Cpt Smiff

I really can't remember his name so I will make up one to protect what then was the guilty.  I met the good Captain in Vietnam when I first got assigned to a new unit.  I had gone over on the USNS Geiger with the battalion and to prevent the entire unit going home on the same day, they infused us to all the units in the 42nd and 51st Artillery Groups.  Man was I a winner with getting assigned to the 1st Bn, 92nd Artillery in Pleiku.  Their professionalism was driven by a great Black Lieutenant Colonel Alfred J. Cade.  He went on to be a Major General and deserved more.

Well, back to CPT Smiff.   As the Battalion Signal Officer in Vietnam, he really didn't have a lot to do.  In the USA the guy would plan on the emplacement of wires and make sure the battalion could communicate.  In Vietnam, I don't remember any wire except inside the perimeter of our headquarters.  Needless to say, he spent a lot of time smoking and joking.  I think he pulled a tour of duty at night in the Battalion TOC once a week.  What that meant was that he slept on a cot in the Headquarters after he sent the duty runner down to the EM club for his two beers.  Ok, three beers if you counted the one that was shared by the duty dog.  That was the old dog that hung around the headquarters and loved to share a beer.

I had very little contact with the good Captain except for once or twice we shared the duty of Class A Agent.   We would go over to Camp Inari and draw a couple of thousand dollars worth of Military Pay script and several thousand of Piasters that the soldiers could spend on the economy.  If you are stationed way out in the hills and valleys of Vietnam, the Military Pay Script was virtually worthless.  Most of the soldiers would take a small payment in piasters or nothing at all.  Normally the Class A Agent Officers would get a helicopter and leap frog to the forward areas and then meet up that night to go back to Pleiku. 

One very strange trip was one where we had a battery so far north that we both wound up there and abandoned by the helicopter because of bad weather.  The Camp was known as Dak Pec and it was right next to a runway and a Special Forces camp.  We were told that the helicopter would go back to Dakto and pick us up as early as the weather would break in the morning.  Basically we were there with out any of our personal stuff and slept where ever there was a vacant bunk.  Both of us had a pair of armed guards.  I think their main duty was to keep us from playing poker with other people's funds. 

The next day the helicopter picked us up and took us back to Pleiku.  Someday I will retell the story of the helicopter that auto rotated in and barely kept from crashing but not today.   The next month I went back up North to pay that battery and they said they were clad that CPT Smiff wasn't with me.  It seems that one of the guys in the bunker that CPT Smiff shared woke up with a bunkmate named Smiff.  Nothing was ever reported that I knew of and who was I to complain?

I was assigned out as a Forward Observer for about two months and when I got back to Pleiku I was told that the good Captain's smokers cough was finally diagnosed as Lung Cancer and he was transferred to Japan where he promptly died.  I always did wonder if that was the first rounds of HIV and what was called the White death in Vietnam.  The report was that if you got it, you never went home alive.  But, who was I to know. 

MUD - Reporting on Vietnam, 1968

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