fun & thrills in Vietnam...from our friend Hal
.....How The Bear Got His Name
It was common practice for teams to go into the bush with the intent of taking a potential intelligence source prisoner. The object was to take that target alive and get the team extracted alive as well.
Once such operation reportedly took place in the Central Highlands. Rumor has it that it was the basis for one segment of John Wayne's "The Green Berets".
An ambush was set up on a route normally used by the NVA & VC to infiltrate personnel. The SF team set up along the trail waiting for a small party moving through the night. The importance of the travelers, as well as their route and dates in transit would usually been established by MACV intel sources.
A unique type of ambush was set up. It consisted of 2 men armed with standard weapons with each carrying an additional silenced Colt Woodsman .22 pistol.
Claymore mines would be set in place as well.
When the bad guys entered the ambush area, the target was easily identified. A .22 caliber round was silently fired into the target's calf muscle. As expected, the target fell to the ground in pain and the others in the group gathered around him.
At that point, the claymores, which had been set up to fire at an angle above the wounded target were fired and his traveling companions were no longer a threat to the mission.
The target was bundled up, medicated and bandaged to avoid leaving a blood trail. One of the SF team threw him on his back and the race was on to get to the Skyhook extraction before the bad guys got organized.
In this instance, the first extraction point had to be abandoned due to heavy enemy activity. In spite of successfully avoiding the NVA & VC known to be in the area, it was over 24 hours after he was captured before the 4th alternative site could be reached.
Trying to keep him medicated, but not dead was made difficult during the travel time. Too much medicine and he would be nothing more than an unmanageable lump of bones. Too little and he could make enough noise to be heard by those
trying to find him and a the SF team.
In the last 2 hour stretch of carrying him, one SF team member got smacked in the eye by a tree branch. There was no permanent injury, but Doc rinsed his eye out with clean water and put a patch over the eye with the ever present and useful green tape.
While covering that last stretch of trail to the extraction point, the
prisoner began talking. His mouth was covered with gauze to muffle sound but still allow him to breathe. When the man with eye patch who was carrying him tried to tell him to shut up, the target continued to babble in something that was obviously not Vietnamese. The guy carrying him resorted to growling
menacingly over his shoulder at the prisoner which unexpectedly kept him quiet for several minutes at a time.
Upon reaching the Skyhook pick up point, just before the line lifting balloon was inflated and sent skyward, the prisoner became restless and again tried talking. His country boy escort sat down on him and growled ferociously one more
long time. The prisoner froze where he laid and did not make another sound.
One of the other SF team members, a fellow country boy looked at the scene, met the gaze of the prisoner sitting team member, noted the steam rising off of his teammate and recited the following:
"He's an old, blind bear
Alone in the winter wood
With only the smell of his breath for comfort.
Too mean to die
And too old to care,
But show some caution,
He's still THE BEAR..."
The extraction went as planned and the team made its way to the next LZ where they were soon heading back to their base via Huey limousine.