General Westmoreland's Houseboy
(and VC Spy) Talks

A Story from

A Saigon Party:
And Other Vietnam War Short Stories

by Diana J. Dell

My favorite assignment as a Viet Cong spy was being General Westmoreland's houseboy at his luxurious living quarters in Saigon. I was with the General before, during, and after Tet of 1968.

To tell you the truth, I sort of liked the guy, a great big dumb bear of a man. Be that as it may, no matter how I felt, I had a job to do for my country.

My most difficult assignment was to try to warn him about what was going to happen in late January of 1968.

I am aware that sounds stupid on our part, but Hanoi's high command was terrified that the Tet surprise could be too good and General Westmoreland would be replaced by an individual with some brains.

To remark that General Westmoreland was thick is a gross understatement.

Truly, our high command sent copious signals his way via captured documents that GIs “found” while on patrol. One important set of papers we purposefully planted was a requisition order for laundry services in over 65 towns all over Vietnam for battalions of NVA (North Vietnamese Army) troops arriving on the eve of Tet. Hanoi also announced that we were going to celebrate Tet early. A press release was even sent to Westmoreland's public relations office. How many more clues could we possibly drop in his lap?

Westmoreland examined the documents and barely peeped at the press release. He merely yawned and continued writing in his diary, "Nothing important happening. The enemy is still afraid to come out and fight."

While he sat in his office jotting in that stupid diary of his, I continued dusting the statue of the Vietnamese Hero, Nguyen Hue, who had surprised the Chinese on Tet in 1789. It was one of the most famous military feats in our history.

All of our VC agents in Saigon had plastic statues of the famous hero on the dashboards of their autos and pedicabs. You could not walk two feet without seeing his likeness.

Perplexed, I urged the General to tell me once again the story of Nguyen Hue, which I had initially related to him.

Westy sighed, “Oh, okay. Once upon a time, many centuries ago, the cruel Chinese, exactly like the Commie ones today, ruled Vietnam. Then in 1789, along came the mighty Tay Son leader by the name of Nguyen Hue. Well, sir, after force marching his troops up the coast into the Red River Delta, he completely surprised a much larger Chinese army near Hanoi. He attacked on the fifth day of Tet, while the Chinese were sleeping off the food and wine from the festivities. And everyone lived happily ever after."

He repeated the story of the 1789 Tet surprise to me, who kept pleading to hear it again, at least 20 times in the week preceding the Tet of 1968 surprise. Still nothing registered in his obtuse skull.

I was at a loss. So, I started talking about the North Vietnamese military leader, General Giap, who was a history teacher, and his favorite all-time hero was Nguyen Hue, the famous Vietnamese general who pulled a big, big, big surprise on Tet. Furthermore, I added, General Giap proclaimed in each of his speeches that history repeats itself.

There was silence after the mention of General Giap’s name. I thought to myself, he has got it, by Jove, I believe he has got it.

Nonetheless, he stared at me with those blank eyes and asked, "I wonder why General Giap wants the North to celebrate Tet early? Maybe he's becoming tired of war and plans on surrendering. I wonder what he has in mind, the little yellow Commie devil?"

Wanting to shake him until his teeth rattled, I decided to play word association with him. He loved that game and we played it often.

I yelled, "Surprise!"

Westmoreland shot back, "Birthday!"

I screamed, "Attack!"

He bellowed, "Heart!"

I screeched, "On!"

The General countered, "Off!"

I shrieked and positively wanted to slap him silly, "Tet!"

Westy quickly responded, "Marilyn Monroe!"

The Hanoi high command was unequivocally terrified that our victory would be so huge that President Johnson would send this idiot packing and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would send a bright one in his place, a general who knew what he was doing. It was up to me to try my damnedest to help him out.

I asked him, "If you could pick one holiday that the enemy would attack on, what would it be?"

He smugly responded, "My birthday." Which, by the way, had been a month earlier. Gees, this nincompoop was trying my nerves.

"Pick another day, General."

He guessed December 7, Columbus Day, Valentine's Day, and Ground Hog Day. I knew he would go through every American holiday, so I stopped the game-playing and strolled into the kitchen to dry some dishes and contemplate. After a few thoughtful moments, I put the dishtowel down and walked back into his office.

As bluntly as I could, I rhetorically inquired, "General Westmoreland, do you think it could be possible that the VC and NVA might attack 65 towns and cities including Saigon during Tet?" Holding my breath, I waited.

To my astonishment, he erupted into laughter until tears rolled down his cheeks. Slapping me on the back, he bragged that he had studied Napoleon, Rommell, and Julius Caesar at West Point.

I probed deeper, "At West Point do they teach about any Asian military leaders or battles such as the one that Nguyen Hue waged, the Tet surprise of 1789?"

The General was emphatic. "Negative. It is of no importance. Different time, other ignorant people." Without missing a beat, he added, "Everyone, from scum privates to those jackals in the media, calls the Vietnam War 'Westy's War.' And, by God, everybody has to play it by my rules. You are an uneducated Vietnamese person. Just leave the war games to me and the experts in Military Intelligence."

Stunned into silence, I felt like Comrade Kane on his deathbed, but instead of the word "Rosebud" forming in my mind, the word "oxymoron" flashed through my brain.

That night, after the General got settled down to watch a Three Stooges’ movie (Moe was his favorite), I rang up my contact, Comrade Mimi who owned a bar, and assured her that the Tet attack was going to be a complete surprise, more than we hoped for, as far as the General was concerned. It would go down in history as the biggest military surprise against the Americans since Pearl Harbor, only this time the opposite would happen. Pearl Harbor got the Americans into the war and this attack would force them out.

"Gads, what if Westy's replaced before the war's over?" Mimi was frantic. "Oh, well, surely he'll put the blame elsewhere and stay put. I'm crossing all my fingers and all my toes. Oops, I hear my other phone. Gotta run. Do drop by for a drink real soon. Chou, Darling."

Immediately after Tet, some bozo at military intelligence, one of the West Point men Westmoreland referred to as his "brightest whiz kid," wanted to spread the story that most of the newsmen were on an acid trip during Tet. Because of this, they hallucinated and imagined they saw the VC attack the American embassy, but it was, in reality, a bunch of Korean GIs loaded to the gills who mistook Ambassador Bunker's chancellery for the Kremlin. Besides that, the spinmeisters wanted to leak to the right people that most of the newsreel footage was from some left-wing Commie movie studio in Hollywood.

Trying to calm down a getting-out-of-hand situation, I suggested to the General that he simply confess the truth to President Johnson. "Be honest. Tell LBJ that you were totally surprised by the enemy. And that it won't happen again."

If looks could kill.

The General bellowed at me, "Are you crazy, boy? How do you think I would appear in the history books? Me, who received an A+ at West Point for the course 'How To Turn a Debacle Into a Great Victory.' The first thing my staff will do, after our golf game, is write a 1000-page report using military terms. No one in Congress will read it, but everyone will glance at it and assume by its weight that it is an important document. This will all blow over. I shall return to the States a war hero. I shall become the Army Chief of Staff. I shall conduct the military worldwide. I shall return. In due course, the military community will vehemently blame the press and antiwar movement for any defeats in Vietnam, including Tet. Mark my words, I shall come out of this a war hero. War is a chess game and I am one of the knights."

There is not much more for me to report about my role as VC houseboy. Yes, there is one thing: Simply put, you Americans are damn lucky Westmoreland was not in charge of World War II. If he had been, you would all be speaking German and Japanese right now.

A Saigon Party:
And Other Vietnam War Short Stories

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The Vietnamese Rock Star Interview on AFVN

Yolanda's Favorite Beggar

Saigon Rumors

General Westmoreland's Houseboy (and VC Spy) Talks

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A Saigon Warrior's Journal

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The Literary Hootch, Part 2

The Literary Hootch, Part 3

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Vietnam War Destinations, Part 3

Vietnam War Destinations, Part 4

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Vietnam War History, Part 2

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Vietnam War History, Part 4

Vietnam War Research Material, Part 1

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Vietnam War Research Material, Part 3

Vietnam War Research Material, Part 4

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Vietnam War Books, Part 1

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World War II Films (Part 1)

World War II Films (Part 2)

Memories Are Like Clouds

A Saigon Party:
And Other Vietnam War Short Stories

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