TAN SON NHUT --- Increasing numbers of military and civilian personnel
returning to the Republic of Vietnam from rest and recuperation are disregarding Military
Assistance Command, Vietnam, directives that they convert all U.S. currency into military
According to customs officials at Camp Alpha, the largest R&R processing center in Vietnam,
a total of $ 14,849 on U.S. currency (referred to as greenbacks) was recovered from 72 U.S.
military and civilian personnel during a one-month period recently.
Sgt Thomas S. Bullock II, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of customs at the camp, said
the amount of money recovered has risen since then to an average of $ 4,000 per week.
Although the 72 are a small percentage of the 40,000 men per month passing through the
center, officials are concerned.
"MACV Directive 37-6 says you have to convert all currency," explained Sergeant Bullock.
"In our briefing to guys coming back from R & R we practically beg them to convert
After the briefing, personnel are given the opportunity to convert their greenbacks and then
undergo a thorough search. Baggage, wallets and shoes are carefully scrutinized.
The person is also frisked.
Persons caught trying to import currency into Vietnam are informed or their rights and
turned over to the proper military authorities, according to Sergeant Bullock.
Some persons attempt to flush their troubles away when they see they will be caught.
Toilet facilities in E. B. Robinson Hall, the camp's customs building, have been clogged
regularly with U.S.currency.
"We took $250 out of it in one day," said Sergeant Bullock. "We solved the
problem by locking the facilities during processing."
The object of the elaborate warnings and search procedures is to stop illegal traffic of
currency into the hands of the Viet Cong and to keep the Vietnam economy stable, officals say.
MPC's can be converted at authorized exchange points into piasters at the rate of $1 MPC for
118 piasters. While the unofficial black market rate of exchange varies every day,
$20 in MPC may bring as high as 4,300 piasters while a $20 greenback is reported to bring twice
that amount of a given day, according to customs officials.
Illegally exchanged dollars may eventually find their way into the hands of the enemy and
are used to buy supplies and weapons, officials here warn.
Illegal Possession of the currency can result in severe punishment of the offender.
Possession is a violation of Article 92, "Violation of a lawful or written order," and
Article 107, "False official statement," of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice, Sergeant
While punishment is up to the discretion of the local commander, recently two Air Force
personnel found guilty of bringing currency into Vietnam were heavily fined and the money
turned over to the U.S. Treasury. One of the men was given a jail sentence and
discharged from the service.
According to Capt. Richard F. Rothenburg of the Seventh Air Force staff judge advocate's
office, the maximum penalty for violation of Article 92 is a dishonorable discharge and two
years confinement. Violation of Article 107 can bring a dishonorable discharge and
In spite of persistent warnings and heavy penalties, personnel are still trying to sneak
green-backs into the country.
"We told one group processing through how many individuals we caught the day before and how
much we got, warning them what would happen if they were caught," Sergeant Bullock said.
"Even after all our warnings, we caught one in the group with $800 in green in his
"In a typical day we found $100 in a Navy enlisted man's shoe, $240 in a simple frisk of an
Army captain and $220 in an Air Force captains right sock," Sergeant Bullock recalled.
Inspectors have found green-backs inside rolls of expossed film, between pages of books,
inside camera bag linings and between pieces of Polaroid pictures.
"a $100 bill is small and can be hidden almost anywhere," Sergeant Bullock said.
"We've found green-backs in every imaginable place and in some you wouldn't believe.
"We know what's going on as far as guys trying to sneak green-backs into the country, and
we're not afraid of writig up anyone," he declared. "We've written up O-5's and
GS-14's. Everybody's tempted to run green, whether they're officer or enlisted."
Army Maj. Edward L. Schmidt, Camp Alpha commander, said he backs up the customs inspectors'
searches and seizures to the fullest extent.