chapter  10
19 Pages

Casualties and Pacification, 1966/7

On 17 December 1966 I flew to Hong Kong where I stayed two nights and had good talks with several journalists, including my old friend Bernard Kalb, who was at the time a CBS television correspondent whose mandate covered Vietnam. Upon my arrival at Saigon’s Tonsonhut airport on the morning of 19 December, I was met by John Negroponte, a bright, wellinformed, but cautious and reserved embassy political officer whom Bill Bundy had asked to meet me, reserve a hotel room and arrange transportation for me inside the country.1 With his assistance I was able to clear the various South Vietnamese bureaucratic impediments at the airport and proceed into the city. He introduced me to a couple of other US government people, clearly in intelligence. Negroponte had a good command of the Vietnamese language and was kind enough to accompany me and translate a few hours of the proceedings of a couple of meetings of the largely docile Constituent Assembly – most of whose members had been thoroughly intimidated by the ruling junta led by the head of the airforce, Nguyen Cao Ky (as prime minister) and General Nguyen Van Thieu (as president). But he left me alone and did not interfere with my own agenda, as I developed it.