Monday, July 17, 2017


Odds a Green Beret would survive his secret mission deep into Cambodia and Laos observing and engaging the North Vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh Trail were remote at best.

Chet Zaborowski, now 69 and a retired special education teacher, calls it his “defining moment in life.”

“Our actions saved hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers’ lives, because we were a thorn in the North Vietnamese side. By us interdicting along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, causing them problems, they did not have free rein to come across into South Vietnam and attack wherever they wanted,” Zaborowski, who volunteered for service in Vietnam in January 1970, said.

He served a one-year tour from April 1970 to 1971 as the team medic with the 5th Special Forces Green Berets, MACVSOG, Military Assistance Command Vietnam Special Operations Group and was stationed in Kontum in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in the tri-border area, where Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam meet.

“It was a secret part of the U.S. Army, where our missions and orders were given to us, not by the president of the United States, but were given to us by the CIA, without the knowledge of the president. If he did not know that combat troops were actually in Laos and Cambodia, where we were actually not supposed to be, he couldn’t be held accountable. They called it ‘plausible deniability,’ ” he said.

Top secret classified documents were recently declassified and, as a result, Sgt. Zaborowski and his fellow team member, Sgt. Clyde Conkin, received a Bronze Star with “V” device for Valor at the Special Operations Association Reunion held Oct. 25, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada. They had both been recommended for Silver Stars.

Their team leader, Sgt. Edward C. Ziobron, was nominated for the Medal of Honor. Ziobron never received that medal, but on Feb. 11, 2005, in Fort Myers, Virginia, he was recognized for heroism and bravery, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation’s second-highest honor.

Honorees Wounded

All three were wounded. Ziobron’s right Achilles tendon was severed by machine gun fire, Zaborowski said, and Conkin was injured when a piece of metal fragment entered his skull and slid along his brain, exiting the back of his head.

“Had it been a bullet, he would have probably died,” Zaborowski said. “I couldn’t stop the blood. At that time, the mound of dirt we were hiding behind exploded. The NVA (North Vietnamese Army) were throwing tear gas in our direction. So, I put on my gas mask, and I helped Clyde put on his gas mask. The pressure of the bandages and the gas mask were enough to help stop the bleeding.”

Zaborowski was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel from a B-40 rocket while he was treating Conkin. He also treated the Montagnards, the indigenous people who the Green Berets trained to fight with them.

The Fateful Day

Zaborowski and Ziobron sitting on the side of the Huey helicopter that took them deep into Laos that fateful November day in 1970.

Zaborowski relayed details of his team’s engagement of the NVA while looking for POW camps, base camps and caches of weapons and supplies. From Nov. 26 to 29, 1970, his team engaged the NVA seven times.

On the third day of his mission, his Hatchet Force (platoon) of five Green Berets and 30 Montagnards ran into a battalion size (600 soldiers) NVA base camp. After a two-hour firefight, having inflicted hundreds of NVA casualties and suffering 90 percent casualties (seven killed, 25 wounded) themselves, contact was finally broken. Extraction or resupply was impossible at that time, he said, and being critically low on ammunition they spent the next 16 hours escaping and evading the NVA, until they could be extracted the following day.

“We went into the villages, trained the men to come on the compounds with us and propagate, fight the war. The males of those Montagnards would not come in and fight because they were afraid that if I go fight with you today, tonight the Viet Cong will come over and take my wife and kids. So, we brought the entire families on. That’s what made up our A-sites, which were special forces compounds all along the Laotian and Cambodian borders in South Vietnam. The Montagnards were really good fighters.

“We were 35 people. We ran into a battalion size force of 600 North Vietnamese soldiers. You’re outnumbered 17 to one and you’re in the enemy’s backyard. How do you survive? You survive based on your training, how we all worked together and on how well we can fight and communicate.

“The guy who was on the radio, Ed Ziobron, was wounded and in great excruciating pain, but was still able to communicate our pinpoint position in the jungle to air assets above, so they could come in and hit the enemy.”

Read the rest of it HERE

Respect & Honor



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