National Geographic : 1965 Jan
Around him stood his four bodyguards. One wore a vest festooned with grenades, another kept popping the safety on his car bine. . . inandout...inandout.YJhon began to speak rapidly in Rhade. I looked for the interpreter to ask for a translation but Gillespie snapped, "Don't interrupt. V Jhon has a lot on his mind." The radio conversation continued as ten sion mounted. I prayed that the spirits would work their magic and keep Y Jhon on our side. Finally I managed a transla- tion from the interpreter. Y Jhon had refused to join the rebellion. He was saying, "The great man in the sky knows that what we do is right." Then Ban Don came through with a last trans mission. "We cannot return to our camp). We Zgo now to (lie. Out." V Jhon looked at Captain Gillespie with a pleading expression as if to say, "What shall I do?" Sensing the question, Gillespie said quietly, "Assemble the strike force." The montagnards marched onto the parade ground, platoon by platoon. They were impres sive soldiers, clean and well equipped. All car ried weapons and ammunition. One husky, five foot Rhade machine gunner had slung 30-caliber ammunition belts over each shoulder. They en veloped him like huge shiny serpents. The sol diers stood in place, silent and tense. Speaking first, V Jhon explained frankly the details of the rebellion. The troops listened, grim faced. I stood on the fringe of the parade ground with an interpreter, trying to sense the reaction of the troops. If they disagreed with Y Jhon's decision, they certainly didn't show it. Lone Soldier Sways Tense Montagnards Then Y Jhon introduced Captain Gillespie, saying: "The United States is the father of the Rhade and we are the sons. When there is trou ble between father and son, the son must listen to the father's advice." As Gillespie stepped forward, the troops snapped to attention. He put them at ease. An interpreter at his side translated each phrase. He began, "The hearts of the Americans and the Rhade are as one heart. The United States has come to help the Rhade, to give food, to build schools, to plant rice. Our hearts are together now, but if the Rhade change heart and fight the Americans, we will fight the Rhade." I winced. Strong words, I thought nervously, Flying lifeline remains intact throughout the revolt at Buon Brieng; the United States Air Force C-123 cargo plane offloads supplies. With a capacity of as much as 12 tons, such aircraft bring everything the hamlet requires-food, clothing, building materials, medicines, ammu nition, weapons. In good weather as many as three U. S. Air Force planes a day fly into Buon Brieng and other strategic camps. Other American services lend strong arms to the Special Forces effort among the moun tain people. The U. S. Navy keeps supplies pouring into depots for transshipment by the Air Force. And Marine helicopters stand ready with reinforcements whenever Special Forces under massive attack radio for help.