PLEI ME, Vietnam — There was a time when any soldier found wearing a bracelet might have a lot of explaining to do, but such is not the lease with the rugged special forces teams serving in the central Vietnam highlands.
Many of the green beret-boys wear a simple brass coil around one wrist—not to be fashionable, | but for added life insurance.
"A bracelet identifies you as a friend of the Montagnards," explained Capt. Larry Brown at II Corps Hq. in Pleiku. "If you are out alone and get into trouble, the bracelet could make the difference in being rescued."
The Montagnards are the fierce and primitive tribesmen who guard several of the fortified villages in the highlands. They fought alongside the U.S. and Vietnamese troops during the week-long siege of Plei Me in October.
Although the Montagnards still use the crossbow at times and have no written language, they have proved a formidable foe for the Viet Cong.
"If a Montagnard spots a VC patrol, he might record the number of men in the patrol by putting an equal number of knots in a string," Brown added.
Some of the men serving in the area have been presented with the bracelets by the tribesmen, while others have adopted the added insurance without the formalities.
Although some of the bracelets are engraved with delicate scrollwork, they are all essentially the same. Some of the tribesmen wear several of the bands, but the Americans settle for a single bracelet.
It may not make the wearer the sharpest dresser in town, but it makes him sleep better.