The year is 1967 and the Vietnam War is in full swing with more troop requests from General Westmoreland increasing the numbers of American GI's and the supply of the North being supplied by both Russia and China as they fought a proxy conflict against US military technology. As B-52's, F-105 Thunder Chiefs, F-100 Super Sabre's, F-4 Phantoms, AD-1 Skyraiders, and A-4 Sky Hawks relentlessly bombard targets in the south and the north, Custer's old 7th Cavalry has been reactivated as a Helicopter attack force used in search and destroy missions.
Who or what?
However, among all the logistics, battles, and insurgent chaos is just one more mystery that has the brass wondering just what really is going on. The meat grinder we know as war is a messy business. Men are killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or labeled MIA (Missing in Action) yet there seemed another category less well known in Vietnam and rarely spoken about and that was missing soldiers that seemed to have vanished. Some tried to account for this unknown realm as deserters, but it still didn't add up.
Many ways to disappear
When the horror of battle descends upon the jungle men get torn to shreds by land mines, mortars, artillery, and remotely detonated shrapnel bombs known as "Claymores" often the headless bodies can't be identified in the absence of dog tags or perhaps the body is blown to smithereens as often is the case, but there were simply troops that were unaccounted for due to the proposition of vanishing.
War breeds unusual circumstance often more tragic than miraculous and in this case it seems the end result would be the same outcome. Bo Gritz, a highly decorated special forces officer is said to have been ordered on a secret mission known as an extraction deep behind enemy lines. Allegedly, it was his mission to retrieve a B-52 Bomber crew whose whereabouts had been discovered by intelligence sources. For those who might think that US soldiers were being abducted by aliens, the following account would seem viable. The huge aircraft was located by Gritz and his men laying in the Cambodian jungle. Not landed. Not crashed. But, laying on top of the foliage as though a giant hand had simply placed the bomber on top of the vegetation. Inside the aircraft was the crew, seated at their stations all mutilated just like cattle in New Mexico and across the Midwest being found by local ranchers and reported on in America within the zone interior. The bodies of the aircrew were inspected, but nothing could be done for them.
Not David Paulides and 411
This might sound like a plausible case for missing GI's during the Vietnam War but it did not answer the question adequately until a special reconnaissance patrol in 1967 on a mission discovered the grisly cause of many missing soldiers! While moving through a heavily vegetated area the Americans found a partially eaten body of a soldier. Suddenly movement in the brush and an explosive attack by a huge tiger shattered the relative quiet! The tiger, initially scared off by the patrol was now unwilling to give up its meal and was coming back for it! The soldiers sprayed the ground around the vicious tiger with M-16 rifle fire trying to scare off the apex predator without having to kill it, but the tiger charged again so fast that the troopers could barely fight the beast off! Now a very unsettling answer had emerged.
The dreaded detail
During and after combat coroners had often begun the gruesome task of collecting and bagging bodies for the long trip back home for proper burial after being autopsied! But, more and more they were finding that some bodies after being bagged and tagged were gone when it was time to pick them up. Other times, a fatality would be marked and identified but there was not an available bag so they had to wait, in which case another one disappeared. Then there were the living fighting servicemen that were taken with no known enemy action. In one case a patrol exhausted from the heat and the distance they had covered earlier in the day decided to bivouac and had set up tents for the oncoming night.
Another one bites the dust
One officer wounded but not with a life threatening condition settled down for a nap as the men prepared their camp. He later disappeared. Thinking that the Vietcong had snuck in and abducted him for torture or interrogation a detail set out to track him down. What they found was the horrifying kill site of a predator that had chewed the man to bits and left blood and bits of organs remaining. It was identified as a definite tiger feeding site.The animal had dragged off the young officer without alerting any attention and from a safe distance in a concealed position, commenced to eating the man alive! Other reports of unexplained disappearances began to add up. The Indian and Pakistani armies were well aware of these kinds of grisly losses as tigers had been feeding on their people for centuries and even their rugged warriors! The question remained, how did a huge animal weighing 400 to 600 lbs manage to get inside the perimeter and snatch a man armed with a pistol?
Silent deadly killers
Tigers just as lions being the effective ambush predators they are will most often go for the throat with crushing bite force so that unfortunate troopers taken alive could not cry out once the tiger had struck. And like all apex predators who have a natural aversion for humans, once that is overcome by necessity humans become their favorite meal because they are easy prey! In Europe during the first world war there were accounts of bears and wolves scavenging abandoned trenches that were rife with corpses French, German, and American bodies not yet collected for proper burial became a smorgasbord for the wild animals caught in the midst of a battle between humans right there in the very habitat they normally hunted in. The terrible mystery had been solved.