In Saigon he lived off-base with four other officers. Each kept a gun under his pillow at night, despite barbed wire fencing and triple locks. One night a rat as big as a cat ran across Charley's chest. However, there were no cats to feed on the vermin, since the population considered cats a delicacy. Rats were rampant.
A local Vietnamese mamasan cleaned their villa and cooked for them. Another did their laundry. When the men discovered their beers were disappearing from the refrigerator, one of them appeared unexpectedly during the day to expose the black market convenience store mamasan #1 was running out of their refrigerator.
Following a squelched raid by the Viet Cong from both inside and outside the base one night, Charley viewed enemy bodies lined up on the way to work the next morning. He recognized them as the barbers who'd cut his hair in the barbershop on base.
His villa was across the street from a school. Four months after Charley rotated home, U.S. forces obliterated the school during the Tet Offensive. The Viet Cong had been hiding there at night to direct attacks at the air base.
After we met in Honolulu in the spring of '67, we were anxious to receive Charley's stateside assignment for September. "Since you're among the first troops to be engaged here, you'll have your choice of bases when you go home," Charley heard from the personnel officer. "Fill out this form for your first, second, and third choice of bases."
Charley and I had decided that since we had no kids, we'd like to see the west coast of this country. We'd selected two bases in California, and one in Washington state as our top choices.
"Do you really want to go to those, Lieutenant?" asked the sergeant filling out his form next to Charley.
"Then you have to play their game. Don't list those, because you'll get stationed as far away as possible. Look at my form. I want to go to Europe. I put down Thule Air Base, Greenland."
"How can you be sure you'll get Europe instead of Greenland?" Charley said.
"Trust me, Lieutenant. I've been around for seven assignments and that's how it works."
|In my Vietnamese silk Ao Dai|
TO BE CONTINUED...