ASA, “Two Corps Red,” and the Chinook Nets
A day or two before things got serious around Kontum City, I was sent down to Pleiku to effect a constant resupply of rice needed to feed the Montagnard and Vietnamese refugees thronging the city from the countryside, and from lost positions. They were stuck in KC because QL 14 was closed, and their only way out of KC was by waiting their turn to get on the resupply Chinooks, flying empty back to Holloway. There were about 10,000 of them in the City at any given time during the offensive.
I was one of two civilian Provincial Development Officers on the Kontum CORDS team. Problem was, I had the responsibility for arranging a steady airlift, but no authority to acquire the means to do it. That I had only one option of getting it there—slung in nets under Chinooks—made the decision- making easy but made the job tougher: Chinooks were already under extreme scheduling pressure to keep the various military elements supplied. And, as I was to learn, cargo nets were even harder to come by than Chinooks were. I’d spent a previous year in the Army in-country so knew commo procedure, and had got hold of a field radio, but it still must’ve been odd as hell for the Chinook pilots, day after day, to hear this one voice begging them to secure a sortie to sling bags of rice from an open field near Holloway to the soccer field in KC. I got pretty good at climbing up the rice bags and snapping the hook but I was never able to secure a pair of goggles so also had to get good at setting the hook with my eyes closed. I wore that damned red dirt from early morning till dark, and still find traces of it between my teeth.
It got harder and harder to keep nets on hand; sometimes had to wave off a chopper I’d pleaded for because I couldn’t get hold of a net before he showed up. I went to an Officer’s Club to find somebody, anybody, connected with the Army resupply setup, who could tell me how to get a reliable supply of nets. I struck out, until a Ranger adviser said, “Try Two Corps Red, they don’t seem to have a net supply problem. Here’s their phone number.”
I called next morning. When the guy at the other end just said, “3341” or whatever the number was, rather than his unit name, I thought it sounded a little strange but I was thinking only about cargo nets. I told him my problem, he said, “I’ll get back to you.” A few hours later, the CORDS Deputy Province Senior Adviser rolled up to my landing zone and said, “You need to go meet a guy at such-and-such location in about an hour. I don’t know what he wants you for, just be straight with him.”
I scrape off as much dirt as will come off without skin, and show up on time.
“I’m with Army Security. Where did you hear about Two Corps Red, and what do you know about it?”
First thing I thought of was to be sure not to get the Ranger adviser in trouble. “I was talking to a group of people in the O-club, trying to find a supply of cargo nets. Somebody scribbled a number on a napkin and said, ‘Try Two Corps Red.’ I have no idea who it was. I thanked him and left the club. I don’t know anything about Two Corps Red, except the guy I talked to said he’d call back about the nets, but looks like he called you.”
“We know you’re with the CORDS team and you have clearances, but we have to check these things out. Do not mention Two Corps Red to anybody. Thanks for your time.”
“Can you get me any cargo nets?”
A couple of years later I was in Saigon at DAO, and ran across an old MR II unclassified phone book. I thumbed through the pages, looking for old names and offices, and suddenly, right there in front of me, there’s “Two Corps Red,” with a phone number after it. I must’ve talked in my sleep.
Rob Schwab <email@example.com>
Thursday, November 01, 2012 at 11:39:32 (EDT)