Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Diary Entry 18: Saigon, Thursday Night, 1 July 1965

                                                                                   Thursday Night, 1 July 1965

Have been lying in my bed for the past 2 hours trying to get to sleep, but have had no success.  Just toss and turn and think-think-think.  Maybe if I sit down at the desk, I can change the direction of my thoughts and finally relax a little.  Might’s well write if I can’t sleep.
Am bothered because this is a frustrating place.  People don’t seem to try as hard as they ought to.  Few people will take the initiative to make a decision and there’s more buck-passing in this headquarters than there is in the Pentagon.  When you need action and you call someone who has the responsibility and the authority to do what needs to be done, they are so afraid of making a mistake that they won’t move.  They just have another telephone number to give you.  And the other telephone number has another telephone number to give you.  Perhaps I’m very wrong in philosophy, but I make mistakes every day.  However, I try not to make the same mistake twice.  

Maybe I am a lieutenant colonel today---maybe tomorrow---depends on how fast they are promoting the first part of the month.  Won’t know for about 10 days yet as that’s how long it takes to airmail the special orders over here from Washington.  Will be real proud to wear new rank insignia.  And will mail my nice major’s leaves home for safekeeping.
Can assure this is POSITIVELY the last short tour for me if I ever have any control over the situation.  It is not worth the sacrifice.  In considering all the facts available to me, am not NOT counting on getting a battalion command when I come back home.  That will be impossible.  On my preference statement, will ask for assignment to 3rd Army Area (ALA-GA-MISS-FLA-NC-SC-KY-TENN) and consideration for assignment as close to Montgomery as possible.  Sure would like to be assigned to Montgomery area.  Some officers who just left our shop are concerned over the fact that they may get sent right back over here.

Over the past week or so, I have attempted to engage Major Dughi in a conversation about his family problem, but whenever I bring the subject up, he just changes the subject.  So I can’t tell anything about that except that he really is involved with someone here.  He wrote a letter last week requesting permission to not live in a US Army BOQ and authority to live in town so he can draw quarters allowance.  Colonel [Stanley W.] Plate, the chief of the Transportation Division, approved the request without discussing it with Dughi.  Reckon it is a good thing he does not work for me.  While I try to tell myself I’m not a prude, guess I really am one.  

But it seems to me that the stakes are so important over here and the situation is such that every American MUST be on his very best behavior to show a good example to the Vietnamese, that Americans must chart a fresh course.  The last thing we can afford to do is take the place of the oppressive French colonial image (which is resented by the Vietnamese).  And many of our swaggering paratroopers and Special Forces are acting more and more like the French Foreign Legion.  The French are despised by the Vietnamese.

The weather here isn’t too bad on me.  It’s about like Montgomery in the summer.  Hot, but not too uncomfortable.  The worst thing is that my office and room is air conditioned.  I spend a lot of time going place-to-place so I go from hot to cold to hot to cold and consequently have a perpetual head cold with a drippy nose.  Wish I could get rid of it but know I can’t under the circumstances.

Excerpt from Clark's diary entry, 1 July 1965.  (Document courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

It might be worthwhile to jot down some topics and ideas right now to explain the reasons why we won’t be able to win over here.  


  1. The US fighting man has lost the ability to take care of himself.  In our headquarters, we employ Vietnamese typists, janitors, barbers, electricians, plumbers, PX clerks, interpreters, clerks, and assistants galore.  Classified papers are strewn all over the place like confetti.  And no one really knows whether our help are good guys or bad guys.  For example, the chief VC leader in Saigon was employed by the Navy as a supply expert for many months until suspicion was raised due to unexplained loss of explosives under his control.  He has been the man who has been setting the very effective bombs in the Saigon area.

2.       The GI no longer is willing to cook his food, wash his dishes, or shine his shoes.  He  
           hires a Vietnamese to do this for him.

  1. The GI wants to fight from a hotel.  Today I didn’t make very many points with some Very VIPs when I said:  “It’s about time we started thinking about one-story tents instead of 4-story hotels for GIs.”  This thing just can’t be won by the guy who wants to play the slot machines at the Rex BOQ.
4.  We don’t have a spirit of closing with the enemy and destroying him by fire and maneuver.  You can only win a war by taking aggressive offensive action, NOT by hiding in a foxhole or inside a walled compound.
  1. Too many “advisors” like to advise by telephone.  They find all sorts of excuses to avoid doing their duty.  The place to advise is at the Vietnamese commander’s elbow when he’s in trouble, not when he’s in Saigon sitting in an office.
  1. In my opinion, the South Vietnamese High Command does not want to win and prefers the dollar value of the status quo.  Every American headquarters, BOQ, and important official has to be guarded by barbed wire and many MPs.  But the Joint General Staff High Command of the Vietnamese Armed Forces HAS NO GUARDS AROUND IT WHATSOEVER.  The VC have bombed the US Embassy, Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, BOQs, and restaurants patronized by the US.  But they have not bombed the Vietnamese High Command (unguarded), the Vietnamese Air Force units on Tan Son Nhut or Vietnamese restaurants.

Army of the Republic of Vietnam Joint General Staff Headquarters, 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard Paris Clark, Jr. collection)

  1. The American public does not want to win this war because the cost will come high and hard.  Higher taxes will be required to finance a win.  More civilians will have to be drafted and the National Guard and Reserves will have to be called up.
  1. All the Regular Army can say is “I’ll Try, Sir,” and we are slowly eroding the valuable young assets that we have.  Older men like me are not very important, but I worry about losing the upcoming leaders through unconstructive loss or disillusionment.
And there are 10 or 15 other opinions I have now, but am too tired to put them to paper.

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