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My Vietnam War Perspective

I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a great fan of General Douglas MacArthur whose vision instilled in me the absolute belief that the only way to serve my country was from the point of view of DUTY, HONOR AND COUNTRY. A Staff Sergeant, I was commissioned 15 February 1965 from Infantry Officer Candidate School. Following parachute training at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Headquarters Company, 801st Maintenance Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Airborne).

Fort Campbell was an interesting place! The battalion had a typical maintenance and supply mission which consisted basically of getting somebody else to perform repairs. In reality, we spent most of our time training to be infantry and no time getting the implements of war organized to fight. Inspections, parades; everything but maintenance and supply. Information about Vietnam was scarce and the division went from police call to meal time to retreat formation each day. I was assigned to write Campbell Army Regulations that would help us pass the Command Material Management Inspection and answer roadside inspection failures issued by the post ordnance company. Shortly after completing acceptable documents, and resolving the vehicle inspection problems, my assignment officer called and said that the 1st Brigade had been alerted for Vietnam deployment and needed a movements officer. I volunteered.

The newly formed 1st Brigade staff was busy pulling things together and I got the job of writing the Transportation Annex to the brigade deployment plan. Fortunately, I had been responsible for that type of contingency planning while a member of the 10th Air Transport Brigade (Airmoble), Fort Benning, Georgia, where I had served as the Installation point of contact for 3rd Army. I spent all of my time moving cable, chalks, clamps and strapping equipment to units as rail stock was moved onto the installation.

While airborne units are highly mobile, they are essentially reliant on a well stocked logistics base and a generous share of installation support. My single source of support came from the post contracting officer and the Transportation Office. They gave me the installation locomotive and access to every rail spur on the installation. I was also granted direct access to the US Navy planning cell and programmed all of the water craft and post embarkation support once we reached Vietnam. Air movement was a routine activity and it took on a life of its own; however, we had lots of fun with order of deployment and security details to insure continuity of command if a catastrophe occurred. Orders were published which made it appear as though small cells were deploying administratively, when, in actual fact, most of the staff got on a C-124 and we all left together.

Many of the officers were anxious to get combat command assignments and the right glory medals that would punch their ticket. Few cared about the logistics of getting to Vietnam and fighting once we arrived--their presence would be the key to success. I knew some who cared only about clawing their way up the promotion ladder. I also realized that all but the brain-dead among them knew that Vietnam was a bad, non winnable war that had no military objective; yet not one serving general stood tall and told Congress or the American people the truth.

I left the 1st Brigade at Phan Rang for an assignment as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer in the newly forming 34th General Support Group (AM&S) (Prov.). Assignment in Saigon was really neat.