My 3rd trip to Nam...this time for NBC News.
NBC News flew me first class to Tokyo and then to Saigon. On the leg out of Japan I had my first taste of Kobe Beef. Never in my life had I tasted anything as good. Beef just melting in your mouth...no need to even chew. It was the first time I ever asked for seconds of airline food!
To this day I’ve never been able to find Kobe beef in any of the places I’ve been. And I’ve eaten in some of the finest restaurants in the world. What a shame.
My NBC news corespondency got off to a bad start. Upon arrival in Saigon there was no one to meet me at the airport. This was not a big deal because of my experience in Saigon earlier...but it should have given me pause because of the breakdown in the “protocol” of not greeting a new reporter.
I made my way to the NBC News office and a somewhat surprised staffer immediately contacted the bureau chief who wasn’t around... who blamed the whole thing on New York. I found out later that a new boss was coming in shortly so the whole Saigon bureau was in a state of flux.
I settled in at a nearby hotel which wasn’t too bad...and no rats to traverse to get to the front door.
My reports were fed to New York via phone line at 7AM and 7PM each day...seven days a week. During the balance of 1969 and 1970...I had more stories broadcast by NBC Radio news on the hour than any other correspondent before or since. On any given day New York would run from three to five or more reports from me...ending with “Stan Major...NBC News Saigon”.
My parents were very proud...and I was making a lot of money based on reports aired on the network. NBC brass wanted to keep me off the books (more or less) and paid me as a “freelancer’. This way they retained the regular their budget and I made more...lots more money. In fact I twixed them a couple of times that I was making way too much money...but they messaged back that it was correct and “don’t worry about it.”
Shortly after I arrived in Saigon the bureau got a new boss. The new bureau chief shall remain nameless for reasons that will become painfully obvious in the next pages.
The guy (like the rest of us) had his watch ripped off his wrist by the infamous “Honda mafia” dudes. Saigon had a bunch of them...guys doubled up on motorbikes who would rip the watch off your wrist as you were being rick-shawed down the road.
We soon learned to trade our expensive watches in for a Timex..no expansion band please.
Well..the new boss was livid about losing his watch.
So angry in fact that he ordered all three tv correspondents and crews...about nine staffers in all with cameramen and soundmen to be dispatched to several key places where known watch thief's operated. He wanted to catch the culprits on film. So...the whole war stopped on the tv side for a couple of days while they staked out the roads and bridges in Saigon on behalf of this guy’s bruised ego.
They never did catch anything on film, of course. We had some good guys there...like Kenley Jones and Robert Hager who wasted their time on this and were obviously embarrassed by it.