Canada Here We Come
Plan two was similar to the Banana Boat plan but required more cash and me getting married. I had family in Canada. As a child I spent a lot of time there. It was no trouble immigrating and finding a job. But I needed a cash stake to get started with
an apartment and buy another car. I had taken quite a loss to get rid of the Riveria quickly. I married Bev and the envelopes at the reception gave us enough money for a year.
There were a lot of different fighting elements in South East Asia during the 60’’s and 70’s. A Special Forces sergeant in a Vietnam bar described a few of them to me as follows.
Tell the Marines to take that hill. And they'll say, “Yes sir” and charge up the hill, fighting and killing anything in their way. They will do it with outdated old equipment the Army threw out ten years before. They will sweat and die and if there is one Marine left alive he will take the hill.
Tell a Ranger and they'll say, Yes sir” and form a group to study the hill. They will formulate plans and methods for taking the hill. They will write volumes of orders and instructions on hill taking and have conferences on taking the hill. They will find the most difficult terrain on the hill and route to the hill preferably through marshes and up steep cliffs. They will wait till the middle of monsoon season and in weather that would keep a duck from swimming. Then they will attack the hill and half of their force will die from exhaustion and injury. If there is a Ranger left standing he will take the hill.
Tell Special Forces to take that hill. They will look at you funny and go away. In a couple of days they will come back with a number of indigenous troops and ask you why you want the hill taken. When you explain it to them in at least two languages, a number of things may happen. 1. They may take the hill. 2. They may convince or bribe someone else to take the hill. 3. You might find them at the club completely ignoring your orders to take the hill or looking for a jeep to steal.
Tell the ROK‘s (Army of South Korea) to take the hill and they will kill any Vietnamese within 10 miles of the hill with their bare hands and the rest of the VC will run away from the hill. The ROK’s will then take the hill and sell it.
It is interesting to note the ROK’s learned how to speak Vietnamese and killed most of their ARVN interpreters (of course I have no direct knowledge of this but that‘s what I heard).
Tell the CIA to take the hill. They will buy an air force, destabilize the country next door, invent a new addictive drug and export it to finance the operation. Convince the native population of the neighboring country to invade the adjoining country and start a revolution. Have the rebels or the nationals begin receiving foreign aid and convince a third party major power to attack and take the hill.
The M-1 Garand was a good rifle, probably the best during WW II. The loading system sucked as it did not use a box clip but it was a sturdy platform for shooting or bludgeoning an opponent or attaching a bayonet to and going on a stabbing rampage. The weapon was used by the ARVN and South Korean Marine corps. The Garand had the same problem as the M-14 that replaced it and was used widely during the initial phases of the war. It was too big and not a fully automatic weapon. I trained with the M-14 and liked it. I never saw an M-16 till I arrived in Vietnam. An AK-47 although sometimes not very accurate was a good assault rifle. It’s major asset was it worked most of the time. It was cheap to produce and carried a nice punch. My first week in Vietnam I was taken out to the range to be checked out on a number of weapons I had never used before. I watched an AK-47 blow up a concrete block while the M-16 just put a little hole in it. Not very reassuring. But there was an the M-79 grenade launcher. It was a fun gun and required no training if you were a trap shooter. The M-60 machine gun worked well if it wasn’t raining. A Colt 1911 automatic was a good pistol if you used it all the time and knew what parts to replace.
In my dreams I always thought we should have equipped all our soldiers with 45 auto’’s and Thompson sub machine guns. They had an American look. The M-16 didn’’t look like a gun. Think of a cowboy hat like Teddy Roosevelt’s and a .45 strapped to your hip and a Tommy gun slung over your shoulder. A big part of soldiering is feeling like a soldier. Horses would have been nice too. Elephants for Thailand and Laos of course. Put some Kevlar armor on the Chang and of you go (it would have made it easier to carry beer and ice which was a never ending problem in Vietnam). Elephants can move very quietly in the jungle; something most people don’t know. The last American cavalry charge was accomplished in the Philippines with 45’s and Garand’s.
I realize the Tommy gun had some power issues and it was very heavy but the 1928 model with the .45 Remington-Thompson cartridge from a 14-inch barrel would have solved some of the problems and it had a bayonet lug too.
Vietnam was a cool war to be Marshall Mcluhanesque about it. There were mysterious women, great drugs and good rock and roll music everywhere. The aircraft were cool. The VNAF pilots had the uniform thing down with black jump suits and pink scarves being one among many choices. They were cool. Vietnam was TV and comic books. Cool not meaning good but in the Mcluhan sense of media that provide little involvement with substantial stimulus. They require more active participation on the part of the user, including the perception of abstract patterning and simultaneous comprehension of all parts. Movies are hot – TV is cool. WW II was hot. Vietnam was cool.
Style could have played a bigger part in Vietnam. I had my uniforms custom tailored as did a lot of troops. Thai policemen know about uniforms as does everyone else in the Thai military. I realize the Thai cops look a bit funny because their uniforms are a little tight but the attempt at style is really there. If you have ever met a royal bodyguard you know they really have the system down pat and they are big guys by anybodies standard. They are in Food land in Pattaya weekly for the royal shopping trips. Nice guys, very watchful with really big pistols. Handsome too. The high ranking ones usually stop at the counter for a cup of coffee while the ladies shop. The Thai helmets at royal functions set the world standard. I watched the Kings birthday replays for months and saw different radical uniforms every time I watched it.
The Asian sense of style and appearance was completely overlooked in Vietnam. The Americans did and still do have a sense of style and marketing that is usually completely overlooked in war. The Germans had Hugo Boss designing uniforms! It is not good to fight a war on TV and look sloppy. It was not cool when 20,000 American troops gave the peace sign at a Bob Hope USO show. That didn’t scare the commies. Bob Hope was a bad choice anyway. It should have been John Wayne and Clint Eastwood strangling live chickens on stage.
John Wayne and Clint Eastwood should have made all the training films and Thompson and Browning the weapons. We blew our natural marketing advantage. Asians have always liked cowboys. We came to Vietnam looking like green suited geeks from outer space. We needed cowboy hats at least and the more leather the better. Americans are bigger than Vietnamese. We should have had bigger guns and bowie knives standard issue. We did not market our size and reputation. We could have air dropped movies of Mohammed Ali punching in the faces of VC prizefighters. Bigger is better with dicks and guns and knives. Scotland is still riding on the memories of soldiers not wearing underwear 700 years ago. The special forces guys didn’t wear underwear in Vietnam or afterwards so I am told by bar girls who avoided SF guys for a variety of reasons.
But I have always like Special Forces soldiers. They told the best stories and they always had things to trade and whisky to seal the deal with. Although to the SF guys who stole the General’s jeep from the NCO club I am still upset about that. It was no excuse that I stole yours from the Embassy in Saigon. Besides, you never really knew it was me anyway.
We marketed the war wrong. The VC conducted the Tet Offensive and were soundly defeated in a few hours for the most part but the their “after defeat” marketing campaign went brilliantly. The North Vietnamese took over the war because the VC proved inept and they took over the offensive because they conducted a great marketing campaign along with the help of our media and inept Generals. It is not enough in the TV generation to win a war. You have to market that win. We had the 7th Cavalry WTF? They were famous for loosing to Sitting Bull. We should have renamed it the Dirty Harry Brigade and charged with slogans like, ““Come on Charlie, make my day.”
I really liked the M-79 grenade launcher. It was pleasant to realize I could carry enough ammo to destroy a small town.
There is of course widely different philosophies of weapons choice when one is alone or not in a regular combat assignment as opposed to being in a squad situation every day.
Then there was Puff. Everybody on our side liked Puff.
The very first DC-3, American Airlines "Flagship Texas," took its maiden flight on December 17, 1935, over Santa Monica, California. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
once identified the C-47, the military version of the DC-3 as one of four things that won World War II for the allies. The others were the Bazooka, Jeep and Atom Bomb.
In 1953 the US sent teams of mechanics to Vietnam to help the French maintain their fleet C-47s . By 1961, additional C-47s had been supplied to the South Vietnamese Air Force.
As the Viet Cong activity shifted to nighttime operations the C-47 was virtually born again into a new role, twenty years after production of these airplanes had ceased. What Donald Douglas had designed as a basic passenger airplane evolved into a highly efficient gunship, designated the AC-47.
AC-47 gun ships had three window-mounted electrically operated 7.62 mm machine guns, positioned on a 12 degree angle in the fourth, fifth and sixth port windows. Sometimes these ships flew with the forward half of the cargo door removed and another gun installed in the opening. In Vietnam, AC-47s provided murderous firepower to protect helicopter landing zones and flew over the eerie, nighttime jungle, dropping flares on Viet Cong positions. In this role, the gunship flew with a crew of eight; the pilot, copilot, navigator, mechanic, two ordnance men (to load the machine guns), a flare launcher and a Vietnamese observer. The gun ships carried 2,000 pounds of ammunition and 45 five minute, 5-million candlepower flares.
The three 7.62 mm miniguns could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second. Cruising in an overhead orbit at 120 knots air speed at an altitude of 2 or 3,000 feet, the AC-47 could put a high explosive or glowing red incendiary bullet into every square yard of a football field-sized target in three seconds. Puff could stay over target for 6 to 8 hours if necessary, God willing and the ammo didn’t run out.
The NVA and VC had standing orders, “Not attack dragon. Not want make dragon angry.” Our troops seeing those orders nicknamed it, “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
It did create one problem for our body counting officer corps. There was not enough of the enemy left after Puff to count. The scene looked more like a piñata of raw hamburger had been exploded.
From 1964 to 1966 both the US and Thailand denied we were bombing Laos and North Vietnam out of Thailand.
Aircraft based in Thailand.
Nakhon Phanom: A-26, A-IH & E, C-47, HH-53, HH-43, C-123, CH-3E, CH-53, AC-119, QU-22, EC-47, O-1, O-2 and OV-10 aircraft.
U Tapao: B-52, KC-135, HH-43 and P-3 aircraft
Ubon: F-4D, F-4E, AC-130, HH-43B and OV-10 aircraft.
Udon: F-102, RF-4C, F-4D, HC-130, C-130E, C-130B, C-47, HH-43, C-54 and T-28.
Korat: F-4E. F-105, EB-66, C-130, HC-130, HH-43 and EC-121 aircraft
Takhili: F-4D, HH-43, KC-135, F-86 and EB-66 aircraft.
Don Muang: RF-101C, F-102, 4 KC-135, C-130 and about 1400 US enlisted men.
Nam Phong: F4B, F4J, 533 Nighthawks, A6A Intruders, CH-46 Chinook and KC-130 refueler aircraft.
I think at this juncture it is important to understand our goals in Vietnam and SEA in general. 1. To keep an administration friendly to the US in power in Saigon. 2. To kill Chiang Mai Kelly. I am sure there are many more goals that can be stated including some smart ass things about drugs and Air America and the hill tribe people and Tony P but I never looked in the briefcases I was dropping off to banks all over the world. It may have been payments for some kind of illicit services or real estate deals for Saigon brothels or condos in Hanoi. I don’t know. I do know that the US government was trying to kill me. They gave me a gun that didn’t work. They wanted me to sleep in quarters that were frequently blown up. They wanted me to eat in a mess hall that got blown up. They even wanted me to shit in a toilet that got blown up. They wanted me to fly in inclement weather with pilots who either never knew or had forgotten how to fly by instruments. The wanted me to land in places where there were people shooting at me. I could go on and on but you get the idea.
I wasn’t the only one. The first marine killed in Vietnam was killed when a landing craft dropped their ramp on him. He was standing in the wrong place or they were landing in the wrong place.
Very few enlisted men tried to kill me it was mostly officers.
The officers did not arrive in Vietnam with their units. They were sent in as other officers rotated out after six month tours of duty. The non flying officers I knew were mainly trying to look good on paper and then leave. Six months was not enough to find out where the latrine was let alone command a unit. A new second lieutenant was among the most dangerous things in Vietnam. I avoided them in as much as I could. George Patton said that an officer wasn't worth a pinch of salt until he'd been with troops for ten years.
This did not apply to most the pilots. There was a shortage of pilots and most of the men I served with had been in country a long time. New pilots were of course the kiss of death. The first two weeks were a killer.
I had written my draft board a nice letter informing them I was in Canada to study French and complete my degree. Although this was rather odd because I lived in Toronto and not much French is spoken in Toronto. I did travel to Montreal occasionally on business. I liked Toronto in the middle 1960’s. It was a cosmopolitan town with great beer. Especially the porter from Dow Brewery. I gained 50 pounds. There was a little discrimination problem at the time because quite a few American draft dodgers were invading Canada. I spoke Canadian because I had lived there as a child and ate without changing knife and fork so most people assumed I was a native anyway. My wife Beverly left me while we lived in Toronto. I never bothered to call and enquire where she had gone or why. Like I said I enjoyed Toronto. She had been gone for three weeks and I had found an old girlfriend who’s parents had Maple leaf tickets and I was happy. She however much like most Thai woman came back. Madder than a wet hen that I had not noticed her departure. Things were going fine however except for her occasional verbal outbursts, ripping up my custom made tweed suits and three attempts to murder me. After the better part of a year I had become convinced the draft board had forgotten about me. The company I worked for offered me a transfer back to the States and a 100% raise in pay. I took the new job. I was only back to the States for a month when the draft notice came in the mail. My boss offered me a critical skills deferment and a transfer to the Bendix aerospace division of our company. That morning I had had another knock down drag out fight with Beverly and I told him I thought it was my duty to defend our country. I meant of course I wanted to get away from Beverly. I was sent to Fort Knox for basic training.
I lost the 50 pounds of beer weight and actually looked rather dashing in my uniform. While in basic training they offered me an opportunity to go to NCO school and become a sergeant in only a matter of weeks and get shipped to Vietnam. I declined. I had the fix in. I paid a clerk to pay another clerk to get me orders to a language school in Washington DC. The school was a year long and after that I would be too short to go to overseas. Draftees only served 24 months active duty. Since it was the Army something got screwed up and the orders crossed in transit and the orders for Vietnam beat the orders to the language school. I went home to tell Bev who had moved to Ft Knox to harass me. She maintained I was going to Vietnam to get away from her and threw a glass bottle of mouthwash at me from two feet. She broke two of my teeth. They gave me a couple of weeks leave and told me to report to Tacoma WA for shipment to Vietnam.
Ft. Lewis in Tacoma was a confused place. It seemed to me no one really knew what was happening. I ran into a friend from basic training who typed up the departure lists daily. I paid him to put my name on the bottom of the list every day. They always overbooked the flights and the last few guys never went. This worked fine for a couple of weeks. I got so confident I shacked up with a fat chick I had met at a club in Tacoma. She was the first women I had ever known who was into heavy S&M. She wanted me to pierce her nipples with a needle while we had sex. This took me quite a while to get used to because it was a complete turn off to me. One evening when she was showing me other tricks with her leather implements and things she kept around the house the phone rang. It was my friend at Ft Lewis. Things had gone awfully wrong and they had scheduled extra planes. They were flying everyone to Vietnam, even the people assigned to duty at Ft. Lewis. He was going too and I had already missed my first flight. I didn’t have much of a chance to bemoan my fate. A quick swat on the ass for my fat lady friend and off I was in the wild blue yonder.
Things were going bad in Vietnam as early as 1966. But it still could have been resolved. The big problem and the actual turning point of the war was “Operation MOOSE.”
The impetus for Operation Moose came from many sources. In the halls of government in Bangkok and Taipei and Hong Kong the whispers started. They spread everywhere. The tentacles of the mob and syndicates reached out to the dirt roads of Iowa and the small churches in Georgia singing hymns. Without a doubt it was Operation MOOSE that lost the war in Vietnam. Stay tuned for the next installment. Operation MOOSE, the turning point in Vietnam.
I'm trying to work out which Vietnam I prefer, Kelly's or Korski's.