Letters to Stacy - Vietnam 1969 SP-4 Zimmerman
It will "Always" be Saigon to me!
HoChiMein City....Barf, vomit, puke. What was accomplished? More than 60,000 dead GI's. The 58,000 is a low figure....I know better. Reality was never revealed from that theater of operation... Way too embarrassing. That is why "Full Metal Jacket" ends with the actors singing The Mickey Mouse theme. We should have shot Johnson. He never pulled his head out to take a breath.
Chapter 1 - Arrival
It was the middle of the night. We landed in Bien Hoa at the military Air Base. They rolled up the stairway to the plane. We disembarked. The heat and humidity felt like a damp heavy blanket. I started to sweat right away. I looked around and saw flashes to the west but nowhere else…as Bien Hoa is close to the South China Sea. At first I thought it was lightning but there were NO clouds, just clear sky all around. Then, I knew. It came to me just where I was. It was artillery exploding all over the west horizon. A reason for concern, but not worry or panic, so I thought. We were taken in buses to the Military Post for the night. Cots, no blankets. Hotter than I have ever been. I was sweating in streams. Sleep? Get real!
Next day was more intense heat with the sun unbearable to be sure. We were led to a place to brush our teeth with fluoride. That was the last time I brushed my teeth until my departure in December 1969. This was June 1969. We were taken back to the tents which were all open except for the top to catch any breeze that there may be. There was none. In the AM were we taken back to the Military Air Base. There was no civilian air port except in Saigon for the journalists, no vacationers... he he he. We were loaded upon a C-130 Cargo Plane. We sat in harness straps made to be seats....he he he. It was like riding in one of those very fast elevators that take your breath going up and coming down. We came in for a landing at Chu Lai Military Air Base. A very fast decent to touch down but you could not call it a 'touch' down as we hit the tarmac very hard and bounced a couple of times to the right. It was good that I did not need to pee at that time. You see, the aircraft are most vulnerable when taking off and landing so they get up fast, and fall down to the runway, nerve rattling to be sure. We were taken to the tents right away so we could all take a leak and stop shaking from fright.
Chu Lai is the headquarters for the Americal Division. I was taken to an office and told that I was assigned to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) of the Americal Division. The next day I was boarded upon a Chinook Helicopter and taken to Company C of the 196th LIB. The Chinook shook and wobbled as if it would come apart at any . There were door gunners on both sides with .50 caliber machine guns for support in case we come into enemy fire, how comforting, a rock can bring down a helicopter, gee whiz what a trip. When we landed, well the fun was soon to start...