When I arrived in Viet Nam it was with a strong desire to help the Vietnamese people defend themselves against Communist aggression. The story I'm about to tell you is almost insignificant in the injustice of war but it has bothered me for over forty years. It remains among my memories of Vietnam, and I'll never forget it.
I lived in the 1200 area of Tan Son Nhut in hooch number 1245. My hooch was located south west of the main gate and was next to to the old French cemetery visible from the road to Cholon. The perimeter road and two fences where all that separated my hooch from my Vietnamese neighbors. I often watched Vietnamese children playing and their parents planting gardens opposite my hooch on the other side of the perimeter road. Beside the perimeter road near my hooch stood a couple of CONEX containers separated by a space covered with plywood for a roof. The CONEX was used by a young Vietnamese girl as a stand to sell Coke's from. I'm sure she was not authorized to be on the perimeter road but no one in authority ever told her to leave.
I had made Sgt. (pay grade E-4) on my return from Cam Rahn Bay. With the extra rank came extra responsibility. One of my extra duties was Charge of Quarters for the top floor of my hooch. One day, about three weeks after the Tet Offensive, some one ran up to me and said come quickly or there is going to be a murder. I swiftly followed him to the south side of our hooch where a group had gathered around an angry drunken airman with a knife who was threatening to kill the little Vietnamese Coke girl. I asked the airman why he wanted to kill a little girl and he said because she was a VC and he was going to get even for a friend they had killed. Some one in the group told me he had received a letter telling him the VC had killed his best friend. He drank and brooded the whole day. Then he went down to the fence and lured the little Vietnamese girl over with an offer to buy a Coke and grabbed her.
I weighed 150 pounds and had no combat training. He looked like he weighed about 225 pounds and he had a knife. Glancing around I didn't see any one who looked willing to help me, so to distract the airman, I asked him about the friend who had died. What we talked about I don't remember but I wanted to keep his mind off of killing the little girl. Finally I said to him if you kill that little girl, even if she is a VC, you will either be executed or go to prison for the rest of your life. Don't let the V.C. win by killing her. Let's turn her in to the Security Police and let them dispose of her. In that way, "You can win". It must have touched some spark of reason in him because he agreed but insisted he had to tie her up and wouldn't let me take her unless he came along. After he tied her hands behind her back I loosened them a little and told him I was making sure the ropes were tight. Some one with a jeep offered to drive us over to the main gate where we could turn her over to the SP guards. When we arrived at the main gate the driver of the jeep took the drunken airman and his hostage over to an SP while I explained to another SP, out of ear shot of the drunken airman, what had happened. The SP's took the little Vietnamese girl and we went back to our hooch to let the drunk sleep it off.
The next day after my shift I was walking back to my hooch when I noticed the little Vietnamese girl was back selling Coke's from her stand. She saw me coming and picked up some rocks and threw them at me. I thought to my self, so much for good intentions, here is another VC in the making. She, of course, had no idea that I had saved her life. I was just one of her tormentors.
Good men fought, bled, and died in that war. Looking back on Viet Nam so long ago. Some times it makes me wonder!
What was it all for?