The French Female Reporter and "the rest of the story"
This is difficult... A female French "reporter"... who likely did a favor for a helicopter crew and in return got dropped off in Kontum during the battle in the middle of May. I encountered her as NVA artillery / rocket rounds were striking near us and pulled her into the nearest shelter which was the DTOC entrance. COL Ba, the 23rd ARVN DIV Commander, was incensed that she was in the DTOC and ordered her out of the DTOC and I got yelled at.
Shortly thereafter I again went outside and later discovered her dead body. Not from artillery fragmentation wounds but from bullets. I'd seen enough dead bodies by then and recognized the difference from 5.56 vice 7.62x39. The implication for me was that she was killed by our forces. Who did it? I didn't know, but one possibility was that she was murdered because of the fear that she might catch another ride out of Kontum and leak the DTOC location to enemy contacts. Such was the apparent distrust and loathing of anything French from the earlier Indo-China conflict. I immediately told COL Rhotenberry , the Senior Adviser to the 23rd ARVN DIV, of my suspicions and he said something like this...
"Captain, I need you, especially right now, to do the targeting for the Arc Light strikes. If I report your suspicions a number of things will happen... all bad. My relationship with COL Ba will sour, your team advisors will suffer and you will get transferred or worse, even might accidentally get killed before I can get you out. Do you fully understand? You've got ten seconds to think this through. What's your decision?"
I decided to keep my suspicions to myself. In hindsight... it was a wise decision. I have always had great respect for COL Rhotenberry's wisdom at that critical moment and have come to better understand COL Ba's initial reaction / decision, regardless of what may or may not have happened later in the death of the French woman. Sort of a Vietnam version of Star Trek's Mr. Spock's famous line: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." In this case, the survival of the 23rd ARVN division and the possible fate of the nation of South Vietnam if Kontum fell was more important. I tell myself the French woman took a chance in war... and she lost. Not my fault. Possibly not COL Ba's either. Only God knows for sure...
I wrote a brief mention of this incident in a chapter I authored for the Paladin Press book "Warriors" a few years back. Now, from my aging memory, you have my side of "the rest of the story"
Jack Finch <JohnRFinch@aol.com>
CO Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 22:57:25 (EDT)