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ARVN Infantry at Pleiku

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam had a tough assignment in 1971. The Americans were pulling out. The ARVN would be expected to take over the fight, and they weren't ready.

There were some good units; some not-so-much. ARVN Rangers seemed to be some of their best, and the tankers I worked with seemed to know what they were doing. But many South Vietnamese soldiers just wanted to go home.

These ARVN infantrymen were taking part in a combined arms exercise at Pleiku. The day before, their unit - supported by tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and jet fighter/bombers - assaulted a hillside in a mock attack to please the generals in Saigon. Now they were doing it again - this time just for me, an Army journalist who got to Pleiku a day late.

That training exercise went well, but the jets never made it. They were diverted to attack North Vietnamese tanks spotted on the highway north of Pleiku.

When patrols found fifty mortar positions outside the wire, all ARVN units and the handful of Americans still at Pleiku, went on full alert through the night.

None of us slept that night; the enemy tanks disappeared back into the jungle; and the real attack never came.

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