Captain Dusty R. Brown, A-Team Commander, 5th Special Forces Group, Vietnam, 1967
Color me strange, but I’m one of the few people who love the older BBI sculpts, bodies, and hands. No other molded hands pose better, hold and aim weapons better, and look more natural as the BBI hands. I also don’t think they look too large, as hands, heads, and bodies (in real life) all come in a variety of sizes.
War-Toys had (has?) a heck of a bulk deal going on some Nam figures (2 Mike’s and a Russell for $69.00) and I couldn’t help myself. Besides my A-Team Commander, I’ll probably be building a Team Sergeant, later on, after I finish the other eight guys I’m working on (SWAT, future Marine, Civil War Marine, Panzer Tanker, Nam M-60 gunner, 101st AB Captain 1944, modern SEAL, and 101st AB Private 1944).
Mike gear, with a few extra DML parts added, homemade bracelet, and Mr Blonde cigarette (I finally ran out of the other cigs I had laying around). I had a Captain Miller collar insignia in my insignia envelope. I only had to repaint it, remove the LT bar from his beret, and glue it on. His collar rank insignia is two of the Mike LT patches (I had an earlier Mike I parted out) glued together.
I always chuckle a little when someone comments on how nicely I’ve weathered my M-16’s. I have to confess. They come that way from Sideshow. The M16A1 from SS is the best on the market. Unfortunately, the M-16 and butt pack carded set from their web site (limited edition of 200) finally dried up. If you still want a SS M-16, you’ll have to buy a full figure. I’d recommend their Lerner Platoon figure. Besides a Johnny Depp headsculpt, the figure is as full-geared as any Nam figure offered.
Nam Dong, Lang Vei, Dak To, A Shau, Plei Mei - these were just some of the places Special Forces troops fought and died for during their 14-year stay in South Vietnam. It was a stay that began in June 1956 when the original 16 members of the 14th Special Forces Operational Detachment entered Vietnam to train a cadre of indigenous Vietnamese Special Forces teams. In that same year, on October 21, the first American soldier died in Vietnam - Captain Harry G. Cramer Jr. of the 14th SFOD.
Throughout the remainder of the 1950s and early 1960s, the number of Special Forces military advisors in Vietnam increased steadily. Their responsibility was to train South Vietnamese soldiers in the art of counterinsurgency and to mold various native tribes into a credible, anti-communist threat. During the early years, elements from the different Special Forces groups were involved in advising the South Vietnamese. But in September 1964, the first step was taken in making Vietnam the exclusive operational province of 5th Group when it set up its provisional headquarters in Nha Trang. Six months later in February, Nha Trang became the 5th's permanent headquarters. From that point, Vietnam was mainly the 5th's show until 1971 when it returned to Fort Bragg.
In 1964 Roger Donlon, a Special Forces Captain responsible for a twelve man A-Team, was stationed at the small Camp Nam Dong, deep in the dark jungles, where his team served as advisors to 311 South Vietnamese soldiers. In the darkness of the early morning hours of July 6, more than 900 Viet Cong soldiers attacked Nam Dong with mortars, grenades, rifles and other small arms. Two members of Team A-726 died. Captain Donlon himself was wounded four times.
Less than six months after the attack, still recovering from his wounds, Roger Donlon was invited to the White House. President Lyndon Johnson said. "No one who has seen military service will fail to appreciate and understand the magnitude of Captain Donlon's heroic performance under enemy fire in the darkness."
Then the President of the United States leaned forward to fasten the blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor around Roger Donlon's neck, making him the FIRST Green Beret in history, and the first American soldier of the Vietnam War, to receive his Nation's highest honor.
By the time the 5th left Southeast Asia, its soldiers had won 16 of the 17 Medals of Honor awarded to the Special Forces in Vietnam, plus one Distinguished Service Medal, 90 Distinguished Service Crosses, 814 Silver Stars, 13,234 Bronze Stars, 235 Legions of Merit, 46 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 232 Soldier's Medals, 4,891 Air Medals, 6,908 Army Commendation Medals and 2,658 Purple Hearts. It was a brilliant record, one that was built solely on blood and sacrifice.
Through their unstinting labors, Special Forces troops eventually established 254 outposts throughout Vietnam, many of them defended by a single A-team and hundreds of friendly natives.
The Special Forces earned their reputation in places like Song Zoai and Plei Mei, where the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese threw everything they had at them but found out that wasn't enough.
Back home in America, a confused public searching for heroes in a strange and unfamiliar war quickly latched onto the Special Forces. John Wayne made a movie about them, Barry Sadler had a number-one hit song, "The Ballad of the Green Beret", and the Green Beret took its place along side the coonskin cap and cowboy hat as one of America's Mythic pieces of apparel.
But fighting in remote areas of Vietnam - publicity to the contrary - wasn't the only mission of the Special Forces. They were also responsible for training thousands of Vietnam's ethnic tribesmen in the techniques of guerrilla warfare. They took the Montagnards, the Nungs, the Cao Dei and others and molded them into the 60,000-strong Civil Irregular Defense Group (CIDG). CIDG troops became the Special Forces' most valuable ally in battles fought in faraway corners of Vietnam, out of reach of conventional back-up forces.
Other missions included civic-action projects, in which Special Forces troops built schools, hospitals and government buildings, provided medical care to civilians and dredged canals. This was the flip side of the vicious battles, the part of the war designed to win the hearts and minds of a distant and different people. But although the Special Forces drew the allegiance of civilians almost everywhere they went, the war as a whole was not as successful.
In 1969, after President Richard M. Nixon took office, the United States began its withdrawal from Vietnam, a process known as Vietnamization. Gradually the Special Forces turned over their camps to the South Vietnamese. On March 5, 1971, 5th Group returned to Fort Bragg, although some Special Forces teams remained in Thailand from where they launched secret missions into Vietnam. But by the end of 1972, the Special Forces role in Vietnam was over.