|A Day Off in Quan Loi|
Sometimes, on very rare occasions, you actually got a day
off. That day meant no cleaning the gun, re-supply of projos and powder or
cleaning the 50 caliber. You were free to do whatever you wanted. I remember one
such day. I had wanted a 35-millimeter camera, and had been saving for several
months to make the purchase. I remember buying it that day at the Post Exchange.
It was a Yashika with an electronic eye. Just point and shoot – you could make
great color slides. Slides were my favorite because I had a darkroom at home
where I developed my own – that is, when I was at home.
There was something strange about the girls at the Post Exchange. They were beautiful Vietnamese girls who flirted with us and wanted to help us make a little extra money, so they said. They would give you $20.00 to take $200.00 of their MPC (Military Payroll Currency) and buy a money order and send to a post office box back in the United States. These Vietnamese were not even supposed to have MPC. It must have been a scam to get black market money turned into real American greenbacks. Whatever the reason, it happened with great regularity.
I remember exploring Quan Loi that day, because I had rarely had time to leave my gun section. I noticed a stack of black rubber bags beside the aid station of the First Air Cavalry. One of the Cavalry troopers told me they were body bags. “When someone was killed”, he said, “they stick one of your dog tags between your teeth and tie one to your big toe”. I do not know if that was true, but on that day I sure hoped none of those bags was my size.
Quan Loi was divided into different areas - primarily by units. A Frenchman’s house was located within our area on the west side. There was actually a swimming pool right near our EM Club that I remember getting to swim in a few times. Most units were clustered around or near the airstrip. That day I heard that Colonel Patton’s tank unit was spending time in Quan Loi. Colonel Patton’s father was General Patton of World War II fame. I walked through their area. Most of the guys were sleeping in hammocks strung up on their tanks. Col. Patton was there. He did not have on a shirt, and looked like any other GI.
Vietnam was not a war to make one famous as a tank commander. Usually these units were scattered around and used mainly for guard duty or convoy protection. The jungle wasn’t a good place for tanks or for that matter, Americans. We controlled the day, but Charlie ruled the night.
I remember another interesting site in Quan Loi, the garbage dump. When you went there you could see hundreds of Vietnamese going through discarded stuff – obviously useless to us Americans, but they went through it like it was really valuable. In hindsight, I wonder how many homemade mines and bombs were constructed from our discarded, “useless” stuff.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that no two people see things the same way. So if you’re reading this, remember these events happened over thirty years ago. I remember a large building that the French had built, probably as a test center for the rubber they harvested or maybe a warehouse of some sort. It was off-limits to us, but we explored it. Nothing much was in the building, but I admired the architecture. I don’t think the French liked Americans being in Vietnam. It was rumored that you could tell at night if we were to be shelled because “Frenchie” would leave a light on in his window so Charlie could zero-in on our position.
I remember finishing my day of exploration at the EM Club with a hot shower. The shower was hot because the water in the drums had been heating in the sun all day. The Buds were cold. It was the end to a perfect day.
|Larry Jameson Then and Now|