LT X; Reconnaissance Mission
By CPT David R. Fabian
Lieutenant X had been extensively trained as a recon specialist in North Vietnam prior to his infiltration south. After serving four mouths In South Vietnam with the 320th Regiment Recon Company, as a Master Sergeant, he received a battlefield commission and became the executive officer of the 19th Recon Company, 320th Regiment, 1st NVA Battalion. He participated In the battles of Chu Do, Chu Ben, and Hill 800 in Kontum Province In 1968. In late summer his unit was moved further south toward Ban Me Thuot. While on a recon mission, he was found wounded by an alert 4th Division LRP team.
WHEN WE COMPLETE our reconnaissance mission, we return to our unit as soon as possible. We never rely on civilians or others to relay our information. After the attack we normally take two or three weeks off to rest, treat the wounded, and conduct "lessons learned" meetings concerning the significance of our recon in terms of success or failure of the attack.
"When you do a good job in the NVA you are rewarded by being promoted and/or given a certificate of commendation. I was extremely happy when promoted; I knew my leader recognized my good performance. Recently in South Vietnam, the NVA has started to award the Medal of Victory to our soldiers. However, neither I nor my men had earned them.
"As frequently as possible, we are taught about American perimeters. As part of the study, we employ sand tables. On recons we just crawl slowly through the wire; cutting the bottom strands. "If we are detected while inside the camp and must make a hasty withdrawal, we use wooden planks or ladders to go over the top of the wire. In training we have a man lie on the wire so that we may run over him, but we never do this in combat operations.
"We have one doctor and one medical specialist working in each regimental dispensary. There are also two medics assigned per company. The doctors in the NVA are very good, very professional. They provide good medical care for our casualties. Those who are seriously wounded are sent back to North Vietnam. I might add that during the time that I was in North Vietnam, I never saw a wounded soldier. When they go north the government keeps them in medical centers because they donít want the people to see them.
ALTHOUGH WE TAKE the malaria pill, most of us are still afflicted by the sickness. I believe all 70 men in my unit had contracted malaria at one time or another, and it was in various degrees of seriousness. We also take B1 vitamins daily. I am not at all certain how much good these tablets do. Curiously, three of my men contacted paralysis, feeling absolutely no pain throughout the body. They were evacuated to a hospital complex and I never saw them afterward.
"The only women in the NVA are the nurses who work in hospital complexes. They do not accompany the units Into combat. Very seldom did we have sexual contact with them while in the NVA. However, sometimes along the infiltration routes we met women at the communication and liaison stations in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
The women seemed to like us very much. We were nice to them, giving them gifts as well as NVA money.
"The Political Officer always told us that if captured we would be tortured and killed. When I was wounded and left behind by my comrades I expected to be killed. Of course now I know differently. After I received medical aid, an ARVN major showed me a South Vietnamese brochure on treatment of prisoners, and it was then that I realized I would not be mistreated or killed.
I WILL NEVER FORGET the day I was left behind wounded. We had finished our recon of the Ban Me Thuot area and were returning to the base camp area when my unit of eight men became surrounded. Artillery was fired on us and I received a serious wound in the stomach and another wound In the left thigh. I was angered that my men were leaving me, but knew they had to do it lest they be wounded or captured. I gave my friend my pistol, machine gun, watch, ring , and map. I kept only my compass.
"I placed two grenades under me.... I was going to use the grenades on my enemies, and if possible kill them if they indicated that they would mistreat me. Leaving the grenades with the wounded is not our policy Ė I just thought I might be able to kill some of you.
"Instead of being mistreated, though, I was given medical treatment as soon as I was found. I could have later killed a medic, US captain, and two other men because I was never searched. After the medical treatment my fears vanished and I surrendered the grenades. . . ."
Next Week, The Conclusion