23rd Street in Saigon

Prior to the Tet Offensive in 1968, we were allowed to go into town by ourselves, unarmed, and in civilian clothes. Often you’d see us walking down the street with a little purple bag with a bottle of Crown Royal inside.

In Saigon, the streets are not numbered, and of course they have Vietnamese names. A couple of us got together and figured out how to reference the streets in a grid with numbers. We started with Hai Ba Trung Street – Hai is two in Vietnamese and Ba is three, so we figured Hai Ba Trung street was 23rd Street – made sense to us!

This way, a bar one street over in one direction was on 24th Street, one street over in the opposite direction was 22nd Street, and so on.

It wasn’t until much later that we learned the street was actually named for the two Trung sisters of the 3rd Vietnamese dynasty. The Trưng sisters (c. 12 – c. AD 43) were Vietnamese military leaders who rebelled against Chinese rule for three years, and are regarded as national heroines of Vietnam. Their names were Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị.

Other street names I can remember were le Loi and Nguyen Hue, but those street names didn’t have numbers in them and as such they weren’t useful to us in our numbering scheme.

Jim Hicks ET1 (AC) Saigon 67/68, Danang 68/69