Chapter 8 – Rifles for Halftrack

“So far as you know,” repeated the colonel. “And now you have a means to move money out of the country and you’re proposing to move a lot of it. and you don’t know for sure whether Suel or Shackley knows about this.

“You GIs have been at this a long time. You have a great deal of money my people tell me but we don’t know how you been converting it.”

“That’s the problem. We haven’t been. But we now have enough to make it worthwhile.”

“Enough,” The colonel said that as though he weren’t sure whether it was a statement or a question. “How much is enough? And worthwhile to whom?”

“We certainly wouldn’t risk all of it on any untested plan. Only a small amount,” said Virgil, dodging the question.

“And yet you want more?”

“Not yet. We need to know that there is more. And we know that you have the same problem that we have.”

“And you’re offering a plan to solve that problem.”

“We have worked out a plan. We have a way to get money out of the country.”

“If you are planning to convert piasters to goods, I must tell you right now that we have tried and you are up against the Chinese merchants in Cho Lon. They want half.”

“They control contraband drugs too.” said DB for my benefit.

“Especially contraband. Thats been their specialty for generations,” said the colonel.

“No, not contraband. I dabbled in that and gave it up several years ago. It has nothing to do with Cholon,” said DB.
I remembered well DB’s dabbling and the cash baked into cookies. But how many cookies could you pretend to eat? By now, I had learned there were much bigger prizes than a box of cookies from home. And now there was at least one suitcase of cash, maybe more I hadn’t seen. Cookies wouldn’t do.
“So you intend to expand what you are doing beyond Viet Nam?” suggested the colonel, looking at DB.

“Yes,” he answered.

“How?” asked the colonel.

“Banking.”

“Banking!” shouted the colonel, laughing. “I should have known. Whose banks? I thought your object was to get money our of the country. How do you propose to move large quantities of money through banks in Viet Nam?”

“It would not be banks in Viet Nam.”

“So, you propose to smuggle money out of the country? It would be worthless as soon as you cross the border. You waste my time.”

“No. Not money. Bank checks sent in the mail.”

“And what does this starched Specialist 5 do? Why is he here? Is he a banker?” asked the colonel, nodding at me.

“You could say that,” said Virgil.

I was beginning to realize that I was central to this meeting, that I was expected to be the conduit for a great deal of money.

“He makes the trades, said DB.”

“But we don’t know him. Where did he come from? You say he’s not connected with Shackley, yet I see he’s wearing a MACV patch. I he connected with your friend Mike?”

“No, no he has nothing to do with Mike.”

“Not Shackley. Not Mike. How is it that a technical instructor from the signal school comes with an unlimited bank account in New Jersey? That is preposterous!”

“It’s not unlimited. We’ll funnel money through him. He writes checks payable in US dollars and takes piasters.”

“How does he get the piasters into his bank account?”

“Buys money orders from Cooks”

“This sounds fine in theory but I suspect we have a great deal more money to export than he has in his checking account.”

“We can seed his checking account with cash that we have and ramp it up over time. How much did you have in mind?”

“Ummm, lets say fifty million.”

“Piasters or dollars?”

“Why would we bother with fifty million piasters?”

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