Tigers in Vietnam
I was in Vietnam for only a year during the war and riding a river patrol boat, never saw a real tiger, but I did pick up tiger stories from some of the marine units we worked with. The NVA and Viet Cong were bad enough, but these poor jarheads also had to contend with man eating tigers.
While we all know that Vietnam was a very unusual war, I doubt that many people would believe that Vietnam’s tiger population was a beneficiary. But during the Vietnam wars, it was claimed that tiger populations and tiger attacks increased dramatically due to the many unburied bodies. After all, tigers are known scavengers that feed at old kills, whether their own or not. There were also many tiger sightings by U.S. troops.
One of the most unusual tiger stories to arise was the case of the 3rd Recon Battalion Marine who survived a tiger attack while on patrol in Quang Tri Province in 1968, near where a Marine had allegedly been killed by a tiger in November 1967. The 400 pound man-eating tiger attacked swiftly and silently, and the first warning the six-man patrol had was screaming from one of the four sleeping Marines. Startled while feeding on the man by the other Marines, the tiger started dragging its prey away before it was killed. The lucky victim was medevaced suffering lacerations and bites on the neck.
In another incident in 1969, a Marine in an ambush position in dense bush felt a tug on his leg and saw a large shape in the black night. After radioing in movement around them and despite being 100% alert, the tiger stealthily returned and grabbed another patrol member before being blown away by five excited Marines. Their buddy was released just slightly the worse for wear. According to SOP, they relocated their ambush, taking the dead 400 pound tiger with them so that they could extract it the next day. Alas, the monsoon meant that choppers couldn’t get up that day, so their focus shifted to preserving the corpse before it started rotting. Fortunately, one of the fellows in the rear radioed that tannic acid, used for curing hides, was contained in urine. The next day, a very smelly carcass made it back to base still in shape for photographs.