October 21, 1966
Saigon, South Viet Nam--Any American who feels sorry for himself and his lot in life should see Saigon. He'd go back home and thank God for what he's got and gripe no more.
The lowest income group anywhere in America lives like kings compared to the majority of the Vietnamese. And undoubtedly, the most ignorant people in our so-called poverty areas would be comparative geniuses.
The Vietnamese have been dominated so long that large numbers of them have lost their initiative and their will to resist. This nation could slip quickly into the hands of any nation which promised them a free ride.
At present, only a nucleus of South Vietnamese with the will to resist, and the United States, are preventing Viet Nam's fall into the abyss of Communism.
The sidewalks in the downtown area are so cluttered with peddlers and beggars that it is hard to walk. Old women carrying naked children tend stands. The children relieve themselves only inches from where pots of rice and shrimp are steaming, while ponies, hitched to carts near the sidewalks, constantly swat flies with their tails.
Near the downtown area, squatters so poor they can not pay rent, have fashioned shacks on stilts over nearly every waterway.
The town is crowded with refugees from the Viet Cong. They sleep anywhere they can lay down and during their waking hours either beg or steal to stay alive.
Armed Vietnamese military police, always in pairs and sometimes in squads of four, roam the streets constantly, searching for Viet Cong and trying to keep the peace. The slight in stature MP's were dubbed 'White Mice' by the U.S. military.
Every apartment building in Saigon which houses United States Military personnel is surrounded by 55 gallon oil drums filled with concrete. Barbed wire is stretched above the drums. Sentries armed with carbines and submachine guns always are on duty.
No taxis are permitted to stop in front of the sentry posts or the apartment entrances and all persons entering the buildings must show identification cards.
At night, from the roof of the Rex Hotel, a commissioned officers' quarters, helicopters can be seen patrolling the Saigon dock area. They periodically release flares in an effort to prevent the Viet Cong from sneaking in and blowing up the ships or mining the river.
One evening as we approached the Rex, two Vietnamese Military Policemen suddenly stopped their jeep and began running up an alley beside the hotel. They screamed and waved their carbines, and in moments, returned with a skinny young man. One MP held his carbine to the youth's head. They marched him to the jeep and pushed him.
An American MP asked them what was going on. One Vietnamese MP replied, "He VC....We talk to him." The American shrugged and the terrified, skinny VC suspect was hustled away in the jeep, a carbine muzzle next to his head.
The crowd of poor Vietnamese near the hotel, stopped their milling and begging only a few moments and made no protest when the police took the young man away. They were soon begging again.
We observed the Vietnamese poor offer a stark comparison to the poor of Japan. It seemed the Japanese underprivileged were neater, cleaner and able to create objects of beauty from almost nothing. The Japanese seemed to dress better and displayed more interest in personal hygiene.
After mentioning those observations to an officer at the Military Assistance Command he said," These people have been fighting 30 years. They haven't been allowed to think for themselves and they haven't had to stand up and fight for what they believe in. That's something we're trying to teach them."