"Talk... Or Die!" - The Montagnards
- Wed 20 Jul 2011
Savages, or supporters?
In "Talk... or
Die!", Australian helicopter pilot Brendan Beckett encounters
The Montagnard tribes are mountain dwellers, considered a savage
people - the Vietnamese called them "moi," which literally means
savage - though this was a harsh judgement on a long-established
(though comparitively primitive) way of life, perhaps flavoured
with an element of propoganda by a Communist government fiercely
opposed to the Montagnard's efforts to keep their culture
The name "Montagnard" is as French as it sounds, derived from
the time of France's attempts at establishing colonies in Vietnam.
In the 1950s the French used the Montagnards as mercenaries against
the Viet Minh troops. In recent times they have taken the name
"Degar" to sever links to this colonial past, though many still
speak fluent French.
As the war loomed, American Special Forces were sent to train
and supply the Montagnards - or "Yards" as they called them - in
unconventional warfare. Much of their weaponry was from the Second
World War - re-issues of German weaponry and they had no uniform to
speak of. They built fortifications out of bamboo and learnt how to
patrol and man them.
When the Americans escalated their involvement in the Vietnam
War the Central Highlands the Montagnard occupied became
strategically important as it included the Ho Chi Minh trail - the
North Vietnamese supply line. The Montagnard's unfailing support of
the US agenda and willingness to fight for their cause against
Communism earned the people the reputation as "America's most loyal
allies in Vietnam."
As well as training indigenous troops, the US Special Forces had
remit to recruit and make use of mercenary troops. This is
something they had been doing since the Second World War, to gain
numbers in more obscure theatres of war.
This US film archive footage offers more insight into special
advisors sent to Vietnam - though of course from an American point