Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sergeants aren't the only scroungers.

In 1966, I was transferred from the 315th Air Division (in Japan) to the newly designated 815 AD (in Saigon), along with 5 other officers. Some of us did not want to be headquarters “weenies”. Two guys got out of the assignment by becoming forward air controllers. I turned down that offer, because I was concerned about calling down a strike in the wrong place. I opted to fly with the “ranch-hands”. That was the outfit that sprayed herbicide orange, everywhere. It wasn't known at the time how bad the stuff was. Flying slow at treetop level resulted in getting shot at more, but that was a better alternative.
The squadron commander and I hit it off and he cut orders for me to go to the Philippines for a two week accelerated ground school for the C-123 aircraft. I asked the other guys to find us a place to stay, instead of a hotel. I had been run out of my usual one, and the next one got bombed the day after I left. When I returned, my new General met me at the plane, and showed me to my desk. Oh well, I guess I was going to be a headquarters weenie.

Meantime my friends had found us a brand new “villa” , in Cholon, the chinese section of Saigon. It was 3 ½ stories (furnished) with a patio on the roof, six bedrooms, for eight people. It came with 2 maids and one houseboy. Rent was $400, or $50 each. The GI's in the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ), next door, let us tie into their water and electric system, so there was no cost there. A major, who shall remain nameless, had all sorts of contacts. One would swap a case of steaks for a bottle of booze. Another would swap a case of booze for a case of steaks. He parlayed this into all the food, drinks and cigarettes we wanted (for free).
Another scrounger, talked the chef at the Caravelle Hotel (Bob Hope's hotel) into cooking for us. His name was Chan and he served breakfast between 5 and 7 every morning, and a gourmet meal at 7 sharp, in the evening. Chan made allowance for two guests of our choosing at dinner. It wasn't long before there was a long list waiting for invitations to his feasts. Full Colonels and Generals had to wear civvies, for security. For the first two months he just used a two burner camp stove, until we “acquired” a real one.
I don't know what arrangements were made with Chan, but we never payed him any cash. I suspect he got the excess supplies, but I didn't ask.
Our transportation was provided by a Army pick-up of one member, three members rode in a Special Forces Truck, that was returned to them one week-end a month, when they picked up supplies. The other four of us rode the GI bus initially. However, a claymore mine was set off out our stop so we had 8 Honda 49cc (pedal start) motorcycles delivered immediately by a
C-130. They cost $200 and we sold four of them for $400,--net,free.
Our total cost of living at the villa, was the $50/month rent. So, officers can be scroungers too. However, we might have charged our dinner guests and gotten off scot-free.

PS- Our landlord visited us one night. I ask him if he thought we would be safe there. He replied that we certainly would be, because a high muckit-muck in the Viet Cong, was our next door neighbor. Sure enough when the Tet offensive came, the BEQ was demolished, but the villa was untouched.

No comments:

Post a Comment