THE MICHIGAN DAILY
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7. 196
PAGE TEN TIlE MICHIGAN DAILY THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7,1967
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By PETER ARNETT
Associated Press Staff Writer
DAKSON, Vietnam -The sim-
ple 'Montagnards of Dakson had
only recently learned how to use
matches, and, flame throwers were
beyond their imagination.
Then, in one horrifying hour.
these weapons of fire wrecked
death and destruction amongst
"They threw fire at us," was
how the survivors described the
attack one of the most vicious of
the war against Vietnam's civilian
Sixty thatched roof houses,
built in four neat rows late last
year, were razed just after last
Monday midnight. The ashes
blew across carcasses of water
buffalo slaughtered near the ham-
let's bamboo fence.
A day later rows of bodies of
women and children were lying
under the one shady tree on the
hill. On the lid of a basket were
the bodies of a tiny brother and
sister, stlil clinging to each other.
Like all the other bodies at Dak-
son, they were blistered by the
By late Wednesday, 63 bodies
had been dragged from the bunk-
ers where the population hid when
the Viet Cong forces first launch-
ed their attack. More were ex-
pected to be dug up.
At least 47 were wounded, 33
burned seriously. Four hundred
villagers were missing, presumab-
ly driven into the jungled coun-
tryside by the Communists.
Scores more of the 2,008 popu-
lation of Dakson are probably in-
jured. Some were dragging them-
selves into the provincial hospital
at Song Be yesterday.
The people are from the Steng
tribe, a 20,000 strong Montagnard
group that comprises nearly half
the population of Phuoc Long
The Saigon government late in
1966 won several thousand Stengs
to its side and these people settled
in "New Life" hamlets around
Song Be, the province capital that
sits lonely and vulnerable in the
Vietnamese piedmont 80 miles
northeast of Saigon.
"The Stengs are pawns in this
war," one American refugee of-
The Viet Cong has made it
clear this year that it wanted
them all back under Communist
control. Emissaries visited the new
hamlets, warning inhabitants that
their houses would be burned un-
less the Montagnards returned to
Dakson was singled out as an
This week's attack was probab-
ly by more than one battalion,
American officers say. The de-
fense force of 120 men retreated
to the southern edge of the ham-
According to survivors the Viet
Cong shouted through bull horns:
"Evacuate your houses, you must
return with us. Evacuate your
Some of the people fled in the
darkness. Others cowered in the
flimsy bamboo houses. Many
crawled into the deep bunkers
dug into the houses' earthen
The Viet Cong moved with pre-
cision, according to one of the
wounded survivors, a man named
Duot. He heard them shouting in
his language for him to get out
and leave, but he was too fright-
ened to move.
He saw a shadow in his door-
way, then a jet of flame shot out,
searing his back and shoulders.
As his house began to burn he
All around him, he said, men
were running and "flames were
shooting in the air." Americans
at Song Be across the valley said
the hamlet seemed to be ablaze
Some of the dead were charred
in the houses. Most appeared to
have died as the jets of the flame
throwers shot into the tiny houses
and into the openings of the
bunkers, asphyxiating those not
killed in the thrust of flame.
The Communists made little
attempt to chase the defense
force that had retreated to the
south. Instead they melted back
into the jungle.
The wounded began dragging
themselves into Song Be within
a few hours. They crawled or
were carried down the valley and
across the river.
Nurse Linda Mudge, from Mans-
field, Pa., said: "I have never
seen people so filthy. They had
been crawling around in the mud
all night. Their wounds were
packed in mud."
Dr. Herbert Rosenbleeth, from
Flemington, N.J., added: "I pick-
ed up a little girl to move her
from a litter to a bed. Her flesh
came away in my hands. She was
Dr. Henry Wirts, from York,
Pa., another American surgeon at
the hospital, said: "It was awful.
Even a big U.S. hospital would
have been taxed to the limit to
treat the 33 serious burn patients
that came in here."
The doctors ran out of petro-
leum jelly and intravenous fluids,
and fresh supplies were flown
A boy named Dieu Do, age 3,
his head, chest and arms band-
aged, clung to his sister. His
mother lay back in the hospital
bed with her forearms bandaged.
"We have to rebuild Dakson
and get the people back in there,"
said province chief Huy. "It is
important that we show the Viet
Cong that the people will not be
driven out. Right now the Mon-
tagnards are a little frightened.
But they want to go back and
He named several other "New
Life" hamelts in the region. "If
Dakson is not rebuilt, then the
people in these hamlets will de-
cide that we cannot help them.
They might return to the Com-
munists. We would lose them."
Dakson and the other hamlets,
he said, need "more barbed wire.
But at the ravaged community
yesterday one man was talking
about losing 12 of his 13 children.
An old woman flailed at herself
and wailed over the body of a son.:
An old man picked at the rub-
bish of his burned house.
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