Back Then

The birth of a 'boom' town from The Army Reporter for June 14, 1971

Copy of publication provided by Dave Eckberg

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FSB BRONCO - Earlier this year, two Montagnards were forced to carry a cannon for an NVA unit on the various trails in western Quang Ngai Province.  One day they concealed the cannon beside a trail and rallied to an 11th Brigade unit and began one of the largest refugee migrations in the Province.

By April, a string of small refugee huts emerged along the Tra Khuc River at Ha Thanh, in the rugged mountains 16 miles west of Quang Ngai City.  Fresh construction was underway and troopers of the 3rd Bn., 1st Inf. were mustering their resources of food and clothing because the area had swelled from 350 to more than 3,000 refugees in two months.  The troopers also had a strong interest in the Montagnards because they had worked with Popular Forces' platoons and the first Hoi Chanhs to help rally others from NVA and VC domination.

"In just 12 days in one month, 55 local force Montagnards and 350 refugees came to the camp at Ha Thanh," said First Lieutenant David J. Eckberg, battalion S-5.  "These people were in deep need of help and we recognized that they would soon need clothing and food.  It's our job to give them the choice of a normal way of life, free from involuntary servitude."

Soon letters were written and donations of clothing came from many charitable organizations throughout the states.

"The clothes also came in handy in an emergency when a small village near Ha Thanh burned down recently," commented Eckberg.

Rice, noodles and cooking oil which the battalion captures from the VC is likewise turned over to the refugees.  The whole unit also assists by donating bars of soap.

Eckberg, who is a medical service officer, leads a MEDCAP team once a week into the area.  The battalion surgeon, Capt. Michael H. Dang, and battalion medics make the weekly trip to Ha Thanh.

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