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U.S. Special Forces Training Rhade Tribesmen to Fight in Vietnam

Apr. 28, 1962 - The U.S. Special Forces are arming, training, and organizing the Rhade tribesmen of South Vietnam into a surprisingly effective anti-guerrilla army. About 2,000 tribesmen have been trained to defend their villages against the Viet Cong. There had been misgivings about arming the Rhade tribesmen, based on doubt as to which side they would help, but the Army’s gamble is paying off. The Rhade tribesmen appear to be moving enthusiastically into the anti-Communist camp. This politically delicate mission is being handled by an Army Special Forces team under Capt. Ronald Shackleton of Newark, N.J. Captain Shackleton’s men live with the tribesmen, eating their food, drinking their rice wine, and attending their sacrificial rites. What makes the mission sensitive is the fact that a few years ago the Rhade tribesmen were forbidden to keep even a crossbow, their traditional weapon. The tribe had preferred the French to the Vietnamese. When the Americans arrived, it was feared that a transfer of affection to the new foreigners might stir resentment in Saigon. But this is being handled diplomatically by the Special Forces.


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