I suspect the people are happy, or at least satisfied, with their standard of living. They have a roof over their heads, food to eat, and clothes to wear. They live, fall in love, marry, and raise families like anyone would and live into their senior years. They may not have all the amenities westerners have become accustomed to, but perhaps they are better off without them.
But I am rambling. I arrived in Nha Trang with three goals in mind:
1) See if I remembered anything from the trips I made to Nha Trang to pick up rounds for our forward air controllers in Ninh Hoa,
2) Make a trip to Ninh Hoa to see if I could recognize the old Korean Infantry base, and
3) See if I could locate my old friends in Ninh Hoa.
Nha Trang had changed so much that I didn’t really recognize it. However, I did recognize the area where the air force had once had a base (with landing strips). When I tried to enter the area on foot, I was turned away by Vietnamese soldiers. I was able to get a photo of an old Huey on the base from a nearby building so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
|An Old Huey|
For the record, I need to say that Nha Trang is now a very pretty city with great beaches, plenty of good restaurants, and a large expat community. I could have easily spent my entire vacation in Nha Trang. I would recommend the city as a destination for anyone wanting to visit Vietnam.
|Nha Trang Beach|
I hired a car with driver to take me from Nha Trang to Ninh Hoa (about 30 miles north). Even though I had made that trip multiple times years ago, I had trouble recognizing anything in the landscape.
When I finally reached Ninh Hoa, I immediately recognized “Big Charlie” mountain, but pinpointing the old Korean base eluded me. The landscape had changed. Gone was the barbed wire fencing, the watch towers, the hooches we lived in, and the artillery battery that made restful sleep impossible. I knew the basic area but pinpointing the exact location of the old base seemed impossible. The second of my three goals quickly became an impossible dream.
|Big Charlie Mountain|
Before I had left the US for my journey back to Vietnam, I had dug through some of my old pictures from my military days. As mentioned, I wanted to locate the two girls who served as hooch maids during my stay with the Koreans. I wanted to see if they had survived the war and how their lives had turned out. After 45 years it seemed like an impossible task.
I found a couple of pictures of the girls and myself and scanned them into my computer. Next I created a flyer using the old photos and wrote in both English and Vietnamese, “Do you know these people? Please help me locate them.”