THE MICHIGAN DAILY
TUESUAYx AUGUST 311 1965
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War: From Boredom
EDITOR'S NOTE: It was
really a quiet day around Cai
Son-just trip grenades, tiger
traps, jungle sun, afternoon
monsoon, and blood in the
market place. Just another
day's patrol for the Americans,
one more day on the road
the VC is brazen and unafraid.
Vietnamese troops love the bur-
eaucracy of war. They decorate
the post with enormous maps and
charts on wooden tripods, as if
readying the place for a sales
meeting, and chatter away con-
stantly on the radio and on the
I"Ifyou let them, they'd talk
By HUGH A. MULLIGAN themselves to death," said Capt.
Associated Press Newsfeatures Writer Hail Spoons, of Ada. Oklahoma,
VINH LONG, South Viet Nam- the advisor to the operations of-
Junst another day of war in the ficer.
Mekong Delta. Riflemen climb down from the
The charts back at headquarters trucks and wade knee deep into
will show seven government troops the rice paddies, moving down the
wounded, one Viet Cong guerrila tree line at the edge of the fields
killed, one captured and a Com- to sweep an area 1,500 yards
munist weapon and a box of;wide and about 10 miles long.
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enemy intelligence papers confis-
cated. Not much to make the
strategists linger over their plan-
ning boards; hardly enough tol
rate a new pin on somebody's map.
But to the men who lived it
and lived through it, it isanother
day to be struck off the calendar
on the long road to going home.
Another day of weariness and
crying desperation, of chasing an
This is the way. war is in the
Delta, a land lush enough to feed
much of Southeast Asia but now
forced to import rice and other
foodstuffs because the roads and
canals can't be kept open.
This is the way this particular
day went, no different from any
other but numbing and maddening
with what one American captain
called its "periods of protracted
boredom punctuated by moments
of sheer terror."
Early in the pre-dawn dark-
ness the 13th Regiment of the
9th ARVN (Viet Nam Army) In-
fantry Division moves out with
their American advisors on a
"sweep and destroy" mission in
the rice paddies south of the little
market town of. Cai Son..
From the doorway ofhevery
darkened grass hut, from the tiny
portholes of houseboats docked
along the canal, from the jalousied
balconies of the old French-style
colonial houses, alert black eyes
are staring out of impassive faces.
How many of them are friendly?
This is route 14, the main road
south from Saigon along the Del-
ta. Along this same stretch of
road, just a few weeks ago, 10
government soldiers were killed
and 21 wounded when an armored
troops carrier ran over a land
mine triggered by a strand of fish
Up ahead, less than a mile, the
night suddenly comes alive with
flares lighting up the sky and
slowly falling to earth on para-
chutes. Another outpost is under
attack. C47s roar overhead, drop-
ping the flares to show up the
Viet Cong for the beleaguered
watch tower and drive the at-
tackers back into the mangrove
The convoy rumbles on, heedless
of the. battle that is going on.
Suddenly the long line grinds to
a halt. The Viet Cong knows
government troops are moving into
the area and has left a calling
card: a crude roadblock of felled
trees and piled up mud.
Sometimes mines and grenades
are buried in such roadblocks, but
the 'minesweepers arrived with
their long-handled vacuum clean-
ers and find nothing. Just an-
other harassing tactic, just an-
other reminder to the villagers
huddling in their grass huts that
The artillery advisor, Capt. Ken
Meiser from Shamokin, Pa., paves
the way for them with an opening
barrage. Vietnamese children pour
out of the nearby school house to
The sun grows hot and the day
grows long. Huynh Ngoc Diep, the
province chief, comes out and sits
in one of the tubular chairs set
up before the charts and keeps
track of the operation.
Eighty per cent of the popula-
tion in Vinh Long province, Col-
onel Diep says, is loyal to the
government, but the other 20 per
cent manage to be everywhere.
It's easy when you're a guerrilla.
Time is on your side, you can pick
The colonel, who was trained
at Command and General Staff
College at Leavenworth, Kan.,
chats amiably about a bus trip
he once took from Kansas to
California, but breaks off the
small talk abruptly when the first
casualty figures are put on the
board. Two men have stepped on
Chinese trip grenades, another
has walked into a tiger trap: a
sharpened spike concealed in a
The wounded are brought down
the canal on SSB's .swimmer sup-
port boats), long fiberglass rafts
powered by 40 horsepower out-
board engines. They are laid under
the sheds in the market place and
Lt. Nguyen Van.Ti, a doctor
trained by the French, moves
among them, dressing a wound
here, probing for shock and con-
High noon and an oppressive
sun streams down in long shafts
of heat through the palm trees.
The ARVN Ranger battalion,held
in reserve, sets about preparing
a field dinner.
Before the afternoon monsoon
rolls in with its enormous thun-
derheads and pelting rains, the
casualty board has climbed to
seven. Still no contact with the
The camp is just up the road
beyond the guns, and Col. Donald
Roberts pronounces it "the lone-
liest place in Viet Nam." Almost
every night the VC comes calling
with small arms fire and an oc-
casional mortar. Capt. Richard
Holbrook, from Salk Center,
Minn., the advisor at the center,
has - grown accustomed to his
lonely life. He is almost as inured
to it as he is the reality that in
almost every training group one
or two Viet Cong manage to slip
"I often suspect they're the
ones that are taking notes," he
says with just a trace of a smile.
Just a trace and no more. Laughs
are hard to come by at an out-
post in the Delta.
Back at the CP and there is a
frenzy of activity around the ra-
Field telephones jangle excited-
ly. Contact has been made with
the VC. Capt. Tom Hendricks of
Clemson, S. C., and his armored
personnel carriers manage to
flush them out of a hole dug in
the rice paddies. Rising water
with the incoming tide has forced
them into the open. One resists
and is killed, the other is taken
prisoner, along with a box of
Why slave at the
those term papers?
Have them typed for you
by experts. Your papers
will have a neat and
Many satisfied students,
in the past, have availed
themselves of our service.
Why don't you?
Like the wounded, the. prisoner
is brought down the canal by
boat. Barefoot, wearing only a pair
of scruffy shorts, he turns out to
be a small boy, no more than 16.
A frightened boy, shivering and
almost on the verge of tears, but
adamantly silent in the presence
of the intelligence officer, a tall
handsome Vietnamese who smiles
pleasantly at him from a mouth
full of gold teeth.
Evening and the troops move
out across the flat land silhoutted
against a magnificent sunset. The
operation is over, technically, but
Portrait of a Day of War
danger as always lurks along the
The Viet Cong is fond. of am-
bushing a dog-tired troop move-
ment heading back from an opera-
Again there are staring eyes
along the wayside, peering out of
the hamlets, old men hunkered in
the doorway, children in incredible
nunibers playing on the monkey
"Okay," a little almond-eyed
toddler calls out, using the only
American word he knows.
But somewhere in the gathering,
dusk of a grass hut hamlet, small
boys are calling out another word.
"Ho Chi Minh," they call, and
the troops in the trucks stiffen
and fall silent.
Darkness comes on with a rush
and a burst of automatic weapons
fire, probably from a Communist
type BAR, chatters out at the lead
armored car, led by Capt. Hend-
ricks. No one is hit% The column
Night falls at last. In Viet Nam,
night belongs to the cri.ckets and
the frogs . . . and the VC. An-
other Delta day is done.
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THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
OFFICE OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS presents its
1965 FALL PROGRAM
Student operated WC B N
LECTURE SERIES of 8 outstanding speakers in
theology, law, literature, sociology, and
Sept. 13 & 14: MILAN OPOCENSKY, Lecturer in
Systematic Theology, University of Prague,
Sept. 24: RICHARD SHAULL, Prof. of Ecumenics,
Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey
Oct. 11: WILLIAM F. LYNCH, S.J., Visiting Prof. of
Religion, Carleton College, Minn.;
faculty member, St. Peter's College.
SPECIAL CBS TV FILM:
"THE BERKELEY REBELS"
Thursday, Sept. 2:
4-:15 p.m.-Rackham Auditorium
7:30 p.m.-Multipurpose Rm.,
Undergrad Library, 3rd floor
LUNCHEON BOOK DISCUSSIONS
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QI want practical experience in engineer
QI are interested in the experience of
Oct. 20, 21, and 22:
HANS HOFMANN, Th.D., Writer
and lecturer in Theology and Psychology of
Beginning Sept. 1 and continuing
through November 17
Michigan League, Conference Rm. 2
12:00 Noon-1:00 p.m.
Religion; Sometime Professor of Harvard
Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.
Nov. 1: WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, LL.B., Practicing
Attorney in Harlem, Author and Lecturer.
Nov. 2: C. ERIC LINCOLN, Prof. of Sociology,.
Portland State College, Oregon; author:
The BlackMuslims and My Face Is Black.
An International Conference on
ON VIET NAM"
Friday, Sept. 17-Open sessions and seminars
"a i rwo rk"
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