June 1968-June 1969
“I spent my entire year in Vietnam as the Assistant Battalion Advisor to the 4th Battalion, 48th Infantry regiment, 18th ARVN Division-Army of the Republic of Vietnam. I could have rotated back to a safer job at Xuan Loc after six or seven months, but chose to stay with 4/48th.
While with my unit I went on hundreds of company and battalion-sized operations. I was under sniper, small arms, machine gun, mortar and rocket fire from the enemy. I operated in booby-trap infested areas, leech-filled swamps, triple canopy mountain jungle and muddy rice fields. I called in supporting fire of artillery and helicopter gun ships. I coordinated evacuation of the wounded. I was getting supplies and ammunition to the unit while its battalion commander was selling them on the black market or worse. I found the job to be stressful and traumatic, especially the five months of Dai-uy Diew’s command.
The Vietnamese commander of the 18th ARVN Division was corrupt. He had a core cadre of cohorts who went back together since the mid-1950’s when they had all been in an elite airborne battalion together with him as commander. It was rumored that he ran a vast criminal enterprise.
Tieu-ta Tan was not part of this clique. He was Battalion Commander of 4/48th when I first arrived in June 1968. He was a superb tactician and beloved leader who cherished his men. He had spent six months in Ft. Benning, Georgia, attending the Infantry Officer’s Career Course and spoke excellent English. He was a senior major in the division. In order to get rid of Tieu-ta Tan and put in their own guy, a new position was created. Tan was put in charge of getting the railroad running from Bien Hoa to Xuan Loc.
With a senior Major out of the way, Dai-uy Diew was made Commander of the 4th Battalion, 48th Infantry. Diew was evil incarnate. As Captain Dexter C. Newman later said, ‘I knew something was up when the guy showed up for war with his wife, driving in a 1937 Packard.’ He did ghost payrolling, taking the pay of soldiers on the rolls who did not exist. He did double payrolling, having everyone paid twice, one of which he kept. He sold food, medical supplies and gasoline on the black market. Even ammunition would be siphoned off and sold before it got down to his soldiers. He would keep the bonus money that was supposed to go to the men for capturing weapons or killing enemy. And, as commander, he had total life and death dictatorial power and control over the entire battalion. We were all afraid of him.
After being in combat with them five months, I had an excellent relationship with the Vietnamese junior officers of the battalion, especially the 1st Company Commander. The Vietnamese soldiers knew I would risk my life for them. They trusted me with their lives.
About three weeks after Diew took over, the 1st Company Commander came to me and laid it all out. He was requesting our intercession. The effectiveness of the battalion as a fighting force had already deteriorated and he foresaw its only getting worse.
Right at that time, we had a new Senior Battalion Advisor, Captain William Stoner. I relayed the information I had received to him. Since he was so new to the battalion, whereas I was more familiar with the situation, he had me go to Xuan Loc, 18th Division headquarters and report to Col. Walter E. Coleman, Advisor Team 87 Commander and the counterpart to the Vietnamese commanding General.
Col. Coleman listened to all I had to report then questioned me as to my evaluation of the new battalion commander’s ‘competency in the field.’ I replied that I could not tell. We had not gone on many battalion-size operations. They were mostly company-sized ones where he would stay behind. I asked the Colonel why he brought up the issue of ‘competency in the field.’ He replied that it was US policy to not interfere with the internal affairs of the Vietnamese unless they proved themselves incompetent in the field. I asked him what ‘incompetent in the field’ meant. He replied that if the Vietnamese battalion commander were to have a platoon or company be ‘wiped out,’ that would constitute being ‘incompetent in the field.’ I asked him if that might mean a company or platoon I might be with. He said, ‘That’s right, Lieutenant.’ There was nothing more to say. I said, ‘Yes Sir,’ saluted him and left.
With regards to the duration of the event, my dialogue with Col. Coleman lasted about ten minutes. The duration of Dai’uy Diew’s raping and looting of the battalion lasted until mid-May 1969, over five months. I was afraid of him the whole time. I often thought about killing him but could never come up with a feasible plan. He did more destruction to that battalion than any enemy could. If anyone’s death would shorten the war, it would be his. To this day, I think I would have killed him, given the opportunity.”