Friday, March 18, 2011

Diary Entry 47: Saigon, Saturday Night, 21 August 1965

                                                                                            Saturday Night, 21 August 1965

Spirits high, because this has been kind of a “fun” day.  The day has seemed pretty much like a day-long comedy.  Reckon the comedy really started last night in some conversations with General DePuy, but I was unable to recognize it as the beginning of an amusing series of experiences.  It happened this way:

Last night I went over to MACV I to discuss some airlift plans with General DePuy.  One of the points of discussion was a very large number of airlift requirements requested by the Army guys (I wear a “purple” uniform as a joint command staff officer---refer to the component commands as:  “Those Army guys, those Air Force guys, or those Navy guys”). Well, to get back to the story:  The Army wanted to ship enough barbed wire to build a castle, so I questioned it when I spoke with the J-3.  The requirement got under the skin of General DePuy also and he got mad about it.  He was quite forceful in his instructions to me: “Dammit, these people act like they are going up there to hide behind a bunch of barbed wire.  They’re acting like a damned bunch of Frenchmen.  They’re supposed to be here to fight, not hide.  They better learn now how to dig a foxhole and live in it. . .”  Then he went on to say that the air movement of fortification materials was disapproved and would not go ever at all.  He also had some choice words about how the Army guys better learn to put their heavy tonnage across the roads rather than by air lines.

Got about 3 calls during my sleep from the Army about whether or not I intended to move the barbed wire, and after about the 3rd call and referral to the Chief of Staff of US Army, Vietnam, reckon they decided that I meant it.

The subject came up again this morning at our regular briefing conference by the Army guy, and General DePuy practically exploded again.  Thought this settled the question, but along about noon, the Chief Engineer of MACV called up and asked me to come up to his office to discuss a movement problem.  So I did.  And there were the Army guys again needling the Chief Engineer to try to put pressure on us to move it.  So I told them,  “Okay, just get General DePuy to approve it and we will carry it.  I just transport what people tell me to transport.”  This approach just cut the argument out from under them as it was a positive approach and they did not want to go argue with DePuy.  That seems to be the last guy they want to see.

Later on in the day, the Army guys tried to get General Crowley in the act on their side to fight DePuy, but I’d gotten to him earlier and explained that it looked like a fist fight was shaping up between Generals DePuy and Norton so it would be a good idea to stay out of it. He did.  He told them to check with DePuy.

I must have gotten about 10 calls this afternoon from the Army guys trying to glean information.  Think they are trying to find out whether this disapproval is just General DePuy’s idea alone or whether he’s discussed it with Gen. Westmoreland and got his say-so.  In short, they don’t know who the opponent is and it is funny to watch them run in circles.

Late this afternoon, I got a call from the Army guys again on another subject.  They wanted to know “what the theater policy is on a particular subject.”  This is a loaded question, because a joint command only makes policy when policy of the component commands (Army, Navy, and Air Force) conflicts.  So I answered that our policy is that we rely on the regulations, rules, and procedures approved by each of the separate services.

This answer kind of stunned them, so they hung up to try to figure out what I’d said.  Later they called back and said they had a difference of opinion within US Army, Vietnam about who was responsible for loading ships---transportation corps units or tactical units?  I responded that MACV thoroughly agreed with Department of the Army doctrine in this matter.  So they hung up to think about that one for a while.  Frankly, there was a big fight in progress in the Army side and they were trying to drag MACV into it.  

Finally, they got around to the real story:  We furnished some steamships to the Army to make a specific move.  Somebody goofed up and loaded all the trucks pointing the wrong way, and when General Larsen looked over the 1st ship, he blew his stack and wanted to court-martial somebody.  The TC people blamed the Infantry commanders and the Infantry commanders blamed the TC people, and no one knew (or would admit) to the blame or responsibility.  So they tried to drag MACV into it.  Well, we have enough trouble with INTER-SERVICE SQUABBLES without getting into any INTRA-SERVICE SQUABBLES.  Reckon they are still squabbling about it, and I’m having fun laughing about it.

I am still very careful.  For example, this week is the 20th anniversary of the first VC uprising against the French.  I now go only to work, to eat, and to the room.  My Vietnamese secret service agent stays close by and has now become a friend, because I give him a pack of cigarettes every day.  He has even agreed to pose for a picture which he would not do previously.

Don’t know whether I’ll take any R&R while I’m over here.  From what I hear, it is just a good excuse to go spend a lot of money---the GIs call Hong Kong the Big PX.  
The National Police Headquarters which was blown up early this week is not near my hotel, but it was damned close to where I work.  When the bomb went off, you should have seen people dive under desks.  Sounded like it went off in the compound.

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