Chapter 11 In Case of Riot – Break Glass

Fort Monmouth 1970

By winter 1970 I was back to my home duty station and the snows of New Jersey. All winter I huddled by the steam radiators in our office. Miss Yen was right, I had left them in Saigon but Saigon had not left me. The surrealism of my time in the bush was replaced by the hum drum of teaching classes at the Signal School to prospective radar repairmen.

Ft. Monmouth was a training post but also maintained labs and developed new technology. It abutted Eaton Town and Little Silver in an uneasy marriage and was enviously called “The Country Club of the Army” and renowned for its golf course. In Long Branch, a few miles away, folk musician Bruce Springsteen tested his wings playing out at the Ink Well. He was channeling Bob Dylan. He’d never amount to anything I assured my friends.

I wrote my trip report, leaving out a good deal of detail but just the bones of my experience raised some eyebrows amongst the brass. A few weeks later my section chief came into my classroom and told me to report to the office. He’d take my class for the rest of the hour. In the office, Msg. Davis inspected my appearance, straightened my tie and handed me a shoe buff. I had been summoned to speak with the commanding general about my trip report.

I reported to the commanding general’s office a few minutes later. His secretary told me to stand by, not offering me a seat. She buzzed the intercom.

“Specialist Allen is here.”

“Show him in,” came the tinny voice on the intercom.

She smiled, got up and showed me to the door of the general’s inner office and presented me as though I was a visiting dignitary. I was nervous. Had my report missed some important part? Was my typing too substandard? Too many corrections? Just then the general looked up from his papers and stood up. I clicked my heels and saluted.

“Specialist Allen reporting,” I said trying to hide my nervousness.

“Ahhh Specialist Allen. At ease. Good to meet you.” He stepped around the desk and shook my hand.

“I read your trip report last week.”

“I hope it’s OK sir.”

“Fine. Just fine. I’ll have my secretary retype it before I send it out to the other general officers. You can sign it when she’s finished.”

“Other general officers, sir?”

“Specialist Allen, the story you tell in just these few pages is nothing short of amazing and I’d like to hear what’s between the lines. And I know there is more to the story because I sent a telex to Col. Suel at MACV with a copy of it. He said your report only scratches the surface. And that you and Nugeant set up a technical school from scratch with no help from the ARVNs and damn little from us. That speaks highly of you and poorly of everybody else, particularly the ARVN. Col. Suel recommended that I put you in for an Army Commendation Medal and I plan to do just that. That recommendation and your report have to go all the way to Washington. So it does need to be retyped. You typed it yourself?”

“Wow! I mean yessir, I did type it.”

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