Monday, February 14, 2011

Diary Entry 24: Saigon, Saturday Night, 10 July 1965


                                                              Saturday Night, 10 July 1965

Another day gone by and I’m back in the BOQ for a rest, provided the phone does not ring tonight.  Seems like it rings much too frequently at night these days.  Seeing what is going on, it is going to be only a short time before the headquarters is going to commence around-the-clock operations.  The way things are shaping up, that is the inevitable conclusion.  So to avoid any embarrassment in the future, I intend to put my branch on a 24-hour footing beginning Monday.  Probably won’t be very popular as too many have become accustomed to daylight operations and I’ve found it nearly impossible to find one of my people at night when a flap comes up.  While I’m always available in my BOQ, it seems like my subordinates are out on the town.  No one admits knowing where they are.  So beginning Monday I’ll know where everybody is 24 hours a day and we’ll have an officer on duty around the clock.  There will be some grumbling, but sooner or later people have got to come to grips that we are at war.  And the officers and EM I have under me have never been to war before.  They don’t understand the meaning of the word because they have not lived in the fear and heartbreak of a war.  Back in Saigon, the living is plush and the meaning of war is remote to these people.  But believe me, after Monday, 3 officers of my branch will know about it as they are going up front for a visit.  The boss has already been 3 times so there can be no kick on that point. I plan to send all my people up on a continuing rotating basis in the future.  I may never be very loved by my people, but think I’ll be respected and will get a lot more effort out of them in the future.

    Spent most of the day at the office, going in circles on things that don’t count very much, i.e. paperwork.  Spent a good deal of time with my bosses Colonel Plate and General Crowley working over operations plans and revising same.  Got tired of the office routine and went to Tan Son Nhut airfield to watch my airline operate.  Think that I must be partial to air for some reason, as I try to find all sorts of excuses to get out and watch them or go with them for a delivery.  Don’t feel the same affection for my steamship company.  Moves too slow.

Tonight I’d really like to go over to the Rex and have a great big steak, but the place will be jammed and therefore a good target.  So will just stay home with peanut butter. Grady informs me that the Rex is supposed to be hit this weekend, so they’ve got lots of police out.

Expect my officers think I’m some kind of a nut as they never see me in the evening at the Rex, where most of them go.  Have cautioned them, but as mentioned earlier, they don’t realize what explosives can do.  But I’ll probably do much better if I just come home and go to bed at night.  Think they fail to understand the importance of caution, and patience, and prudence.  Looks like most people get hurt because they fail to observe one of those 3 principles.

The hotel I live in is not guarded like the Rex.  We have only one National Police out front (we call them White Mice because their uniforms are white).  The MPs don’t
provide too much protection, because any zapping is going to be an inside job.  This BOQ is so insignificant that I doubt it will ever be a target.  The VC want and need big targets like the Rex.

I can’t influence Grady not to drink and am not going to try.  He says he is going to move tomorrow to the Vinh Loi just down the street.  While I’ve known him a long time, he’s not the best kind of roommate to have.

Surprisingly enough, Vietnam is not as hot or as uncomfortable as Montgomery.  It is hot, the humidity is high, but I find it reasonably comfortable.  I think people at home have the wrong impression of the weather over here.  It is neither hot nor cool, just a steady warm and humid temperature.

The loading and unloading situation is worse than it was when I arrived, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  The port and terminal facilities of South Vietnam were never designed to handle the traffic which is going through now.
            Coming over here is an interesting experience.  It’s cleaner than most Asian places, but a lot dirtier than the USA.  It’s a lot of fun to watch the people, especially the drivers. It’s just a wonder that half the population is not killed every day by taxicabs.

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