chopped off in a battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all,
"We died at such a place''; some
swearing, some crying for a surgeon,
some upon their wives left poor behind
them, some upon the debts they owe, some
upon their children rawly left. I am
afeard there are few the well that die
in a battle; for how can they charitably
dispose of anything, when blood is
their argument? Now, if these men do not
die well, it will be a black matter for
the king that led them to it. . .
— Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, Sc. 1
* * *
The 302D Division,
North Vietnamese Army
There are 7,000 of them. Burly peasants, mostly from the Red River region of North Vietnam. They're leavened with 500 old soldiers—battle-experienced ex-Viet Minh noncoms and officers.
Many of them are volunteers. Even in 1967, the Army of the Democratic Government of North Vietnam can offer a better life than the drudgery of farming. Some are reluctant volunteers, rootless, uneducated and unconnected young men of cities like Hung Yen or Hanoi. But they are all part of a division with proud traditions:
Formed in 1947, the division fought at Cao Bang, Lang Son, and, seven years later, the 302nd was one of the first regular units committed to that hell in a very small place of Dien Bien Phu. Vo Nguyen Giap personally chose them to lead the first assault waves there against the outpost Beatrice, whose fall sounded the first tocsin of French defeat.