Saigon to Pleiku

A Counterintelligence Agent in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, 1962‒1963


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About the Book

Initially stationed at the U.S. Army’s counterintelligence headquarters in Saigon, David Noble was sent north to launch the army’s first covert intelligence-gathering operation in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Living in the region of the Montagnards—Vietnam’s indigenous tribal people, deemed critical to winning the war—Noble documented strategic hamlets and Green Beret training camps, where Special Forces teams taught the Montagnards to use rifles rather than crossbows and spears. In this book, he relates the formidable challenges he confronted in the course of his work.

Weaving together memoir, excerpts from letters written home, and photographs, Noble’s compelling narrative throws light on a little-known corner of the Vietnam War in its early years—before the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and the deployment of combat units—and traces his transformation from a novice intelligence agent and believer in the war to a political dissenter and active protester.

About the Author(s)

David Grant Noble is a writer, photographer and the author of numerous books about the American Southwest. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His website is

Bibliographic Details

David Grant Noble
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: 50 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8373-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4149-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Preface 1
Part I
Memory 5
Becoming an Intelligence Agent 7
Honolulu and the Waikikian 11
Arrival in Vietnam 14
The Continental Palace 18
Reporting for Duty 26
The Case of the Purloined Penicillin 30
Saigon 33
Major Kumar 38
Central Registry 50
Rest and Relaxation in Hong Kong 57
Part II
Assignment Pleiku 61
Intelligence Work in the Highlands 74
Dope, Drink and Sex 87
The Montagnards 92
Pleiku’s Missionaries 108
Travels Beyond Pleiku 113
A Week in Saigon 122
Life in Pleiku 126
Plei Mrong Is Dedicated 130
Plei Mrong Is Attacked 145
Bangkok 153
Ban Me Thuot 157
Final Months in Pleiku 164
Part III
The War at Home 173
Epilogue 187
Author’s Service History 191
Index 193

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “David Noble’s Vietnam memoir, including excerpts from letters written home and personal photographs, form an insightful and valuable addition to Vietnam War literature prior to the American build up.”—Alexander S. Cochran, Vietnam Historian