Can Tho Discussion

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Can Tho  - the early days

From: Dick Flagg
Date: 14 Dec 1999
Time: 11:58:42
Remote Name:


Just came across the Can Tho site -brought back many memories. I was surprised to see how the city and Field had grown since I was there over 36 years ago. I was not Army and did not work in a com. center, but I might be able to tell you a little of Can Tho in the "early days". I was sent TDY to Can Tho from Yokota Air Base in Japan on 4 January 1963 to help establish the IV Corp ASOC ( Air Support Operations Center) , later called DASC. The ASOC was manned by 6 Air Force personnel - of whom 5 were TDY. The ASOC was located next to the ARVN IV Corp HQ on a beautiful tree lined boulevard on the main road going through town and about 2 blocks from the "bank building". The ASOC was on the top floor of a two story building. The bottom floor was the U.S. Army TOC. The ASOC become operational on 1 Feb 1993. We programmed combat air sorties for all of IV Corp. We had a grand total of 6 T-28s out of Soc Trang and (on a good day) 2 B-26s out of Saigon. There were no aircraft, air to ground communications or radar at Can Tho Air Field At this time there were only about 40 U.S. Army personnel in Can Tho - not counting the 10 or so Special Forces located at the air field - and us 6 Air Force blue suiters. There were less then 12,000 U.S. military in the entire country and those assigned PCS to Saigon could bring their families. There were also 1 or 2 "spooks" running in and out of Can Tho posing as Army captains. It was obvious to everyone, including the local VC that these "captains" didn' know the difference between an M-16 and an M-113, so we all knew who they worked for and we just ignored them. The Army had a small compound (I don't think it had a name) just south of town beyond the soccer fields. It had a mess hall, a couple of admin tents, an enlisted club, an officers club and a dozen or so 4 man huts. The senior Army officer, and IV Corp advisor, was Col. Wilson, who was called "Coal Bin Wilson" by a few army officers, but never in his hearing. It was a nickname he picked up while stationed at West Point. We 6 Air Force were offered the hospitality of the Army compound for about 4 weeks until 2nd Air Divion (this was before 7th Air Force) in Saigon made arrangements for us to live in a down town apartment building. The photos of the air field blow my mind. When I was there, the only things at the field were a runway, a 2 story control tower and a Special Forces camp. There was not another building anywhere near the field. The control tower had been built by the French in the late 1940s and left to rot when they pulled out in the late 1950s. All the windows, shutters and screens were broken. There was no water or electricity. The rooms were totally empty, wall to wall. The Special Forces camp (where I spent a lot of my time) was circular with a collection of huts, underground bunkers and gun pits. The outside of the camp was surrounded with several rools of barbed wire, punji stakes and claymore mines. Air Vietnam had about 2 flights from Saigon each week (an old DC-3) into Can Tho, but only if the IV Corp Commander - General Cao - approved the flights ( read received his payment). The runway could support the weight of a C-130, but on a hot day the taxiway and ramp could only support a Caribou (C-7). This required most flights to unload the cargo on the runway. This of course closed the runway to any in-comming flights until the Army could get a detail to truck the supplies away - sometimes a couple of days later. The ASOC used the U.S. Army com. center located across the street from the ASOC/TOC for all message traffic. The system supported our ASOC need until some Air Force Saigon Commando decided there was a need for messages for "Air Force Eyes Only" This came about because of a conflict between the effectiveness of rotary aircraft (read Army) and fixed wing air craft (read Air Force). I think we spent more time and effort fighting between our varios military services, the Vietnamese military (?), the State Department and the CIA then we did against the VC. In about March of 1963 the Air Force sent a hugh modern state-of-the-art com van with 5 operators to the ASOC. We spent many an hour in the van listening to state- side radio and intercepting AP and UPI transmissions. It also allowed us to talk directly with the strike aircraft and Saigon air operations. I believe the van and operators were from the 1st MOB out of Okinawa. My TDY ended in mid-1963, but I was sent PCS to I Corp in 1965/66. Because of my career field (MOS?) of intelligence/special operations/counter-insergency I traveled all over the country, but never back to IV Corp. However, when someone mentions Vietnam, I think first of Can Tho. It was the most rewarding and interesting 6 months of my military life.

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