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Monday, October 11, 2004

This is coolbert: Here is how instilling aggressiveness can lead to consequences that the unit commander does not anticipate.

When the 101st Airborne Division first deployed to Vietnam in say 1965 or 1966, the commander of that unit, a Major General, wanted to promote aggressiveness among his troops. And to do so, he made this challenge to his soldiers. "Whoever in my command is the first to close with the enemy [VC/NVA] and kill an enemy soldier with an edged weapon gets a five day R&R [rest and relaxation] within country [Vietnam]."

Well, some of the paratroopers of the 101st decided to take the General up on his offer. And they began to carry hatchets [unauthorized weaponry] with them when ever they went into combat. And sure enough, one troop was able to close with the enemy and did kill an enemy soldier with his hatchet.

What happened next was what the General had not anticipated. This soldier, after killing the enemy with his hatchet, then cut off the head totally and brought it back as evidence of his deed. That guy wanted the five day pass and brought the head back to prove what he had done.

Well, this goes against the Laws of Land Warfare, of course. And the result was that the soldier was courts martialed, found guilty and sent to Leavenworth to do a term in prison. Not what he had anticipated as being his "reward". And the General? He too was courts martialed for creating a climate that had led to this violation of the law. The General too was found guilty and discharged, his career over.

This is an instance of getting what you wish for, but in the wrong way.

This also bears out very well what Craig has mentioned in some blog entries he has made. That there were aberrations of behavior committed by American soldiers in Vietnam. But for the most part, that behavior was just that, aberrations. And punished in many instances as it should be. American soldiers were not the raping, murdering, baby killers that they have been portrayed as by some gadflies and just plain goofy people.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The gist of this story is right but all the details are wrong. I know simply because I am "very close" with the "Troop" this story is written about. So I will clear this up for you:

First, it was not a General, it was a full bird Colonel. Second, the hatchets were "issued". No one "decided to take the General up on his offer". Third, it was a "case of American scotch", not 5 days R&R. Fourth, it was hand-to-hand combat of which the result was a VC with a "detached head" being that the only weapon availabe at the time was a hatchet. You also fail to mention how this particular combat sequence was initiated which lends itself as to why the hatchet was the only weapon available at the time. Fifth, this does not go "against the Laws of Land Warfare". It was hand-to-hand COMBAT and two men fighting for survival. You do what you have to do with whatever resources available to you! Sixth, Seventh and Eighth no one was "Courts Martialed" and no one went to Leavenworth. As a matter of fact, the "Troop" went on to RETIRE (after 20+ years) from the 82nd Abn Div and is now a police officer (at 60+ years old!). Also, the career of the "General" (really a Colonel at the time) was not over by a long shot. He spent another tour in Vietnam (66-67), later commanded a Unit in Korea (2nd ID I think), and also commanded the 82nd Abn Div and RETIRED at the rank of Lt. General. His tactics are still taught and used to this day.
And, you are right, "there were aberrations of behavior committed by American soldiers in Vietnam", but this instance was not one of them.

9:55 AM


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