"But the one time we did that, it was just a matter
of survival. It was the Tet offensive. I sent my teams over to Nha Trang
to get some people out of trouble: they got caught in some houses over
there, so we sent some men over to get them to bring our own people home,
"You guys had the plushest setup: your garrison facilities there, your
compound, that NCO club, all that stuff you had going in there when I
left. You know you had that big, padded Delta-shaped bar in the NCO club,
and you had your rock garden in the officers' club, and the fountains and
the paintings.. ."
Allen smiled at the memory. If Delta had lived a spartan existence in the
field, its garrison facilities had been La Dolce Vita. "I would hate to
say how much money went into that compound. A lot of it, of course, was
material that was procured down at Cam Ranh Bay. We had a couple of NCOs
who'd go down there and take paint and a stencil with them and walk into
the truck park where all the new trucks were. They'd stencil the bumper
numbers on the truck and get in it and drive home, but only after they'd
taken it to some other depot and filled it with air conditioners, cement,
tin roofing, or whatever we needed. The stuff was readily available. It
was there for the asking, so to speak, so we took advantage of it."
Going A Little Too Far
"The hot rumor when I left was that you were going
to build yourselves an Olympic-size swimming pool so you wouldn't have to
go the two miles to the beach for scuba and small-boat training. Did you
ever get it built?"
Allen leaned forward. "Well, we had all the equipment — cement, steel
rebars and we'd purchased the diving board in Hong Kong. We had everything
we needed to put the pool in, including the tile. We had the hole dug
right out behind the mess hall. Then somebody thought that was going a
little too far in a war zone, so we had to trade off what we had.
"The sad thing about it all was that the day after the Project closed and
they turned it over to the Vietnamese, they came through and ripped it
apart, pulled the plumbing out of the walls — ruined it in one day. They
tore the buildings down, sold the lumber, the tin and everything. About
the only thing that I salvaged out of it was — do you remember the brass
plaque on the pole in the officers' club: it said, 'The Ether Zone, built
by the Officers of Project Delta,' and listed them
all? That was
mysteriously sent to me in a package about five years ago.
I really don't know who got it or how, but it showed up in my mailbox one
day with a note that said, 'Bruiser, if anybody should have this, you
should.' Signed 'A Friend.' I have it at home in my bar.
"Our concept required that everybody give in the field. It was easy to
say, 'Give me your all,' because when we got back to camp it was, 'Don't
give me anything. Take it easy; enjoy yourself. Have fun today, because
tomorrow you're going back at it again.' I think a lot of them lived like
it was their last day on earth. They had parties — we provided the best in
food, the best in entertainment. We had the best morale of anybody around
"That's right," I agreed. "Your guys were superstars, the best individual
soldiers in Vietnam."
"They knew it too."
"When you think about it, it was really a super military organization.
There you were, a major, and you had an American Air Force lieutenant
colonel and Vietnamese lieutenant colonel working for you."
Allen chuckled, "Hangin' around anyway."
"At one time you even had a Marine Corps major general working for you."
"Yeah," Allen replied. "Jesus, that was surprising. General Anderson. He
reported in and said, 'Major, I'm op-con to you and you do what you want
with me. I'm here to help you. General Cushman said to give you every bit
of support we've got. So you have the 1st Marine Air Wing at your
disposal.' He said it kind of jokingly, but he played the game. General
Anderson moved right into the TOC with us and stayed there about two days.
He slept and ate with us; he was one of the boys, and one hell of a help.
Because, migod, we must have used a hundred-and-some odd sorties during
We broke it up about 10:30 that night. Allen's wife had called to say
that the war was over and his supper was waiting.
The next morning, he picked me up in his new car. He is the only man I
know who makes a Mark IV look like a Toyota. We started talking about
awards and decorations and, in illustrating a point about impact awards,
Allen told me one of the few combat stories that has raised the hair on
the back of my neck.
"Coffey? You remember Ed Coffey, coffee-colored Coffey?"
"Yeah, I think so. He was a kind of skinny, good-looking guy, and he
really was coffee-with-cream colored?"
"Weapons man. He was with me at Khe Sanh." (Allen commanded the first
USASF A Team at Khe Sanh in 1963.) "He was
with me several
including here at Bragg.
"Coffey was on the ground with a Ranger Company; he was a Ranger adviser.
They got into all kinds of hell; they probably got inside of two or three
battalions. They had gone up a long L-shaped ridge and made contact and
then were gonna come down the remainder of this ridge into low ground
where we could pick 'em up, to get them out of there. And they ran into
"So we started putting air strikes in, which were very effective, because
the lower portions of both sides were manioc fields, and you could see
them running around there, all over the place.
"We put in god knows how many flights — cleaned off the bottom portion of
this ridge and the spine and
the entire top portion. And in the meantime, Coffey and his
crew cleared an LZ on a little saddle, and then we started taking them
out. We probably had everybody out except 15 or 20 people.
"And do you remember Herb Siugz-da? On Okinawa he was a real wild cook;
he was Lithuanian or something like that. He came to Delta as a cook, but
ended up later in recon. He got wounded two or three times, pretty badly —
jumped out of a chopper one time, right into a pungi, one of the big ones,
that came up through his nuts and into his stomach. They put him on a
hospital ship for three months, and he came back to Delta and begged me to
let him go back out on patrol.
So we got him retrained, and goddamn, he wasn't on the ground five
minutes before he caught one right in the middle of the chest. He was on
the ground 20 minutes. After he got back from that one, he was medevack-ed
"Anyway, we'd got 'em down to probably 15 or 20 people on the ground:
Coffey and Siugzda and the little guy who helped you with Link. You