World: The Fall of a Fortress

In the nature of war across a wildly rugged, often inaccessible countryside, no shield can ever be impregnable everywhere, as the tragic fate of a Vietnamese compound called A Shau demonstrated last week.

For some 350 Montagnard mercenaries, their families and their 20 green-bereted American Special Forces advisers, A Shau in the best of times was an uneasy home. A barbed-wire and earthen-walled fortress bordered by a small airstrip, A Shau stood deep in Viet Cong-controlled territory not far from the Ho Chi Minh trail on the Laotian border. The camp existed for only one reason: to monitor traffic coming down...

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