Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with George L. West
Well, on my frequent visits to Turkey in my POLAD job... The guy who took the job I might have had there in Ankara as the Political Military Officer was Collins.
And the things that Harkins was doing. For example, the Turks had put in... These are trivial things. The Turks had forbidden the import of coffee, of all things. They had very stringent... Harkins, of course... The Air Force PX, the commissary type thing... He was taking coffee and giving it to all his Turkish friends and all that. He'd go drawing it out, and other things. They were widespread abuses of Turkish law. I thought that was a bad sign.
The real thing that bothered me was that I had observed how these MAGs operate. To begin with, each service has to be represented. Some officers are for training, some are for supplies, some are for tactics, all sorts of things.
They had some damn good officers out in these... They chose some of their best officers. In fact, they were so good that they would become very identified with the armed forces of the country in which they were working.
There had been a few example of accidents that had occurred, but you could see that... I made the point to Ball that in a state of insurgency or war some of your military are going to be flying a few of these missions, they're going to be up at the front line. You're going to have some Americans killed.
Take the French, they fought this long war, and they did it largely with... Most of the fighting was done by Foreign Legion, Germans, in other words. Also, they did not send draftees to Vietnam, the French did. It was the dirty war as far as the French were concerned. You were out there when?
Q: This was much later, in '69 and '70.
WEST: He said, “Well, write some of this down for me.”
Q: This is George Ball, of course.
WEST: George Ball. I did a bit of it. Then I did another paper that went into just what is this Vietnamese government, how much popular support do they have.
We're inclined to think oh, the other guys are so evil. I had friends who had known Ho Chi Minh. In fact one of them who had conveyed the suggestion that he go to the United States... He was in Naval Intelligence, this diver. This is politically a very good idea. Not to say whether we could do it militarily. And he passed some of this on.