The United States Defence Secretary, Mr. Melvin Laird, yesterday (Friday) took a first-hand look at?
The United States Defence Secretary, Mr. Melvin Laird, yesterday (Friday) took a first-hand look at how Vietnamisation of the war is progressing. As part of his three-day fact-finding tour for President Nixon, he visited Trang Bang base in the An Hoa area 10 miles (16 kms) from the Cambodian border and 30 miles (48 kms) from Saigon yesterday handed over to exclusively - South Vietnamese command after being a combined U.S. Vietnamese operation.
Mr. Laird was greeted by the Vietnamese Commander, Lieutenant General Doa Cao Tri. Accompanying the statesman were the US Commander in Vietnam General Creighton Abrams and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Earle Wheeler.
In his briefing, General Tri said: "The enemy is in bad shape now and we are confident of doing well in the future".
While at Trang Bang, Mr. Laird also visited a church to meet local officials and some of the Vietnamese troops who have taken over from the Americans. He was presented with a gift and passed on well-wishing greetings from President Nixon.
Later the same day, Secretary Laird flew by helicopter 15 miles (24 kms) North to Trang Lap, one of the major South Vietnamese Army bases. After receiving a 45-minute briefing, Mr. Laird asked the local Vietnamese commander, Major-General Nguyen Thinh, if he could handle the area without American support and was told: "Yes, we can - and we are proud to do so". Then, after inspecting captured Vietcong weapons, Mr. Laird told the Vietnamese troops: "I like the way you are looking".
That same evening he left Saigon to return to Washington, where he report to the President is expected to foreshadow a stepping-up rate of US troop withdrawals.