Monday, January 24, 2005

#2 Letter from Vietnam

Binh Thuy, 26 October 1969

Dear Mom,

It's been extra hot lately. Yesterday the temperature climbed to 117 degrees. It's funny but I really don't mind it too much. We are either wet from the rain or from perspiration. The rain is really welcome, as it tends to cool things off.
I've been spending a lot of time moving around our various operations and trying to unsnarl hang-ups. We are having some problems in keeping our vehicle fleet in running condition - so many different types and models. They total 313 and 42 are presently broken down. There are tank trucks, fork lifts, fire trucks, dump trucks, busses, cranes, armored cars and personnel carriers, jeeps, pick-ups, tractor trailers and you name it, we've got it. We are operating with 52 percent of our manpower allotment. My screaming is beginning to be heard. 7th Air Force sent me in a team of 5 civilians this week to assist. Two GIs arrived from DaNang to help out also. The civilians are top notch; they were trained as a team back in the states and are sent around where needed to rehab heavy equipment. All our bulldozers and caterpillars need attention, not to mention the overworked forklifts and refuelers.
We had to turn down some gasoline and ammo missions for lack of refueling capability. That's when the heat gets turned up fast. It is rather difficult to explain but I'll try. We are only allowed to have 8 cargo planes on the ramp at once because of space and safety restrictions. These planes are programmed in here at specific time intervals and we have to load them with ammo and fuel and get them out of here so that the next ones are not held up. We have just enough refueling and fork lift equipment to keep up with the momentum and when one piece breaks down we are hurting. When the second one goes the airplanes stack up waiting to land because we can't keep up with the momentum.
You asked about the DASC. That stands for Direct Air Support Center. It's like a clearinghouse for controlling air strikes. They are in constant contact with ground units through the ALO. The ALO is an Air force Officer attached to the company, regiment or brigade in the field. If they get into trouble the ALO calls the DASC, gives the position and requests air support. The DASC then directs the necessary support with the needed ordnance (bombs, rockets or napalm) to the area. When the heavy jets arrive at the area (average of 10 minutes) the DASC turns control of the jets over to a pilot flying a little Cessna O-1 Birddog. The Birddog marks the target with smoke rockets (or flares at night) and directs the jets in on the target. The jets are high and out of sight until given the directions by the Birddog. A very dangerous job in this business is that of the Birddog pilot. He is called a FAC (Forward Air Controller) and he logs up to 10 hours a day in his little Cessna, flying low and slow over the paddies and jungles looking for enemy movement. The FACs fly out of here but the jets stage out of he big bases up north. There are always jets airborne in our area. They have saved the day for many a unit which would have otherwise been in deep trouble or worse. They also keep the VC from massing. At night the FACs fly the O-2 which is equipped with starlight scopes through which they can see as if it were daylight. Our people make the planes fly and the equipment run and they do a magnificent job of it.
Most all of the army in our area is now Vietnamese. Only a few small units of the US 9th Div are left in the Delta. Of course we still have advisors with the ARVN (Army Vietnam) Most of the FACs are Vietnamese but we still have about 40 Birddogs being flown by our Air Force people in the Delta. Most of these billets are to be turned over to the VNAF by Christmas.
I still have no word on how we are supposed to turn over the support jobs to the Vietnamese here at Binh Thuy but I have a good idea that in a short time we are going to pack up and leave here. I don't know how they are ever going to maintain the equipment or make this complicated logistics system work but that's the way it's going. I think the VC are just biding their time because in my book this is no way to fight a war. Once we are out of here they will come on strong and that will be the end of the greatest strategic blunder we ever made as a nation. (That's strictly my personal belief and not the official line, but most people here feel that way, deep down) It is easy to get deeply involved in the daily grind and if you are human like most guys are, you aren't particularly interested in anything but doing your job and getting out of here. So everybody does his job - like a machine.

Well, that's about it for today. Time for some needed shut-eye. Much love to all, Dave


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