Daily Express UK. SOLDIER WHO LIVED THROUGH APOCALYPSE NOW FOR REAL Story Image Barry Petersen with his medals Sunday November 14,2010 By Ed Baker A SPECIAL FORCES officer who put together an army of Vietnamese soldiers and was abandoned by his CIA backers for going native is selling his medals. The incredible story of Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Petersen bears striking parallels to Marlon Brandos character Colonel Walter E Kurtz in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. During the Vietnam War Australian Petersen was ordered to train and lead a guerrilla force of Montagnard tribesmen against the Viet Cong. He formed a feared militia that became known as the Tiger Men, and won the Military Cross among many other medals. However, unlike Brandos character in the Oscar-winning film, Petersen was lucky to escape from the jungle with his life after standing up to the CIA. It was in 1962 that, largely on the back of his experiences in Malaya, Petersen was contacted by the US army who wanted him to volunteer for liaison duties with guerrillas. He was sent to the south of Vietnam on loan to the CIA and was assigned to work alongside the Montagnard tribe in Darlac Province, on the border with Cambodia. Over the next two years he developed a superb fighting force of Montagnard tribesmen. He had hundreds under his control and ordered tiger-headed badges and green berets for them to wear. They spread propaganda, collected intelligence, established cells and informant networks, carried out raids, kidnappings, ambushes and killed Viet Cong agents. They went deep into Viet Cong territory, destroyed rice crops and rescued captured Montagnard tribesmen. Petersen learned the local language, lived with the tribesmen and drank with them. Some became friends for life. However, he refused CIA overtures to turn his Tiger Men into assassins as part of the notorious Phoenix Program and that encouraged the belief that he had gone native. According to a friend of Petersens, the CIA had marked him down to be eliminated if he had refused to leave the country when he was asked in 1965. He did leave after his men had given him a send-off which went on for two weeks. Now Petersen, 74, who lives in Thailand because Asia got in his blood, is selling his medals. The 13 gongs, which include the South Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, are expected to fetch a staggering £80,000. They and other mementoes are being sold by Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers in London on December 1. Auctioneer David Erskine-Hill said: A Military Cross for the Vietnam War is a very rare distinction and one for this type of clandestine warfare quite probably unique. In 30 years as a specialist and auctioneer in orders, decorations and medals, I have come across some extraordinary stories of courage, but rarely have I encountered such an unusual example of protracted gallantry as that displayed by Colonel Petersen in Vietnam. When the CIA eventually withdrew its support for his highly irregular fighting force, the Chief of the Agencys Covert Action Branch cited that he had developed a personality cult. But the Colonel, who was created a Montagnard Tribal Chief, would no doubt argue that he adapted to his tribesmens ways in order to become an effective leader. His published account of his time in that theatre of war, in command of Montagnard hill tribesmen, with CIA backing, goes to prove that fact really can be stranger than fiction. In Apocalpyse Now Brando plays rogue officer Kurtz, who has apparently gone insane and is commanding a legion of Montagnard troops in Cambodia. Another officer, played by Martin Sheen, is sent into the jungle to assassinate him.