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In Black Hawk Down, the fight went on for a day. In We Were Soldiers Once & Young, the fighting lasted three days. In The Village, one Marine squad fought for 495 days—half of them died.
Few American battles have been so extended, savage and personal. A handful of Americans volunteered to live among six thousand Vietnamese, training farmers to defend their village. Such “Combined Action Platoons” (CAPs) are now a lost footnote about how the war could have been fought; only the villagers remain to bear witness. This is the story of fifteen resolute young Americans matched against two hundred Viet Cong; how a CAP lived, fought and died. And why the villagers remember them to this day.
district committee. In May, Lam had to sneak into the village. In June, he could casually stroll through the central marketplace. And all he had for backing was a ragtag outfit which included a handful of Americans. The entire force scarcely outnumbered the Binh Nghia guerrillas, and directly across the river the Viet Cong kept a main-force battalion. The situation was intolerable. A dozen Americans could not just move in and live among thousands of Vietnamese and call a village pacified. The
three years had killed fourteen of his former comrades. He knew who was sleeping with whom, and his favorite technique was to hide in a house which he suspected a PF would soon be visiting, catch his man at a disadvantage and kill him with a knife. No such incidents had occurred in Binh Nghia, although Phuoc conceded that even if they had, it would probably not have stopped each individual PF from believing it would never happen to him. But on this night there was strict attendance to business,
guys search the area.” The action had lasted eight seconds. Lummis and Brannon stepped out of the bushes, peering at the ground in front of them. “One,” Lummis said. “Blown away?” O’Rourke asked. “Yes, sir.” Luong walked forward and struck a match in front of the faces of the two men. He grunted once but said nothing. “Get their rifles,” O’Rourke said. “We’ll head in by the main trail. Make sure you have fresh mags in those weapons. Fielder, take point.” It was growing light when they
he left, Dang shook hands with McGowan and publicly thanked him for bringing certain matters to his attention. Shortly thereafter the village chief reported McGowan to district. Thanh had been receiving persistent rumors that the VC across the river were bartering woven mats for rice. Supposedly the wives of the richer farmers in Binh Nghia were quite willing to trade surplus rice to avoid the tedious task of weaving. My Hué was the trading spot. To put a stop to the traffic, Suong ordered all
distraction from concentration on the job at hand. So Beebe never heard the Viet Cong. He would never have seen them either had Suong not suddenly begun nudging him hard and pointing across the yard. Where Beebe had been looking blankly for an hour, he now thought he saw a shadow move. Straining to mark the spot, he slowly started to lift the rifle to his shoulder when a noiseless figure darted across an open corner of the yard and disappeared behind a house. Thoroughly startled, Beebe half-rose