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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Posts: 33
(6/13/01 3:38:25 am)
| Del All More on Believe it or not
The following is part of an exchange between me and Mr. Toi Dang regarding the officers who beat feet just prior to the fall of Saigon..........

Dear Mr. Toi Vang,

Don Blankenship sent me a couple of your emails in response to a little piece I did regarding the Junk Force at An Thoi. Your memories of the last days of the war are moving. I can only imagine the hell you and the others went through and the absolute personal devastation of seeing everything crumbling before your eyes. I was already in Thailand when the country fell 4/30/75. I was stationed at the navy unit at Utapao and we shared the runways with the USAF. I went to
lunch on the 29th of April 1975 and when I was returning I noticed a strange looking plane sitting at our end of the runway. We only had P3's. Unless, I am mistaken, this was Thieu's getaway plane. It was a US plane but I can't remember the designation. By the evening of the next day we had over one hundred planes. I saw five men get out of a VNAF A5, by contrast, I saw 4 men get out of a VNAF
C-130. There were just about any type of airplane you could imagine. There were a lot of high ranking officers and their families. I think there were about 50 or 60 enlisted people. The officers appeared loaded with U.S. money. There was a little sandwich stand by our place where a Thai lady sold food to the USN troops. I saw a colonel give her a twenty dollar bill for a $1 sandwich and walk away. Another colonel approached me and said "Lay nuoc uong cho Thao" ("Get me a drink of water" <using pronouns that indicate a superior talking to a subordinate>) I was already pissed and I never liked colonels anyway so I responded: "Ong la phi cong - khong co may bay, Ong la si quan - khong co quan doi, Ong la dan ong - khong co trai tim", "khat nuoc thi di kiem di." ("You're a pilot that doesn't have an airplane, You're an Officer that doesn't have an Army, You're a man that doesn't have a heart. If you're thirsty, go look for water.")
One of my duties became that of serving as the interpreter for the Embassy people when we were deluged with refugees. This was a job that was emotionally
draining. I was the only American present (at that time I was a Thuong Si Nhat USN) and the only American who could understand the heart renching conversations of some of
the Vietnamese servicemen. Some of them had left home that morning with all intentions of returning at the end of the day. They were forced by the officers to man the planes that took them to Thailand. Their families were still waiting for them to come home. There were several suicide attempts and it became my job to try to negotiate with the embassy people to give them an old C130 or a Caribou and they would fly it to An Thoi and land in the ocean if they had to. Others requested that they be allowed to walk back to Vietnam. Thailand took the stance that they had not authorized the planes to land and it was the U.S.'s responsibility to get the refugees off of Thai soil.

The decision was made that all of the refugees would be sent to Guam. The decision was also made that those who were adamant about not leaving, and were persistent about going back to Vietnam, would be given a shot that would knock them out until they were in the air and on the way to Guam. I tried to reason that these would be some pissed off people when they did awake in the air and it just might jeopardize all people onboard. What the hell. I'm just a navy chief. What do I know about things like that? I had to advise these men that once they got to Guam, the U.S. would make sure that those that wanted to return to Vietnam would be helped
in doing so. BUT FIRST....they had to get a cholera shot! USAF medical personnel were brought to our place and set up shop in one of our vans. The guys would walk through, get their shot, and be loaded onto planes for Guam. All of this was happening at the same time that the VNN officers were laughing and joking and happy about going to Guam. It was sickening to me and on several occasions I had to just take a break, let the tears flow, then go back to performing my duties of deception. The USAF base commander, a Colonel Austin, also objected to the procedures and for
this he was relieved of duty shortly after the incident.

In the normal course of duty rotations, I was sent from Utapao to Guam in May of 1975. Right to where
all of the Vietnamese were living in a "tent city." There were many refugees, not only those that had arrived from Thailand. Some of the enlisted personnel who had been drugged and dragged to Guam made and official protest. I was contacted by the Air Force OSI and had to make a statement. I told the story exactly as it happened and provided names of those embassy personnel who made the on-the-spot decisions. I was never interviewed again. There was a ship that had made it to Guam. The name of
this ship was "Thuong Tinh" (or something like that) and the U.S. finally allowed a group of people (I forget how many) who wanted to go back to Vietnam to sail the ship back. I had met a few of those enlisted personnel that I had talked with in Thailand and, with a friend of mine, was able to smuggle one of them onboard as one of the communications crew. I know the ship made it back and I heard that all of the
people on board were taken to Con Son Island.

I also returned to Vietnam twice. It wasn't the same for sure. The little NVA SOBs that check you in through customs and fill all the offices where you have to get travel passes made me want one of your M16s filled with tracers right at that moment.

I was at An Thoi in 68-69. The only names I remember is a Thieu Uy Muoi who was with CG42 and a Ha Si named Bach, who I think his family, bought him duty in Saigon in 69
I'm sorry I've rattled on for so long but your email just got my memory buds jumping.

I feel for you brother and I hope God is good to you.

Larry Dunn

V.I.P. Member
Posts: 239
(6/13/01 10:21:00 am)
| Del Re: More on Believe it or not
Heartbreaking story about those that had to leave their homeland and families against their will, Larry. Sickening about those high-rankers who cut and run.

{quote} The officers appeared loaded with U.S. money. {quote}

I assume you mean real U.S. money, not the scrip that was issued.
Where did it come from...have any idea?
I remember hubby writing to me when he was in VN and saying DO NOT send
U.S. currency. Can't remember the reason, but that it was illegal or something
to have U.S. money there.


Posts: 36
(6/13/01 10:31:49 am)
| Del Re: More on Believe it or not
Yes, Sharon,
It was 'real' US currency. It was forbidden to us U.S. greenbacks as currency over there but a lot of it went on.
Also, there were several U.S. banks in Vietnam. You just wouldn't believe the level of corruption and those that are wanting to line their pockets could do so easily through business connections, banks, money changers, etc. Sometimes the free rice (donated by the U.S.) would go straight from the docks to the warehouses of the corrupt military officers. It would then be later sold at the markets in the original bags. The VNs soon learned that the rice from the U.S. was not as nutritious as their locally grown stuff. Our process of purifying and cleaning the rice washed out most of the nutrients. You can imagine all the stuff left by the U.S. (typewriters, cabinets, jeeps, airconditioners, reefers, (like in refrigerators!!), furniture, etc) that was up for grabs at the pullout. I was on the last plane out in March of 73 (that's when we military types had to leave). One just got up from his desk, picked up his personal belongings and walked out. Pandemonium!

V.I.P. Member
Posts: 244
(6/13/01 11:07:59 am)
| Del Re: More on Believe it or not

The VN banks, with the capability to exchange currency, never occured to me. "Black Market" was my first thought. Yes, have read several articles, stories, seen movies/documentaries, etc., about the high level of corruption in the South VN
military high ranks and province chiefs.

Hubby talked with another VN Vet once, who was in supply and talked freely
about how he'd been involved with the Black Market. Really P***ED hubby off,
when he'd been out in the bush for months and his camp was not getting
those supplies. Knowing that we left all those aircraft, equipment, etc. behind
during the Fall also P***ED hubby off.


Posts: 875
(6/13/01 9:08:53 pm)
| Del Re: More on Believe it or not
Your quite right Sharon..."greenbacks" were the end result of all transactions of the Black Market eventually. Something that goes hand in hand since the first war ever is my guess.

The degree of indulgence in the Nam was unfathomable due to the nature of it's long and contracted stretch for just one of many reasons. The enormitty and scope of envolvement from every corner of Us and RVN military,Construction and Contractor,Vendors,Government and Religious entity one can name would certainly if the bucks could be counted be enough to run a nation.

I remember posting of something along these lines awhile back...always a sore spot with me.

...and two hard boiled eggs.

Posts: 10
(6/14/01 8:55:27 am)
| Del
Re: More on Believe it or not
The black market in US currency was quite lucrative. We were able to turn a tidy profit on money orders from US banks in Saigon. $270 in MPC for a $200 money order, I paid for my R and R to Singapore that way.
We also sold captured weapons to an Air Force sergeant in Ton Son Nhut; $125 for an AK-47, $150 for an AK-50, $250 for a Chicom .30 MG. I guess a lot of REMF's took home souvenirs for a price.
The point of the spear
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