August 27, 1954 when the French and North Vietnamese signed their treaty the US Army was on the ground in Southeast Asia.
We had a JUSMAG Special Operations Group consisting of three officers and about 30 E.M. The group was the Army Security Agency 327th Communications Recon Company from Japan; mostly Korean veterans. The 6920th USAFSS from Japan and the 29th Radio Squadron Mobile from the Philippines. Copies of my orders from 1954 are on file with TLCB.
We went in with four C119s loaded with supplies; rations, water buffalos and electronic equipment. We refueled in Saigon and went on to Bangkok and then we loaded our equipment onto some boxcars and headed north to Chiang Mai, Thailand (26 hours behind a wood-burning locomotive) where we set up shop in September and October 1954 and did our job about which I can't get further info from the U.S. Government. The website at <http://www.oldspooksandspies.org/> www.oldspooksandspies.org has my pictures/orders and a hotel receipt from a Chiang Mai Hotel where we stayed.
Just click on Photos and Orders under Bob "Rudy" Rudolph. We had passports and civilian clothes.
Just before us there was "Operation Vulture" which is explained in the book "Operation Vulture" by John Prados. I believe our special project was called "Snake Bite". While we were there many French escapees were making their way from Dien Bien Phu through the jungle to Thailand. We were told we did a good job and they flew us back to Tokyo in a C-54. This was known as a "Black Operation" and I cannot find any reference to our mission anywhere. We also visited several times at a home site of an American family which had some "company" personnel nearby. This was in the Maio (Hmong) tribe area near the Mekong River.
In response to the great article in the Mekong Express Mail, Volume 8, Issue 4, by Bill Jirsa, I imagine the people he did maintenance and repair work for were Army Security Agency personnel and maybe USAFSS. They all had top secret clearances and were very protective of their areas. In Vietnam during the 1960s General Abrams had to go through my friend, Sgt. Warren Noble (deceased) to gain access to one of our sites.
Our group did not receive credit (ribbons, etc.) for our mission and I would like to hear from any other US military personnel who were in SEA between 1954 and 1961. This would make our presence in the Vietnam War 1954-1975 (21 years) instead of 1961-1975. A couple more details about the US involvement in SEA 1954 includes American POWs captured near Saigon in June of 1954 and an American Airborne Ranger Group that jumped into Dien Bien Phu in November 1953 and got out on the last plane out in April 1954.
Because our era does not have any patches or ribbons that I know of (except the JUSMAG Thailand Emblem) I'm wondering if anyone else qualified for SEA service before 1959. I wear the TLCB cap, but don't know if my service qualifies for the Vietnam ribbon.
All comments, corrections and additions are greatly appreciated.
Bob "Rudy" Rudolph
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US Army/Army Security Agency (Korea 1952/53 - SEA 1954)
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