Oh, didn't I tell you about the flag? Long about April or May, we had attended a meeting in Butch's office at the 402nd Engineer Battalion (Combat), the IVth Corps combat engineer battalion which was also stationed in Soc Trang. Butch was a Texan, and had the Lone Star Flag hanging on his wall.
My counter-part had asked why I didn't have a California flag on my wall, so I wrote Governor Ronald Reagan, and asked for a flag, offering to pay for it. In June, I received a California flag, accompanied by a certificate that it had been flown over the Capitol in Sacramento.
Then, shortly before lunch, the battalion's deputy commander, Captain Qui, came in, and said he needed to talk to me in private. So we went out into the dusty battalion street, and Qui says, "Have you noticed anything strange about your interpreter, SSG Phong? I think he is a VC!" I look at Qui, silent, disbeleaving; and then I blow my stack! "You dumb son of a bitch, you let me work with Phong all year; and now you tell me he's a fucking VC?"
"Yes, he has been acting strange," sez Qui! "What are you going to do about it?"
"Me, do something!" By now I am boiling. "Not a fucking thing! I'm too short to worry about it, it's your problem! Fuck you, Qui!" And I jump into the jeep with Deason and we head back to the MACV Compound, seething!
Deason and I talk about it, and we decide not to say anything here to anybody in Soc Trang. But, I will inform the division advisory team tomorrow.
After lunch, I go back to my hooch, and take a nap until 1400, when we go back to work.
Shit! I had forgotten about the USARV combat engineer battalion sending a platoon to the Soc Trang Army Airfield. Their S-3 type, this baby face, rosy red cheek captain is waiting for me. I can tell SSG Phong is nervous, because his glasses are off, and he is wiping his brow. (Hell, don't tell me he's a VC, I just don't believe it)
"Ah, Captain St. Clair," this dip shit captain greets me, "I've been waiting for you!" "We have a little problem at the unloading site." "We did some damage to the bridge," he sez! "Not much, but I think you need to come to see for yourself."
I sent Phong to invite Major Mong to come with us, and we have a three jeep convoy go through town, and along the levee. Sure enough! There is some damage!
Some damage, hell! The VC couldn't have done worse! There it is! Five ton tractor and trailer, in the water! DC-7 cat, in the water! Eiffel bridge, in the water! The dumb fucks! Hadn't listened when I told them the bridge wouldn't hold their heavy equipment.
"What are you going to do about it," this dip-shit asks?
Am I pissed! Big time! "Nothing, I'm too short! I'm going home tomorrow! You broke it! You fix it, you dumb bastard!" I am up in this assholes face, showering him with spittle as i yell every word, as loud as I can be.
Major Mong comes between us, and suggests a meeting in his office in an hour.
I go back to the battalion, and called the sorry information into the Division Senior Advisor, who isn't very complementary about Army Engineers. (I should have known, after all he is a ground pounder. What did I expect?) I also notified the IV Corps Engineer Advisor, and the new advisor of the 402nd Engineer Battalion.
The meeting starts at about 1600, and I admit I am not very civil. Yeah, we could fix the bridge - hell we had been doing that all year! But, we can't pull the dozer out of the canal, and it took us ten days to get a truck out of the canal a couple months ago. After talking it over, Major Mong agrees that we will put in a new bridge, but the American battalion has to figure out how to get their vehicle and equipment out of the way!
The S-3 type sez, "I'll talk to the boss tonight, and let's meet tomorrow morning, at 1000 hours."
"Fuck you, asshole," I said. "It's your problem; I'm going home!" Then I said good bye, and shook hands with the 402nds Battalion Commander, the Ba Xuyen Province chief of public works, and a few other ARVN I had worked with all year. Major Mong said he would see me off in the morning.
I told the 402nd's advisor, the National Guard Engineer from Baltimore, and SFC Deason that I hated to dump on them and Major Mong, but my tour was over!
And, for the last time, I left the compound of the 21st Infantry Division Engineer Battalion; being sure not to look back. I went to the Province Advisory Teams briefing, getting there at the tail end, and told them we were working on the problem, and introduced SFC Deason, saying I was leaving, and he was taking over until a new senior advisor arrived.
Told you I was going out with a bang!