Friday, December 2, 2011

Viet Nam through Odie's eyes

During my 19 months in Viet Nam I made friends with some of the Vietnamese people and they helped me cope with where I was and made my stay there seem worthwhile. The lady pictured above is Kim Phong and worked in our office at 13th Finance in Qui Nhon. She introduced me to the children at Genrang Orphanage and acted as interpreter since the Catholic nuns spoke no English.

Kim invited me to a Vietnamese wedding for a family member that was held at 7 AM so that was an interesting experience and afterward at a reception I ate some things that I will never know what it was. Of course that's me on the right.

After I had been there for 13 months I took a 30 day leave and went home to visit with my then almost 6 month old daughter Pam who did not want me around her mother at first. The entire pregnancy took place while I was away. While home I had an article put in the local paper about the orphanage and received a lot of support in the way of clothes & food which I shipped ahead of me and when I got back the company commander thought it would be a good thing for a lot of our finance company to go with me to deliver the goods. It was the first time some of these children had worn new clothes in their short lives. They were products of relationships with GI's and Vietnamese women which made them outcasts.



The picture below is of a little boy that came onto the compound every morning with the Vietnamese nationals that worked on the compound in various types of work. He was unique in that he would approach you and salute you no matter what rank you had and always had a huge smile on his face. Working with the Inspector General's office I sometimes had to make trips to smaller finance offices to perform an audit. When I returned from one of those trips I noticed he was around and found out that they found him pacing off the distance from our movie shack to the perimeter fence which would have aided an explosive round to be fired killing many of us. I never saw him again.

There were numerous female workers that took care of our living quarters and our clothes. The two below are a couple of the workers.

In the picture below the lady on the right who I called "mama san" took care of my personal quarters, washed and ironed my clothes and shined my boots. She would iron with a blanket spread out on the cement floor in the squat position for hours and never complain. She worked for a number of GI's and my portion of pay was $9.00 a month and made her very happy.

We actually had a pet that seemed to always be around that we appropriately named "Payroll". He was looked after by a native American from Rapid City, SD who frequently allowed Payroll to have his share of beer. On at least two occasions I remember seeing Payroll passed out. The native was a staff sergeant when I arrived there and was demoted to specialist 4th class due to problems with drinking. One of the sad stories.

In the picture below you can see some of the GI's clothes hanging to dry on the left.

Below is one shot taken at a leper colony I was allowed to visit in 1969. We were not allowed to take pictures of the people who had fingers and toes missing and some with a hole in their face where their nose once was. It was a beautiful village right along the coast.

Although the food in the mess hall was very good we sometimes ate at the enlisted men's club where we could get burgers, steaks and shrimp anytime and the drinks and beers were only 15 cents each and the best shot of liquor was only 35 cents which is why to many GI's got in trouble with their drinking habit. Here I am with a fellow worker relaxing at the club.

The man below is Sgt Mickle, my immediate supervisor in our quality assurance section of 13th Finance. He had ulcers and had to drink a lot of milk.

This is specialist Hayes hard at work in our QA section.

Below are some views around the compound.





When I stopped over in Japan on the way home I picked up these 2 tapestries that hung in my home for many years until they started to deteriorate and had to be thrown away. Hope you enjoyed the tour and memories.



17 comments:

  1. Earlier this year I was captivated by your stories along these same lines, Odie, and these pictures help bring them to life. It's a tragedy that innocent children were abandoned, shunned and forced to live in poverty as a byproduct of the conflict. Drinking and drug abuse were rampant as you pointed out. I wrote this before and I will write it again. Thank you for your service!

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  2. That was a very interesting post. Thanks for telling it and the pictures...

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  3. These memories of Vietnam are so very interesting, Odie. I'm glad you are sharing them with us. Have ever been back to Vietnam/ or do you ever want to go back to visit Vietnam?

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  4. Odie, I really cannot top what Shady has said. What I know of the Vietnam conflict has been learnt from the many movies produced and I know that it was both a cruel and long, hard war. I know many men returned and were unable to continue their civilian lives afterwards. From what I have learnt here from you today, you were thankfully spared participating in live conflict due to your administrative duties in the finance department. Life must have been quite different from what you were accustomed to and quite an eye-opener. The stories you have shared today are a combination of heartwarming, sad and scary. Your thoughtfulness, compassion and caring to make a difference while you were stationed there speaks volumes of the type of young man you were, Odie. I really have enjoyed this look back at a time in your life which could not have been easy. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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  5. WOW. What an amazing post.

    Thank you so much for sharing/adventure. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. I loved this post. The photos are amazing and somehow make it all more real. Thankyou for sharing

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  7. The Viet Nam War brings feelings of sadness to me. I remember watching the news every night and wishing the war was over. It was nice of you to arrange for clothing and food to be given to the children. I also thank you for serving our country. I never blamed the service men and women for Viet Nam, just the politicians. As far as I'm concerned, they were heartless.

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  8. What an amazing post. The pictures are astounding. Thank you for sharing these pictures and stories with us. I am fascinated by all of it and can't wait to hear some more

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  9. Amazing and touching post Odie! I know you are a man with a huge heart, and your help with the orphanage just proves it. Through my ed studies classes I researched the the Montanyard culture and also had the opportunity to tutor many Vietnamese immigrants in ESOL. We have a large group who live here in North Carolina, due to the work of another Vietnam Vet who is working to protect the Montanyards. They are still being treated poorly in their own country due to the fact that they helped many US soldiers during the war. I enjoyed your pictures and your story so much.

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  10. Yes, Odie, thank you for your service!! What a gift you were to that orphanage. As others have said, and we all know, one of your greatest qualities is your huge heart. You've done so much because of it. Your love shines through each post you write (well....most of them!! haha!)

    I think I told you last time you wrote about Vietnam, I like it when you talk about it because my dad was there, but never ever talks about it. All I've heard is the food had maggots in it. (he would have been there in 1967 maybe to 1968, married and then had me in 1969. He was there for 13 mos too. His camp was bombed the day he left. He was not in active fighting, at least that's what he says, he was just waiting.

    thanks for sharing all these wonderful pictures.

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  11. Hi Odie. Like Shady, I remember the Orphanage from quite a while ago now, and that was such a good thing that you did to raise funds for them. Poor little things, just abandoned like that. I just hope that they managed to grow up and make a bit of a life for themselves. I am really enjoying your look back on past times in your life my friend, along with the photos that go with it. Vietnam must have been such a different experience for you. I remember vividly watching it on the TV news coverage at the time, and it really did seem at the time like a war that could never end. Hope you are having a relaxing weekend dear Odie.

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  12. Hey Langley,
    I was in 13th Finance from Feb. '69 to March of '70. I remember you from there, and got a kick out of your collection of photos. You must have been there a while before me, because Payroll was just a pup in your pic.
    I keep thinking I will make a website of the photos I have, and the ones from friends of mine from that time, but have not yet gotten around to it.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Robby Fortney

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  13. Hey, My name is Mike Scherer, I was with 13th fin from Aug 68 to Aug 69, out processing. I remember Payroll. I also remember Kim. Didn't she also work in the EM club?

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  14. Hi I was Sp5 Wiley in charge of Miscellaneous Pay stationed with you at Quincy Compound in 1970. The last couple days I have been looking for something about Vietnam why I did not know but I do now. When I saw that picture of the girl I knew it was Kim. I still have pictures of her and almost all of the same ones you have posted on here. I went back to Vietnam in 1992. You can contact me at rodwiley@windstream.net.

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  15. Odie: SP/4 Chuck Cap from Illinois. Was in the barracks with you. Dec 68-Dec 69. I remember Payroll from my first night. I was new...so he came into my room..sniffed me, then left. The mama-sans in photo were "Myrtle" and "Soon" was the cute one.

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  16. Chuck Cap again. I went to High School with Loren Hoffman's future wife...Judy Beck. I talk with Duane Daley the company clerk frequently.
    The Travel Pay guy who signed me out was named Heide. I saw him at work about 1982. He was a repairman on computer eqpt. SMALL WORLD

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