In response to Joe's comment on drafting and age of draftees, and
speculation about prison for Viet Namese who disagreed with their
particular government's policies, I have three tidbits to offer from the
Conversations with South Viet Namese soldiers yielded these notions...
1) A young man could volunteer for military service at age 16 for the
South Viet Namese Army. I THINK the usual draft age was theoretically
18. I DID encounter a number of young ARVN soldiers who claimed to have
joined up to avenge the death of a father or other family member. RIght
after basic training, they still had "fire in the belly" to go after the
VC/NVA. After a year or two trekking the bush, they seemed to just be war
2) An enlistment or a junior officer's obligation at that time was 4
years, but if the Southern private soldier accepted promotion higher than
"First Corporal" in the ARVN, he was committed for "20 years to
life"...the one enlisted "retiree" I saw being sent off FSB Sarge by
helicopter had attained the age of 45.
3) The commander of an ARVN unit was responsible only for the custody and
work assignments of "linh cong dao binh" -- deserters who had been caught.
The commander was not responsible for the feeding and clothing of these
men; thus the few I was aware of with a unit on FSB Sarge in 1971 had to
rely on the inclinations of other soldiers who might pity them to leave
them food scraps to eat and remnants of uniforms to wear. Of course, if
no one was inclined to provide food, the guys tried to survive by theft --
and the commander WAS responsible,too, for punishing theft.
In the 1980's, I met a refugee family in California. The father had been
a math teacher and woodshop teacher. At some point, the SVN government
(possibly Thieu's regime) had ordered all male teachers to be classified
as officers. I don't know if friend Minh actually got any officer
candidate training or had any real active duty time, but after April 30,
1975, since he did have the technical status of "officer in the puppet
army" he was given three years all-expense-paid vacation at hard labor,
with all the beatings, hepatitis, malaria and other untreated maladies
common to such tropical resorts.
I encountered hearsay in my time, that some men, experiencing difficulties
in their units in the VC, would "rally" or "Chieu Hoi" and spend some
months welcomed by the ARVN, well fed, well-clothed, and supplied any
needed medical treatment. They might also be "showcased" to persuade
others to defect. Then, after they were well and strong, they would slip
back into the jungle or the tunnels and rejoin their VC unit, bringing
back what provisions and weapons they could.
Also, reportedly, some men spent some months or years with one side,
defected to the other, returned to the "original" side, defected
again.... shifting as they deemed viable for personal chances for
R. S. Carlson VOICE: (626) 815-6000 x3102
Professor, English FAX: (626) 969-7180
Azusa Pacific University
901 East Alosta Avenue
Azusa, CA 91702
^^Opinions expressed are my own, not my employer's^^
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