Letters From Vietnam
Lieutenant Colonel Roy Couch, 5ID Deputy Senior Advisor

September 26, 2003

Dear Tin,

I do remember my late husband, Roy Couch, mentioning General Hieu in letters and in tapes he sent us. Roy held Gen. Hieu in high regard and Roy felt honored to have served with the General. So many years have passed since that period of time, thrity-three years ago February 7th, it is hard for me to remember any particular detail that Roy said about Gen. Hieu.

Roy's first assignment in Vietnam was with the 5th ARVN Infantry Division as an Advisor to the 9th Regiment in III Corps in July 1969. I believe that was in the Province of Binh Long. Colonel John Hayes and Roy both went to 5th ARVN Division Headquarters on October 26, 1969, and began working with General Hieu.

Roy wrote to me every day while he was in Viet Nam, of course I kept those letters. I have re-read the letters Roy wrote to us beginning on July 1, 1969, until his last letter written in February 1970. The letters are mostly about his day to day life there, talking to the girls (our three daughters) and me, and telling about seeing some of his U.S. Army friends in Viet Nam. There is nothing too specific, but I will give you excerpts from letters of things that may be interesting to you.

November 21, 1969, Tonight we (the U.S. Advisory Team) had the 5th ARVN Division Commanding General and his staff as dinner guest. They seemed to enjoy it very much.

December 25, 1969, It appears that the U.S. 1st Division will be the next Division to go home. If they do we will have to move to Lai Khe. I will tell you more latter.

December 29. 1969, John Hayes went on leave today and I'm in charge of the Advisory Team. Tomorrow, I will be going up North with the General. We will visit An Loc, Loc Ninh, and Bo Duc. Probably go to Song Be and then back to Lam Son.

December 31, 1969 We have had a busy day today, and will have one tomorrow. The Vice President (Vietnamese) is tentatively scheduled to be here tomorrow, not at Lam Son, but at one of the fire bases.

January 1, 1970, The Vice President (Vietnamese) visited one of our fire support bases and I'm sure you will see it on T.V. I won't be in any of the T.V. coverage, I rank too far down the totem pole. It was supposed to be a 50-50 proposition with the Vietnamese. The U.S. dominated the show and shouldered out the Vietnamese, except for the required minimum. It sort of makes one sick to see how we are so selfish. No wonder we are called 'The Ugly American'.

January 4, 1970, Today we made a trip around the division area. We went all the way to Bo Duc, by the Cambodian border.

February 2, 1970, We are getting ready for the move to Lai Khe, and it looks today as if it will be completed by February 21st. That means three weeks from now we will be there. Tet Holiday is February 4th through 8th, and we are expecting quite a bit of action during that time. Don't think it will be too much, but will keep everyone busy.

February 4, 1970, Friday night I have been invited to go the General's house.

Friday night would have been the 6th, I believe. Saturday morning, February 7th General Hieu and Roy left on the trip to the Cambodian border; Roy was killed when he exited the helicopter.

I plan to listen to the tapes again and will try to take notes on any thing Roy says that would be interesting to you. I do remember the last tape I received, Roy said, I am going on a long trip tomorrow with the General.

October 9, 2003

After reading the letters Roy wrote in Vietnam and listening to the tapes again, it was easier to arrange the events in order of their occurence. I will summarize what Roy said about military activity while in Vietnam.

A Brief Summary:

Roy's first assignment to the 5th ARVN Division, III Corps at Bien Hoa, North of Saigon, began July 6, 1969. He was assigned to the 9th Infantry Regiment as an advisor to the Regimental Commander Lt. Colonel Ma Sanh Nhon. Roy mentioned a birthday celebration for Colonel Nhon's 40th birthday. The Colonel's wife came from Saigon to the party.

Colonel John Hayes and Roy met on August 3, 1969. Colonel Hayes asked for Roy to go with him to the 5th ARVN Division headquarters as Colonel Hayes' assistant. On August 5th, Roy went to Division headquarters for a meeting and had a conversation with a Vietnamese General who spoke English fluently. He does not say, but I wonder if it was General Hieu. While at Division headquarters Roy attended the farewell ceremony for American General Talbott. The trip to Division headquarters was a visit.

Roy gave an account of a military action between the ARVN and NVA on a tape. He said Lt. Phan Huan Vu and the ARVN soldiers were absolutely fearless in the fight. Roy recommended a Bronze Star be awarded to Colonel Nhon, and a medal to the Lieutenant. Roy also received a Bronze Star for his participation in the battle. This military action was narrated in the following news article from "The Army Reporter", October 20, 1969:

ARVN unit batters NVA

An Loc - Led by a wounded commander, a 5th ARVN Division company wiped out a well-entrenched enemy force in a three-hour, bunker-to-bunker battle 70 miles north of Saigon.

Thirty-two NVA soldiers were killed in the fight, while only one ARVN soldier was killed and 18 were wounded.

The exclusively ARVN operation - which included ARVN armored cavalry and ARVN air strikes - was carried out "just as well as any operation I've ever seen, anywhere, anytime," according to an American officer who witnessed the battle.

The ARVN company commander, Lt. Phan Xuan Vu, was slightly wounded three times in the fight but refused to leave his men for medical aid.

The initial contact began in late morning when the 14th Co., 4th Bn., of the 9th ARVN Regiment, ran into the circular bunker and trenchline positions four miles west of here.

While receiving heavy machine gun, automatic weapons and B40 rocket fire, the infantry company fought its way into the complex. Midway through the fight and inside the bunker ring, the ARVN soldiers received an air drop ammo supply from a 1st Air Cavalry Division helicopter.

Fighting close in among the "beautifully dug in" bunkers, the ARVN troops silenced one after another of the two-to-four man positions. Resistance ended three hours after the battle had begun.

"It was well done, very well done indeed," said an American colonel.

On October 26, 1969 Colonel Hayes and Roy both reported to Lam Son, where they were Senior Advisor and Deputy Senior Advisor to General Hieu. The Advisory Team and possibly the ARVN soldiers spent a considerable amount of time refurbishing the compound there, both living quarters and shoring up the defense fortification of the perimeter.

In December of 1969, General Hieu and Roy went to Quan Loi for a change of Command Ceremony. I don't know who's change of command.

At the beginning of 1970 Roy tells about the plans to move to Lai Khe. He said the buildings at Lai Khe would require alot of repair; first they would have to build up the fortification of the compound, then refurbish the quarters and other buildings. It seemed that neither the ARVN or Americans wanted to leave the area and go to Lai Khe.

As the Tet Lunar New Year approached, the soldiers at 5th ARVN Division were expecting action from the NVA. Of course I don't know anything to tell you about the action of the NVA at that time.

After Roy's death the American Advisory Team named a Compound in memory of Roy.

At the time of Roy's death he was on the list for promotion to full Colonel, and was promoted posthumously. He was also on the list to attend the Industrial College for Armed Forces in the Washington, D.C. area.

I read in your book General Hieu attended the Command and General Staff school at Fort Leavenworth in 1962-63. Roy attended Command and General Staff in 1960-61.

Very Sincerely,
Mrs. Ann Couch

generalhieu.com