Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona on March 8, 1968 · Page 29
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Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona · Page 29

Tucson, Arizona
Issue Date:
Friday, March 8, 1968
Page 29
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Mekong Delta Trying Comeback Amid Fears Of Violence By GEORGE MCARTHUR Associated Press Writer VINH LONG, Vietnam (AP)The Communist Tet offensive virtually paralysed the Mekong Delta. Five weeks after the assaults, recovery is barely beginning and Viet Cong forces roam the countryside almost at will. Hard-won gains in the pacification program have been lost in the 16 delta provinces containing six million people, one third of South Vietnam's population. The psychological benefits of last year's elections also may be lost. The fear of a new Viet Cong offensive is so pervasive that a market has sprung up for empty sandbags. Once available for the asking, they now sell for about 10 cents each in the biggest city, Can Tho. People are building bunkers in their homes. Nobody in a responsible posi- tion hazards a guess on how much time and effort will be required to repair the damages. All say it won't be quick and it won't be easy. The delta's three biggest cities--Can Tho, My Tho and Vinh Long--and many lesser towns were badly shot up in the fighting. About half of the once charming colonial-style city of Vinh Long was destroyed or damaged. A tour of the cities and what one can see of the countryside raises little cheer. The Vietnamese and American forces in the delta are largely buttoned up in cities and towns. It has been a Vietnamese cliche for years that the present war began in the rice-growing delta and will someday end there. A hopeful development was the appointment one week ago of Maj. Gen. Nguyen DucThang as military commander of the 4th Corps, the delta area. He flew into his headquarters at Can Tho that afternoon and within an hour had two companies of rangers on an offensive patrol. The big, outspoken former chief of the pacification program then drove 30 dangerous miles, Vinh Long to Can Tho, with only two trucks as escort to prove that the road was open. Thang can't be everywhere and the Viet Cong have lapped over the low paddies like a flood. At best the South Vietnamese control major towns and nominally hold the Bassab and Mekong Rivers and much- scarred Highway 4 leading southward from Saigon. Commercial traffic on the rivers, however, is only a trickle. The Viet Cong warned the people to stay off and most of the outposts along the river have fallen, many without a shot. On one 20-mile stretch of the Mekong River, 10 of 15 outposts fell. Elsewhere the picture is similar. Trucks and buses are moving again on Highway 4 but elsewhere the roads are largely through Viet Cong territory and Viet Cong tax collection points. "There are little Viet Cong flags everywhere," said a saddened helicopter pilot who has known the delta since 1963. "Until now the Viet Cong would put them up at night and people would tear them down in the daylight. Not any more." His reaction was typical of feeling among American advisors--high and low. Rosy opti- Editorials Markets Roads To Airport On Agenda o Access Streets Discussed Today Is the city of Tucson meeting its obligation for access roads to Tucson International Airport? City officials seem to think so. The Tucson Airport Authority is doubtful. And county government leaders offered to discuss the situation to see if they can help out. Today these officials were to meet to review the problem. - The TAA fears adequate access roads will not be available to take care of traffic that 400- seat jumbo jets will generate when they begin service he in 1970 or 1971. Even with future access road plans in the works, the authority sees an immediate need for a direct route from the airport to Benson Highway, such as Tucson Boulevard. (See map page 6.) City Engineer Verne Tregonis questions justification of developing Tucson Boulevard from Valencia to the highway. City Manager Roger O'Mara wants more information. Thomas Jay, chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, and the board's legal counsel, Robert Hillock, have suggested the county help pay for a temporary road running north from the airport -- preferably Tucson Boulevard. Hillock thinks the road -- including right-of-way not yet obtained -- can be built for about $250.000. It is this temporary construction proposal that probably will take up most of the discussion today The city plans to make Valencia Road, from Country Club Road 'to Insterstate 19 (the new Nogales freeway) a six-lane thoroughfare with a 20-foot landscaped median. It is hoped this project will be completed by December, 1969. 1-19, -already completed to Valencia, joins 1-10 for a freeway route to the downtown area. South Park Avenue, running north from Valencia to 24th Street, will be a four-lane street and will be finished by early 1969. Valencia will be able to handle 30,000 cars a day while Park Avenue is set for 15,000. Also involved in the overall plan is construction of 1-710, a penetration route running from Campbell Avenue to southeast of the airport, as traffic demands. It would be the southern end of the Catalina Expressway as proposed by the Tucson Area Transportation Planning Agency. One city official suggested that for a temporary link to the Benson Highway, paving of Country Club Road might be more feasible since 100 feet of right-of-way already exists. Recently Tucson Boulevard from the airport north to Valencia Road was developed into a divided street. North of Valencia on Tucson Boulevard there exists a dirt street to Bilby Road. From there to Bantam Road, three blocks south of the highway, there is nothing but desert. Jay believes Tucson Boulevard could be made into a temporary road without any major work. "It would be' a clean and clear drive to U.S. 80," he said. Jay added that right-of-way property should be reasonable now. "We also should check the availability o£ federal funds," he said. FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 1968 PAGE 29 Sports Classified Smoke Rises After Air Strike Three Viet Cong sampans were demolished in this area after being spotted by a Mohawk crew. Flight of heli- copters can be seen in the background. Tucson Daily Citizen reporter John Riddick (left, in photo at right) gets briefed by pilot, Maj. Gordon Wagner, before they took off on patrol. (Citizen Photo by John Riddick) No 'Devils' To Help When Mohawk Finds Charley Your man in Vietnam goes on a patrol flight aboard a Mohawk with a Ft. Huachuca- trained crew. This is the second of two articles on the Delta Hawks and their mission in the Viet Cong-infested Mekong Delta. By JOHN RIDDICK Citizen Staff Writer /CAN THO - "You'll be seeing Charley and lots of them," Maj. James Bond, the Delta Hawks commander, said before the Mohawk took off. It was late afternoon and the Mohawk was going hunting for Viet Cong just west of the Can Tho airfield. Since the Tet offensive, there has been considerable activity by the Viet Cong in this area although they have been chased out of Can Tho city itself. The air base is regularly attacked with mortars and rockets which have killed two men of the 244th Aviation Company. The Americans are anxious to clear out the territory used by the VC. The pilot for the Mohawk was Maj. Gordon Wagner of Marathon, Wis., who was stationed at Ft. Huachuca as an instructor in the Combat Surveillance School for a year prior to last September. "I love flying this plane," said Wagner as it lifted off the runway and started out over the rice paddies. "It's got a great capability. "Although we have the most difficult, cotton-picking target in this country, we've also got something to keep Charley in check and a capability yet to be proven in combat to its fullest extent. "If he tries to make any mass movements, we can pinpoint him through one means or another." The rivers and canals crossed the country below us like so many irregular lines on a green checkerboard. The area to be checked was just a few miles from the Can Tho airfield. "That's where the mortars are coming from," said Wagner. "Down there are some graves that were freshly dug by the VCs. "This is a free strike zone. All of the people have been told to leave by the province chiefs and anything in there is fair game. "We were hit here this morning by ground fire. Later we called in an air strike and got three 30-to 40-foot sampans." There was still smoke drifting up from the area. The Mohawk twisted and turned over the rice paddies and then suddenly a sampan could be seen coming up a canal. Maneuvering over the area, Wagner said: "There are six sampans down there. Let's see if we can get some devils {Huey Cobra helicopter gunships) in here." Wagner reported his "sightings" to a ground racjio station and asked for the gunships. The voice at the other end said: "There is an intelligence report of one group of 300 VC, another of 400 and another of 200 in the ares. They are supposed to be in battalion strength." Wagner said: "Roger. We'll check it out." The ground station replied: "I'd appreciate it." Wagner then dived to near 'Take-Over' Plan Urged For Transit An advisory committee to the mayor and City Council will recommend that an emergency plan be developed which would enable the city "to take over" local bus companies in the event they cease operation. Meeting today, the city transportation committee also urged consolidation of Tucson's two companies -- Tucson Transit Corp. and Old Pueblo Transit Co. It said the City Council should do what it can to facilitate a merger. The two recommendations were given top priority in a list of four suggestions to the mayor and council. A third was to get a Metropolitan Transit Authority bill introduced in 1969 and the last asked the council for guidelines for the citizen's group, headed by University of A r i z o n a Professor Donald Woods. Local bus problems have occupied the committee for the last several months. It has ex- Dockers Won't Load SpockBoat NEW YORK (AP) -- Longshoremen have refused to load a ketch onto a freighter for shipment to the Virgin Islands for Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pedia trician, author and critic of the Vietnam war. amined various alternatives aimed at getting better service. Today the committee heard the manager of Tucson Transit Corp. give an optimistic view of service improvement by his company, largest of the two operating here. Harry Helterbran conceded the company has many problems to overcome. He added, however: "These things can't be corrected overnight, but it didn't get in this shape overnight either." The recommendations to the mayor and council may come before it Monday. Actually the committee's report was hi a letter of transmittal covering three subcommittee reports on alternatives to the bus problem here. Sihanouk May Support U.S. BANGKOK (UPI) -- Prince Norodom Sihanouk said Thursday night he was so angry at the Communists he may "side truly with the Americans" and turn his own job over to his pro-American military commander. Sihanouk, in a radio broadcast heard in ' Bangkok, mentioned as his possible successor Gen. Lon Nol. Bodies Of 16 Miners Discovered BELLE ISLE, La. (UPI)-Rescuers found 16 bodies today in the maze-like depths of the huge Cargill salt mine, where 21 miners were trapped by fire Tuesday. The search continued for the other victims. Clayton Tonnemaker, a Cargill vice president, came out of a rescue headquarters shack drawn and pale to tell newsmen a four-man rescue iteam found the 16 dead. "We have found 16 bodies far away from the main shaft," Tonnemaker told newsmen. He spoke so low it was hard to hear him above the whine of compressors still pumping air into the mine. Several workers at the mine entrance--friends of the victims --burst into tears. Doctors finally put them in a helicopter and took them from the scene. The bodies were sprawled in the hazy and dark recesses far back in a passageway from the mine's quarter-mile-deep main shaft. The team was the sixth rescue group to enter the huge mine since a fire wiped out the entrance to the main shaft and destroyed its elevator equip mant. Dist. 2 Woods Are Full Of Potential Udall Foes By CECIL JAMES Citizen Staff Writer If congressional hopeful Bill' Bowler, the only declared Republican candidate in District 2, is beginning to get claustrophobia it's understandable. At this early stage there seem to be enough other potential candidates for the seat to crowd the lobby of GOP headquarters. In the past Republicans have been lucky to come up with one person willing to take on the popular Democratic Rep. Morris K. Udall. But many of the GOP faithful believe 1968 may be the year to oust Udall. The Republican candidate, they say, will get a strong ride on the coattails of Barry Goldwater, the party's candidate for president in 1964 who is seeking to regain his U.S. Senate seat. Some Republicans also believe Udall's change of mind to a dovish position on the Vietnam war will work against him -- that Udall could be a victim of a "throw the rascals out" movement across the country. At any rate, Bowler, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church and an outspoken conservative, isn't going to have a free ride in the primary. There , will be at least one more candidate. He probably will have the vocal support of most party regulars but, more importantly, their financial backing. Observers believe the GOP will have to spend $60,000 to $70,000 in the effort to take away Udall's seat. Described this week as an "unannounced candidate" was Oliver Pierce, Pima County Republican chairman. Pierce is credited with doing a good job of organizing the GOP committee and is liked by most factions in the party. He recently received a boost from state GOP leaders when he was named to direct Southern Arizona efforts in Operation Broad- base, a registration drive. Also considering making the campaign is the man who tackled Udall in J966, G. Alfred McGinnis. McGinnis polled 45,326 votes to Udall's 66,813. McGinnis was reported earlier to be ready to announce his support of Bowler, but says he is encouraged by offers of endorsements and financial aid for his own candidacy. McGinnis adds quickly that he'll support Bowler if he is nominated, but he thinks the clergyman has "a lew political facts of life to learn . . . mainly about money and organization, the name of this game." By his own admission, Rex R . W a i t e , administrative analyst and property manager n the city's urban renewal division,- is eager to jump into the ampaign. The former chairman of the Eastside Young Republicans is state chairman of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, AFL-CIO. The labor group recently won formal recognition by the City Council -- a fact that won't endear Waite to some staunch Republicans. There are still other "potential candidates." One is former City Councilman James L. Kirk, who says his decision still is in the "formative" stage. Some obervers feel that if a [ight develops among party regulars a compromise candidate may result. Being mentioned as such a dark horse is Hugh W. Stewart, an attorney not too well known in the party but well liked by those who are acquainted with him. Associates say Stewart was being groomed last fall to oppose Udall but that he is not sure he can spare the time necessary for a congressional campaign. McGinnis says he'll gladly step aside if Stewart will run. How the other "candidates" feel remains to be seen. tree-top level and swoopec around for a while before pull ing up. "This area also has .50 caliber guns. You don't want to get too close." Two more sampans were slowly easing their way up a stream. "There are not supposed to be any friendlies out there," said W a g n e r . "That's Charley. They've pulled off to the side and are trying to slowly go through the bushes beside the bank." Wagner called in his findings. On the ground, the American on the radio was seated across the desk from Vietnamese who were calculating the meaning of the sightings and thinking in terms of distinguishing between friend and foe. The Mohawk flew over another river channel where there was more sampan activity moving towards a cluster of homes on the banks. This was not in the free strike zone. And then back in the strike zone, another sampan was struggling through some sort of growth in a canal. "There's another guy down there," said Wagner. "This place is filthy with them." The ground station said that the Cobras were occupied with more urgent matters and unavailable for a strike. "We'll fire some artillery," said the station. 'It'll take us 05 (5 minutes) to crank it up. Give me coordinates." Wagner gave them. White smoke came up near two sampans -- but not near enough. Four more rounds were fired, but the artillery was out of range. "When you see that much activity in this place, there's a hell of a lot of them down there," said Wagner. But by now it was sunset and the Mohawk returned to the field. The next day in the area to the west of the Can Tho airfield an element of the U.S. 9th Infantry Division came in contact with Viet Cong in battalion strength. There were 16 Americans killed, 42 wounded and seven helicopters shot down. mism is hard to find in the deJ- ta. American officials now speak freely--but privately--of bureaucratic scandals previously swept under the rug. One such is the province of An Giang where "the province chief went nto a state of shock although a hot wasn't fired." He clamped a 3 p.m. curfew and with- rew his forces to the towns, saving the countryside to the iet Cong. There were other provinces nd towns where the South Viet- amese forces were first-rate. Vhere the leadership was good, he local forces frequently per- ormed stoutly. "We were taken completely by surprise," one ranking prov- nce official admitted. Another said it could happen again. The Communists are known to have held back part of their striking power and allied .ntelligence in the delta is, admittedly, worse now than be"ore. "Our antennae will be a bit better tuned, we hope," added one American adviser. The major American advisory :ffort is directed toward getting lie South Vietnamese forces again on the offensive, out in he countryside hunting down v'iet Cong forces. Some Ameri- ans want to take the South Vietnamese out of the pacifica- ion business entirely--half their lattalions were supposedly guarding pacification projects jefore Jan. 31. One problem is that half of iaigon's forces were on leave or Tet--the lunar new year--at he time of the Communist at- acks. Nobody yet knows how many came back, but it was es- ablished that South Vietnamese units are all understrength, many seriously so. The 59-man pacification teams on whom so much depended are also a question. When the attacks came 205 teams were in the delta. Now 115 teams are in their original areas, but some number only a handful of the stout-hearted. There were 15 battalions on pacification tasks when the Red offensive started. Six remain in Revolutionary Development areas. When the Communists struck Jan. 31 there were one Ameri- ·an and three South Vietnamese divisions in the delta, along with angers, militia forces and other small units. Counting the poke, the South Vietnamese and Americans had perhaps 200,000 men--at least on paper. The Viet Cong forces are estimated o have numbered far less than half that. No regular North Vietnamese units had been infiltrated into the delta. As the South Vietnamese have resisted th^ stationing of American units here, the Viet Cong have opposed intervention by their northern allies. Without the intervention of arge American reinforcements --plus sweeping command and )ureaucratic changes--it is dif- "icult to see how the American advice to be "more offensive" can bear much fruit- As it is now, the Communists lold the offensive and are con- olidating their victory. They are recruiting young men at a rate which raises fear among American officers. American pessimism can be measured in one official's estimate of the Red offensive's goals. He gave these aims which he thought the Viet Cong loped to achieve: --To put the South Vietnamese on the defensive. --To harass the roads and isolate the district towns. --Create an economic blockade by halting the normal flow of agricultural products. --To accelerate their own recruiting. --To restrict airfield activity by mortar attacks and to damage American aircraft and air activity. --To eliminate the troublesome outposts which dotted the area, particularly along the janks of the major rivers and canals. --To prepare the way. for another offensive. By the account of American officials on the scene all these goals were accomplished except the last, which is still under way. \

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