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Subject: 101st Division at FOB Ripcord, Vietnam 1970
Yimmy    3/11/2008 9:50:51 AM
Hey, I am currently reading the book "Ripcord", and came across an interesting anecdote concerning a patrol which was fleetingly seen, but not engaged. I can't recall the exact details (but I can find it, and elaborate if anyone is interested), however basically an American (platoon?) element was on a hill, and had sent a squad out for X reason. The platoon commander, moving to link up with the squad, saw movement, and called to indetify himself ("curahee" or whatever they yelled), however he got an "okay" in response, not coming from his squad. Both himself and his squad saw the other patrol - however the situation was confused. The patrol was stated as consisting of half a dozen NVA, in American helmets and with M16's, and a taller blonde white guy with M60. There were no other American units in the area, however the Americans did use defected NVA sappers as guides. It was suggested that the blonde man was an American defector, or perhaps an Eastern European advisor, however neither theories fully account for the American equipment and weaponry. Can anyone expand on this?
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GOP       3/11/2008 12:17:30 PM
Wow, cool stuff. I'm curious to see the answers.
Possible NVA SOF unit who didn't wanna give away their position and engage in a firefight?
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GOP       3/11/2008 12:19:26 PM
Also, the American equipment shouldn't have been too hard to come by. We are talking about a war where 50,000 US troops were killed, most with their weapons. And if the East Germans are involved, than US weaponry could have easily made it's way to the NVA. The Soviet Union could easily get that kind of stuff presumably.
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Tiber1       3/11/2008 10:12:20 PM
There were some soviet advisors on the ground. Wouldn't be a stretch to think some got bored and wanted to play too.
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Horsesoldier       3/11/2008 11:05:51 PM
I doubt it was an American deserter/defector, since if someone had gone over to the other side wholeheartedly enough to be serving under arms, they'd have been shipped off to the north for propaganda purposes most ricky-tick.
I'm skeptical on the Soviet/Eastern European advisor angle as well.  The advisors from the Warsaw Pact were, if I'm not mistaken, mostly technical experts and such, and the Soviets were quite keen to not have Caucasian guys with Eastern European dental work turning up in South Vietnam, dead or alive.
From the way the section is written is there any possibility they misidentified a S. Vietnamese militia patrol with an SF or CAP platoon advisor?  That seems like the most likely scenario given the ethnic mix and weapons they were equipped with.
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smitty237    It's possible   3/12/2008 1:42:15 AM
I've actually heard a couple of accounts of American soldiers defecting and then collaborating with the North Vietnamese.  Probably the most famous example was Bobby Garwood, although I believe he collaborated with the Vietnamese after he was captured.  Garwood actually stayed in Vietnam for a number of years after all the other American prisoners were released, but later returned to the United States.  Garwood tried to get in the good graces of Vietnam vets (who quite understandably considered him a traitor) by claiming that he had seen American POWs/MIAs well after 1973.  Garwood even went with an American delegation to Vietnam to investigate whether there were any POWs in Vietnam.  Most of Garwood's claims were discredited, to put it kindly.
It actually isn't too hard to imagine that some American GIs might have defected to the NVA, as shameful as that seems.  I think something like a dozen or so Americans defected to the Chinese or North Koreans between 1950-53, and that war only lasted three years, so I would think it plausible at least that many or more might have defected to the NVA.  Any captured officer or specialist soldier, like an intel specialist or Green Beret, would probably be rushed to Hanoi for extensive interrogation, but a defecting infantry enlisted man or low ranking noncom would have little intel value to the NVA once he divulged whatever he knew about his unit and wherever it was stationed.    He could be invaluable, however, in teaching NVA units about American small unit tactics.  He would also be useful as a double agent, surreptiously sneaking into areas such as Pleiku, China Beach, or even Saigon, where he would just be another American soldier among thousands.  They could also monitor American radio traffic and even try to wreak havoc by trying to call in air strikes or artillery fire missions on US and ARVN targets. A more likely scenario is that once he has proven his loyalty, he would be used either as a scout (which is how we used NVA/VC defectors), or would simply be expected to fight as a regular soldier. 
Like I said earlier, I've heard a couple of stories of Americans fighting with the NVA, including some black soldiers.  I even heard that some of these defectors were actually considered high value targets, but admittedly this is probably third hand info at best.  Surely there is some info about this somewhere, but I'm not sure where you would find it.
On another note, I suppose it is possible the tall, blonde could have been a Russian or Eastern European.  As Horsesoldier pointed out this would have been risky, but we now know that Russians flew MiGs during the Korean War, and mostly certainly they flew MiGs for Vietnam.  East Europeans and Cubans manned air defenses batteries in North Vietnam, and there were thousands of Russian support personnel in the country.  I've heard stories (again, second or third hand) of Russian Spetnaz and Chinese soldiers serving alongside NVA units, and reportedly some were killed.  A dead white guy is a dead white guy, so it would be hard to prove that the corpse was Russian, German, or a New Yorker.  A captured Russian soldier in South Vietnam would have been a major coup, but I'm sure any Spetnaz 'advisor' operating in South Vietnam would have been well aware of this and would have taken extreme measures to avoid capture, just like American Special Forces troopers operating in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were very careful to avoid capture. 
One last explanation is one that hasn't been brought up yet, and that is that the man may not have been either American or Eastern European.  Vietnam was once a French colony, and there were still Frenchmen operating in the country during the war.  In his book The Green Berets,  Robin Moore relates a true story in which a French plantation owner living in South Vietnam would run his plantation by day and then lead a VC unit at night.   There were many West European socialists that sympathized with the Vietnamese and were critical of the United States, and some of these young commie idealists may have made their way to North Vietnam to assist in the fight against US imperialism.  It's doubtful many of them could have actually joined the North Vietnamese Army, but communist governments are not above hiring mercenaries when it suits their needs.  A German, Frenchmen, Spaniard, Brit, or Swede with military training and socialist leanings may have proven an asset.  If the hypothetical Swede or German were captured, his home country would have plausible deniability of what he was doing, and thus avoid t
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Yimmy       3/12/2008 2:31:55 PM

From the way the section is written is there any possibility they misidentified a S. Vietnamese militia patrol with an SF or CAP platoon advisor?  That seems like the most likely scenario given the ethnic mix and weapons they were equipped with.

There were no South Vietnamese in the area. They were due to make an offensive after Ripcrod and the area had been secured.
Personally, I think they were probably NVA sappers, using the American equipment and white English speaking man to try and blag their way into the firebases.  I expect the man was a defector, or Soviet volunteer.
They didn't try to engage the American patrol, on the reply of "okay!", they exfilled the area.
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longrifle       3/13/2008 9:03:11 PM
What Yimmy suspects is possible but I think what Horsesoldier suspects is probable.  Just because no other friendly units were supposed to be in that area doesn't mean that one wasn't.

Don't overlook the possibility of SF; Mobile Strike Forces, Mobile Guerrilla Forces, CIDG, SOG SLAM/Hatchet teams, etc.  I know they didn't usually wear helmets but they did on occasion.  I don't find it unreasonable to believe that SF could have had something going in the area that didn't get passed down the 101st chain of command to a rifle platoon leader.  Many past blue on blue situations prove that it happens.

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Yimmy       3/13/2008 11:43:45 PM

What Yimmy suspects is possible but I think what Horsesoldier suspects is probable.  Just because no other friendly units were supposed to be in that area doesn't mean that one wasn't.

There was mention of an offical report which was inconclusive.... I am sure that would have dug up any units where they shouldn't have been - and we are talking in the middle of nowhere here where the enemy hold most of the ground.
But the killer for me is, had they been friendlies, they would not have called back "okay!" before running for dear life!  Now that is the way to get shot-up in quick order.  Were they friendlies they would have gone firm and identified themselves... "halt, one advance and be recognised... or ill blow your f***ing head off"... and all that.
The only reason neither the American patrol or the officer engaged them, was due to the confusion, and not wanting to engage each other by mistake.
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