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Viet Nam Landmarks: Cap St. Jacques – 1958

Cap St. Jacques as it was in February 1958.

Cap St. Jacques February 1958

Grand Hotel at Cap St. Jacques in February 1958.

Grand Hotel Cap St. Jacques February 1958

Ahh … these were the days …  🙂

Bob

5 comments to Viet Nam Landmarks: Cap St. Jacques – 1958

  • Richard Turner

    Bob,

    I read your obit on Peter Shapazian last week and was reminded, once more, of our individual and collective mortality. It also got me thinking about an idea that I thought I would run by you. What would you think of using the website as a vehicle for a crowd-sourced piece that would be, essentially, A Day in the Life (Saigon in the 50s and 60s) I would develop an outline that would begin in the morning and proceed through the day and into evening. For example it might begin with breakfast, getting ready for school, servants, description of the house or apartment, etc. I would include a few examples from my own writings and we would invite people to send us their reminiscences, each of which would be identified in terms of where it fit into the outline. If enough people chose to participate then we could, over time, accumulate enough information to compile a rich and varied picture of life in Saigon at that time that would have a coherence to it beyond that of individual recollections. Much of the material already on the website could easily be fit into this format. I could do the organizing of the entries, putting them into an order that made some narrative sense. Every entry would be credited, of course.

    Let me know what you think of the idea. We’re not going to live forever.(By the way Peter Garcia was nicknamed Peter Rabbit, not Peter Shapazian.)

    Best,

    Richard

    • Richard – Let’s DO IT!! And, THANK YOU for taking on this project. Very much appreciated! 🙂
      Shoot me a message via the *Contact Form* on the site (the link is in the Menu bar at the top of this page “Contact and Help Desk”). Let’s set this up and rock’n roll with it.

      Bob

  • Vung Tau — a beautiful spot at the mouth of the Saigon River. My father thought one Saturday we ought to have a great adventure. So the four of us, together with our cook Tu and our housemaid Hai (and Hai’s two children), hopped into our Ford station wagon (the one with the Auburn decal on the back window written about previously) and hit the road down to Cap St. Jacques. Everyone, especially Hai’s kids, enjoyed the visit to that lovely spot. It had to have been in September or October 1960 — I think it was just days before a couple of American military men were ambushed while driving their Jeep on that same highway.

    The war’s terror was just beginning to bubble in earnest. If my mother reflected anxiously on that adventure after the subsequent ambush and deaths of the advisors on the same road we’d driven blithely down earlier, it would only prepare her for her own adventure on Friday, November 11 — a U.S. holiday when she would normally have stayed home from her secretarial position at the American Embassy. But she was the duty secretary for that weekend, and was driven to work in an embassy van that skirted the fighting around the presidential palace while she lay face-down on the van’s floor! Once she got there, Ambassador Dubrow and the CIA station chief kept her too busy taking dictation to even think about her scary ride.

    The next time I got to visit Vung Tau was in 1969, when I worked as a staff officer in Bien Hoa, and I was sent to a week-long course at a CIA-run school there. Those of us at the school spent many pleasant evenings enjoying the night-life in Vung Tau.

    Vung Tau was like an in-country R&R spot. On several occasions, while flying as an observer in USAF Cessna aircraft used in psyops, the jet-trained young pilots would relieve their frustration of having to jockey a slow propeller-driven airplane by needing to “check out” a suspected mechanical condition — while we were conveniently flying near the airfield at Vung Tau. As the mechanics would work to ascertain the condition, the pilot and I would catch a ride to downtown Vung Tau and spend the afternoon enjoying the various sights.

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    Never made it to Vung Tao, but spent a drunken weekend in Nha Trang with some other kids (normally I would withhold names to protect people, but frankly, I can’t remember who was there and no, it is not because I was in a total drunken state that I have forgotten). As an employee of the PX at the airbase at Tan Son Nhut I was the designated booze buyer which I did by getting some of the GIs to make purchases for me…thinking back, I guess I bought nothing but the cheapest booze available. I do remember the beaches but not much else (come on, its age, damn it!!!).

    While a GI and stationed at Long Binh (1968-69), I confessed to my unit CO (Signal Officer – again no names) that I knew Saigon very well so I became his designated driver whenever he wanted to visit his USO sweetie in Saigon. We would arm ourselves to the teeth, take the jeep and drive down the Binh Hoa highway to Saigon where I would drop him off at his sweetie’s flat just off the Rue To Do about half way between the Continental Hotel and the place where the To Do split to go around the cathedral. Then I would park the jeep at that BOQ (Bachelor’s Officer’s Quarters) behind the old parliament building, catty corner from Cheap Charlie’s restaurant….got it? I was then free to wander around on my own, still packing a .38 on my hip. Finding a place to sack out was at times a bit of a problem but I always managed to find somewhere to sleep. I always enjoyed this trip as it got me off the base at Long Binh and I got a few decent meals at some of the old places (Cheap Charlie’s, the floating restaurant and another just off the Rue To Do where they used to serve the best fried crab claws). Sunday PM it was pick up the Major and head back to the base. I know that some of my Army buddies resented my time in Saigon, but hey, was it my fault I knew my way around.

    Anyone remember sitting on the Rue To Do, having something to drink and bird watching? Or eating fried noodles at that little restaurant on a corner of To Do where they had a juke box? Gosh, those were some fun times….Glad I got to experience them and meet some great kids (today – grandparents).

  • thomas rushton

    Great stories.
    Brings back the o so precious past
    when in 1966-67 I worked for RB Landis Co in Saigon on a USAID contract, aiding the Post Office (PTT) with installation of radio antenna towers throughout the country.

    Later, as a PAE employee, I was captured during the 1968 Tet offensive in Hue.

    Spent 5 years then in the North, but even that didn’t detract from my fond memories of the Saigon time, and the energy in the air always present in those days.

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