National Geographic : 1965 Jan
Rendezvous at dawn: Helicopter pilots breakfast beside their aircraft at Ban Me Thuot, awaiting the signal to evacuate Special Forces units from rebel camps. The decision to pull the Americans out came after the Vietnamese Army was ordered to retake the camps, by force if necessary. The rebels capitulated peacefully, and within a few days Special Forces teams returned to duty at their mountain posts. Three stars on rebel flag represent the three largest mountain tribes. The banner, briefly flown over a rebellious hamlet, was given by monta gnards as a souvenir to Capt. Edward A. Spencer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and 1st Lt. George Markos of Fort Worth, Texas. alert for omens-smiled, saving, "It's good, it's good." A two-hour drive brought us to Bon Sar Pa. On the veranda of the mess hall I spotted a young man with a cowboy hat and a blue 4-H blazer-Tracy Atwood, an International Voluntary Services agricultural adviser who had been caught in the camp during the re volt. The IVS is a kind of privately sponsored Peace Corps. Tracy's first words to me were, "Don't take my name. If my mother knew about this she'd have a heart attack." When Colonel Freund led the montagnards back into the camp, he became a willing hos tage. He sent Y Jhon and Gillespie out by helicopter along with a frightened Vietnam 62 ese lieutenant who had been captured. But true to his word, he remained. I returned to the provincial capital with Tracy Atwood. Later he told me what had happened on Sat urday night in Bon Sar Pa. Bullets Ricochet From Mess Hall Because of the possibility of a Viet Cong attack, Tracy had pulled into the camp from a village where he had been instructing tribes men in potato planting. The montagnard bat talion commander, Y Mut, warned Tracy of impending trouble. At 1 a.m., four of the montagnards awoke the Americans saying, "This is our night. We are taking over." Having disarmed the U. S.