Thanks for getting back to me. I have a funny story to tell you about an experience in Da Nang. While you were at the in-country R&R center at China Beach I was also in Da Nang visiting the Navy Hospital. After my hospital visit, which was only to control a severe acne condition, I sought out the China Beach R&R center to visit you. We did meet and hung out together for a few hours. The weather was dismal as it was the rainy season with cold and misty crud. I have photos taken on the beach looking north towards Monkey Mountain. They are at home and will send them to you later.
It was the eve of Tet 1970. It had been decreed all Americans were to be off the street before sundown. I left you at the R&R center and passed through the gate to head back to the bus stop on the main street. I knew there was one more bus to take me back to the airbase. As I turned the corner away from the R&R center and looked down the road to the main street, I saw the last bus leave the stop. It was early, probably for the first time. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went back to the center to find the gate locked and unmannned. I called out to the gate guard who was there no more than a few seconds ago. He had evaporated into the mist.
I had no choice but to walk back to the main street and start hitch hiking. I was unarmed and had one of those Marine Corps Green water proof sleeping-bag bags filled with PX stuff. A feeling of being small and exposed to risk overwhelmed me. I was soon picked up by a South Vietnamese Navy NCO in a 3/4 ton truck. He didn’t speak any English and seemed crazy, perhaps he was on drugs. He kept talking to me in slurred Vietnamese and gave me a bad feeling. He kept asking me questions. I think he was trying to sell me drugs but he may have been asking for the time just as well. I didn’t know and was only very suspicious. I asked him if he was heading towards the airbase. He made unintelligible responses. I knew the way to the airbase was one straight road past the Navy Hospital to ‘Three Corners’ and then over the river bridge. It was basically two straight shots but I wasn’t sure of the route or where to turn for the bridge. The son of a bitch started making rights and lefts in a residential neighborhood. I told him to stop and when he did I jumped out. I was lost, anxious and really angry with myself for being adventurous and careless.
Night was falling fast. I was standing on this street hitch-hiking but no-one was stopping. There was no American traffic at all. Only ARVN trucks, bicycles and motor scooters. The absence of American faces unnerved me. I scrutinized every marking on every vehicle for a US identity. Viet civilians in fancy clothes, Ao Dai and suites, strolled down the streets on their way for Tet observances. I was getting freaked. I started standing in the path of vehicles yelling and waving. They drove around me and the strollers stared at me as if I were mad. At this point I was.
I started walking, scared shitless. I knew I would be found in the morning with my throat slit. As I walked on, I saw two tall guys up the road emerge from the darkness. They were in civvies standing silently. They watched me approach with wide, calm Asian faces. I walked up to them and could tell they were Koreans. They asked me if I knew the way to the airbase. Of course I did.
It was dark now and there was no more street traffic. We stood in silence but I felt a lot better because of the two Koreans. I love Koreans now. Down the street coming toward us were two weak yellow headlights weaving right and left. It quickly approached. A US Army jeep with two drunk pilots stops to ask us directions. They are lost and need to get back to the airbase and want to know if we can help. We climb in and point towards the glow of high intensity lights off in the distance over the tree tops. I don’t remember much after that except the giddy feeling that comes from the lifting of deep fear. I knew I would survive the night.
The next thing I remember is getting off with the Koreans at the 15th Aerial Port Squadron entry at the airbase. No problem, I was safe and secure in our American enclave and it was only a short walk to Mag 11. I enterred one of the MAG 11 hangars, put on a normal demeanor and joined some ordnance brothers for some light conversation. It was then that we heard the first percussive crack of a rocket attack.
The two guys looking like Marines at war are Chuck Raacke and Bob Greenlee heading off to Ready Reaction Platoon. Yes, they are giving me the Hawaiian peace sign.