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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Road from Saigon: part 2: Vietnam notes & photos 1965 1975

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The Road from Saigon: part 2

I am able to retain that great British calm in periods of stress. Outwardly it appears admirable. Inwardly it is what I call one of the shades of fear. I was to get to know all the shades of fear over the coming years. Discipline helps one blanket out reality. One functions normally, one is completely without emotion. When one returns to the real world it leaves no trace. One's mind has been completely protected. It is also rather suicidal unless you are born with the luck of the Irish.

The road just outside Baria had been the scene of a particularly bloody ambush some days before. The hills that lay back a short distance from the road were infested with Viet Cong.

In the camp we had become a little concerned. The Viet Cong were often setting up roadblocks and any foreigner who accidently strayed too far on the wrong day disappeared. Later an Australian division would move in to try to clear the area. Admirable soldiers; they were not there at that time.

There was a worrying crunching sound and the car came to a halt. Silence. We got out. The car was tangled up in a mess of barbed wire. We waited and listened but there was no movement, the area appeared to be deserted. Who had laid the barbed wire, Viet Cong or government soldiers? As the government would have no reason to set up a roadblock in the middle of nowhere it could only have been the Vietcong who then abandoned it when traffic stopped after dark. I felt for the first time in my life in what I can now call a pretty dicey situation. We took some time dis-entangling the taxi. We had four flat tyres. Neither of us knew how much further it was to the next village. We got in and limped along and finally came to Baria. The tyres were in shreds. I doubt if the wheels were any better.

 I gave the driver some more money and took one of the three wheeled taxis from Baria to Vungtau. That stretch of the road at that time was relatively secure in the day, dodgy at night but complete heaven to what I had just been through.

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