Thursday, January 27, 2011

Diary Entry 14: Saigon, Saturday Night, 26 June 1965

                                     Saigon
                                                                Saturday Night, 26 June 1965

            Just got in from Qui Nhon and thought I’d better write before I go upstairs to the Majestic Hotel dining room for something to eat.  I do not particularly like to eat anywhere but at a regular US mess, but since the bombing last night, I don’t think it is a good idea to be out on the streets tonight.  No sense taking any risks you don’t have to take.
           
The food probably will be all right if I’m careful of what I order.  So far I haven’t been sick in the stomach yet, but everybody says sooner or later you get a bad case of stomach pains and diarrhea.  They say it’s just in the air.
           
A few minutes ago I listened to the news on my radio.  They didn’t have much to say about last night’s bombing, so I don’t know the story.  All sorts of rumors about the town as usual.  I’ve heard various reports of 4 killed, 8 killed, 10 killed.  I don’t think they really know anything yet.

[Just after 8 p.m., Friday evening, 25 June 1965, Viet Cong terrorists detonated a claymore mine just outside the My Canh floating restaurant.  The VC detonated a second claymore a few seconds later, which cut down the diners and bystanders who attempted to flee down the walkway leading from the restaurant.  The attack killed forty-two men, women, and children, and wounded eighty-one.]
           
The place they bombed was Cheap Charlie’s [My Canh] floating restaurant not far from the Majestic.  It’s the place where Grady and Harry had their picture taken which they sent to me at Leavenworth.  I have never been there, but understand it was quite popular with Americans here.  That alone made it a good target and therefore a good place to stay away from.  Much more of this can be expected.  The US over here (and I mean all over the country where I’ve been) don’t understand what war and combat is.  They are careless, don’t take security precautions, and look like they ask for trouble. 



Later I’ll give an example from personal experience to try to illustrate the problem which must be overcome.  For some reason that I cannot explain, no one seems to have taken the time to explain to these people, especially the young ones, that in this business you get no second chances. 


If you let your guard down just a little bit, you’ll get zapped.  But if you use common sense and instinct, you can improve your chances significantly.  Seems to me most Americans get impatient, get in a hurry, or get careless.  Or else they just don’t care.  A long time ago I learned to be patient, never get in a hurry, and above all never to get careless in behavior.  While the VC could probably zap anybody they want to in Saigon due to lack of security, if they want to get me I’m going to make it hard for them to set me up.  It’ll have to be right out in the open in daylight with others present and able to take counter-action.
           
Getting hungry, so I’ll quit and go upstairs for something to eat.  If I hadn’t just about starved myself out in the boondocks, would just wait until tomorrow morning for breakfast.  But since Wednesday afternoon have been eating nothing but coffee and cigarettes, so for health reasons must eat something.
           
Just came back from dinner and it was a good one:  Shrimp salad, fried fish, bowl of rice with soy sauce, flaming shishkabob, fruit, coffee, and ice cream.  French wine was served with the main course.  Total cost:  $140 VN or about $1.00 US.  The waiter brought out chopsticks at first, but I soon gave up and asked for a fork and knife.  Just can’t manage those sticks!
           
Just heard over the news that combat pay ($55.00 a month) is now authorized for all persons serving in Vietnam.  I laugh a little bit about it because this month I believe I earned it.  Reckon that’s doing it the hard way!
           
Major [Charles] Dughi surprises me, but it is true.  His Vietnamese friend calls him up every day 2 or 3 times just like a US wife and he has moved out of his BOQ and is living in a Vietnamese apartment.  I’ve asked him to talk about this a couple of times, but he absolutely refuses to discuss it.  Reckon it’s none of my business.  Glad he doesn’t work for me, or else his career would be seriously damaged if not completely ruined.
           
I like to work hard and steady as it makes the time go fast.  But I’m not going to kill myself at it.  The first week here, I used to run down to Tan Son Nhut every time we had a tactical emergency.  But there are so many of those that I just send one of my other workers to see that aircraft get out.  Tonight, for example, we have an emergency at Kontum but rather than go down myself, I sent Major Eckard.  He can check the number of flights out just as well as I can.  The chief can’t work all the time.

Work hard enough anyway, and look forward to a day when I can sleep late and not have a crisis.  There are so many crises over here that if you let them get you down, you’d never get anything done.  US people seem to generate crises over here.
           
With regard to the Majestic Hotel, perhaps it isn’t as bad as I make it out.  Though it is French-owned and old, the management pays a tax to the VC so we don’t get zapped here.  My room is set back in a corner away from the street, so it would be hard to hit with a bomb.  Could have moved to a permanent BOQ at Ham Nghi [Street] near the US Embassy last Wednesday, but this trip came up and I had to wait until return.  Too tired to move today after I got back (besides, it was dark) and doubt that I’ll move tomorrow as I have to brief Gen[eral]s. Crowley, Stilwell, and Westmoreland on results of trip.  Well, try to move Monday.
           
 Very unusual coincidence in my move to permanent BOQ!  My roommate is Grady Cole!  Had lunch with him at the Rex last Wednesday and mentioned that I was going to move and found out it was to his apartment.  Grady does not look too good as he worries too much---looks strained.  Says he wants to keep moving as the BOQ bothers him.  But I just think he’s like too many others over here.  Shell-shocked and scared.  You can’t think if you’re scared. 
           
Don’t know whether he still drinks hard or not as I don’t see him often.  Reckon he’ll be surprised to find I’m a clear-headed Puritan nowadays.  All the VC want is a befuddled or intoxicated American.  Then he’s finished.  But compared to Korea this is a picnic.  If people would just dig and man foxholes and stay out of bars, we wouldn’t lose so many.
           
I am not working for Colonel [Robert W.] Duke [in the 1st Logistical Command] as planned.  The [MACV] headquarters was reorganized just before I arrived and transportation went from a branch to a big division status.  So instead of being a deputy dog in a branch, I ended up with a branch of my own.  A good break and a big job.  Perhaps I should re-introduce my branch as I’ve gotten to know the officers better by now:

Major Clark (Chief):  He’s a mean old SOB who works his people quite hard but not too hard.

Clark at Cam Ranh Bay, 22 June 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

Major Beaver (USAF):  He’s a fat flyer who likes to be chairborne more than airborne.

Major Eckard (USAF):  Worries too much.  Will have to have a replacement on tap when he comes down with an ulcer.


Major Beaver, U.S. Air Force, outside Movements Branch, MACV II Headquarters, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)



Captain Jones (Army):  Good man even though he is colored.  Keeps the airlift moving, but doesn’t care much for my suggestions to accompany cargo flights to inland destinations.  Understandable as he has finished 11 months here and is due to go home next month.

Major Kostner (Army):  Chief of Sealift Coordination Center.  Good man, but immature in thinking about movements.  Sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.  Forgets that I have airlift problems in addition to sealift problems.


Major Raymond Kostner, U.S. Army.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)





















Lieutenant Commander Schaefer (USN):  Fine officer.  Sometimes I have to pull back on the reins to slow him down.


Lieutenant Commander Al Schaefer, U.S. Navy, outside Movements Branch, MACV II Headquarters, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

Lieutenant Commander Allgood (USN):  Being a pilot, he’d rather fly than work out sealift plans.  Hopes to get back on a carrier soon.  So do I.




 

4 comments:

  1. Colin Canham, SP5, 1st MI Bn, Vietnam 1968October 6, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    "Captain Jones (Army): Good man even though he is colored. "

    This comment reminds me of why I couldn't wait to get out of the Army. It embarrases me that a US Army officer would think this way, but some did. Small men, small minds.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's me 2nd from left carrying the dead Vietnamese girl. My daiary entry will be posted on facebook on the 25th.
    Jim Wade 321.604.1835

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's me 2nd from left carrying the dead Vietnamese girl. My daiary entry will be posted on facebook on the 25th.
    Jim Wade 321.604.1835

    ReplyDelete
  4. I dined at Cheap Charlie's in 1966. Had no idea it had been bombed. Also slept upstairs from VC at a hotel in Cholon same year during Tet.

    ReplyDelete