Message from Fred
I was browsing through Facebook earlier (a rare occurence these days) and I happened on to Lydia's Photo Blog and her visit to Hoi An, Vietnam.
Back in the day Quang Nam Province, which includes Hoi An, and Da Nang was not a friendly place for US Marines. Da Nang was a big US base at the time, but just travel a bit south and east and you ended up in what we called "Indian Country".
I traveled through Hoi An on a few occasions in convoys going to Cam Ranh Bay further south. It always struck me as a very tranquil place even in the middle of all the craziness going on in 1966-67 when I was over there. The coastal cities and towns, of what was then South Vietnam were pretty quiet, there was not a lot of Viet Cong activity there until the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Anyway, Lydia's pictures brought back a lot of memories for me. Vietnam's countryside has really not changed a lot in 50 some odd years. I didn't get to spend a lot of time in the towns among the people unfortunately. We were always out in the boonies looking for trouble. The few times I did get to places like Hoi An or Hue, or Da Nang, changed my perspective of the war and what was going on at the time. Hue was a beautiful city, still in 1966, the Citadel and the Imperial City were not destroyed yet. The bridge over the Perfume River was still intact, and it was our way to travel on Highway One from Dong Ha to Phubai and further south. There were also many royal tombs in the Hue area, but it was not safe to visit them, especially for American servicemen back then. I always regret not getting to see them, but I have read about them in books. Too bad Lydia missed them as well, her pictures would have been great. I'm really sorry she didn't think that Hue was a pretty city. Maybe the rebuilt version is not what I remember, and that is a real shame. But she is so right about how things change once you are a few kilometers outside of a city. I imagine that Vietnam is still as rural as it was when I was there. Some of her pictures gave me that impression. I have always thought that some of the landscapes I saw in Vietnam were the most beautiful I have ever seen, in in the middle of war and chaos.
I loved her blog about Vietnamese money. Back when I was there South Vietnamese Money was called Piasters, and the coins were Dong. All the money was printed in America, and I remember it being very colorful, with dragons and snakes and such on it, with pictures of important Vietnamese historical figures on the bills. I think it took about 8,000 piasters to make a US dollar back then. There was a thriving black market in US currency, so we were paid in military script to avoid that.
It's good to see that at least the Vietnamese are now living in peace and going about their daily lives without tragedy. I loved Lydia's photos, they brought back so many memories.
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