TRAVEL TO VIETNAM, MAY 2010

From: "Larry Greene" <larrygreene@gmail.com>
To: "Robert Noe" <SOG1RLNOE@aol.com>
Subject: CCN 2010
Date: Tue, 18 May 2010 07:42:24 -0500

   DA NANG AND CCN COMPOUND 2010

 

 

 

 

Robert  -----

 

I just returned (to Seoul, Korea) from 9 days in Viet Nam – May 1 - 10.  My wife and I visited Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An and Saigon.  I will share some of my thoughts and experiences. 

 

This was my first time back to Viet Nam since I left there in June 1970.  I found it much changed from what I remembered 40 years ago.  I had not been to Hanoi or Ha Long as they are in the north.  I had flown over Hue several times going from Phu Bai to Quang Tri but not been on the ground there.  Everywhere we went the people were universally friendly.  As I had gone through the MATA course at Ft. Bragg before going to Viet Nam in 1969, I had the advantage of half-day Vietnamese language classes for the six weeks of the course.  I had been an advisor in the 51st ARVN Reg’t and 37th VN Ranger Bn and found my Vietnamese is still good enough to get me around.  English is very popular in Viet Nam and I was surprised at the number of people who could speak English - especially in Hanoi.  In Hanoi we visited Hoan Kiem Lake, the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton) Prison and other sights.  At Ha Long Bay we took a half-day boat ride out to the islands. 

 

Flying from Hanoi to Hue, we landed at the old Phu Bai airfield where I had landed a number of times in 1969-70.  I could not identify the CCN Phu Bai launch site as there was a lot of vegetation at the north end of the airfield that was not there 40 years ago.  The runway itself appeared to be exactly where it was back then.  I could not locate Camp Eagle (101st camp) even though I had been there several times in 1970.  In Hue we took a boat trip up the Song Huong (Perfume River) and visited the Citadel.  We drove from Hue to Da Nang along Highway 1, passing through Lang Co and the Hai Van Pass. 

 

Da Nang was much changed.  Many of the street names have been changed.  I looked for the streets where the MACV BOQs had been at 9 Gia Long and 1 Duy Tan.  Gia Long has a new name but I did find the right location but the building is gone.  There are now 4 bridges across the river and I remember only one in 1970.  Another is under construction.  Almost all I remember of the area along China Beach to Marble Mountain is gone.  Some of the concrete aircraft hangars at Marble Mountain Airfield are still there.  There is now a highway running along China Beach from Monkey Mountain all the way to Hoi An.  It looks like it passes through the eastern edge of where CCN Recon Company was 40 years ago.  Friday, May 7, I climbed Marble Mountain and photographed the statues in the caves and pagodas on the mountain.  I last climbed it in May 1970 with Art Bennett.  From the highest spot on the mountain I took photos from the exact spot that I had photographed CCN in May 1970.  The attached photo shows the area where CCN was and looks north along China Beach toward Monkey Mountain.  The only structure in the old camp that I could identify was the TOC bunker which you can see just to the right of the center of the photo.  The red-tiled roof and highway at right appears to be about where Recon Company was 40 years ago.  I have photos I made in 1970 from the exact spot that I will compare when I get back to Texas in October. 

 

The Da Nang International Airport is exactly where it was 40 years ago but the terminal is very modern.  A few of the old hangars are still there but appeared to be unused.  We landed at Tan Son Nhut International Airport which has been thoroughly modernized since I was last there.  I had only been in Saigon a couple of times for a couple of days in 1969-70 so had no real memories of the place.  We visited the Reunification Palace which was the Presidential Palace before.  The government has preserved it as it was in the 1960s and 70s.  The offices have been maintained as they were when the NVA tank broke through the gates in April 30, 1975.   At the tunnels of Cu Chi and the Reunification Palace we watched some propaganda films of about 20 minutes each.  I got the feeling that not even the Vietnamese believed the propaganda in the films.    Probably the French tourists believed it.  At the Reunification Palace the film was called “The Ho Chi Minh Campaign” and was primarily about the last few months of the war in 1975.  There was a part about the 1972 bombing campaign of Hanoi and the North.  The narrator said that “thousands of U.S. airmen were captured” during the campaign.  After the movie I asked the tour guide if I had heard correctly that “thousands of U.S. airmen were captured” and she said that that was correct.  I then pointed out that only a total of 660 Americans were returned in 1973 and asked what happened to the rest of them.  She looked quite startled but then said, “We have no information about that.”  So she realized that the government had either lied about returning all the POWs or had vastly inflated the number of Americans captured.  I also learned that even though Viet Nam has universal conscription, they did not draft the sons of many of the senior NCOs and officers of the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN).  One man I was talking to in Da Nang told me that he had not been drafted as his father had been a Thuong Si (Master Sergeant) in the ARVN.  I was told that the soldiers (guides) at Cu Chi would not be friendly toward Americans.  I found all that I talked to to be very friendly and interested in Americans.  Their propaganda film always referred to Americans as “American imperialists” and French as “French colonialists”.  The Vietnamese were much more friendly toward me than they were to the French tourists, however.  You can buy an NVA pith helmet for about $3 US complete with gold star.  I did buy a star for $1 to put on the helmet that I obtained in the Que Son Valley in 1969 while operating with the Vietnamese Rangers (Biet Dong Quan).  I saw several zippo-type lighters with crests of various units to include SF and MACV.  The lighters appeared to be really old but I suspect they were counterfeit and could be bought for about 70 cents US.   I saw the same exact collection in several shops. 

 

In Sagion Tu Do Street and Dai Lo Doc Lop have been renamed.  The Continental Hotel and Caravelle Hotel are still there but do not look like they did 40 years ago.  The old US Embassy in Saigon is now the US Consulate.  The US does have an embassy in Hanoi but I did not visit it.  I saw several English Language schools in Hanoi and Saigon including the VUS - Vietnam U.S. English Language School which seems to be the most prestigious.  Everyone seems to want to learn English and for their kids to learn English even though American and Brits were outnumbered by French, German and Italian tourists. 

 

I recommend the trip to anyone who wants to go back.  My wife enjoyed the shopping and prices even in the upscale department stores were very inexpensive.  However, you will not likely find Viet Nam to look like it did 40 years ago.  I saw many farmers plowing rice fields with gasoline plows where 40 years ago I only saw plowing with water buffalos. 

 

ALL THE WAY  -----

Larry A. Greene

Special Operations Command Korea

 

MACV - 1969

CCN, Da Nang - 1969-70