The 1967 Battle of Dak To (3)

As my team and I monitored Vietnamese Communist communications from our perch on Engineer Hill in Pleiku Province and received input from other signals intelligence units and from NSA, the forces of the North Vietnamese B3 Front quietly moved into the area around the Dak To U.S. Special Forces Camp, a region of steep hills and deep jungle valleys in Kontum Province, just south of us. At the same time, North Vietnamese military forces throughout the highlands introduced signal procedures used during combat. This was going to be big.

Meanwhile, I was getting to know the soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division. They found my presence hilarious. I was a civilian under cover—lest the enemy discover they had a spy in their midst—as an enlisted man even though I outranked some of their officers. I lived with the enlisted men. I slept in a tent with three GIs, ate C-rations sitting in the dirt with the troops, used their latrines.

One morning when I woke up, my fatigues, the combat uniform worn by soldiers, were missing. I put on my skivvies and wandered around the cantonment area asking if anyone had seen them. They reappeared about two hours later. The troops had snitched them and taken them to a local tailor. They paid him to sew patches over the breast pockets on each fatigue blouse. They said “Glenn” and “Civilian.” On the two collar points of each blouse, where military rank would normally appear, the number “13” had been embroidered—I was a GS-13 (civilian rank) at the time. All my fatigue hats were now decorated with the 4th Infantry Division crest.

The troops couldn’t stop laughing. And I was happy. They now accepted me as one of them. They insisted on taking pictures of me in my enhanced fatigues. I still have one of the photos.

All the while, the North Vietnamese offensive in the highlands loomed.

More tomorrow.

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