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by Julian Duguid

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Sandy Barron, The Nation, Bangkok, May 15 1994
Australian Barry Petersen was a legend for the "Tiger Men" he led against the Viet Cong - but the CIA didn't like it. Sandy Barron reviews the story of a Vietnam war experience with a difference

Barry Petersen was 28-years-old when he was dropped off in mountainous Darlac province South Vietnam, with a bag of cash worth about US$350 (Bt 8,750) and vague instructions from the CIA to "get to know the locals". Almost thirty years later, Bangkok- based Petersen is full of affection for the Montagnard hill-tribe people he found in the highlands and downright chilly about his former CIA masters

"I was not a secret service officer, but a simple soldier with that special operations training. Now I was to become a CIA man, without understanding what the term meant, or what it entailed" he writes in Tiger Men the story of his two years in the highlands which was a bestseller in Australia and has just been published by White Orchid Press in Bangkok

"With the Rade in particular that means their whole way of life is being surpressed," says Petersen. North Vietnamese have been resettled in the highland areas and "superimposed" over Montagnard villages. "The Rade are very demoralised - it's very upsetting. I think the Vietnamese did have to take steps to suppress the insurgency, but I think the steps they chose were very harsh - they've destroyed the way of life of ethnic minority groups." Resistance to the Vietnamese is now limited to the level of "banditry" says Petersen

Tiger Men is written in the first-person in a tight, readable style and illuminates a fascinating and little known aspect of the Vietnam War. This new edition would have been enhanced by the inclusion of more follow-up on the fate of the Montegnard since the mid-sixties, but that might have called for a different kind of book. Tiger Men's strengths, and limits, are in its sharp focus - the pragmatic Petersen sticks with his own story and ventures little into the realms of analysis of the wider dimensions of the war in Vietnam.

Book Description
Twenty-five years after he left Vietnam and his Montagnard tribesmen, Australian Barry Petersen wrote this thoughtful story of his life among the Rhade and other ethnic groups of Darlac province in the Vietnam highlands. He went there to train and lead the local people to defend their villages form the Viet-Cong. This is the story of the Truong Son, 'Tiger Men', who became the most respected and feared self-defense force in Vietnam. But it also the sad story of their susequent defeat and the desctructionof their Montagnard villages, culture and way of life – as much due to the Vietnamese and American generals and politicians as to the Viet-Cong. This is a book that the CIA would rather not see in print.



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