Hah! I bet THAT got your attention!
Well, not technically, but guilt by association.
In 1965, I was ship’s company on the U.S.S. Shangri-La, CVA-38. One night off the coast of Italy, the Shang was involved in a collision with the U.S.S. Newman K. Perry that killed two of their crewmembers, bent their bow, and put a huge gash in the side of our ship (they hit us).
After some initial repairs alongside the pier at Naples, Italy, we went into the French Navy shipyard at Toulon, France. While on shore patrol one night in Toulon, I heard a commotion inside a little bar and eatery called the Bar Saigon. It was a bar brawl, and my partner and I broke it up. The owners were two young Vietnamese sisters who were set up in business by their parents in Saigon, who wanted them out of the country for their safety during the war. During the course of the evening, we checked on the bar numerous times, and I caught the eye of one of the sisters, who invited me back the next night for a meal and a movie, on her, as a form of appreciation.
We were there about a month, and we dated whenever I had liberty and she had off. I didn’t know any Vietnamese, and she didn’t know much English, but we made do with the little French I learned while I was in the Med. When it came time for me to leave, I promised her that if I ever got to Saigon, I’d look up her family.
In 1967, I transferred to OASU, and by November, I was in Vietnam. I wrote to her, and she didn’t write back. I wrote to her several times, hoping I might be able to do some good for her family.
After a few tries, she finally wrote me back, in Vietnamese. I received a package with a pair of French silk pajamas and the letter, which I asked Mr. Le, the Captain’s driver, to translate.
While reading the letter, Mr. Le got really animated and mad, and at first refused to translate the letter for me. He finally relented, and told me that the pajamas were a parting gift, and that she didn’t want me to look up her family because her parents were VC sympathizers, and her brothers were active VC! As it turned out, that’s the main reason for her and her sister being sent to France. Good call, Pham! No telling what might have happened to me if I actually visited….
Jim Hicks ET1 (AC) 67/68/69