The officer’s mess, Vung Tau
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.