FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF VIETNAM
Sunday, March 9,1969
As our plane was approaching the time we were to land in Bien Hoa, after a pleasant R and R in transit in Hawaii, I looked out of the window (It was dark and the stewardesses were ugly) and saw lights of villages, towns, and small cities, and I thought; "How dumb! Don't they know that there's a war going on and the last thing you should do is show the enemy a light which gives away your position?" Then I remembered that those dumb civilians live here and since they're not involved in the war I guess they can get away with it. And then we landed.
Bien-Hoa, Monday, March l0th:
How strange! The stairway lights were turned off as we got off the plane to give snipers a little tougher time of it, but everything else was well lit. How can you fight a war with all the lights in the world on? Bien-Hoa looked just like any other airport except that a soldier with a rifle (M-16) stood nearby in case any fanatics tried to shoot us or something. We went over to a huge open sided shed or something and waited for our baggage, during which time I called Fix and woke him (l:3~am). We then grabbed our duffel bags, some guys had suitcases, and boarded air-conditioned buses for transport to the 90th Replacement Station at Lon-binh.
I picked a window seat and sat down and as the bus filled up some of the old timers remarked, "That's right you new guys, sit by the windows and help protect our bodies with yours!". After which I immediately wanted an aisle seat but was already trapped where I was. We proceeded down the very narrow road with little shacks on both sides of the street with our lights on and only two MP jeeps for protection. Wow! I expected to be blasted any minute and that window got larger and larger as the road got narrower. I wanted to put my AWOL bag up in front of the window to help stop any bullets (it was full of books) but decided that the others would laugh and you know that with German pride you'd rather be dead than laughed at! And with the windows covered with wire screen (to keep the hand grenades out) I figured that any bullet shot at me would be deflected anyway so I just sat there and tried to look experienced!
We drove up and unloaded at the processing center amid a well-lit place, which I again couldn't understand, but since it was dark I guessed that we were in the middle of a fortress or something, so I didn't sound the alarm. But when daylight came I found out that we were right in the middle of nothing, surrounded by bunkers.
It was 3:00am and the filling out of papers, changing our greenbacks to "funny money" and an orientation took us to chow time so we didn't get anymore sleep. We did get bunks issued but no linen - then I went to chow. Aagugh! Poison! The eggs were terrible, the bacon raw and probably from a water buffalo, the rest was equally bad so I ate the grapefruit and quit. After chow we had a formation for details and I got barracks clean up. We cooled it in half an hour and bugged out. It was then that I realized that the Army doesn't change, just the weather.
I went over to the snack bar and bought some iced kool-aid for 15 cents to beat the heat, but more because I didn't have anything better to do. I wandered around the PX once or twice but didn't need anything so I wandered back out. It was nice in the PX because it was air-cooled. I then went back to my bunk and decided to shower before Fix came because it had been a while since the Holiday Inn in Hawaii. I went up to the shower and there were two mama-sans in one so I went to the other and started to shower. I just got good and lathered up when the water ran out. Man was I mad. There I sat with an ass full of soapsuds and no water. Ow! I calmly wiped the soap off while repeating the Army rosary and got dressed.
As I went outside I met Sgt. Pixley1 wearing his cool red beret and starched, tailored fatigues. Good-looking stud! We went and had another Kool-aid on the rocks and plotted against the Army until he had to go back to his unit. It was sure good seeing him so healthy - it encouraged me. I went back to my bunk and lay down until the 12:3~ pm formation, skipping chow. I got put on head count at the mess hall and was off duty until 4:45 pm so I went back and stripped down to my shorts and lay there and sweated.
4:45 came and I went to the mess hall amid a windstorm that carried the ashes from the burning crap, dust, etc. into the place and all over the food. It almost ruined my appetite but I ignored it. The meal was cremated chicken, potatoes, veg., bread (French) and Jell-O or cake. After the breakfast disaster I took Jell-O. I was merrily tearing at the crisp? chicken and eating the Jell-O when I picked up my bread and was about to eat it when I noticed a sesame seed in the crust. On closer inspection it fell out and crawled away so I don't think it was a seed. I finished what it hadn't eaten although I did so with my eyes shut to avoid any more surprises.
I then went over to the door and counted as the guys came to eat. The time went fast because I was watching the cockroaches play among the food trays. After chow I went and found out that I was going to the 25th Infantry Division at Cu-Chi. Curses!