LTC ALFRED J. CADE
I try to not tell the names of people that I saw do things not done in the way I would have done them. On the same note, I try to give full credit to people that I saw do great things in a good manner. One of the best I worked for during my time on Active duty was one of the most professional people I ever met. As I found out later, he went on to be a Two Star Major General in the Army and then sat on the board of Directors for many Companies. Here is that story.
I was inducted into the Army in September 1966 and spent until January 1968 training for my eventual deployment to Vietnam. Most of my training was excellent on the technical side but lacked specifics on what we were expected to do in Vietnam. The only exception to that was the two weeks I spent in Panama in 1967. On many occasions I wondered aloud what the hell we were doing that had anything to do with getting ready for Vietnam. The absolute worst thing in all of it was the training an Artillery Battalion at Fort Irwin for deployment to Vietnam. We actually had to pass a Nuclear Weapons proficiency inspection to get certified as combat ready knowing there weren't any Artillery nuclear weapons in Vietnam at the time. My main mantra was train like you were going to fight and in a lot of ways we either didn't or couldn't.
I deployed with a towed, 155mm Howitzer Battalion as a Forward Observer and the Battery Supply Officer. Unless you have issued every stick of equipment, trained with it and then boxed it up for deployment, you have no idea how much crap a unit has. I am sure there is somewhere in the archives a record of the tons of stuff we issued and someone wondering how we managed to lose most of it in such a short time.
The first night in the field for that battalion, we were mortared with about 30 rounds and with several killed and at least 50 wounded. Most of the guys were sleeping on cots and we hadn't completed our bunkers when the rounds started falling. The first error was to put a Battalion in a formation all in one field and with little adult leadership. There wasn't much energy for immediately building bunkers and we paid the price for our ignorance. I am not sure who was responsible for that mess but I am pretty sure the Battalion Commander of that unit didn't last much longer there than I did. I left that unit so disillusioned that I really could have been transferred full time to an Infantry Unit and been more happy. The infusion program moved me about a week after the mortar attack and I was never so glad to be out of there as I was when I got to Pleiku and met our new commander, LTC Alfred J Cade.
LTC Cade met me the first day and told me that we had to resupply the forward Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) at Dak To. During TET it had been pretty much wiped out. He was sincere in asking me if I could devote the next few months as the Battalion Ammo officer to help him get that mission done. Roger Out! I had the 5-Ton Ammo trucks from most of the Battalion and Service Battery there to make daily convoys from Pleiku to Dak To. As most of our batteries in the 1st Bn, 92nd FA were drawing their Ammo out of the Dak To ASP and it took about 400 rounds daily just to keep that ammunition supplied. Our Goal was to increase the flow of ammo forward until we were at least a couple of months ahead of the daily use.
Over the next two months, I spent my time either in a jeep drawing ammo, leading our portion of the convoy north or flying air cover as the convoy did it's thing. I don't remember much about the tent there on Artillery Hill as I spent only about one night a week in that bed. Most of the time I was in the seat of a jeep if sleep was to be had. The daily grind was to run a convoy to Dak To, return, pickup the paper work for the draw, go the Pleiku ASP and fill our trucks with ammo and go back to the convoy start point the next morning. If I was lucky, there was time to go back past the the orderly room and pick up my mail. I would also draw enough C-rations to feel us for the day. After the road was cleared, we would make the run to Dak To and back Repeat, until we had rounds complete.
During this time, I pulled duty in the Battalion Tactical Operations Center (TOC) once every two weeks. It was during that duty, I got to meet Colonel Cade up front and personal. Sometime during the evening he would come in and spend time talking to the junior officers and catching up on the battalion log. He would on most nights send a runner down to the enlisted men's club and have a six pack of beer brought back to share with those on duty. The limit was two beers while on duty. He had a calm way of bringing peace to the chaos of the day. I probably learned more in those informal sessions that I did in the first year in the Army. Not specific tactics, but how to talk to people and provide leadership and guidance to those of us that needed it. I can tell you that I never questioned anything he said or did because of the calm assertive way he did things. I didn't suffer fools gladly and he was clearly no fool.
As our convoys wound their way up through Kontum to Dak To, there were several places where the Viet Cong had ambushed our convoys. For some reason, when I was with out trucks, the part of the convoy that got ambushed was always in a different part of the convoy. When we were at the back, the front would get attacked. If we were at the front, the back of the convoy would get attacked. That continued until tone day when I was in a Bird Dog or small 2 place airplane and flying over the convoy. Right ahead of my trucks, the VC opened up with a few machine guns and an Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) I contacted the battery in Kontum and had them on line very quickly. We fired on the ambush position and on an OP located on top on a nearby mountain. The only time we had to stop firing was when the gun ship or fast movers were on station to drop bombs or make gun runs on the enemy. I also saw a bunch of the VC moving back away from the ambush and I brought fires on them. About the time we needed to go over to the airfield to refuel, LTC Cade flew up by helicopter and continued the fires until we could get back on station. One of my drivers jumped out of his truck and ran up to the ambush site. He was wounded in the leg and the only casualty in one of my convoys that I knew about.
I read the after action report in the 1st Field Force Artillery information last year. For some reason while I was mentioned, the Battalion Commo officer and LTC Cade were mentioned for their efforts and were awarded medals. I got squat but I did survive. The morale in my unit was about as high as it could be and we continued the mission until we had everything we needed in the ASP. After that, we made only a weekly run to Dak To and I moved on to several other things.
Later on, I would catch glimpses of Col Cade's career I read that General Cade had a great career in the Military and I'm sure he was the kind of leader that we all wished every unit had. I was always proud that I had had a chance to meet him and see what real leadership could be. By the way, General Cade was a Black officer and I am sure that he would tell you that we were all green soldiers and he would treat every soldier the same way. I am proud to have served with him and learned a lot from his calm assertive leadership style.