CSM Bennie G. Adkins and the helpful tiger

 
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CSM Bennie G. Adkins and the helpful tiger

Sounds like a kids story from my title up there, but not so much...

"The tiger kinda' helped" in scaring off the enemy in March 1966, Special Forces legend and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins said of the last hours of a four-day battle in Vietnam in which he earned the Medal of Honor

The rest of the story: The tiger had an assist from the 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun Adkins carried as a sidearm. He had cut down the barrel and sawed off the stock.

The short story here is that CSM Bennie Adkins was a Special Forces NCO and intelligence sergeant at Camp "A Shau" in March 1966 when they got hit, and hit hard.  During the ensuring battle he would earn the Medal of Honor:

During the early morning hours of March 10, 1966 enemy forces launched their main attack and within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only man firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Sergeant First Class Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Sergeant First Class Adkins fought off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong. Sergeant First Class Adkins eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire after withdrawing to a communications bunker with several soldiers. Running extremely low on ammunition, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and ran through intense fire back to the bunker. After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Sergeant First Class Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker and fought their way out of the camp. While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point he learned that the last helicopter had already departed. Sergeant First Class Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966. During the thirty eight hour battle and forty eight hours of escape and evasion, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, it was estimated that Sergeant First Class Adkins killed between one hundred thirty five and one hundred seventy five of the enemy while sustaining eighteen different wounds to his body.

But even then the battle wasn't over, and they were basically overrun, so they went into the jungle to try to get out.   As the NVA followed, that's when the tiger showed up.  From the Military.com story:

The Indochinese, or Indonesian, tiger is an endangered species. Only about 20 are believed to remain in Vietnam, but just about everybody who served in the Army and the Marines in South Vietnam's northern I Corps in the 1960s had a tiger tale to tell.

Everybody seemed to know a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who had come in contact with them, but few had ever seen one.

Everybody also knew about the A Shau. It was Vietnam's heart of darkness in the telling, running west from Hue to link up with the Ho Chi Minh trail. It was the place where whole units could disappear. Lots of tigers in the A Shau, guys would say, but you really didn't want to go there to find out.

Adkins said it was so: "It was not uncommon in the A Shau, the tigers."

He actually talks about the Tiger in this excellent video from the Medal of Honor Foundation:

I haven't read the book yet, but will likely get the book from Audible so I can listen to it while I work.

You can find the book HERE, and the audio version HERE.  No matter what form you get the story in though, it's amazing.

I happened to be at the zoo this weekend when I read this article, and the Tiger there was taller than my daughter.  I'm not sure hearing that growl in the jungle would have been all that encouraging, but I suppose you'll take allies however you can come by them.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.