It’s a true adventure story…be sure to read the ending.
I arrived at Bien Hoa Airbase on 15 September 1971 having under my belt
— the rank of 1LT (USAR),
— 47 weeks of language training (Defense Language Institute)
— a stint at the army intelligence school (Fort Huachuca, Arizona),
— a degree in electrical engineering, and
— a law degree.
I was schooled-up really well, but I was young and inexperienced. The inexperienced part was about to change.
Initially, I was a member of an intelligence team and made great use of my language training. My team acquired, for example, information about NVA activity in Cambodian border areas of III Corps — the part of Viet Nam surrounding Saigon.
During this time period, I came to see how U.S. journalists and the anti-war Left were misrepresenting certain important facts about the war. I was stunned. Ironically, even though my work involved lying, I found it hard to believe journalists and Lefty leaders would LIE to advance their agendas. Little did I know.
Most disturbing, there was one instance in which a journalist told a colleague over an OPEN LINE about an impending convoy to Saigon. Sure enough, the NVA ambushed the convoy along Route 1, killing and wounding a number of American soldiers.
After awhile, my job changed — I was moved up a notch, into a position in which I was dealing with ALL the army M.I. teams in III Corps. This job was so sensitive that
the job title was classified;
my commanding officer was not permitted, except in the most general way, to examine my work;
the operations officer (S3), to whom I reported, could not examine my work;
only two high-ranking officers (not in Viet Nam) could examine and audit the full range of my work; and
a lieutenant in Saigon could examine part of my work.
This lieutenant and I have stayed in loose touch over the years. We had some great adventures in Saigon involving spies, counter-spies, double agents, some terrifically good Vietnamese food, and women. Did I say WOMEN? We spent one curfew night, for example, in the basement of a Saigon hotel among 50 or so naked or half-naked bar girls. You can imagine.
If you had observed me during this period as I went about my daily activities, you would have thought I was a scholarly civilian researcher, probably in the employ of the State Department.
During this time, I always carried (concealed) a .38 revolver and a .45 semi-automatic. I was prepared to kill myself in order to avoid capture.
During this time period, I had to fly (via helicopter) to various and sometimes remote sites in III Corps to meet face-to-face with M.I. team members. Sometimes when I flew to these sites, I was accompanied by two guys. One carried a Swedish K gun, the other an AK-47. The Swedish K gun, which was equipped with a silencer, was a nifty 9mm automatic. I always took along my handguns plus an M-16, water, and lots of ammunition.
Did we get shot at flying to these sites? You betcha.
In April 1972, the North Vietnamese sent 15 divisions crashing into South Viet Nam. At this point (omitting certain details), my attention was directed toward An Loc, a rubber plantation town northwest of Saigon on Route 13. The fighting at An Loc (NVA, American bombing, South Vietnamese infantry) was brutal, bloody, and frightening. I had no idea such violence and valor were possible. When I went back in 1994, I saw that An Loc still bore major scars from that battle.
Along the way, I fell in love — with a beautiful and intelligent Vietnamese girl named Tinh (first name), who taught me how to speak and read Vietnamese. My language-school training had been in another language. That love was not to be, however. American forces were withdrawing rapidly from Viet Nam, and as that occurred, my job focused more and more on Saigon. Tinh lived elsewhere.
Also along the way, I learned Jane Fonda was in North Viet Nam cozying up to an enemy that would have liked nothing more than to capture me, torture me til I broke, and kill me. I’ve never gotten over that. I know Jane Fonda has apologized. For me, the apology came too late.
I caught the Freedom Bird back to the World on 14 September 1972 and shortly thereafter exited the army.
I came back to a society and even a family that wanted to hear NO PART of what I’d just been through.
PARTING SHOT: Don’t advise your child or grandchild to go into Military Intelligence. Oh, he or she may have a grand adventure. But he or she also may wind up knowing a bunch of secrets that can NEVER, EVER be shared with another human. It can make one feel isolated.
BTW, I’m doing well. I ‘ve got a wonderful duaghter and am a very successful self-employed tax lawyer.