Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald McConville
McCONVILLE: And then they were scheduled to keep dropping even further. Then, of course, by '73 or the end of '72, the truce was signed and we were down to 50 uniformed military in the country including the Marine guards. So during most of the time I was there, the American troop presence was either falling and the American troops were not involved in that much more combat themselves. It was in this Vietnamization process, so it wasn't quite as devastating in that way as it may have been earlier on. But the war was still going on all this time. At the same time on the economic side of things, the reforms that Cooper had pushed so vigorously and which the Vietnamese adopted in a series of two major reforms were having an extraordinary impact. It was just absolutely fascinating for me to see firsthand what these kinds of policies could do. A big problem, for example, was the exchange rate had been fixed at 118 piaster to a U.S. dollar through most of the war years because of all the hyperinflation. Inflation had been 30/40 percent; it hadn't been hundreds and hundreds of percent like it was elsewhere, but it still was grossly overvalued. Well, one of the major reforms was to get the exchange rate up to a sustainable rate, and over a period of two reforms they got it up to around 400-and-some pesos to the dollar, and then the black market disappeared, because at that level the black market just didn't have any reason to exist anymore, so the black market in currency disappeared. And they had consolidated customs, tariffs, and so forth, so again black marketing in that sense, because tariffs were dropped dramatically and so forth, was no longer a major factor. Exports had been zero during most of the war years with this greatly overvalued Vietnamese currency - they'd only had about 10,000,000 dollars a year, which had all been rubber, which had been subsidized because of the influence of some of these rubbers growers. But with this new exchange rate, the exports went up the first year like 10 or 15 million; then it was up 20; and the next year it was heading up to 100 million - and to see all these things working, and suddenly because when you had a market working.... AID had a study commission some years earlier on post-war policy for Vietnam, so they had written this enormous volume, volumes - it was probably 10 books - on exports from Vietnam post-war. They had predicted they would get so much for tea and so much for some of these traditional exports. The fact is that, once they got the exchange rate up to a sustainable level and it became economically legitimate and economically rational to begin exporting and to bring in some products and do some work on them and re-export them, and so forth, there was a whole range of things being exported from Vietnam, small manufacturers of one kind or another that nobody had ever mentioned in these books. None of the things that they talked about as being exports ever really emerged. This was going on in places like Korea and Taiwan and so forth, this whole process. This is in fact where some of these economic policies had first been developed. It was just extraordinary to see how this worked and the way that it stimulated all sorts of entrepreneurship, how the Vietnamese people, once given the opportunity, would respond to the market forces and that the economy would become as dynamic as it did in a very short period of time. Then there was the '72 offensive when the North committed 13 divisions and so forth. That was a tremendous shock.
Q: The Easter Offensive, or something like that?