Category Archives: Vietnam

Vung Tau

After the emotion of visiting the old battle sights we settled in Vung Tau for a couple of days RinC (Rest in Country). We visited the Ettamogah Pub for breakfast each morning and planned our day. Sometimes the planning took the form of a one-liner – ‘taking it easy today’. On other days we explored the town that had once been my leave port.

I didn’t recognize much at all and I guess the fact that I had only been there a few times and that was 30 plus years ago might have had something to do with my poor recollections.

The other contributing factor could have been that I was usually drunk when I had been there previously.

The more gentle of my readers may think that is a poor show but considering that I was Infantry and that some of the mates I had spent earlier leave passes with had been killed or de-limbed by mines then you might understand that each subsequent leave pass was spent in the knowledge that it may be my last -literally. The sword of Damocles imbues a desire to live the rest of your life to the fullest, at the earliest.

And I did!

That’s my excuse anyway.

Nui Dat and Long Tan

While aspiring film producer Martin Walsh tries to get a movie of the Battle of Long Tan underway I am walking through the rubber where it all happened nearly forty years ago. The rubber is being tapped now and workers walk through the plantation where years before just over 100 men of Delta Company, 6RAR stood their ground against 2500 odd enemy soldiers.

Getting to Long Tan was an experience by itself. Anh, at the Ettamogah Pub organised the permits necessary that any tourist, veteran or otherwise, needs to visit and pay respects at the Long Tan Cross. $10.00 USD per visitor for the permit that comes with an escort and $40 USD for the vehicle and driver. The escort, a polite young man did his country proud. He treated us with respect as we did him, and only mentioned the word ‘Victory, six times over the day.

Long Tan to be filmed

While I’m busy in Vietnam paying respects to the valour of our troops at Long Tan, Evil Pundit points out that the story of the battle is soon to become a major film with first-time producer Martin Walsh intending to approach the likes of Russell Crowe, Eric Bana, Hugh Jackman, Bryan Brown and Sam Neill, to join the project.

I hope it works – it is a major part of our military history.

Vung Tau – First impressions

We caught the Saigon-Vung Tau Hydrofoil. A futuristic looking fast ferry that is Russian built. Like all things Russian, (in my experience) it looks magnificent at 100 metres and tragic close up. The Vietnamese don’t help as repair and maintenance doesn’t feature beyond keeping the engines working.

Screws and rivets rusting out, few light globes working, bits of timber falling off everywhere and all of this moving along at maybe 60 kph. An accident waiting to happen.

On this occassion, all integral parts maintained close formation and we arrived at Vung Tau 1hr 15 min later to be met by two regiments of small people all shouting something that sounded like Taksi!!

I’d forgotten about the standard Vietnamese marketing ploy of harrassing the shit out of people from several flanks at once until they fold and buy something. We succumbed and caught a taxi to the Ettamogah Pub.

Any Australian, or any other westerner for that matter, should drop in at the Ettamogah Pub. Run by Alan and Anh, (Aussie and Vietnamese) the place offers a bolt hole for frazzled travellers. No Vietnamese Marketing Assaults allowed inside, the food is good, the bar girls bad very good and Anh is always keen to help Aussie Vets looking to go to old battle scenes.

Any vets reading this site should be aware that going back in time never really works. Nothing is the same. The town now has a population of about 200,000; a two lane highway leads to Baria and the back beach is now a resort site with kilometers of hotels and bars removing money painlessly from tens of thousands of tourists.

The Flags, the site of thousands of drunken RVs, no longer exists. The Peter Badcoe Club has gone although the pool was only recently ripped out to make way for another jerry buily hotel.

In short, I recognized nothing at Vung Tau – it was as if I had never been there before.

I’m hoping for better results tomorrow when we go to look at Baria, Nui Dat, Long Tan, Hoa Long, Phuoc and all points inbetween.

Until then stay safe and enjoy your Christmas

Saigon

At last I’m in Saigon. The city of 8 million people, 4 million small motor bikes and absolutely no trafic rules that I can ascertain.

Yesterday I flew Brisbane through Bangkok arriving late and tired. I had a good seat courtesy of my youngest daughter’s boyfriend who told me to phone the day before and book a preference. It worked. I had more leg room than the pilot.

Good flight, good food, indifferent movies.

Arrived at Bangkok at 22.30 and waited around the carousole for around thirty minutes until someone told me that being in transit I wasn’t going to see my baggage untill I got to Saigon. Clean clothes and shave pack were things for tomorrow.

Damn.

The lack of a fridge or coffee facilities in the room forced me to use Room Service and I gladly signed a chit for 450 baht. Not having noticed the conversion rate I didn’t have a clue what that meant in AUSD but next morning in the lift I noticed a Christmas Lunch for 400 baht. Visions of the coffee costing 50 or 60 bucks were unfounded as it eventually converted to $13.00

Ordered coffee next morning and thanked the waitress… ‘Cam On’. The girl looked blank and should have as I thanked her in Vietnamese! She gave me a quick reminder and I thanked her meaningfully, in her language.

I wished I could have stayed longer in Bangkok as it would have been a buzz to go to the Old Asia Hotel where I lived for 6 months during the Vietnam War. Maybe Tai was still behind the bar and Honest Sam may still be selling rubies. I brought my wife a ruby from Sam way back then for $90.00 for one carat which is now worth several thousand dollars. It would have been good to do it again. A fellow always needs some brownie points.

Ah, Thailand, where the woman are petite, pretty and all smiles and the fellows are…mmm…I don’t know..didn’t really notice.

A short flight to Vietnam sitting next to a young Vietnamese woman who has just finished two years in Switzerland preceeded by four years in Vietnamese Universities.

Her job hopes?

She is going to work in hospitality as all the young people with any sort of education can see the tourist dollar is coming.

Are your parents meeting you?

No, just my boyfriend. If I told my parents before hand I was coming they wouldn’t sleep until I got home.

Good story with the boyfriend being the winner. Love or hormones, it was sweet and she was so excited when the plane touched down.

Flying low over the city the Saigon River still snakes through the suburbs and the old aircraft bunkers protecting memories and old oil slicks at Ton Son Nhut are still there as if the Vietnamese are maintaining them. Small memorials to many brave deeds.

The last time I was there I wrote;

Tan Son Nhut airport still beggars description. Every cliché that ever was has been used by war correspondents to describe the chaos and order. The chaos apparent, the order witnessed by the lack of mid-air collisions. Then the busiest airport in the world, our arrival deposits us in an inferno of heat and fuming avgas produced by the tropics and uncountable aircraft. Not a system in sight but oh, the aircraft! F4-Phantom jets, Republic F-105,\nC123 Providers, RAAF Hercules and Caribou, Huey Choppers like a locust plague on the Nullabor Plains, Jet Ranger Choppers and small bubble choppers we later called the Flying Sperm (was there something on our minds?) Sky Cranes, “Dragon Fly? Chinooks and Push-Pull Cessna’s used as spotter aircraft. Military Inventory Overload! Get me to an Aussie base!

Not so this time. Nowhere as busy and instead of trying to kill us they were just checking our passports.

Tomorrow we, my son Stuart and I, are off to Vung Tau by ferry. Tonight might be the time for a beer at the Caravelle or some such other pub steeped in history.

Will post again from Vung Tau after I’ve visited the old battle grounds – the bars-and other sites a vet might like to see again. Long Tan, Nui Dat, Hoa Long, Lang Phouc Hai, Phouc Buu, The Horseshoe and all places inbetween.

Back to War Tour

This afternoon at 16:30 I depart Brisbane for Saigon. Blogging will be minimal over the duration of my sojourn in a Third World country however I will try. The biggest problem that I can forseee, will be my Third World standard knowledge of mobile blogging.

Best of the season to you all and thanks for visiting.

I’m going back

My eldest son has suggested I stop talking about it and do it. That is, go back to Vietnam and face my demons. So sometime this southern summer, most probably December, myself, my wife, my son and his fiance are heading off to look at Vietnam, Ancor Wat, Thailand and whatever inbetween.

I served in Thailand during the war and look forward to visiting again. Maybe have a Singah beer at the old Asia Hotel where I lived for several months and generally play the tourist that I wasn’t in 1972.

Vietnam though, will be a trip of discovery. Everything old will be new again. Different eyes, different experience. No fear. No having to fit your entire life in a 36 hour leave pass in Vungtau because your days may be numbered

Man, they were pretty heavy leave passes. You haven’t partied unless you’ve done so thinking for tomorrow we die!. Lends strength for party games, allows for consumption of huge amounts of alcohols which in turn makes you taller, stronger, wittier and able to beat the provost at any game they call.

What I want from my readership is useful advice on Vietnam today. I know some of my peers from all those years ago live in Phuouc Tuy province today. I know some of my readers are from Vietnam. I know others are vets and may have travelled there lately.

I need contacts. I want to meet our old enemy – the soldiers, not the communist party stooges – and have a chat and a beer with them. I’d particularly like to meet Vietnamese veterans who served in C2 D445 Battalion.

The last time we met, in August 1970, I didn’t get a chance to say hullo. They fired and killed a mate of mine and then ran. On reflection it most probably wasn’t the time and place for a chat – it was time for death and I was looking to create some. Maybe I did – we found plenty of blood trails but no bodies. C2 D445 Vets are the only ones who would know.

Love to meet them.

I’m a different man now. Have a beer, a chat, swap stories and photos of wives and kids.

Civilized now.

Help me readers – leave some meaningful advice.

I’m going back.

My eldest son has suggested I stop talking about it and do it. That is, go back to Vietnam and face my demons. So sometime this southern summer, most probably December, myself, my wife, my son and his fiance are heading off to look at Vietnam, Ancor Wat, Thailand and whatever inbetween. I served in Thailand during the war and look forward to visiting again. Maybe have a Singah beer at the old Asia Hotel where I lived for several months and generally play the tourist that I wasn’t in 1972.Vietnam though, will be a trip of discovery. Everything old will be new again. Different eyes, different experience. No fear. No having to fit your entire life in a 36 hour leave pass in Vungtau because your days may be numbered. Man, they were pretty heavy leave passes. You haven’t partied unless you’ve done so thinking for tomorrow we die!. Lends strength for party games, allows for consumption of huge amounts of alcohols which in turn makes you taller, stronger, wittier and able to beat the provost at any game they call. What I want from my readership is useful advice on Vietnam today. I know some of my peers from all those years ago live in Phuouc Tuy province today. I know some of my readers are from Vietnam. I know others are vets and may have travelled there lately.I need contacts. I want to meet our old enemy – the soldiers, not the communist party stooges – and have a chat and a beer with them. I’d particularly like to meet Vietnamese veterans who served in C2 D445 Battalion.The last time we met, in August 1970, I didn’t get a chance to say hullo. They fired and killed a mate of mine and then ran. On reflection it most probably wasn’t the time and place for a chat – it was time for death and I was looking to create some. Maybe I did – we found plenty of blood trails but no bodies. C2 D445 Vets are the only ones who would know. Love to meet them.I’m a different man now. Have a beer, a chat, swap stories and photos of wives and kids. Civilized now.Help me readers – leave some meaningful advice.

Red Jim

In October I blogged on Jim Cairns, the doyen of the left and hero to the Anti-Vietnam war protesters. Wayne Wood, at Troppo Armadillo obviously a member of one of the above groups, took me to task for blaming all Vietnam Veterans ills on Cairns.

Wayne muddies the waters with this statement.

Jim Cairns was an average politician who, after spending so long in opposition and without any useful role models, cocked up his stint as Treasurer and did pretty much what any of us would have done if a Junie wiggled her bum in our face. To try and make anything more out of Cairns’s life is simply beating up the sad tale of what can happen to an otherwise smart bloke when he tries to live out his sexual fantasy.

All of the left-wing and most of Australia’s apathetic, ‘Commercial TV news educated’ populace ignores the basic unpleasant truth of Cairn’s life. ..otherwise smart bloke living out sexual fantasies is one thing but being a communist, wanting and pursuing a communist victory in Vietnam to the disadvantage (read death and wounds) of Australians and being Deputy PM while also the President of the World Peace Council is another matter entirely.

I have no problem with Wayne it’s just that he is symptomatic of Australians who ignored the truth on the Anti-Vietnam campaign. Disagree? – No worries; the right to dissent? It’s yours; March through Melbourne’s streets in protest using your given rights to peaceful assembly? -Go for it.

Act as Chairman of the Local Soviet Union Peace body while Deputy PM? uh uh. Not on. Travel to the USSR and give them moral support and encourage more arms to kill fellow Australians? No – not included in our given rights. Invite a delegation of North Vietnamese industrial leaders to Australia while our wounded are still recovering in hospital? Likewise – very tacky.

John Ballantine, in this morning’s Australian Inquirer does a good job of outing Cairns and his Soviet sympathies

In November 1970, on returning from a visit to the Soviet Union, he declared he had found no more suppression of civil rights in Russia than in many aspects of Australian life.

What a startling statement. In November 1970 I was on patrol in Vietnam along with thousands of other Aussies. Cairns would have been an Opposition front bencher that year. How cute.

The Melbourne congress subsequently evolved into a more permanent body called the Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. Under Cairns and Goldbloom’s leadership, the CICD played a big part in mobilising the vast nationwide anti-war protest movement that became known as the Vietnam moratorium. It made history on May 8, 1970, when 75,000 protesters – one of Australia’s biggest public demonstrations – occupied the streets of Melbourne, bringing the city to a standstill.

The only group to receive advantage from the Moratoriums were the communists. The only group to be disadvantaged – the Digger.

Do I have an axe to grind? You betcha! Will I forgive and forget? No way.

Iraq and Vietnam

An article by Joe Galloway places the Iraq/Vietnam wars in perspective. To me, Joe Galloway is believable as he reported the Vietnam War from the bush and not some comfortable hotel in Saigon. He was at the battle of Ia Drang, the basis for the movie We Were Soldiers Once, and Young and now he’s covering the present Iraqi situation as the head military correspondent and a sydicated columnist for Knight-Ridder Newspapers.

Streams, in Texas knows Galloway personally and I’m indebted to him for the link.

Galloway starts;

First, let’s examine the big differences.

They don’t fight to unify their homeland, but to regain a brutal minority’s power over an enslaved majority.

They have no Ho Chi Minh to put a kindly and photogenic visage on their campaign.

They don’t have a China or a Soviet Union to pump in weapons and ammunition and carry the ball for them in the United Nations and internationally

They don’t have the sanctuaries that afforded easy shelter and protection for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. No Cambodia. No Laos.

It’s the similarities that make you sit up an notice.

Go read the article here. It’s not too long.

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