Sunday, 3 February 2008
The cemetery, Phan Thiet, 1968. Memories of Vietnam
The above photos are from the previous story concerning the reuinion in Saigon;
The story today concerns an old post referring to life in Phan Thiet during and after the Tet offensive of 1968;
The ghoulish corpse
I left the camp, driving slowly down the raised road through the cemetery. I was particularly alert as there were some Viet Cong entrenched in a building at the bottom to my right. I noticed some fighting going on a few hundred yards away to my left. My eyes were drawn to the corpse of a Viet Cong not far off the road also to my left. It had been there some days, evidently the responsibility of nobody, and as it had begun to smell someone had poured petrol over it and set it alight. With rigour mortis having set in, it's arms and legs sticking up in the air, it was now also burnt and blackened. Perhaps a cemetery was the appropriate place, but it was rather ghoulish.
Suddenly all the hammers of hell seemed to open up just above my head. My heart nearly jumped out of my mouth and for a moment I was in a state of utter shock. Luckily I had been crawling along, observing what was going on around me, and was able to bring the 3/4 ton quickly under control. I then saw and heard this jet fighter screaming off to my left. It must have been on a straffing run when it opened up with it's multiple machine guns as it crested the road just as I passed under it. That is, I imagined later, how one ended up a casualty of friendly fire. I also wondered if the pilot had been laughing or cursing me as he narrowly avoided a collision fatal to us both.
In town I passed by the Advisor's compound to pick up my C rations. We had been living off them for some time now as nobody was doing any cooking. We had a supply in the camp but our sergeant refused to issue them so I was still dependent on my trips down town. There were pockets of Viet Cong on our side of the river and they seemed to occupy, or at least to have created a no man's land of most of the other. The South Vietnamese were holding the Provincial Headquarters and an area around it. The town was full of it's own refugees and displaced inhabitants. As was becoming my habit I took off to see what was going on.