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Friday, 1 August 2008

South Vietnamese soldiers (ARVN), Phan Thiet, 1968

A group of South Vietnamese soldiers (ARVN) in Phan Thiet during the fighting in 1968

The QK on the helmets denoted military police.

The men in this particular photo do not exactly inspire me with confidence. Like all armies the South Vietnamese had their good and bad elements and perhaps one should not judge from a long lost forgotten photo.

Corruption was rife in the country. The pay was very low and conditions of life for the average soldier were fairly harsh. As corruption existed at the highest levels of command one should not be surprised that it filtered down to the lower ranks.
In fact I never had any problem with the South Vietnamese military. Occasionally when driving through lonely stretches of countryside I would be stopped by their road blocks and asked for money or cigarettes. The relief at finding so called friendly soldiers as opposed to Viet Cong was always so great that I never minded and always travelled with cartons of cigarettes for that.

There was always the barrier of language. The older educated generation spoke French. At that time mine was half forgotten schoolboy French but enough to function in. Except for the higher ranking military very few Vietnamese spoke English. My Vietnamese was very basic. I’ve always had a struggle with the language. It’s possible my beard helped. People had trouble placing me. Americans were to be hated or exploited. The few French were tolerated. A bearded Englishman was strange and therefore left them uncertain how to deal with me.

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