C.M.A.C the Saga

Unit Insignia

Capital Military Assistance Command Insignia

The shoulder sleeve insignia was authorized on 29 July 1969 and is described as follows:


On a hexagon 2-1/4 inches overall in width and 3 inches overall in height, the vertical sides 1-13/16 inches in length, divided saltirewise into two unequal ultramarine blue areas and two equal scarlet areas, the saltire divisions lines issuing from the two lower corresponding angles of the hexagon and intersecting 7/8 inch from the upper angle, a vertical unsheathed Crusader’s sword, point up, with white blade and yellow hilt, between in base two white five-pointed stars (of a size inscribed in a circle 5/8 inch in diameter) one point up, the vertical axis of each star coinciding with the saltire division lines and the center of each star 13/16 inch from the two lower corresponding angles all within a 1/8 inch white border.


The Crusader’s sword points up, with white blade and yellow hilt appears on both the shoulder sleeve insignia of the United States Army Vietnam (on an ultramarine blue base) and of the United States Military Assistance Command Vietnam (on a scarlet base). The sword, a symbol of strength and courage, refers in this instance to the Capital Military Assistance Command and with the ultramarine blue and scarlet base provides a link with USARV and USMACV as the superior headquarters. The white five-pointed star is a United States symbol and is also like that of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam; the two stars placed on either side of the guard of the unsheathed sword refer to the constant and combined effort of the United States and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in protecting Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam. The scarlet color also represents the Artillery which provides surveillance and counter measures against enemy rockets and mortar attacks, the blue color referring to the Infantry which continually patrols in and near Saigon to prevent enemy infiltration and ground attack.

Source: The Institute of Heraldry

Capital Military Assistance Command – Signal Section

The collar insignia was a creation of the CMAC Signal Section and although worn was never authorised. 


Crossed semaphore flags, the symbol of the Signal Corps overlaid with a 122mm Rocket symbolising the Defence of Saigon.

Source: C.M.A.C. Signal Command


Life in Saigon was not all it was cracked up to be. While one might think that the city was the place to be it had more negative than positive aspects. Take security for example. In the base camps there was perimeter security and one could feel relatively safe, barring the odd mortar, rocket or artillery round flying in from outside the wire.

Saigon was another story. It had all the same fly-ins but in reality it was an open city. Checkpoints could be either bypassed or papers for passage easily forged. Goods of all types could be moved in, around and out of the city, secreted in hidden compartments. Soon after I arrived, I remember seeing a people mover Lambretta, that had three 122mm rockets belted to the undercarriage of its passenger bay, suddenly take off down the boulevard. One of the rockets had evidently been too close to the Lambretta’s exhaust and ignited, propelling the astonished passengers and their conveyance into a wall. Viewing the resulting explosion was not a great way to start the year.

In general, there seemed to be security by consensus. In other words, I won’t try and get rid of you if you don’t try and get rid of me. However, that could quickly be put aside for political, emotional or economic reasons, the result of which caused unneeded suffering and death. If the hit was personal the going rate to get someone snuffed was $50US. All one had to do was find the right person in one of the many ‘cowboy’ motorbike gangs that plied the city and grease their palm. The problem was that both sides used them so one really never knew just who was doing what to whom. Daily there was the odd satchel charge or hand grenade tossed from a motorbike into a facility or a passing jeep. Not knowing when a strike would occur kept one alert. Then again, if one’s number was up…

A lot of what happened seemed to be known ahead of time and, although it was being decoded in the communications center and classified, it would be announced in the Stars & Stripes. ‘Rockets to hit the city at 2000hrs’ to paraphrase one of the headlines I seem to remember, made it seem like it had been orchestrated, an exchange of scripts comes to mind.

Sure the clubs and bars on Thu Do were close and if you wanted something more adventurous there were the cat houses or the seedy district across the railroad bridge off Ham Nghi, but so was the chance that you wouldn’t come back. Many who ventured too far ended up in the morgue or worse in the Saigon River overdosed with drugs and/or a bullet in their brain. All in all, a lot of what did happen didn’t seem to be covered in the press. That was probably just as well but it did give an impression of stability in a city that was always in turmoil.

Scroll to Top