Posts Tagged ‘canoe fishing’

Vietnam, June 1972

Friday, February 26th, 2010

In Nov 1969, I won the lottery!  It changed the course of my life.  I would have pursued a living in horticulture.  The lottery changed all of that.  Yes, I won that all expenses paid, thankfully, round trip airline ticket.  Which one, you might ask?  The one to Vietnam, I would answer.   Thirteen months later, I got down from the bus at Fort Puke, Diseaseville, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,  Louseyana.  (Fort Polk, Leesville, Louisiana.)  Basic training, interrogation school, a year of Vietnamese language class and it was on that plane to Vietnam.  July 1972, touchdown at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon, Vietnam.

In a sense, it was not all new.  It was, after all, Asia!  Hot! Humid! Dirty! Polluted! Busy! All that was typical with much of my life growing up in the Philippines.  On the other hand, the people were smaller and thinner.  The noise of war, a bit louder just outside the city limits but also constant in a muted way within the city,  made a background soundtrack. Not obtrusive, not overwhelming, but, there. In town, the three wheeled cyclos both motorized and peddle driven vied for space with the taxis, the ugly duckling citroynes, the bicycles, the people, the overloaded motorcycles and push tricycle goods transporters.  On top of it all the airhorns of a thousand duce and a half trucks blaring their right of way through the mass.  This was offset by the strangeness of this new life.  One of the earliest memories I had was my first shower at the Ton San Nhut airport repo depot where we were billeted until we received our assignment.  The shower was a big half open building with an open shower bay.  As I stood there washing off the grime and sweat of a long trip, I was shocked to see the laundry lady and her teen age daughter walk in, squat down two shower heads away and start to hand wash some clothes.   Thankfully, I was highly lathered.  I quickly finished my shower and got out of there.  This was new and strange.

For what reason, I do not know, I was sitting in an administrative room a day or two later and in walks this tall thin man in civilian clothes.  He asked the clerk if he had any 97 Deltas (An intelligence field clerk.) The clerk said, all he had was me.  The civilian asked what my field was. “Interrogator, 96C,” I said.  ”Can you type?” he asked.  “Yes Sir, 65 words per minute.”  “That’s close enough for me,” he said.

I worked for this unit for the next nine months.  It was great! I shared a hotel room with two guys.  Leon C. who worked with me and some other guy I never saw in the nine months we lived together.  I guess he had a gal he actually lived with, but, he had to keep the room. I have to say, his part of the room was always neat!

Initially, we all worked in a large part of the ground floor of a hotel near our billet.  But, shortly after I got there, we moved our office to General Westmoreland’s old quarters.  It was a small house which was nice.  We cooked many of our meals there and our small group of five or six men worked long and hard at our assigned duties.

Here are some snapshots of my 9 months there:

The hotel I lived in was just down the street from another hotel the Viet Cong had bombed.  They had driven a vehicle packed with explosives up to the door and detonated it destroying the hotel and killing a number of people.  Because of that, the front of our hotel was heavily sandbagged.  I recall one 90 pound guard who would not let anyone stop including an American CIA operative who showed up on a motorcycle one night.  The guard locked and loaded his shotgun, fired into the air and the guy parked down the road and walked back.  He was pretty hot, identified himself and was able to move his motorcycle into the protected area.  I felt he was pretty arrogant and thought the guard had done a great thing.

The guy who hired me was known for his wild driving.  His nick name was Crash K—f. (I will protect the guilty).  One day, Gary B. (God rest his soul.) who looked and comported himself somewhite like a French Painter described a harrowing ride with Crash from the office to Tan Son Nhut Airport.  They left with about ten minutes to takeoff time.  The drive was at least an 18 minute drive for most people.  “Gary said, I couldn’t believe it! Sidewalks, ditches, the wrong side of the road, horn blaring all the way. Three chickens, two ducks and maybe a puppy dead.  I had my eyes closed when I wasn’t screaming.  I almost pooped my pants and am sure I peed them a bit.  BUT we made it with two minutes to spare!”  I bumped paths with Gary on and off for the next ten to twelve years  and recall him fondly.

Bob Hope and the Miss America crew came through along with Ann Margaret as I recall.  After about six months of seeing the relatively thin, short Vietnamese women, I walked out of a hotel as the retinue of American Beauties was walking into the hotel.  What Giants! I thought.  I went to the Bob Hope show, but, it did not do much for me. There was a huge, packed crowd there though and I appreciate his groups willingness to put themselves in harms way to provide a taste of home to us.

There are many more recollections, some vague, some fuzzy, some sharp, some painful and many happy.  As time permits, I will try to bring some of them to life for a few moments.

In the meantime, if you are a fisherman, woman or child or know a fisherman, woman or child, you can help support this blog by visiting the www.WhyBuyEmmrod.com, www.MyCompactFishing.comsite (Same site, just different roads.) Check out the Emmrod Packer, The Emmrod Mountaineer, The Emmrod Stream Master Fly Rod and the many other great products there.  Thanks for stopping by. Dave Atherton