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Viet Cong Prove an Elusive Foe

Oct. 21, 1963 - More than 4,000 Vietnamese troops, harassed by mine explosions and Communist snipers concealed in tunnels, slogged through huge tracts of jungle in Trung Lap today and ended the day with almost empty hands. The task force had hoped to close a trap on two hard-core battalions of Viet Cong guerrillas. Only 25 miles north of Saigon, this area — the Hobo Zone, as Americans call it — is as stubbornly controlled by the Communists as any in South Vietnam. At the end of the day, 14 Government troops and 1 American sergeant were wounded and 3 were dead. “It’s a tough war here,” an American adviser said. “The Communists have a fantastic tunnel system in the jungles, and they’ve got all the cover and escape routes they need. I stood right over the entrance of one of these tunnels once without knowing there was a Viet Cong in it. I learned later that the same Viet Cong crept away from the entrance, popped up 50 yards away and killed 5 of our troops, went on for another 50 yards, and killed 3 more. No matter how many of these tunnels we blow up or smoke out, there’s always more.” South Vietnamese marines, eager for a fight, met stiff resistance this afternoon near the edge of the jungle and the Saigon River. From 50 feet above the fight, gunfire could be heard crackling from all sides. “They’re shooting at us,” a young helicopter gunner yelled. The gunner, Albert Rojas of San Antonio, Tex., leveled his automatic rifle at the firefight. “But we can’t zap [shoot] them down there,” the pilot said. “There’s too many of ours in there, and we can’t tell who’s doing what.”


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