Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald McConville
During my tour, we were always pretty close to the mark; we never had another fiasco. But then we went through this series of efforts to increase the rice price, to get the Vietnamese government to do it and then how to deal with that, and I learned things about that. For instance, when you raise the price of rice, one of the most important things was to have rice plentifully available. People were more prepared to accept an increase in the rice price as long as they were confident that they could get the rice. So every time we went through one of the rice price increases, we would work with the Vietnamese to have rice available widely. With any hint of any sort of shortage, they'd get more rice into the market right away and stabilize it at that price. By doing this, then we were getting increasing amounts from the delta, and by the time I actually got my first year done, we were actually making the first shipments up to Danang of delta rice, which was the first time they'd had it up there in probably a decade or something like that. So it was a success story. I was getting an awful lot of practical experience, but at the same time we worked long hours in that office. Only some of the very senior people had their spouses there. The rest of them that were married - I wasn't married myself - had their wives in places like Taiwan or Bangkok or the Philippines and would see them a couple times a year, two or three times a year. So we were all bachelors in effect and we lived near where we worked, so we typically would start very early in the morning and wouldn't usually get out of there until at least seven or 7:30 in the evening, and we routinely worked Saturday mornings. It was standard; you were expected to be there on Saturday morning. Usually about midday on Saturday. Sometime around 12 or one o'clock you'd get off, so you'd have Saturday afternoon and Sunday. But this also stimulated a great deal of camaraderie amongst us. All of this time while I was doing this rice job and was earning a very good reputation for it - and I got a lot of confidence from Bill Sharp and Cooper and the other people in the office - I was also absorbing an awful lot of what these other people were doing. I was particularly fascinated with the financial work, working with the financial aspect of the economy. So I was learning this on the side. After about a year or so of the rice job, an opening came up on the financial side, and they agreed to put me in it.
Q: Before we leave rice, was rice being used when you were there as a form of payment to civil servants and people like that?
McCONVILLE: The civil servants did have some right to buy rice - I think they got a 100-kilo sack a month or something like that - so that was one of the benefits of being with the civil service. But rice was so readily available at that point that I'm not sure that that was anymore a major factor. But, yes, the civil servants did get some rice.
Q: Did you run across the rice buzzsaw from the Senators from Louisiana and others? If the Delta was beginning to produce its own rice, and a more palatable rice than we were producing in the United States, I take it, I would have thought that people from California and Arkansas and Louisiana would get kind of annoyed that....