On the first of April, 1968, the Special Forces camp at Tra Bong launched an unusual operation. The green beanies at Tra Bong had a progressive civic action program that was well into its second year and included, among other operations, a sawmill. One thing that was needed at the mill were some elephants to pull the logs out of the forests to the mill. In a truly SF like manner, two small animals were procured in another SF camp in the Central Highlands and the problem of transportation was solved using SF veterinarians from Okinawa, an Air Force C-130 and a Marine CH-53. The Air Force part of the operation went well, but the Marines, always conscious of publicity and wanting to get the fair share of the credit, advertised their role in the operation and even provided two helicopters for reporters. (I have it on good authority that at this time, each Marine platoon TOE had slots for one reporter and two photographers.) Reporters, as is their nature, never reporting speculatively and such, speculated that the elephants were going to be parachuted into Tra Bong. This caused two reactions, the first came from a bunch of British animal rights activists protesting the airdrop, the second, coming much later, resulted in a movie named “Dumbo Drop,” about, if you can imagine, two Special Forces sergeants assigned the task of parachuting an elephant into a Special Forces camp. How creative!
The elephants (named Bonnie and Clyde) arrived at Chu Lai in the C-130 and were unloaded and prepared for the helicopter ride to Tra Bong. Word had gotten out on the jungle telegraph and Montagnards from far and wide arrived to watch the wondrous event. Even some idle VC came to watch and promptly stumbled into a CIDG ambush. For the elephants, all went well and they were soon working at the sawmill in spite of the fact that the entire event had been turned into a three ring circus.
In case you’re wondering how come it was named “Operation Bahroom,” it seems that the elephant tranquilizers caused monstrous and very memorable gastric eruptions that could barely be tolerated in the C-130 and were of the nauseating, eye watering quality. I’ve heard different stories, that the air inside was blue, that it was green, that you could cut it with a knife, that it shimmered like heat waves. To each his own.