The War: Phu Vinh's Irregulars

One recent night in the village of Da Loc, in the Mekong Delta, seven civilians lay quietly in the mud. Cold rain dripped down their necks from the leaves of banana trees overhead. Suddenly, they spotted more than 20 black-pajama-clad figures creeping across the ripening paddies. At close range, the ragtag villagers opened fire with ancient rifles and M-l carbines. The Viet Cong attackers fled swiftly, leaving behind four dead and a prized Browning automatic rifle.

The villagers were members of the Popular Self-Defense Forces, a civilian militia movement that is fast...

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