Wednesday, August 10, 2011

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.

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