14 March 2013

0 very abbreviated selections from my father's viet nam photographs (scanned by joe)

'It was 46 years ago today (March 12th 2013).....at the age of 19, I flew from Travis Air Force Base in California to the 90th Replacement Battalion, about 30 miles south of Saigon, United States Army, Republic of South Viet Nam. My memory of names and places has grown so obscure, that I cannot even tell you the name of our Advisory Team location, nor do I spend a lot of time thinking about my time in country. One of the last things my Father-In- Law did for me before his death, was to finish scanning my slides of Viet Nam, a very, very, generous act. As my daughter has been asking questions for some time about the war, and some friends are planning a return visit to Viet Nam, I thought now might be a good time to post these. I will follow my timeline from March of 1967 to October of 1968 beginning with arrival in Saigon, brief assignment in Lam Son, 30 miles to the north, in Hue the former Imperial Capital, the port city of Danang, and last in the far north in Quang Tri. One thing it is essential to understand, is that I mean no disrespect to the brave men and women who served in combat in country. While I was shelled and shot at a few times, my experiences are very different from those went looking for the enemy, and they have my highest regard, and deepest appreciation.'

To be honest, I was probably a waste of the government’s money as a soldier, just short of useless, but without a clue of that reality. What played large in what talents I did provide the Army was an elective typing class I took in 10th grade. This typing class was to again and again influence my life (got me into computers later) but here it was critical. After flunking out of a Top Secret Security Repair Class (oh the horror – Physics at midnight!), I was bound for the Infantry in Fort Jackson, South Carolina – but at the time they were picky. As this was very early (1966) in the build-up, they were just entering into specialized Infantry training for Viet Nam, and wanted the best and brightest – sorry no four-eyes. Instead, I wound up being sent down the street to the Southeast Signal School to become a Radio Operator (05B20), one of the guys with the radio on their back and a long antenna sticking up to show everyone where they were. I learned Morse Code, and did well enough that they looked over my resume, and saw I had Typing. That qualified me for Radio Teletype, which was a large radio mounted on a 2 ½ ton or ¾ ton truck, or in a building on the ground. That was what I was going to be doing in Viet Nam. During training in the states, I was with four other Yayhoos that called ourselves the Fabulous Five. All of us went to Viet Nam as 05C20s, one was assigned to be a company clerk, one to helicopter repair, one a duty soldier, and the worst, one assigned to the Marine Corps at the far north in Con Tien. I was the only one who did what I was trained to do.
 — at The Republic of South Viet Nam.'

'Saigon from atop the Caravelle Hotel - From Wikipedia: Still, despite the war, the tourists would come. Forty-six thousand tourists showed up in 1966, according to the Vietnamese authorities, but Arnett reckons that most of that number were journalists and businessmen coming in under the cover of an easy-to-get tourist visa. It wasn’t easy to stay in Saigon then. Taxi drivers charged 20 times the normal fare. Journalists and soldiers took up most of the hotel rooms. The garbage collectors went AWOL, and the streets were dirty. But still, the “elderly folk” would drop in, marshaled about by a frantic tour guides.
“No one seems interested in discouraging the occasional tourist, simply, perhaps, because of the political necessity to pretend that all is going well in Vietnam. But all is not going well and hasn’t been for years.” Me: My part of the war was very civilized during the early stages. I know it wasn't for the combat troops out in the bush, but that was a long way from Saigon, and all of the news we got was pretty much good. Every now and then we would hear of some really bad place or event but we still had unlimited passes in the city, and as you can see, I dressed the part. I turned 20 two months into my first tour.'

'1st Infantry Equipment Graveyard'
'After a most interesting first night in country, where I pulled guard duty armed with a shotgun I did not know how to load, and shared a bunker with the largest spider I had ever seen (up till that time), I received my permanent assignment as a Radio Teletype Operator (O5C20) attached to the 525th Military Intelligence Group located on the outskirts of Saigon. This is the inner base headquarters of the 525th Military Intelligence Unit. I was here awaiting assignment for around three months. They found out I had a top secret clearance from my failed class in the states, and therefore were able to have me change the codes on some security gear daily, getting an officer out of the job.'

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