Capital Military Assistance Command

II FF CAPITAL MILITARY ASSISTANCE COMMAND (CMAC)
SAIGON - REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
SEPTEMBER 1968 to JUNE 1969

Text & photos (except where noted) by Brian Wickham
Broadcast Supervisor - CMAC Information Office

MY SAIGON PHOTOS 1968-1969

BILL FABIANIC'S SAIGON PHOTOS

DEJA VU VIETNAM

     CMAC    
II FIELD FORCE

Patch worn by CMAC personnel
until July, 1969

bwickham@nyc.rr.com

JIM FINNEGAN'S CMAC Web Site: SAIGON WARRIOR
CHUCK GALLOWAY'S store:
GALLOWAY CAMERA
CMAC

New CMAC patch
from July, 1969



MY ARRIVAL IN SAIGON - SEPTEMBER 1968





I arrived in the first week of September, 1968 and was assigned a room with PFC Bill Tekavic.  I had a mustache (left) when I showed up but then a few days later decided it was too much bother so I shaved it off (right).  In the meantime I didn't see Bill for a while as he was the CMAC mail clerk and worked odd hours.  When we met again later in the week he asked me, "Where's the other guy?"  Our first meeting was so brief all he remembered was the mustache!

A couple of weeks later Bill asked if that was a Scrabble game he saw when I had first unpacked.  I brought Scrabble from Fort Gordon where I played with the guy in the next bunk, Bill Blome.  Blome had an advanced degree in English from Johns Hopkins but it was a see-saw battle - sometimes he won, sometimes I did - and we usually scored in the 340 area.  Bill Blome gave me the game when he shipped out, but I had no one to give it to when I left so it came with me.  Tekavic was a Scrabble player so we dived right in.  He cleaned my clock scoring around 540, but in the process brought my game up to the 400s.


Both photos by Sp5 Chuck Galloway
Galloway Camera


THE WALLING HOTEL  - BEQ

Vien
                                    Dong Hotel - formerly Walling Hotel
                                    BEQ
The Walling Hotel BEQ is now the Vien Dong Hotel at 275 Pham Ngu Lao.
(Photo courtesy of Saigon Quarters)

My room in September 1968.  It looks like they removed some of the balconies, including the one in my room.  We all had maid service for $10 a month.  A Vietnamese woman, our mama-san, cleaned the room, shined the boots and did our laundry every day.  When I arrived the A/C wasn't working so we asked the mama-san if she could look into it.  $10 each got us A/C that night!  The major problem was running water.  The water heater  in the bathroom worked but the water truck showed up in early afternoon to replenish the supply.  By the time we got home everyone else had run the water dry taking showers, so we had jerry cans of water to use for cleaning and shaving.  Since Tekavic was already there, and chose the bed away from the "blast zone", I got the bed by the window.  But once we got A/C I had the good spot.



CATCHING THE BUS TO WORK

Sign   Paperboys

The paper boys who sold the Saigon newspapers every morning outside the Walling Hotel
Morning Bus Paper Boy
This was my first morning catching a USAHAC (US Army HQ Area Command) bus to work at the MACV Annex.  The paper boy had a selection of soft porn for the GI's to look at (good public relations!) and when their bus came a couple of GI's just boarded with the magazines neglecting to pay for them.  I'm sure they amounted to quite an investment for these kids - it was the only time I ever saw a Vietnamese boy in tears.

PFC BILL TEKAVIC HAVING HIS RADIO ENGRAVED

The Vietnam War Zippo

Tek
                                      engraving
Tek had his camera (classic half-frame Olympus PEN in his hand) engraved previously and took me along to get his radio done.  I figured I could get my Zippo done here and asked for just Vietnam, my name and years.  When I picked it up I found they decided to embellish it with "Snoopy" on the back.  And a very lame Snoopy at that!  Another 50 cents flushed down the tubes!  I could have replaced it at the PX (and, as it turned out, have it engraved professionally) but I decided that this was a true lesson in relations with the East and worth keeping.

Zippo FrontZippo Back

Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the  late  deceased,
And the epitaph drear:  "A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."

                                                           The Naulahka, chap. 5 (1892)  Rudyard Kipling



Sep 1968 - TRIP TO "FISHNET" or REDCATCHER FORWARD
Forward HQ of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade

Flower
                                      Power 2

Not much happened. Since the 199th Light Infantry Brigade had it's own Information Section it didn't like CMAC poaching on it's territory.  So Chuck Galloway and I spent the night with them as guests, sleeping on mats on the floor under a corrugated steel sheet with an outer liner of sand bags, the whole thing arched between knitting looms. "Fishnet" actually was a former fishnet factory with all the looms still in place on the factory floor.  In the morning we had eggs, any way you want them, fried in butter.  For me that was a first, and last, in the Army.

Flower Power 1



Chuck Galloway adds:
"The night we spent in the fish net factory was an experience that I shall never forget. Not a breath of air was moving, except from the wings of those mosquitoes. The only relief from the mosquitoes was under the army issue poncho and that made me even hotter.  Finally falling asleep only to be awakened by the firing of artillery, I still think that trip was the beginning of the ringing in my ears.  I will never forget how those guys in that artillery unit had to live every day only slightly better that farm animals back in the States."







We then wandered onto the highway where I took the two photos of a 9th Infantry Division convoy passing by.  I love the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier with that GI riding in a beach chair!  He just epitomizes the GI attitude in Vietnam.
Galloway
When our CMAC deuce-and-a-half (2.5 ton truck) came for us Chuck felt we were a little exposed, so he stayed at the ready all the way back to Saigon.  I was with CMAC only about a week so I didn't know what to think.

Chuck is carrying an M-16 which, I believe, he brought with him when he was reassigned to CMAC during its formation.  We also had a typist from the 101st Airborne who also had an M-16.  I borrowed his weapon in those early days when I had to go out in the field, otherwise we who came in from the States were issued M-14's which weighed a ton.  Lt. Drake, in the Information Office, took pity on me and somehow got me an M-2 Carbine which was light as a feather.  Unfortunately it didn't have a sling, or the rings on the stock to mount one, so it stayed in my hand or had to be rested somewhere when I was working.

Of course, the chances of losing it were increased by these circumstances but then no one actually owned it.  If I had ever reported it lost they would have said, "What carbine?"

 

THE "Y" BRIDGE - NOVEMBER 1968


The Y Bridge, so called because of its shape, connected Saigon with roads to Nha Be to the south.  It was an important link to hold from enemy capture or destruction.  Sp5 Chuck Galloway and myself were sent out to do a story on our OPCON (Operational Control) units defending Saigon.  In this case it was the 199th Light Infantry Brigade (Redcatchers) again.

Y Bridge

Typical midday traffic on the bridge.  It looks kind of sleepy but actually the Redcatchers and the
Vietnamese Police, or Canh Sat, stopped and checked non-military traffic all day long.

Y Bridge

Nothing much was going on so Chuck and I crawled all over the place to take photos.  Above is the Kinh Doi River from a pier of the bridge. 
The piers were constructed to keep enemy scuba divers from planting charges directly on the pilings.  As an added precaution, the
occasional concussion grenade was tossed in the river to shake up any divers who might be near.

Y Bridge

Being new in-country I found this odd, yet comforting.  Underneath the bridge was the Redcatchers' encampment and right across
the heavily wired fence was a makeshift restaurant selling hamburgers, "egg omlits" and fried rice.

We found a story to do anyway!  (Or maybe that's why we went in the first place.  Who can remember?) The Redcatchers kept geese in a pen under the bridge to sound a warning if anyone tried to infiltrate their little compound.  It was said that Julius Caesar did the same thing to keep his legions safe from night attack.
Geese

A few of Sp5 Galloway's Y Bridge photos were published in the Army magazine "Uptight" - Winter 1969.
"In Defense Of Saigon" was rushed together by me and I forgot to credit the color photos to Chuck.  He was a bit miffed!


SCENES AT THE CHOLON PX

Cholon PX

The Cholon PX - meeting the shopping needs of military personnel from all the Free World.  I desperately wanted a Nikon SLR, just as everyone else did.  I was told by the only guy I ever saw with a Nikon in Saigon that they occasionally had them in the PX.  So. like a rube, I asked the nice Vietnamese lady at the photo counter if she happened to have any Nikons.  She smilingly said, "No. You come back tomorrow."  Now I thought I had an inside track!  I went back the next day and asked again.  She smilingly said, "No.  You come back tomorrow."  I started to get the picture - the Vietnamese are too polite to laugh in your face and say, "Not in this lifetime."

Tek
Bill Tekavic poses with a bird being peddled by a kid in the Cholon PX parking lot.







McMinn
Logan McMinn shops for shades at the Cholon PX parking lot.

Shades and Seiko watches were the two big items in the parking lot.  The seller would push up a loose sleeve to display an armful of Seikos for sale.  I was a little suspicious of these things and called them "Snake-os".





Cover of the Exchange Mail Order Catalog



Pacex
USAHAC
"RELAX! RIDE A USAHAC BUS."


The ubiquitous "Snoopy" was on the back of every USAHAC route bus in Saigon.  It's no wonder he showed up on the back of my Zippo lighter.  You might have gotten the impression that Snoopy was the semi-official mascot of the war.

I have been advised by a member of the CICV Group on Yahoo that the sign in Vietnamese translates to,
"Do not bike riding along side this bus!"





photo taken in the Cholon Exchange parking lot



CMAC HEADQUARTERS

CMD

CMD COMPOUND
(CAMP LE VAN DUYET)


One of the buildings occupied by CMAC in the Capital Military District compound.  This architecturally beautiful headquarters was
built for the French Foreign Legion very early in the 20th Century.  Most of the compound was used by the South Vietnamese Forces.




MACV Annex

MACV ANNEX BUILDING

The Information Office was not exactly high priority so we were stationed in the MACV Annex Building at Tan Son Nhut Air Base along with a few other sections.

We had a refrigerator for photographic film which we also kept stocked with Coca-Cola.  Anyone could take a soda but they had to pay
10 cents.  I believe they cost us 5 cents a can at the PX.  The money went into a fund to pay for parties when any of us rotated home.

We would take the jeep to Cholon and load up with soda, and also with beer for use back at the Walling Hotel.  Each soldier was
rationed four cases of beer per month so we had a few guys, who never bought beer, use their ration for the rest of us.  They in turn got their
Dr. Pepper, or whatever, hauled to the hotel along with our Schlitz.

Why so much beer?  Tekavic and I managed to find a large refrigerator on the second floor and hauled it up to the fifth.  We kept it stocked and I bought a 12 inch TV so we entertained a few nights a week.  A favorite was "Combat" with Vic Morrow, which we called "Like It Is".  We also got to see almost the whole third season of "Star Trek".  War is hell.




CAMP DAVIES - FLASH TOWER



DAVIES           

Scope
I managed to climb every CMAC flash tower around Saigon accompanied by either Chuck Galloway, Logan McMinn or Martin Wilson.  The towers were used to spot the flashes of any rocket launches and bring an artillery strike on the site within four minutes.  The Viet Cong learned to use time fuses and clear the area before the rockets took off.  In the long run that was no help to them as the real difference was the constant patrols of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade and the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne which made it too risky to try further launches.  Plus the ARVN Rangers and American troops were getting quite good at unearthing weapons caches so there were fewer places to store rockets in the vicinity.


THE OUTSIDE WORLD INTRUDES

PERRON

Perron reads about the bombing halt while waiting in the CMD Compound.

Anything that happened anywhere else than in Vietnam was considered to have happened back in "The World."  When you went home you were going back to "The World."  Whatever we were experiencing at the moment was not happening in "The World."

Notice that the jeeps are all "combat parked" head out so they can make a quick getaway in case of attack.  Also, the jeeps all have their canvas up.  When Maj. Gen. Richardson took over from Maj. Gen. Mearns he banned canvas in the name of combat readiness - not just lowered but completely removed from the vehicle.  Just in time for the rainy season!

CHASE

Chase Manhattan Bank sign on the road out of MACV/Tan Son Nhut

My being from NYC, this sign always brought a smile!  I also managed to take a picture of myself in the rear view mirror la Linda Eastman McCartney who did the same thing a few years later in London.  Everyone thought Linda was just 'sooo' hip!  Yeah! Right! She screwed up, just as I had.


NHA BE RESOURCES CONTROL - INSPECTING DISTRICT TAXIS HEADING INTO SAIGON - December 1968

Gia
                                  Dinh
This looks worthless and intrusive now but it actually helped in discovering weapons parts being smuggled into Saigon.

Gia
                                  Dinh

Nha Be police chief with his advisor.  They were quite proud of the sign, consequently Logan McMinn and I were sent to do a story on them  They told us that the bottom figures, in Vietnamese, were in kilometers per hour.  I said to McMinn that the bottom figures needed to be higher.  Somehow the advisor caught on and said the sign had to be repainted.

Gia Dinh

Across the road from the police station was a little makeshift food stand - that's it, just those two things - police and food stand - and nothing else in either direction!

Sp4 Logan McMinn (photographer) & Sp4 Dominguez (driving that day) pause for refreshment.  The third bottle on the table is mine.  We had a small discussion over drinking this stuff but decided it was bottled so how bad could it be?  Of course we drank it with locally made ice and the glasses were less than spotless.  Anyway, no one got sick, but then who could tell?




MEANWHILE BACK AT CMD - December 1968



MONKEY 
monkey
The CMAC G3 monkey with Hutchinson.     
Even the dirt is "Classified" at the CMAC Tactical Operations Center!
G3
Minh
Back to the war...

I knew there was some reason we were there that day other than to take pictures of a monkey.   A group of Thai generals toured the facilities escorted by the commander of the Capital Military District, Major General Nguyen Van Minh (in fatigue cap at left).  I'm not sure but I think it turned out to have been a case of, "You didn't see us.  We're not here."

That would be very much like the time Lt. Drake and I were driving on the road to Gia Dinh just outside the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut.  A huge plane was coming in from our right front and the size was awesome.  The scale was outside my reckoning because I thought it was close yet it took a while to get to us and was enormous when it passed overhead.  It was a B-52.

But then, I couldn't have seen it because according to what I have read, a B-52 never landed at Tan Son Nhut. Ever!

And it continues.  The story that day was a briefing of Gia Dinh district leaders on something called The Phoenix Program!  I even got a handout publicity sheet when I walked in the door.  When we got back we were divested of all literature and told to forget everything we heard.



VINH LOC - December 1968 or January 1969

Vinh Loc
Vinh Loc

Vinh Loc   











This was why we went to Vinh Loc.  The government had set up a communal TV and radio powered by a hand generator.  I doubt anyone knew just what it was they were supposed to receive.


Vinh Loc

Foosball!  That's what the kids in Vinh Loc were really interested in.



PHILIPPINE ARMY MEDCAP - LONG HOA HAMLET, GIA DINH

LONG HOA






LONG HOA LONG HOA
LONG HOA LONG HOA



This was the Philippine Army's contribution to the Vietnam War; doctors, dentists, medics, etc.  Their CMAC Civil Affairs Advisor was Major John Skidmore who drove us out in his jeep, accompanied by the medical team and an ARVN security platoon.  This was a Viet Cong area and the hamlet had only recently been convinced to get medical help.  As we finished up Major Skidmore seemed kind of jittery. He advised us that we were in a dangerous area and would not be convoying back with the doctors or the ARVN security platoon, so he floored the jeep back to Saigon.  I never saw anyone pin a jeep speedometer until that day. (Photo right). 
I asked why he was driving so fast and he said it was harder to hit a speeding jeep from the distant cover which was a long way across the rice fields from the road.

A jeep is a notoriously unstable vehicle.  It's model number was M151-A1 but was known in some circles as the "Em-One-Five-One-Flip-One". Let's just say that Skidmore knew how to handle a jeep on a dirt road.
LONG HOA


FIRE SUPPORT BASE STEPHANIE - 199th LIGHT INFANTRY BRIGADE (circa) January 1969

Stephanie
We got word that an element of the 199th LIB had experienced enemy contact so our lieutenant thought it would be nice to pester these guys with requests for taped interviews.  I believe it was my first chance to use my new cassette recorder to get something other than "Hometown Interviews".  I wasn't feeling good about it, yet I sat down at a picnic table with a bunch of GI's and we talked about how we managed to get the jobs we had and how f**ked up life was.  They wanted to know where I had my fatigues tailored (going in, I thought that would be a bone of contention!)  I don't remember whether I gave them the Saigon tailor's address or whether they said they would never get to go there anyway.
FSB Stephanie
B/3/7, 199th LIB at CAMP BEAU

Here they are lining up for steaks being grilled on split 55 gallon drums.  The cooks and servers are their own sergeants.  That same morning these guys had been in a difficult firefight and lost some friends.  A few were very bitter and, as I wrote above, I thought I might be inviting a "Blanket Party" if I tried to talk to them.  They opened up first, not me.  They were just a bunch of kids, mostly draftees, who were interested in everything around them so they started asking me questions.

I don't know what it is about me.  I didn't like the job I was doing that day but I think I have a knack for going eye-to-eye in a difficult situation.  Even in their pain these guys still had room to make me feel at ease among them.



E/1/505, 3rd BRIGADE, 82nd AIRBORNE - HOC MON (circa) January 1969


Hoc Mon

The 3/82 had recently arrived in the Saigon area and was OPCON (Operational Control) to CMAC.
This was my first brief encounter with a few of them.  They seemed like they had been there for
months. The mission here was to interdict road and canal traffic during the day and take enemy
fire by night.  That's a heavy duty .50 cal machine gun on top of the bunker, with a belt loaded
and ready to fire.


Hoc Mon

They were side-by-side with an ARVN outpost that
had small boats for patrolling the canal.



Hoc Mon



Drake - Mahin
LIEUTENANTS DRAKE & MAHIN ROTATE HOME - February (?) 1969




The two lieutenants were at the CMAC-Information Office  when  I arrived in early September.  While I was still at the Repo Depot at Camp LBJ in Long Binh, Lt. Mahin came up from Saigon to interview me for the job at CMAC.  When he finished he asked if I wanted to be in their unit.  I happened to ask where it was and only then did he tell me, "Saigon!"  I said yes, with a repressed sigh of relief.  He then told me I had been slated for the 4th Infantry Division up-country at Pleiku.  I later read that the commanding general of the 4th Inf Div made his headquarters troops go on patrols in the bush.  Gee! Sorry I missed that!

At Long Binh, the Replacement Center was named after Lyndon B. Johnson, hence LBJ.  But there was another LBJ at Long Binh - the detention center, or "Long Binh Jail."






MAJOR GENERAL WALTER B. RICHARDSON (with walking stick)
CMAC Commanding General
BRIGADIER GENERAL EMIL ESCHENBURG
CMAC Deputy Commanding General

The record states that MG Richardson was Deputy CG of II Field Force and then became CG of CMAC in April, 1969.  This photo was developed by Kodak in Feb, 1969 and I do remember him being in charge at the time.  Richardson has the distinction of going down in history as the man who when asked about the difficulties of defending Saigon said that it was about the same size as Philadelphia so the problems would be about the same.  That got him a mention in Esquire Magazine's Dubious Achievement Awards.

The actual sound bite   WMA    FLAC
(I'm restricted from posting a WAV or MP3 file.)

Aside from that impolitic slip the general had a distinguished Army career and was in General George Patton's spearhead to cross the Rhine at Cologne.  Lt. Col. Richardson was the first to put 3rd Army tanks across the river.

The discrepancy in official dating may have something to due with when CMAC actually was established as a unit unto itself.  When the Army needs a new unit it doesn't draw up a new Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E), it borrows an existing TO&E from a defunct unit as a paper plan to use for plugging in the various offices and staffing of the new unit.  CMAC was actually the 581st Military Intelligence Detachment, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, on paper.  I suspect that CMAC was established in its own right around the time that Richardson appears in the official record and that he may have been doubling as DCG II Field Force, which would supercede his role at CMAC.

Master Sergeant Loyal Fulcher explained this TO&E thing to me when he put me in for promotion to sergeant.  I asked why not Sp5 as any Broadcast Specialist would normally be.  He told me my slot in the TO&E was authorized for a rank of E5 Sergeant.  And he added with a smile, "Did you ever hear of an intelligence detachment that had an information office?"  I don't know what I was in the TO&E but it certainly wasn't Broadcast Specialist.

I got the stripes!  Fulcher was always looking for a way to cajole me into staying in the Army.

MG Richardson



TET - February 1969

PRESIDENT NGUYEN VAN THIEU LANDS AT CMD

Thieu

Thieu

Thieu

From Left: Maj Gen. Nguyen Van Minh, President Thieu,
Lt Gen. Nguyen Van Vy, Minister of National Defense (sunglasses and safari suit), Lt. Gen. Do Cao Tri (camo fatigues)

The top leadership were assembled to review plans for defending Saigon if there were a repeat of Tet, 1968.

Tet
Center - Major General Nguyen Van Minh, Capital Military District CG

Right - Lieutenant General (Airborne) Do Cao Tri, III Corps CG

I don't know who's back is to the camera.


Meanwhile the troops had to make other preparations.  Sp4 Don Christensen, graphic artist, rides shotgun in a jeep escorting the buses to and from work.  Aside from these talents Don blew a pretty mean blues harp.

I had to pull this duty once, carrying a shotgun in the back of a jeep.  The rear seat had been reversed so two could sit facing traffic to the rear.  When we got to the Walling Hotel the jeeps, front and rear, had to stop traffic until everyone exited the bus.  It was taking a long time, people were getting antsy, then a young man on a motorbike right in front of me gunned his engine and started to roll forward.  I had to place the barrel of my shotgun against his chest.  I felt like s**t but he got the message.

Christensen









Left: CMAC clerks and drivers with flak vests and shotguns ride through Saigon on guard duty with the buses.

Photo by Sp5 Chuck Galloway, CMAC photographer.
Galloway Camera




Story 0n page 6 HARPOON - 28 Feb 1969, Vol 2 No. 5

Washington
Washington
A few days before Tet, Staff Sergeant Charles Washington wanted to get some street photos of preparations for the holiday.  I drove the jeep to Cholon and we found some scenes that interested him.  I figured I would document the crowds that he attracted!




On a trip to Long Binh, SSgt. Washington told me the provenance of the jeep I was driving.  I already knew it was "off the books" and that it had been Major Glant's jeep when I first arrived, but as we passed the big scrap heap alongside the road outside the huge Army base at Long Binh he pointed at the pile of mangled truck parts and told me, "That's where this jeep comes from.  It was put together from parts in that scrap yard."  I had realized early on that something was up with this jeep.  Every time we drove it we had to find a water hose at each stop to refill the radiator.  When you have a motor pool jeep these problems get fixed right away - we took ours to a civilian garage in Saigon where Vietnamese mechanics worked on it.  One time when we went to pick it up there was a mechanic squatting in the open engine compartment!



WALLING HOTEL - BEQ

Walling
Walling (center of the three tall buildings.)
Aerial photo by Sp5 Chuck Galloway
Sisters




The Walling Hotel (now the
Vien Dong Hotel) and the two sisters who worked at the desk, dressed for Tet 1969.

It seemed to me that the population of Saigon knew nothing unfortunate was going to happen that day.


By this time our army of paperboys had doubled in size, not to mention photogenics!
paperboys



A TRIP TO "THE KIDNEY" IN NHA BE PROVINCE - FOR WHAT?


NHA BE






An unmarked Huey was waiting for us at Free World Helipad to take us to a hamlet in what was called "The Kidney" near the mouth of the Nha Be River at the South China Sea.
NHA BE








It was early morning so my aerial photos of Saigon were too misty. This is looking East into the sun over the nearby paddies.


NHA BE

Our destination (above), name unknown, purpose unknown,
and (right) the future VC (?) to greet us.
NHA BE  NHA BE


NHA BE


In the Army you show up at work and someone says, "Grab your stuff we are going to Nha Be."  No one says why or what it's about, you find out when you get there.  Rather than worry about it I just passed the time by taking photos.  At this point I still don't know what's going on but it seems the place is important enough to have an ARVN Ranger outpost.  You don't want to be here when it gets dark.  We are told there is gunfire almost every night.

It's a rally for the local Popular Defense Force and medals are being presented. NHA BE



The place is thick with ARVN Rangers.  Maybe to make sure everyone has the proper attitude.  Maybe they mean ME!


NHA BE


NHA BE
A little fun for the kids - I'm sure Ho Chi Minh wouldn't mind.

NHA BE



And there's our lift - we are now out of here!


NHA BE






We swing out over the South China Sea then turn West for Saigon
NHA BE




Miles and miles of water-soaked land - we're about half way home.


Saigon




Finally - Saigon again.

Saigon





Camp Le Van Duyet, CMAC HQ, as we drop into Free World Helipad.

I had a great time sightseeing but I really don't know why I was there.  I suppose I could also say that in the larger sense!



RECEPTION FOR BRIG. GEN. CHARLES GIRARD, NEW DEPUTY COMMANDER OF CMAC - March 1969

guard





Martin Wilson and Bill Tekavic in the honor guard.
guard

Girard
Brig. Gen. Girard works the reception line.  To his right is Brig. Gen. Frederic Davison, Commander of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade.  Behind Davison is Brig. Gen. Lam Son.  Girard succeeded Maj. Gen. Richardson as head of CMAC in November 1969 but fell ill and died in January 1970.  It's hard to believe this man is 52 years old in this photo.  He may have been sick long before he took over this post.


ARVN RANGER BRIGADIER GENERAL LAM SON
DEP. COMMANDER, CAPITAL MILITARY DISTRICT

He was known as the "Father of the Vietnamese Rangers" and was head of the ARVN Special Forces.

Lam Son's real name was Phan nh Thứ.  He died in Saigon on July 23, 2002  at the age of 87.  According to one account on the internet Lam Son spent about 10 years in a concentration camp after the fall of Saigon.

The funny thing about most of these guys was when you were introduced they stuck their hand out to shake, an instant before you tried to salute!
Lam Son


A VISIT FROM GYPSY ROSE LEE

LEE 2

LEE
Gypsy Rose Lee was the only celebrity to visit CMAC while I was there.  To her right in both photos is Sergeant Major Salvatore Cherry.
Far left in the photo (left) is Capt. Bill Hooper who was assigned to escort Gypsy Rose on that tour.

Bill Hooper's account of this chapter in his Army career is published in A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper.

Read Hooper's account on the book's website and you will see the significance of these photos.  This was Gypsy Rose Lee's first day of touring so she had just met Hooper and they had gotten off on the wrong foot as soon as she landed at Tan Son Nhut.

 


ETS - June 1969

ets

Myself, Lt. Col. Paul Timm and MSG Berry on the roof of the MACV Annex for Berry's and my "Going Home" party.

As with most cataclysmic periods in your life, this one came to an end quietly.  I don't have any color slides of CMAC developed after April 1969.  You do tend to lose interest the closer you get to going home!

CMAC was the best assignment I had in my two years in the Army.  Overall everyone was a friend and very good at their jobs.  I know I had an opportunity, like few soldiers, to be a "fly-on-the-wall" but since I wasn't really a reporter or photographer I didn't bother to take notes.   Missed opportunities, you move on.

Tashman


THE CMAC NEWSPAPER

The HARPOON was started soon after I arrived at CMAC.  Initially Lt. Mahin contributed most of the content and the editor was SSgt. Bird.  Not long after, we were joined by Sp4 Dave Tashman (pictured at left), a draftee like me.  Dave had worked for newspapers so he had "civilian acquired skills".  Soon he was the full-time editor and reporter, with me contributing a piece here and there.  My actual job was Broadcast Specialist but since I knew my way around a radio newsroom I was used mostly as a reporter.  Below are links to three editions of the CMAC HARPOON and also a piece I wrote for the Army magazine "UPTIGHT".

HARPOON - 15 Jan 1969, Vol 2 No. 2

HARPOON - 31 Jan 1969, Vol 2 No. 3

HARPOON - 28 Feb 1969, Vol 2 No. 5

IN DEFENSE OF SAIGON - UPTIGHT Magazine, Winter 1969




FREEDOM BIRD

World Airways
World Airways Postcard


I left the same way I arrived - in a coach seat on a World Airways Boeing 707.  I went to Bien Hoa, north of Saigon, where they searched my belongings for contraband.  They also looked inside cameras so I knew not to have film loaded but they also checked 35mm film cannisters to make sure they contained film.  We then assembled in a hangar and waited.   There was a soda machine nearby but nobody had any money!  I didn't think to reload a camera, or maybe they said "no photographs."  I don't remember.  At a signal we ran out to the plane in two files, one to the front loading ramp and the other to the rear, the same as in the postcard above.  I had the distinct impression they were wary of random mortar attacks so the less time on the ground, the better.  About 24 hours later I was at the Oakland Army Terminal processing out of the service.







This is an original work done by Canadian artist VO Chi Mai in 2013. Chi Mai found a 1968 photo of her father's shop in Saigon in my collection of Saigon photos on the web. She said when I took that photo she was 10 years old and at the shop all the time. I tried to find other photos for her but to no avail. She did this from a photo of me taken by Sp5 Charles Galloway that appears at the top of this page.

Brian
                        Wickham by VO Chi Mai