By Olivia Rigby
History was made – or changed – at Fort Carson just before Thanksgiving 2022. On November 23, the 8,000+ Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division participated in a recreation of the Battle of Dak To from the Vietnam War. But for this recreation, tear gas was not supposed to be involved. Keep reading to learn more about how the history of the 4th Infantry Division and how they “accidentally” tear-gassed themselves.

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The History of the 4th Infantry Division

The reason why the 4th Infantry Division conducted this battle reenactment was because this division played an important role in the Battle of Dak To in 1967. This battle was one of the largest and longest battles of the Vietnam War. The 4th Infantry Division accounted for most of the foot Soldiers during this battle. It was waged from November 3-23 on several hills near Dak To that were known for their thick jungles and steep terrain. The 4th Infantry Division is often overlooked in this battle due to the high-profile fights from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 503rd Infantry Regiment (also an airborne group), but the 4th Infantry Division was the first to make contact with the North Vietnam Army (NVA). Toward the end of October, intelligence was gathered that conveyed that the NVA was moving their large 1st Division closer to the Kontum Province, which the 4th Infantry Division had control over. They sent foot Soldiers out to better prepare for and locate the enemy. They found that the NVA was moving towards Dak To, so the 4th Infantry decided to move their headquarters to Dak To and brought in several other battalions to prepare for a fight. When another NVA general surrendered and revealed that five NVA regiments were converging on Dak To, the 4th Infantry Division began preparing for battle. The NVA’s hope for a surprise attack was thwarted by the preparations of the 4th Infantry Division. When the NVA found them ready for battle, they retreated back into defensive positions. The 4th Infantry spread out their troops along the terrain of Dak To, and on November 4, enemy fire began. For the next 20 days, battle commenced. American Soldiers faced heavy enemy rocket fire, mortar fire, and machine gun fire for almost a month. With the bravery of Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division and the airborne reinforcements, the American Soldiers won the Battle of Dak To. But as with all battles, casualties and injuries could not be avoided. Almost 500 American Soldiers died, and almost 1,500 were injured. These Soldiers showed immense bravery and courage during this month-long battle.

The 4th Infantry Division’s (Hilarious) Historical Reenactment

To commemorate the heroics of the 4th Infantry Division, the Battle of Dak To was recreated this year, but it went horribly (and hilariously) wrong. Soldiers were given a variety of challenging physical tasks, like carrying heavy weights, tires, and other heavy gear through rough 2.43-mile terrain. The terrain was filled with barbed wire, anti-tank trenches, and dense brush. To make the reenactment more real, smoke was released to recreate the haze of the Dak To battle. But it wasn’t just smoke that was released. Tear gas got mixed in with the smoke (supposedly unintentionally). Videos of Soldiers in the reenactment at Fort Carson are circulating around the internet, showing them coughing and covering their mouths. Soldiers were not told ahead of time that tear gas (also called CS gas) would be involved; all they were told was to bring eye protection, which could imply dozens of things with the military.

Videos From the Reenactment

The TikTok video below shows clips of Soldiers being hit with the tear gas. Many of the video’s comments are saying things like “CS gas was a wild twist” and “...it was a sh*tshow, but I had fun!” [embed]https://www.tiktok.com/@buffcity_/video/7169272359151570222[/embed] This next TikTok shows some of the excitement (and exhaustion) the Soldiers faced during this exercise. The comments on this one are pretty funny too, saying things like, “Nothing like a cup of coffee and CS gas in the morning.” [embed]https://www.tiktok.com/@2gonebrazy/video/7169426214506024234[/embed] Another TikTok from the reenactment shows the Soldiers facing climbing through trenches. Some comments talk about the tear gas, saying, “I’d be so p*ssed at the CS gas and no prior warning or pro mask.” The video creator commented back saying, “That’s exactly what happened and I was p*ssed af.” [embed]https://www.tiktok.com/@keyshagarcia0325/video/7169329432719592746[/embed]

Tear Gas Side Effects

Tear gas side effects can be pretty serious. Exposure to CS gas can cause chest tightness, coughing, a choking sensation, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, wheezing, blurred vision, and burning in the nose, eyes, and mouth. Additionally, tear gas can even cause chemical burns. Those exposed to tear gas are advised to immediately get away from the gas and flush their eyes with water. For those who wear contact lenses and are exposed to tear gas, contacts have the potential to absorb tear gas fumes. If left in for a prolonged period of time, the tear-gas-exposed contact lenses can cause serious eye damage. It’s no wonder that the Soldiers were upset at the CS gas during this reenactment.

Was the Tear Gas Intentional?

Fort Carson says that the tear gas was only supposed to mark the boundaries of the course, along with some barbed wire. But when the wind direction changed, the Soldiers were unexpectedly hit with the tear gas. So, was the tear gas attack intentional or an accident like they claim? Some comments on the TikTok videos show that some Soldiers volunteered to set off the tear gas, and it’s obvious to anyone that wind is not reliable; it can change directions at any given moment. Some believe that all this makes it seem like the tear gas was intentional, and some even feel that the organizers of this exercise decided to exercise some “mild” torture on their Soldiers. So, was this a training exercise gone bad? A prank? Or did the organizers of this reenactment put their faith in the wrong thing, (like the wind)? Hopefully, something like this doesn’t happen again, especially during a real battle. Imagine how embarrassing it would be for the Soldier that accidentally tear-gassed themself or even their whole platoon! The history of the 4th Infantry Division is one filled with bravery and courage. And now, it can be filled with accidental tear gassing. The recent reenactment of the Battle of Dak To didn’t go quite as planned for the 4th Infantry Division; however, some funny videos came out of it. While they suffer tears from tear gas, we can suffer tears from laughing at the ridiculousness of it from our comfy homes. Hopefully, the 4th Infantry Division has learned its lesson with this and won’t bring tear gas in without warning again! (But if they do, we hope it’s just as ironic.)

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