Branch: Army Intelligence Service (AIS)
Separation Date: January 1968
Number of Years of Service: 4 Years, 4 Months
Wife’s Name: Kathryn: Children: 6; Grandchildren: 14
City and State: White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Degree: BA, Journalism/Photo-Journalism, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Summary of Assignments: Enlisted in the US Army, September 23, 1963. Attended basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and US Army Security Agency Intelligence Analysis training at USASATC&S, Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Served with the 103rd Army Security Agency Detachment, Orleans, France performing Strategic Intelligence Analysis from June 1964 to June 1965. Attended the 7th Army NCO Academy, Bad Tolz, Germany, April and May 1965. Attended OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia with the 51st Company, Class 1-66, beginning July 1965. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant AIS on January 14, 1966. Attended Army Security Agency basic officer’s training (Intelligence Officer) January to April 1966 at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
Assigned to the 52nd Special Operations Command, Fort Huachuca, Arizona as an Intelligence Operations Officer, April to August 1966. Attended Chemical Warfare School, Fort McClellan, Alabama, July 1966. Assigned to the 335 ASA Company, Fort Riley, Kansas as an Intelligence Operations Platoon Leader in support of the 9th Infantry Division, August 1966. Deployed to Vietnam, January 1967. Served from January to June 1967 as an Intelligence Operations Platoon Leader, with the 335 Radio Research Company (ASA), 9th Infantry Division at Bear Cat, Vietnam. Assigned to the 303rd Radio Research Battalion (ASA), Long Bien, RVN, June 1967, serving as an Intelligence Staff Officer in support of II Field Force and the 509th Radio Research Group (ASA) in Saigon. Following tour in Vietnam was separated from the Army in January 1968.
Personal Information: Attended the School of Journalism at the University of Minnesota from January 1968 to June 1972. In June 1970, I married Ruth and we have five children: Christian has a BA in Theater Arts and is a writer, actor and father of two daughters in Minneapolis; Simon has a BA in Sociology, is a social worker for the State of Minnesota, father of four children and lives in southern Minnesota; Angela has a BA in Philosophy, a JD, and is an attorney working and living in Marin County, California. She lives with her husband and two children; Andrew has a BA in Classics and an MA in Systematic Theology, heads the music department at a Twin Cities private high school, is married and has two children, one son and one daughter; and Anne has a BA in Violin and International Studies and an MBA, and works in the Twin Cities in Human Resources. She is married, mother of one son and one daughter; she lives with her husband in the Minneapolis area. In October 2009, I married Kate at White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Kate retired from DNR, State of Minnesota. She has one daughter by her former husband who was a Naval Medical Officer and served with the US Marines at Da Nang, RVN in 1968. He taught on the medical faculty of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He died of cancer related to agent orange exposure from his service in Vietnam. Kate’s daughter works as an attorney and lives with her husband and twin children in Washington, D.C.
Jobs/Profession following Military Service: Employed in the field of photo-journalism from 1972 to 1984. Worked extensively with major advertising agencies and industrial corporations doing industrial and agricultural photography across the United States. Photography also represented in numerous college textbooks for major publishers throughout the US. Employed in Advertising and Marketing from 1984 to 1997. Worked predominately for industrial advertising/marketing agencies and corporations in the Twin Cities as President, Vice President, and Director of Marketing. Began a marketing firm in 1989, specializing in the industrial, medical and plastics industries. Led corporation as CEO in Sichuan Province, China, promoting medical trade shows. Took a three-year hiatus from the business world and taught Latin and Ancient History in a private Twin Cities high school from 1997 to 2000. Served as Director, Work Force Analysis for the Department of Employee Relations, State of Minnesota from 2000 to 2005. Consulted for Thomson-Reuters (FindLaw) in the area of Search Engine Marketing & Optimization (SEM & SEO) from 2006 to 2010 in the Twin Cities.
Interests: Wildlife photography, kayaking, sailing and traveling. We enjoyed sailing our Ranger keel boat in Minnesota lakes, including White Bear Lake, Lake Pepin (a wide spot in the Mississippi River, 70 miles south of the Twin Cities) and Lake Superior. Have chartered larger sail boats on Lake Superior (Apostle Islands) and San Francisco Bay. Tested successfully for a Coast Guard Merchant Marine Six-Pack (OUPV) Captain’s License. Annually winter in Florida.
Bob Gaylord’s Story
I enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 23rd, 1963 in Minneapolis, MN. I had signed up for 48 months in the US Army Security Agency (ASA) but had no idea what ASA was other than an ASA recruiter said it was great organization and I qualified to get into it. The recruiter said I did well on the Army language test and could go to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA after basic training. When I completed basic there were only two class openings for ASA at Monterey; slot given to two others, one had a master’s degree in language and the second, a bachelor’s degree in language, both better fits, said the army, than me for the 32 weeks of Bulgarian and Romanian they would be studying. I was disappointed about not attending the language school and missing Monterey; not heart broken about missing Bulgarian or Romanian.
None the less, said ASA, you are still ours for 48 months. So, after basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I spent 9 months at the Army Security Agency Training Center and School at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, thirty-five miles west of Boston. During that time I became aware that ASA was part of a much larger US intelligence organization. I completed the basic ASA course and was then educated further as an intelligence analyst.
Following Fort Devens, I was stationed near Orleans, France at the 103rd ASA Security Detachment; a small unit situated adjacent to the single runway of a little French/US Army airport three miles out of Orleans, 75 miles south of Paris. I was stationed there but worked half my time out of Paris and Camp Des Loges (HQ EUCOM) near Versailles. I was an intelligence analyst and enjoyed my work. In Paris we worked in civies, lived in hotels, ate in restaurants and stayed out of Trouble. The big “T” was the fastest way out of ASA and having seen one among us caught up in trouble and kicked out of ASA still owing the Army the rest of his 48 month enlistment as a “boot” in Germany, strongly encouraged the rest of us to watch where we stepped.
There were about 25 of us at the 103rd ASA, a CO, three other officers, a first sergeant, operations sergeant, motor pool sergeant, and the rest of us, mostly E-3’s, Spec. 4’s and a few Spec. 5’s. We had it pretty good as EM, no harassment, at work by 8:00 AM and off at 5:00 PM, half hour for lunch, no weekend duty, make your bed in the morning and line up your shoes. Every Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 8:00 was clean-the-barracks time; usually took about 30 minutes and we were back to pool or TV in the day room or whatever. We had one actual inspection during the year I was there, an IG type. Promotion was non-existent for E-3’s, most of us; all the E-4 and E-5 slots were full. We E-3’s were doomed to wait for rank until someone higher on the food-chain DROS’d. The five of us who worked out of Paris cleaned our hotel room when we saw fit and drove south to Orleans every month to pick up our pay checks. At times we had overnight guests (other EM from our ASA unit in Orleans who were up for the weekend and needed a place to crash.) We had a really big hotel room with extra beds and couldn’t refuse our ASA friends who didn’t have our fortunate assignment. Those guests usually arrived at our Paris hotel on Friday evening and stayed until Sunday afternoon. I recall one Saturday morning at about 7:00 AM our team leading E-5 crying out loudly, “For crips sake, who shit in the bidet?” The obvious visiting culprit sleepily responded, “What’s a Bidet?” Pointing angrily, the team leader shouted, “That’s the bidet, now clean it out.” The rest of us, freshly awakened and snickering under our blankets, knew about the bidet.
In Paris, we always worked at least 40 hours per week; sometimes two or three times that number depending on the operation assigned. But we had it good. In addition to interesting duty, we received $20.00 per-diem TDY. As an E-3 earning $98.00 per month, $140. extra per week TDY pay was a great boon. Daily living expenses for us in Paris amounted to $4.00 per day for rental of a shared (5 of us) fourth floor walk-up hotel room, maybe $4.00 per day for food and $12.00 per day for saving or spending as we saw fit. We saw it as $84.00 per week or about $350.00 per month extra cash. Work in Paris and environs was really enjoyable duty for us. In time however, I noticed that the officers had even more interesting work and better compensation, too. I applied for OCS figuring that once commissioned I’d end up back in an ASA unit in France, Italy or Germany.
Back in Orleans from an operation in Paris, my CO said to me, “Gaylord, you think this is the Army, this is not the Army. You’ve been accepted at Fort Benning OCS in July but you need your eyes opened about the Army. I’ve enrolled you in the 7th Army NCO Academy at Bad Tolz, Germany. You begin there in two weeks. Because you’ve been accepted at OCS, you’re eligible to attend the NCO academy, even though still a PFC.”
O.K., I attended the 7th Army NCO Academy and on the opening Sunday the 1st Sergeant there said, “While you are here at the 7th Army NCO Academy, regardless of your present rank, there is no rank. You will each be assigned a variety of positions over the next four weeks and you will be responsible for those duties regardless of your current rank.” Shortly after that meeting a large and scowling SFC E-7 approached me and said, ” You don’t belong here. I’ve been waiting years to get here and I’m going to make it my mission to get you kicked out of here.” I answered, “Sergeant, we just heard the 1st Sergeant say there is no rank here. Good luck.” I survived well and on graduation day I received a leadership award; ASA’s Commanding General from Frankfort flew down for the graduation ceremony along with my 103rd Security Detachment’s CO and 1st Sergeant. The General promoted me to corporal and handed me my new stripes.
I can’t say I enjoyed OCS but I learned a lot and made life-long friends there. Friends I still see at least once a year. Because I was in the Army Security Agency when accepted for OCS, I was required by ASA to sign a letter of intent that upon commissioning I would return to ASA. I was not free to decide at OCS that I’d rather be an infantry or signal officer etc, I was in ASA and would be commissioned an AIS (Army Intelligence Service) officer. I recall standing next to Al Fitch, a good friend and 2nd platoon classmate, on that January 14th morning in 1966 at about 7:00 AM in the OCS Battalion HQ building. We had just taken our oath and been sworn in as 2nd Lt’s, He and I were saying to each other, “Really glad to have gotten through but would never go through this again.”
There were some days, particularly in the first weeks of OCS when my mantra was, “I will not quit. I will not quit. I will make it through.” Some classmates in our 2nd platoon had mixed feelings for our Tac Officer; I never disliked him. I didn’t take the grief he dispensed personally. I always thought he was just doing his job, and often doing it with a sense of humor. I give two examples of Dan’s humor: Some time between our 11th and 18th week the Company Officers (CO) had decided that none of us were getting a pass to leave the Company area that weekend. I believe we’d all been working hard to keep demerits low, hoping to get out. On that Friday afternoon, upon returning from the day’s training, I found a demerit slip on my bed which gave me 5 demerits for a “Filthy Display Drawer.” I thought, what the hell, and went to examine my display drawer. Located in the absolute dead center of my antiseptically clean white, impeccably folded display handkerchief, laying on its back with its feet in the air was the largest cockroach I had ever seen. I broke into laughter. We were being screwed with but Dan Cerone was admitting “you’re being screwed with;” which made it OK as far as I was concerned. I appreciated Dan’s inspection humor and candor. On another occasion Tom Evans had received an apple pie from home at evening mail-call. He had shared it with some folks near him and about that time Tac Officer Dan Cerone appeared. Fred Godsey said to Dan Cerone, in a fake crying voice, “Sir, candidate Godsey, Evans got some pie in the mail and he won’t give me any.” There was one piece of pie left in the aluminum pie dish and Dan Cerone said to Tom Evans, “May I have that piece of pie Candidate Evans?” Evans answered in the affirmative and Dan Cerone said to Fred Godsey, “Candidate Godsey, would you like this piece of pie?” And Godsey asnwered, “Sir, Candidate Godsey, Yes, Sir.” where upon Dan Cerone up-ended the pie plate on Fred Godsey’s nearly bald head and squished the pie all around. Godsey, with apple pie and juice running down his head and onto his face licked the pie and juice, rolled his eyes, smiled and said, “MMMM good.”
Well, good luck on my dream of being reassigned to Europe after OCS; certainly wasn’t what happened for me after graduation. Following OCS, I spent a few months at Fort Devens in a Basic ASA Officers Course and was then assigned to the 52nd Special Operations Command at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. I enjoyed Fort Huachuca, situated at 7,500 feet in the Huachuca Mountains, about 75 miles south of Tucson on the US and Mexican border. I was an intelligence operations officer at the 52nd HQ, traveling around the southwest (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona) to interesting US installations, White Sands Missile Range, etc. Again 8:00 to 5:00 work hours, living in a decent BOQ and no duty on the weekends. Hiking and horseback riding in the mountains were great; Fort Huachuca was one of the last US Army posts which had been a US Cavalry outpost for the “Horse Soldiers,” and still had a US Army E-6 sergeant “wrangler” who looked after the horses, stables and corrals.
The 52nd needed a CBR officer and who better for CBR school than a brand new 2nd LT who’d probably be around for a while. I was sent off to Fort McClellan, AL for CBR school. During my last week there I received a call from the 52nd SOC saying I had been reassigned to the 335th ASA Company in support of the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Riley with further movement to APO 58 San Francisco. Sounded like Vietnam to me. I was due to report to Riley in August 1966.
CBR school did come in handy, I was named the CBR officer for the 335th and waded through sheaves of CBR training notes with the Company as we endured the August sun and heat in a Fort Riley training building. At the 335th, I served as an Intelligence Platoon leader instructing and leading a platoon of young men who had just finished their ASA training at Fort Devens. I was fortunate in that I had a year of ASA operations in France and had a solid understanding of my platoon’s duties and responsibilities. Less fortunately, my field training was on the strategic side of intelligence operations and not tactical support operations which my 335th ASA platoon would be doing in Vietnam. More fortunately, my new platoon operations sergeant had served for several years in tactical situations in Germany; we were in good shape. We trained hard at Fort Riley and were in close support of the 9th Division’s Communications Battalion.
I came to know and respect the CO of the 9th’s Communications Battalion; a crusty, older but very decent and practical Lt. Colonel. During our last field operation before heading for Vietnam, he appeared at our operations tent on a cold, windy and snowy Sunday morning in late November 1966 and announced that he was “G-damned” if he’d keep his Battalion out in the field freezing their butts off when we were all headed for the heat of Vietnam. “What kind of training was that,” he asked. “Hell,” he said, “I could have everybody stand outside the barracks for an hour and get really cold if this is cold weather training we’re talking about here.” He said he was pulling his people back into their barracks and as far as he was concerned, we could do the same. He reasoned that if his battalion was gone there wasn’t anything for us to do anyway. I agreed with his reasoning and did likewise. When my CO questioned why we were out of the field and back into the barracks so soon, I quoted the Lt. Colonel word-for-word. My CO, being a reasonable man and on good terms with the Lt. Colonel, agreed; much to the pleasure and relief of my platoon.
Being we were an unusual “beast” attached to the 9th Division. The Division hadn’t planned for all our logistics needs. We did get a company area, barracks, training building, mess hall, food rations and a supply room, but we hadn’t been figured in for weapons training, ammo, range time, etc. We officers worked out the range time but without ammo we didn’t feel good about instructing the company to shout “Bang” whenever they pulled the trigger at the range. We needed ammo, but the Division said the available supply of ammo had all been issued and none of the infantry brigades queried said they’d share any of theirs with us. Several 335th junior ASA officers were discussing our ammo conundrum one Saturday evening in the 9th’s “O” club when an unknown officer sidled up to us and said, “You guys need ammo?” “Yes,” we answered, “we need ammo”. He said he had plenty and if we’d meet him tomorrow morning at a particular location in the boonies of Fort Riley, “Anything you guys need we have; you can have all you want.” We wondered, but it seemed worth the investment in time so we said we’d meet him the next morning (Sunday). At 7:00 AM we arrived on location, with a covered 3/4 ton and a jeep. There he was, alone and driving an MP Jeep, obviously an MP officer. He recounted that as the 1st Division had moved out of Fort Riley heading for Vietnam and ahead of the 9th Division arriving, he and several other MP officers were assigned to search the 1st Division’s arms rooms and secure any weapons and ammo they found. Well, he and some fellow MP officers found literally tons of ammo left behind by the 1st Division. Consequently, they hatched a Saturday night “O” club plan, over too much alcohol, that they would gather all of that ammo and sell it for a decent profit and nobody else would ever know. Seemed like a good plan at the time, but as they gathered the ammo and saw the massive quantity collected they realized that with all that ammo it was unlikely they could stay under the radar; all the boxes and crates of munitions had serial numbers, all potentially traceable to them if one of the potential buyers squealed. Getting caught selling US Army ammo could earn them heavy time at Fort Leavenworth repenting for their inebriated Saturday night plan. So, they dug a fifty yard wide and long by four-foot-deep hole in the Fort Riley boonies, lined the hole with tarps and heavy plastic sheeting, unloaded enough munitions to supply a small army for a decent six month war and covered the whole mess with more tarps and plastic to keep out the rain and a layer of dirt and grass to camouflage the ammo dump they’d created.
Having being cordially invited to the early Sunday morning munition’s gathering, several ASA officers set to work with shovels unearthing our company’s training ammo and filling the back of a 3/4 ton with shooting and blowing-up stuff. What we sincerely dreaded was going to Vietnam with an ASA company, mostly E-3’s, who hadn’t put a round of ammo through their rifles since basic training. All of the ASA Officers there that morning were OCS graduates and we’d all been well trained at Ft. Benning to improvise and get the job done; so, we did. Not having been authorized an allotment of ammo, we couldn’t store it in the arms room; somebody might ask where we got the ammo and we couldn’t say, much too embarrassing to tell. As intelligence officers, we’d all been suitably trained at Fort Devens to keep secrets and protect our sources.
Now what to do with the ammo? Due to unavailability of BOQ space when we arrived at Fort Riley, a few of us had rented a three bedroom trailer off-base in Junction City. The trailer had a little enclosed shed on the back which housed a clothes washer and dryer; a company’s worth of ammo, and a variety of things which went “boom” found their way there, too. The only way into the shed was through the trailer’s locked front door; the shed had no windows, a good roof and no outside door. We felt as reasonably certain as any other 22 or 23 year OCS graduates that our ammo was secure.
When a scheduled range day arrived, we’d fill the trunk of my 190 SL sports car with the day’s needed ammo and deliver it to our motor pool for loading onto one of the trucks going to the range. Early each range day, I’d drive into the Fort by an infrequently used gate; no sleepy gate MP ever questioned why the back end of my sports car was riding low. Several months later the 335th’s weapons training was accomplished and the trailer’s ammo cache shed was empty. Our men had been appropriately trained with ammo the Army had purchased, albeit for the previous 1st Division.
I do recall that a senior warrant officer from the 335th, who had been living with us in the trailer and saw himself as kind of a house mother, found an on-base BOQ shortly after “operation ammo,” and left the rest of us living there with our unorthodox weapon’s training solution.
although I was commissioned an AIS (Army Intelligence Service) officer, Fort Benning’s Infantry School was the best preparation I could have had for my ASA responsibilities in leading and protecting my platoon in Vietnam. I told the platoon that my job was to direct their operations and keep them alive to do the job they were trained to do. Which basically was to provide communications security training and monitoring for US combat soldiers in the field so they could do their job and hopefully stay alive.
Because of the kind of unit we were and how we’d generally be stationed in Vietnam, rarely below the battalion level, we made preparations while at Fort Riley for our future service in Vietnam. Knowing we should prepare for water, electrical and cooling needs, we officers jointly invested in electrical wire, plastic and copper piping, and other “necessities” all found on the local market in Junction City. None of it was Army equipment or supplies. Because of our men’s experience and training in electronics, we bought and repaired some sturdy but older air-conditioners and several good used Maytag wringer-washers all purchased in second-hand Junction City stores, along with a supply of repair parts for those devices. Because of our electronic mission we had plenty of generators to run the electronic shelters on the backs of our many 5 ton, 2-1/2 ton and 3/4 ton vehicles. Each equipment shelter had a primary and a back-up generator. Because many of the shelters (mobile huts) were off-loaded onto semi-permanent covered emplacements while at Bear Cat, all the generators weren’t needed simultaneously to power those communication and electronic stations. So, our very capable electronic maintenance staff created an electrical power grid, one set of larger generators and backups for the equipment and another set of generators for the power grid for lighting tents, shower rooms and powering our operations building and mess hall. Each of those sets of generators were run for four hours and then shut down for maintenance; other sets of generators were simultaneously brought on line. Those power grids never failed to supply electricity to the operations equipment or other areas of the company.
It hadn’t been anticipated stateside how much heat would be generated by each of the operation’s communications/electrical huts in Vietnam. Once there, the heating problem was quickly recognized and a rush order was made to HQ ASA in Hawaii to supply us with needed air-conditioners for those over-heated huts. I recall being in one of the huts when the outside temp was 100 degrees and the temp in the huts exceeded 160 degrees. The electrical equipment couldn’t survive that heat and neither could the men operating it. A number of large air-conditioners soon arrived from Hawaii and were installed in the electrical hut area. The entire hut area was enclosed and roofed; those generators cooled the whole area which made the men working there happy and glad to work extended shifts (twelve hours on and twelve hours off). The equipment continued to function well.
Although we hadn’t been allocated ammo at Fort Riley we did get a double beer and soda ration while in Vietnam, one from the Division and another from our senior 303rd ASA Battalion at Long Bien. Somehow we neglected to inform either the Division or the 303rd Battalion that we were getting double rations of those valued commodities. We used the extra ration to “purchase” more comfortable living for our men. Being that the Division’s Supply and Construction unit’s soldiers valued beer and soda, we traded our extra liquid rations for needed pallets of lumber, 2×4’s, plywood, roofing, nails etc, all directed toward building a substantial operations building for housing our twenty-four hour per day intelligence gathering operation. We equipped that building with the air-conditioners, wiring and plumbing we had purchased in Junction City and brought with us. We also swapped a pallet of beer and soda for a half-hour of work by a big-cat operator who scooped out our mess hall’s cesspool in an amazing display of big equipment handling, skill and daring; work which would have taken a dozen or more of our men a week to complete with hand shovels, entrenching tools and copious sweat and blisters. The men expressed much gratitude for that trade. While still in Junction City, one of our officers located used water coolers for sale there, you may recall the kind of cooler where you step on a floor pedal and the cold water spurts out at a spout, about chest level high. A few days after our operations area was completed in mid- February of 1967, General Eckhardt, the 9th’s CG, was invited over to see our facility. He walked from the heat of his operations center into our cool building, tried the cold water fountain, and turned to his XO and said, “Get me air-conditioning and a water cooler, too.” ” Yes, Sir,” said his XO. I understand both were flown in from Hawaii and installed within a week.
Our 335th Company had a great E-7 mess sergeant. I first encountered him while an EM in the ASA student battalion at Fort Devens. He was a wheeler-dealer and got us wonderful food while requiring culinary perfection of his staff. We really liked him. He secured swordfish steaks for the mess hall on several occasions; they wouldn’t have been better prepared in a fine restaurant. However it evolved, he was reassigned from Fort Devens to the 335th ASA Company at Fort Riley, headed for Vietnam. We were fortunate to have him finish his Army career with the 335th.
While still at the 335th in Fort Riley, our much favored mess sergeant told our young mess officer, “I could really use one of those big long refrigerator-freezers in Vietnam, like we have here.” Active minds went to work and somehow the big old refrigerator-freezer we had at Riley went on the blink; the base maintenance staff inspected the freezer and declared that it was old, beyond repair and would be immediately replaced. The 335th received a brand new big refrigerator-freezer still in its heavy wooden crate. Several of our electrical maintenance guru’s sniffed out the old freezer’s problem, bought replacement parts on the open market in Junction City, repaired and got the freezer running again. The old repaired refrigerator-freezer stayed at Riley when we left for Bear Cat. The beautiful new crated refrigerator-freezer found its way into a re-fabricated CONEX container and reappeared in our great cook’s mess hall in Bear Cat, Vietnam. Our mess Sgt. was delighted and shipped boxes of wonderful condiments and spices from the US, rewarding us all with his excellent cooking in Vietnam.
Because of the kind of unit we were, we needed lots of CONEX containers to ship all of our highly classified equipment to Vietnam. All of those CONEX containers were marked “CLASSIFIED EQUIPMENT” and sealed so that no unauthorized person could even look inside…look inside and see the beautiful refrigerator-freezer, the air-conditioners or Maytag washers, etc. Some 335th ASA officer had convinced the powers that be that we needed all of those CONEX containers because we had to unload all of our sophisticated and highly classified electronic equipment from their racks in the communications huts so that they could be safely transported to Vietnam… in separate CONEX containers. We got the extra CONEX containers and the sophisticated equipment stayed locked in their racks in position in the equipment huts. Once in Vietnam, our men benefited with cooler working environments and clean clothes. Granted, our men at Bear Cat didn’t suffer the rigors that most infantrymen dealt with in the field but I applauded their ingenuity to make life better. Our ASA men at the Brigade and Battalion levels lived much like the infantrymen beside them. In Vietnam our platoons worked twelve hours on and twelve off.
One evening at midnight, while on the night shift in the ASA operations building at Bear Cat, one of the intercept operators motioned me over to his station, took off his headset and put them on my ears. I heard classical music playing; perplexed, I asked about the music, he replied, “The Chinese National Anthem. They play it every evening as their communications networks are closed down for the night.” There I was in a plywood operations building at Bear Cat, Vietnam listening to an evening concert from China. I was in awe. That particular ASA intercept operator was doing his assigned job; gathering intelligence information listening to prescribed Chinese networks a thousand miles north of Bear Cat.
When, in the early 60’s, Army Security Agency units were first assigned to work in Vietnam, someone from the ASA brain-power department in Vint Hills Farms, MD decided that it was appropriate to mask the intelligence gathering mission of ASA by assigning a clandestine/secret name for ASA units serving in Vietnam. Thus, Army Security Agency units in Vietnam were re-designated “Radio Research Companies, Battalions and Group”. Obviously hiding our mission to no one.
During February of 1967, long lengths of 10″ x 10″ square timbers and an approximately 100 gallon water tank were delivered to our company site at Bear Cat; a company “water tower” was constructed. Although the days were hot, the water in the tank was always cold for the night shift. Shortly after the water tower was constructed several scrounging officers and NCO’s from the company took a trip to the repo depot at Long Bien to pick up some discarded PSP (pierced steel planking) with which to elevate our main company streets and eliminate slogging through water and mud during the wet seasons. We found the PSP and while there an alert ASA motor pool NCO spotted an M151 jeep that had hit a land mine and been somewhat mangled. He and another motor pool NCO quickly evaluated the jeep and found that the engine of the M151 appeared undamaged, they unbolted the engine from its frame and hoisted it into the back of the motor pool’s 5 ton wrecker. They also stripped the dashboard and wiring out of the jeep and squirreled that away under sheets of PSP. The gate guards at the repo depot didn’t notice the motor and gauges on our way out. Back at Bear Cat the motor pool guys crafted motor mounts for the M151 engine and installed engine and the whole dashboard shabang in a sound-proof enclosure under the water tower. Cold water from the water tower was piped down into the cooling side of the engine and hot water from the running and heated engine was pumped back out and up into an auxiliary water tank on the water tower. Day or night, when one of the men wanted a hot shower, they’d go to the dashboard of the repurposed M151 engine, hit the starter and a few minutes later the auxiliary water tank had hot water and they had hot showers. A Major from the MI unit next to us noted the hot shower arrangement and asked if he could come over for hot showers, too. In the spirit of intelligence camaraderie, we said, “certainly,” and cut a hole in the fence between the MI and ASA units; a fence hole for which our motor pool expertly fabricated and welded a sturdy metal gate for him. The Major was pleased.
During May or early June of 1967, I received a request from the 9th Infantry Division to conduct electronic surveillance and location of local Viet Cong troops for one of the 9th’s Riverine Battalions operating in the Rung Sot. I don’t recall if it was in support of one of the 47th or 60th Infantry Battalions (Riverine). An NCO and I had just flown in by chopper and were filling sandbags full of river mud to keep our sleeping/operations area above the Mekong’s high-tide when several VC mortar rounds began falling in the Battalion’s area. Looking to the south about 1,000 meters we could see two small men whom we surmised to be VC, hunkered down around what appeared to be a 60mm mortar tube. They were aiming the tube by hand and had supported its base on a hunk of plywood over the muddy ground. They fired three or four rounds at the Battalion’s area, most of which fell harmlessly into the mud around us, sending up geysers of mud when exploding. However, the final round fell near the camp’s center and I saw a US soldier who had been standing directly next to the impact area, launched three or four feet into the air and dumped head over heels back into a hole of mud when the round exploded. I was fairly close to the air-lofted soldier and ran over and began helping as he struggled out of the hole. He came up sputtering and throwing off mud from his head, and as he cleared his face, I saw that he was my OCS 2nd platoon classmate, Wayne Eagle. I said, “Wayne. are you O.K.?” In response, he climbed out of the hole throwing off mud and said, “Son-of-a-bitch, that was my last clean uniform and I just put it on. ” He stomped off, as much as one could stomp off in that mud, toward a hanging leister-bag to try flushing off the mud and crud covering him. He wasn’t wounded by the close call, just really pissed-off about his mud bath and recently clean uniform. Another day in paradise.
While on R&R in Japan in August or September of 1967, I was walking along a sidewalk at Camp Zama and met two OCS 2nd platoon classmates, my OCS roommate Alex Gordon, smartly attired in a stylish brown hospital bathrobe, pushing Pete Conaty in a large wooden hospital style wheel chair, likewise bathrobe attired. Alex said he was there because of multiple reoccurrences of malaria and Pete had been wounded in Vietnam and was recovering. We caught up on the latest news and I heard that Fred Godsey had been killed in action and that Hal Graves too, had been killed.
Back in Vietnam several weeks later, I was at the 25th Infantry Division to brief the CG on an intelligence matter and in walked Hal Graves. He saw me and came over to say hello and shocked at seeing him, I blurted out loudly, “You’re Dead” at which point the CG turned from his front row seat giving me a “What-the-Hell” look. I explained to Hal that I had seen Alex and Pete at Camp Zama and they said he had died in action. Hal said news of his death was greatly exaggerated. Yes, he had been wounded but was doing well. I told him I was relieved to see him in good health. Then, having announced myself , embarrassed and likely red-faced, I briefed the General and his staff.
During our first year in-country (1967), our 335th ASA Company HQ was located adjacent to the 9th Division’s HQ at Bear Cat. I was assigned to the 335th ASA Company at Fort Riley and then reassigned after six months in Vietnam, to an intelligence staff position with the 303rd ASA (RRC) Battalion at Long Bien in support of II Field Force and the other ASA companies at that time within II Field Force, namely, ASA companies and detachments serving the 1st, 9th and 25th Divisions, the 11th ACR, the 196th and 198 Separate Brigades and the 3rd Brigade of the 173 Airborne.
As an intelligence staff officer at the 303rd RR Battalion I frequently visited the ASA companies assigned to the various II Field Force Divisions and Separate Brigades. During early December of 1967, I made a final trip to Bear Cat to visit fellow officers at 335th ASA company before heading back to the States. Arriving at Bear Cat the 335th person I sought was visiting the 9th Division’s Operations area next door, so I went over there to say hello. There was a small gate between our Operations area and General Eckhardt’s HQ Operations tent facilitating communications and transfer of intelligence information. During my visit, the 9th Division was in the field on its final operation of 1967, I believe in Bien Hoa Province, and the Bear Cat base camp was pretty deserted. While in the 9th’s operation tent, a call came into the operations area from a Bird Dog pilot who was on his final approach into Bear Cat’s air field. He reported that as he neared Bear Cat he over-flew, 3,000 to 5,000 NVA troops moving south, in the open, about a mile north of Bear Cat’s perimeter. The pilot was radioing to ask how he should proceed. The senior officer in the 9th’s operation tent, a Major, instructed the pilot to land his plane and not take any aggressive actions toward the NVA soldiers. Also present in the 9th’s operations tent at the time was a captain of artillery who said he had an 8 inch gun and 155 howitzers at the ready. He said he could drop those guns to zero elevation and open up on the NVA troops. The Major said, “Absolutely not. We will not engage those NVA troops in any way.” He said there were fewer than two hundred 9th Inf. Division troops on the Bear Cat base at that time and 200 men could not defend Bear Cat. He surmised that if those 3 – 5K NVA troops made a turn south and attacked Bear Cat they could easily over-run Bear Cat in twenty minutes. He said he that wasn’t happening on his watch. He said he had no air power available. All of the 9th’s gunships were out on the operation. He did immediately, by radio, contact the 9th Divisions CG to alert him of the situation and received confirmation that he had made the correct decision. The Major also notified General Westmoreland’s headquarters at Tan Son Nhut airbase to alert them that 3 – 5K NVA troops were reasonably headed in their direction. Being near the end of my tour, I hung around for an hour or so at Bear Cat, hopeful that I wouldn’t encounter NVA troops while on my lone jeep-journey back to Long Bien. Though the official date for the on-set of the TET offensive wasn’t until January 30th of 1968, it was early December 1967 and the build-up of North Vietnamese troops for the TET offensive was underway. At that time, Vietnamese workers on the Long Bien base camp were refusing to come onto the base camp because of the presence of VC and NVA troops in the vicinity. Ambushes of US Army vehicles in the Long Bien and Bien Hoa area, which hadn’t regularly happened during the previous year, rose dramatically in early December 1967.