By John Albert Palmer
My South Vietnamese driver’s license was issued on 11 June 1964 in Danang. I arrived in Saigon on July 13, 1964. Military personal use their Military Drivers License, no local license required. Because I was using the cover that I was a civilian and carrying false I.D., a South Vietnamese Driver’s License was handed to me when I arrived at the U.S. Naval Advisory Detachment, Danang (USNAD) in August 1964. Welcome to, THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS GROUP (MACVSOG) USNAD, “Black OPS Vietnam.” 14 months later I left for Home.
USNAD a Joint Operation of the Army, Navy & Marine Corps, The Enlisted personal, all “civilians” of course, lived together in safe houses, first at 22 Lei Loi, then 6 Ba Dinh, and finally at a camp, not yet named Camp Fay. The Officers lived in houses, spread around the City.
USNAD was the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, the CIA, the U.S. Embassy, U.S. Navy Seals, all twisted together, operating under deep cover, using South Vietnamese crews & boats to attack the North. We trained the boat crews, and our SEALS trained their Special Forces.
After a few months SOG changed its name to the “Studies and Observation Group.” I was told this was to deepen our cover; I always felt safer after the name change. After all who would notice 16 Americans, dressed in civilian clothes, with 10 Green unmarked vehicles coming & going and one, yes one, South Vietnamese guard standing outside our compound. In an all-Vietnamese neighborhood with a dirt road.
We worked out of the White Elephant on the Danang River front. Our security there was two South Vietnamese guards.
We were all advisors and were not allowed to fight except in self-defense.
We wore civilian clothes at all times and carried civilian I.D.
John A. Palmer, SK3, USN – Cover Story: Civilian Advisor, MACVSOG (USNAD)