Readers' Submissions

Chiang Mai Kelly Does Vietnam



If you liked booms and bangs and high powered aircraft Vietnam was for you. Vietnam was my kind of war. It had the munitions and the delivery systems and the bleachers.

It had drugs, sex and rock and roll. Beaches, jungles, mountains, tigers and elephants. Beautiful women. Beautiful Vietnamese women. Beautiful French/Vietnamese stewardess women. Beautiful Chinese women in Taipei. Beautiful Thai women in Thailand. Laotian women. Beautiful Vietnamese women in Laos. Nurses and donut dollies if you were so inclined. Although flying nurses and Generals to the beach for the weekend soured me on the nurses. When the donut dollies tried to sell me red cross packages marked free, I gave them a pass.

Beautiful Korean women strippers and singers and musicians populated our NCO club. Free beer and free cigarettes and free booze every month. AIDS was not in existence.

Thompson sub machine guns. Grenade launchers. Colt 1911, 45 automatics. Did I mention drugs, sex and rock and roll? Reel to reel tape decks. Awesome speakers and tube amps. Women everywhere. Ladies did all the work. Vietnamese Men weren't allowed on the base. Every work detail included a few women who obviously weren't dressed for manual labor. DDT. Bugs? There weren't any. There were 100's of bars on some bases. Brothels on others. You were in Vietnam and didn't see all that stuff? Sorry bout that.

It was 1965 and 1966 when the GI's started coming back to the campuses of America. They didn't mention all the good stuff about Vietnam. But I may be the only person who semi enjoyed Vietnam during the war. I sure as hell have not talked to many others. They all seem to be Rambo types. We used to sit on a bunker and watch the war at night. The war wasn't far away. But it only rarely came my way.

Before my sojourn in Vietnam and before I was drafted, the first person I knew who came back was Butch. Butch was working on an MA in Industrial Psychology. You couldn't touch him while he slept or he would attack. He hurt a couple of fellows till we took his warning seriously. He was also jumpy while awake and a little bit of a nut case when he drank whisky. He told us stories about Vietnam. He convinced me I didn't want to go. The newspapers and campus gossip seemed to confirm what he said about it not being a nice place.

I had a student deferment that would run out when I graduated so I kept switching majors so I wouldn't graduate. I switched six times. I did not want to go to Vietnam because I did not want to get killed. I could see no clear and present danger to the US from a bunch of small Asian people many miles away. Finally it came down to only one requirement that I lacked for six different degrees. Three terms of a foreign language or a proficiency test in that language. That was my plan. My first and I always thought most creative draft dodging ploy was the Banana Boat Plan. I was living with Beverly who would later become my first wife. She taught school in Detroit and I commuted on weekends from East Lansing, about a six beer drive. During Christmas break I got a job at the State Liquor Warehouse. In Michigan the State sold all the Liquor from State Warehouses to the retail outlets. They hired a crew of hard core alcoholics to fill the orders. If we wanted a drink we only had to open a bottle of anything take a couple of swigs and then drop it and report it broken in shipping. There were more skid row bums in that place drinking the finest whiskies and spirits in the world than one can possibly imagine.

December in Michigan was cold. Some years including that one as cold as the North Pole. The snow would crunch as you walked on it and the hairs in your nose freeze during the short walk to your parked car. It was 5AM. Bev and I had had a fight which was a daily occurrence when I decided to put operation Banana boat into action. I had a suitcase packed and hidden in the trunk of my 1963 Buick Riveria. I made it from Detroit to Chicago by 5 PM and Betts my old girlfriend still had an apartment downtown and I crashed there for the night. The next morning I got up early and headed South. I made up my mind not to stop until I could turn off the heater in my car. I was planning on stopping in New Orleans and it was there that I could finally turn off my car heater.

I needed a passport and in port cities passports took only days where as anywhere else they took weeks. I got my photo taken and filled in the necessary paperwork and checked into the Bourbon Orleans Hotel to wait for the finished product. After getting my passport I was going to ship out on a banana boat and work my way down to Tierra del Fuego. Stopping when I had enough money to party and then shipping on another fruit boat heading South. I figured it would take me six months going down. In each town I would send the draft board a change of address and inform them I was working on my foreign language requirement. I had picked Spanish. My advisor was cool with the plan and he had given me a letter which confirmed I was going to South America to study Spanish. Obviously when my draft notice reached the address I would have moved to the next one. I figured I would not be avoiding the draft I would just have never received a draft notice. When I got to the bottom of South America I would take a train back North and start the journey again. After the Vietnam was over I would come home and apologize to my draft board for missing their letters.

I was a good boy for the first night. I stayed in my room and ordered room service and watched TV. In the middle of the French Quarter that was sound advice for 1966. The second night I got bored and went out for a drink. I had turned 21 that year. The Quarter was hopping. New Orleans back then was completely controlled by the mob. The mob ran the docks, the bars, the strip clubs, gambling, prostitution and drugs and most of the police force.

I strolled into one swank joint and ordered a Jack on the rocks with a twist and settled in to watch the scene. It was a nice people watching place. The waitresses were upscale and most beauty pageant material. The guys in the bar were executive types having a drink before going home to momma and the kids. They were playfully talking to the cocktail waitresses. All except one. The most beautiful one in the bar. Perhaps one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Since I had been alone for two days I was horny and decided to give her a tumble. As she walked by I handed her my drink and said, “Drink this baby and bring me another.” (sorry about the line but I was only 21) She downed it like a trooper and brought me another. Which I did the same thing with. After three we began to chat a bit. She was a fascinating woman in addition to being beautiful. When she told me her favorite pastime was giving her boyfriend head as they drove on the highway to watch the truckers run off the road, I gave her my room key and told her to stop by after she got off. Bars in New Orleans only had to close for an hour a day so the shifts ended and begun all over the clock. I figured it would be a hell of a night after she showed up so I went home to catch a nap until she arrived. Her shift ending time came and went and she didn't show up so I hit the lobby bar and downed a few quick shots and went back to my room to sleep for the rest of the night. When I awoke the next morning about 11 to my surprise I found her asleep in bed next to me. I think I was a little inebriated when I crashed. I smiled as I thought how nice of her not to wake me. Then it hit me. The bed was full of blood. Her blood.

She was beat up. Really worked over. There was barely a place on her body that was not bruised or cut. She was passed out but breathing. In any other city in America I would have called the cops but in New Orleans I thought it better to wait till she awoke and find out what had happened. She slept for 24 hours straight as I drank coffee and chicory and ate French bread and cheese and watched her. When she woke I cleaned her up; ordered room service and she told me her story. Her boyfriend had found out that she was meeting me (although he didn't know where) and got upset and had her beat up.

Being a tough chickie she had managed to escape when her assailants thought she was knocked out. She also fired a couple of shots at them while she was running away. I told her not to worry and that I would take care of everything. I went out to get some espresso and sandwiches. It was late at night. While waiting at a light to cross the street I saw a couple of strip club barkers looking at a photo and talking. By the neon lights I could see the photo was me and next to it was a photo of my car. It was chilly that evening and I was wearing an Irish knit sweater and a beret. Lucky, because that was a great disguise. I looked like a sailor just off a tramp steamer. I knew of the guy who ran the rackets there. Not personally but I knew his name. His first name was the name my new girlfriend had used when describing her boyfriend. It wasn't hard to put two and two together. I was dead meat. I couldn't get anywhere near the docks or airport. I couldn't drive over any of the bridges out of town in my car. It was lucky that the Bourbon Orleans had inside parking. If my car had been on the street I would have already been dead. The Kennedy brothers had played hardball with these boys and they were both dead. I wasn't about to make the same mistake. I hustled back to the parking garage and leaving my clothes and luggage in the room raced out of the parking garage in my auto like a detective movie. I made it to a used car lot and sold my car in 10 minutes. Not hard to get cash in New Orleans. I caught a cab on the street for the nearest bus terminal. I took the first bus heading North out of the city. So much for the Banana Boat plan. At least I was alive. I had plan number two and after the bus drove a couple of hundred miles I called Bev from a pay phone.

Ball shrinking moments in Vietnam! There were plenty. Stosh and I were flying at 2000 feet not bothering anyone in a Huey helicopter. We were armed but nothing that would have bothered anybody. The door gunner was lounging next to his gun smoking a joint. I was listening to a Beatles tape on the intercom. A MIG flew by. My testicles drew up to my chin. My dick got so small it took me three days to find it. Slowly I removed the door gunner from his post so it would be obvious we had no hostile intent as the MIG made another pass. And then he flew off.

Why was I in Vietnam? I think it was the Pope. I haven't told many people this but since I know each and every one of you from the voluminous amounts of fan mail I get I thought I could confide in you. I am certainly not anti Catholic as I was product of generations of Catholicism and Catholic schools.

Ho Chi Minh didn't like Catholics. It wasn't a religious thing of Christians vs. Buddhists. It was a political thing because most of the Vietnamese Catholics were on the French side.

On September 2, 1945 Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam using the following words, "We hold the truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Ho declared himself president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and pursued American recognition but was repeatedly ignored by President Harry Truman.

Nationalist Chinese troops at the end of WW II had marched to Vietnam to disarm the remaining Japanese. They looted Hanoi and 2,000,000 people died in the ensuing famine. These were the Chinese troops that were supposed to occupy Thailand but Thailand was saved this fate by Betty McKenzie if you remember my previous submissions.

The British took over Saigon and let the French out of jail. 1400 French soldiers and civilians released by the British from former Japanese internment camps entered Saigon and went on a killing spree, attacking Viet Minh and killing innocent civilians including women and children.

The first American death in Vietnam occurred during this unrest in Saigon, when OSS officer Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey was killed by Viet Minh guerrillas who mistook him for a French officer. Before his death, Dewey had filed a report on the problems in Vietnam, stating his opinion that the U.S. "ought to clear out of Southeast Asia."

The Geneva Agreement in 1954 on the Cessation of Hostilities divided Vietnam into two zones. Ho Chi Minh's troops in the North and the French in the South. Vietnamese civilians were allowed to emigrate to the zone of their choice.

The Red Chinese armed Ho's troops with American automatic weapons, mortars, howitzers, and trucks captured from the National Chinese Army troops.

The greatest mass evacuation in the history of the world was carried out by the American Navy from 1954 to 1955. You didn't think the French could do it did you? The Pacific Fleet transported over 300,000 civilians from North to South Vietnam, another 700,000 fled South by land most of them Catholic. This became the anti communist population base in South Vietnam and the prime mover that eventually ended by me getting drafted and sent to Vietnam.

The Americans assisted the French for the next few years by providing 89% of the supplies they used in their war against the North Vietnamese.

In 1954 when 10,000 French troops were encircled at Dien Bien Phu and without food and water President Eisenhower suggested nuking the North Vietnamese and only strong objections from the Brits prevented him from doing so. I always liked Ike.

The Americans did nothing and 10,000 French surrendered. 5000 were killed on the march to a prison camp. French causalities in Vietnam reached over 90,000.

In North Vietnam, radical land reforms by Communists result in thousands of land owners being executed or sent to forced labor camps during this period of ideological cleansing by Ho Chi Minh. The land was given to poor peasants.

In South Vietnam President Diem's American advisors also suggested land reform. President Diem took the land from poor Buddhist peasants and gave it to his rich Catholic friends. He must have lost something in the translation.

President Diem and friends had also cornered the drug market and controlled all the opium and heroin coming from Laos and Burma to Vietnam.

In 1957 Diem paid a state visit to Washington where President Eisenhower labeled him the "miracle man" of Asia and reaffirmed U.S. commitment. He was actually a miracle man. It was a miracle no one killed him considering all the enemies he made in Vietnam.

The next installment of CMK does Vietnam is titled “Canada here we come.” It is a fascinating tale of draft dodging, Dow Cream Porter, S & M sex in Tacoma Washington and exciting Army Rambo stuff in SEA.