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Saturday, 27 January 2007

The Officer's Mess. Vung Tau. Memories of Vietnam

The Officer's Mess in Vung Tau was the Pacific Hotel. It had served the Japanese in that capacity during the 2nd World War. What the French did with I don't know.
I used to drop in for a cold beer and slices (these were cut lengthwise so one could pick them up with one's fingers) of chilled cucumber sprinkled with salt before going up to Baria. There was also a girl there I taught to make Bloody Mairys. They became the best I had ever had outside the Pilot House Club in Nassau. The barman there, Charles, was an expert.
At one time they had a surplus of champagne, Charles Heidsieck I think. John and I tried to buy most of it. He was American and had taken over as station commander. He became, and I hope still is, a very good friend.
Vung Tau at that time was an in country R & R centre for US forces and full of bars. I remember being in a rooftop restaurant one evening when this very big, very drunk GI came and sat at my table and stirred his cigar in my glass of wine. I had seen the thing happen in a film the week before. I forget what the actor did but I looked him in the eye, calmly got up and left the restaurant. Maybe he paid my bill. I certainly didn't. I've never found any glory into getting into fights with drunks one has never seen before. It was a rather wild town.
There was a tendency to rather live it up during one's first year and then to revert slowly to more civilised habits.

2 comments:

jozinger said...

Mr. Kiep,
I found your comments amusing. Were you in Vung Tau between 1969 and 1970? I was an officer aboard the USS Chemung (AO-30). We anchored in Vung Tau on two occasions to off load POL products, mostly JP-4.

I was wondering if you had any recollections of that activity or those type of activities? You probably are aware that sappers were a continuing threat to large ships in Vung Tau. We would circle the ship with a keel boat and lob percussion grenades into to the water every 10 minutes to discourage sapper activity. However, once we were pumping avgas and because of the danger of explosion we had to cease our grenade activities. I was in the keel boat and I one of the enlisted men told me that he thought he saw a dark spot on the starboard prop. Since I am an expert swimmer, I simply took off my pants and boonies and jumped in the water and investigated the sighting. It turned out to be some sort of spot caused by the cavitation of the propeller and was harmless. The reason I am explaining this is that I have since developed some medical problems which may be associated with exposure to agent orange.
This is quite possible since Vung Tau is located at the north part of the Mei Cong Delta and the Saigon River. In my studies I have found that agent orange can settle in sediment at the bottom of rivers and inlets and I may have been exposed at that time. Do you have any recollection of large oil replenishment ships anchoring in Vung Tau?
Joe Hautzinger
jozinger@cableone.net

vnrozier said...

No, I had moved on by then. Further stories I will get to in time.I remember their were always many ships anchored our to sea waiting sometimes weeks to go up the Saigon river. The port there not being able to handle the shipping.I will get around to Agent orange later. It is one of the most disagreable aspects of the war,from all points of you. Whenever I have the slightest skin complaint I'm off to my dermatologists with that in mind.

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