WWII POW Escape tunnel
Original Civil War photos
Navajo Code Talkers: World War II Fact Sheet
MAJ Chuck Heimann checking in
BORDER LEGION OF 11th and 14th ACR
Letter fm Mayor of Tall Afar,Ninewa, Iraq
This WAR is for REAL
Establishment of the American Army.
CAV VETERAN 1938-1940
Vietnam Distortion Rides Again
Historical Timeline of Events
WELCOME Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans
Infamous Signs......Signs Some are X Rated

Definitely NOT REQUIRED READING: My Vietnam
sit rep

From May 7-May 21  2006 or thereabouts, I was on a
Military Historical Tour with 9 others and two
tour hosts, plus Vietnamese guides and drivers.
As most of you know, I have been interested in
Vietnam for more than a decade, since starting
to search for friends who would have known my
brother, David, a helicopter pilot who was killed
after one month in country in 1969, when he was
I had strange feelings before going on the tour,
that I needed to get my affairs in order before
going to Vietnam. When you are a KIA family
member who lost somebody at a young age, and
your only experience with having a loved one go
to Vietnam is that they didn't come back, you
naturally anticipate your own not coming back.
Not on a conscious level, but rather,
subconsciously and matter-of-factly, you feel as
if you will be following the natural progression
of things, and that is, that when somebody goes
to Vietnam, they don't come back.
In taking with Jeannie, I found her preparations
for the trip also were characterized by a feeling
of getting things in order. She found herself
wondering, if the trip prep was this monumental
for us in 2006, what could it have been like for
young men heading there in time of war,
knowing there would be bullets flying?
Jeannie Anderson was my roommate on the trip. 
Jeannie is the birth daughter of the other pilot,
20-year-old John Anderson of Columbus, Georgia,
who was killed in my brother David's crash.
We've known each other for about 6 years. She
joined the trip group only a few weeks before we
left and I am so glad we were able to share the
experience together.
Leading the tour were John Powell and Ed Garr
of Military Historical Tours. John was the Cobra
pilot who was flying "high bird" in C Troop 1st of
the 9th Cav on David, John & (gunner) Mike's
last mission. He called in the downed bird alarm.
I have known John since December 1996 when
he responded to a letter of mine that he saw in a
Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association
newsletter seeking those who knew David. Ed is
a former Marine Corps captain who has been
leading tours since 1997.
Also on the tour were:
Terry Funk, an attorney from Oklahoma, USMC
Tony Holmes from Florida, a USMC Lance Cpl
68-69 who had been on this tour with his wife
just last year and come back for a second trip;
David & Renee Keel of Texas. David was a
helicopter pilot in David & John's unit. He was
operations officer at the time they were killed;
John Mackel and his 24-year-old son Luke of
Texas. John was in C Troop 1/9th Cav from April
69-April 70, flying lift helicopter during David &
John's time there;
Mike Sprayberry, a farmer from Alabama and a
Medal of Honor recipient. Mike was in Vietnam
in 67-68;
Dick Walker, USMC 62-67, from Oklahoma, who
was in Vietnam in 1966;
Bob Weekley of Virginia, in an Arty Bty in 66-67
and again in 71-72 with the 101st Abn. when our
troops were leaving the country.
We all met in Los Angeles at the Four Points
Sheraton on the afternoon of May 6. We had the
good fortune to be able to meet Jeanette
Chervony, daughter of Eddie Chervony, 1/77th
KIA 5-5-1968 who lives in the LA area, for lunch
at the Falcon Inn, with her son Eddie Jr.
Jeanette is the web mistress and very active in
Sons and Daughter In Touch. She gave me a
wonderful dog tag made by the SDIT group that
went to Vietnam in 2003. It was a great send-off.
We left LAX a few minutes after midnight on
Korean Airlines, on a 13-hour flight that included
2 hot meals, one with red wine (!) and hot towels
and lots of drinks. There was darkness outside
the plane windows on most of this flight, and I
found it hard to sleep. At one point in the inkly
blackness outside the window there was rain
falling, which I found sort of beautiful. We spent
5 hours in the Seoul airport before boarding
Vietnam Airlines for Saigon which is now Ho Chi
Minh City (HCMC). At the Saigon airport we met
Thanh, our Vietnamese guide, and Ed who
arrived earlier.
We went to the Caravelle Hotel where I met my
Minnesota Vietnamese friends' brother, Phuoc
and his wife, Dan. I had carried a suitcase
containing sewing supplies to Vietnam for my
Minnesota big brother Bich Chu and his wife
Oanh Phan, to her family in Saigon. Phuoc and
Dan brought to the hotel bags of lucious ripe
fruit including Jackfruit, Mangosteen, Milk Fruit,
Mangoes, and Custard Apples for us to share. On
the return trip, I also hauled a suitcase from
Vietnam to Minnesota, so had little room for
gifts to bring back since I only had one suitcase
to use for myself.
The next day we visited Notre Dame Cathedral in
Saigon, a huge Catholic church (6.7% of the
country is Catholic according to our guide).
Saigon has 8 million people (according to Saigon
Times Magazine) and 3 million motorbikes.
Everywhere, all day and all night, people are
riding their motorbikes around town. At
intersections and roundabouts, all converge and
somehow find their way out. They beep-beep
their horns a lot to let somebody know they are
approaching from behind. Three-fourths of them
wear face masks to protect from the pollution,
and hats, jackets or long "prom" gloves up past
their elbows, and hats. We commonly saw 2, 3,
or 4 people on a motorbike including a baby
riding up front. There are no helmet laws so we
saw few  helmets, and few cars. Just mostly
motorbikes and big trucks.
In Saigon we visited the War Remnants Museum
which has static displays of some American
aircraft, plus some graphic horrific photos of
atrocities of war. There was a propaganda-slant
to the displays. There also were some prison
cells displayed. We saw the Presidential Palace
where the TV crews in 1975 filmed the 2 tanks
crashing through the gate at the end of the war.
It's now used as a tourist place and for trade
shows. We didn't go in but took photos out front.
Our guide told us that there are a lot of
Vietnamese "wannabees" who claimed to be
members of the 5-man crew who crashed
through that gate in 1975, so the government
finally issued the real guys ID cards to prove
their involvement.
Ed Garr explained that at Tet in Jan. 1968, the
VC/NVA had 35 btns. here and we had 50 btns.
He said that was the only large action that
occurred in Saigon.
We always traveled by air conditioned tour bus.
The next day we went to Lai Khe airfield which
is just a strip of pavement flanked by a drainage
ditch with rubber trees on the other side. The
173rd Abn was apparently here. A Vietnamese
guy rode up on his motorbike to check us out. He
said he was a Cav shoe shine boy during the
war. This was along Hwy. 13.
We followed the two-lane highway to the Iron
Triangle and Cu Chi where we went through
some of the Cu Chi Tunnels - very interesting.
They have a sort of guided tour like a national
park which was built in 1990 commemorating
the brave villagers that resorted to digging
underground. We received a video presentation
depicting the "ruthless imperialistic Americans"
that drove the people underground, the bravery
of the Vietnamese villagers there including
women who, it seemed, would live their lives
digging tunnels out of rock with one hand and a
rifle in the other fighting off the enemy. Thanh,
our guide, at one point asked the tour girl to
stop the television video because it was just
getting too anti-American for our group.
They have displays of American ordnance,
places where you can go through the tunnels
(take your flashlight!) which were shorter than
me in some spots, mainly hallways and small
open clear areas used for meeting rooms,
surgical rooms, individual Viet Cong families'
areas. Lots of tunnels. Renee was the brave one
from our group to go in first, much of the time.
They supposedly had 4 levels of tunnels in which
several hundred people lived and 17 babies were
born. The first tunnels at Cu Chi were 40 km
long built in 1948 by the Viet Minh to hide their
arms and then themselves. The Viet Cong
enlarged the network to 250 km to link pockets
of resistance and provide backup for attacks on
Saigon. Small trapdoors led into the tunnels
which have been widened to accommodate
western tourists.
At the tunnel area is also a temple and war
cemetery where 10,000 victims are buried.
There are lots of temples honoring the local
dead from that area.
On the road to Tay Ninh, it suddenly hit me that
at the end of the trip, I would have been in
Vietnam for half the time that my brother, David,
spent there. It shouldn't be, but it's a fact, he
was only there twice as long as I was. Seemed
very strange to me at the time.
We stopped briefly at an elementary school
where there were a couple dozen kids who came
outside the gate to talk to us. The elementary
schools all look alike, gated with a blue
overhead sign and usually some patriotic
billboard depicting a happy patriotic family
nearby. The children were all in bright white
shirts with red neck scarves and dark pants.
They happily told me and Jeannie some of their
names when I asked, Ong ten gi? "What is your
We ate at a roadside cafe that tested our faith in
our Vietnamese guide as far as food safety. We
stayed away from several big jars of marinating
stuff along one wall, and were served some sort
of soup, always with an individual loaf of great
French bread, which usually accompanied every
breakfast and lunch, and for dessert was what
came to be the standard, fresh cut pineapple
and watermelon. No pie or chocolate cake in
In restaurants and other places, we saw the best
and worst as far as toilet facilities. We three
ladies got used to always checking out the
"W.C." (water closet) and learned that if we
found one that actually had a seat, that was a
good sign! It was usually bring your own toilet
paper and hand disinfectant. Many toilets were
of the stand-up variety. There was usually a pipe
running down from the ceiling which you could
turn on for some running water to wash your
hands, using the dilapitated bar of soap sitting
there, or otherwise you could rinse your hands in
a huge basin of standing water. Then, drip dry.
Many of the toilets had what looked like a
kitchen sprayer clipped to the wall somehow. I
used this to spray my feet and sandles which
was pretty refreshing.  I believe it was intended
for another anatomical use but I never did try
that method.
We drove to Nui Ba Den, "Black Lady Mountain,"
which according to the guidebook "seems to rise
up out of nowhere." It's the highest mountain in
the south, 986 meters, and was the scene of
fierce fighting during the war. We rode cablecars
similar to the skiing gondolas up the heavily
forested mountain, seeing a beautiful panoramic
view of the valley below which was divided up in
square fields and looked just like Wisconsin to
me. Near the top was Ba Pagoda and a huge
reclining Buddha statue. Everything at the
bottom of the mountain, where we got on the
cable cars, needed paint - bunny figures that
seemed rather grim and menacing, and the worst
"stand up" WC I used on the whole trip. At the
top we saw the only monkeys we saw on the
trip, climbing on the wires. We rode down in
individual bumper car type things, down a
twisting metal chute. I got some grief for riding
my brakes too much for the daredevils behind
me. But it was fun and nobody was injured.
The next day we went to LZs Dot and Carolyn
and stayed at a hotel in Tay Ninh which was
"interesting" as far as inhabitants, the
non-paying kind. We went onto the Cao Dai
compound which contains an absolutely
gorgeous temple which has been the
headquarters of this religion since 1927. The
entire park area was spic and span. We took our
shoes off on the steps of the temple, where a
little old lady in white garb was sweeping
non-existent dust off the steps. There were a
few women and men monks inside; one of the
men very kindly, and with excellent English,
explained to us that their religion combines
Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. They pray
four times a day. When we had exited the
temple, a procession was coming down the road
which was some sort of celebration or funeral,
with colorful costumes and some sort of square
structure they were carrying. They believe in
seven steps to heaven, and they also have
female priests. Ha! They will get to heaven
Crops in Vietnam, that we saw while on the bus,
were rice of course, with many workers wearing
straw hats manually planting or tilling the fields;
manioc, a potato like food; sugar cane; and in
some places, coffee beans. We also saw water
buffalo in the fields, and a cow or two tied up in
front of many of the country homes.
We went to the LZ Carolyn area, and saw some
places where our Marine group members had
served. It was Terry's birthday, so out of
nowhere, our Vietnamese guide Thanh procured
a beautifully frosted birthday cake. We stopped
at a roadside stand to have some Cokes and
share the cake amongst ourselves, and attracted
the attention of a little girl about 8 years old and
her younger brother and sister. She was given
the cake to hold for a photo, and you could tell
she was really proud to hold it and have her
picture taken. Then before anybody knew what
was happening, she was gone, making fast
tracks off into the distance with her brother and
sister, cake and all. This was a big laugh for all
of us. We figured she was really popular with all
her little friends that day!
We went to Quan Loi and saw miles and miles of
rubber plantations, and I gathered some soil and
rocks. The bus got stuck in the red clay! Visited
Kontum (?) airfield, LZ Dot - David Keel told
some stories about flying first light missions and
last light missions over the special forces camp
that was there. There was no village, only low
lying brush. We saw LZ Rita also.
We stayed at another hotel in Dong Xoai, called
Binh Phuoc's Provincial Guest-House in Binh
Phuoc Province. Another place that silently
spoke of "past glory" with a grand entrance but
mold on the walls and a fountain outside with
the Communist flag flying from a pole in the
middle, but stagnant water with green slime. It's
as if these places were built with glorious
expectations and then left to themselves with no
upkeep. Very interesting.
About 4 pm, a group of seven schoolgirls came
by on their bikes and Bob entertained them with
songs and dances. They were so excited to
speak to us in English. One spoke mostly for the
group. John Mackel was trying to teach them
funny songs. They told Jeannie she was
beautiful. Then they sang songs for us. They
were 13 & 14 years old. They gave Jeannie and
Bob each a small coin, then they came back
after we had given them some American coins,
and gave us a 200 dong note. A Vietnamese
gentleman who had watched from the hotel
steps translated for us: it was the lowest
denomination, so despite our hesitance to take
money from them, it was OK to accept it, as
they wanted us to take it home as a memory of
their country. They were beautiful and so
excited when they rode off on their bikes saying
"Bye bye!"
The next day on the bus, Dave and John Mackel
told great stories of certain missions, such as
when the CS grenade exploded on board the AC
and other great recollections. Mackel told of the
flight of Dean & Soma & Hogeboom, and also a
funny story involving Steve Karas who was my
brother's best friend.
Jeannie and I noticed that our Vietnamese
assistant, Yan, would meticulously wash the bus
every night and every morning. He was a young
kid with a shy smile, maybe in his early 20s, and
was very respectful to us, but seemed not to
speak much English.
We set out for Song Be, Phuoc Vinh where C
Troop had flown out of. Tony had his GPS to try
to pinpoint the coordinates for the crash site of
my brother & Jeannie's birth father. We also
spread maps on the ground in front of the hotel.
It was exciting, anticipating seeing where they
had actually been, but I didn't feel personally
like I needed to see it, or the crash site. Just
being in Vietnam was enough. The
airfield/staging area at Phuoc Vinh took a while
to become familiar to those C Troopers who had
been there. We spent an hour or so walking
around, seeing mostly flat broken up surface
with trees on the perimeter and a few meager
shed-type homes. Took some photos, and then
along came a police officer who questioned
Thanh on what we were doing there.
The bus stopped near what would have been the
other end of the airfield area and the C Troopers
who got off and explored that area said it looked
a lot more familiar and they could tell exactly
where they were from that particular point.
Phuoc Vinh is still a small town by the same
name. The closest we got to the crash site was
standing on a bridge near another non-useable
bridge the center of which was blown out in
1975. John Powell, Jeannie and I posed for a
photo on the bridge, which was about 1 or 2
miles from where the crash occurred on July 21,
1969. The bridge seemed to shake under our feet
when a big truck would pass over.
The next day we flew to DaNang. While the guys
visited the silk worm factory, we ladies took a
short cyclo ride to Hoi An, a nearby picturesque
town on the banks of the River Thu Bon. We
went to a sewing shop frequented by tour
director Ed Garr, who came with us ladies. The
tiny girls running the shop were so excited to
see Ed again and to learn he was bringing his
wife to Vietnam later this summer. The shop
was long and narrow, with headless, 1970's style
manequins in front wearing pants or wool suits
or dresses, and inside floor-to-ceiling shelves of
every kind of fabric, including many silks. On the
small table in the center were catalog books
including JC Penney and others, from which a
customer would choose ANYTHING to be made
to fit. There were about 4-5 plastic lawn chairs
sitting there, on which we sat to flip through the
catalogs choosing our items. The girls
immediately brought each of us a cold bottle of
water and sat us right down. I practiced my
Vietnamese with one of the girls.
It was the dad who measured us, taking
measurements across shoulders, arm length,
waist length, every other measurement you can
imagine. We ordered our clothes, including
shoes for Renee & Jeannie (!) which all took a
couple hours, and then rejoined the group. They
were going to make our clothes and deliver them
to our hotel in nearby DaNang in 3 days!
The next day we went to China Beach where a
brand new highway is flanked by a nice
walkway, and on the non-beach side, a few
resorts(!). We went to Marble Mountain, climbing
up a steep winding path that wove in and out of
cavernous tunnels and caves, finding more
temples at the top, along with a spectacular
view. In some of the caves were impossibly huge
stone statues of Buddha, looking very eery in the
dim cave light, with incense burning below his
immense figure. The guidebook tells us we also
saw statues of the Goddess of Mercy, Goddess
of Wisdom and Intelligence, and Goddess of
Generosity and Forgiveness. A huge cave, 30
meters high, looked magical in its dim light with
some candles burning and heavy air inside. It
was used as a Viet Cong hospital and is now,
guidebook says, a major Buddhist pilgrimage
Tour director Ed said most vestiges of the
American's presence have been obliterated. One
of the few remaining is an old bunker tucked
underneath a bridge next to a railroad that you
never know was there. Inside, a GI wrote
something like "When I die, the only thing I'll
feel will be the recoil of my rifle." We saw Hill
55, and learned some of the stories of the places
we were visiting from Ed's excellent accounts.
Renee, Jeannie and I had a $7 massage at the
hotel ($3 tip expected and downright asked-for!).
We weren't sure, however, whether the girls
giving us the massage were laughing with us or
at us! We had an evening more or less to
ourselves, but we all loved each other so much
by then that most of us chose to eat as a group
at a little restaurant where we received yet
another several-course meal. Your cyclo driver,
who had gotten to know you by then, would
peddle you to the restaurant, wait outside as
long as it took you, then peddle you along the
river for a bit of sightseeing and back to your
hotel, for $5. Terry tried to boost the economy
by upping the price, which did not win him any
points with the rest of us! At any rate, very
cheap labor and very reliable transportation
through streets that you would NOT have wanted
to walk or drive a car on, in the interest of
personal safety.
We left DaNang the next day and saw Red Beach
where the Marines landed in 1965, went over Hai
Van Pass where the scenery was beautiful and
breathtaking except for the ravenous vendors
wanting to sell you maps, postcards or bracelets
(I didn't even get off the bus), and Bob shared
some recollections about his experience in the
area as the last combat troops were leaving the
area, 3d Bde 101 Abn, in 1971. Terry also had
been in the area and shared a story about a girl
he had known platonically in that time period,
whose acquaintances had ironically remembered
her when he asked somebody outside our tour
bus. We saw the tiny fishing village of Lang Co.
Then we went to Hue and had an extensive
lesson on the major actions that occurred there,
from Ed. We went to the Citadel and learned
from our new guide, Chuong, about the Emperor
and the Kings and Mandarins who lived there in
the Forbidden City. It was a very beautiful place,
a city within a city, with lots of picturesque
ruins and also some workers restoring some of
the buildings and architecture, which was good
to see. One emperor founded a dynasty, and
there were 13 kings, according to Chuong; the
youngest was 9 years old. Inside the Citadel, we
visited a Buddhist pagoda where there are
monks studying, and children too. The car that
the Buddhist monk drove into Saigon in 1963,
and then set himself on fire to protect President
Diem's intolerance of religious freedom, is on
display there.
The next day, off on Highway 1 to sites Woods,
Camp Evans, and other sites. At Camp Evans, we
learned that in 1966, the 4th Marine Rgt was
here. Then later, the Cav came and took over the
area. Dave Keel, who arrived for his first tour in
September 1968, was here with C/1/9 for a
month or two till the Cav moved south to III
Corps in October 1968. He remembered how A
Troop was given 24 hours notice to pack up and
move; 2 wks later, B Troop moved and then C
Troop covered the area till the last bde left -
about another 4 weeks.
Luke, the youngest member of our group, had
had a date the night before with a young lady he
met at the Citadel, an economics student at the
university. He told us how the evening had gone,
with them going somewhere to eat and then
having tea with her parents in their modest
home. It was very interesting.
We stopped by a bombed out Catholic church
that was an interesting photo op. Ed said it has
been left standing as a testament to the
destructiveness of the Americans.
Chuong told us that in 1986, the government
divided up the land among individuals based on
the number of family members. While people
don't own their property, it is still taxed, and he
said every 10 years, the government
redistributes the land according to family size.
That is why the homes are built so strangly,
always one room wide and very tall, right up
next to each other, with one, two, three or even
four stories.
We went to Dong Ha, Cam Lo "Leatherneck
Square," the DMZ, a river that divided north and
south, and Vin Loc Tunnels, a bit larger than the
Cu Chi Tunnels and just as interesting. A
Vietnamese man came up to our group who was
apparently a VC soldier. He exchanged some
chit chat with our veterans, shook hands and
The next day, we went over the Dong Ha bridge
with full narration by Ed - site of the April 1972
occurrence depicted in the movie Bat 21. We
went to the second largest cemetery in Vietnam,
Truong Son Cemetery, "their Arlington" where
there are 9,900 tombs, many NVA soldiers with
pictures of them on their gravestones. Our
guide, Chuong, explained that 3 days before his
father was to be drafted into the North
Vietnamese Army, he broke his leg when a
bamboo bridge went out. The people of the
village all thought he did it on purpose (he
didn't) so the family was somewhat shunned.
Chuong's oldest brother served in the Army in
Cambodia, during which time his mother pretty
much just lay on her bed and wept. The brother
was the only one to survive an accident with a
truck going over a mine, was wounded and still
has nightmares. His brother said it was worse
than the movie "The Killing Fields." Chuong, who
is 36, has 2 other brothers who served in the
(short) China war in 1979.
Chuong said the government takes good care of
wives and mothers who lost family members in
the war. They receive some sort of pension.
We went to Camp Carroll, the site of a bloody
battle where the ARVN surrendered. There is a
rather avant garde style monument there which
has been left to the elements with surrounding
walls that depict battle scenes just pushed over
and left upside down with weeds growing all
around. It's at the top of a huge hill with a
spectacular view, nothing else around but a
pathway, some coffee bean fields, and this big
angular stone monument.
We saw the Rockpile, Razorback, saw some
poor, poor places where barefoot children with
dirty faces and outstretched hands would meet
the bus the minute it stopped. Some of us would
give them a granola bar or some other snack to
share. Then, you leave. It was truly
heartbreaking. As much as I wanted to capture
the moment, I just couldn't take pictures of
them. I didn't want to be an American tourist on
an air conditioned bus taking a photo of a
begging child.
We went to Khe Sahn and Ed told of its
significance. There's a visitor center with small
museum of artifacts, some American and ARVN
medals displayed haphazardly on a part of a flag,
some static displays including a Chinook and
Huey and a badly mangled fuselage. Ed said it's
bogus equipment. Luke found a beetle the size of
a tank and was smart enough NOT to put it on
anybody's back. We played with it for a while
and took photos.
Then we started a bus ride that was maybe 3
hours (?) down a part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
that was extremely scenic. We went down a very
winding, two lane road through heavily forested
mountains except for a clearing here and there.
Saw shacks with thatched roofs with twig
fences and laundry hanging on a string on an
outcropping of land beside the road with the
most spectacular views in the world. And I am
thinking, what do these people think when they
awake? Do they pray their thanks to the
mountains or their gods for putting them here?
What are their dreams?
I had brought to Vietnam a list of the names of
more than 350 men who were killed in the
Vietnam War, whose family or friends I have
come to know. I knew that when the time was
right, I would say the names quietly to myself,
remembering their loved ones left behind, who
could not go where I was going.
Sitting on the tour bus watching the
indescribable beauty of that high winding
mountain road, part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail,
with the most breathtaking views in the world, I
went down my list, and read each name silently.
In my mind, I told them: It was the best I could
do for each of you, give you this beautiful place
through my eyes. You were here when it was a
painful place, an ugly Vietnam. It was our war,
but it’s over. I will tell your families that today,
35+ years later, the thoughts of your lives and
your names echoed off these hills again in a
time of peace. I’ll tell them how I brought you
back here and gave you a beautiful Vietnam by
saying your names in these mountains.
I felt good that I had brought all my "guys" and
their families along with me.
That evening, Jeannie and I sat in our sixth floor
hotel room in DaNang at the Bamboo Green,
where we had returned, looking out at all the
juxtaposed homes, nothing but rooftops as far as
the eye could see. We could see a TV set with
family around it here, a family spreading sheets
out to sleep there . . . lots of little red Buddha
shrine candles burning in the little homes so far
below. They all just co exist. It occurred to me
that co existence is the name of the game here.
Danang is much quieter than Saigon at night - I
noticed one or two motorbikes whose lights
could be seen turning down an alley to disappear
from view - and we talked about freedom,
culture, and whether we are less free with all of
our zoning and cultural norms than they are. I
wondered, who is in all these homes, and where
will they be in 5 years?
That would be my last night's sleep till I got
The next day we left Danang in the morning and
flew to Hanoi. All day we toured Hanoi. John and
Luke Mackel had pre-arranged a golf outing;
after they rejoined the group, John explained
how they had encountered some well dressed
gentlemen when entering the course who said
they were members and would get them in at a
lower price . . . they were subsequently told by
the American course owner that they were
"Party" members . . . well dressed and affluent,
while outside the clubhouse, the poor sold golf
balls. And: they had female caddies!
The rest of us visited the Hoa Lo Prison, "Hanoi
Hilton" which was built by the French who used
it to torture Vietnamese political prisoners in
unspeakable ways in the early 20th century; the
section of it that was used for American POWs
during the Vietnam War has since turned into a
condominium building, but there are several
displays inside, including the flight suit &
parachute of John McCain. Also a park area
inside the prison commemorating the brave
Vietnamese who were brutalized by the French,
complete with a guillotine.
We went past the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum but
didn't go inside. If we had, we would have been
prohibited from talking, putting hands in our
pockets, or holding up the line while walking
past Ho lying in state like Stalin. John Powell
said he is taken offsite every so often to be
"retouched." Because the previous day was Ho's
birthday, there were huge banners on either side
of the building indicating how he is in the hearts
of the people.
Then we stopped at JPAC, the Joint POW/MIA
Accounting Command Detachment Two in Hanoi
and received a very interesting briefing from Lt.
Col. Lentfort Mitchell on the status of our
recovery efforts. JPAC was formed by the
October 1, 2003 merger of JTFFA and CILHI, the
Joint Task Force for Full Accounting and Central
Identification Lab Hawaii. They employ 425
civilians and military combined. Vietnam has
about 1379 MIAs - the number always changes
due to remains in process of being identified in
Their presentation went over the steps involved,
site investigation team members' qualifications,
and processes of recovery. I found it very
interesting that after remains are recovered, a
ceremony is held in Hawaii with color guards
and family if available, plus local active duty
personnel. However, even before being
identified, the remains are given a "repatriation"
ceremony - a full ceremony before the remains
are flown to Hawaii.
They do 4 joint field activities a year, each of
which can involve 700-800 people. "Presence,
persistence and patience" are their mottos. They
now have 66 cases on the approved list for
excavation in Vietnam. This number only
represents recovery efforts, not research which
is ongoing. They are trying to take advantage of
witnesses who are still alive, so need to
maximize efforts in Vietnam. There are over 300
Vietnam cases that are "over water" cases. They
are currently working a lot in the western
They extend an open invitation to the public to
participate in field site visits and repatriation
ceremonies. The next one is June 19 - these are
usually done at the airport, they shut down the
airport and then they fly out.
Each joint field activity costs the US
Government about $1.2 million.
I have lots more notes from the briefing but only
put the highlights here.
We regrouped and flew out of Hanoi about
midnight. Had about 4 hours in Seoul, 1 hour in
Tokyo, and on to Los Angeles where we tearfully
parted ways! I had about 12 very interesting
hours sitting next to John Mackel on the flight,
still couldn't straighten him out, but I tried! I
still miss the group. We all grew close to one
another and appreciated each other's
differences and similarities.
In one day, "my" day anyway, between bedtimes,
I was in Danang, Hanoi, Seoul, Tokyo, Los
Angeles, Denver and Minneapolis! No wonder I
was dragging for about the next 5 days.
For all who got this far, congratulations, you get
a one way ticket to Hanoi!! My dog, Asia, was
with friends who took great care of her and she
was happy to see mom get home and now doing
My photos for those who haven't seen them yet,
are at the following URL. Scroll down to position
it so you can see the caption below the photo -
then hit "play" to run the slideshow. These are
only the best of my 600 photos which I plan to
take to VHPA but promise NOT to hold anyone
hostage to view the entire book - only those
I'm very glad I went . . . general impression was
very good and people were very friendly . . .
Military Historical Tours did a great job. It was
said, if any veterans are thinking about going
back to Vietnam, go now. In another 5 years the
landscape and the country will be so totally
changed that you won't know a thing there.
I truly appreciate the interest of anybody who
has read this far. And I appreciate all the
wonderful support before I went. I could not
have done this trip without many many
emotional supporters. You know who you are.
Little sister,
Julie Kink
sister of WO David Kink C Trp 1/9th CAV KIA