Chapter Thirteen

Coming up next are photos (and adventures) taken on my route from Nha Be to Newport in Saigon. Some were shot from my truck as I was driving; others were shot while I was on foot or riding in another vehicle.

First up is a shot taken down part of the length of “the strip” outside our base at Nha Be (there was more of the strip behind me). The entrance to the base itself is in the distance, just past the guard tower.

Below, another shot from farther down the strip.

Somewhere along the street above, on the left side, is the mini-restaurant and laundry store where I got my laundry done. You would take your laundry out on one of your off-duty evenings and pick it up on your next off-duty evening. The cost was reasonable (meaning almost nothing), they seemed to do a good job most of the time, and you just didn’t ask about where on the river they washed your clothes. That store was also the scene of my most terrifying few minutes in Viet Nam.

I was out there drinking a coke and waiting for my laundry one evening, just enjoying a time away from the military atmosphere. We were not allowed to take any weapons whatsoever out there; they sometimes even searched us at the gate. There were probably a dozen or so other guys in the place. Keep in mind that I was in my final countdown, an official Short Timer, with less then 90 more days to do in country before I could go home.

All was well until automatic weapons fire erupted from the direction of the main gate. That meant that whatever was going down was between us and safety. The owner of the place shut the door and locked it, then pulled down the shades. That was fine; except the shades were made out of thin bamboo slats and the door would have fallen down at the slightest strong wind. We sat there in dead silence (at least in the room), gradually realizing that we didn’t have a clue whether or not we were being attacked or what we should do. Also realizing that we didn’t have so much as a baseball bat to fight back with and that the walls and doors of the restaurant wouldn’t even begin to stop a bullet, let alone a grenade or satchel charge. I have never felt so totally terrified and helpless in my entire life. I don’t specifically remember praying, but in situation like that, everyone prays!

The owner of the place was apparently in communication with others somehow and a while after the shooting stopped he opened the door and windows back up. We never knew how he found out it was all over. As soon as we felt it was safe, we hotfooted it back to the gate and back onto base. Afterwards we found that a group of drunken Vietnamese army guys had got into a disagreement and started shooting at each other. And so went life in Viet Nam.

The following is a Vietnamese general store of sorts, on the strip. It certainly wasn’t intended for American use, we were too tall to move around in it. Maybe they were trying to tell us something.

The next photo is of Bill speaking with some of the women on the strip. Many women in Viet Nam spoke 3 or 4 languages fluently – they made us look stupid with our fumbling attempts to speak Vietnamese.

Note the clothes. The lady above is wearing a fairly traditional Vietnamese outfit. The two below are wearing clothes of a more western style. Compared to Da Nang, where most of the Vietnamese wore the standard “pajama” style clothes of the working classes, Saigon and Nha Be took a little getting used to.

Next are some photographs that I shot between Nha Be and Saigon. They were done from a moving truck in most cases, with one hand (or two hands and one knee on the wheel). So much for the excuses, on with the show.

Water buffalo (above) are being herded along the road. Notice the land/water to the right and lots of wide-open space – this is part of the reason my driving job was considered to be so dangerous. It would have been easy for VC to sneak up to the road from the river (farther off to the right) and mine it or just target practice. I’m glad they hadn’t learned about IED’s yet – or perhaps Al-Qaeda learned about them from the VC. On the website one person mentions that this road was closed often due to VC activity.

This is just a farm (below) along the road.

Believe it or not, there are four Vietnamese guys on this motorbike (below).

Below is a shot taken of the river that runs though the real town of Nha Be. When there isn’t much high, dry land to build on, you make do.

The next photo is just a shot of boats tied up near the road.

Next, the little house in the big - ah - swamp - or rice paddy - or whatever.

The next photo is rather special to me. It has many flaws, which are more obvious when the slide it is scanned from is projected, but it shows an aspect of life in Viet Nam that you don’t normally see or hear about. At its heart is a pond or tidal pool - perhaps man made, perhaps not, along the road between Saigon and Nha Be.

Around the pond are a number of children, perhaps family members, perhaps not. They are children who are going about normal, everyday activities - activities like fishing, swimming, playing – just a bunch of kids having a good time, doing the same things that kids everywhere do.

If these kids or their parents had anything to do with our forces in Viet Nam, they were probably dead a year or two after I took this photo when the communists moved in – all because our politicians wanted to “protect” them and stop the spread of communism.

Think about it – I still do!

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