Interview with Bert R. Francis and Arlayne Francis, January 18, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - Strategy in I Corps / Convoy

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Partial Transcript: The following is an unrehearsed interview with Lieutenant Colonel Bert Francis for the University of Kentucky Libraries Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.

Segment Synopsis: Bert Francis is introduced. He talks about the United States military's strategy and bases in the I Corps in Vietnam and the issues they faced. He describes taking a large convoy from Chu Lai to Phu Bai.

Keywords: "Rough Riders"; 1965; 1966; Attacks; Battery commanders; Chu Lai (Vietnam); Communication; Convoys; Equipment; Phu Bai Combat Base (Vietnam); Support; Territory; Weapons

Subjects: Military bases.; Strategy; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.

00:06:36 - General Westmoreland's strategy in Vietnam--Part I

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Partial Transcript: During your first tour of duty in 1966 and 1967, the Marines con, conducted a number of military operations in the I Corps area...

Segment Synopsis: Francis discusses his opinions on General Westmoreland's strategy in Vietnam and why he believes it was ineffective. He compares Westmoreland's strategy to General Krulak's. He talks about the difficulty of measuring success during the war.

Keywords: Aggressive; Battles; Body count; Bronze Star; Charles C. Krulak; Conflict; Disagreement; General William Westmoreland; Guerrilla warfare; I Corps (South Vietnam); I Corps (Vietnam); Jungle; Khe Sanh (Vietnam); Military operations; North Vietnamese Army (NVA); Statistics; Success; Tunnels

Subjects: Strategy; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.

00:11:08 - Vietnam War commanders

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Partial Transcript: The Commanding General of the Marine Corps forces in Vietnam from January of 1966 until May of 1967...

Segment Synopsis: Francis talks about some of the other leaders of the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, including Commanding Generals, Deputy Commanding Generals, and other commanders. He talks about his personal interactions with some of these leaders.

Keywords: Air Force; Cincinnati (Ohio); Commanding Generals; Deputy Commanding Generals; Herman Nickerson, Jr.; Keith McCutcheon; Lewis Fields; Lewis Walt; Lowell English; Opinions; Recruiting; Recruitment; Robert Cushman, Jr.; Shooting badges; Uniforms; Wood B. Kyle

Subjects: Strategy; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.

00:15:58 - General Westmoreland's strategy in Vietnam--Part II

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember any discussion about General wors--Westmoreland's impatience with the tempo of Marine operations during your first tour in Vietnam?

Segment Synopsis: Francis talks more about his opinions on General Westmoreland's strategy in Vietnam and why he believes it was ineffective. He talks more about the difficulty of measuring success during the war, and how body counts were really the only measurement available. He describes some of their tactics in combat and reconnaissance.

Keywords: 1966; Artillery; Battery; Bodies; Body counts; Captains; Effectiveness; Enemy; First lieutenants; General William Westmoreland; Harassing; Howitzers; I Corps (South Vietnam); I Corps (Vietnam); Impatience; Killed in action (KIA); Measurements; Military operations; North Vietnamese Army (NVA); Reconnaissance; Rounds; Statistics; Success; Territory; Tunnels; Underground; War of attrition; Weapons; Wounded in action (WIA)

Subjects: Attitude (Psychology); Combat.; Leadership.; Military supplies; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Equipment and supplies.; War casualties.; Weapons.

00:28:14 - Artillery support, air support, and ground operations

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Partial Transcript: How important was artillery support to the Marines during these ground operations?

Segment Synopsis: Francis talks about how he was part of the artillery, which supported the infantry. He also talks about how the air support often prevented them from assisting the infantry, and how the air support often endangered his battery. He talks about the coordination of the various parts of the Marine Corps as compared to other branches of the military.

Keywords: Air support; Artillery support; Attitudes; Bombing; Camp Carroll (Vietnam); Casualties; Ceasefire; Coordination; Firing; Ground operations; Infantry; Medical evacuation (Medevac); Pilots; Reconnaissance; Rounds

Subjects: Combat.; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; War casualties.; Weapons.

00:35:18 - Types of missions and operations

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned, um, uh, you had different firing missions.

Segment Synopsis: Francis describes the various types of missions his battery performed in Vietnam, including fire missions, direct support, and more. He describes some particular missions, and discusses his familiarity with some of the more well-known operations during the Vietnam War. He talks about preparation for missions and how they and the enemy both obtained intelligence. He talks about never being sure which civilians on the base were enemies, and talks about the use of children as spies. He briefly mentions again General Westmoreland's strategy and lack of awareness of the realities of the war in Vietnam.

Keywords: Appearance; Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN); Awareness; Barbers; Battles; Casualties; Charles C. Krulak; Children; Contingencies; Direct support; Effectiveness; Enemy; Fire missions; Firing; General William Westmoreland; Infantry; Information; Intelligence; Joint operations; Khe Sanh (Vietnam); Knowledge; Liaisons; Lost; Maps; Military operations; Missions; Operation Double Eagle; Operation Utah; Opinions; Planning; Preparation; President Lyndon Johnson; Reconnaissance; Reputations; Robert McNamara; Spies; Viet Cong (VC); Vietnamese

Subjects: Attitude (Psychology); Civilians in war.; Combat.; Leadership.; Politics and war.; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; War casualties.; Weapons.

00:50:54 - Vietnamese villages--Pacification vs. search and destroy

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Partial Transcript: I read somewhere that part of the strategy in I Corps was something called pacification.

Segment Synopsis: Francis talks about the strategy of pacification in the villages in Vietnam. He talks about attempting to earn the trust of the villagers in order to obtain information about the enemy. He also discusses another tactic, search and destroy, during which villages would be raided for enemies hiding within. He talks about some of the guerrilla tactics used by the enemy which made them hard to fight.

Keywords: Anthony Zinni; Army; Bicycles; Children; Combined Action Company (CAC); Destruction; I Corps (Vietnam); Information; Medical assistance; Military operations; Pacification; Relationships; Search and destroy missions; Spider holes; Tony Zinni; Trust; Tunnels; Villagers; Villages

Subjects: Attitude (Psychology); Civilians in war.; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; War casualties.

00:57:37 - Vietnamese villages--Customs and diseases

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Partial Transcript: Well describe and tell me about the Vietnamese people you encountered.

Segment Synopsis: Francis describes his impressions of the Vietnamese villages and the people living there. He talks about the lack of sewage systems and clean water which led to various diseases. He talks at length about some of the customs of the Vietnamese people which the American soldiers had to learn and respect in order to maintain relationships with the villagers.

Keywords: Animals; Attacks; Beliefs; Betel nut; Boats; Brotherhood; Burial; Cam Lộ Combat Base (Vietnam); Cameras; Cats; Cholera; City; Customs; Da Nang (Vietnam); Diseases; Dogs; Dysentery; Encephalitis; Food; Gravesites; Languages; Malaria; Monsoon season; Mortars; Mosquitos; Photographs; Prostitution; Rats; Sacrifice; Sewage; Sex work; Singing; Snakes; Spirits; Syphilis; Teaching; Tunnel rats; Tunnels; Vietnamese; Villagers; Villages; Water

Subjects: Attitude (Psychology); Civilians in war.; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; War casualties.

01:12:50 - Vietnamese villages--Relationships with civilians

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Partial Transcript: Could you tell what the social fabric was?

Segment Synopsis: Francis continues to describe his impressions of the Vietnamese villages and the people living there. He talks more about some of the customs of the Vietnamese people which the American soldiers had to learn and respect in order to maintain relationships with the villagers. He talks about some specific interactions between American soldiers and the Vietnamese civilians, both positive and negative.

Keywords: Allegiance; Ancestors; Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN); Attitudes; Bases; Children; Christmas; Coconuts; Combined Action Company (CAC); Connections; Customs; Derogatory terms; Enemy; Family; Food; Friendly; Government; Hearts and minds; Help; Laundry; Marshmallows; Meals; Racial slurs; Social fabric; Soldiers; Success; Treatment; Trust; Viet Cong (VC); Villagers; Villages

Subjects: Attitude (Psychology); Civilians in war.; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; War casualties.

01:25:38 - Defenses at bases in Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: Describe the base at Phu Bai for me.

Segment Synopsis: Francis describes the base at Phu Bai and the base at Camp Carroll, and describes in detail the layout of these bases and their defense systems. He talks about the types of equipment and weapons they had, and how they were arranged. He talks about how the enemy learned the layout of their bases.

Keywords: Aiming; Air strips; Aircraft; Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN); Artillery; Bases; Battery; Camp Carroll (Vietnam); Children; Defenses; Firepower; Grenades; Guns; Infantry; Intelligence; Knowledge; Layout; Learning; Machine guns; Phu Bai Combat Base (Vietnam); Pistols; Reaction company; Safety; Security; Vehicles

Subjects: Attitude (Psychology); Combat.; Leadership.; Military bases.; Military supplies; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Equipment and supplies.; War casualties.; Weapons.

01:39:56 - Terrain in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)

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Partial Transcript: Did you spend most of your first tour then up near the DMZ?

Segment Synopsis: Francis describes the many types of terrain in the DMZ. He talks about how the seasons changed the terrain and the difficulties of living and fighting in this area.

Keywords: "Battle rattle"; Cam Lộ Combat Base (Vietnam); Camp Carroll (Vietnam); Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); Khe Sanh (Vietnam); Monsoons; Mountains; Phu Bai Combat Base (Vietnam); Rice paddies; Sand; Sawgrass; Seasons; Streams; Terrain; Vegetation; Weather

Subjects: Combat.; Military bases.; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.

01:44:07 - Construction of Camp Carroll

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Partial Transcript: Did you help build Camp Carroll in Cam Lo or where there already there?

Segment Synopsis: Francis talks about being part of the battalion that constructed Camp Carroll as an alternative to Cam Lộ which became flooded during the rainy season. He describes the process in great detail. He talks about the types of equipment and weapons they had, and how they were arranged. He tells stories about their mess hall being destroyed, building showers, a cobbled together washing machine, and insects in the camp. He talks about discipline and morale among his men. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: "Strongbacks"; Battalions; Beards; Building; Bunkers; C-Rations; Cam Lộ Combat Base (Vietnam); Camp Carroll (Vietnam); Centipedes; Communication; Conditions; Construction; Discipline; Distance; Firing; Food; Insects; Khe Sanh (Vietnam); Locations; Mail; Mess halls; Mess tents; Morale; Mountains; Moving; Phu Bai Combat Base (Vietnam); Rice paddies; Roads; Shaving; Showers; Tents; Troops; Vehicles; Washing machines; Water

Subjects: Combat.; Leadership.; Military bases.; Military supplies; Strategy.; Tactics; United States. Marine Corps--Military life; United States. Marine Corps--Officers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Equipment and supplies.; War casualties.; Weapons.