Back to the Nam

My wife Beth and I returned to Vietnam in 1999. It was interesting to see the country. We saw almost no men old enough to be veterans of the war. I believe that most of them died in the war, or never got out of the reeducation camps, or went back north, or escaped with the boat people. We met a Priest who had been put into the reeducation camps for 14 years prior to his release. 

The road to Hill 327 was washed out and I was way too lazy (and nervous about all the Vietnamese military) to try to hike up the hill. I did try to drive on to the old 1st Marine Division base. A sentry was lounging at the gate. When we got up to the gate he jumped to attention at port arms with his AK-47. He was wearing cammies, wore an earring, and looked about 13. He would not let us on the base.

We stayed in an ultra luxury hotel on China Beach, right next to the old in country R-R facility, where MASS-3 once had a great picnic. It was and is a beautiful place, with a great view of Monkey Mountain and the South China Sea.

I did my last Marine Reserve Corps Day in February 1999 in Vietnam without telling the Vietnamese Communists. I kind of liked it that my last day in the Marine Corps Reserve before I retired was back in country. 

Some of the younger people speak good English. But they did not dare talk about the war. When asked about the war, they ask "which war". When they realize it is the "American War" you are talking about their English comprehension becomes poor. The country is a Police state, and the citizens are afraid to talk openly. The Vietnamese had checkpoints every few miles where all the Vietnamese had to show an ID card. The Country has a very large military presence, and was very poor. We saw one little girl selling individual sticks of gum on the Hai Van Pass.

I understand that Vietnam has liberalized its economy. It has copied China, and is making great economic progress.  Motorbikes now proliferate.

The country is still beautiful, and the people are pleasant. And they still like Americans.