Original U.S. Vietnam War 1967 Tiger Force Bowie Knife Grouping

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind set. Tiger Force was the nickname of a long-range reconnaissance patrol unit of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade (Separate), 101st Airborne Division, which fought in the Vietnam War and allegedly committed numerous war crimes.

The platoon-sized unit, approximately 45 paratroopers, was founded by Colonel David Hackworth in November 1965 to "outguerrilla the guerrillas". Tiger Force (Recon) 1/327th was a highly decorated small unit in Vietnam, and paid for its reputation with heavy casualties. In October 1968, Tiger Force's parent battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which included a mention of Tiger Force's service at Đắk Tô in June 1966.

This grouping is comprised of the following items:

- Original Western Bowie knife with silver tiger insignia embedded in grip. 9.25 inch blade, 14.5 inches overall length. Engraved on blade: Tiger Force 101st ABN

- Original leather sheath.

- Original Brass Zippo style lighter with enamel 101st Airborne insignia mounted to front and engraved:


 on the reverse side the lighter is engraved:

1/327 INF


- Original 1/327 TIGER FORCE AIRBORNE insignia patch.

- Original rigid plastic hand painted 101st Airborne Insignia.

- Original wartime photo of five Tiger Force soldiers in uniform. The reverse of the reads Tiger Force - Recon 1967, CAMP CARENTAN, QUANG NGAI PROVINCE, Front Row L to Right, Ybarra - Green - Carpenter. The photo names three men all of whom appear on the official Tiger Force Roster: Sgt. Kenneth Green, Spc. William Carpenter, and Pvt. Sam Ybarra.

Sam Ybarra (1945-1982) was a United States Army soldier who served in the Tiger Force commando unit attached to the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. He is notable for alleged involvement in war crimes alongside the Tiger Force unit.

Ybarra was born and raised on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona to a Mexican father and an Apache mother. When he was five, his father died in a bar brawl, and after that he was raised by his mother. He attended Globe High School in Globe, Arizona, and was arrested four times as a teenager for disturbing the peace and underage drinking.

Ybarra enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966, along with his childhood friend Kenneth Green, and the friends were attached to the Tiger Force unit. Both he and Green committed atrocities against Vietnamese civilians during the war, and engaged in the Tiger Force practice of cutting off trophy ears from their victims.

Ybarra was noted by the Stars and Stripes magazine as having recorded the 1000th kill of Operation Wheeler.

Green was killed on September 29, 1967, and other Tiger Force soldiers claim that it threw Ybarra over the edge, as he vowed to avenge his friend's death. As a result, he became the unit's worst killer, and had to be transferred out of the unit to an artillery company in early 1968. Ybarra went on to be court-martialed for insubordination, and was dishonorably discharged in late 1968. He would later be named in 7 of the 30 allegations that the Army would later investigate the unit for.

Once discharged, Ybarra could not be compelled to testify to the investigations against him, and declined three times. He died of pneumonia in 1982, at age 37, living with his mother on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona, reportedly contrite and depressed over his role in the war.

On October 19, 2003, Michael D. Sallah, a reporter at The Blade (Toledo) newspaper, obtained unreleased, confidential records of U.S. Army commander Henry Tufts. One file in these records referred to a previously unpublished war crimes investigation known as the Coy Allegation. To investigate this further, Sallah gained access to a large collection of documents produced by the investigation held at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Sallah found that between 1971 and 1975, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command had investigated the Tiger Force unit for alleged war crimes committed between May and November 1967. The documents included sworn statements from many Tiger Force veterans, which detailed war crimes allegedly committed by Tiger Force members during the Song Ve Valley and Operation Wheeler military campaigns. The statements, from both individuals who allegedly participated in the war crimes and those that did not, described war crimes such as the following:

- the routine torture and execution of prisoners
- the routine practice of intentionally killing unarmed Vietnamese villagers
- the routine practice of cutting off and collecting the ears of victims
- the practice of wearing necklaces composed of human ears
- the practice of cutting off and collecting the scalps of victims
- incidents where soldiers would plant weapons on murdered Vietnamese villagers

The investigators concluded that many of the war crimes indeed took place. Despite this, the Army decided not to pursue any prosecutions.

Their high bodycounts were recognized and encouraged by military officials. Col. Morse ordered troops to rack up a body count of 327 casualties in order to match the battalion's infantry designation, 327th; however by the end of the campaign soldiers were congratulated for their 1000th kill.

After studying the documents, Sallah and fellow reporter Mitch Weiss located and interviewed dozens of veterans who served in Tiger Force during the period in question as well as the CID investigators who later carried out the Army's inquiry. The reporters also traveled to Vietnam and tracked down numerous residents of Song Ve Valley who identified themselves as witnesses. Sallah and Weiss reported that the war crimes were corroborated by both veterans and Song Ve Valley residents. The reporters also managed to track down dozens of additional investigative records not included in the National Archives.

In October 2003, the reporters published their findings in a series of articles in The Toledo Blade. Subsequently, The New York Times performed their own investigation, contacting a few Tiger Force veterans and corroborating The Toledo Blade's findings.

Since The Blade's story, the United States Army has opened a review of the former Tiger Force investigation, but has not yet provided much additional information. On May 11, 2004, Lt. Col. Pamela Hart informed The Blade reporters that she had been too busy responding to prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq to check on the status of the Tiger Force case. The Blade has not reported on any more recent updates from the U.S. Army.

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