View Full Version : Salt and Pepper

10-04-04, 19:02
As early as TET 1968 we had reports of two non Vietnamese, both black men, working with the VC in the Duc Pho area. Our aircraft spotted them on at least two occasions, on one occasion in March or April one of our crewchiefs had the opportunity to take one of them under fire, but believed the individual to be an American separated from his unit.

Not only were we hesitant to report this information, partly because of racial problems in the U.S., but reports we did make were placed immediately above top secret levels of security. The only people in the AO who could access the information were battalion staff officers.

After leaving Vietnam I heard nothing more about the individuals until I came accross data concerning the heavy MACV activity around Duc Pho starting in late 1969, incuding Phoenix information. These reports began talking about sightings in the area of a black man and a caucasian working with VC units. Repeated sightings continued throughout 1970 and by August they had been nicknamed "Salt and Pepper." In September, 1970, they had been observed several times by American troops and had at least once been reported as POW's by ARVN units. It was well known that at least 4 US POW's and many ARVN had been held in the Duc Pho area for years and had been used as rice mules. On one occasion they were observed by a local Vietnamese who was being questioned by local VC commanders.

On October 16, 1970, "Pepper" inexplicably walked into LZ Snoopy wearing tigerstripes with name tags in Vietnamese that read "Peoples Party" and "Blackest Cong." He was carrying a gas mask carrier full of handgrenades and tried to convince individual soldiers to frag others. Failing that, he walked into the messhall and began making a speech advocating overthrow of the government. He was promptly arrested and held for division MP's and transport to Chu Lai. He may still be being held at Fort Leavenworth.

In early November 1970, an incident codenamed "gingerbread" occurred and was credited to "Salt." "Gingerbread" involved the VC taperecording real artillery missions and playing the recordings back to either jam or confuse real fire missions.

There very well may have been a "Pepper II" because in January, 1971, two American MACV acvisors were traveling from Chu Lai when they were flagged down by a black American soldier in Korean fatigues outside of a village. He had no ID but asked for a ride to Quang Ngai MACV. When the officers offered to take him back to his unit, he replied that he did not need a ride and held his rifle on them, telling them to move on down the road. After they were out of sight they called for MP's and moved back to observe him. He jumped in the back of an ARVN truck headed the other direction and was not seen again.

In February 1971, "Salt" was suspected when a radio call sign from an expired SOI was used trying to access information on American OPs around LZ's.

The last information on "Salt and Pepper" is from 1974 with "Salt" being seen at the mouth of the Song Ve River Ferry crossing and "Pepper" in a truck in Quang Ngai Province.

There was rarely a dull moment around Duc Pho.


10-05-04, 01:13
RW, I'd like to condiment you on a fine story !

10-05-04, 03:29
Ketchup or mustard?

10-05-04, 05:26
I thought this topic was familiar and went to one of my "favourite" sites, which is http://www.miafacts.org/menupg.htm
This article comes from the site and goes into the theme in some depth.
This is no comedown on RW who's service precludes that, this is just more info from a chap who dealt with MIA issues some years ago.

Salt and Pepper
Another of the unsolved stories of the Vietnam War has to do with persistent reports that two Americans, one Caucasian and one dark-complexioned -- nicknamed Salt and Pepper -- were seen on many occasions operating with PAVN forces in I Corps.

Reports of Salt and Pepper span several years, are focused in a fairly small area of I Corps, and all reports are quite similar. The consistency of these reports is enough to convince US intelligence that something was going on there. I was never part of any of the work done on Salt and Pepper. Most of that was done during the war and, when I arrived in DIA, there was only the file (a large file) and we were not working on it, though I did read through it.

The bottom line is that there was never any firm identification established of Salt and Pepper. Most reports come from members of US combat units who report that, in the midst of a firefight, they observed a "black guy and a white guy" with the PAVN. Others report seeing only the white guy, others only the black guy. Some reports claim that one or the other of Salt and Pepper called out. People who claimed to have seen Salt and Pepper were shown photographs of missing Americans. While many guys picked out photos, there was no consistency to the selected photos sufficient to identify one guy as Salt or Pepper. (Remember this: If the Department of Defense says "We believe that this guy is working with PAVN forces," then that's a serious charge. From my reading of the file, there just was never sufficiently consistent identification to finger anyone.)

The reports consistently identified:

Salt as white; 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet; dark hair; medium to slender build.

Pepper as African-American or Hispanic; 5 feet 6 inches or so; black hair; medium build.

So, who were Salt and Pepper?

Could have been American deserters.

Could have been French colonial troops or Legionnaires. There were (are) some of those who stayed in Vietnam after the French withdrawal.

Could have been from some third country serving as observers or advisors.

Other theories?

10-05-04, 17:46
I remember hearing stories of these guys up on the DMZ after returning with the 82nd in '68. Most of us just kissed it off as Urban Legend. I was sitting here trying to remember, but I don't recall hearing anything like this in '66/'67. I got out New Years Day '69, and never heard anymore about it. Pretty interesting stuff, RW. What do you think, real or BS?

10-05-04, 20:08
Real as a heart attack. TET 68 we attacked Charlie and drove him off of the ARVN training compound north of the river at Quang Ngai. As the enemy was retreating down the hill, we saw a black GI come out of a bunker at one end of the perimeter. We did not fire, instead we marveled at the courage an individual would need to hole up in a bunker while the place was being overrun. Later when we reported the event, we were told that there were no blacks in that particular advisory team.

A couple months later we were called to break up a firefight and our other ship saw what they believed to be a GI trapped with VC between him and his unit. Repeatedly we tried to direct the infantry to his location but they insisted all of their people were accounted for and they had other business to attend to. Later we compared notes with the infantry and concluded the man was working with the VC. The crewchief on the other gunship had several opportunities to shoot the man and kicked himself for a long time after for not doing it. My ship was the high ship of the team, working at about 500 feet so we never saw the individual, but the other ship was right on the deck.

Sightings around LZ Snoopy in 1970 were frequent and well documented in among other things, the Americal G-3 Journal and documentation from SOIC MACV 17 working out of Quang Ngai. The "Black Cong" story was documented very well, I have seen the intel reports. C and D 1/20, D-4/21, C Bat 182 FA and D Co 39th Eng were all on LZ Snoopy when he walked in. C Co detained him initially but because the infantry had an attitude towards him, he was moved to the Artillery orderly room and detained until MP's from Quang Ngai could arrive. They were delayed because a typhoon was in progress.

Every one of the companies of 1/20 Inf made reports and "Salt" was at one time observed by the 1/20 battalion commander through a spotting scope.

"Salt" could have been a Marine PFC from MAG 16 captured south of Da Nang in 1964 named Fred S. (last name not complete) "Pepper"has been identified as PFC William Darrell Johnson, 4th ID, captured in Jan 68 near Kontum. How accurate these ID's are is unknown.

The one report I saw made by a Vietnamese civilian could be considered genuine from the perspective that the observation was a side issue to the main report and the man had absolutely nothing to gain by reporting what he saw.

The report by MAJ Witt and CPT Odams of MACV about the man asking for a ride and then refusing it is without a doubt genuine.

The only reports that seem in doubt are the two sightings from 1974. These are from DIA files and I have not seen them or talked to anyone that has.

There, that should really confuse the issue.


10-05-04, 20:43
Ketchup or mustard?


Good one Rotor!!

On the serious side , what manner of vermin could do something of that sort?? I guess even though they try to weed 'em out , invariably there are a few wack jobs that get through....modern case in point....the Bloke who threw a grenade in the tent in Iraq!

10-06-04, 19:06
I don't know D Squad, I could be getting old and mellow, but it's difficult to predict how a person will act in certain situations. When these guys were captured, it may have seemed to them like a good idea at the time. Once they had made the decision it was difficult to turn back.

10-07-04, 22:32
That sounds plausible Rotor...and I think you are correct in stating that one never knows how one will react under certain circumstances. Still I can help but think that if punishment were more severe and brutal for such behaviour as it was in the days of old , you would tend to see alot less of that type of behaviour....just my opinion though

10-07-04, 22:36
I think you have to be careful with the brutal punishment bit or it would shift a lot more people to the other side!

10-08-04, 04:14
I've read stories that during the American Civil War guys would switch sides two or three times, often based on who had the best food at the moment. Early in the war men who chose to change sides for conscience sake were allowed to do so. They could state their change of heart, shake hands all around and march off to change uniforms. One of the officers who had been fired on at Fort Sumter did just that. On the other hand, the commander at Sumter had been a slave owner and had married the daughter of a former governor of Georgia, went to Ohio to recruit Kentuckians to fight for the Union. I could see someone switching sides if they didn't have strong character and in this day and age far too many people believe there is no cause worth dying for.

10-09-04, 20:25
I agree with your synopsis on 'modern day' thought Rotor. Civil war history is very interesting , but I must confess that my knowledge of battles and tactics is lacking when contrasted with what I know about World War two battles. That is interesting that there were people who actually switched sides for better food :lol: I guess it would equate as trying to better your lot in life!

10-10-04, 13:16
Late in the Civil War when the Rebel cause was hopeless, Rebs would come accross on a regular basis. When conditions were good, low visibility, enough moon to see to walk, the Federals would predict "the Johnnies are running," using fishing terminology.

10-10-04, 20:20
I had an ancestor who fought in the Cavalry for the Confederacy named Eustis Bordelon. When the war was over he had to walk home penniless.

10-11-04, 18:11
The sad fate of the defeated. I had an ancestor here in North Carolina who was a Unionist and did not believe in secession. He was thrown in jail for the duration. I sometimes think people treat their enemies better then their neighbors.

Appomatox Courthouse is not far from here and is a very worthwhile visit. Just about an hour drive from me is where Johnston surrendered to Sherman. This state is funny, every spot where a Confederate shot at a Yankee has a monument and every courthouse, the obligatory statue to Confederate soldiers.

10-11-04, 21:15
This state is funny, every spot where a Confederate shot at a Yankee has a monument and every courthouse, the obligatory statue to Confederate soldiers.

That is pretty weird given the PC wave that has swept the country....I would've figured that type of stuff would have been the first to go.....I think their are even protestors regarding Columbus day today too....isn't there a contingent that claims he was a racist and had slaves , so therefore he shouldn't have a national holiday? :lol: :lol: You just have to laugh at some of this stuff!

03-15-05, 10:35
"Salt" could have been a Marine PFC from MAG 16 captured south of Da Nang in 1964 named Fred S. (last name not complete) "Pepper"has been identified as PFC William Darrell Johnson, 4th ID, captured in Jan 68 near Kontum. How accurate these ID's are is unknown.

As a note about the possibility of 'pepper' being Pfc W. Darrell Johnson...its Bunk. He was on the DIA's 'Last Known Alive List' and was not reputed to be associated with 'pepper' sightings at all, in any way. Describing D. Johnson as a black, medium to small framed man of average height does not accurately describe a 6'3 white man who was on the starting lineup of U. South Carolina's football team as a lineman before he enlisted.
He was a friend of my fathers who was lost in January of 1968 in Kontum. The sighting of him in a coastal province by a DIA informant in the mid 70's was of a possible escape attempt with 2 others. No one really knows for sure.
Anybody posting about MIA's needs to be considerate of what they write and the names they use. Some families still speak in the present tense of their missing sons. Denigrating the name and memory (the only remains a family of an MIA has) of a missing soldier in order to 'add to the confusion' of an internet discussion is just plain wrong.
Pepper has NOT been identified in any way with W. Darrell Johnson, MIA.
Rant over,

03-15-05, 14:04
Rant duly acknowledged, Fiddler, and welcome to it. I'm told there is some info concerning the Johnson in question on the POW net, haven't seen it myself. Assuming the Johnson you are speaking of is still MIA?


02-22-06, 07:02
in 70 /71 on the DMZ they were real to us. We were told they were helping the NVA get through the DMZ. They would not have been captured alive