Sound to go with Camera Roll 746. Beep.
I loved Saigon
from the day I arrived really until I left, although
it changed a great deal during that time. Smog arrived with clouds of
Hondas and ah military vehicles. The smog killed the beautiful trees
that the French had planted
along these broad boulevards. But, I liked the crowded ah colorful city,
and it was very ah, a very romantic place in many ways. In fact, when I
first arrived, the Viet Cong
had just cut the power ah at a number of the ah generators that supplied
so that the
city at night was lit by candles.
Even the hotels where the officials and ah news
pin had candles on the stairs to light your way up since the
elevators couldn't work. And, as you walked along the streets the bars
were lit by candles along the bar and the little tires along the street.
It was a very, very, very romantic pla, it was a lovely city at that
point. Flares in the distance ah giving that edge of excitement about
there being a war.
I came with lists of people that I'd been told I
should meet, people who spoke Vietnamese, were close to the Vietnamese,
had been there for years. And, they did, in fact, prove to be very
knowledgeable people. Like Ev Bumgardner, and Frank Scott and and ah I
came with people like General Lansdale whose whole theme, as like Bumgardners and the
others, was this, this war must be won by Vietnamese and that we were
there to help them, basically, and that we were looking for patriots.
Vietnamese patriots who, at the same time, saw their
goals as compatible with ours, to prevent a communist victory, and there
were such people, naturally. The question came to be very quickly within
weeks after I arrived, why are such people all boxed in among the
Vietnamese themselves. Why do they have such little responsibility? The
people that seemed to us the most effective, the most potentially
popular of the Vietnamese. Why are their superiors so markedly
incompetent and corrupt. Ah.
One rule I came to propose to various people to see
if they agreed or not- everyone agreed- was ah that there wasn't an
American officer in Vietnam as an advisor who couldn't name half a dozen
Vietnamese of his acquaintance in a given unit that he was advising that
he would be better than the given commander who was his counterpart. Ah.
Why did it, why did we seem to be working so inevitably with people who
had no ability to command anyone's respect. Their own subordinates, the
people they were working among. Corrupt, cowardly, ignorant.
It's not characteristic of Vietnamese, in general, as
the Viet Cong, for example,
showed very clearly. But, it wasn't ah necessarily ah true of the
Vietnamese on our side. There were many dedicated ah comp—very
competent, very brave people. But, as I said, they ah they tended to be
out of positions of power, to be constantly frustrated. The result of
having this incompetent, corrupt leadership was a performance by the
troops that not only was very unmilitary, very ineffective militarily,
but was creating Viet Cong by
their practices of raping, stealing, ah ravaging places, using artillery
indiscriminately against their own people. Ah.
How did we get stuck with troops like this, and what
could be done about it? That was the problem that ah those of us who
were concerned about the Vietnamese side of this picture. Ah. Who
thought of ourselves of helping the Vietnamese. This was our problem.
Ah. How do we help get better leadership? How do we motivate them and so
forth? I think underlying our own frustration and the ah the fact that
this problem never was solved was our own inability to perceive clearly
what our role was there. Ah.
Who what what the Americans were doing there. The
problem was very simply, how do you motivate people to patriotism, to
fighting for their country when they are rather manifestly fighting for
someone else's country, my own, the United States? How can foreigners,
who unlike the red coats in 1776, didn't even speak the same language as
the people of the colonies, of America? Ah. Did not share a common
tradition or culture? How could ah how could they come there and instill
ah courage, commitment, motivation to protect, basically, our interest,
American interests in that country. The answer was...