Friday, August 12, 2011

Diary Entry 118: Saigon, Sunday Night, 16 January 1966

                                                                    Sunday Night, 16 January 1966

General Creighton W. Abrams, Jr., U.S. Army (Image courtesy U.S. Army)

The briefing went pretty well this afternoon for General [Creighton W.] Abrams [U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff]. And right after it was over, I just sent the charts back to the office and took the rest of the day off. There wasn’t too much risk to it as General Crowley had departed for Honolulu at 1:30 p.m.

Lieutenant Colonel Price who works in J-4 (and who was another briefer) and I went first down to the Hong Kong BOQ and celebrated everyone’s departure and the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). Then we decided why not go out and have a good meal and relax for a while. So we discussed the relative merits of various places to eat and ruled out all the places like the My Canh (floating restaurant that always gets bombed) and finally decided that the Majestic Hotel was probably the best of the lot as well as the safest. After we changed clothes we decided to stop by the Rex BOQ and see if there were any other people we might see and like well enough to go with us. We ran into Grady and asked him if he wanted to go but he said he was out of money and in spite of our willingness to buy him a dinner, he continued to decline and we went on our way.

It was a Royal feast. I had a green salad, hors d’ouerves, French onion soup with baked cheese, filet mignon well done, and apple pie. We decided that since it was the Vietnamese New Year we might as well make it an occasion and share a bottle of good French wine. This isn’t done very often over here as wine costs a fortune because it is considered a luxury by the government and is highly taxed. I think the bottle of wine we bought cost $1200 VN which is roughly equivalent to $10.00 US.

At any rate, it was a real pleasant evening. The Majestic overlooks the Saigon River and it was real relaxing to sit on the top floor and watch the ships working and the lights winking out in the harbor.

After dinner we went in the bar and listened to the singers and the band for a while and then called a Navy radio taxi to take us home. It felt real good to go out for a change. Now I’m back at the Vinh Loi Hotel and wishing I were home instead.

Tet is roughly the same as our Xmas and New Year’s combined. It is time for the Vietnamese to throw firecrackers, visit each other, exchange gifts, and otherwise have a good time. The New Lunar Year (this Old Year is the Year of the Snake---the New Year is called the Year of the Cracker) does not officially begin until 21 January but they start celebrating early and are throwing firecrackers all over the place tonight. Last year it was the vogue to give friends a snake as recognition of the name and patron saint so to speak
of the year. This year they will give each other crackers. They have Tet cards just like we have Xmas cards and we have been informed that we should give Tet cards to people like our driver, office boy, maid, bellboy, and the like. Not to do so is an insult to personal servants. And if you are a benevolent master, you will enclose $100 VN in each card so given. I already have the necessary Tet cards and tomorrow will get some money changed so as to make the proper representation and appear benevolent!

On 21 January we are supposed to stay off the streets so I reckon to go to work real early and stay there later. Can’t see locking myself in this hotel room all day. At the office I’ll at least be able to walk around the compound.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Video: U.S. Army Staff Film 66-30A and Port Conditions at Saigon, Nha Be, and Vung Tau

This is a fascinating U.S. Army staff film from 1966.  It depicts the world Clark lived in during his MACV tour of duty.

At 8:50, Colonel Richard Aronson, commander of the U.S. Army 4th Transportation Command (Terminal Service), describes port conditions at Saigon, Nha Be, and Vung Tau. 

At 15:10, General Harold K. Johnson, Army Chief of Staff, can be seen; at 16:40, General Frank S. Besson, Jr., commander of the Army Materiel Command, can be seen briefly.

Diary Entry 117: Saigon, Sunday, 16 January 1966

                                                                   Sunday, 16 January 1966

I did not write last night as it was late when we finished up work and finally got our supper. It was even later after I visited a little while with Grady and Lieutenant Colonel Eckels who now lives next door to me and who also works in J-4. I felt kind of bushed, and knowing that I had to be at work bright and early this morning, I just went right on to bed. Feel very badly that I have not been real regular with writing in the past two weeks. But we seem to be in utter panic or frenzy in getting movements of stuff done. Some relief is in prospect the next two weeks as General Crowley will be back in Honolulu for a conference. Most of the work has been involved in preparing lots of fact sheets, talking papers, position papers, and other written items prepared just for this conference.

The briefing for General Westmoreland went off quite nicely, although I didn’t sell him all of my ideas. I have another briefing laid on for Lieutenant General [Joseph H.] Moore, commander of the 2d Air Division, on the same subject. Later today I must give a briefing to General [Creighton] Abrams, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, on another subject.

On the way to work this morning one of my co-workers said that he may send for me to come to the Hawaii conference if things get real hot on discussions of certain areas. I told him with friends like that I don’t need any enemies as such an event was likely to interfere with a trip back to the States if Niederman were to send for me any time during the period they are in Honolulu. So maybe he got the point and no one will be sending for me. A trip to Hawaii would be a pleasant thing, but I think a trip back to the States is outstanding!

I [previously] called the Alaska Barge people to ask about status of the tows and also about the type of communications gear they acquired. I got a letter from Mr. Fred Dunham, their Seattle manager and former TC colonel, in answer to that phone call. His reply is heartening on the trip back. I am going to write Niederman today or tonight, bringing him up to date on certain things we are doing for MSTS here and asking if he has a fix on the probable date that contract negotiations will start.

After I come back from the States, I would like to take a 4 to 5 day TDY [temporary duty] trip over to Thailand to explore land lines of communication leading toward Laos and then fly over the northwest thumb of the country to get an appreciation of terrain over there. Later I hope to get to Taipei to look into prospects of establishing a support area there. And then I would like to take a 3-day trip to see the Chief Western Transportation Officer at Tachikawa Air Base outside Tokyo just on a liaison basis. By then I should have seen all that I want to see have done all the traveling necessary for a general appreciation of southeast Asia.

Lee Surut called me yesterday from Bien Hoa to inquire about his transport back to Honolulu to see Trudy on 2 weeks' leave. He comes back here at the end of the month and of course is looking forward to getting out of here for keeps in May. I was supposed to meet him out at Tan Son Nhut this morning at 9 a.m. to talk for a while and see him off. But this Abrams briefing came up later on and I could not get Lee back on the telephone (communications are atrocious here) and he probably thinks I’m a fink for not being there.

About 5 November a lot of surface mail had been collected for shipment back to the States. A total of 91 or 92 CONEX containers full of packages where booked for shipment on the Willamette Victory for movement back to the States, and this mail was loaded on 9 November at Saigon. Then through a series of unfortunate incidents, the Willamette Victory was routed to Da Nang to pick up an urgent shipment of aircraft to go to Subic Bay in the Philippines. Then it broke down and had to go to Manila Bay for repairs. After repairs, it was sent to Okinawa to pick up vehicles urgently required in Vietnam and then proceeded back to Saigon. At Saigon, she was loaded out again with AM-2 construction matting also urgently required at Cam Ranh Bay. A visitor just passing thru Cam Ranh on an inspection happened to board the ship and discover what was in the CONEXes. He had enough rank to get people hopping and arrangements were quickly made to fly all of the mail back to the States from Cam Ranh Bay. I hear the last shipments went out of there about 9 January.

Operation MATADOR was not very successful as they made no significant contact with the VC forces which had just vanished into thin air. [Ed:  During the first half of January 1966 the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division conducted Operation MATADOR to find and destroy the enemy in Pleiku and Kontum Provinces. During this operation, the 1st Cavalry saw the enemy flee across the border into Cambodia, confirming that the enemy had well-developed sanctuaries and base camps inside that country.]  All the caves and tunnels were destroyed and some supplies captured. As far as secrecy is concerned, it is not very effective over here. Movements of troops can be routinely observed from one location to another, a good bit of coordination is required between the Vietnamese and the US and thus much information may be leaked, and of course when aerial recon is made by everybody and his brother to look at the area of operations, it doesn’t take a genius of an intelligence officer to predict what is occurring. It seems to me that the secret of success lies in conducting swift operations on a unilateral rather than a joint or combined force with minimum reconnaissance and maximum violent execution. The Marines have been very successful in conducting operations in this manner. And sooner or later we are going to have to push inland and get off this coastal bit.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Diary Entry 116: Saigon, Friday Night, 14 January 1966

                                                                  Friday Night, 14 January 1966

Thank goodness it's Friday and Sunday isn't very far away.  Glad it's Friday so I can cross one more week off my calendar; pleased that Sunday is near because General Crowley will be leaving that day for a conference in Honolulu so perhaps will get two weeks to rest up before he comes back.  And maybe by the time he gets back Mr. Niederman will have sent for me and I'll be able to goof off 15 or 20 days in the States.

Very busy here last couple of weeks. Did I write that General Besson was over here and that I briefed him? Believe I did, so won’t write about that. Yesterday briefed General Westmoreland on a concept for passenger airline operation which he approved in general but not exactly as I hoped. He kind of equivocated in his decision, so I didn’t much care for it. On Monday I brief Lieutenant General [Joseph]Moore (USAF), commander of the 2nd Air Division, same subject.  He probably won't buy off on it completely, either, as the concept is a little controversial.  We'll see how it turns out.

United States Embassy,  39 Ham Nghi Boulevard, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1966.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)
This morning I visited with Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge [U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam] to discuss a mutual Embassy-MACV problem in the ports.  He was quite gracious but I didn't come away with what MACV needed and wanted.  Well, maybe I'll get fired tomorrow for failure to be persuasive enough with him!

Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., 1966.  (Photo courtesy White House)
This afternoon was spent with the U.S. Operations Mission which tried to get me to agree with their thesis that MACV was unresponsive to the State Department in logistic support.  Of course, I would not agree.  Would not concur in their message until they say the truth.  Where the military has not supported them, I'm very willing to see it stated.  But so far they can't come up with a single instance where the military had fallen down.  Felt real proud that General Crowley gave me the authority to concur or non-concur based on my own judgment.  Conducted myself with diplomacy and tact.  We meet again tomorrow to try to resolve the differences.

Heard nothing from Gonzalez in response to the letter I wrote him.  Have lined up an impressive list of generals to help me out on my assignment just in case the [Officer Personnel Office, Transportation Corps] Branch insists on Washington.  Have a number of alternatives also to submit to the Branch in case the forthcoming assignment does not please me.  Having completed 17 years of service and with a possible retirement just a short 2 1/2 years away, I'm willing to use all the influence and power that I can get to support what I want.

Strike Command headquarters is located at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida.  It is commanded by a full general (Army) and has 150 colonels, 150 Lt. Cols., and 150 M/Sgts. from all services assigned.  That is all.  No privates, lieutenants, or captains.  It is a planning headquarters for worldwide operations.  So far as I know, there are no quarters on the post for lieutenant colonels, but that is all right with me.

Know for a fact that there are 2 vacancies for lieutenant colonels of Transportation Corps in the Plans Division of J-4 of STRICOM, so maybe I can get one of them.  Of course, if I get back to the States on the contract negotiation, I intend to have the orders read Washington, D.C. also so I can inquire personally in what the Branch has planned or decided. 


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Diary Entry 115: Saigon, Monday Night, 10 January 1966

                                                                      Monday Night, 10 January 1966

General Frank Schaeffer Besson, Jr., Commanding General, U.S. Army Material Command.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)
 Home late again tonight so things are back to normal again. Result of General Besson’s briefing yesterday: My part went so well that right after it was over General Crowley decided that I should replace the regularly scheduled J-4 briefer for General Westmoreland tomorrow, Tuesday 11 Jan. Although it was made clear that I already was in preparation for a special briefing for him on Monday (today), General Crowley said never mind, he would get the dates changed. He was as good as his word and today’s scheduled briefing for passenger airline service was slipped to next Thursday and now I have to talk to COMUSMACV tomorrow about general logistics. As one might imagine, the regularly scheduled briefer has got his nose all out of joint and isn’t very cooperative.

Anyway, his briefing is not in my words and I’d change it anyway, so that isn’t important. Last night and all day today I’ve been working on an outline which is all I have. But that does not bother me. If can think fast on my feet, I’ll be okay. And Leavenworth gave me plenty of practice at that.

Say! General Besson paid me 2 compliments on my briefing. First, when it was over I asked if he had any questions and he said no. This seemed to amaze everyone as he has a reputation for asking some pretty hard questions. Secondly, today he asked for a script of my briefing and many people were surprised to learn that it was given from an outline only, was tailored especially for him, and that no verbatim record of a speech was in existence. Well, I spent a good part of the day trying to remember what I said yesterday so as to provide a verbatim record of what I said to him. Finally prepared a 12-page script but am not sure it is at all accurate. Simply don’t remember what I said to him except the headings on the outline.

Incidentally, just before I got my latest job [Special Assistant to the J-4] with the Boss (General Crowley) we got a new officer assigned to Movements Branch of Transportation and he still thinks I’m his boss. His wife and daughter live at 1257A Federal Drive [in Montgomery, Alabama] and his name is Major John Nightingale. An Air Force officer. He works hard and I like him.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Diary Entry 114: Saigon, Saturday Night, 8 January 1966

                                                                    Saturday Night, 8 January 1966

Joe Btflsk.  (Image courtesy Al Capp)

Do you remember that character in the "L’il Abner" cartoon by the name of "Joe Btflsk?" He was the little guy who always had the black cloud over his head. I must be that guy in real life. Tonight Grady and I were going to go out on the town and have a big dinner at the Majestic Hotel and then go to see a couple of night clubs. Just about the time we were getting ready to go the VC set off a bomb about 2 blocks away from here across the street from the hotel, so we decided not to go out after all. Grady says he’s been over here too long and is so close to rotation that he doesn’t take any kind of
chances. Although I’m tired of peanut butter and crackers, just don’t have very much interest in going out now. Need to think about my briefing for General Besson which is scheduled for tomorrow.

Grady hasn’t heard anything more about Jo Ann and John so he is a bit upset. Thought a night out might help him get away from worry for while. We came back upstairs and talked for a bit, but the talking didn’t seem to do him any good, so I came on downstairs to my room. I sure hope he gets to leave early and go back to see about his family. He is very upset about them.

This morning called the Alaska Barge Company in Seattle to find out what the status of the movement to Vietnam was. In the process, I asked Mr. Lou Johnson, who is the legal counsel of the company, what it looked like for negotiations on cost and service.

Lou said that he had talked to Niederman the day before and Paul was pretty busy on some other projects at the present time and that negotiations were "several weeks away." From what Lou said, it is my guess that negotiations will be held in late February or early March, but I could be wrong. The only ray of sunshine Lou gave was that Niederman had expressly stated that he required me as a consultant on Vietnam
operations. And the president of the company, Mr. Bullock, also insisted that I come for the talks. Imagine that! Both sides trust me!

With the input of US forces, US contractor assistance in construction, and the increased US economic assistance, the good days of life are rapidly coming to an end in Vietnam. According to the State Dept., the military is destroying the Vietnamese economy. Am convinced that changes are on the way. We (military) have already been informed to expect at least one roommate, perhaps two, so as to tighten up on the
housing. Very soon expect to see the combat pay for those of us in Saigon to go by the wayside. Then next will come field ration messes so the government can stop the cost of living allowance and also take away the ration money. The diplomats are on a campaign to severely restrict the military here. Sure glad I’ve got less than 5 months to go.

Well, it is just about assignment time. Reckon I’ll be getting some orders this month or next. Wonder what they will have for me and what to anticipate. What are the alternatives:

Possible selection for the Army War College, National War College, or Industrial College of the Armed Forces. These are remote.

Possible selection for attendance at the Armed Forces Staff College. If selected, I might turn it down, might not.

[Department of the Army staff duty in] Washington, D.C. Highly probable, but will try to get it changed if I can.

Strike Command at McDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla. Barely possible. Much depends on how much influence Gonzalez will be able to exert.

Well, I’ll just cross the assignment bridge when I get to it. Believe I can get General Crowley, General Reichel, and others to intercede for me.

A number of people are interested in my [CGSC] Pearl Harbor study, particularly General DePuy, the J-3 of MACV. Well, I’d better get with the program and review my briefings
for General Besson and General Westmoreland.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Diary Entry 113: Saigon, Friday Night, 7 January 1966

                                                                           Friday Night, 7 January 1966

This is briefing week for me. So far I’ve been on the platform for briefings to [Brigadier] General [John D.] Crowley [Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics (J-4)], the Deputy Chief of Staff ([Major] General [Richard S.] Abbey [U.S. Air Force]), the Chief of Staff ([Major] General [William B.] Rosson), the Deputy Commander ([Lieutenant]General [John A.] Heintges) and the J-3 ([Brigadier General [William E.] DePuy).   Sunday I must brief General [Frank S.]Besson (four-star) who is commander of the Army Materiel Command and who was formerly the Chief of Transportation. On Monday I must brief General [William C.] Westmoreland. The bad thing about all these briefings is that they are all on different subjects.

Seems like I spend all night studying up on a new subject so as to be ready the next day only to go through the cycle again the next day. For example, the briefing for General Crowley was on how some surface mail shipments got messed up (more on that later).

For the Deputy C/S and the C/S, it was on what we should or should not say to CINCPAC and Mr. McNamara about delays of shipping in South Vietnam.

General Besson is interested in the status of Army boat terminal service, and truck company operations all over this place.

The boss, his deputy, and the J-3 want to know what should be done about a high-speed passenger airline service in the country. And somebody else (don’t recall who) wants a briefing on whether or not it is more advantageous to contract the R&R flights to Hong Kong and Bangkok or fly them with Air Force planes. Haven’t even thought about that one yet!

No matter how you measure it, I seem to stay too busy all the time. If I had it to do all over again, think I’d just be a very mediocre officer and then no hard jobs would be given to me.

In the meantime, all sorts of exciting things are happening and can’t get a few minutes off to get out of Saigon. The 25th [Infantry] Division from Hawaii is beginning to stage into Vietnam. Would like to have been at Pleiku to watch them land. The 173d [Airborne Brigade] is on an operation in the Delta and in my old job, could have found an excuse to go on one of the air resupply missions.

Read in the paper that the VC are throwing bombs and grenades all over the place, but I have not heard any. The paper today said the Secret Police captured 3 VC with 275 lbs. of plastic explosive which was on the way to a US BOQ near where we work. Sure glad they caught them.

Four of the fellows in my former Movements Branch will go to Bangkok for a conference from 10 to 19 January.  If I’d stayed put, it would have been a nice trip to get away from here for a while. However, I was offered a chance to go to Honolulu for a conference on 10 and 11 January but turned it down as don’t dare want to miss out if Niederman sends for me at that time. Right now, just can’t afford to be gone as the word from him may come in any time. Am going to call the Alaska Barge people in Seattle tomorrow to find out the status of their movement to Vietnam, so maybe I can find out
something from them.

The reason for the briefing on mail to General Crowley: On 10 November some idiot loaded the surface mail packages (91 conex containers or about 273,000 lbs. of mail) on the Willamette Victory whose next stop was Da Nang. At Da Nang, the ship almost ran out of fuel and was sent to Subic Bay in the Philippines for bunkering. Then it was routed back to Vietnam with a load of planes. Then it went to Japan for repairs, later to Okinawa for trucks destined for Cam Ranh Bay. At Cam Ranh, someone finally discovered the 91 big conex containers with mail. They were immediately off-loaded there and are being flown back to the States as fast as we can scrape up MATS [Military Air Transport Service] airplanes returning to the States. Guess some Xmas presents will get there after awhile.

Talked to Grady [Cole] on the phone today. He wanted to know if I could do anything to get him back home early. Jo Ann [Cole, his wife] is in the hospital with an infection of the inner ear and John Cole [his son] is in the hospital with a cut-up head and face as a result of a car wreck. Still trying for him, but in times of emergency people forget the Red Cross as a rapid means of assistance.

So maybe my briefings aren’t problems after all in view of other people’s troubles. But in the meantime, I’d better quit writing and practice speaking!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Diary Entry 112: Saigon, Monday Night, 3 January 1966

                                                                                Monday Night, 3 January 1966

As the Vietnamese would say, today was No. 1 day; yesterday No. 10 day. Today I got lots of work done and feel like what I did was worthwhile. Yesterday was mostly spent in very inconclusive conferences, meetings, and discussions. I hate conferences because you wind up usually with a committee decision: neither good nor bad and mostly neutral. As a consequence, little if anything gets off dead center and you just maintain the same old status quo.

Today I mostly worked by myself and got some things off the ground. Whether they will later get shot down by the less bold remains to be seen.  No new word from Niederman on the trip back to the States. Perhaps I will hear something this week. I’ll be glad to come [home]. I need a rest. A year is just about all a man can take of the tremendous pressures generated on people over here. I’ll probably have a hard time adjusting to a slower pace when I leave here.

Oh yes, one thing coming up is that [I] must give a briefing on Thursday to General Westmoreland on passenger airline service with high speed aircraft for the troops. Reckon tomorrow I’ll start getting ready for it. Just like teaching another class at Leavenworth. Must be glib and convincing.

No news on my future assignment as yet. Ought to get some sort of orders next month or in March. I wrote a personal letter to [Major] Gonzalez [a staff officer in the Officer Personnel Office, Transportation Corps Branch, Department of the Army] to see what he could do to get me put fairly close to Montgomery if not there itself. About the only suggestion he had was Strike Command at Tampa, Fla. Well, so far as location goes, it sure beats Washington.

The Chinese are celebrating some kind of holiday today, and although it is strictly forbidden, they are setting off  firecrackers every now and then. I’ll bet this makes the MPs and Vietnamese police a little nervous. It is hard to distinguish a firecracker explosion from a gun shot.

Noticed by the paper this morning that the 173d Airborne is on an operation down in the Plain of Reeds in the Delta region and they have made pretty heavy contact with the VC. Sure hope Lee Surut doesn’t get tagged in his last few months over here. He will rotate in May and the 173d has been on almost continuous operations since I arrived.

This will probably continue, so he runs a high risk. But expect he’s got sense enough to take care of himself.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Diary Entry 111: Saigon, Saturday Night, 1 January 1966

                                                                     Saturday Night, 1 January 1966

Today was the day that I was going to sleep late and then get caught up on my writing. Well, it just didn’t quite work out the way I planned. But that is par for the course in Vietnam.

By my usual waking hours, did manage to sleep a little late until 7:30 a.m. The air conditioner [in his quarters] is shut off every morning at 6:15 so by 7:30 I was forced to get up as a result of the heat. Went down to the Hong Kong BOQ for breakfast and took along my camera with the idea that it would be good to get some more pictures.

After breakfast I went by the office to read over the message traffic which had arrived during the night to see if there was anything hot that General Crowley would be interested in. It’s a mistake to be a conscientious worker. There’s always work for the guy who is interested in things. Had 2 real hot wires marked "personal from Mc" [Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara] and "personal from Sharp." [Commander-in-Chief Pacific, Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp]  So from about 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., I was busy working as usual. The only difference was that I was wearing civilian clothes instead of the usual uniform.

Clark at Movements Branch, 1 January 1966.  (Photo courtesy Richard Paris Clark, Jr. collection)

After we finished all the conferences and discussion, I went to the Hong Kong again and had supper before coming back here to my roost. Tomorrow I have to go to work early and finish up in polished form what we drafted today. Seems like I write so much during the day that it’s a wonder that [I have] the wrist strength to pick up a fountain pen at night!

[Lieutenant Colonel] Lee Surut [commander of the 3rd Battalion, 319th Artillery, 173d Airborne Brigade] came down from Bien Hoa to visit me on Thursday. We had lunch together. He looks very good---very tanned and tough looking. We had a pleasant couple of hours talking. He has orders to Washington and he said that he hoped I would go there too. Told him I wasn’t the least bit interested; wanted something down south close to Montgomery.

[Major] Harry Brockman sent me a Xmas card and a letter. I have to write to him soon. [Major] Carl [Smith] and [his wife] Charlotte also sent a card and Carl wrote a letter. He is expecting orders to Vietnam when he finishes his tour at Leavenworth. Sorry Bout That! By that time it should be a real big thing over here.

Just went upstairs to see if [Lieutenant Colonel] Grady [Cole, a staff officer in Counterintelligence Branch, MACV J-2] was home but he wasn’t. Wanted to wish him a Happy New Year and see what poop he had from Leavenworth or about the VC. Maybe I’ll try later.

When I first came over here, I thought it would be nice to keep a lot of notes so someday if I wanted to write about my experiences there would be sufficient reference material. Well, that’s okay for platoon leaders but when you are privy to high level operations, you just can’t do it. It was a good idea which was not realistic.

From The Editor: "We Are Getting Visited To Death": Official Visitors to MACV Headquarters, 1965

Source:  MACV Command History, 1965.

Note the sharp increase in high-ranking official visitors in October and November, when the port congestion crisis became critical.

From The Editor: Railroad Status in South Vietnam, 31 December 1965

Source:  MACV Command History, 1965.

From The Editor: MACV Cargo and Passenger Airlift Statistics, 1965

Source:  MACV Command History, 1965.

From The Editor: MACV In-Country Cargo Movement Statistics, 1965.

Source:  MACV Command History, 1965.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Diary Entry 110: Saigon, Friday Night, 31 December 1965

                                                                        Friday Night, 31 December 1965

Happy New Year!---Almost. It isn’t quite midnight so really can’t say that yet. It’s a few minutes past ten. And I don’t believe that I’ll stay up to see the New Year come. Am tired and the sleep will do me good. I hope to sleep late tomorrow.
The curfew has been extended until 2 a.m. tonight so that the US can celebrate the New Year. All the clubs are putting on special affairs but I just don’t feel in a partying mood this evening.

The VC blew up a BOQ in Dalat today and blocked the highway from Saigon to Dalat in a number of places. We heard no one was killed but several were wounded by the blast. Just don’t understand how they do it every time. Just Thursday the VC killed an editor of one of the newspapers in Saigon right in the middle of Cholon at noon and got away.

My new job [Special Assistant to the J-4] is very interesting but the pressures are still pretty heavy. By now I think I was selected for the job because I write reasonably well and convincingly. Am the author of most of the "hot" messages which go to Mr. Mc, Admiral Sharp, and others. You can’t afford to be careless or make a mistake and you must be quick-witted. Oh, well, only 5 more months to go. If I can keep a sense of humor then I won’t lose my sanity and if I can continue to relax once I leave the office, perhaps there won’t be any ulcers either.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Diary Entry 109: Saigon, Tuesday, 28 December 1965

                                                                  Tuesday, 28 December 1965

Yesterday, 27 Dec, the week started off with a thrill if you can call being nervous a thrilling experience. At 6:30 a.m., I was debating whether to get up and get dressed or to stay in bed for another 5 minutes. At that moment the VC and MPs and Vietnamese police in front of the hotel decided to have a shootout. That decided me. I got up right away, like the fastest man in the world, and ducked into the bathroom.

After 15 minutes of silence and no explosion, I got shaved and dressed in jig time and went to work. Either no one knew what it was all about or else they aren’t talking. But last night the street was all blocked off when I came home from work, and we had to get off the bus a block away. Tonight the street is open again, but no one seems to have any knowledge of the shooting yesterday morning. And I wasn’t about to go look over the balcony to see what was going on!

The VC also set off a Claymore mine at the Special Services marina, wounding 4 GIs. Last night I even had supper with Grady to see if he would tell me anything about the shooting, but he either doesn’t know or he isn’t telling the truth.

This morning, 28 Dec, shortly after we arrived at work at the MACV II compound we were all evacuated from our building as a bomb was found wired to the water tank of a toilet in the officers’ latrine. After the Ordnance Explosive team searched the area we went back to work. I understand the bomb was wired to the handle of the commode so as to explode when someone flushed the toilet. The humor is grim, but can’t you imagine how surprised some officer would be if he had used that toilet! He really would have thought he had real diarrhea! Ever since this morning, we all check the commodes for booby traps when we go to the bathroom. That just shows you we have at least one VC working in our compound and they are able to bring in explosives in spite of the fact that each Vietnamese is searched thoroughly upon entry to the area.

Before leaving the office tonight, I placed a call to Washington to talk to Mr. Niederman about the trip to the States but since it was only 7:30 a.m. [in Washington, D.C.], he was not then at work. So I said what the heck, might as well have the operator ring OPO [Officer Personnel Office] so I could talk about my assignment. Major Gonzalez [a former classmate at CGSC] answered the phone and we had a nice conversation. He said I was still scheduled for an assignment in DCSLOG [U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics] but he would see what he could do to help me and asked if I would like an assignment to the Strike Command in Tampa, Fla. And I said like: "Yeah, man!" So I’ll write him this week to see if he can engineer something for me. Gonzalez said I could get a command (battalion) at Ft. Eustis, Ft. Lee, Ft. Bragg, Ft. Benning, Ft. Carson, Ft. Riley, or Ft. Lewis, but if I took it would be back over in Vietnam in less than 6 months. Told him that was just a little too short of a time to be back home before having to come back and get shot at. Even if I can hide out in an assignment for 3 years in the States, the situation looks like nearly everybody will have to pull a second tour over here. TC officers in Germany with only 2 years on duty over there have been alerted for assignment directly to Vietnam. And others are coming from places I can’t mention. Well, maybe they will get like they did between my tour in Alaska and this place---keep me in schools so much that I won’t have to come back again.

Finally got through to Mr. Niederman. He said the company [Alaska Barge & Transport] had been so busy getting equipment together that they had not had time to get things in order for contract negotiation. But he also said to rest assured that he would call for my services when negotiations start either in the latter half of January or first half of February.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Diary Entry 108: Saigon, Sunday Night, 26 December 1965

                                                        Sunday Night, 26 December 1965

The day after Christmas and it was work as usual for us over here. The VC ended their truce about 9:30 p.m. last night, so most everybody was back at work today. I got off a little early this evening and after supper at the Hong Kong, came back here to take down my Christmas tree and decorations.

I noticed there are lots of people out on the street last night and tonight, but haven’t heard of any bombings or grenade-throwing. Perhaps the MPs and the Vietnamese police have it under control right now.

With Xmas now gone by, the next holiday coming up is New Year’s. Think I’ll call [Lieutenant Colonel] Lee Surut and ask him if he wouldn’t like to come down to Saigon for New Year’s eve and day. He has not come to Saigon since he came here in May.

Hope to hear something on the possibility of going back to the States this week. If Mr. Niederman doesn’t write, I reckon to call him up and see what he knows. He hasn’t been back there very long (he left here on the 12th) so I'm just anxious to learn something.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Diary Entry 107: Saigon, Saturday, Christmas Day, 25 December 1965

                                                             Christmas Day
                                                             Saturday, 25 December 1965

Well, Merry Christmas! Here in Saigon it is almost noon now which makes the time about midnight on Christmas Eve in the States.

I woke up real early this morning (at 3:30) and tossed and turned in the bed for a couple of hours before falling back to sleep. I got up in self-defense at 7:30 only because the air conditioner power was cut off (all air conditioners are cut off from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in hotels and BOQs) and it was just too hot to stay in bed any longer.

Caught a taxi and went to the Hong Kong BOQ for breakfast and then came back here to open presents, and I had a good time.

Fred and Jo Ann sent fruit cake and nuts. Brother and Ann sent sox and pecans, Mother and Dad sent lotions, peanuts, wash cloth and towel and preserves, Jean and Melody sent cookies, marshmallows, and pecans. My maid brought me flowers. And my dear family sent me sox and pecans, lounging shoes, eats, and lots of underwear and shirts. But the best present of all remains the picture they sent. [1]

Wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just look at it and thank God for being so good to me by giving me such a wonderful and lovely family.

At 2 p.m. today I am going to go over to Lieutenant Colonel Knight’s place for Christmas dinner. He’s going to have about 20 people come over for turkey and trimmings. I thought it was real nice of him to do that and am glad he numbers me as one of his friends. He is an Army officer on duty with the State Department. The only difference is that officers who are so detailed draw State Department salaries, so they make a good bit more money than they normally would. And of course the State Department lives a whole lot better than do the military services. Most of the State Department people I know here don’t have a college degree, are a good bit older than I, hold less responsible and less demanding jobs, and on the average, probably are paid about $10,000 a year more than Army lieutenant colonels. Mr. Bellican, the Assistant Director of the AID (State Dept) program here, offered me a chance at a position as an exchange officer from the Army, but General Crowley just laughed at him when he suggested it. Well, at least the Boss likes me, so that’s some consolation.
Tonight expect I’ll write some overdue letters to Mother and Dad, Harry Brockman, and others who have written. And then I think it would be kinda nice to go to bed and read a while. Haven’t had much time for that, and I got a couple of pocketbooks in a Christmas Star package from the States.

Oh, I didn’t mention that package. Some people in Indianapolis sent a package to a "GI in Vietnam." And it was delivered to me earlier this week. In addition to the pocketbooks, the package included a towel, soap, popcorn, a flashlight, knife, shaving cream, and razorblades. If I knew who sent it, I’d send a thank you note, but all it said was "From the Americans in Indianapolis who appreciate your sacrifice this Christmas." Maybe I’ll write a thank you note to the Mayor of Indianapolis.

And perhaps I made a few kids happy today. Received a report that all the airplanes scheduled out of Hong Kong for our Toys for Tots landed as planned. I hope all the little orphans in Da Nang, Qui Nhon, and Thu Duc had a happy time. Wish that I could have been there to watch their expressions. Thought about going up to the Mission des la Notre Dames at Thu Duc early this morning to watch the package-opening, but it is in an area where the VC captured 4 US men from a construction firm last week and I decided that discretion is the better part of valor. Will go up to Thu Duc and talk to Sister Florida after things kind of quiet down around here.

[1] Fred Clark is Clark's brother; Jo Ann Clark is Fred's wife and Clark's sister-in-law; Brother is Norvelle Clark, Clark's brother; Ann is Brother's wife and Clark's sister-in-law; Chief Petty Officer Jean Clark is Clark's brother; Melody is Jean's wife and Clark's sister-in-law.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Diary Entry 106: Saigon, Friday Night, 24 December 1965

                                                                      Friday Night, 24 December 1965

Here it is Christmas Eve and the radio is playing seasonal songs one after the other. They only started playing them yesterday and I’m glad they waited until the last minute to start them, because all they do is remind me that this is not a very merry Christmas.

They are lifting the curfew tonight at midnight so those who want to can go to church services. I hear by the grapevine that the curfew will be permanently lifted on Christmas Day. Don’t intend to go out anywhere tonight. Will eat something here when I finish writing and then I think I’ll go up and see [Lieutenant Colonel] Grady [Cole]. That’ll give me someone to chat with on Christmas Eve.

General Westmoreland issued an order preventing any offensive firing by US troops for a 30-hour period beginning at 6 p.m. tonight. They can do only defensive firing. And it is strangely quiet tonight. This is the first night I’ve been here and not heard artillery. Guess both sides decided to take a few hours off for Xmas. Wish there was some way for this to come to a peaceful conclusion over here, but that looks to be a long way off.

Still haven’t opened my packages yet although am sorely tempted to do so right now. Might pick up my spirits some. But I’ll wait a while anyway.

Just took a break and went up to see Grady. He was writing a letter home. So we had a drink together and talked for a while. Grady says he isn’t enjoying this Christmas as much as he has others in recent years. He’s a short-timer now and will be leaving here in less than 60 days. Well, my willpower just wouldn’t hold out. Opened one of my presents---the best one---the picture of my family.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Diary Entry 105: Saigon, Thursday Night, 23 December 1965

                                                                       Thursday Night, 23 December 1965

We’ve been going through all sorts of gyrations again with high-level visitors: General [Harold K.] Johnson [U.S. Army Chief of Staff] and General [Earle G.] Wheeler [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff]. As usual, they put us through a wringer by asking for a good bit of information which was not readily available and we had to get cracking. They have now gone up-country to visit units so we will have a breather---until they come back to Saigon and ask some more questions. Everybody is so interested in this place that we are getting visited to death. Of course, it is all well-meaning and they all want to help by coming over for a first-hand look, all of which consumes the time of the staff. Oh well, this too shall pass!

We are still swamped with all the Christmas gifts from the USA. It is a wonderful expression from the folks back home, but it covered Tan Son Nhut airbase up so much that is has interfered with regular mail delivery.

Well, I know it is Christmas time mostly because I can read the calendar. But we here don’t feel very Christmas-y. We are still under intensified guard and rigid curfew which makes us feel a little bit apprehensive. It is quite hot here so this in itself makes Christmas seem some distance off. And finally, the Vietnamese don’t celebrate Xmas since most are Buddhists and their big celebration is TET which is equivalent of our New Year. This comes in February. So all in all, no one over here has much of the spirit that is prevalent back in the States. This just isn’t the time and place to have a Christmas. So next year, I am going to enjoy Christmas time as much as I usually would in order to make up for missing this one.

Had dinner with General Crowley tonight. We are involved in a hassle with the construction contractor [RMK-BMJ,  a consortium of contracting companies known collectively as: Raymond International, Morrison-Knudsen, Brown & Root, and J.A. Jones] who is trying to get his own barge contract in spite of the one which we just consummated. It looks like we will go back-channel to Washington to knock this in the head before it gets started. We had onion soup, salad, cheese, cold cuts, tea, and coffee for the meal. Most of the meal we figured ways and means of cutting down the contractor and ended up the evening by deciding to do some research to undercut the basis for the contractor’s request for separate barge capability. Guess who gets to do the research tomorrow morning to have on the boss’ desk at 8:30? So I’ll set the alarm real early.