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Monday, 16 April 2007

Of drugs and entertainers. Saigon, Vietnam

Having to look for a job I went to the Australian Embassy. They were the major Commonwealth country involved in the war and I had always got on very well with them. I had a very pleasant interview with some fellow but the outcome was they could not employ me as I had now become a 'third country national'. I had heard the term but am still not exactly sure what it means. The Australian's interpretation was that the Vietnamese were the first as it was their country. All those countries giving outright support were second and those not pulling their weight were third. The United Kingdom evidently wasn't pulling it's weight. That I knew. At the best they were observers. As I had a British passport I was now a third country national.
There was also a general cutbackof personnel at this time and an excess of people looking for work. With Decca we had been rather privileged and Jim and I went round a number of companies without success. As I needed something very quickly because of my short term visa I took a job with some people who were promoting entertainment for the troops. My job was to go around the country visiting the US bases pushing these rather third rate entertainers. I had never done anything like it before but I was at ease with the army and used to travelling around the country. I flew up to Qui Nhon, Nha Trang etc. Once I drove from Nha Trang down to Phan Rang. The coastal road was much more secure than some I had known, but the vehicle I drove had a petrol leak and was none too safe.
The morale of the US army was starting to deteriorate. I had been accustomed to working with long service regulars. These people would always grumble as all soldiers do. They were a heavy drinking lot but they knew their job. There was now a lot of drug taking amongst the draftees. A soldier out on patrol in need of a fix rather complicated things. I heard a story at one place I visited of a patrol of ten men who retired to a hut to smoke their marijuana who were all wiped out by the Vietcong. I had once left my pipe in a bunker during an attack and when I went back to look for it in the morning I found somebody had used it to smoke some drug. I threw it away. I've never smoked or taken any drug in my life. I missed out on the hippy generation. Hanz told me he had tried opium once out of curiosity but he felt so rotten afterwards he never took it again. Anyway both Hanz and I enjoyed life too much to need it. I've still got an opium pipe I bought. I knew a few people who used them. If a few beers couldn't cure a problem a bottle of whisky could. There was a mutiny at the main military prison near Bien Hoa, where for some days the guards could not enter. They threw cartons of rations over the fence but did not intervene. The military police habit of locking drunken soldiers up in containers until they sobered up seemed a little harsh.

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