Phu Bai, RVN

by: Raymond Cochran
Naval Mobil Construction Battalion Seven
attached to the 3rd Marine Division
Vietnam 1966
(© 2009)


Another beer, Chuck? He and I had been friends for many years and we are both familiar with each other’s younger days. I knew that Chuck had been a CIA operative in Thailand and Laos, when I was a the Seabee at Camp Campbell in I Corp, RVN in 1966. I asked him if he had ever heard of the Army Special Forces - Special Operations Group using Chinese mercenaries in South Vietnam. He looked at me incredulously and firmly stated that he had not. I said let me tell you a  story that I have never seen in print or even heard anyone mention in all these years.

On several occasions while in Phu Bai, RVN in some official capacity which I don’t remember, I had visited a nearby Special Forces camp. At the camp I met several “soldiers” that looked Chinese to me--not Vietnamese. They all spoke excellent English and explained to me that they had learned English at a Catholic orphanage in southern China and had moved to Nam several years ago. After a few visits, we became friends and they gave me a tour of their small camp, including their main defensive bunker.




Huey named “GUNSLINGER” with a belt fed 40mm grenade launcher in the nose, 2 rocket pods with seven 2 ½” rockets and two M-60 machine guns behind the doors. The main bunker with a 50 cal machine gun is on the right in the distance.





On top of the bunker there was a 50 cal machine gun on the roof, held by my buddy the Chinese Mercenary.

Inside the concrete bunker, were a couple of M-60 machine guns, several M-79 40mm grenade launchers, BAR’s, and other miscellaneous weapons. Along the back wall was a large wooden coat rack with hanging coat hangers.

My Chinese buddy, who is pictured below, explained that the coat hangers were used for hooking on pant belt loops. He also explained that the skewered, shriveled, brownish objects attached to the hangers were actually the VC left ears that were cut off after every kill. He said they were paid the same monthly rate as the ARVN soldiers plus $10.00 for every left ear. Damn was I surprised!

He told me the Special Forces Unit would take them out on frequent missions with a secondary purpose of getting ears.


A little later, he showed me how VC would periodically attack their camp. He said the Cong hated the mercenaries more than the Americans. He explained that every night while in camp, they would send a scout up to the front edge of the free fire line (the jungle) about 500 meters. This scout would inform the bunker by radio, phone, or flash light that the VC was approaching. This scout would then crawl back to the bunker about 150 meters ahead of the VC. When the scout reached the bunker, mortar flares were shot and the entire defensive line (it was small) would open up. Between the .50 cal and the other weapons, the VC didn’t stand a chance. It was 350 meters back to the jungle line!

It was very rare when any VC made it back the jungle alive. After things quieted down a bit, the Chinese would crawl out to retrieve the left ears before any bodies might be dragged off by the VC. (You can easily see the bunker, with the .50 cal and the free fire/ jungle line in the second photo).

After hearing this intriguing story, Chuck exclaimed “that explains it”. After all these years, I finally got an answer to my question. When I was in Bangkok, I went to a CIA warehouse and was looking for some materials that were stored in a foot locker. I accidentally opened up the wrong locker and found a locker full of rank, rotten ears. I went to the warehouse supervisor and asked him about the locker. He told me my contents question was on a need-to-know basis.

So all these years I have been wondering about those ears and here it is 42 years later you tell me the answer. Then, I said you have now told me who was sponsoring the ear program.

For those of you that think this is a wild Sea Story or a yarn, check out # 8 on this link.

Ray Cochran EA-3