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Posts: 29
(6/12/01 12:52:09 pm)
| Del All Memories of a Vietnamese Sailor #7
Part 3: One morning, my childhood buddy and I were on
a "star fruit" tree when we saw two T28 swooping very
low overhead; we were quite scared. Then the
explosions came and smoke was pillowing up from the
general direction of the presidential palace. We then
heard triple A went off (we did not know what it was
then). It later turned out to be that Pham Phu Quoc
and Nguyen Van Cu was bombing the presidential palace
(Diem and his brother.) A gunboat mooring on Saigon
River shot down Quoc's plane; Cu escaped to Cambodia.
Quoc was put in jail and then released after Diem's
regime felt and he resumed flying. Quoc was later
shot-down in North Vietnam territory and assumed to be
KIA. I then witness a several coup-d'etats: Diem and
his brother were killed, Big Minh, General Phat,
General Khanh, and others came and went. I
participated in a couple of anti-Diem demonstrations.
I was in high school and I disagreed with Diem's
treatment of Buddhism so I registered my disagreement
by joining the group; yeah, pepper grenades tasted
awful. During this time I gradually learned that the
quarrel between North Vietnam and South Vietnam was an
ideology quarrel between communist and democracy. I
also learned that South Vietnam leaders are a bunch of
self-centered jerks and liars. This included
religious leaders; some of them later turned out to be
outright underground commies or communist

As I mentioned earlier, my family did not have any
experience with communism, they were born in the
North, so their hearts almost always looked to the
North (they were not and are not communist). I had
many lively, to put it mildly, discussions with my
father and his friends about my dislike for communist.
I remember at one point I was so fed-up with their
hearts looking to the North so I cited a
Chinese/Vietnamese proverb "If you are eating fruits
from a tree, you must take care of it, you must
protect it. I am eating fruits from the trees
growing from South Vietnam and now North Communist
wants to take over the trees, it's my obligation to
protect them, to fight for them". My father and his
friends became dead silent because I quoted the phrase
that they preached and taught us, from that time on;
they never brought up the issue nor did they discuss
it in my presence. By the way, my uncle was a
lieutenant colonel in the North Vietnamese Army who
passed away before the war started. I never met him,
the only thing I knew about him was he sent a postcard
to my father in 1952 or 1953.

One day, my mom came rushing to me with a terrifying
look on her face and informed me that American bombers
bombed North Vietnam the day before (I believe the
Maddox incidence preceded it). I just said "oh,
really" but deep inside I felt that it was necessary.
I do sound cynical but that is what I felt. They
(commies) wanted to take over South Vietnam so they
deserved to be stopped and bombed. My mother was so
fearful of being bombed by North Vietnam airplanes but
I assured her that it was impossible for them to fly
all the way from Ha Noi to Saigon.

DangPart 4: During my high school years I did both very
well and very poorly. I had to take an entrance exam
to get into public school. I must say this: some
applicants were guaranteed to pass the exam by virtue
of their family's social, political, or economic
standing. The school only accepted 350 or so new
students annually. I came in second amongst many
thousands contestants (bragging bragging). I even got
a token financial scholarship from the government. My
family was so proud of me. Great! But then I got
kicked out of this school after the second year for
tardiness and . fighting with other kids. My father
had to bribe the school principal to accept me back.
I felt tremendously guilty about it because I knew
that the bribed monies were my family's food, rice,
vegetable, and fish monies (we could only afford meat
twice a month, too expensive).

I then did quite well in school because of this
incidence and another and that is: I got in a fight
with two sons of the "Chief Financial Officer" of the
company that my father worked for (how ironic, my
current working title is CFO). The fight was nothing
but the CFO and his wife came to my little hut that
was made out of an old garage (we all lived in a
compound provided by the French employer located in a
very wealthy district of Saigon) and started yelling
at my parents. I started to jump at them but my
father ordered me to sit still. My parents took the
verbal assault and abuse from them without firing back
an insult. Actually my mother was sobbing and my
father was taking everything from them with
intermittent apologies. After they left, I cried and
asked my father why he did not react or fire back
insults. My father then told me: Son, when you can
take this type of verbal assault and insult with a
smile, you have become a man. Deep inside, I think my
father also wanted to protect his job because that CFO
had the tenacity and ability to pull some strings to
have my father fired. I just can't imagine a man
without a job with 10 mouths to feed. To this date, I
still haven't learned this particular lesson from my
beloved father. So I guess, I am yet becoming a man.
One phrase that the CFO and his wife told my parents
and I still carry it with me: Your son (me) got
accepted to so and so school by luck (their oldest son
also attended that school), let's see how well the son
of a chauffer will do in school. This statement made
my blood boil.

An Thoi/69-71

(To be continued.........)
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