This War Story is going to strike everyone in different ways.
Anyone who handed out ping-pong paddles at a
Convalescent Center will never relate!
Well, it wasn't quite that bad. But, it took some getting used to. It goes all the way back to "stepping off the plane" at Tan Son Nhut airbase. You immediately knew that the "Land of the Big PX" was left behind and far away. It also goes back to 1966 for me. "Creature Comforts" was strictly American slang never to be used again until you went back home.
I never expected to have my jungle fatigues in perfect condition. Combat is not exactly "beach volleyball". You're gonna get dirty...and very wet at times. And you're gonna have to accept it...that's the law of the jungle. Of course, the first trick back in 1966 was to get your jungle fatigues in the first place! Most of us reported in Saigon in stateside khaki uniforms. No doubt that looked awful stupid or strange to the in-country veterans.
Anyhew, one of my first "sights" of Vietnam as a new, incoming Forward Observer awaiting assignment to the field was a Vietnamese Laundry. It was very close to the Guard Gate at Tan Son Nhut airbase. A recent rain did not make for a very good photo of the Laundry, but I don't think that the best "re-touching" in the world could have changed that! It was more of a glorified shed with a stream running in the back. Yep! They beat the clothing with rocks...a la the Jurassic Period...in water that was not exactly clean to begin with. Oh, boy!
The "finished product" was somehow dried to a high degree of "military stiffness"; I really don't know how they accomplished. It allowed the Laundry to maintain the time-honored standard of "breaking starch" when you put them on.
But, there was a price to pay for that.
It's called "smell". Gawd almighty!!
by Lt Dennis Dauphin