This page is from Harlow Short old A-502 website, 
which I downloaded part of it over 10 years ago for my own studies when his website was still live. 
This has been uploaded on the Gia Vuc website without Harlow knowing of it 
as I have lost contact, but I am pretty sure he would appreciate part of his website been on the "Net" again.  
Harlow
, I and a few friends are looking for you, so please get in touch if you visit this page. 
Jean Luc (Gia-Vuc.com)

A-502: The Montagnards

 

My best friend when I was in Vietnam was MengNan (nickname 'MeDang'), a Rhade. The reason he is laughing so hard here is because he was walking across the compound with his pants at half mast tucking his shirt in and I was trying to take a picture of his black, with very bright vertical red stripes, shorts!

When it came to taking pictures, the Yards reminded me of country folk circa USA 1870. Altho they were laughing and joking most of the time, as soon as you pointed a camera at them they became rigid and unsmiling. It was paradoxical because once you knew them it was hard to imagine a happier people; the Thais like to refer to their country as the Land of Smiles, but with the Yards it was real.

It is also harder to imagine a more loyal and courageous people, but you had to get to know them. 

Many Americans, including me, initially had a difficult time adjusting to how the Yards behaved with one another. I almost went into shock the first time I walked out of the team house and got grabbed by two Yards. They would wait outside bracketing the door way, and when ever an American they liked would walk out, they would grab you and holding your hands, start stroking and petting your arms as if you were their favorite Teddy Bear! Poor little rube bumpkin me was all in a sweat wondering just what in the hell this was leading to.

However it wasn't too many months later that taking advantage of the sun peeking through the monsoon clouds I was sitting with a bunch of the Yards outside next to their bunk house. Yards like to mingle like a bunch of pups, so when an American they didn't feel overly fond of walked over and asked for me they said they didn't know and shifted all around so he couldn't see me. Here I was sitting not more than three feet from the guy and he didn't know it because of all the Yards that were piled on one another including me. I thought it was hilarious, no thought of phobias; your attitude tends to change about superficial mannerisms when the people you are with have saved your life untold times and would continue to do so until the last one of them was dead.

Their attitude toward Americans who they considered their friends almost defies description. They would do anything for you, they treated you just like a favored relative. They were constantly on the lookout for you about any and everything no matter how minor or serious. The first day I was at camp I had my 35mm camera out taking pictures and the next thing I knew I felt a tap on my shoulder and was being admonished by an older Yard about being careless because I had left the camera case, which he was holding under my nose, sitting on a bench in the dispensary. And later on I found out these were the same guys who would stick with you in the middle of a fire fight, after the whole company of Viet CIDG had run off, no matter what the odds. This sort of caring never stopped and they never really asked for anything except your friendship in return.

*You know where I would like to be right now? Sitting back in one of my Yard's hutches, Its raining, you can smell the smoke from their cooking, can't you see that black on the ceiling with the gold edges from the smoke, its raining, coming down hard, the choppers can't come, its all peaceful, just laid back, no worries, no problems, just peace, My Yards, My Friends. God Bless you and I will be there waiting on you.

St. Petersburg, Florida USA
06/12/00

 

One of the few things they ever asked for was detergent powder from the PX that they could take back to their families in the Yard village, Cai Cai, on their days off. But these requests had strings attached: They always had to pay before they would accept it - if you picked some up before payday they wouldn't take it until they had the cash to give you. It was insane. They were constantly giving us gifts of bracelets and cross-bows they had made by hand. When we were out in the jungle on an operation, they would gather all sorts of vegetables and spices, such as bamboo shoots and cinnamon; then at lunch or dinner we would give them our canned mackerel or whatever we had and they would make up these really great three or four course meals for us to eat. If we had ever tried to pay for any of this they would have been so insulted they might not have talked to us for a month.

My Two Buddies A502 1969It was also almost impossible to give them gifts in return. In this picture "MeDang" is holding a radio that I had initially bought for myself. When I mentioned getting a different one he expressed interest in it and I tried to give it to him. He finally took it on the day he could pay me in full the price I told him I had paid! When we closed the camp, for lack of a better idea I bought a bunch of Zippo lighters to give the Yards and at first they refused to take them. I finally had to embarrass them by saying that if they didn't then it had to mean they weren't really my friends.

The Yard XO's KidsWhen it was certain that we were closing our camp and that in fact Special Forces was being phased out of country and all Americans would soon follow, I asked the Yards what they were going to do. The Yard second in command told me that they were very close to the Cambode people and that perhaps he would go to Cambodia. For nearly thirty years I have agonized over that comment, for in fact until very recently with the advent of the Internet, I had never heard anything concrete about their fate - I never tried hard because I just couldn't bear to know.

What we hear now is not good. The Vietnamese have always considered Montagnards as 'moi', savages not worthy of consideration. Abandoned to their fate by the Western powers the Vietnamese communist fanatics branded them as traitors even tho the Vietnamese never exercised political dominion over the Montagnards until the end of the Second Indochinese War in 1975, when the Americans turned their backs on them. They have been hunted down, killed, incarcerated in re-education camps, dispossessed of their ancestral lands, and treated at best as second class citizens. Out of a population estimated at 2 million prior to WWII today there may be as few as 600,000; a figure that makes what happened in Cambodia pale in contrast.

The best historical perspective I have found is at the Montagnard Foundation which is an official web site for a political arm of the Montagnards. Other sites include the Save The Montagnards and the Cedar Point Foundation. Bob Donoghue of the Cedar Point Foundation has found that great good can be accomplished for Yard populations with just a small input. He has also found that in Vietnam government attitudes can be changed for the better once it is demonstrated that westerners who are interested in the Yards' welfare are also willing to help Vietnamese people.

HaDa: the Yard Weight LifterTheir need is enormous, anything we can do is worth doing, and nothing we do can ever repay the debt of friendship owed to these brave loyal people who sacrificed so much for us.
 

*(Many thanks to Jennifer Martinez for the above quote from Doug.)
(A-502 Photo Page) Harlow Short 2/Dec/2000
Please note this webpage is from A-502 old website 
and has been posted temporary on the Gia Vuc Website 
until I can get in touch with Harlow Short 
 

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