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Subject: The War’s Little Ironies

Bill Bellinger
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Date Posted: 16:43:23 03/16/06 Thu

When I arrived in Phu Tai Valley in May of 1966, the 56th Signal Company (554th LEM) was still living in the same tents they had pitched the year before when they arrived. I spent seven months living in a tent, sloshing through the water and mud of the monsoon season and eating the dirt and dust of the dry season. At the end of 1966, I moved to Danang with the 85th Maintenance Company. In Danang I lived in MACV quarters. I had a room with a ceiling fan, a private bath with hot and cold running water and a flush commode. I had landed in the lap of luxury. Some of the service clubs in Danang were as good as stateside particularly the Navy Officer’s Club or Mess. They actually had white table cloths and napkins and real silverware and china plates. The food was very good. The bar could serve up any kind of drink or beer you wanted. The Navy always goes first class. During the day at breakfast and lunch you could wear your jungle fatigues in the club, but at night it was class ‘A’s or civies. I always wore civies. Most of the Navy guys wore there white uniforms or tans. Here we were in the middle of a war wearing class ‘A’ uniforms! The Navy club often had entertainment on the weekends. Usually a band from the Philippines or sometimes stateside. They all knew how to play “Under the Double Eagle” and it always brought the house down.

A few weeks before I came home I went to a club one night that was on the top floor of a building near the Perfume River. Up in this club you had a panoramic view of the river and the country beyond. That night I witnessed a brief violent fire fight in the distance with tracers flying back and forth. It lasted probably less than a minute. I think at that time the lunacy of it all hit me. Here I was sitting at a bar drinking a mixed drink and a few miles away someone could be dead or dying. I think of that night and all my other experiences in Vietnam more often now than ever before. For many years I just blocked it all out.

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