The Red Scarves: Veterans of ‘Fox Force’ recon platoon to hold 50th reunion at The Wall

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Members of Fox Force. (Photo credit: Alan Buckelew)

The Red Scarf is the symbol of the Reconnaissance Platoon of the 1st Battalion, Company E,  14th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, a unit then known as Fox Force. Today, it remains a symbol of their steadfast commitment to battle and to one another.

Members of Fox Force served in the central highlands of Vietnam – the mountains and jungles during the war, and in Cambodia.

“The red scarves had been awarded to Fox before any of us arrived in country,” Alan Buckelew, who served as a radio telephone operator (RTO) in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from June 1969 until June 1970, recalled. The red scarves had been given to Fox Force by a local Regional Force/Popular Force Vietnamese recon platoon.

“These units were not part of the Vietnamese regular armed forces, but more like a local militia that was organized and supported by the regular establishment, and operated in the area from which it drew its soldiers,” he added. “The one in our area was exceptionally good and had a reputation for fierceness in combat; they all wore red scarves.”

At some point shortly before Alan and his comrades arrived in Vietnam, the RF/PF unit and Fox operated together on a “dangerous mission which resulted in a lot of heavy contact.” The Fox team fought with bravery and fierceness, supporting their Vietnamese comrades as they did each other. When this operation was over, the Vietnamese awarded the Americans their red scarves as recognition of their accomplishments, their bravery, their fighting spirit and skills. From that day forward, the scarves have been proudly worn by the men of Fox Force.

Alan vividly remembers that members of Fox Force wore their red scarves every day, even on combat missions. It was said that there was even a $10,000 bounty for any enemy soldier that could kill one of them and get hold of the scarf. Wearing the scarf in the jungle was almost like a dare to the bad guys; “here I am, get me if you can”.  Fox was a very stealthy unit. “We were better guerilla soldiers than the NVA we faced.  We weren’t afraid that our scarves would be seen, our view was that if they were seen by a NVA soldier, it would be the last thing he ever saw,” Alan remembers.

The scarf had to be earned. Its wearer would be tested by a combat incident or two, until a scarf was given without ceremony or acclaim. The action itself proved to be an acknowledgement of the wearer’s ability to add to the effectiveness, and protect the integrity and lives of the team.

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Members of Fox Force. (Photo credit: Alan Buckelew)

Today, the scarves are still worn by surviving members of the platoon. 10 members of the unit will be wearing them as they join together on March 29, National Vietnam War Veterans Day, to commemorate their 50th reunion. The reunion will take place at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The special event will include the presentation of colors, provided by the Army color guard. Members of Fox Force will talk about the history of this celebrated unit, do a reading of the names, and lay a wreath at the apex of The Wall. The event will conclude with the playing of TAPS.  Singer Rockie Lynn is also set to perform.

The men hold on tight to what the red scarf symbolizes – the camaraderie and intangible emotions that bind them. Members of the unit wear the scarves when they are together and at other special times. Members have taken their scarves into surgery as a good luck piece and have had them present in their hospital rooms as they recover. All who have passed away since those days go to their graves wearing their scarves as well. Sadly, many members of Fox Force have been lost to Agent Orange-related cancers and illnesses.

“When one of our number is in a difficult situation such as surgery, we coordinate a pre-determined time when his brothers across the country wear or hold their scarves and raise a toast of good luck to the one in need,” Alan expressed.

The red scarf has become a symbol of almost magical or religious quality that is closely guarded by those who have earned the right to wear it. On National Vietnam War Veterans Day, the men will remember their steadfast commitment, integrity and courage in Vietnam  – everything that the red scarf embodies.

Alan Buckelew provided content for this blog post. Alan Buckelew serves on VVMF’s Board of Directors.