Okay, here’s something about our time there that always seemed to ring true with me. Others may have ended up with different opinions, but this was the impression I got:
A lot of good did in fact get done there, on the troop level. Those of us who went out and met the people and interacted with them, we were able to see what their obvious and immediate needs were. School supplies, games, toys for children, simple things. Families back home might put together drives to send items to the troops, which were distributed. Things like that happened, and they were frequently effective. Of course it can be argued that we should not have been there in the first place and you’d have a good argument, but that was a decision made above our pay level– we just had to make the best of the situation that was presented to us.
Things got messed up when the higher-ups wanted to get involved. No big surprise, huh? But each step higher made things more convoluted, more abstract, and layers of interpretation, assumption, and even outright stupidity got added to everything. Simple plans became grandiose gestures, with politics involved, and “experts” who wanted a piece of everything piled on.
Throwing money out the back of a plane is not too far from the truth. In order to support far-fetched “infrastructure” ideas, cash money –shrink-wrapped $100.00 bills off the presses– would be handed out to locals to spur jobs and economic growth. There was only the loosest sense of accountability for all this and it is thought that millions just disappeared– no idea where it went or what it ended up paying for. They may as well have just flown over the countryside throwing it out of an airplane.
That said, the story of tossing a whole pallet out of an airplane was a story relayed to me by a Vietnam veteran– except in his case, it wasn’t money, but propaganda leaflets. You know, “Surrender and you will be treated well”, etc. A plane was tasked to drop leaflets over a village suspected of being friendly to the North Vietnamese, and as they were dropping leaflets, they were taking fire from the ground. They had to drop all the leaflets before they could leave the area, so they just booted the whole pallet off the back of the plane and left– leaflets having been “dropped”, technically. I don’t know if the story was true, especially the follow-up that the falling pallet landed on the local Viet Cong commander and killed him… that part seems a bit too Hollywood of an ending, but who knows? I figured I’d borrow the story, far-fetched or not, for this since I liked it.
Anyhow, tune in tomorrow for the next chapter in the Anniversary Special.