Hello everyone. Lately I have had Viet Nam on my mind as I do from time to time. When you spend 19 months somewhere it tends to stay with you. Lots of memories, some good, some not so good. Just felt it was time to get some of them in print.
I arrived there in late 1968 after a 12 hour plane ride that made stops in Hawaii, Wake Island and the Phillipines. Had to board a C130 and fly again this time to Qui Nhon which would be my home for some time. Qui Nhon is a fairly large city located on the coast of Viet Nam and the streets are almost always filled to capacity with motorcycles or the 3 wheeled mini taxis that were so popular as public transportation. Didn't quite know what to make of this new place but I would learn.
My first negative experience happened soon after I arrived. Was walking down the street outside of our compound with many vehicles racing past my friend and I. Suddenly I felt a tug on my wrist and my watch was gone. A Vietnamese male on a scooter had grabbed it knowing that the expansion band would break easily. You learn quickly that to safeguard your watch you must wear leather that buckles.
Most of the structures outside of our compound were built with whatever they could find, including flatened cans. Culture shock for this NC boy so far from home. Inside our compound we had a lot of the creature comforts that would come to be appreciated. Our living quarters had panels that would open up to let a breeze come through and were actually quite comfortable. Our mess hall had some of the best food I had eaten in a while which really surprised me. We also had an enlisted mens club that offered steaks, shrimp, beverages of all kinds and at a very low price.
I was a quality assurance inspector for 13th Finance and my job was to audit military pay records for mistakes. The pay records were to say the least a mess. I had been to the Army Finance School in Ft. Ben Harrison, In. but some of the people working there were never trained to work with pay records and it was my job to get it right. During the 19 months there I found errors that totaled to almost 1 million dollars. Some in favor of the GI and some to the Government.
Boredom could be a real problem since my unit was a support unit and did not see any hostile action. That meaning I did not have to shoot at anyone or spend time in the jungles and rain. I learned to develop my own film at the photo lab to pass the time but what took most of my off time was an orphanage just outside of Qui Nhon. There were Vietnamese nationals working at the club and one invited me to go one day so I agreed. The children there were products of relationships with GI's & Vietnamese females. Now the children were considered as outcasts and some even had blond hair and blue eyes. It was run by Catholic nuns and filled to capacity. One day the nuns invited me to have lunch with them and offered me a sub. I ate the sub only to find out later that the meat inside was from a large lizard. I never questioned it because it was very tasty.
After about 13 months I was allowed a 30 day leave to go home. A backwards note: I learned shortly after arriving in Viet Nam that my wife was pregnant so when I got home there was a good sized daughter waiting to see her daddy for the first time. It was quite a reunion and so good to be on American soil again. While there I had an article put in the Rocky Mount Telegram about the orphanage needing food and clothes. The calls started and before long I had a load of stuff to ship to Viet Nam. People can be so generous when children are involved.
When I got back to Viet Nam and the packages arrived we had a party at the orphanage. My company commander even joined us as we watched the excitement on the faces of the childen having new clothes for the first time. That was a rewarding day for us all.
I made quite a few friends during the time I was stationed there and often wonder how they are today and if the orphanage is still in operation. Have always wanted to return to check on Qui Nhon but it is a world away.