vietnam war

workingman’s dead ~ the grateful dead ~

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another dead soldier weekend has rolled around once again. pretty much the only time anybody cares about wartime vets especially WW2, korean and vietnam vets these days. that’s fine as we’re used to it.

when i was in vietnam i asked my parents to send me a reel to reel version of the dead’s ‘workingman’s dead’. one of my all time favorite LPs which sits around mid point in rolling stones top 500 LPs of all time. i have to say i was probably the only person in my platoon that liked the album. after a time when i’d play it i would hear, oh no. not that one again. or some such nonsense. yeah, there’s no accounting for taste or so they say.

the LP first appeared in june of 1970. it’s no longer ‘in print’ but thanks to rhino records you can score a copy if you’re so inclined. they released it in 2003 or so and even added a couple of different versions of some of the songs on the original LP. thanks, rhino, very nice indeed.

the album marks the dead’s new venture into vocal harmonies and a country rock sound with jerry garcia dabbling with the peddle steel guitar. which culminated with jerry garcia and guitarist david nelson’s homage to bakersfield, ca country music with their ‘new riders of the purple sage’ LP in late 1971.

‘working man’s dead’ opens with the studio version of ‘uncle john’s band’ one of my all time favorite dead tunes. it’s a semi country rocker with semi sorta religious overtones. or maybe not. later, on track 15, ‘uncle john’s band’ turns up again in a live version recorded at winterland in oct of 1970. the live version gets the standard dead jam thing going. something for the most part always lovely to behold and listen to.

another stand out cut is the studio version of ‘casey jones’. unfortunately we aren’t treated to a live version of casey ‘high on cocaine driving that train.’

at any rate, the rhino version has 6 live tracks including the already mentioned ‘uncle john’s band’ plus an alternate studio mix of ‘new speedway boogie’. the dead were at their best live. no doubt. sometimes really good or head scratching crappy. it was always a crap shoot.

i had the pleasure of seeing them live a couple of times. once here in socal at the rose palace if i’m not mistaken and once again at the filmore in san francisco. i was in the army at the time and made the trip up from ft ord in monterey. they shared the bill with miles davis who had just released his ‘bitches brew’ LP and the two of them filled the night with some stellar music.

ok. so, it’s dead soldier weekend again. raise a glass to the fallen soldiers of the past and continuing wars. and to all of those who’ve seen war close up. even more so to the vets of the great war, WW2. their ranks shrink and thin at an astounding rate with each passing day. there will come a time soon when they will all be gone. and all but forgotten i’m certain. old soldiers never die. they just fade away.

soldiers after all are just your average workingman doing a job no one else will do.

jmh

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pink boxers and war

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every year the memorial day holiday seems to come around with ever increasing speed. other holidays do too. it’s one of those getting older things. however, memorial day
is somehow a much more personal holiday to those of us who served in one of our never ending wars.

this first appeared a number of years ago and was re-run a couple of years ago. yeah, i have other tales of my time overseas like, the old west meets the old east, and others still unwritten. however, desire and and the muse must first meet for them to see daylight. which may or may not ever happen.

at any rate, happy memorial day to all who’ve served especially to all who gave everything. to my nam brothers and sisters, welcome home. once again.

jmh

while noodling around yesterday i came across the yahoo, and elsewhere, story of a young soldier over in the middle east who went to his firing position in his boxers and flip flops, during a fire fight.  seems like the secretary of defense, robert gates, is all a gog over the situation.  he’s happy about it.  well, it’s memorial day weekend or more to the point, dead soldier weekend, and i guess they needed to sound pro troopers and military.  plus, i’m sure folks everywhere are getting a kick out of the story. 

it makes me think back to my time in nam.  i’ve written any number of things about that experience here and other places.  if you are a regular, i have no intention of bothering you with details you may or may not remember.  if you aren’t a regular reader, you can always go through the archives or rummage through the vault.  or just wait for me to trot the old stuff out again.  but i digress. 

while attached to macv advisory team 48, in nam, we had this major on the compound.  he was either s-3 or s-1 or s-2.  military jargon for stuff.  not really important to this story.  other than the fact, he got his pink boxers all tied up in a knot about us peons and other soldiers hitting our firing positions in levi’s and flip flops, bermuda shorts, flip flops and no shirt(my personal favorite) or other variations of civilian attire, or maybe just our regulation gi boxers and flip flops, during alerts. 

yeah, civilian attire.  it was macv and they didn’t care what you wore on the compound if you weren’t on duty or working.  well, most of them.  any the ways, this particular major was not happy about the way we fell out during those alerts.  he made it his mission to see that we all hit our firing positions and bunkers in full regulation military gear.  yes, sirree.  no more of this civilian attire or gi boxer nonsense.  there was a war going on after all, and said war, demanded we be properly dressed for the occasion because mr charlie might not like it.  boy, howdy.   

said major, even held a few ‘practice alerts’ and those ‘practice alerts’ weren’t over until he personally inspected each position to see if things were being done to his strict liking.  yes, indeed.  practice alerts for dress code violations in a war zone.  no showing up with your weapon and ammo in boxers.  nope, not for that major.  not good enough.  thank you jesus.  thank you, lord, for some damn fine smoke and drink to help us all through the night.

well, we suffered through a couple of his practice alerts held in the middle of the night.  a lot of pissed off troops and lifers as well.  yeah, he wanted every swinging dick on board for his madness. 

as it turned out, things were very quiet during the time of his practice alert stuff and everyone passed with flying colors.  like what else were we gonna do?  frag him?  it was bullshit but it wasn’t worth a capital crime and/or offense. 

one night, a few weeks after all the hoopla about the dress code and fighting charlie, i was working the night shift in the commo bunker.  at the time, macv was using our commo bunker for their toc(tactical operation center) while their toc was getting a face-lift.  charlie or the nva, lobbed a few rockets or mortars into our general vicinity. 

the alert was sounded and it was all hands on deck.  everyone was to go to their alert positions and deal with whatever in full military uniform.  thankfully, due to the practice alerts, it was decided, by my signal sargent, my alert position would be in the commo bunker.  lucky me, i was already up, working, in uniform, where i was supposed to be and with my m-16 and ammo.  woo hoo!!

the incoming rocked my little world but i just opened my secret area door and casually leaned on the door jam to watch the deal go down.  a total lapse of military protocol but whatever.  i was probably somewhat loaded and had been listening to, ‘spooky tooth’, and reading porn at the time.  another breech of protocol i’m sure.

on a side bar drift, the secret area was a perfect place to have a nice non-legal smoke.  or take a nap.  we had it set up so even if you were dead an alarm of sorts would wake you.  though in hindsight it wasn’t necessary.  incoming was incoming and could wake a dead man.  count on it.

the drifts just keep on coming.  WD40.  the perfect weapon cleaner, for us lazy folks, was also a very good and efficient smoke cover-up.  better than incense.  yeah, ok.  i did take my m-16 down to the firing pin assembly at regular intervals and properly cleaned it.  so there.  i could be a good soldier if i felt like it.  my life depended upon it.      

at any rate, i was just waiting for orders and THE word to send something to somebody somewhere about something or another via my secure radio teletype.  real alerts were always something.  some worse than others.  but always angsty and an adrenaline rush regardless.  while i was standing in my doorway watching stuff, in came the major of dress code and practice alert fame. 

ah, yes, goddamn.  he was resplendent in his steel pot, m-16, ammo, un-tied jungle boots, gi issued undershirt and boxers.  yep.  that’s it.  nada mas.  no one, of course, said a word about his poorly dressed alert apparel.  lots of subtle snickering to be sure but not a word.  after that night, it went back to come as you are for alerts, and the only thing that mattered was the m-16 or some other weapon with plenty of ammo when you got to where you were supposed to be.

it’s interesting to see how things have or haven’t changed.  i wonder how melvin laird would have felt?  or perhaps dean rusk?  or macnamara?  at any rate, it’s dead soldier day weekend.  a time to say a prayer for those brothers in arms who never made it back.  a time to say just how much you appreciate the sacrifice of those who didn’t come back and those who are serving or have served and did come back.  whole or not.  seems like none of us ever come back whole.  a tragic veer if there ever was one. 

dead soldier weekend.  a proud american tradition since the civil war from whence it got it’s origins.  you may not like war, this current one in particular.  you may even be in the support the troops but not the war politically correct crowd.  tell you what.  god bless the child that wears his boxers to a fire fight.  at least he showed up and was ready for trouble.  god bless anyone who even shows up for the coming fire fights.     

make no mistake, it’s not what you wear to a fight.  it’s what you do when you get there.  happy memorial day weekend!!  light a candle for america. 

jmh

the old west meets the old east

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this morning
in the
crapper
reading
one of those cooking
magazines.

some guy in
north
vietnam
driving by a
sidewalk barber
shop.

the lightning bolt
almost tossed me
off my throne.

yeah, viet
hair cut joints.
picture
the
wild west.
back in the
day.

cornered.
by the marshall
a
bird
colonel.
jesus son
get a haircut.
yes sir.

next morning
we grab a
jeep
our horse.
four guys.
fully loaded.

a cloud of
dust.
a whiff
of smoke.
a quick
ride into
what passed
for
downtown.

a sea
side fishing
ville
by day.
indian country
by night.

i am the
walrus
fades into a
smelly dead fish
rot.
not
horse shit.

ft apache.
dodge city.
tombstone.
somewhere
off in
the
distance.

park out
front.
one stays with
the horse.
M-79 &
a bag of
rounds.
grenades &
buck shot.
nasty
effective
bad juju.

inside under the
barber’s sheet.
M-16 cocked and
locked.
we take turns.
first out
spells
the horse
sitter.

deed done.
crappy hair cut.
ride back to
the old
french mission.
maybe stop for
pho.
maybe not.

at some
point.
the whole
barber in
the ville
thing
was
deemed
too
hazardous.

a deal was
cut.
he came to us
on his day
off.
sunday
afternoon.

the wild wild
east
got a little
tamer.

it was
a long time
ago.
but it
doesn’t take
much.
some days more
so
than others.

jmh

here comes the night

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it showed up about the same time every day in the late afternoon. you could almost set your watch by it. other than the fact it was the same time every day there was an accompanying palatable change in the air. you could feel it. if you were outside you would stop and look for it. yes, there it is. way off in the distance. heading your way. depending on what the rest of your day was going to bring it might put a smile on your face. today a smile if only in your minds memory. you could smell it now. soon you would hear it. if it looked to be a particularly good day you might seek higher ground in order to watch it creep slowly towards you. perhaps shouting to friends. hey, check it out. here it comes. look at it. you gotta see this. sitting high up as it grows closer the solid massive wall of grey fills your vision from the earth to the sky. thundering closer. yeah, this is a really good one. soon the oppressive heat will be gone and if you were lucky it would last well into the night. pounding the tin roof. forming rushing rivers in the beach sand within minutes. great cracks of light add to the cacophony of sound. if it lasts, tonight will be safe. no sane person moving in this wall of water and sound. monsoon season. south vietnam. a long lifetime ago but still only yesterday.

jmh

christmas past and future(?)

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this is from 2007 a tad old but i’m being lazy because it’s christmas. ah well, enjoy.

there’s been a few odd christmas eves in my addled and some what sorta wasted life. vietnam being the first.  the trip down to the beach and the south china sea in order to pick up a very odd south vietnamese sorta pine tree for the hooch and christmas.  three of us.  one sorta pine like tree was found and chopped down with the machette.  though in it’s limbs lurked a two step viper.  the most deadly of all snakes in vietnam.  i spotted the fucker and it was killed, in all it’s glory, by the three of us dumping three mags of m-16 ammo into it’s slim and very tiny but deadly body. instant sashimi. the tree ended up in the hooch with some sorta christmas lights and stuff.  one of the more odd and sad christmas’ in my sad demented life.

the other being a couple of years ago when i was on my own and living by myself.  yes, well, for whatever reasons.  i was sick with the flu and it was around 2am on christmas eve day.  i had gotten out of bed in order to pee and fell back into said bed when i heard 4 shots ring out and the death, ahhhh, from the dead guy.  the bedroom window was open.  turns out to have been a homeless guy and a drug deal gone bad.  well, that was the street version any the ways.  the true version i’m sure.  though to this day there are still folks out there who think the guy was a sorta saint.   just goes to show what the straight world knows about anything.  the other homeless had no use for the said dead guy.  trust me.

yeah, it’s christmas and i hope all of you have a very good and pleasant one.  there’s folks out there that aren’t going to have one.  that being a merry or pleasant christmas.  sad but true.  i hope you all do something to help those less fortunate.  that might include those in the military and off doing the bidding of those who seem to run shit.   yeah, well. any rate, have a merry christmas and a happy new year.

jmh

gentlemen, the marines are drafting this month

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the re-runs keep on coming this summer. this particular one first appeared almost three years ago. originally it was a two part story. this time around i’m running it as one part. it is what it was and it’s more of my history and yours as well. life throws you knuckle curve balls that can sometimes change everything. even if you just stand there flat footed and watch the ball dance by. there are also odd circumstances in history/life that occur in which you are part but just a minor footnote. also, in case you haven’t noticed it, life can deal out irony like nobodies business. thanks for reading.

jmh

gentlemen the marines are drafting this month

it had already been a bad morning. a very bad morning. however, those seven words sent an electric shock through the hundred or so plus odd souls in the downtown los angeles army induction center, circa dec 1969. things were bad but they were just about to go completely sideways. but i’m getting ahead of myself.

that december day was the second time i’d been drafted by uncle sam. i’d received an induction notice back in may of the same year. i’d managed to get out of that one. i was still in school and actually doing ok for a change. meaning good grades. hell, i was even on the dean’s list. the school got me out of it but warned me if i didn’t go to another school in the fall i’d be history. i’d already spent one of my lifetimes going to that local community college. three years to graduate from a two year school. it was a good thing i drifted into the theatre department. it meant good grades and a sorta reprieve from the inevitable.

yes, it was inevitable. it was all written a few months before i was born in 1948. harry truman re-signed the draft law act and i was doomed while still in my mother’s womb. oh, sure i could have gone to canada but that really wasn’t an option. my father, my uncles, and my godfather. yeah, my godfather, a lucky to be alive heavily decorated big time ww2 combat vet and at the time still in the army. my dad’s best friend. get the picture? doubtful in these weird times.

there were other various ways to avoid the draft. some of which must have worked or the folks in the draft resistance centers wouldn’t have told you about them. though most of the stuff wasn’t something i’d like to try and pull off. say, like crapping in your pants and peeing in them as well for a week or so before your induction physical. that riff was supposed to work as quickly as it took them to get you out of the building. something i didn’t think any sane person could manage. there was another one not quite as bad. it involved a rotten fish, some thread, a needle, and the guts to string the thread through the fish then leave it there to rot along with the fish. after a few days you would take the needle and thread then somehow or another run it through your knee. either one it didn’t matter. this made for an interesting infection in your knee and with the string left there it made for an even more interesting x-ray. no, i don’t think so. thanks, anyway.

another way to avoid the draft if you could come up with $300 or $400 there were doctors that could get you out. maybe. that was the catch, it was only a maybe. however, $300 back in those days might as well have been $100,000 today. plus my folks were just working class stiffs and salt of the earth types. not much cash at that time and one of the reasons i went to the community college to start with. oh, i had some cash but it would have wiped me out. better to just go with some odds and roll the dice. then see what happens. youth, guile, and bluster.

i’d worked through the summer. sorta. i spent a lot of time at the beach or just dicking about. the fall rolled around and i had no plans for school. i was just going to totally lay around and wait for my next draft notice. my parents weren’t happy about this so called plan but then nothing much they could do about it other than bitch. especially when i told them why would anyone want to hire someone who might get drafted next month? i wouldn’t. that usually kept them out of my hair for a few weeks at a time.

the first or second week of november i got my second draft notice. i recall just sitting in the den holding the unopened letter. it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

the swan song of my civilian life was seeing the rolling stones at the forum in inglewood. the infamous 3am show where mick laments he should have brought along his toothbrush. it had been scheduled for much earlier in the evening as the second show of the night. the first show got started several hours late and things just snowballed from there on out. my girlfriend at the time did manage to score peter fonda’s autograph. i finally made it home after the sun had been up for awhile.

just as a drift since i haven’t drifted yet…that particular girlfriend’s parents hated me. i would be in her college dorm room fucking her or she would be giving me head and the phone would ring and it would be her parents or older brother telling her to dump me. the call would go on and on. we would just lay there naked while they ranted on about me. i didn’t care about the call, her brother, or her parents. she swallowed. then she would make some tea to clear her palette as it were. hey, older brother, listen to this. yes, well, my bad.

the fatal morning finally arrived. it was an early morning ride in the dark from de onta out to san berdoo and the swing auditorium for the draft call cattle call. the first stop of the day. the first stop in what was to become an almost two year long living breathing real life twilight zone episode.

it was a sad farewell. parents hugging kids. girlfriends crying. parents crying. young men trying not to cry. it was a sea of misery. then it came time to board the buses for the trip to downtown l.a. a long silent ride in the early morning darkness. private thoughts and prayers hung in the air like a thick fog.

once into the induction center it was the standard army cluster fuck. sorta. take your clothes off put em back on take em off again and wander around naked for awhile going here going there seeing that doctor getting a needle stuck in a vein. yeah, that deal went down with army medics. probably just out of medic school. medics who got lucky when they were sent to the induction center and not nam. at least for the moment.

standing naked in a line with a bunch of other naked guys is no fun. but standing in that line and watching some guy trying to hit pay dirt with a dull seemingly square needle was even worse. i have never seen anything like it. stab, miss, stab again, miss again. no more stabbing just twist the fucker around until the vein was popped and blood drawn. an amazing sight. some of the more feint hearted souls actually passed out watching that action being played out right there before them in living and breathing color.

after the probing and stuff we were given some sort of written test. i don’t recall anything that was on it. though it would play into what was to come later in the morning.

then came time to sit and wait. a game we would all come to play very well. a game that i can still play today. at some point or another we were taken into a room, 30 or 40 of us at a time. it was in this room we heard those fateful words, gentlemen, the marines are drafting this month.

it was more or less fine and dandy we were going to be stuck in the army for a couple of years. well, not fine and dandy but we were at some sort of peace with ourselves and the whole deal. however, this card from the bottom of the deck was more than any sane person could take. suddenly things got even more grim. i’d heard stories about marine corps boot camp from ex-marines during that time period and it’s something i had no wish to experience. the army experience would be more than enough, thank you.

the army officer who had made that statement let it sink in for a few seconds. not that it hadn’t already shaken everyone of us to the core. in those few seconds i came to the realization, that fuck it, i’m going out the open window if i hear my name and the marine corps mentioned in the same sentence.

sure the open window was 4 or 5 floors up from the street but what’s your point? i didn’t care. there were no windows on the lower floors as my friend, jwfh, pointed out and reminded me of yesterday. they had all been bricked over. all of the escape routes covered. either by bricks or army corporals whose sole mission was not to let anyone out of the building. i guess they didn’t think anyone would be fool hardy enough to take a dive from the 4th floor. yeah, well, think again.

they had taken all of our folders and put them in stacks on a a table at the front of the room. each stack had a separate number and letter code. we all had a number and letter code on our folders. say like 6c or 3a. i don’t recall what mine was. plus, i have no idea just how they came up with that number letter code. something to do with mental and psychical shape i’m sure.

after the stacks were completed the officer announced that the marines needed say, 4 6c’s. so the sargent randomly picked 4 folders from the 6c pile. those names were called out and the young men were told to go wait outside in the seating area. then he told the sargent the marines needed 6 3a’s. more random picking and more very very sad young men told to go wait outside. a different number of folders was selected from each of the piles. it wasn’t over until it was over. the group was thinned out by maybe a third and those among us who’s name hadn’t been called were then given the induction oath by the same officer. you’re in the army now.

once that was completed we were told to go wait outside and another group was called into the room. sitting outside, i have never seen more forlorn faces in my life than the faces on those poor guys who were going to go down to pendleton and marine corps boot camp. on the other hand those of us who hadn’t been ‘selected’ were almost ecstatic. go figure.

we waited around until the marines got what they wanted. we were given a bible, a box lunch, some toiletries then we boarded more buses for a 10 hour ride up to ft ord, on the monterrey peninsula. we were supposed to stop for restroom breaks and an evening meal but the driver was having none of that. there would be no one jumping ship or the bus on his watch. no, sir.

we arrived at ft ord around 11pm or later. exhausted and wired in that weird way. life was to become very very different for us all very very soon.

i do not mean to disparage the marine corps. no way. the story is true and was what it was in those times. pure and simple. without the marine corps we would all be in a bigger fix than we are already in. thankfully, there are those among us who still heed the the call of duty, honor, and country. may god bless them one and all. hopefully, some of those blessings will slop over to the rest of us.

i make no apologies for my time in the army or my time in vietnam. it was a sorta righteous deal that went askew. big time. shit happens. it will never be 1941 again. ever. however, that doesn’t mean some sort of applied force someplace is not warranted. iraq seems to be another vietnam. in the last 40 years it’s the only thing teddy kennedy ever got right. pure and simple.

the main problem with vietnam was we just up and left. a sad bad choice. left them to die by the millions. left them to die or worse in the re-education camps. re-education camps right out of mao and the chinese in the 60’s and 70’s. packing up and leaving without finishing the job was bad juju if there ever was bad juju. that bad karma continues to haunt this once great nation. the worst and nastiest re-education camp in vietnam? the old macv advisory 48 compound in ham tan. the place where i spent my year.

jmh

saigon holiday, 1971 part 3

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this is the final chapter of the saigon trip.  i hope you enjoy it as much as the other two chapters.  i want to thank all of you for reading.  i appreciate it very much.

saigon holiday, 1971  part 3

we had to get a cab to the nearest boq.  way too hung over, plus too hot and humid to walk.  after an overly zealous breakfast and along with the cab fare we were broke again.  two more days in saigon and no money give us an idea of sorts.  finally.  grab a cab to air america.  catch a flight and just go back to ham tan.   this means stiffing the cabbie at the gate but we are too broke to care.  we caught a cab and it deposited us at the air base entrance.  we bolt and run like rabbits.  the cabbie to old to catch us and he’s unarmed.

main entrance, tan son nhut air base.

feeling better about things we hit the air america terminal and ask about a flight back to ham tan.  we are told nothing is available for the next two days.  the only flight we can get is the one we had already booked two days down the road.  sleeping on the floor of the cia owned and operated airline for two nights is not allowed.  probably not even for five minutes.  the cia doesn’t run flop houses.

there’s a soldier in the air america terminal who hears of our plight.  he tells us to go to the chopper pad about half a mile away and see if we can hitch a chopper ride back to ham tan.  this lifts our spirits as it’s still early morning.  however, by noon we are beginning to realize we were stuck.  no chopper rides today.

the heli-port at tan son nhut.

we seem doomed to some sort of living nightmare.  when out of the blue this vietnamese army guy with a jeep walks up and says, you guys want a ride?  yes.  where to?  ham tan.  no way, way to dangerous.  so bill comes up with a plan.  i’ll give you this watch if you take us to bien hoa.  we figure we can stay in our company area and go unnoticed for a few days and somehow manage to get back to saigon for our flight back to ham tan.  the guy says, let me see the watch.  of course he doesn’t want it as it’s total junk and had already stopped running.  so no ride.  the viet then says, hey you guys got ration cards?  yeah, we have ration cards.  virgin ones.

you see with ham tan being out in the nowhere boonies the army gave you smokes for free and there was booze on the compound.  you didn’t need to use the ration cards.  so they stayed virgin.  this changed later but at the time it was so.

with that information the viet’s eyes light up.  he says, ok, i give you money.  then we go to the px(post exchange) and you buy all the cigarettes and beer on the cards for this month.  then i’ll take you to bien hoa.

this was actually a mother load for the viet.  the black market value for all the smokes and beer was a nice hefty amount of coin in any man’s language.  having learned a lot in the past day or so we say, nah, for all that you take us to ham tan.  once again, no way, too dangerous.  ok.  we counter with, xuan loc, which is about half way to ham tan.  we know a few guys there and we figure we can spend the night and worry about tomorrow later.  ok, deal, says the viet.  with that it’s off to px we go.

after wards we load the guy up with the smokes and beer.  he then says, ok now we go to bien hoa, driving to xuan loc is too dangerous.   we counter with, ok.  we’ll throw in the junk watch and you don’t get shot right here and right now.  and we go to xuan loc.  the viet takes the watch and drives us the forty miles or so to xuan loc.

an aerial view of xuan loc.

it was late afternoon by the time we got to xuan loc.  the viet guy bitching the whole way.  he dropped us off at another macv advisory team compound and went off to find a place to spend the night.  we ate some dinner, watched a movie, then slept in guy’s bunks that were working the overnight shift in the commo(communication) bunker.

there aren’t many mosquitoes in ham tan.  the beach and all.  too dry or something for mosquitoes even in the monsoon season.  however, in xuan loc they were thick and nasty.  the smell of fresh meat drove them particularly insane that night.  even with mosquito netting they were relentless.  waking up in the morning we found that our sheets were spotted with blood.  our blood.  spotted from rolling over in our semi sleep and squashing the little sated bastards into the sheets.   the guys came in looked at their now blood spotted sheets and were not happy.  xin loi, sorry about that.  it was time for breakfast and planning.  something.  anything.

someone at breakfast suggested we hit the chopper pad and talk to the
air traffic controller.  we say that didn’t work in saigon.  we are told not to worry.  so off we go to the chopper pad.  a very busy place.  even busier than saigon.  you see, in xuan loc there is a war going on.  the air traffic controller tells us ham tan is no sweat.  unless the chopper is on a medivac or a mission, he’ll have them come in and pick us up, for he is the lord of this air space.

a portion of xuan loc international airport.

not long after that a chopper lands and we are pointed to it and told to hop right in.  well, of course the chopper is already full and i have to sit with one leg out in space while i hang on to the door frame.  all this while trying not to get in the door gunner’s way.  my first chopper ride and when it was over i would never want another.  we didn’t know if the pilot was unhappy about being made to pick us up or if he was trying to avoid shit on the ground.  we never found out.  none the less, it was an even worse ride than the flight to saigon on air america.  hard to believe but true.

ham tan in sight.  finally home again.  that’s how it felt.  it always did.  we get back to the compound and everyone is surprised to see  us back so early.  before we can explain why in walks our company commander with the executive officer and first sargent in tow.  we of course are counting our blessings.  thanking everyone from god and buddha to swami vishnu the air controller didn’t flag down their helicopter.  finally some good luck or so it would seem.

this is indeed a rare visit as the company commander never came out to ham tan.  it was too dangerous for him.  he always sent the executive officer out on pay days or for whatever.  but today he’s in ham tan and feeling fine.  noticing bill he says, hold on there lad.  we were trying to get out of the bunker.  is that a .38 special you have there?   first sargent, write him up for that unauthorized weapon, and that boonie hat as well.  yes, sir.  for you see, macv didn’t care what kind of weapon you carried as long as it worked and you could shoot it.  the rest of the military were locked solid into the bullshit.  hats were the same with macv as well.  some other units too but not our signal unit.  as bill was getting reamed i sidled out of the bunker before someone decided to go off on me.  off to the hootch, my bunk, and home for some much needed sleep.

fini

the photos in the story were just taken from various places on the net.  googled, in other words.  i want to thank whoever for having them on the net for me to find and use.  i’m not making any money on this deal so i suppose it might be ok.  any the ways, thanks again to whoever, the photos added to the story.

i used to have photos taken in nam.  even a few from saigon.  those i lost long ago.  moving frenzies being what they are.  frantic.  i also had some photos of ham tan and the advisory team.  those are now being cataloged at texas tech university and their vietnam center and archive.  at some point you will be able to be view them on line in the archive.  you should visit that site: http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/ i think it’s the best vietnam archive in the country.

yeah, i know the ending is sorta anti-climatic.  it was what it was.  all in all, i think it’s a good story.  thanks for reading.

this story/idea is registered with the writers guild of america, west.

jmh