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Stories Wanted for – SAIGON KIDS – The Book

For over 50 years Saigon Kids have existed, yet to this day “our story” has never been told to the world. We are the ‘forgotten ones’ who have been overshadowed by stories about everything under the sun of the Viet-nam era. No books have been written from the perspective of dependant children living in Saigon during the Viet-nam era.

Until NOW!!

Saigon Kids our time has arrived – to tell the world OUR STORY!

BUT …

If it is going to be – it is up to US!

SO ….

It is time to – JUST DO IT! 🙂

I know you are ABLE …

Are you READY – are you WILLING!?!

TO …

Contribute short stories you have written about Saigon … or to write a short story about Saigon and your experiences while living there.

Yes, yes … I can hear some of you out there now as you are thinking, “I’m not good at writing”. People, people if you can talk – you can write! How many times have you sat around verbally telling people stories about your experiences in Saigon? All you have to do is tell the same story, but write it … heck, say it out loud to yourself (when nobody is around of course – cuz you don’t want them thinking you’re talking to yourself – lol ) and type it as you talk it. Simple enough. Or, run over to Amazon and grab one of those voice recognition software programs – then just set in front of your computer telling it your stories while you watch your words being typed on the computer screen — it just doesn’t get any easier!

FEAR NOT!

These don’t have to be literary Nobel Prize quality master pieces. Just write it the best you can …

THEN …

Email it to me.

Once we’ve collected enough stories they will be compiled into a book for publication – telling OUR STORY to the world!

Us lil’ ole’ Saigon Kids are a part of history – a vital part – who’s story needs to be told, recorded and preserved in the annals of history.

So, let’s get to it Saigon Kids – or we’ll remain the ‘forgotten ones’ forever.

Let’s not let that happen!!!!

Now, send those stories in …

As always, you are welcome to leave your comments below.

Bob

9 comments to Stories Wanted for – SAIGON KIDS – The Book

  • Bruce Thomas

    The earlier suggestion, to add John Richardson’s book to The Book Store on Tu Do, drove me to delve into this writer’s body of work. There’s a website with links to many of his stories (he’s a “writer-at-large” for Esquire), http://www.johnhrichardson.com. There’s a large PDF containing the story “My Father The Spy” that appeared in Esquire March 1999. Remarks in that indicate that he was in Saigon 1962-63 at the ages of 9 and 10. A random read of his biographical remarks tells me that he would easily out-CLOD any CLOD!

    Bruce

    [ Admin Note: “WARNING” – Richardson’s web site contains content of a graphic nature and what some may consider highly controversial subject matter. If you are offended by either – DO NOT visite his web site.

    If you would like to ONLY read “My Father The Spy” without visiting his web site Click Here. WARNING: This story contains graphic language. If you are offend by graphic language DO NOT read this story. ]

  • Admin

    Bruce – Now you know it is not possilbe to out-CLOD a CLOD … cuz if one attempts to out-CLOD they have to do CLODish things … which then makes them CLOD!! – LOL 🙂

    Bob

  • DAVE KOTZEBUE

    My book, “Your Grandfather’s Sabre,” is about military dependents, and has several chapters set in Saigon. Order it on Amazon.com , or through Tu Do Street Book Store!

    Dave

  • Dear Saigon Kids,
    I have completed a 90,000 word memoir about my experiences in Saigon from January of 1963 to June of 1964. I’ve been working on it for five years and feel that I’ve finally got something that is publishable. The hard part is getting representation by a real literary agent, difficult even in the best economic climate. I will not self-publish.
    I was thirteen going on fourteen when I arrived in Saigon. It didn’t take me long to find a peer group and get involved in some extremely risky behavior, much to the consternation of my parents and teachers. I did the kind of things that, if my daughter had done them when she was that age, I would have killed her… (not literally, of course!)

    My memoir is also full of graphic language and graphic situations, some of which are rather disturbing. My peer group and I did our best to live up to the moniker “military brat.” I think we were successful.
    I have also changed (almost) all the names in my memoir, not to protect the innocent, but to protect the guilty.

    If anyone knows a literary agent that might be interested in this unusual slice of history, please have them contact me or send their info and I’ll send them my query letter.
    Thanks,
    Les Arbuckle
    les@saxoasis.com

  • Mike Erickson

    Bob,

    This is not a personal story about my time in Saigon (that may come later) but rather a story about how a search for one man can connect two schools: the American Community School (ACS) and the Phoenix Study Group (PSG).

    In discussions with members of my PSG alumni e-mail group, the name Lincoln Brownell often came up. Mr. Brownell was an important businessman in Saigon. There are frequent references to him being copied with various official governmnet documents during the War years. The author ?ình Hoà Nguyêñ in his book From the city inside the Red River mentions Mr. Brownell’s connection to ACS:

    “In April 1962, I had the honor to represent the education minister as the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony of the American Community School, to congratulate six high school students and 37 eighth-graders on their scholastic accomplishments. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with their parents as well as several members of the school board, including Lincoln Brownell (a Saigon businessman), G.S. Hammond (of USOM-Education), William Trueheart (of the U.S. embassy), and the Gay A. Orr, the school superintendent.”

    In Mr. Brownell’s self-published memoir his connection to ACS is also confirmed and the Brownell’s connection to PSG after the closing of ACS is discussed:

    “At that time there was a rather strange situation where American Air Force pilots had
    their families living with them in rented residences around Saigon. Daddy would take-off after breakfast while the kids went to the American school, fly up and bomb North Vietnam or some of the front lines, and get back in time for lunch or the afternoon. President Lyndon Johnson
    saw that this was a risky situation, and abruptly ordered the American military and diplomatic
    women and children out of Saigon. Just the fathers stayed behind. That caused the closing of the American School, and its buildings were turned
    into a field hospital. Business and missionary families, however, were still there. So, Jerry was asked to restart a smaller school, for only about 100 students, in unused residences
    belonging to the Esso Oil Company.”

    Of course the school that was converted to a field hospital was ACS. Whether ACS was closed for the reasons mentioned by Mr. Brownell is debatable. It is interesting to note that not only did Mr. Brownell have a connection to ACS (the school board), but so did his wife Jerry. In an earlier passage in his memoirs, Mr. Brownell notes that the following occurred after the assassination of President Diem: “As time went on the Saigon American School expanded considerably and new buildings were built for it. Jerry started out teaching fourth grade; and soon became principal of the grade school.” The memoirs also note that the Brownell’s children, “Peter and Bart[,] attended the little American school in the Embassy compound…”

    The connection of the Brownells to the Phoenix Study Group was Mrs. Brownell being “asked to restart a smaller school, for only about 100 students, in unused residences belonging to the Esso Oil Company.” That “smaller school” was the Phoenix Study Group.

    Over the years, I have had the opportunity to communicate with several teachers, school board members, and students present at or near the creation of PSG. While minor details have varied as memories become foggy with the advance of time, all have confirmed that Esso company executives and the Brownells had a hand in the school’s creation. Two detailed accounts of the school’s creation may interest some ACS alumni. Stan Young’s account confirms the ACS-PSG connection and the Brownell’s imprint. Bill and Joan Moyer’s account fleshes out some of the details regarding the creation of PSG.

    Stan Young:

    “Yes, I was chairman of the Phoenix Study Group board from mid-1966 to March 21, 1970 when I was transferred to Pakistan by Esso Eastern. I was a general manager for Vietnam and Cambodia during my Saigon tenure and also the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.

    “I was ‘drafted’ by Phoenix because from 1960 to 1963 I had been the chairman of the International School Bangkok during the time of the American build up when one year (1962) we closed our school year with 750 students and resumed three months later with 1500 students! During that vacation we built a 4 story 20 room high school with a U.S. government grant. The American Ambassador, who was an old friend of mine, cooperated to the point that since the buildup was U.S. military/embassy, preference was given in assignment to officers and senior NCOs whose wives were qualified teachers. We had students of 29 nations but no Thais! (Their government wouldn’t allow it). We had textbooks received through the APO (Army Post Office). There were many other problems but I won’t bore you with the details.

    “Little of this prepared me for ‘Phoenix’. I guess I got drafted because of Thailand experience because: A) I had an 11 year old son with me and B) one of the Esso Vietnam American staff had worked with me in Thailand and became much involved in ‘ Phoenix’. More about him later.

    “To back track- In late 1963 after President Kennedy’s assassination and the overthrow of the Diem South Vietnam government, President Johnson ordered all American government related personnel dependents to leave the country. (Military/embassy/government contractor wives and children.)

    “There was a good sized American government related school which had to be closed. The facility became the U.S. Army Base Hospital for the subsequent 10 years.

    “Only a handful of American students remained. An American couple -Linc and Jerrie Brownell- owned an American trading company representing some major American manufacturers and Jerrie somehow arranged with the O.S.G. to get possession of desks, chairs, books and supplies to form the Phoenix Study group (literally like the legendary Phoenix -‘rising from the ashes’).

    “This is the shell I inherited in 1966. The students were the children of a few American companies like Esso, Mennonite missionaries, Air America and RMK (Raymond, Morrison, Knudsen). Officially Air America and RMK kids weren’t supposed to be there but??

    “I can’t remember the names of all the teachers but Joan Moyer and Liz Webb were Esso wives and Mrs. Carlton Alexander was an RMK wife who taught my son’s 8th grade class.

    “The school grew slowly with classes and several rented homes and we provided a good education. My memory isn’t clear but I think we had 86 students at the time of the Tet offensive during which battle the schools suffered no damage but were closed for 3 weeks.

    “When we reopened 3 weeks later many of the kids did not return. I can’t remember the exact number but Jordan’s (my son’s) 8th grade class shrunk from 13 to 5. The kids were so glad to get back in school after having been cooped up in their homes that they truly dedicated themselves to their lessons.

    “School was supposed to be closed mid-May but by May 1 the teachers came to me and said they had completed the work. I told them to simply start the next year’s work because most of the children would not be returning and this would help prepare them for the adjustment to their new schools. I’m sorry I haven’t many more specifics because it was after all 35 to 40 years ago.”

    Bill and Joan Moyer:

    I hope the following is helpful to you in developing a better understanding of the Phoenix Study Group (PSG). I was treasurer of the school from before its inception until departure in June of 1969. Joan and I had arrived in Saigon in April of 1965 the weekend following the weekend that President Johnson ordered out all of the dependents. We are certain of the date as I was in Korea for military “summer camp” as a Reserve Officer. When it came time for departure from Korea I could only get as far as Japan , there was no transport back to the Philippines where we were living at the time due to a massive movement of troops not otherwise understood at the time. Due to my reentry visa having expired due to the enforced delay in Japan, I had to be paroled to the United States embassy in Manila. Joan had to pack up our home since we were due to leave for Saigon. In early August of 1965, Stan Young and several other folks became aware that there were still a number of American school age children still in the city for which no school now existed.

    In the beginning, we had 3-4 teachers for grades 1-7 or 8. Joan had grades 2 and 3 while the others also had a number of grades. Gradually we grew until we had all 12 grades in several buildings. All teachers had a teaching certificate from one of the states. All instruction tracked California requirements. All textbooks and many supplies came from the states, etc.

    There were a number of unusual aspects to the PSG which were not fully appreciated until many years later which I shall comment on later. Some of the “unusual” aspects were:

    1. Vietnamese education rules for a private school mandated a Vietnamese principle. [We did not have.]
    2. A part of each day had to be taught in Vietnamese. [We did not do.]
    3. Foreign exchange regulations did not permit dealing in any currency other than Piasters. [We collected both Piasters and US Dollars.]
    4. The Piasters were used for local rent, supplies, and custodial staff. The dollars were remitted to the US for teacher salaries, a violation of BOTH the foreign exchange regulations AND the Vietnamese tax law.
    5. The US ambassadors took a great interest in our “non existent school” as both Ellsworth Bunker and Henry Cabot Lodge would call on Stan from time to time to discuss our “school” making inquiry as to how they might help.
    6. We were instructed to have all of our suppliers send books/materials to an address in Los Angeles [airport] and in +/- 3-4 days the materials would appear on our doorstep. There was no charge for shipping from LA to Saigon nor was it clear how the move was made.

    My recollection of the events surrounding TET differ from Stan’s. I recall that we had 179 paid up kids at the outset of TET. At the resumption of school some 3-4 weeks later, we had 66 kids of which 6 had arrived during our closure. Another interesting aspect of this period was the fact that one of our buildings was occupied by ARVN troops during the closure. When we resumed, not one book, desk, chair, pencil was determined to be missing. Prior to TET, any time there was a hint of trouble, ARVN troops would appear at our school to offer protection. In our 4 years, only one incident occurred and that was a smoke grenade was tossed over the wall of one of our schools….”

    It has been interesting and gratifying to find this historical information about my school (PSG) and the connection to ACS. I regret that I have not been able to find historical information about the creation of ACS. The reference in Mr. Brownell’s memoir to his sons attending the “little American school in the Embassy grounds” seems to suggest that the physical site of your school may not have always been where it was located when ACS closed.

    • Admin

      Thanks, Mike! Great information and very interesting. By the way, Peter Brownell is a member of our Blog. I believe he is the son of Lincoln Brownell. He might have some memories to share with you.

      Bob

  • Mike Erickson

    Thanks for information on Peter, Bob. I noticed from various documents I have retrieved (mission pamphlets, etc., providing information on Saigon) that ACS appears to have been sited in different locations. A 1958 document I found states the school (all grades) was located at 4 Thong Nhut (Norodom). A 1962 document I found states the school was located at 10 Tan Son Hoa (corner of Vo Tanh and Nguyen Minh Chieu, Phu Nhuan), but the Kindergarten was located at 4 Thong Nhut.

    • Admin

      Mike – see the link on the Menu “ACS History” then read the 3 earliest Posts for the historical locations of the school as it grew from Mrs. L’s living room into a 3 story complex of buildings (including when it burned to the ground). In the beginning it was much like PSG – classes conducted in several residences.

      Bob

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