Had a visitor today. A baby-faced, rosy cheeks, 1st Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers! Said he was the assistant S-3 of the xxth Engineer Battalion (Combat), and they are sending a platoon down around New Year's to be stationed at the Soc Trang Army Air Field.
First I have heard about it! They are coming down on barge, and want to unload at our new rock unloading dock! And he wants to coordinate the route to the airfield, through town! I asked him what type of vehicles and equipment they have, and he tells me the platoon will be reinforced with some engineer equipment.
So, I ask him what type equipment! (Nothing like being piecemealed by a baby faced lieutenant) Oh, they'll be reinforced with a road grader, a 20 ton crane, and large dozer! I showed him on the map where there are two Eiffel Bridges over canals to cross. And I tell him neither bridge will support his crane or dozer!
He said that wasn't his information, and said he questioned the figures published in whatever by the ARVN Engineers. I told him "ARVN be dammed! I'm telling you the Eiffel Bridges won't support your move. If you want to unload there you need to build a Bailey Bridge."
Now, it is well known by now that I have been twiddling my thumbs for well over a month, and I suggest we take a ride to recon the route, so he can see what I am talking about.
I got my driver, Prumven, and we jump into my jeep. I am wearing my floppy Vietnam hat, and carrying my little 32 on my belt. The lieutenant is carrying his M-16 and his steel pot.
We set off, across town, and down the levee, across the two Eiffel Bridges to the rock unloading dock. As we go through town, I noticed he was nervous, finger on the trigger, head spinning from side to side. "Just like I was in January," I think to myself. He asked if it was safe to drive through town, and I tried to reassure him it was. But like me earlier this year, he was nervous, very nervous.
I pointed out the flimsy structure of the Eiffel bridges, and told him I needed to see his weight loads before I could authorize the battalion's move. I said we would also need to know time and date, so we could coordinate with the Province Chief, the Province Senior Advisor, and the Ba Xuyen Public Works Department and their advisor.
He started to give me a ration of shit about security, secrecy, and all that. I cut him short by telling him despite being a fucking advisor, I was still in the U S Army, and his S-2 could check with MACV if they wanted to, but that until I was satisfied, no approval would be given. Then, he tried to give me a ration of shit about who had authority, and I let him know I was the big fish in my pond, and that all engineering programs within the entire 21st Division TA was my responsibility - well, actually it was the battalion commander/division engineer's responsibility, but I didn't tell him that.
On that sour note, I had Prumven drop me off back at the battalion, and then take the lieutenant back to the airfield.
I informed Major Mong of what was going on, and he said he had heard nothing about an American engineer unit coming in. Hell, when the SeaBee team of 13 came in, we both had advance notice.
I hadn't been to a province afternoon briefing for several weeks, but I invited myself in to the meeting this afternoon.
The province senior advisor, by now the lieutenant colonel had rotated, and a civilian US Foreign Service Officer was the senior advisor, was a bit upset, but said he had heard nothing. Neither had his staff. We both agreed to check through our channels, me through the division senior advisor to IV Corps, and the province SA directly to IV Corps.
As I said before, 38 and a wake up!