Chapter 11 In Case of Riot – Break Glass

“I asked that your section head have somebody cover your classes for the afternoon so we have plenty of time. First, I’d like a big picture rundown of your impressions of American attempts to bring the ARVN up to speed technically. Then I’d like to talk a little about individual challenges you faced.

“But before we go any further I owe you and Specialist Nugeant an apology for the morning report SNAFU that cut you guys short at the end. That slipped by my office and it shouldn’t have. I’m just amazed that you managed to navigate the Army in Viet Nam and ended up in the right place.”

“Sir we just thought that’s how it rolled in a war zone. There was a rocket attack at the airport just as we landed so we got our proper introduction.”

“I want you to be frank, yet I I’m sure you don’t want to make anybody look bad.”

No sir. But I must say that in general the level of chaos is pretty intimidating at first. You just never know what to expect. My friend, Miss Yen called it Saigon roulette. But as for the people immediately around us at Team 126 they were helpful and supportive, except that they weren’t technical people and often didn’t know what to do to help us. I will say, however that Col Suel managed to lean on the ARVN brass on our behalf to get things we needed. But even he couldn’t always help.”

“Why did Suel have to lean on the ARVNs, as you say?”

“Well, sir, if I may be frank, it is my distinct impression that the ARVN officer corps is just not on board with the Vietnamization program; at least the officers I had occasion to deal with. In conversations I had with well connected locals, I learned most of the ARVNs are in it for themselves, for money they can make off the war.”

“And how did you meet these well-connected locals?”

“Mostly through Miss Yen but some through old friends who were also in Saigon.”

“Miss Yen. She was well connected? Tell me about her.”

“She works for Major Toms and does his cryptography among other things.”

“And she’s a Vietnamese national?”

“At least nominally. Her father is half French and owns a shipping company and ships for the US military as well as civilian coastal shipping. She said they go all the way to Rotterdam. She was educated in Paris. So, yes she’s well connected.”

“You say nominally. You have reason to doubt her loyalty?”

“I think the question, sir, is loyalty to whom. She’s not at all enthusiastic about the Saigon government. She thinks they’re corrupt, yet she hates the communists with a passion. I would say that she is loyal to the American effort to establish an independent Viet Nam. She had nothing good to say about Diem, Thieu or the French colonialists.”

“Hmm. Interesting. Sounds like you go to know her well. I think it was her initials on the telex I got back. ‘AY’ How much of MACV communications does Toms process.”

“I have no idea sir but she said when she got the new, automated cryptography machine the traffic increased a lot.”

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