The USAID Mission would in turn turn this over to the govern...
Okay. Well, the, the procedure was uh as follows. The material that uh the United States government was pro—was providing or, or intended to provide to the Vietnamese people to enable them to survive, uh, was channeled through the US Aid Mission which, in turn, would provide, turn the material over to the government of Vietnam. It was not a direct delivery system. We turned it over to the government of Vietnam who, in turn, were supposed to turn it over to the people. That's, was the theory; it didn't work that way in practice. Much of the material, not all, but much of it would end up in the black market directly, or it would be part of a scam where the district or the province chief would sell it to the people.
Now, this produced a, a reaction, uh, Vietnamese with whom I dealt, they couldn't understand why we permitted or tolerated this. And it is a little bit difficult; in fact, it's impossible, to say to someone who goes into a pharmacy, let' say in the city of Da Nang
, and you'll see penicillin for sale, a gift of the American people, on sale to whoever wants to come in and buy it. That, I don't believe, was the intention of our government. And the hands, the clasped hands approach, the rice, the same thing, was all available.
So, because my Marines, the Cav Marines were at risk, because they were with the people, and this was a source of enmity... This is no different than the rapacity of the of the French, and we were condoning it. We were, we weren't uh, uh, really doing anything, other thing as say, Hey, really, it out to get to the folk. But that's about as far as our attempts to change this method of behavior went. Because we could not intrude on the host government's sensitivity. Nonsense!
So what we did, our, my kids who, uh, as they called themselves the Da Nang
mafia we liberated, stole, whata—whatever you want to say, the material from the warehouse before it got into this crooked system. Then we would deliver it to the village and we used to do this in the dusk or at night when we knew that the district chief or the village chief, the military man, was gone to the safety of the city.
We would come to the elder, the [incomprehensible], and I know that the aspect of charity in the Orient is a very, very tricky concept. This was, and in order to eliminate that kind of aspect of, put a penny in the old boy's cup or giving to the beggar, we would go to [incomprehensible], the village elder, and say: You know the needs of your people. We bring it to you, it is for you to distribute. And then we would provide some additional muscle or whatever to do it.
Now, you'd say: That's not very important. Well, during the period of the monsoon, and it rains forty days and forty nights and rarely gets above forty degrees, it's rather important if you care about the hearts and minds of people if you can keep them dry. And they need something over their head. And the same way we dealt with the, uhhh, the packing, the unpacking elements of the supply effort. It's hard for any American to grasp the volume of things that came into the country.
And we were on...runs to pick up cardboard and old wood because you know what would happen to it? It would be burned, and it would provide the means of these people who it was my responsibility and the responsibility of my Marines for their security and well being the difference between having a cold, clammy and maybe having a fairly warm and dry place in which to live.