Thursday, May 5, 2011

Diary Entry 77: Saigon, Sunday Night, 17 October 1965

                                                                                       Sunday Night, 17 October 1965

You might say this has been a Bad Day at Black Rock.  Too busy for a Sunday.  I lay down at 8 p.m. to go to sleep but woke up at 12 and now find it impossible to go back to sleep.  Decided to get up and write to see if this will relax me.  Am deliberately printing so as to slow myself down.  Find that if I force my writing to slow down, my thought processes slow down and I relax. 

Let’s see, where did this day start and end?  This morning I tried to sleep late but having waked up so early for so long, just automatically popped wide awake at 6 o’clock.  

Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, U.S. Navy, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command, 1965.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy) 

Finally dozed again about 8 o’clock until 9:30 when the phone rang and I was needed down at the office.  Admiral [Ulysses S. Grant] Sharp, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command, flew in at 8 o’clock on a surprise inspection and visit.  He wanted a briefing at 1 p.m. so we went through a lot of flipflops getting up fact sheets for General Crowley to use.  I think we pulled the last fact sheet out of the typewriter just as Gen. C was getting in his sedan to go to the briefing, and we raced up to the gate as he was leaving. We could not leave the office while Gen. C and others were briefing Admiral Sharp, because there might be a chance someone would call up on a hot question posed by Sharp and the specific answer would not be at hand.  The phone, of course, continued to ring on minor matters all afternoon so we were kept busy.  At 4:30 the briefing was over and we were released. 

I took all my gang, that is, those that were present, as 2 were on a flight mission to Can Tho and Soc Trang, and we went down to the Hong Kong BOQ bar and had a couple of beers and lots of talk.  By 6:30 my flight mission was back from Can Tho and joined us for dinner.  I have a real good bunch of officers and we are real proud of ourselves and close friends.  The gang has given me a nickname of “COMUSMACVMOVEMENTS,” which is a take-off of “COMUSMACV.”  COMUSMACV translated into English from military stands for COMMANDER IN CHIEF UNITED STATES MILITARY ASSISTANCE COMMAND VIETNAM (General Westmoreland) and“COMUSMACVMOVEMENTS” translated means Commander in Chief United States Military Assistance Command for Movements.  It is a term which corresponds to the Army’s “Old Man,” I reckon.  Owing to the joint nature of my staff, I am variously called “Captain” and “Skipper” by the Navy; “Sir” and “Colonel” by the Air Force; and “The Old Man” or “Boss” by the Army.  We take a lot of pride in what we do and how we do it.  So now after a fine dinner, sleep, and good companionship, [I am] back in the BOQ writing. 

I am very careful about where I go, routes to take, times to go, etc.  Someone who goes through a shoot like Korea as an infantry platoon leader develops a great instinct which cannot be forgotten.  [I] can smell trouble.  Most of the people who get hurt here are just victims of circumstances beyond their control or they are careless.  Well, I can control most of the circumstances such as when and where I go, what time I go, the routes to be taken and mode of travel.  And everybody can control carelessness.  You just use common sense.  Many of the Gung Ho types who come over here get themselves hurt because they are looking for adventure, excitement, and medals.  They forget to be scientific in thought processes.

It doesn’t look like my job is going to change too very much in the next months as we received word recently that Colonel [Jack W.] Tooley’s main strength [the U.S. Army 507th Movement Control Group, also known as the MACV Traffic Management Agency (MACV-TMA) won’t be arriving for a while. However, have been thinking about going up to Nha Trang and seeing General Larsen who now commands US Army Field Forces Vietnam to see if he doesn’t need a crackerjack Transportation Officer for his headquarters.  The one he has now is pretty sorry, and all the inter-service fighting and back door politics which go on at a joint (MACV) headquarters bothers me.  I have one great failing in carrying out my duties and that is I’m honest in my dealings with all services.  I wear a “purple” uniform, not associated with any of the services.  But many others identify very closely with their parent service and it is difficult to swim upstream sometimes, but know of no other way than to act as my conscience dictates.  

We have firefights pretty close to Saigon.  In fact, an officer who I sent up to Bien Hoa Air Base last week to supervise airplane arrangements for the show “Hello, Dolly!” was involved in a running gunfight most of the way back to Saigon with snipers at night.  Am sure Major Metheny did not much care for it, but all my people understand the need for certain risks.  It is just ABSOLUTELY essential that someone show the way, to lead, as we have gotten ourselves into thinking like the French before us:  Stay in the cities, don’t go over the roads, don’t use the railroads.  Was very proud when I watched the first train in 8 months pull out of Saigon headed for Bien Hoa Air Base, because I did it in spite of people and not because of them.  No war has ever been won by defensive operations; you must be aggressive and forceful.  Well, that’s just some more two-bit philosophy by a tired young lieutenant colonel.  Reckon I just like to win too much.

I keep about $100 cash on hand all the time because there are contingency plans which could cause me to move real fast from Saigon to other countries.  Am going to have to do a little traveling now and then just to keep my finger on things.  General Crowley has already suggested that I go back to Qui Nhon to check beach conditions and there are other places which need some attention.

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