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556th LT MT - Stories

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Doug Cotts Memorial

Douglas Jon Cotts


Asheville - Douglas Jon Cotts, 65, passed away Saturday, November 21, 2009.

A native of New York City, he was the son of the late Minor and Caroline Cotts.

Doug held a B.A. from Manhattan College.

Doug was a Database Architect with AXA Equitable.

Doug was a member of the U. U. Church of Asheville.

He enjoyed steam train excursions, collected Lionel trains and train paper.

As an accomplished amateur photographer his work was often exhibited.

He supported the Symphony, the Civic Opera, the Choral Society, and the Chamber Music Series.

Surviving are his wife of 32 years, Elinor; stepson, Eric Westenburg; step-daughter, Kirsten Barnhorst and husband, Donald Jr.; brother, Daniel Cotts; and grandchildren, Lauren, Margaret, Thomas and Matthew Barnhorst, and Decker and Ashton Westenburg.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, at U.U.C.A.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the John F. Keever Solace Center, P.O. Box 25338, Asheville, NC 28813.

Asheville Area Alternative Funeral & Cremation Services is assisting the family. (828) 2588274

Published: 2009-11-27


Douglas Jon Cotts was born on 1/15/44 in Nassau county NY, city of Mineola.

He died on 11/21/09 in Buncombe County NC, city of Asheville. His ashes will eventually be put in the ground in Hardin County, IA city of Iowa Falls. We are waiting until much warmer weather in Iowa to eventually put him in the ground.


Doug was in the US Army from 1/10/68 to 12/24/69. He was given an honorable discharge with rank of SP5 and received the following Medals: NATIONAL DEFENSE SERVICE METAL, VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL, VIETNAM CAMPAIGN MEDAL AND GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL.


19 Aug 2004 – USARSUPTHAI Group - I am Doug Cotts and I served in Thailand Jan - Dec 1969: from Jan - May with the 556th Light Maintenance Company (Direct Support) at Camp Kanchanaburi and from May - Dec with the 256th Personnel Service Company at Camp Friendship, Korat. I was a clerk in the orderly room at the 556th. I OJT'ed as a computer programmer at the 256th; we were installing the PERMACAP (Personnel Management Card Processor) system the latter part of 1969. The computer was a UNIVAC 1005 that had 4K of memory (that is 64,000 times LESS memory than the PC where I am typing this e-mail). PERMACAP was the reason the Army changed over from the old Service Number (the RA's and US's) to Social Security Number as our identifier.  That was a very interesting year. Some day I'd like to visit Thailand again, probably after I retire. Best regards to all and Welcome Home! Doug Cotts


15 Feb 2005 – USARSUPTHAI Group - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] BAR CODED CARGO - Gentlemen:

It's hard to realize how far technology has progressed since we served in Thailand. During the later part of 1969 I served with the 256th Personnel Service Company at Camp Friendship, Korat. We were installing the Army's latest and greatest personnel system of that era. The local level was called PERMACAP (Personnel Management - Card Processor) which fed to the second level at Guam which fed to the worldwide Army system in Washington. PERMACAP was based on the UNIVAC 1005 Card Processor. The 1005 had 4K of memory - that's right, 4,000 positions of memory, total. I am composing this email on a PC that has 256MB of memory (64,000 TIMES more memory) and this is a 3-year old computer. Needless to say, the 1005 had no operating system and we were programming, as we said, "On the bare metal" but somehow we got useful work out of that beast. I believe some of the communications guys used the UNIVAC 1004 which was similar but used plug boards (a panel with wires that hard-coded the instructions) rather than stored programs. One weekend I got to take a class taught by our civilian UNIVAC service engineers over at Korat AFB on their UNIVAC 1050. That really seemed like rocket science at the time!  BTW, the introduction of PERMACAP was responsible for the changeover from the old Army Service Numbers (the RA's and US's) to Social Security Number as your identifier. Regards, Doug Cotts


4 Apr 2005 – USARSUPTHAI Group – Re: Letters from Home July 20 & 28 1969 Thanks to Terry W. Colvin for publishing excerpts from his letters home from Thailand. I also have the letters I sent home thanks to 1) my mother saved them, 2) she lived a long life to age 94, and 3) she lived in the same house for over 60 years so saved items remained saved. For what it's worth, here are some excerpts from two letters written in July of 1969.

July 20, 1969 - I am going on R&R tomorrow. Finally I was able to find out that the UNIVAC team would not be coming this month but would be coming at some as yet unspecified time next month. So I figured that I may as well grab the time when I could.  In some respects, this is not the best time to take R&R. Mainly, the coinage is short for a 5 day vacation – this is going to have to be bargain basement – no shopping, etc. Also the weather has been very cloudy and rainy lately. On the other hand, like I said above, may as well grab the time while it is available.  Also I’d like to visit Chiang Mai later in the year, a trip which would be expensive. So may as well take the R&R and then attempt to save some coin for the proposed Chiang Mai trip. (never happened)


While plans are subject to change as things go along, I hope to use Bangkok as a base to take side trips. One day I hope to take the train out to Nakhon Pathom to visit and photograph the huge chedi there. It is the largest and reputed to be the oldest in Thailand. Another day I plan to take the train up to Ayutthaya, see some of the outlying sites not seen on my other two visits there, stay overnight, and catch the train up to Lopburi to see the sights there before returning to Bangkok. In Bangkok itself, I'd like to walk around and photograph the very interesting area around the Royal Palace. May also drop in at the Bangkok Riding and Polo Club. While it is private, I may try it anyhow. I sorely miss riding. This proposed schedule is too tight that probably I won’t get to do everything but may as well try to get in as much as possible.  Here we are all interested in and following Apollo 11. I hope the landing, exploration, and return are as successful as the first stages of the mission. Here we have live radio and TV coverage of the events. This accomplishment of communications seems to rival the moon mission itself.

July 28, 1969 - I received your letter containing the $30.00 money order (for 2 Thai rings) upon returning from R&R. I have mixed feelings about receiving it after the trip.  Had it arrived prior you can rest assured that it would have been considered as a loan against July’s pay and promptly spent while in Bangkok! While my trip was enjoyable, the relative shortage of funds did cramp things a bit. The UNIVAC representatives arrived to give programming classes starting today.  Classes will last about a week. Unfortunately, a lot of those attending have no programming experience and no real need to learn it and that is slowing things down. Today’s class was old-hat material for me although a couple of useful
tips arose which may aid me in my work. I also have a programming project to do which will provide at least a week or two of work. It will be a very complicated job.

Over here, we are all very happy over the success of the Apollo 11 mission. It was front page news all the way. It really got people (both Thai and American) very excited and interested. American prestige received a tremendous boost – and Nixon is really playing on it. Thailand is really going all out to welcome him. A tremendous amount of decorations were erected in Bangkok. My R&R was delayed a bit, voluntarily, by Apollo 11. The actual landing was about 3:15 AM our time and I stayed up to hear the live radio broadcasts of the landing. Of course, I overslept the next morning and awoke about when the moon walk started. So I watched parts of that on live TV. While the picture wasn’t too clear, I suspect what we saw was probably about the same quality everyone else in the world got of the event. Even the house girls were watching. It was so hard to fully comprehend what was taking place. I wonder how much those simple young girls  comprehended of it. All of this delayed my departure till afternoon when I grabbed the train down to Bangkok. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent walking around selected areas of Bangkok taking pictures. I took shots at the zoo, of the fountains at the corners of the palace grounds, of children swimming in a canal, of produce barges in another canal, and around the Marble Temple. At the latter place, ceremonies were going on accepting young men into the Buddhist monkhood. It is the ideal that every man spent at least a couple of months as a monk. This seems to be the traditional time, between planting and harvest, to accomplish this ideal. I took pictures of the processions around the temple and was even invited in to observe and photograph one of the ceremonies. Due to the poor light, I don’t hold too much hope for those pictures – but maybe something will come out. That was one of the nicest gestures of friendship ever extended to me here in Thailand. I had never met those people before. With the exception of a few types who try to make a fast buck off the foreigner, the Thais have been a very helpful and friendly people. 


Thursday I took the train out to Nakhon Pathom to photograph the huge chedi there. On Friday, I traveled up to Ayutthaya to photograph the rest of the sights not visited on my two previous trips and to revisit a couple of always photogenic spots previously seen. During those trips, I tried to get more human interest shots than previously and probably succeeded. If things come out, there should be some really good pictures of this trip. On Saturday, out of time, out of film, and out of money, I returned to Korat. I squeezed one purchase out of the budget. I bought one of those two bronze horses I’ve been dickering on since April. Next trip, I’ll have to get the other if still available. So that’s it from here.


23 Apr 2005 - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] Re: Korat - 590th Supply and Service 1968

Yes, I remember the honey bear. I was serving in the 256th Personnel Service Company at the time. In a letter home dated September 9, 1969, I wrote:

"You may well remember the famous White Lake bear stories (a camping ground in New Hampshire where stories of bear sightings were generally regarded as 'tall tales'). Here, we have bear stories also but they are not tall tales. One unit down the street has a full grown Honey Bear as a mascot. The bear has been getting out of its cage quite a bit lately, almost daily the past few days, and then heading for our barracks. It can open doors either by standing up and leaning on the door or by hooking its claws around the edge and pulling the door open. Needless to say, it doesn't help morale to have a bear meandering around outside or walking down the center aisle. The other morning it got in and ate one of the house girl's lunches.


Last week, it was reported to have been sleeping in the aisle at 4AM. One of the fellows says he woke up and saw another guy sitting on top of his locker and then looked down the bed and saw the bear staring back. Somehow, I slept through all of this. Needless to say, they have to either got to fix that cage or get rid of the bear or I am moving out." Enjoy the memories! Doug Cotts


25 Apr 2005 – [USARSUPTHAI] Re: Thailand Troop Reductions


A recent posting made reference to the troop reductions in Thailand starting in 1969. Here is the context of those reductions. During 1969 there were approximately 48,000 US Servicemen stationed in Thailand. About 12,000 were Army and 36,000 Air Force. I worked in the 256th Personnel Service Company at
Camp Friendship, Korat and can vouch for the approximate number of Army personnel. The US troop reductions were the direct result of the Nixon Doctrine, first announced in July 1969 on Guam. Here is one description of that Doctrine:

“The most important issue Nixon faced when he became president was the Vietnam War. The war had begun in 1959 when Communist-led guerrillas in South Vietnam, backed by the Communist government of North Vietnam, launched an attempt to overthrow the government of South Vietnam. The struggle widened into a war between South Vietnam and North Vietnam and ultimately into a limited
international conflict in which the burden of the war fell mainly on civilians. The United States first sent military advisers to South Vietnam in the 1950s. After a report in 1964 that the North Vietnamese had attacked U.S. vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin, Congress had authorized President Lyndon Johnson to increase U.S. military involvement. The Johnson administration authorized the bombing of North Vietnam, and the first U.S. combat troops arrived in South Vietnam in 1965. By 1968 there were more than 500,000 U.S. troops there. Antiwar sentiment developed at home, and demonstrations against the war became a daily occurrence, particularly on university campuses.

Nixon had campaigned against the war, saying that he would bring U.S. soldiers back home. The protests, however, did not decrease with Nixon’s election, even though he began withdrawing U.S. combat troops from South Vietnam, in accordance with a policy announced in 1969 while he was in Guam on an Asian tour. Called the Guam, or Nixon, doctrine, the policy stated that the United States would continue to help Asian nations combat Communism but would no longer commit U.S. troops to land wars in Asia. Nixon announced that 25,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam by August 1969. Another cut of 65,000 troops was ordered by the end of the year. Nixon’s program, known as Vietnamization of the war, emphasized the responsibilities of the South Vietnamese in the war.”

The Nixon Doctrine was announced while he was on a tour which happened to coincide with the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Nixon was both meeting with foreign leaders and accepting the world’s congratulations over our technological triumph. I have previously posted excerpts from a couple of letters home that referenced Apollo 11 and the anticipated Nixon visit.

The following is from a candid letter home dated September 2, 1969 (not all of you are going to agree with some of my thoughts but that’s the way I saw it), “The talks which are soon to begin concerning U.S. troop reductions shouldn’t have any effect on me. Perhaps I should describe the situation here more fully. There are approximately 48,000 American military personnel in Thailand of whom 75% or more are Air Force. They are here in direct support of the Vietnam war, flying bombing missions over Vietnam & Laos. Although I personally would like to see a quick American withdrawal from the Vietnam mess, that is not going to happen that quickly. The South Vietnamese hopefully will be able to take over more and more of the ground fighting. But baring a quick peace settlement, which appears most unlikely, they will continue to need American air support for a long time.


Thus it would seem like these Air bases here will be needed for quite a while. It has been said that the missions could be flown out of only 2 of the bases but, even if such a decision were made, we couldn’t just close up the other bases overnight. As for the Army, we are here in a support role.  There are no combat troops here. Only the 46th Special Forces Co. is anything on that order and they are here to train the Thais. All the rest are engineers, logistics people, trucking companies, maintenance support, and the like. We help support the Air Force. While at least 3 small bases have been closed this year, it doesn’t look like a pullout. Bases here are equipped with extensive facilities in permanent buildings. Here at Korat, the facilities are far better than at Fort Gordon in the States. With so much built up, I doubt if any general pullout is in the near future. Our presence in this country employs some 50,000 people and pumps something like $50 million a year into the Thai economy. Now balanced against this, there is indeed some pressures for a
pullout. The U.S. is wisely attempting to redefine its role in this part of the world. I get an impression that this is having a distinct impact on the ruling group here. I believe them much too practical to have imagined that Vietnam would end with brass bands marching through Hanoi or anything like that. But there does seem to be a subtle disappointment with the course now being set upon of gradual disengagement. There has also been some pointed criticism leveled upon the attempt of some Senators to gain details into whatever military contingency pact was made between the Thais and the U.S. All of these things are building together and something else is coming out of it. Thailand, like the rest of the world, is changing rapidly, perhaps more quickly here than in other places. In the States, the change, or its disturbing aspects to the more conservative, is blamed on hippies, Negroes, students, etc. Over here it is the adoption of Western values by the younger generation. The leaders seem to feel that many are accepting the worst values of the West and neglecting the best in the Thai culture. This has not become anti-Americanism or anything like that but there is an undercurrent. There are a lot of targets to point out.  Bangkok, Korat, Sattahip, anywhere where there are large numbers of U.S. servicemen, prostitution is wide open and easily visible. Hell, you couldn’t miss it unless you went around with a blindfold. So there is a feeling that the U.S. presence isn’t any guarantee of future commitment plus the evils it brings along, forming into a position where withdrawal seems possible if not desirable. To cap it off, I believe that the U.S. forces will leave Thailand but gradually over a period of at least two years. In any event, I shouldn’t be affected by it.”

The troop reductions became more specific as 1969 progressed. In a letter home dated October 5, 1969 I wrote, “You must have been reading the news reports that 6,000 Americans are to be withdrawn from Thailand. Of these, 2,800 will be Army. I suspect that most will be engineers. This past week I had done a few one-time programs getting special listings and statistics which will probably be used to decide who goes and who stays.”

And in a letter dated October 23, 1969 there is another reference to the troop reductions, “Work has gotten very busy all of a sudden. That CG inspection last week was top priority (eye wash always takes precedence over real work). After that was over, it was suddenly realized that PERMACAP is supposed to be fully operational at the end of the month and we still have a lot of work to do. Also some other little jobs have come along. On top of that, the planned troop reductions call for new organization tables. So there has been a lot to do. My whole team is fairly busy all of a sudden. My job is to figure out what has to be done and then to assign the projects.”

I hope that this provides some historical context to the events we all participated in.
Regards, Doug Cotts


9 May 2005 - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] Re: Kanchanaburi Units


As a possible partial answer to my own question... The Camp Kanchanaburi sign included four insignia. Clockwise from top left they are: 9th Logistical Command, USARSUPTHAI, Special Forces and Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG). By process of elimination it seems likely that Detachment IX ARAG was part of MAAG. Regards, Doug Cotts


8 May 2005 - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] Units & UIC Codes


Based on letters home it appears that the PERMACAP system became operational in Thailand on or about 1 November 1969. I suspect that it is highly unlikely that we will find UICs in orders earlier than this date.

According to orders that I saved, the UIC for the 256th Personnel Service Company was WDFL6AAA.

Here is a memory dump of what I recall: PERMACAP (Personnel Management – Card Processor) was the lowest tier of a 3-tier computer system for managing Army personnel. It was based on the UNIVAC 1005 Card Processor. Transactions from the PERMACAP tier were forwarded to the second tier which, for us, was located in Guam. That tier was based on the RCA 301/501 computer. That tier in turn forwarded transactions up to the top tier which was located in Washington, DC.  That tier was based on the IBM 7080 computer.

PERMACAP was based on punched cards, the old 80 column IBM card. There was a master file of all Army personnel in Thailand. That file contained 3 cards for each individual. There was also a Unit Header file used to print unit names on reports. That file contained 1 card for each unit.

The UNIVAC 1005 was a small computer with 4,000 positions of memory. The main unit contained a card reader (600 cards per minute), a paper tape reader and the printer. There was an auxiliary card reader (400 cards per minute with 3 stacker select) and a card punch (2 stacker select) attached by cables under the raised floor. An IBM 093 Card Sorter and an IBM 088 Collator were also used in PERMACAP processing.

The IBM equipment was maintained by Army personnel. The UNIVAC equipment was maintained by civilian engineers who had responsibility for all UNIVAC equipment in Korat. The Air Force had a UNIVAC 1050 and, if memory serves, the Army communications guys had a UNIVAC 1004 (same as a 1005 except that it was programmed via hard wired panels instead of via stored programs).

PERMACAP processing started with the typing of orders. This was done on Frieden (sp?) machines by local nationals (LNs) hired by the Army. There were sets of cards, attached end-to-end, that contained the fixed wording of the orders.  These were fed through the Frieden machines and automatically supplied this fixed wording. The operator then typed in the variable wording of the orders (the who, etc.) and this variable wording was both printed and captured on
punched paper tape. Later the punched paper tapes were read on the UNIVAC 1005 and the data was punched onto IBM cards. These cards were the transactions used in the nightly update cycle.

The PERMACAP programs were provided to us. We just ran them as-is. We also had 3 or more programmers who handled local needs. We coded in SAAL – Single Address Assembly Language. I picked up the programming of the 1005 OJT. One of my first programs produced a 100 Day Shortimers Calendar based on one's DEROS.  In letters home, I mentioned programs we wrote that produced reports probably used to help determine who went home and who stayed when troop reductions were ordered. I also wrote some programs on the sly for one of the NCOs who was secretary of the bowling league to help him keep the league statistics.

At times we had more programmers than work so we sometimes pitched in as machine operators to keep busy. It took almost exactly one hour to read the PERMACAP master file through the main card reader (600 cards per minute x 60 minutes = 36,000. At 3 cards per man, that came to 12,000 US Army personnel in Thailand at that point in time). I was known to start a run that required reading the entire master file at a time chosen to avoid PT (But Sarge, it has another 45
minutes to go!). Ah the memories! Enjoy! Best regards, Doug Cotts



23 Jan 2006 - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] Bangkok Hotels. Found an old Bangkok map from 1969 when I was over there... It shows:

Chao Phaya Hotel as the officers' billet (shown on Sri Ayuthaya Rd)
Windsor Hotel as the NCO club
Prince Hotel as enlisted
also lists about 25 R&R hotels if anybody is interested.

The Prince Hotel was the hub of a "hub and spokes" bus system that connected the various Army bases. A bus would come in to Bangkok each morning from each base and then depart around 4pm or so in the afternoon. If memory serves, there was a bus from Camp Friendship in Korat, from Camp Kanchanaburi and also from Camp Samae San and Camp Vayama. Regards, Doug Cotts


26 Dec 2008 - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] Thai vet w/ Prostate Cancer 

Like Wayne, I never set foot in Vietnam. I flew over the place going to and coming home from Thailand. However, my pay stub (DA Form 2139) shows CZE on line 40, Income Tax Withheld, for the month I arrived in Thailand. For the month I returned home, it has CZ in line 9, No. of Tax Exemptions, and a line through line 40, Income Tax Withheld. It doesn't look like this is proof of "boots on the ground" but if you can get them to accept it and give you the benefits you deserve, go for it!
Doug Cotts
556th Light Maintenance Co. (DS), Camp Kanchanaburi, Jan - May, 1969
256th Personnel Service Co., Camp Friendship, Korat, May - Dec, 1969


24 Dec 2008 - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] Holiday Memories


There have been several postings of recollections of Christmas in Thailand. I didn’t spend a Christmas in Thailand but I have holiday memories connected with my service there.

I left for Thailand on a charter flight out of Oakland International Airport, departing December 31, 1968 with intermediate stops at Honolulu and at Clark AFB, the Philippines. Due to the International Date Line, we changed from Dec. 31, 1968 to Jan. 1, 1969 somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in broad daylight. No New Year’s Eve for us. Not even a can of 3.2 beer on the aircraft with which to celebrate. As the hours passed, we tried to imagine what our friends were doing back home as midnight arrived in each time zone in the States. It was evening of Jan. 1st when we arrived at Don Muong Airport, Bangkok. So 1969 was the year without a New Year’s.

Coming home, we left Don Muong at 5am local time, Dec. 24, 1969. There was one refueling stop at Kadena AFB, Okinawa before arriving at Travis AFB at 5am local time, Dec. 24, 1969. Again, the International Date Line was playing its tricks. We were bused to Oakland for processing. I was a draftee and for me this was REFRAD, time to go home and get on with my life. Oakland was determined to get us home for Christmas. We processed all day and all night. While my DD Form 214 gives my date as Dec. 24th, it was the morning of the 25th before we were finished and ready to go home. We were bused to San Francisco International Airport where I caught a direct flight to New York City. The stewardesses
working that flight were older women who had volunteered to work that day so that the younger women could spend Christmas with their families. I appreciated their thoughtfulness! And so I arrived late on Christmas Day, exhausted from lack of sleep, but happy to be home.

Doug Cotts
556th Light Maintenance Co. (DS), Camp Kanchanaburi, Jan - May, 1969
256th Personnel Service Co., Camp Friendship, Korat, May - Dec, 1969


24 Dec 2008 - Re: [USARSUPTHAI] USO Story. Here is my USO story. It’s not about Bob Hope or any of the entertainers. It’s more personal.

Forty years ago this week I was on leave in New York City before flying out to Oakland for transit to Thailand. I had a female friend who came from a divorced family. She had lost touch with her father six years before and felt that he had rejected her. This feeling of rejection made it difficult for her to form mature relationships. She invited me to a family Christmas party the day before Christmas. While there she asked me to try to locate her father. His last known address was in San Francisco and I was heading out there. I knew that there was nothing more important to her and so I said that I would try.

Remember, this was forty years ago. We didn’t have the internet or any of the online search tools that we take for granted today. If you lost touch with somebody and there wasn’t anyone you knew in common who might provide a link, you probably had to hire a private detective to make a search.

I flew into San Francisco the day after Christmas, giving me one partial day before having to report in to Oakland. I went to the USO in downtown San Francisco and looked through all the Bay Area telephone books. I found one name that matched, went back to the modest hotel where I was spending the night, and made a very carefully worded telephone call. It was her father. He hadn’t rejected her. He had made some poor business decisions, lost his house, everything, and had been too embarrassed to tell his daughter. By the time he had regained his footing, she and her mother had moved and so contact was lost.  He drove in to San Francisco, picked me up, brought me to his home where I met his family and was treated like royalty. Then he made a call to his daughter, re-establishing the contact that had been broken. This would not have happened unless the USO was there, in downtown San Francisco, and had all the phone directories. I always remain grateful to the USO for being there and I make at least one donation to them each year so that they can be there for today’s service personnel. Thanks a million!!

Doug Cotts (Deceased)
556th Light Maintenance Co. (DS), Camp Kanchanaburi, Jan - May, 1969
256th Personnel Service Co., Camp Friendship, Korat, May - Dec, 1969

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