence that either ARVN regulars or the Territorial Forces would be able to...


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Subject Headings

  • Counterinsurgency -- Vietnam -- Bình Định (Province).
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Campaigns -- Vietnam -- Bình Định (Province).
  • Bình Định (Vietnam : Province) -- History.
  • United States. Army. Airborne Brigade, 173rd -- History.
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