Saturday, January 22, 2011

Diary Entry 10: Saigon, Friday, 18 June 1965

Saigon, Friday,  18 June 1965


For the last 3 days I have been out of town, so I missed some of the excitement here in Saigon.  The papers say they blew up part of the civilian airport at Tan Son Nhut and there was more fighting at Dong Xoai.  Reckon I must pick good times to be gone!

Last Tuesday, the 15th, I was trying to solve a bad problem in aircraft parking at bottlenecks in Saigon, Qui Nhon, Pleiku and elsewhere so we could reduce the backlog of cargo at originating airfields.  Spent the morning briefing General Crowley (Logistics), the J-4; General Stilwell, the Chief of Staff of MACV; General DePuy, the J-3 (Operations); and the Commander, General Westmoreland.  Since we had more problems than we had solutions, it was decided that someone should go out to the bottlenecks and look over the operations at the transport airfields.  Because all the others were generals and I am still a major, it was decided that I should be the one to make the inspections.  Therefore, I departed Saigon at on Tuesday.

First stop was Pleiku in the highlands of Vietnam.  This is the mountainous, peasant, backcountry where the natives (the Montagnards) still hunt with the bow and arrow.  Went up by C-130 Hercules aircraft with a load of 22,000 lbs. of gasoline.  Spent the rest of Tuesday and Tuesday night at Pleiku watching my airlift operations.  Weather is bad up until , so I couldn’t get away by aircraft in until then.  Don’t like Pleiku---wet, cloudy, cold, and miserable.  The facilities for living are poor, mostly tents or shacks; and the VC have the place cut off from all directions.  The only way they get supplies is through my airline.
On Wednesday went to Kontum which is another fortress in the highlands about 45-50 miles south of Pleiku.  It also is not a good place to be.  Spent only an hour there on the ground as the problem isn’t so tough at Pleiku.  Just need a couple more forklifts to unload planes and we’ll be in good shape.

Left Kontum at and flew to Qui Nhon which is a seaport/airport terminal about halfway up the coast of South Vietnam.  This is my bottleneck.  The airstrip is primitive and I can only put one BIG bird down at the time for loading, yet everything that goes inland must go by air.  The VC have now cut all roads to the interior, and anything out of Qui Nhon can go only by my airline.  Think we made some progress at Qui Nhon by talking people into making better use of available space, but it’s too early to tell yet.

Being a coastal town, Qui Nhon is hot and windy.  Much like Pensacola or Panama City in July.  Quite a pleasant place, except that the VC have it cut off except for access by sea and air.  Spent the night with an Air Force fighter detachment.  All was quiet.
Thursday went north to Quang Ngai which is a sea and airport south of Da Nang.  Supplies go in to Quang Ngai before being trans-shipped to Da Nang or Hue (up North).  I have no major problems in this vicinity, so didn’t stay long.  Quang Ngai also is like Florida in the summer.
In the afternoon, flew south to Nha Trang (another hot coastal town south of Qui Nhon) which is another major headache for inland air shipments.  Made arrangements for more aircraft loading space (badly needed) and then flew to Kontum again to see if the forklifts had come in.  They had.  But bad weather came in, so had to stay overnight in Kontum.  Would rather stay overnight in Harlem.  It’s safer.  This morning flew back to Saigon and now can appreciate how much nicer it is being assigned here than in some of the field stations.
As I said earlier, reckon I picked a good time to be gone.  I read in the paper where the VC bombed Tan Son Nhut airfield, wounding 46 (36 Americans) on Wednesday.  All those hurt were people who had completed their tours here and were going back home.

Am just plain beat tonight as I didn’t sleep too much during the last 3 nights.  Having been a target during the Korean War, I do not find it hard at all to stay awake in the field. 

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