Friday, January 28, 2011

Diary Entry 15: Saigon, Monday Night, 28 June 1965

                                                                Monday Night, 28 June 1965

            Didn’t write last night because we had a terribly long day at work, and I didn’t get off until   After I got off, I made the move from the Majestic to my new BOQ and by the time that was finished, was plain pooped and just collapsed into bed.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get a day off to rest up.  Just work, work, work.  Quite a change from Leavenworth hours!
Have moved to a permanent BOQ and share an apartment with Grady Cole.  This was just a coincidence, not arrangement by either one of us. 
[Colonel Lewis] Ashley is a branch chief in J-1 (Personnel) and works in the same compound (a compound is a group of buildings surrounded by 40-foot high barbed wire fences to keep bombs out and guarded by many MPs and Vietnamese troops).  He has several other officers and some EM working for him.  Same level of job I have.  Ashley has 4 children now, oldest about 16 or 17.  I see him at breakfast at the Rex every morning.

[Major] Harry [Brockman] isn’t at Chou Doc any more.  He’s a Special Forces commander now and is at Can Tho down in the middle of the Delta region.  Haven’t seen him for 2 weeks now.  He is supposed to see me before he goes to Hong Kong on R&R.
Until moving from the Majestic, it had not cost me too much for living expenses because I just eat, sleep, and go to work.  Had to pay a fair-size hotel bill when I checked out of the Majestic and in a permanent BOQ you have to join one of the officers’ messes, pay the maid and laundry in advance, pay for sterilized water to be delivered, etc.  The Vietnamese don’t want this war to end because they are making money hand over fist.  Every little thing costs the US something---cash in advance.  But I still have about $40 left from my original amount and payday comes on Wednesday.  So I am not hurting for money.  Will send some home when I get promoted and when I get my combat pay for June (will receive at end of July).  I think I really earned my combat pay for June!
[Major] Stanley Blum is an advisor to a strategic hamlet just outside of Saigon.  During the day it isn’t a bad job.  At night it’s pretty scary.  I expect he’ll be glad when his tour is over.  Harry the Hoss is a short-timer, but he is known to be pretty reckless over here.  He has won lots of medals in the past 6 months and is considered by everyone to be the hottest combat-type around here.  But he came very close to getting it 2 weeks ago and I’ve cautioned him to be more careful.  Harry goes on every combat operation in his sector.  But you can only run your luck so far.  Two weeks ago, both pilots of a helicopter Harry was riding in were wounded on an operation.  He’s a good soldier, but I worry about his happy-go-lucky attitude.  He has orders now to go back to the Pentagon in Artillery officer assignments.
No problem on the cargo getting out of Saigon.  Finally got this job under control now.
[Grady and I] have a patio porch overlooking Ham Nghi Boulevard.  It is screened so that the VC can’t toss a bomb up on it.  Grady has a barbecue grill out on the porch and he usually cooks a steak twice a week.  Saturday nights and Sunday nights. There is logic to it.  Sunday dinner costs $2.00 at the mess, so we eat steak here for about $0.50 a piece!  From our porch we can watch the VC bomb the U.S. Embassy one block to the east and then turn around and watch the Vietnamese execute the captured VC by firing squad one block to the west.  Interesting place. 

I only go where I have to go to get my job done.  One of the big things wrong in Vietnam is that too many people are trying to find ways and means of hiding in an office behind barbed wire fencing for 12 months.  When we win here, it will be done by people who get outside the US fortresses we’ve built.  Let me give an example of how we have failed here so far:
In the Transportation Division we have 3 branches, each headed by a lieutenant colonel. (I’m the junior one. . . still a major for a few days yet):  Advisory Branch, which is supposed to advise and go with TC units on convoys.  Movements Branch, which is mine and which is mostly a management agency and which arranges for all cargo and personnel moves; and a Transportation Staff Branch which is concerned only with long-range plans.  Well, the advisors who are supposed to be with the troops in the field spend most of their time in tropical worsted uniforms hiding out in the compound.  They are such cowards that I’ve no respect for them.  In my branch, the uniform is fatigues and the rule is that we go where we have to go to insure that the job is done.  This does not mean that I am careless.  On the contrary, I find that all I learned in Korea stayed with me.  In
many ways, I’ve got the VC figured out fairly well in advance to prevent him from interfering in any way with our shipments.  To do this, I have to go see for myself so I can make better plans.  But perhaps most of my traveling is over.  So far I’ve seen a good part of our operations and need only to visit a few other places.
Basic data about my BOQ:  No US guards, but national police stationed out front and secret police inside and nearby.  Living room with sofa and chairs, bedroom with chests and closets, air-conditioned, maid’s room and bath on the other side.  The maid’s room is used for washing, ironing, and storing of cleaning equipment.  She does not stay here and I’ve never seen her so far as she arrives after we leave for work and leaves before we get home.  Grady says she will sure be here on payday even if we work late as she never misses collecting her money.  We each pay $15 a month for maid service, but considering that this covers cleaning the apartment, washing and ironing, it isn’t too expensive.
It’s hard to write, because work seems to take so much out of me.  The time here is   The only thing that keeps me pushing is that I want to make sure that a record is made of my observations over here.  When I start to write, words and ideas just flow.  Guess I should have been a war correspondent and then I could have come over here and do nothing but write about what I see.  Hard to do when you have a job that takes 12 or 14 hours of available time.
My trip last week was up north.  Spent some time at Kontum, Pleiku, and Ban Me Thout (all up in the mountain highlands close to the Laos border in north central Vietnam); spent a day and night at An Khe which is about halfway between Pleiku in the highlands and Qui Nhon on the coast.  Trip ended at Qui Nhon (also started out there).  Took pictures at Qui Nhon, but nothing in the interior.  We could not take in any personal papers, cameras, ID cards, etc. due to the nature of the trip.  Others who were with me were:  Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hackett (Infantry) whom I knew in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1951-52; Major Tom Jan (Medical Corps) who was with me in the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment in Korea; self; and following whom I’d never met before:  Major Le Seuer (Air Force), Major Paroby (Air Force), Captain Tokarz (Engineers), and Captain Strickler (Engineers).  Am keeping an outline so that I won’t forget details.  It’s important that I make a record of it.  [Clark and these officers prepared for the imminent arrival and deployment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).]
At Qui Nhon I saw Major Jim Greenquist.  Knew him at University of Tennessee.  He gave me a first-class trip by chopper inland and I’ve invited him to come down to Saigon some weekend to stay in our BOQ (most visitors who get a chance to come to Saigon for a weekend have to stay at expensive hotels like the Caravelle unless they have friends who have a good-sized place---usually costs them $20-30 US a day for a visit).  So I got some folding cots for the living room as I expect plenty of visiting traffic in the next 3-6 months.

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