In preparation for the 1966 Xmas truce we arrived in base camp at Dau Tieng, after several weeks in the jungle. We had been in country since Columbus day and after three weeks of getting conditioned to the heat, and traveling to a temporary camp and the final one, had gone into the jungle looking for the enemy. As it is to be expected, the following month plus was full of the unknown and quite terrifying. We had been in our first fire fights and had lost some of our buddies. We were grimy and most of us had lost a lot of weight.
Things were starting to get better in base camp. A lot of big tents had been erected and sanitary facilities were all around. We had started building the base camp only a few months before and were surprised that the bunkers and latrines we had dug had been so nicely upgraded. After showering and having a few brews at the Ty 1 on (our unit’s bar), we had had a good night sleep and things were looking up.
Early the next morning I was called to the company clerk’s office and was given orders to go to Saigon to pick up a package that had been sent to the main (civilian) post office there. I didn’t have a clue of what this was all about, since typically packages were sent to the APO and we would get them through regular mail call. Armed with my orders, I went to the Dau Tieng airfield and caught a transport plane to Saigon.
In Saigon, I went directly to the main city post office and claimed the package. It was full of Xmas goodies — candy, gifts, a fruit cake and others.
After retrieving the package and noting that my orders allowed for three days in Saigon (I don’t know what the Army taught I was getting in the package); I registered in a fancy civilian hotel downtown. For the first time since I arrived in country, I was sleeping in a soft bed, had a bathroom in the room and felt clean. I also noted the difference between the military personnel stationed in and around Saigon (known by us in the field as REMFs) and our unit in the field. These REMFs really had it nice.
I also had a ball! But most importantly, I LEARNED THAT NO ONE WAS LOOKING! In the next 9 months while still in Nam, I repeated the same process at least 3 more times. We would arrive at base camp and on the next day I would find out from the company clerk the length of stay in base camp, pack a bag and tell the sergeant that I had to go on sick call. Would report to the infirmary, but instead of returning to our area, I would go to the airfield and catch a plane to Saigon. I would stay there until the day before we were to go back to the field. Doing this saved me a lot of formations, kitchen police (KP), sanitary “fire drills” and other chicken “keep busy” activities. Fortunately we never were called back out before planned and I was always back before we went out in the field.
While in Saigon, I learned that as long as one acted as if one belonged, no one would challenge me, which gave me the chance to do a lot of recreating. I remember one night riding backwards in a motorcycle, through the back alleys of Cholon, to prevent being picked up for curfew violation, drunk as a skunk and going from one bar to the next. Talking about stupid…
In retrospect, these escapades helped me keep my mental sanity, especially after the military campaigns in which we were involved during the following year (1967). One of them put us in opposition to some of the best troops the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army had. For one battle on March 21, 1967 (Soie Tre), we received the Presidential Unit Citation, one of the few awarded during the Vietnam war (but that is another article).
If you are curious why I had to claim the Xmas goodies package from the main civilian post office in Saigon; the answer is very simple, it had been addressed succinctly to:
and sent by a wild friend of mine (I don’t know why people complain about the mail).
This article is being reproduced and edited with permission of the author (me) and the webmaster for the Vietname Triple Deuce.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.