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Country Fair brings Allied progress

Copy of article provided by Alan G. Vitters

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By SP4 Kenneth Perry

FSB 4-11 (11th INF BDE IO) -- Supported by the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry, over 60 personnel from the National Police Field Force (NPFF) and two companies from the 30th Regional Force (RF) Group launched a two-day search and pacification operation in the Son Tinh district of the 11th Infantry Brigade.

The mission's two-fold purpose was to identify and detain suspected VC while rallying the people in support of the government.  The former objective was of immediate importance and entailed a brief interrogation of the villagers, who had been directed to a nearby site, followed by a thorough search of the village.  Since the latter goal was of long range significance, the principle efforts of the operation were directed toward providing the people with both information and services.  Temporary shelters were provided, food and water were distributed and medical attention was made available through a joint Vietnamese-American MEDCAP.  This approach, in addition to the festive atmosphere which it created resulted in the operation being tagged, "Country Fair."

Early one morning companies from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry and the 30th RF Group moved into position to secure the area around the hamlets, Minh Than One and Two.  Shortly afterwards, Sergeant Pedro Cruz, Guanica, P.R., and his squad of six engineers from Company C, 26th Engineers began sweeping with mine detectors the site selected for the "Country Fair."  Their intensive search, conducted over an area 400 square yards, uncovered a booby-trapped 82mm mortar round which was immediately destroyed.

Later that day, a partial search of the village conducted by NPFF teams revealed false floors in some of the hooches as well as several tunnels.  The following day, the NPFF teams, assisted by Company B, two scout dog teams, and the squad of engineers uncovered three 55 gallon drums of rice and one 55 gallon drum of maize.

During the two day period, over 300 villagers were screened by Vietnamese military intelligence teams.  Out of these there were 22 VCS and five VCI detained.  In all, there were 1000 people, mostly women and children involved in the operation.  With the aid of a public address system, an entertainment format was utilized to broadcast messages encouraging the people to denounce the VC and come to the support of their government.  A PSYOPS team including several projectionists provided equipment and assistance to the operation as well as pro-government movies.  Although the long range effect of such activity may be difficult to determine, its immediate impact encouraged two VC to rally.

It was primarily the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry's responsibility to provide logistical support as well as security for the operation.  Before noon of the first day, personnel of the support platoon from FSB 4-11 had stockpiled 400 cases of C-rations, 500 pounds of polished rice, and 2000 gallons of water.  In addition, nine general purpose tents, several generators and numerous medical supplies were delivered.  The people had brought nearly all of their possessions which included cooking utensils as well as livestock.

Six Vietnamese medical personnel, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry's surgeon, Captain Kenyon Kuglar, Kansas City, assisted by four US medics and First Lieutenant James W. Randall, Chamberlin, S.D., of the Medical Service Corps treated 105 villagers during the operation.  The Vietnamese personnel handled most of the routine cases which consisted primarily of skin disorders and infections, referring the more serious patients to the US staff.

Five medical evacuations were necessary.  One of these was instrumental in saving the life of a 17 year-old girl who had suffered severe multiple fragmentation wounds to the back after having tripped a booby-trap.  Commenting upon the overall sucess of the MEDCAP, Lieutenant Randall said, "The working relationship between the Vietnamese and American medical personnel brought about a more effective patient treatment."

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