George and his partner caught a ride on a “Beaver” plane of Air Laos to the town of Saravane, where they intended to inspect the infantry battalion. The commander and his staff with a small detachment met the plane as it landed on the the grass strip.
The group proceeded by Jeep to battalion headquarters and George and his partner were given a briefing on the local military and political situations, indicating the locations of the infantry companies on the border which were usually near or in small villages and hamlets of the civilian population.
The commander further pointed out the villages located on top of the mountains along the border, which were occupied by the local Montagnard tribe of the “Khas.” This tribe had not yet been organized into an Auto-Defense group. The commander said he needed help from the Laotian army in the form of better firearms, some visual-aid equipment like binoculars, and definitely communication equipment. George immediately organized a trip to the tribal village.
What he found was Montagnard tribesmen who were clearly good fighters and eager to be armed to be able to defend themselves against any intruders into their village. A tribesman took George into the jungle to show him how the Khas observed every movement along the border in this area from their mountainous vantage point. Suddenly, a dove flew up, and the tribesman killed the wild dove from a distance of 50 feet with a bamboo blow gun. George was amazed.
All the Khas had for defense was some machetes, ancient flint muskets, and bamboo blow guns using poisoned flechettes for a deadly projectile. These hunting weapons had served the hunters well in providing food for their families and village, but they would never be able to defend against a well-equipped and armed aggressor. While George’s duty and goal was more to develop these mountainous Montagnard tribes and villages as forward observers of what would later become the Ho Chi Min trail, he knew that something had to be done to bring them up to a military equipment level that they could defend themselves and their people. One thing was clear: They were ready to fight and do just that. The Montagnards, to the last man, did not want to be controlled or ruled by the Communists, Laotians or the Americans, but, if the Americans would equip them, they would be loyal. History would prove that they were just that — loyal.
I write of George’s Laotian service in the run-up to the Vietnam War in my book: Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying.
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