Peter Paul Mahoney:
when I got to Vietnam I was assigned to what was called to a mobile
advisory team which was, um usually it was, supposedly a five man team,
a five-man team of Americans, although I never worked on one that had
more three Americans. Um, but they were basically assigned to a
Vietnamese district and then the district senior advisor would assign
you out to what—whatever job or how, in whatever capacity he felt he
most needed that team.
one of the jobs that I had while I was there was um, was a training
mission. Um, at that time, part of the Vietnamization
program was a program called um,
the People's Self Defense Forces um, which was basically a program
instituted by the South Vietnamese government where they were trying to
train um, like, local civilians in the hamlets to, like, protect their
their own hamlets from NLF or
VC infiltration, um, and
supposedly this would free up the ARVN troops, the regular ARVN troops
to take over American unit positions somewhere else so that the
Americans come home. So, it's part of a whole upgrading system.
so there was a particular incident um, where we had, my advisory team
was um, was assigned to train a group of twenty-nine, they were mostly
kids, you know, between the ages of probably fifteen and seventeen
because these were the people, you know, other than the older people and
the women, um, you know, with with young kids, they were the only ones
who were really left in the hamlets at that time. Um, so they were the
ones, you know, were given the job of joining the the People's Self
we had this group of twenty-nine, they were from like three very closely
um, located hamlets along this river, um, and we put them through like a
six week training program um, and, you know, basically teaching like,
you know, teaching use use and cleaning of weapons, ah, small unit
tactics, ah, how to develop defense plans for their own hamlets, that
kind of thing.
um, I mean, during the time of the training, this was, you know, at the
time that we were going through the training, I was feeling very
exhilarated by what was happening because I was feeling um, that this
was something, you know, that I was really sort of fulfilling my
mission. You know, I felt very good about the fact that I was fulfilling
my, you know, what I conceived to be my mission at that time.
and like the Vietnamese that that were training were very responsive,
they asked questions, they were very interested in, you know, in what
was going on and this, you know, made me feel good because, you know,
the standard rap on on the South Vietnamese was that they they just
weren't interested, they were lethargic. Um, and this particular group
seemed like very involved in what was going on. Um, so it made me feel
good. It made me feel as if I was accomplishing something.
we put them through a six week training program. At the end of the
training program, the province um, chief came down and there was a big
graduation ceremony and they all got these little colorful neckerchiefs
as sort of souvenirs of the whole thing and you know, it was like this
whole sort of media um, publicity thing about how, you know, these
people had been trained and everything.
there was about a month after the training program was completed and
this graduation ceremony happened that um, three NLF cadre came into the vil um, one night and all
twenty-nine of those people self defense force that I trained walked off
and joined the NLF, taking all
their weapons and all their training with them.
the interesting thing, I mean, you talk about the lies that happ—that
were happening in Vietnam that, you know, this incident was reported
that these twenty-nine people had been kidnapped. You know, when it was
very obvious to us who were there that they had just walked off and
joined the NLF.
I mean, this for me, this was like one of, when you talk about a turning
point experience for for me in Vietnam, this was certainly it because I
was totally disillusioned um, by the, because, like I was really into
what I was doing with, you know, training these these kids. And um, it
was unbelievable to me that this kids, knowing what the American
military could and did throw um, at at the NLF and VC, that these kids would make the choice to to leave, you know,
what at that time could be considered the relative saf—safety of their
hamlets and go out into the mountains and join the NLF.
was just unbelievable to me that they could do this. You know, I mean,
one thing it said to me was that these kids, you know, whether I,
whether I agree with them or not, must really believe in whatever it is
that they're doing. You know, and then from that point, I was able to
say, well if they believe in that, then who am I to tell them not to
believe in it, you know.