Back Then

A Day In The Life Of The CG from the Americal Magazine for October, 1969

Copy of article provided by Louis Bohn to the Hill 4-11 Association

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Major General Ramsey

Story and Photos By CPT Cecil Green

Most of the time the office door is open, emphasizing the silence and emptiness of the big room.

The impressive, polished desk in one corner has neat piles of paperwork waiting for review, a decision, and a quick signature.  The wall maps of the Americal area are always up to date, with red, yellow, green, and blue lines and circles telling a fast story to a trained eye.

The plush leather swivel chair is built for executive comfort, but the man who sits there so infrequently is more interested in action than in being tied to his desk.

This is the official headquarters of the Americal Div., the office of the Commanding General, MG Lloyd B. Ramsey.

Today the general was sitting in his office for a few rare moments, reflecting upon his role as leader of almost 25,000 men spread along 93 miles of jungles, mountains, and coastal lowlands.

"A division commander -- or any commander for that matter -- has to have solid, reliable information on which to base most of his decisions, and often times it's the little bits of information gathered from different people that go together to make the whole picture meaningful," the general explained.

"For that reason, there's nothing that goes on in the division that I'm not interested in and checking on every day with everyone I meet.

"One day it may be an administrative worry in AG, then a problem with something in the logistics supply line, or a serious talk with the surgeon on malaria control.  Everything is important and cannot be slighted, or it may impair our overall ability somewhere along the line."

After travelling with the general for several days, even the casual observer can see that his guideline is more than a mere desire and is rapidly becoming a reality with each new day.  Of course it takes time, but the general's schedule allows for that.

His first call every morning is usually from duty personnel at the Division Tactical Operations Center, where all reports of enemy activity are recorded, analyzed, and acted upon.  The general's location in the sequence of events is most evident when it's time for the ultimate decision.

"I encourage my people to call me when there's any rise in activity or a problem, no matter how little or insignificant it may seem.  I would rather know everything that is going on, than have anyone think that any problem isn't worth my consideration."

After breakfast, the routine of officework and paperwork occupy the general until it is time for the first of his many briefings at 8 a.m.

As the principal staff officers leave the general's office at the end of the morning briefing, the door is seldom shut until late afternoon.  The "Old Man's" helicopter is waiting, itinerary is decided upon, and he heads for the field.

"I try to visit every battalion at least twice a week, but not on any definite schedule," he explained.  "I like to talk to the battalion commander and his people at their location because this gives me a better feel of what is going on and I can see for myself what the men are doing throughout our vast area of operations."

The afternoon is spent much as the morning.  Often the general eats lunch at one of the firebases, then spends the afternoon hours flying around a different area talking to more people.

Major General Ramsey

"When I talk to the enlisted men on a firebase, I'm primarily interested in finding out how well he is being taken care of, and if his officers and NCOs are looking out for his welfare," the general explained.  "This is an important consideration for any commander to be aware of -- if his men aren't being properly treated, they cannot operate at their utmost effectiveness."

The local commanders also get their chance for the general's ear during his visits.

"This is where I get down to the essentials -- the detailed reports of local situations, intelligence reports and what is being considered operationally with the commander's different resources.  These battalion and brigade briefings enable me to see the local commander's problems and weigh them with my decisions," the general said.

Once back in Chul Lai again, the meetings continue with the regular evening briefing attended by all division staff officers.  This is where all the day's events are catalogued and summarized to describe the Americal day in full, and decisions are made for tomorrow and the future.

After an hour or more in this briefing, the general's office door closes once again so the stack of paperwork that grew during the day can change from one box to another in silence and privacy.

The late dinner hour is usually spent at the general's mess, where the "Old Man" can talk with his staff officers informally, and likewise, the staff officers can talk among themselves and communicate better than in the hustle and bustle of the daytime office.

"When I graduated from high school in Somerset, Ky., and indeed, even through college, my one ambition was to be a football coach," the general reminisced.

"While at the University of Kentucky, I was on the football, swimming, track, and boxing teams, and I loved the sports world, expecially since I was able to get through college during the Depression Years with a football scholarship and graduate in 1940."

From 1940-1943, the general was with the 39th Inf. Regt., 9th Inf. div., travelling from Ft. Bragg, N.C., by various routes to North Africa.  In 1943, he was selected to be aide-de-camp to British General (later field marshal) H.R.L.G. Alexander, the gound commander under GEN Eisenhower in the North African Campaign.

"I learned a lot from the field marshal," MG Ramsey said, looking thoughtful.  "He was one of the greatest tacticians I have ever seen, and just being near him and watching carefully, I learned a lot about working with troops, how to use a staff and how to maneuver large forces.  And although it's a different type war here, the basic principles apply."

The general came to Vietnam as deputy commanding general of the 1st Logistical Command and on to the Americal on June 1.

The years past have been active ones for MG Ramsey, and the days are equally busy now -- as his open door and silent office often testify.

But even with crowded schedules and rapid helicopter flights, there's still time to chat with Americal soldiers and perhaps show them a picture of his first grandchild (Keith Ramsey Wallace, born July 31) and share a few words of home.  That's the way soldiers are around the world.

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