National Geographic : 1965 Jan
As if on prearranged cue, two Vietnamese fighter planes roared across the compound at treetop level. Murmurs came from the troops. Colonel Freund's words-backed by air pow er-were convincing the men, if not their leaders. The tide was turning. Finally, Freund made a face-saving offer. He would return to the rebels' Bon Sar Pa camp with them to prevent reprisals by the Vietnamese. This proved to be the deciding gesture. In mere minutes, a force of 400 men struck camp and piled into trucks to take up the long trek started by Major Brooks. The Communist leaders made no effort to resist. They stood glumly on the balcony, wordlessly watching their plot collapse. White-tailed Birds Provide an Omen Freund ordered Gillespie to take the lead in the convoy. He would follow in a second jeep with the rebel company commanders. The route wound through treacherous am bush country. I remember discussing with Gillespie the fact that throughout the rebellion there had been no serious Viet Cong attack in the area-one more indication of Viet Cong involvement. Around a sharp turn we came upon an overturned jeep with five rebels sprawled across the road. Gillespie braked, jumped out, and gave first aid. We loaded the men into our jeep. As we continued, I sat on the hood. At my side was Y Jhon. Two beautiful, small white tailed birds winged out in front of us and led our wayfor amileorso down theroadasit passed through dense forest. Y Jhon-ever Youth and age reflect the plight of a people caught in the middle of rebellion: a barefoot youngster, with a baby brother on his back, and an old man with his pipe. No man's land known as Viet Cong Valley leads to Gia Vuc, a walled village of monta gnards protected by a nearby Special Forces encampment (out of picture at lower left). Red guerrillas, who control the road, so harass convoys that only five have managed to get through in the past five months-and they suffered 10 percent casualties. Night after night, the Viet Cong hits this hamlet in the Valley of the Wind. Special Forces men realize that one day enemy fight ers may overrun the camp. "When they do," says one officer, "we will stand right here and die if we have to."