Saturday, May 07, 2005


While at the Soc Trang base I had an interesting run-in with military intelligence. At that time I was pretty green having only 6 months in country.

We desperately needed rock to lay down for the air strip. Soc Trang was way down on the Mekong Delta. The whole delta was a giant alluvial deposit, washed down from China. There wasn’t a rock within miles.

There were rock vendors in Can Tho. Can Tho is a large town on a river about 40 miles to the northwest. However the Viet Cong had closed the road to Can Tho. That is what the local military told me. That is what my people in Saigon told me.

The chopper guys offered to take me there and back. I didn’t want to put a whole chopper and crew out of action for a day. Plus I wouldn’t have transportation once I got there. Plus I would be obliged to make it quick with a chopper and crew waiting. It was all too awkward.

I mentioned my problem to one of my Vietnamese guys who happened to live in Can Tho.

He raised a quizzical eyebrow. “You want to know for sure?” he asked.

“Well, yeah, of course.”

“Come on,” he said. “We go into Soc Trang.”

We drove to the bus station in Soc Trang. A bus had just arrived from Can Tho. The driver told us the road was open.

“How can that be?” I asked.

The driver looked at me curiously. Americans were rare in that town. He told us again that the road was open.

Something was very wrong. I didn’t know whom to believe. But the bus was here and had just made the trip.

I asked my guy, “If I drive up there will you come with me?”

His eyes lit up. “Yes sir,” he replied. “Can I visit my family?”

That cinched it for me. If we hit a VC road block, there was a chance they wouldn’t kill me. They sometimes took Americans prisoner. Him, they would kill.

“Sure you can visit your family. We’ll stay overnight.”

When I got back, the pilots looked at me as if I were from another planet. They had given me up for dead.

I was hustled into a debriefing.

“Why did you go up there? That road is closed.”

“The road is open. Who told you it was closed?”

“That came from ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam).”

“ARVN troops manned every outpost all the way up there. They had to know the road was open.”

‘They told us it was closed. Who told you it was open?”

“A bus driver. Why don’t you just check with bus drivers to find out which roads are open? You
could truck in all your supplies instead of having to airlift everything.”

”Those are not authorized sources. That is ARVN’s area of responsibility.”

Just as a footnote, I did make the trip by helicopter later. The chopper was hit by hostile fire when taking off from Can Tho on the return trip. No one was hurt.

I made the “dangerous” round trip by road twice without incident.. I made the “safe” trip once and got shot at.

Go figure.


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