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Scouting in Vietnam


This article is from the Scouting FAQ, by Bill Nelson nelsonb@nospam.aztec.asu.edu, Soaring Golden Eagle eagle@rangernet.org and Alan Houser troop24@emf.net with numerous contributions by others.

Scouting in Vietnam

Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1992 14:52:09 GMT

My name is Hung Le, and I'm a former cub Scout, boy Scout,
venturer, rover Scout and Scouter of BSVN (Boy Scout of Vietnam).
Currently, I'm with the Santa Clara County Council, BSA
as a unit commissioner.

I would like share with all fellow Scouts out there on the Net-
work some personal experiences that I have had with the Scout or-
ganizations, especially with the BSVN. These experiences are so
valuable to my life and my children as well... When I joined the
Boy Scouts of Vietnam, my country was torn apart by the war.
Everywhere I went, there were always fighting leftovers. It was
dangerous to travel, abeit going camping, but even so, we managed
to have wonderful times, troop leaders were very creative in
finding places for kids to camp, to have a meeting location.
Scout meeting was always outdoors, in the open air. A lot of
times we went camping without a Scoutmaster because of the mili-
tary draft. During my 6 years as a boy Scout, I had three Scout-
masters and their average age was about 19 years old.

I remember taking my Panther patrol (yes, a Blank Panther), on a
trek to a remote waterfall. Each member had to be separated by a
distant of 10 meters, so that a bobby trap grenade would not de-
cimate the whole patrol. I learned valuable survival skills from
the boy Scouts, during the war, not only to help myself, but help
to my family and other beings as well. Beside learning knots and
semaphores, we also learned camouflaging, how to recognize booby
traps, different type of ordnance (by default), and servicing re-
fugee camps. Servicing refugee camps was a constant activity for
the troops and the posts. Sometimes the pack would chip in their
help in making greeting lines for some big shots who come and
visited refugee camps. During the Tet offensive of 1968, my ex-
plorer post managed a makeshift refugee camp in Dalat province
for more than 3 months. This included security for people in the
camp (A lot of problems came from rowdy bands of government sol-
diers trying to intimidate the female refugees, but when they saw
the Scouts, they thought another military unit was handling the
refugee camp). This also included searching for food (mostly, by
contacting GI units and the government in the area) for refugees.
Sanitation was always the biggest task of the day: Talk about
cleaning the out-houses for refugees!!! At times we organized
'dare-devil' teams to go into battle areas to retrieve civilian
and, sometimes, military bodies to bury or to take back to the
city morgue. The morgue was always full during those days. In the
city, there was another youth group organized by the Red Cross,
and we competed with them in collecting the wounded and the dead,
along with other war trophies. One time we collected a "broken"
bomb and decorated it as a gate for our refugee camp. It was
quite a deterrent for those who passed through that gate.

The war also took a personal toll in my life. My very first cub-
master was blown up in his Jeep from an ambush. I went to his
funeral without seeing his face since there were nothing left to
see. The second cubmaster was killed and left behind his pregnant
wife and two small girls. The third cubmaster spent almost ten
year in the re-education camps. My first patrol leader volun-
teered for Airborne division at the age of 17, and came back in a
light casket. His mother told me that after he was killed in the
DMZ area, he had to wait for a few months for transport of his
body back home... There were so many Vietnamese Scouts in my
area that I know never made it to 18th year birthday. Frankly,
without Scouting, it would be very hard for me to find solace for
those senseless killings. Looking back, I admired all of my Scout
leaders. They were true men (unfortunately, I never had any fe-
male leaders, even at cub age) of their word, who lived up to
Scout promises and Scout laws. At times, they weighed their
lives light as a feather, but sometimes, as heavy as the biggest
mountain in the north. At that time, deserting from the Army was
rampant, but I rarely saw or heard of Scouts were deserters.

Even in that bloody environment, I had a blast when I was in
Scouting. I had so much opportunities to learn about myself and
about other people. Nowhere else in life have I found such deep
and emotional relationships. It was not unusual that my whole pa-
trol attended Christmas mass with one Catholic member, although 6
out 7 members were Buddists. My favorite patrol member was a
Chinese who came to the Scout meeting with Chinese goodies from
his father. Many times my patrol went camping near the National
Military Academy so that at night times, we could look at the
sky, watching the yellow flares in searching for communist in-
truders. During teen age, I traveled up and down the coast of
Vietnam, hitch hiking with two other Scouts to the Delta areas.
We spent two days in a notorious, scary Cambodia village near the
border with Vietnam, and had a chance to observe how people were
trafficking at the border. A few times, my troop went camping out
of town by trekking to the military airstrip. We got in there be-
cause we knew well the soldiers at the entry post. Besides I
heard that the American Senior Military Advisor there was also a
former eagle Scout. We waited for the next empty cargo plane,
asked the pilot where is his next stop, then asked for a ride.
Many times we had to camp at the dirt spot nearby. It was adven-
turous and a lot of fun, and a lot of disapointment too.

During the Spring offensive of 1972, I went to the national jam-
boree with more than 10,000 Scouts camping in one of the very hot
spots near Saigon. The GI Star and Stripes newspaper called it
the "Warboree". Every night, there were skirmishes between two
ranger batailons and the local communists from the neighborhood
village.(It was possible that some of the local boys also parti-
cipated in the Jamboree). The opening night was festooned with
"Fire Dragons" tracers, shot from C-47 aircraft circulating
ahead. Laying their backs on a green grass field, the Scouts
tried to decifer beautiful colors from different flares, or
'pfuff pfuff' noise from different types of gunship helicopters.
Unforgettable experiences!!

The Boy Scouts of Vietnam Association, ceased officially to exist
as a member of the World Scout Bureau when the communists took
over the South in 1975, but thousands of Vietnamese still join
Scout organizations in the country they resided in. Many Scout
units were formed in the refugee camp in Philippine, Malaysia,
Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. I believe in France, there is
an official Vietnamese Scout Association operating under the
Scout Federation of France. It is estimated that there are more
than 3000 Vietnamese Scouts in Vietnamese Scout units world-wide.

In 1990, we had the Third International Vietnamese Jamboree in
Cutter Camp, Boulder Creek, California, with more than 700 Viet-
namese Scouts from 6 countries. The event was also to commemorate
the 60th anniversary of the Boy Scout of Vietnam.


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