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!

 

 

Lon-binh:

 

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!

 

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