1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

Out and About In Vietnam I

Recollections From DaNang, Saigon 

and Points In Between


Photo: Curtis C-46 freight aircraft on the tarmac at Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport in 1967.  The Commando, as it is known, is a World War II-era airplane.

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport in 1967.  This is a Curtis C-46 "Commando" parked at the civilian air terminal.  Placed in service in 1942, the C-46 was used extensively to transport war materials from India to China during World War II -- over "The Hump" (the Himalayas).  Given the number of vintage aircraft in Vietnam, visits to airfields could be like a momentary step back into a Steve Canyon, Johnny Hazzard, or Terry and the Pirates comic strip!  Air America also flew C-47's, another classic WW II transport, and sometimes you hefted your gear on board along with Vietnamese nationals carrying caged chickens and other livestock -- just like in the movies!

Photo: Youngster, carrying a toddler who is straddling his hip. on the street in DaNang.

Photo Credit: MIV

Children Taking Care of Other Children.  A common sight around DaNang.  This little tyke, like most his or her age, is missing its britches.  Diapers were not apparent  in Vietnam, and toddlers played without concern initially wearing only shirts.  As they grew older, many were dressed in overalls that were split at the waist band from front to back along the crotch seam.  Squatting automatically opened the garment.  A simple solution to a universal challenge.

Photo: Long view of four Vietnamese children playing on the bank of the Song Han River, with the Headquarters of the III Marine Amphibious Group across the river in the background.

Photo Credit: MIV

Kids And A River.  This river scene shows children playing along the bank of the Han River, with the Headquarters of the III Marine Amphibious Group in the background.


Photo: Approach to DaNang's Museum of Cham Sculpture in 1967.

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: Vietnamese women cracking rock into gravel for use in road repair.


Photo Credit: MIV

Road Repair, Vietnamese Style.  It  worked like this:  women cracked rock into gravel.  There would be a line of women with small trays, woven from palm fronds, extending from the gravel pile to the pothole.  The women passed small amounts of gravel in the fashion of a bucket brigade.  At the end of the line was the male foreman, who took each tray as handed to him and tossed the gravel into the pot hole.  The division of labor was clear in Vietnam!

Another View of the Road

"Vietnamese road repair on the road from the compound heading into the city on the main drag was an eye-opener. Mama-sans carried rocks in little baskets from the side of the road to the middle and then dumped them out. A steamroller came and flattened them out. Tar, not asphalt, was applied by someone ladling it out from a 55-gal drum sitting over a fire. No wonder your heels sank into the road when you walked down it."

Gene Pianka, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1967-1968.

Photo: In the courtyard of the Cham Museum of Sculpture, an American in civilian clothes poses by a banyan tree with Vietnamese children hamming it up in the background.

Photo Credit: MIV

Deserted Museum.  No sign was posted here in 1967, but this entirely open and seemingly unattended building contained statuary and obviously historical artwork.  It is clear today that this the Museum of Cham Sculpture, sometimes described in contemporary guide books as DaNang's most renown feature.  Top: The walkway leading to the museum.  Bottom: A banyan tree with a great deal of hanging foliage on the museum grounds and two local children -- like kids everywhere -- hamming it up for the camera behind the posing visitor.  

Photo: A view from behind the pilot and through the windscreen of a Beech D-18, flown by Air America, on its way to Saigon.

Photo Credit: MIV

Air America -- Before The Movie.  The favorite airline of the military intelligence community in Vietnam -- Air America, almost always on time, and flying a variety of interesting aircraft.  This picture shows the cockpit of a twin-engine Beech Super D-18 en route to Saigon in 1967.  The flight itinerary was always announced by the pilot -- from DaNang, with stops at Pleiku, Qui Nhon, Ban Me Thout, Dalat, Cam Rahn Bay, and into Saigon.

Photo:  Aerial view of the fog-shrouded summit of Nui Ba Den, known as the Black Virgin Mountain, near Tay Ninh.

Photo Credit: MIV

The Black Virgin Mountain.  Nui Ba Den -- the Black Virgin Mountain -- near Tay Ninh.  The US Army Signal Corps manned radio relay stations atop the mountain, while the Viet Cong, who controlled the base and the sides, made frequent nightly forays upwards in continuing attempts to dislodge the American troops.

Photo: Vietnamese carrying a load of wicker baskets along a DaNang street  using an over-the-shoulder carrying stick.

Photo Credit: MIV

Moving Stuff.  The most prevalent form of individual carriage was the carrying stick, also sometimes referred to as the "chogi" stick, a flat, narrow, flexible wooden pole that was placed diagonally across the shoulders.  Balanced cargo was suspended from each end.  As the individual moved along, the stick sometimes bounced up and down, giving rise to the expression "chogi'ing along."   In rural areas, excrement used for fertilizer was carried at each end of the chogi stick in pails which were known as a "honey buckets."  This widespread means of gardening, together with the tendency of members of the indigenous population to relieve themselves along the roadsides -- and the constant presence of wood smoke from cooking fires -- gave the area its distinctive smell. 

Photo: Unknown trooper walking past a shanty in DaNang.

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: Five Vietnamese women sitting outside of a beauty salon on the main street of DaNang in 1967.

Photo Credit: MIV


Getting the Laundry Done.  This trooper seems to be hurrying by a "laundry," typical of the many roadside shanties around DaNang.  But like the local French bread, which at first seemed so good but was always found to contain grit of undetermined origin, the services available at such establishments often also came with something extra.  And that something extra required a trip to the medics.  The area was rife with stubborn strains of gonorrhea, collectively referred to as the "Oriental Clap" or "Chinese Clap" by soldiers.  In addition, human pappiloma virus -- also known as "VD Warts," which could migrate well up into the male urethra and cause really inconvenient raised lesions -- was common.  If this wasn't enough to discourage casual romance, there was word of a special holding facility at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines -- a kind of venereal disease limbo -- for military personnel who had completed their tour in Vietnam but who could not go home due to an active case of drug-resistant VD.  Some progressive and pragmatic unit commanders and First Sergeants in the DaNang area -- those of "B" Detachment, included -- were known to have paid from their own pockets for condoms that were made available to their personnel in orderly rooms.  For soldiers, sailors and airmen, laundry service was provided by the military or done by maids at the various billets around the city.   

Shave and a Hair Cut.  Military personnel who traveled Doc Lap street regularly could always count on a smile and a wave from the ladies at this beauty salon -- generally referred to as "Lolita's Place" after the young, bodacious and long-haired stylist who sat out front most afternoons.  It was difficult to miss this young woman who stood out sharply from others on this thoroughfare.  She had coal back hair, impeccably brushed and worn in a shoulder-length pageboy-like hairdo with bangs.  Since downtown DaNang was off limits to American military on foot, continuing speculation about the nature of the services offered at the shop never gave way to actual fact.  For hair care, soldiers stuck with vetted male Vietnamese barbers who sometimes included an attention-getting, panic-inducing, chiropractic-like neck-cracking along with the trim at no extra charge.

Photo: Vietnamese youngster tending water buffalo near a paddy on the outskirts of DaNang.

Photo: Elderly Vietnamese man posing on a street in DaNang in 1967.

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left:  Hey GI!  Like the old man on the street and the woman at the fish market, the kid with the water buffalo and the newsboy-type cap was an obligatory picture for GI-tourists.  Despite photographs sometimes seen of youngsters riding water buffalo, they rarely did so in shorts --the hair of the buffalo's hide was so stiff that it was irritating to the legs of the riders.  Above, Right:  Hey Mister Poppa-San!  If over-the-hill women were labeled "momma-san," then older males naturally became "poppa-san."  Left:  Vietnamese younger fishing in shallow water -- apparently for minnows -- using a woven trap that the fish could swim in to but not out of.

Photo Credit: Daryl Tucker, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1967-1968

Photo: Children in a Chieu Hoi Village, this one in Saigon,  a housing development for former Viet Cong members granted amnesty by the South Vietnames government.

Photo Credit: MIV

Chieu Hoi Village.  The Chieu Hoi -- or Open Arms -- Program was an amnesty initiative extended by the Republic of South Vietnam to the Viet Cong.  Those who defected to the South Vietnamese side of the conflict were settled in housing developments such as the one pictured above, in Saigon, in 1966.

While U.S. public policy was aimed at "winning the hearts and minds of the people," the less-publicized outlook was "once you get them by the [gonads], their hearts and minds will follow."

Out and About In Vietnam II

Faces Through A Wall

Recollections of the People and the Times

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