National Geographic : 1965 Jan
with the U. S. Advisory Group. The group is housed in former Emperor Bao Dai's hunting lodge. Two pet honey bears were tied to the porch rail in front of my room. As I watched them roll on their backs and play with their toes, I was struck by the terrible incongru ity of this peaceful frolicking while my friends risked their lives among the rebels. At dinner I learned that circulars had been secretly dropped all over town that afternoon. Noting the grievances of the montagnards, the circular had been signed by the High Committee of the United Front for the Struggle of the Oppressed Race. Table talk developed further that five Special Forces camps were involved in the revolt, or more than 3,000 men. A thousand montagnards had moved on Ban Me Thuot. The Vietnamese Special Forces in some camps had been killed, 29 men in all. In three camps, Amer ican officers had been held as hostages. Reference to "American imperialists" in the declaration of the High Committee smacked of Viet Cong terminology. To quote the circular directly, "The American im perialists seek by all means to bring the nations of Southeast Asia into their war bloc ... and shrink from no crime . . . to attain their goal." Montagnards Threaten a New Attack The next morning Col. John F. Freund of Vienna, Virginia, Deputy Senior Adviser of the Second Corps Tactical Zone, told me he was heading for the rebel command post. I joined him. On the way, we met Major Brooks hurrying to Vietnamese Army Head quarters with a rebel ultimatum. They threatened to resume their attack on the capital at 8:30 a.m. "What are their demands?" Col. Freund asked. "That all Vietnamese leave the highlands," Brooks answered. We continued to the rebel command post, where the eagle on Freund's collar gained a speedy admission. Captain Gillespie and Y Jhon were standing in the yard. They had survived a spine-chilling night under armed guard. Alcohol had flowed freely and occasion ally a drunkard had discharged a pistol or carbine. Gillespie told Colonel Freund that he held little hope for regaining control of the situation. To his mind the montagnards had been duped into an upris ing by hard-core Communists of the Viet Cong. Colonel Freund, however, was confident. He mount ed the ladder at the center of the balcony of the rebel leaders' quarters and addressed the troops in fluent French (page 54). The platoon commanders gathered to listen, and a few leaders came from the house. Colo nel Freund spoke of the United States' friendship and help for the Rhade. He posed the question, "Who will now continue this role? Where will you get rice and clothing and medicine?" Their cause, he said, was hopeless without United States aid. He pointed at the leaders, asking them, "Who of you will be responsible for the blood of these men?" 58 Mountain madonna, with one child at her breast and another laughing into her face, sees her way of life threatened. Her people, of Malayo Polynesian origin, took refuge in the hills centuries ago. Now they live among thousands of newly settled Vietnamese, who clear tribal areas for themselves, while Viet Cong guerrillas make the highlands a battleground. Thus thrust into the 20th century, the montagnard strives to find his footing in the tides of change. Stilted, thatched huts shelter some 25 families near the protected hamlet of Gia Vuc (page 61).