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Friday, 23 March 2007

The White Mice Roar: Tan Son Nhut, Saigon, VietNam

The flight back to Phan Thiet left at 5.30 which meant sleeping on the floor of the office overnight. The curfew was being strictly enforced so I couldn't get to the airfield early enough. Also one now needed travel orders to go anywhere. I preferred another night with PB, so decided to take a civilian flight with Air Vietnam. Or 'Air Nuoc Mam' as it was called. They usually flew old DC3's which I have always loved.
I checked in at the down town office. My baggage was searched. On an internal flight leaving Saigon? With great joy they discovered my weapons and gleefully held up my Swedish K and my Smith and Wesson. Where were my papers for them? Of course I didn't have any. I was their ally. I worked for the US Defense Department. The police, with their new found confidence, but with no new found thought process decided I was a menace to the state and arrested me. No handcuffs or anything dramatic thank heavens. They took me to their police post at Tan Son Nhut where one of them typed out the charges. He did this with the blunt end of a pencil on an old typewriter. Doubtless not wishing to damage his finger nails. Having spent ages doing it he discovered he had counted the 9mm ammunition in with the 38 special. I must have had about four hundred rounds all told. The 9mm were hard to get hold of. A CIA fellow in Phan Thiet had let me have some. He began typing it all out again.
I was very irritated as I realised I would miss my flight. Otherwise they were all very decent and offered to go out and buy me a sandwich and a beer. I declined the beer. There are times when it is better to remain stone cold sober. Finally he was finished and they took me back down town to the main police station. There they couldn't find the key to the room they wanted so we had to climb in the window. I was then photographed and finger printed. I thought the whole process utterly ridiculous but managed to keep my good humour. On returning to the airfield I was able to telephone our major who got me out.
He was none too happy. I learnt at the office the police had raided our Saigon house, found what they considered a cache of weapons. More than a dozen anyway, and in the absence of any Decca personnel had arrested the two maids.
The white mice had disappeared and the new police, resplendent in their new blue trousers, soon to fade to a pale shade of grey, were flexing their muscles. Their allies of course were much easier to capture than live Viet Cong.

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