Sunday, January 5, 2020

Angels In Red Hats By General Barry R. McCaffrey

The battle record of the Vietnamese Airborne Division and the associated US Army Advisors and Air Force Forward Air Controllers is a tale of courage, self-sacrifice, and honor which stands out in the history of warfare. The ARVN Airborne was the most highly decorated of all the South Vietnamese Army units. Thousands of these brave Vietnamese paratroopers were killed, maimed. or became missing during their 25 years of nearly continuous combat service as an airborne force, from 1951 until 1975.

Eight of the nine Vietnamese parachute infantry battalions and all three brigade headquarters were awarded the United States President Unit Citation during their years of ferocious combat white fighting alongside the US 1st Cavalry, 1st. 4th, and 25th Infantry Divisions; and the 101st Airborne Division as well as the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The Vietnamese Paratroopers also fought valiantly in support of the heroic US and Vietnamese Marine counterattack which successfully recaptured the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive of 1968.

The Vietnamese Airborne was an elite force of all-volunteers. The airborne troopers went nine week of intensive combat training followed by a three week jump school modeled after the Ft. Benning parachute training system. These special volunteers received better pay, rations, quarters and family benefits than the common South Vietnamese soldiers. More was expected of them - and more was given.

Vietnamese airborne traditions came from the French Airborne. with whom they jump into Dien Bien Phu in 1953. These Vietnamese Red Beret epitomized the warrior ethic of the Spartans. Their discipline tolerated no surrender and never allowed the abandonment of friendly wounded or weapon. They did not fight for a government, a flag, nor the Americans. These Vietnamese paratroopers, whether officer, NCO, or soldiers, lived and died for the honor of the Airborne.

The Vietnamese Airborne forces served throughout the Vietnam Conflict as the National Strategic Reserve. By 1967, at peak strength, more than 13,000 paratroopers were formed into nine infantry battalions, three artillery battalions, and division troops. Battalion combat teams staged by parachute assault or helicopter insertion from Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon as reinforcements to the major battles of the war.Throughout the endless war, the parachute forces were constantly committed to fight wherever the action was most dangerous.

The long years of bloodshed took their steady toll on these brave soldiers. In the final desperate struggles of 1975, the Airborne Division was expended and bled to death in the horrific battle of Phuoc Tuy Province, in the Central Highland, and Xuan Loc. These courageous Vietnamese airborne soldiers fought to the very end. Their spirit and tradition lived on long after the war. For ten years after the downfall of Saigon government, refugees spoke of surviving groups of ARVN paratroopers fighting an unsupported guerilla war in the mountainous jungle of Central Highlands.


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