BLUE DRAGON BRIGADE
Quang Nam Province, I Corps, South Vietnam
Location, Hoi An
The following is an edited version of an article titled "'Chesty' Would Be Proud of These Marines" by Pat Luminello S&S Staff Correspondent. Hoi An - Marines, sporting jungle clothes and the familiar eagle and anchor symbol, have set up positions around this once embattled town about 15 miles south of Da Nang. The enlisted men look hard and tough. At headquarters their uniforms are sharply pressed, their boots gleam and their brass glitters in the sunlight. They are not quite as sharp in their dug-in positions in a cemetery just outside Hoi An, but they look lean and fit and ready for anything. The officers are treated with great respect, and they look as though they have earned that respect. All in all, the Marines here are almost the stereotype of the Marine image as pushed by drill instructors in Parris Island and movie-makers in Hollywood. There is just one significant difference. These Marines are South Koreans, part of the 70,000-man Blue Dragon Brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Yun Sang Kim, a stocky, hard-driving type who looks and acts like an Asian version of the legendary "Chesty" Puller. Kim explained that his officers have all been trained by the U.S. Marines at Quantico or San Diego. They have learned tactics, tradition and the value of esprit de corps from the U.S. Marines, and Kim speaks proudly when he says: "We have the same spirit." One U.S. Marine colonel at Hoi An wryly remarked: "We taught them everything we know, and now they know it better than us." The ROK Marines have been trained by the U.S. Marines since the Korean War, a war in which Korean troops did not always perform in a manner designed to inspire respect. Poor leadership and the "bug out" often plagued the ROKs in the dark days of the early 1950s. But there has been a great change and now the ROKs speak with pride of their accomplishments in Vietnam. Kim cited a recent engagement in which a company his Marines repulsed an attacking regiment. "The enemy body count - 243; our dead - 115," he says expansively. "Now I think the enemy is not too happy to make ground contact with us." Kim also spoke with pride of his troops performance during the Tet offensive, which broke out just one day after the ROK Marines arrived in this area. He said that instead of hitting the city with artillery fire and destroying buildings and killing innocent people, he decided to draw the enemy out of the city and attack them there. His strategy worked. Things are quiet here now, but the 2nd North Vietnamese Army Div. still poses a threat in the ROK Marines, and much of the 300-square meter area is infested by Viet Cong. But the ROK Marines are ready and they are taking no chances. Up to one quarter of the brigade is involved in ambush operations, patrols, or search and destroy missions during each day. Kim has set up a command post in a dusty sandy area near the South China Sea coast. Tents, bunkers and a few wooden structures are the only things breaking the monotony of the sand, except for a few scraggly bushes. During the interview here, Kim spoke of his troops and how prepared they were. And he added meaningfully; "We are ready in our own country too; there won't be a 1950 again." The combat figures back up his point of view. During the Tet operation, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 29, his men killed 609 Communists and captured five. They also captured more than 90 weapons. The ROK losses were 50 killed and 170 wounded. Photo Caption - South Korean Marines are almost buried beneath a swarm of happy Vietnamese children as the Koreans pass out toys and games during a visit to the village of Lai Nghi.
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