Kit Carson Scout Program Goes into Operation

The Kit Carson Scouts (Hoi Chanh Vien in Vietnamese), loosely translated as "members who have returned") belonged to a special program created by the U.S. Marine Corps during the Viet Nam conflict and involving the use of former Viet Cong combatants.

The Kit Carson Scout Program was started in the Fall of 1966 when Staff Sergeant Johnson of 5th CIT (counterintelligence team) recruited two former Viet Cong (Hoi Chanh Vien or Chieu Hoi) to work with U.S. Marine infantry troops in a program proposed to and agreed on by Major General Nickerson, the commanding officer in Viet Nam of the 1st Marine Division.

The program went operational on November 10, 1966, the Marine Corps birthday. On that day, Johnson and a contingency of officers from the division's headquarters in Da Nang brought the first two Vietnamese Kit Carson Scouts to the 7th Marine Regiment headquarters in Chu Lai, whose TAOR (tactical area of operational responsibility) included the coastal plain area where both of the two Kit Carson scouts had operated while with the Viet Cong. Vo van Tam had been an assistant company commander with the elite 409th Sapper Battalion, while Huynh ngoc Chanh had been an assistant company commander with the 38th Local Force Battalion. Both units historically operated in Quang Ngai and Quang Tin provinces. These were the two southernmost provinces in the northernmost five province area of South Viet Nam known as I Corps -- the other three northern provinces being Quang Nam, Thua Thien and Quang Tri. The northern boundary of Quang Tri touched the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and was the border with North Vietnam on the opposite (northern) side of the DMZ. The 409th Sapper Battalion, Tam's former unit, was a higher level unit that operated over a larger territory, and its military successes included slipping under the barbed wire and attacking the key airfield at the large Chu Lai base, an action that Tam had participated in before his defection.

The two scouts were paired Marine Pvt. Allen Sells, newly arrived in country and language-trained in the first class graduated from the Marine Corps language school at Camp Del Mar in Camp Pendleton. Upon arriving at 1st Battalion, 7th Marines on the southern bank of the Song Tra Bong River in Binh Son District of Quang Ngai Province, the two scouts and Pvt. Sells were joined by L/Cpl Ernest C. Jaramillo, an S-2 Scout already assigned to 1/7. Jaramillo, while not part of the team, played a useful role in early development of operational tactics through his knowledge of S-2 procedures. Private Sells, the two Kit Carson Scouts and Jaramillo immediately moved to the forward position headquarters of Delta Company, 1/7 and prepared to begin operating with he Kit Carson Scouts in the base area of the 38th Local Force Battalion and the 95th Local Force Company.

While Quang Ngai and Quang Tinh Provinces had numerous Viet Cong guerrilla and regional units like the 38th Local Force Battalion, the 48th Local Force Battalion and the 95th Local Force Company, this area of South Viet Nam was also the operating area for the Viet Cong 2nd Main Force Division and the 3rd NVA Division, whose senior officers were North Vietnamese professionals commanding ranks of soldiers primarily recruited in South Viet Nam. During their years with the Viet Cong, both Kit Carson Scouts had earlier spent months on end in combat training and indoctrination, largely in the mountainous areas of Kontum Province in 1963 through 1965. On November 11, 1966, Sells, Tam and Chanh deployed for the first time with Delta Company, 1/7 on a company-size patrol on the Mui Nam Tram Peninsula, including the hamlets of Phouc Hoa and Tuyet Diem.

The Chieu Hoi program was when a NVA soldier "came-across" to our side, so to speak. Open arms in Vietnamese. A program to encourage defectors from Viet Cong and NVA in 1969-70 in South Vietnam. About 80,000 took advantage of this program. Chieu Hoi leaflet passes were frequently dropped from helicopters and scattered over suspected enemy locations in order to encourage enemy soldiers to surrender as Hoi Chanhs. Possession of a leaflet was supposed to guarantee safe passage for the defector.