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Sunday, 5 February 2012

The disabled veterans take to arms. Saigon: Vietnam memories 1965 1975

The disabled veterans take to arms. Saigon.
The handicapped war veterans had a hard time of it. The South Vietnamese government had no social security system worthy of the name. With the massive casualties and low salaries, inadequate if nonexistent health care a South Vietnamese soldier who had lost an arm or leg found life difficult, particularly if he had a family to support, let alone his situation if he had more serious injuries. The breakdown of the village way of life as usual compounded the problem. The slum areas in Saigon were extensive and the sanitation appalling.

One day wooden shacks began appearing on the main streets of Saigon. The wood was brand new, planks and beams etc., not the flattened sheets of coca cola cans one was used to. Evidently somebody was behind it; Nguyen Cao Ky so rumour said. The disabled veterans took to demonstrating on the streets. Then they appeared with arms. The sight of these former soldiers in wheel chairs or one legged on crutches brandishing M16 rifles were very touching.

The civil police could do nothing without bringing the army down on their backs. The army refused to move of course as they would not attack their own. Things continued like this for some days.
The Americans couldn't interfere. Once they had arrested the mayor of Saigon. This individual, a high ranking officer in the South Vietnamese army, had got fed up with the noise of traffic in his street one evening and so armed with his sub-machine gun, stood in the middle of the street and fired continual bursts of automatic gunfire in the air to frighten the drivers away. After he had been arrested the South Vietnamese kicked up a frightful stink.

The veterans managed to capture a machine gun jeep, from the Americans I believe, and started driving around menacing everybody, and forced the authorities to move in and the trouble

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