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MACV-SOG Equipment:

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Larry Crowder: Special Security Office (SSO)

An exclusive interview




MACV Headquarters, Saigon, Vietnam

We have been speaking to another veteran this time one attached SOG with the Special Security Office (SSO) based in Saigon. The SSO and the related Special Security Group (SSG) provided CODEWORD back-channel communications and courier services above those organic in the theatre. A second interview can be seen here.

Modern Forces: Larry, can you give us some background on your service and work with SOG?

Larry Crowder: My name is Larry Crowder, and I am a retired US Army veteran of 26 years of service who had four combat tours. In 1970 I was a Communications specialist assigned to the US Army Special Security Group, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, DA, HQ MACV (ACSI SSO). Upon being assigned to Vietnam in 1970 in August the unit attached me to the Studies and Observations Group. (SOG) in (November 1970, where I worked until April 1972.

At our detachment there one of my additional duties was to take message we received with enemy unit locations that impacted the defence of the capital Saigon and post them on a map we then briefed the Commander, CMAT (Commander Military Advisory Team Vietnam). We were combined with a group of DA Intel Analysts made up of Army, Air Force and Marines. They supplied Intel to General Abrams, plotting and keeping track of the movements and conditions of every known enemy unit in Vietnam. We were tasked with providing the Commander, CMAT with first hand knowledge of all enemy units within a certain radius of Saigon, and providing any intelligence information of any infiltration effort or information that was at hand that anything was amiss locally.

We also did our best to keep the local economy thriving by spending money lavishly on beer and the charming young women found in the hundreds of bars found throughout the lively active and animated city.

Modern Forces: What other responsibilities did you have during your time in Vietnam?

Larry Crowder: We had an addition duty in regards to this also. If any of these messages contain a location of an unidentified transmission within the city limits of Saigon, it was known as a "Coca Cola Report." I had to get on a secure line and call out SSO Officer and brief him on the location and time. I, or whoever, would then arm myself and drive across the city to the compound where he resided in our jeep and rendezvous with him as quickly as possible. Since we worked two to a shift, I would ask the DA Analysts (Marines, Army Air Force if they wanted to go to war with me…very few ever did.)

The SSO then had to call out a unit of ARVN Special Forces assigned to go to the address and root out the offender always with a Saigon city police escort that always seemed to get lost on or stuck in the invisible traffic that just was terrible at three in the morning during curfew. We usually ran into a dry hole, occasionally caught some joker on his little zybyphone or whatever sending and once stumbled into a virtual hot bed when we stumbled into an NVA safehouse and shoot it out with them. The matter never got any press because we didn't exist. The local MPs got credit for something, I can't remember what kind of cover story they fixed it up with.

Modern Forces: What did you do after yours tours in Vietnam?

Larry Crowder: I enjoyed my time with SOG and years later at Fort Stewart, GA I had been a Signal Platoon SGT for some time when the Battalion CSM asked me to become the Reenlistment NCO, a job I came to enjoy very much. One of the company first sergeants was a big guy about to reenlist. I check his record and by jiminy, he was a SOG team leader way back when. He had all kind of medals including two Purple Hearts.

Well he comes in and this was when the army had just instituted the weight control program. He comes in and I have to weight him for his reenlistment packet and he's about eight pound overweight. One of his legs had been bothering him some. He looked very concerning when he stepped off at what I was going to say. When I said nine pound lower that what the scales said his mouth dropped open. He looked at me and I walked over to the wall where I some plaque up and stood by the one that had the very identifiable Green Beret sitting on a skull on it. I said to him, "Is something wrong First Sergeant? We do some extra running when your leg feels better and talk about our old commander Colonel Sadler and who else we both knew okay? "' And he with a smile forming shook his head affirmative.

He did too. And that fudging for him gained me more respect that any hardboiled going by the rules and ruining his chances for re upping would ever have. He was within his required weight pretty soon, but he just never could place any SSO guys with the unit. He kept calling me a REMP and laughing at me.