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Saigon Kids Stories: Virgina Wilson-King (PSG)

by Virgina “Ginny” Wilson-King
Phoenix Study Group Saigon (1968-1974)

I lived in Saigon in 1968 when I was 18 months old. We lived up by the racetrack. When the Tet offensive happened, my mother and I hid in a crawl space behind the stove. Since I was so little they had to drug me so I wouldn’t talk. My dad guarded the door and for nearly a week we were in hiding. I guess my grandparents in the states were so frantic they contacted their state representative who somehow got someone to send a contingent of Rangers after us. They got to us when the there was a lull in the fighting but my dad decided he didn’t want to evacuate. (Not the smartest thing he ever did.) When the fighting began again we holed up next door with a couple of GI’s on leave who lived with their girlfriends. We apparently ended up being evacuated from the roof top. Since I was so young I don’t remember the address, but the story has been told over and over again over the years.

My mom and I were evacuated to Bangkok, from there we settled in Hong Kong where my sister was born. I was put in boarding school in Singapore for K and 1st grade and a partial year of 2nd. My dad stayed the entire time in Saigon, he ran a hospital just down from Phoenix for Vietnamese veterans. It was through the World Rehabilitation Foundation, Rusk Rehab out of New York and Missouri. We came back to Saigon when I was in 2nd grade and I was home schooled for about 5 months then enrolled in Phoenix Study Group (PSG) for 3rd grade. I was in Mrs. Brundridges 3rd grade class.

We lived in several houses while there, an apartment on Cong Ly, then in former officer quarters on a street behind the market. I can’t remember the name of that place but we were across the street from a Vietnamese school and had to have guards there. The last place we lived was a very large apartment complex with a playground, again can’t remember the name of that building but there were lots of American’s living there.

Since we weren’t USAID or Embassy folk I think we were kind of just out there as civilians, but I remember going to the movies, playing tennis, swimming on the main base and going to a lot of the other bases for dinner. I do remember going out to the PX (that was like taking our lives into our hands on that giant road with cars and people and bikes all driving in different directions, FAST.) Gosh the water on the base always was so cold in those paper cones and the jello was cold. Getting shots at the base with those battle axe nurses and the giant needles – not good memories of that.

We went to a lot of pools, I remember some really cool ones with fountains. Always loved the ice cream there, it tasted different, my dad says because it was french.

My mom did a lot of volunteer work for Dick Hughes with the Shoeshine Foundation, he was so charming. We went to the building often where he lived with the boys. That would have been creepy now but it seemed normal then. My mother also did a lot of work for an orphanage, it was the one that was home to many of those children who died in the helicopter crash when they were trying to airlift them at the end. We went often and took coloring pages and hung out and colored with the orphans. Sometimes we would go with them when they went right up to the border of the war to pick up ones that had been found with injuries. There was a small boy named Trang who had a glass eye and I was the only one brave enough to find it and put it back in when he popped it out. Sometimes we took them orange Nehi, they always got a kick out of that.

We also went on a lot of vacations, Vung Tau and the other beaches that were “safe.” They didn’t always seem that safe to me, but then again, my dad was kind of a risk taker. Once we went to a place at Vung Tau that had a swimming pool that pool was filled with sea water. So Vietnamese like.

Thanks for listening, I have always wanted to reconnect with people who I knew there who may have known my parents. My mom was murdered in a homicide after going to the grocery store for milk one night in 1978, which was so ironic after all we’d been through in Vietnam. I would love to reconnect with people who were their friends then in Vietnam.

9 comments to Saigon Kids Stories: Virgina Wilson-King (PSG)

  • marie-colombe (perry) wright

    Hi Virginia,
    I didn’t know you in Saigon, but we all had such incredible stories there and such memories..How sad to see how your Mother died….how ironic, and very sad…I am so sorry…
    After living 5 years in Saigon in the 60s (61-65 when we were evacuated and went to Singapore and then Bangkok) we eventually moved to Luang Prabang, Laos, a quiet and gorgeous little town in the middle of nowhere…it was so good to be away from the “war”…and how ironic that my older brother , Steven, and my younger brother, Alain were shot and Steven was killed in a town that had just been retaken by the Pathet Lao..the message hadn’t been decoded by the embassy in Vientiane yet…But we loved Laos, and I still love it dearly…more my home than any other place in the world, and I return every summer, to try to teach, and reconnect with so much that I loved there….
    I went back to Vietnam in 2003…after driving from northern Laos to Boten, China, then to Kunming and several other places and we flew to Hanoi…lovely city that I really enjoyed after having heard so much about it for so many years…then down to Saigon, found my old house, became friends with the owners…in my parents’ bedroom was a photograph of the owner shaking hands with Ho Chi Minh..and yet they could not have been friendlier or welcoming….We then went up to Phan Thiet for a lovely week on the beach…such wonderful places and people….I am off to Laos in 1o days, for my yearly trek, to teach and do projects…the highlight of my year always…
    Be well, and know that you are not alone out there….I heard you!…..
    Marie (Perry) Wright

    • Joan L Mashburn

      Marie,

      I am going to the Saigon kids reunion in September 2017, in Maine. I am in Arlington, Virginia, are you living close by, can we talk? Email me if you have a chance.

      Joan
      Tschann’s sister

      • Marie Perry wright

        hi Joan…
        Do you remember getting together when I gave you Tschann’s lighter that had been bought by a returning soldier in Saigon? I have thought of you often..how are you doing? yes, it would be great to get together…! such fond memories of Tschann…I always stop by and see him at the Wall….

    • Tom Jacobs

      Hi Marie,
      I’ve got some movies of you when you and my sister Mary were in the 8th grade at ACS. Let me know if you’d like a copy.
      Tom Jacobs.

      • Marie Perry Wright

        Hello Tom!!!! I had never seen this message!!! Where are you and where is dear Mary? I have looked for her for years and years….cant believe you have a film of me??!!! Please update me on your family and I will check this more often to look for a reply!…..Marie

  • virginia wilson king

    Thanks for your kind response Marie. And I too am so sorry for your loss. You are so brave to go back. I haven’t had the nerve yet, but I think as I get older I’m more open to it. I think a lot of my feelings about my parents are wrapped up in my Saigon experience. This is the first time in my entire life I’ve ever talked about it or thought about it in any measurable increments. My dad went back and worked on landmine disposal from 94-97. He said he admired the humor and the resiliance of the Vietnamese. So maybe in the future, if I get the guts, I’ll go back. I know there are things I need to see and actually a few things I want to see. Thanks again Marie!

  • frank

    Virginia, Follow your heart!

  • frank

    Actually, I should have said “Yes Virginia there is a Vietnam, follow your heart!”

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