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General for a Day!
Korean Tiger Division,
Base camp, s/w of Phu My
1968

By: Rigo Ordaz
1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry

© 2002

Courtesy of 1st Bn (Mech) 50th Infantry website

The ROK Capital Division (called Tigers) was based in Binh Dinh Province from 29 Sep 65-10 Mar 73 and headquartered at Qui Nhon. Elements of the division were based around teh area, including one outpost between LZ Uplift and Phu Cat. The 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry participated in a number of joint operations with the South Koreans, including one on 19-23 April 1968 around the village of Ky Son north of Qui Nhon called Operation Mang Ho Eleven with the ROK Tigers, B Company of the 1/69th Armor and B Company 1/50th. Another joint operation, Operatrion Vulture, where A/1/50 teamed up with the ROK Tigers, was described in the 173rd newspaper. 1/50 soldiers who participated in these joint operations received the unofficial honor of wearing the Tiger patch.


General for a Day!

In one of our operations in 1968 just before relocating from Uplift to An Khe, we had the opportunity of working with the Korean Tiger Division. In this particular mission, we were operating just west of one of their base camps, southwest of Phu My. We had just crossed a stream and we were about 100 meters up a small hill, when an APC hit a mine.

They were shaken up but nobody got hurt. The APC, however, sustained damage to two wheels and the track. A VTR came to retrieve the APC back to Uplift, about 35 miles away. I teamed up with another APC and was given the mission of escorting the VTR, the downed track, and two more APCs for security back to Uplift.

I was crossing the stream when a commanding officer from a chopper called on my frequency saying not to cross the stream at the same place. I had kept my eye on the stream and I knew the VC had not planted any mines in that short while. I knew that crossing was safe. I called him back saying that I knew what I was doing, and that if he wanted to come down and do my job he was welcome to it. I suddenly realized I could be in big trouble by what I said, but was very relieved when his last transmission was just, "Roger Out".

It was getting late in the day and we were directed to stay at the Korean base camp for the night. We pulled in to their base camp and they already knew we were coming. A little group of Koreans milled around the APCs checking them out. One of them climbed inside to get a closer look. While checking out the Fifty Caliber, one of them pressed the butterfly trigger and let off a round. I ran to the other track and was ready to scold somebody. The Korean took off running. Their commanding officer rushed to the APC and was ready to let us have it, when I stopped him and told him it was one of his troops that did it.

He called his troop to formation, scolded them and yelled at them in Korean. Suddenly the one that let the round off stepped forward. The commanding officer approached him, scolded him in Korean and slapped him about five times. The Korean soldier was at attention all the time and showed no emotion. He dismissed the troop and told something to the Korean soldier, at which time he took off running double time.

The commanding officer walked to where I was at and very apologetic invited me to eat dinner with him. At the center of the base camp was an open field, and in the center a kiosk. We walked over to the kiosk where they set a table with a white tablecloth, real silverware and also chopsticks. "Do you like Korean food, sir," he asked. I told him that I had never tasted Korean food. "Oh, you will like it sir, it is better than Vietnamese food," he answered with a big smile.

He beckoned the soldier he had slapped earlier, told him something, and the soldier again took off double timing. Soon he was back with a record player and some records. He had classical music and even some Spanish music. That soldier spent all that evening running and bringing him things for me. "I like Spanish music very much, "he added. They kept bringing plates upon plates of food. I had a big juicy steak, lobster, Korean food and good wine. When we finished we smoked some real good cigars and sipped on the fine wine.

The next morning, before we departed, he saluted me, we shook hands and he said " Come and visit us anytime sir." I assured him I would.

I felt like a General that day. I didn't impersonate an officer, I just didn't tell him my rank, and as we all know many officers and enlisted men did not wear their rank insignia in the field. I guess he would have a fit if he ever found out that the officer he invited to dinner was nothing but a SP4. Even though I was a squad leader I was never promoted to SGT E-5 until I got back to the world.

In another tour to Korea, I got hooked on tasty Korean food, but nothing will taste as good as the day I stopped eating C rations and ate like a General for one day. Bon Appetite, Sir!


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