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Visit Saigon


The following is an excerpt from the book Compass and a Camera.




             We heard some bad news on Thursday, April 10.  Things were going smoothly on the patrol until I heard a report over the battalion radio that the NDP where we were stationed from September to November had just been mortared, and twenty-five rounds landed inside the wire.  They returned fire and managed to hold the base.  Several men were dusted off.   This event raised my anxiety level, and once again I wished I was out of the field.  I continued counting the days.


            Saturday was a better day; I broke sixty days. Fifty-nine left.  The lieutenant injured his foot and had not gone out for two days.  As the acting platoon sergeant, I had to take the platoon out both days.  I was fortunate and brought everyone back alive.  The following day we were supposed to have a stand-down and I was hoping to get into Saigon to take some pictures.


            On Sunday, April 13, I did get the opportunity to visit Saigon.  At 07:30 another sergeant and I hitched a ride in a jeep with a soldier who was on his way to Tan Son Nhut airbase.   We arrived at the airbase, had breakfast, then went to a movie while waiting for the PX to open at noon.  After picking up several rolls of film, we took a cab to downtown Saigon and spent the next few hours seeing the sights and taking pictures.


            Saigon was a big beautiful city.  Life seemed so normal; you would never suspect there was a war going on.  We stopped at the Saigon USO, had some hot dogs and milk shakes, and relaxed for a while.  There was a seamstress there who made the ao dai, the Vietnamese national costume.  I wanted to order one for Christina.  It had to be specifically fitted, so the woman provided a list of measurements that I later mailed to Christina along with recommendations on color choices, dark pants and a light dress or light pants and a dark dress. At the end of the day we took a cab back to our NDP.


            A couple of weeks after my trip to Saigon, Christina mailed back the measurements.  She also asked why I was carrying a rifle in some of the Saigon pictures I had sent her.   I explained that there were frequent bombings of GI’s in Saigon, especially at bus stops and other places where they congregated.  We were not allowed outside our NDP without a weapon and a helmet.

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