Sept 11, 1965
‘Operation Golf Course’ Clearing
NOTE: Enquirer Military writer Charles Black is in Ankhe, the Viet Nam
encampment area for the 1st Cavalry Division now en route to the
assignment. His series of articles on the Fort Benning unit will
continue as he
moves with the division to give first hand account of its activities.)
By CHARLES BLACK
-- Sp6 Roy Hernandez, whose wife and three children are waiting for his
to Columbus, is Maj. Gen. Harry W. 0. Kinnard’s secretary and
got out of the jeep I had ridden over the pass from the camp of Task
Panther in the Valley below and transferred my stuff to Hernandez’
had come over to the headquarters camp of the 101st Airborne Division’s
on business and was heading back to the 1st Air Cavalry Division camp
been out there cutting brush for four days now. Gen. Wright (Brig. Gen.
Wright, assistant division commander) got us together and made a
said that we would build the world’s largest heliport here, bigger than
Hill back at Fort Benning, and that we would do it without tearing up
because that sod was as good as having the thing paved,” Sgt. Hernandez
He told me about the
background for this unique project.
World War II, Gen. Wright was a prisoner of the Japanese for 3½
the Japanese in the Philippines marched them out
in fact, is the name the soldiers have given the project: “Operation
The project-boss job is
handed around from day to day as top
officers meet themselves coming around corners trying to get the mass
done to prepare for the arrival of some 14,000 more men.
The radio call
the one in charge is “Greenkeeper Six.”to a
patch of jungle like this and told them to build a fighter
strip,” Hernandez said.
heliport, sufficient to handle the division’s 434 ships, would be
simply cutting every vine and bush and bamboo sprout level with the
pulling out the weeds, and leaving the grass.
There aren’t enough
spare because roads and runway fills have to be built.
trucks because Route 19 has to be repaired and access roads built and
hauled. There are 1,000 1st Air Cavalry men here, however, and 500 of
day have been going out and turning a jungle into a golf course.
the second day of the project, a skillful bit of psychological warfare
was worked out which furthered the land clearing project,
Sp6 Hernandez told me.
Ron Summers, the division civil
affairs officer, is the greatest thing going around here right now.
realize what that job is back at Fort Benning, but when you get in Viet
understand it real quickly.
He got down in Ankhe and
talked to some
the next day we had 576 Montagnard refugees out helping us.
100 piastres for foremen, one from each of the villages around here, 70
piastres for each man and 50 piastres for each woman worker.
town, or they mostly ride bicycles, bring their lunches, bring their
hooks, and they really get down and trim that bamboo for eight hours,”
Part Dust, Part Mud
drove across the runway and up a road which was part dust and part mud.
were behind a broad lane of concertina wire showing the perimeter line
inner defense of the camp.
A row of flood lights was
Catholic chapel, with a red tile roof, showed red and white, over a
A native drove a car
drawn by two water buffalo along a
a Lambretti three-wheel scooter with a panel body carried an impossible
bags and boxes along the same trail, edging around the buffalo.
was lucky. Hernandez had a tent set up and a cot available for a couple
nights before Gen. Kinnard, division commander, was due.
I didn’t mind
borrowing the commanding general’s cot for a couple of nights when I
my next home would probably be -- an old French gunpit, logs and mud
into four walls with firing slits.
It was the only place where
could be slung.
All available poles had been
cut down for the existing
and there wasn’t a single tree standing in the camp area along the
old bunker is a grim reminder of what happened between Ankhe and Pleiku
The French had the 11th
Group Mobile holding Ankhe and the
systematically hacked at it until it was demoralized and the famous --
ill-fated -- Mobile Group 100 headed out on Highway 19 to relieve it
into a series of five ambushes.
The 5,000-man force, with
support, was destroyed as a fighting unit.
is different around Ankhe now, however, and the strength of the
build-up here is awe-inspiring.
Helicopter companies in the
their ships bristling with guns and rockets.
available from Qui Nhon, Pleiku, or other fields.
brigade of the 101st Airborne is in the hills looking for a fight and
have fired only one shot at the 1st Air Cavalry Division; in its first
Ankhe, a single round fired by an ambitious sniper into a general area.
sniper got away, but he hasn’t been back.
He was described as wearing
pants, sandals, green shirt and a coolie hat and as “having just
after he shot once.”
biggest single item of conversation around the camp was Operation Golf
Other topics were treating
blistered hands, the amazing way in which
officer muscles become sore from swinging a brush hook all day, and the
United States strategic plan outlined to the advance party members by
Wright in the same speech to them which set them out cutting bamboo
with such vim and vigor.