Team 54 Kien Giang

MACV Team 54 – Kien Giang

This Page is intended for the discussion of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam Team 54 located in Kien Giang.

51 thoughts on “Team 54 Kien Giang

  1. Hoping for some help. After a tour with an ARVN Ranger In Vinh Long I returned to Sadec awaiting a slot with 9th Div Recon company. In the interim I went to a sub sector for about a month. There was a Major, 2 Captains, a medic, an SSG named Cantu, another NCO, a SP4 named Gallegos. One Captain was named Bomershine, and he and I worked primarily with a Hoa Hao unit. Time has erased most of my recollection of that time. My first question is, is this the right province? If so, can anyone add anything to my recollection? Thanks in advance.

  2. I was a Medic with Team 54 from January to November 1967 in Rach Soi. Maj Robert L. Schick was our Commander.I miss my friends. SFC Richard Burns

  3. Hi, does anyone remember Lt Donald L McClung. I beleive he served with MACV – Team 54 1967-68. and was originally 101st Airborne. He did a further tour 1969-70.

    • Pat Carrothers, I was a Ground Radio Operator assigned to Advisory team 54, early 65 until departure in Sept 65. Crewed a L-19 Bird Dog, Our Call sign was Watertown 49. I was just a Air Force E-3 and worked with the team and we put ordnance where it was wanted by the Province Chief as I remember. The Army guys treated me well, but kept me pretty well under their thumbs for my own protection and that of my airplane.

      • I was June 65 to June 66. We were all advisors. Was in in Rach Gia. Might have left just I was getting. A few west Pointers but my memories are of the beautiful people. I was PsyWar Civic Action building schools trying to win hearts and minds. Thanks for checking in. Jim

        Sent from my iPhone

    • Jim Ritchey. I was with Team 54 from approximately Dec 66 until Aug 67. I was with the Team HQs in Rach Gia and spent time with Regional Force Co. 528.
      A couple of others there at the same time were Maj Bill Tillman, S3, and Cpt Howard Reichner, Regional Force Co Advisor.

      • Jim — Good to see once again a name I recognize! I served on Team 54 from July 1966-Apr 1967, including several months in the Team HQ in Rach Gia near the end of my tour. At that point, I worked in the S-3 Advisor shop for Bill Tilmon and with Larry Reichner. I was a Captain at that time. I well remember you. With one exception, I’ve not heard of any other Team 54 members since returning to the States at conclusion of my VN tour. I did see the name of then-LTC John Belllinger (Sector Advisor) in the last year or so on a list of deceased Army officers (he survived the war and eventually retired).
        I elected to leave active duty in 1968 but stayed in the active Reserves and retired from that in 1999. Meanwhile, I pursued a career in higher education, primarily as an administrator but also doing some teaching. I retired from that profession in 2005 and currently live in Grovetown, GA, which is a suburb of Augusta, GA.
        Feel free to stay in touch.
        Fred Bosarge

      • I overlapped with Jim (late Feb 67 – late Jan 68 as Assistant S-2 Advisor) and crossed paths with him in the Middle East and Washington later in our careers. Worked at Team HQ with 1LT Don Balderson, an Army NCO, an Air Force enlisted man, and a VN translator. Assisted the S-2 Advisor by speaking French with the NCO for the VN S-2, who then spoke with his boss in Vietnamese. Was responsible for maintaining the province’s OB (Order of Battle) on the VC and assisted the pilots with their aerial reconnaissance missions. Had a lot of time in the backseat with Smitty in Shotgun 10 and with Theodore (Sky) King and MAJ Charles Coulsen (sp?) in their Air Force O-1’s . Kept flying with the two Army L-19 pilots who replaced Smitty, but was on R&R during the local attack on our Rach Gia air strip and the mess hall compound. My boss was an Armor MAJ, later replaced by an MI Captain. I had additional duties as the Mail Officer, so interacted with just about all the district teams and the Navy element. Escorted Charlton Heston during his USO tour of the province and attended Connie Francis’s performance in the hall between the Officers and NCO houses. Had the pleasure of transporting in the back of my Jeep an unexploded bomb hauled in by a fisherman north of Rach Gia to the province EOD team for destruction. Oh the things we did when young.

        • Sweet and sad memories. As you know I was there 6/65 until 6/66. Manor Wilson was our team chief. There were navy nurses at the hospital. I use to play tennis with the province chief down form the villa we all lived in. We had 2 l-19 pilots- one army and one air force. I ended up coming back to fly chinooks in1969-70 in 2 corps. Retired from reserves but had as the psywar/ civic action guy I have so many memories of rach Gia and Kien Giang province. You brightened my day. Thanks, jim

          Sent from my iPhone

        • I might have already replied. Sweet memories of a sort. I was in rach Gia from June of 65 to June of 66. This July 4th just refreshes memories some good and sad. Phu Quoc island-Cambodia to our north. We’re the tennis courts still near our our living quarters? Were the navy still around and the nurses? Gosh so many memories. I just had a scotch so I am chatting too much. I went back in 69-70 to fly chinooks. Memories of kien giang are the best. Sorry to bother you. Jim

          Sent from my iPhone

          • I well remember Jim McCarthy and several of the others he mentioned. I was stationed in Kien Giang Province from July 1966 – April 1967.
            Initially, I was Assistant Sub-Sector Advisor in Kien Tan District of Kien Giang Province. CPT Jim Landgraf arrived to be Kien Tan Sub-Sector Advisor (and therefore became my boss) in late July. Others on that team were SFC Benny Bryant, SSG Hal Beaver (who was the Medic), and a SP4 radio man whose name I don’t recall. It was a very good crew and we stayed pretty busy going with the Vietnamese on operations, checking their training, visiting around the District, etc, etc, I also went into Rach Gia to get a lot of back-seat flying out of there in the Army L-19 piloted by Smitty (a damn good pilot!) and the USAF 01-E piloted by MAJ “Sky” King and a USAF1st LT whose name I don’t recall, I really enjoyed flying, especially when putting in air strikes by the “Fast Movers” (jets) and working to draw ground fire.

            In Nov 1966 I was moved in to Rach Gia to serve as Assistant S-3/Senior Training Advisor for the Popular Force Training Camp at Minh Woa. I wound up spending a lot of time going back and forth to Rach Gia, MAJ Bill Tilmon was the S-3 Advisor (my boss) and CPT Jim Reichner was also in the S-3 office. They were both excellent people. We all got along quite well and got a lot done. My job changed a little when a new test program came in and I became connected to it, It involved more specialized use of the Biet Kich (Rach Gia Province’s version of a Special Ops/Ranger-type unit). The Biet Kich was now used as a test-bed for a program that eventually spread throughout Vietnam and became known as the Phoenix program. Later on, the US Senate caused the Phoenix program to become a political casualty and it was dropped..(I have seen post-war material in the last several years in which Viet Cong and NVA leaders say they thought that Phoenix was the most effective tool of South Vietnam had and the enemy was puzzled that such an effective program was dropped.)

            Now, as time passes death will steadily play its role in taking out the surviving vets of the Vietnam War. I recently saw where LTC Jojhn Bellinger (Province Advisor of Team 54 in my time there) had passed away, and I am certain that other losses have also already occurred with other members of MACV Team 54. Good people all!

            Fred Bosarge

            • Good to hear from you. I arrived 65 as a second lieutenant in Saigon. West Moreland greeted us coming off the plane. Staid at the Majestic hotel on Tudo in Saigon. VC blew up a restaurant on the river not far from us a few days after I arrived. Assigned thru Soc Trang before Rach Gia. The colonel there asked Major Wilson if he would take me as I was going to be in charge of psywar/civic action for the province. He said something like can he talk and chew gum- I will take him. Showed up and a cpt czburki (sp) was leaving. Wilson said since I was the junior officer there he would have take the jeep away from me but I could keep the interpreter. Kind of forget his name-maybe Dhou. One of my other duties was go to Saigon once a month to do payroll in dollars. Loved it and learned a lot of great restaurants and bars. Played tennis at Cirque Sportif. In Kien Giang province our CIA advisors were Australians. Of course I got to know them. Had a great safe house in Spokane. Remember our L-19 pilot and air force guy well. Lots of memories. Went back in 69 flying chinooks. Hope I am not boring you. Cheers,🥃 Jim

              Sent from my iPhone

            • Who sent this to me? I was an Air Force Radio Operator assigned to Advisory Team 54 in 1965 Rach Gia. I worked with a FAC, and crewed a L-19 Bird Dog. The Army took v/ good care of us during our time there. Still v/good friends with the Army RO and stay in touch with him. It was the first time this was done there, and it was very effective. I had HF, UHF and VHV capabilities, which were very helpful during out time there, providing good “commo” for what ever what needed. Had direct comms with Saigon, CanTho and who ever else we needed to talk to. Who is working this MACV info web site? Pat Carrothers SMSgt, USAF, Ret. ________________________________

              • Pat, a few years later (6/68-6/69) I was Army SP4 radio operator in Kien Giang.
                Spent a lot of time in the field but also did shifts in TOC. Shared a dungeon-like room with the AF radio operator named Fred Kastings. His Call sign was “Miller Brutes 49” and one of the FACs was “David 23”
                Whose name I probably never knew. Since Fred was career AF and had been previously posted in a number of interesting places, I’m wondering if you ever crossed paths with him.

                • Negative, Dave. After leaving, I got re-assigned to Barksdale AFB in La, and went on to become an Airborne Radio Operator on Rescue C-130’s. The Army RO I worked with at RachGia was named Jim Capp, and I’m still in touch with him(Gr8 Guy). Sorry I can’t help with any of the guys you worked with. Pat

  4. I was really surprised to find this site, albeit quite by accident. To judge from the input thus far, not too many others who were former members of Team 54/55 have discovered it yet, although it’s really great that relatives and friends are using it. That seeming to be the case, perhaps it would help if I drew a picture of sorts about Advisor life in Team 54 in 1966-67 (bear in mind that organizations and situations could and did change in later periods).

    My time with US Military Assistance Command Vietnam Team 54 (which was basically an infantry advisory unit) was July 1966-April 1967. I was a Captain experienced with tank and cavalry units, but not in infantry — luckily we were cross-trained in combat arms. I served in various capacities in Team 54, all of which were infantry. Initially, I was on a sub-sector team of five (if we were full-strength, which was seldom) located in Kien Tan district in Kien Giang Province. (Think of a Province as being like a US state except smaller in area than most states and governed at that time by Army of Vietnam military officers.) Team 54’s area of operations and responsibility was Kien Giang Province, a coastal area at the southernmost end of Vietnam, and bordered on one side by Cambodia.

    Our Advisory team in Kien Tan district consisted of two captains (District Advisor and Asst District Advisor), a SFC (Benny Bryant) as training and operations advisor, an E-6 medic (Hal Beaver), and an E-4 radio operator (whose last name was Dilday, don’t recall his first name). We also had an ARVN Sgt Luong assigned as interpreter. I thought of all of us in Team 54 as being “the drip at the end of the American pipeline.” By that I meant that virtually everything (personnel, modern weaponry, air and artillery support, supplies, etc) had been bled out of the “pipeline” before reaching us. The name of the game for all of us on province-level advisor teams in the Mekong Delta region was “isolation.” Other than a single Army helicopter unit that supported the entire Delta, there were no US units other than advisors. Our Kien Tan advisor team was located 20+ miles from the nearest other Americans in Team 54 (until they got blown up one night). All of us were armed with WWII weapons, had absolutely no food supply system other than what we managed to create (we each got $40 a month extra to make our own food arrangements) and had a pitiful military equipment supply system (for example, we purchased our unit radio batteries out of our own pockets in the village market because we could never get any through supply channels). We were the last priority for US air support and for occasional ARVN artillery support (which had an annoying habit of shooting at the wrong targets).We provided military advice to local Regional Force and Popular Force leaders and units (no RF units larger than company-size; and no PF units larger than platoon size), and accompanied them on combat operations. We also actively visited Vietnamese governmental civilian officials and the local population, and represented the US and US Army at activities such as school openings, distribution of food donated by the US, etc. as well as attending weddings and funerals when invited. We were all of the American presence the typical Vietnamese villager in Kien Giang Province would ever likely see — a heavy responsibility when one thinks about it.

    After about the first half of my tour in Vietnam, I shifted to being the sole US Advisor at a very small RF/PF basic training camp. It was, thank God, a temporary assignment. I say that because I was the only American there and the camp location was severely undermanned and very close to a notorious, traditionally VC-controlled area of the Mekong Delta. In fact, “my” camp was closer to that area than any other Team 54 location. It didn’t help that I was high on the VC hit list at the time (yes, Virginia, the VC in our area did maintain a hit list for Advisors, complete with monetary awards). The “Advisor War” in Vietnam was a bit more personal in nature than was the “American unit” war being fought by US units much further north of us.

    My final assignment was to the headquarters element of Team 54, which was located in the Province capital city of Rach Gia. That consisted of a group of around 20 Army officers and men, commanded by an Army Lieutenant Colonel, who also advised the Province Commander/Governor. Each Vietnamese staff chief (personnel, intelligence, training/operations, and supply) had a US counterpart advisor. My assignment, for example, was as Assistant S3 (operations) Advisor. In addition to the usual headquarters admin and supply support personnel (very few of them!), there was a small US Navy advisor element located in Rach Gia (but not attached to Team 54). That element worked with the Vietnamese naval force stationed at the port of Rach Gia. We also had two US aircraft flying out of a very rudimentary air strip at Rach Gia. One aircraft was an Army L-19 Bird Dog spotter-artillery adjustment plane (think of a Piper Cub airplane) with the radio call sign of Shotgun, and the Air Force’s version of the L-19, which the USAF called an O-1E, and intended primarily to call for and adjust air strikes. There was one Army pilot — Smitty, a First Lieutenant, and two USAF pilots, Major (Sky) King and a First Lieutenant. Each plane had a mechanic from its own branch of service. I volunteered to fly in the back seat of each aircraft often and because I had been out on many ground operations, I could assist with visual reconnaissance (VR). VR was a key role of the aircraft. The pilots also liked to have some company, especially if they had engine trouble or were shot down. We often flew low and sometimes dove, trying to attract ground fire so that we could call in an air strike on VC. Other than the pilot’s rifle and the passenger’s sidearm, the only weapons on board were fragmentation hand grenades and on occasion, phosphorous grenades. Each aircraft had two home-made rocket 3.5″ rocket tubes attached under each wing, but these were to mark ground targets for strike aircraft, and there were no real aiming systems — just gravity and Mother Earth.

    Each of the Provinces in South Vietnam had a Provincial Recon Unit (PRU), that was provided to conduct special high-risk reconnaissance missions and also serve as a special strike force on occasion. Unfortunately, the “word” in Vietnam was that most PRUs were really simply palace guards for the ARVN officer who was headman for the Province. Not so, however, in Advisor Team 54. The PRU for Kien Giang Province provided a test-bed for the US CIA to test what today is called a Special Ops unit, or “Black Ops” unit. This unit of 100 men, all recruited from Vietnamese prisons, also worked regular combat operations, often carrying out the Ranger-type parts of a field op. The unit had been trained by an Australian Army Captain who was himself a graduate of the British Army’s Special Air Service school, at that time the premier commando force in the world. They were very, very good.I say this because I was recruited to work with them as an advisor when they acted in concert with regular RF units on a Province operation, or in certain other long-range or Ranger-type ops.Ultimately, what they did was incorporated into the US Army units in a at-that-time classified program named Phoenix. Phoenix was hugely successful in a very quiet way, until eventually done away with by the so-called “Doves” (anti-war Senators) in the US Senate. I include this item simply because Advisor Team 54 had a role — small as it was — in a situation very unique to other Advisor Teams.

    During my time with Advisor Team 54, significant amounts of territory were taken from VC control and put under South Vietnamese control, one new district US advisor team was added because of territorial gains, and the two major VC organized units in Kien Giang were both decimated in successful ground combat operations, and ceased to function as units. I hope that this overview provides a helpful understanding of how Advisor Team 54/55 was organized and operated “back in the day.”

    • Charlie — I was on USMACV Advisor Team 54 from July 1966-April 1967 so did not know MAJ Rubin. I have made overview observations on my viewpoint of Advisor Team 54 location, organization, role, and various other aspects of its operation. See those comments on the website. Perhaps knowing more of the background can be of some value to you.
      Frederick (Fred) C Bosarge

  5. Does anybody remember PRU advisor Gordon “BUSTER” Brown with SEAL Team 1 (plank owner)? He was killed by an explosion at the PRU camp 10 miles NW of Rach Gia on 19 May 1968. He’s my uncle and would love to touch base with someone who knew him or has any info about him.

    • Jason — I served on USMACV Team 54 from July 1966-April 1967 so did not know your uncle. I did have some association with the PRU team during my time there. I have posted overview-type comments about the location, role, etc, etc at the USMACV Teams website for Team 54 Perhaps some of that overview could be of assistance to you.

      Feel free to contact me at my email ( should you have any questions or comments.

      Frederick (Fred) Bosarge

  6. Wow! Can/t believe I found this site. I don’t recognize any of the names mentioned above but I was an Army medic with Advisory Team 54 in Kien Giang province from July 1967 to May 1968. Our 5 man (usually) team was up at the subsector compound in Kien Son village about 20 kilometers or so up the coast to the northwest of Rach Gia by the 3 Sisters mountains. Rach Gia was our Sector H.Q. 3 of the Advisors from Kien Son were killed by a land mine in early July 1967 and I went in as one replacement from Sadec. It was the longest 10 months of my life. — I remember the L-19s or “Bird Dog” spotter planes mentioned above were the first thing I was impressed by. They were a fearless one man airforce who flew around doing recon, spotting for artiller rounds they would call us for, or just hunting the enemy and blasting away at him with an arsenal of weapons they had in that little plane, everything from hand grenades to shotguns, pistols, rifles and even rocket pods they mounted on the struts. They even dropped our mail off to us in canvas bags tossed out the window. We loved and admired them and depended on them a lot. That was dangerous time and place and I’ll never forget all the bravery I saw there.

  7. I saw that David mentioned they were Team 54, but were changed to Team 55. But all personnel remained the same. I thought I’d post here to see if anyone on this team might know him. I’ve been contacted by Stephen Miles.

  8. SFC Leslie L (Roy) Karnes served with MACV Tm 55 in Kien Giang / August 1970 until February 1971 – KIA. He was my Father. Does anyone remember him?

    • I was there when your Dad was ambushed in the canal along with COL Ellison. I was assigned to the Navy MILPHAP Team N-6, advising the VN hospital staff as well as trying to improve sanitation in the field clinics, etc. The Medical officer then was LT Glenn Barnett. I must have met your Dad, as I often talked with COL Ellison. Such a tough day for all of us.

  9. I need some help from you IV Corps (Mekong Delta) Advisory Team vets.

    I am trying to piece together my brother’s experiences in Vietnam (June 65 to June 66) for the benefit of his boys and the rest of the family.

    A2C Tom Toussaint was a USAF reciprocating engine mechanic. For part of his time he was on Advisory Team 53 at Long Xuyen or Can Tho. He spent time at Soc Trang and Chi Lang. And he had been in both Thailand and Laos.

    I think he was a crew chief on a Forward Air Control 1-E Bird Dog. He had hundreds of slides taken from the rear seat of the FAC plane of air strikes in the forests below. But the few pictures I have of him show only Bird Dogs with US Army markings, not USAF.

    How were these Advisory Teams organized? Who did the members report to?

    Could he have been working on an Army plane?

    He talked about having an M60 mounted on the door of the O1-E. The FAC’s I have talked to said that the Army O1-E’s did this, but not the Air Force.

    What was the role of these USAF people on these Advisory Teams in the Delta?


    Ed Toussaint
    Potomac, MD

    • Ed, don’t know if this is still active, but will give it a try. Name here is Pat Carrothers, I was a Ground Radio Operator assigned to Advisory Team 54 Mar/Apr of 65 until my tour was up in Late Sept 65. Until that time, Team 54 had not had any AF personnel assigned(to my knowledge). We(myself, a AF pilot and an L-19 Birddog) were there to provide Comm back to Can Tho, real time recce, coordinate air strikes and any thing else needed with what we had on hand, as required by the Province Chief, the Army and requests from higher Hq in Can Tho, and not necessarily in that order. I had a good HF set as well as Uhf/Vhf and a PRC25 for my use. If you get this and need/want more info, contact me via this post.

        • Sorry for the lateness of my reply. The name rings a bell, but as I am getting “long in the tooth”, I can’t say much more, unfortunately. Was he with us in Rach Gia during my time there(approximately Feb thru Sep 65)?


  11. If I remember correctly… When I first arrived in Rach Gia, Kien Giang Province in June 68 we were Team 54. Very shortly thereafter (within weeks) the # was changed to 55. I don’t know why. All personell stayed the same, I believe. Anybody know the details?

    • Did any of you know my grandfather, John (Jack) Rubins? He was KIA in Nov. of 1967. I would love to learn more about who he was and the work he was doing before he died.

      • John Rubins was your grandfather? We are related. My grandpa and your grandpa were cousins. Although Jack was close in age to my dad. (I think they were close.) I don’t have any information on his time in Vietnam other than was is listed in the National Archives. But I will keep looking and let you know if I find something.

        • Was your dad David? He came to visit us several times when we lived in Ft. Leonard Wood. He was a good friend of both my dad and my mom. (I am Eriin’s mom, Kim.) your great-grandma Charlotte Sternagle was my grandpa Rubins sister. Thanks for your research!

      • Apologize for the delay between your post and this response. Just reviewing the page after a year away from it. MAJ Rubins was the senior advisor to one of the districts within Kien Giang province, under Adv Tm 54. He had a small team with him at that level. The district was the easternmost one in the province, along the main road between Rach So and the inland provinces further east. I remember that he and another member of his team were ambushed while out looking for an overdue convoy scheduled to return from Can Tho. He and the soldier with him were killed, and there was much speculation that their driver had colluded in the ambush since he was not injured or wounded, never proven to my knowledge. They went down the road one way searching and were ambushed on their way back toward their district compound, if I recall correctly. I was at province at the time, monitoring the activity on the radio. I do not recall any more specifics about MAJ Rubins or his duties at district, though. With my additional duty as province mail officer, I was acquainted with most of the folks assigned to the province, but not necessarily close to many of them, especially those assigned to the outlying districts. (LTC USA Ret. Was 1LT at that time.)

        • On my second tour, I took over as DSA at Ha Tien from the SF A Team in November 1967. Lots of logistic problems with Rach Gia – the SF team was taking just about everything but beds and Rach Gia S-4 wasn’t coming up with replacement stuff. With no artillery support in the district, when the A Team was about to load up the 81-mortar I told them to wait until I got back. Got up to Can Tho and told General Desobry that if the 81-mortar left, my team was hopping a Swift out to Pho Quoc because there was no logistic support from Rach Gia. Gen Desobry flew me back to Ha Tien, ordered the A Team to leave everything they hadn’t already taken. Then I guess he nipped the PSA about the S-4 slack. Because PSA flew his chopper in to me and started to rip me for going over the chain. I told him I was always a team player until the coach tried to stick the bat up my ass. Never had a very good relationshiip with him. Glad Ha Tien was off the beaten path so we didn’t see each other very often. Had great rapport with the Swifties. They (running Hotel patrol) gave me all their unexpended 81 mortar ammo when their shift was over and I gave them beer! Had a lot of cross-border crap with Cambodia over control of Nui Da Dung. They wanted it to protect the supply trains going from Kep up through parrots beach. We wanted it to hassle the supply trains.

    • Hi,

      The number change information is correct. I served on MAT 54 from Oct 69 to Sept 70. We were located in the Chung Thien Province, working (did I say “working”, sigh) west of Vi Thanh accompanying RFPF S&D operations and building forts and defensive positions. North say Ap Hoa ‘An and south to “Micky’s Ears”, Xom Cha La, West, pretty well up to the MAT 55 area.

      We were 2 Lts, 2 Weapons NCOs & a Medic.

      Frederick C Bosarge discription still was valid in 69-70.

      John S. Raschke covers a lot about the team as they were pretty much under the umbrella of MAT 73.

      How does one make a section for MAT 54, Chung Thien?

      Frank Perra

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