The Hill Trap Maneuver

Hill Trap Maneuver

In or around 1966, the NVA began to develop a new maneuver, which was called the ‘Hill Trap’ maneuver. This maneuver sought to exploit the known battle habits of US troops by drawing them into a mountainous killing ground where a defense in depth, combined with standoff bombardments and rear attacks, would likely annihilate them. Continue reading

The Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a complex web of different jungle paths that enabled communist troops to travel from North Vietnam to areas close to Saigon. It has been estimated that the National Liberation Front received sixty tons of aid per day from this route. Most of this was carried by porters. Occasionally bicycles and ponies would also be used.

At regular intervals along the route, the NLF built base camps. As well as providing a place for them to rest, the base camps provided medical treatment for those who had been injured or had fallen ill on the journey. Continue reading

MONTAGNARDS

The term Montagnard means “mountain people” in French and is a carryover from the French colonial period in Vietnam. The term is preferable to the derogatory Vietnamese term moi, meaning “savage.” Montagnard is the term, typically shortened to Yard, used by U.S. military personnel in the Central Highlands during the Vietnam War. The Montagnards, who are made up of different tribes, with many overlapping customs, social interactions, and language patterns, typically refer to themselves by their tribal names such as Jarai, Koho, Manong, and Rhade. Since Montagnard is still the most commonly recognized term for these people, it is the term used in this profile.

Many of the first group of Montagnard refugees in the United States adopted the term Dega as their name instead of Montagnard because of the latter’s colonial associations. Dega comes from the Rhade language and refers to a creation myth in which the first two Montagnards were named De and Ga. One was of Mon-Khmer heritage and the other of Malayo-Polynesian heritage, and all Montagnards are descendants of these first people of the Highlands, according to the myth. In fact, Montagnard languages are traceable to the Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian groups.

A Rhade term was chosen because among the first group of Montagnard refugees in the United States the Rhade were in the majority, and their language had been the lingua franca among the resistance fighters. The initial Montagnard organization formed in the United States in 1987 selected the name Montagnard Dega Association in an effort to establish an identity that was inclusive, independent, and recognizable to the community at large. Some Montagnards in the United States, though certainly not all, continue to identify strongly with the term Dega.

The literature on hilltribes in northern Vietnam and Laos that relies on traditional French sources sometimes refers to these peoples as Montagnard. However, the Montagnards from the Central Highlands of Vietnam should not be confused with hilltribe groups in other regions. The Montagnards from the Central Highlands are ethnically distinct from the Hmong and other hilltribe groups from Laos and from hilltribes from northern Vietnam even though they have similar histories of involvement with the U.S. military during the war in Vietnam and Laos. The Montagnards are also distinct from other ethnic minorities in Vietnam, including the Cham, a Muslim minority, who populate parts of Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Nung, as well as other tribal groups from northern Vietnam. A couple hundred Nung have been resettled as refugees in North Carolina and are developing an association with the Montagnards there though the traditions between the two vary significantly. Some Montagnard tribes have also resided in the jungles of Cambodia near the border of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the border having been drawn by the French during their occupation.

Before the Vietnam War, the population of the Central Highlands, estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million, was almost exclusively Montagnard. Today, the population is approximately 4 million, of whom about 1 million are Montagnard. Of these, between 229,000 to 400,000 are thought to follow evangelical Protestantism. An additional 150,000 to 200,000 are Roman Catholic. The 30 or so Montagnard tribes in the Central Highlands comprise more than six different ethnic groups drawn primarily from the Malayo-Polynesian and Mon Khmer language families. The main tribes, in order of size, are the Jarai (320,000), Rhade (258,000), Bahnar (181,000), Koho (122,000), Mnong (89,000), and Stieng (66,000). The Rhade and Mnong are also known as the Ed and the Bunong.

As the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands, the Montagnards are completely different in their culture and language from the mainstream Vietnamese. The Vietnamese arrived much later into what is now Vietnam and came primarily from China in different migratory waves. Primarily lowland rice farmers in the south, the Vietnamese have been much more influenced by outsiders, trade, the French colonization, and industrialization than have the Montagnards. Most Vietnamese are Buddhists, belonging to varying strains of Mahayana Buddhism, although Roman Catholicism and a native religion known as Cao Dai also have large followings. Part of the Vietnamese population, especially in larger towns and cities, maintain Chinese traditions and language. The ethnic Chinese constitute the largest minority in Vietnam.

Physically, the Montagnards are darker skinned than the mainstream Vietnamese and do not have epicanthic folds around their eyes. In general, they are about the same size as the mainstream Vietnamese.

What is a Firebase?

The nonsoldier doesn’t know what a firebase is and to explain it I went to the internet to get some information.  So here is the story:

A fire support base (FSB, firebase or FB) is a military encampment designed to provide indirect fire artillery fire support to infantry operating in areas beyond the normal range of direct fire support from their own base camps.

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An FSB was normally a permanent encampment, though many were dismantled when the units that they supported moved. Their main components varied by size: small bases usually had a battery of six 105 millimeter or 155mm howitzers, a platoon of engineers permanently on station, a Landing Zone (LZ), a Tactical Operations Center (TOC), an aid station staffed with medics, a communications bunker, and a company of infantry. Large FSBs might also have two artillery batteries, and an infantry battalion.

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A major innovation of the Vietnam War was the fire support base. Because there were no well-defined battle lines, fire support of maneuver units could not always be accomplished from secure, behind the line positions or from major base areas. Often, positions had to be secured in enemy-dominated territory.

By late 1966 the usual procedure was to establish fire support bases containing headquarters elements, medical facilities, and other support activities, as well as supporting light, medium, and sometimes heavy artillery. Setting up such bases became the routine opening phase of search operations. For example, the beginning of Operation JUNCTION CITY, 22 February-14 May 1967, included a drive by the 1st Infantry Division to open a road northward through War Zone C for the purpose of establishing fire support bases from which the maneuver battalions would operate and receive their artillery support.

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These early bases were often attacked by North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces, as they made ideal targets for enemy offensive actions. Eventually, because of the enemy’s inclination to attack such installations, fire support bases were established for the express purpose of decoying the enemy. In these instances, sophisticated target detection means including radar, sensor devices, and infrared night sighting devices were used to give warning of the enemy’s approach.

This combination proved to be eminently successful, and large numbers of attacking enemy forces were destroyed in several such battles at little cost in friendly casualties. The decoy concept was further expanded to include the deployment of fire support bases to facilitate screening of suspected major enemy avenues of approach.