Jack, I am flattered by your timely response to my posting. My stories do not compare to those of others, and my experiences were a year apart from the battle you describe, thus I hesitate to add to the Memories Book. As for MAJ Thanh, I have his address and have spent hours listening to his accounts. When Ben Het was overrun, he spent a month in the jungle alone, not knowing which positions were in friendly hands, until finding friendly troops near Dak To. After the collapse in 1975, he helped organize an escape from the re-education/labor camp and enjoyed only a few days of freedom until he was betrayed and recaptured. He was then locked in a CONEX for nearly eight years in solitary confinement. When asked how he kept his sanity, he replied he prayed the rosary on his ten fingers repeatedly to maintain a conscious stream of thought. Only a handful of men out of the original three battalions of the II Corps ARVN Rangers survived the war. As you know, the garrisons of the Special Forces border camps were converted from the old LLDB to ARVN Rangers, or BDQ (Biet Dong Quan). I worked with the original II Corps BDQ pre-conversion. I have found only four of the survivors in the US, and know of one living under an assumed name in Vietnam. Two of my US teammates and one of our ARVN Rangers met in Washington DC for a Ranger reunion two years ago. We found MAJ Thanh in the ARVN Ranger Colorguard. I have photos of Thanh and SGT Dong embracing each other moments after they met. Until that moment, each one had believed the other dead for thirty years. They are but two of the millions of stories that have come out of Vietnam.
Thank you again for your work in researching the events of 1972 in the Kontum area. I want to thank you especially for sharing your work where everyone can read and learn of those harrowing days.
Best Regards, an Old Ranger.
REFLECTIONS: It is so easy to forget the brave efforts of the ARVN soldiers and the enormous losses they suffered. I have had an opportunity to meet with some of those Vietnamese survivors. Some of the most poignant stories come from the men who fought alongside the Vietnamese, especially the ranger units and those who fought with the Montagnards like the Special Forces. There is a Stars & Stripes article I posted on the web that speaks to the bonding that took place with these men- "If you've ever heard a Montagnard say 'You die, I die' " the sergeant said, "you know how we feel. No, we're not running out on them." Captain Kenneth Joseph Yonan was last heard from as he tried to direct fire from the water tower at Tan Canh. He was in that water tower because he wanted to be with his Vietnamese counterpart who had gone there to help in the battle. How much American blood is mingled with that of their Vietnamese comrades-in-arms?