"This place was like the Wild West"
Units in Vietnam 01,
List of Special Forces Camps
Units in 1st Aviation Brigade
Tony De Saro
for some of the pictures on this page.)
- My First Week in Vung Tau
- Company Clerk
- Morning Reports
- TET in Vung Tau
- Getting Married in Vietnam
- Useful Information
I was drafted into the
Army after I left Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.
At Fort Knox, Virginia, I was assigned Army Number according to regulation
and was processed as required by
After Basic Training they selected about 50 of us and asked who wants to go
to the Officer Candidate School per
Being treated like a dog for 4 months, I lost interest.
I did not qualify for a discharge as required by
so I stayed in.
I was not impressed with the whole thing.
It was nothing like what I saw in the TV shows
We were informed that Army makes men out of boys. What is the definition of man?
I was always under the impression that man is a being who is able to overcome
the inner duality between his mind & body. As contradictions develop, he must be able
to resolve them. Being constantly pushed into an aggressive mode does not give him
time to resolve this duality and this turns him into something he is not. Instead of
defending his country or town, he becomes an aggressor and then wisdom & truth flies
out of the window. I recalled the words of Aeschylus (525-456 BC): "In war, truth is the first casualty".
asked me what I wanted to do and where I want to go. So I told them
I wanted to be a medic and go to West Germany. Hence, they sent
me to Aircraft Engine Repair school (MOS
in Virginia. Then after graduation,
I was picking up cigarette butts for about 5 months, and when I had
enough of that and went to see the personnel office, then they sent me to Vietnam.
When I arrived in Vietnam, the first sergeant asked everyone around who can type. I
raised my hand, and I became the Company Clerk (MOS
). All my Aircraft Engine Repair training, about which I
never cared about, went out of the window. I worked with a
guy called Lynch and we were cranking out paper work all day.
My First Week in Vung Tau
I arrived in
towards the end of June 1966. Before we
landed I had no idea where we were going. I did not know what to
expect. While still in the plane, I was looking towards the back
where I could see down below the country of Vietnam. I was holding on
to something so that I would not slide out of the plane.
When we landed,
we walked into a small one room hut surrounded by
sand bags where a sergeant started to proceed with an
orientation. He was telling us, for about an hour, how to behave
in Vietnam. Eventually, he said something like, "I do not
associate myself much with these natives here. I just go downtown
once a week to get a massage and a beer. Otherwise, I stay
away from them." I didn't know if I should believe my ears.
Then we checked into 222nd battalion. That evening I loaded
myself with plenty of beer because I figured sleeping
outside will not be pleasant. I was right. I noticed in the
morning, that the small area on my hand which was not covered,
contained a lot of mosquito bites.
After that they placed us in the
next to where we
landed. It was located on the
perpendicular to the
that lead to the
and downtown city of
Vung Tau. This building was made of bricks and cement and
contained two large rooms. They could not get me one of those
steel beds, so I got to sleep on a cot.
I woke up at night because there was a lot of noise. A guy
by the name of Brooks, and another man called
De Saro, were
fighting each other. I do not know if they were drunk, but it
looked like a
in a battle. Then they fell on
my cot and crushed it. Later I found out from my future wife who
worked with De Saro that these two guys were always fighting.
In the morning I was trying to get another bed but I was not very
lucky. One man, his name was Leatham, told me I
could sleep on his bed, so I was pretty happy. The next night,
someone was checking who sleeps in the bed I was in, and they
sent me to the first sergeant who chewed me out. Leatham used me
so that he could spend the night in Vung Tau without being
detected. This man was always trying to get me into trouble. He
had been in Vung Tau several years and had kids with a woman but
was not married to her.
That week I gave my laundry to a Vietnamese "papa-son" and I never saw them
again. When I complained to the 1st SGT, he listened and then he
said, "How did I get into the laundry business?" - and that was
all the help I got. I realized I had to take care of myself.
This place was like the "Wild West." Anything went as long you
got away with it.
The second or third night, there was some kind of alarm and
everyone ran out of the building. I said to myself, "to hell
with this" and stayed in. I figured if they are stupid enough to
run around at night and get themselves shot, that is their
problem. I'm going to stay where I am and get some sleep.
It seems like everybody was going downtown at night during those
days, so when a man by the name of Cobb told me he was going to
take me into Vung Tau, I agreed. We arrived by lambretta and
went directly into a bar. As I'm drinking my beer I look to
the other side and there is this pitifully looking woman staring
at me. I told Cobb, "Lets get out of here." We got out and went
right into another bar. There the women were just too daring
so I departed, leaving him behind. There was some kid on a
motorcycle riding by and he took me back to the Airfield Main Gate. The
next day, Cobb told me all the things he was doing the previous
night in Vung Tau. I decided to stay away from
Also that week, I got my first driving license after driving a
truck for about 10 minutes. As a result of this quick education, I
used the clutch as an accelerator for few days and that was killing
the engine, until I figured out what was wrong and corrected the
situation. I got a speeding ticket from the MP's (Millitary Police), but what did
that mean in the Wild West? The commanding officer signed it
like all those hundreds of other things that needed to be signed.
After being told to change the oil, I drove to the
parked my truck. I removed the screw under the oil tank
and let the oil run into the sand. Then I saw this one old Vietnamese looking at me.
He had a big cross around his neck. They called him the
"Creeping Jesus". I tried to talk to him but it was difficult.
I think the first week I looked "beefed up" while everybody
looked shrunken, especially the Vietnamese. Only after I lost
about 40 pounds I looked like everybody else.
After this first week I got used to just about anything. Nothing
bothered me until the time I decided to get married there. Well
that is another story.
In 1966, Vung Tau was like a "cherry town". I remember almost
everyone was going downtown every evening to have a good time.
Later on, things changed. All the "party animals" in the bars were
getting tired and there were more regulations to obey and all that
"wild west" was gone.
I had a camera when I arrived in Vung Tau, but the first day
someone borrowed it, and I never saw it again. I was busy and
didn't have time to buy another one. So all the pictures I have
were made by someone else.
Those 360 people in the 73rd certainly gave me plenty of work to do.
At least I didn't have to type those silly commendation reports
They used to be typed by a Vietnamese lady called Miss My. That was a lot of
typing every time some officer got another Oak Leaf Cluster or
Purple Heart. The company safe was full of those medals.
Then when Miss My quit,
was typing this. They would not
make him SP5 because he used to make fun out of that.
chewed him up few times.
The memories of all those Article 15's would be fun to publish,
but not prudent to do. After
creating some 700 Morning Reports over a period of 2 years I did
not want to know anything about anybody.
In the morning, sometimes I issued sick slips per
We had great men in the 73rd, so I never had to read
The first SGT had a library of army regulations that needed to be updated and used.
Among them were such as
etc. The mother of all army regulations was the Enlisted Personnel Management System Regulation
It was continually being updated and it was the Bible of every Army Orderly Room. In it you will see
many references as to what goes into Morning Reports which needed to be done every day.
A Morning Report
is a one or more pages of specific form (Form 1
of US Army) which you prepare every day for the commanding
officer to sign early in the morning (when he gets into the
By the way, the first
I worked in was located in the building
on the right at the end of the
Later on we got transferred
to a new
about mile away.
I still recall the
next to the old Orderly Room building. Well back to the Morning Report.
On the top it contains a lot of numbers like how many people are
in the company, on R&R, on leave or special leave, how many
arrived and left the company that day, etc. It separates them by
ranks. Below are all the details like names, numbers, where they went
like R&R to Bangkok, who got promoted, etc.
Some people who went on a 30 day
special leave never came back. We, in the Orderly Room did
not have the time to be tracing everyone and going back several
months to find out who left and did not come back. Only when the
appropriate SGT came in looking for his man, did we start
Anyway, the Morning Report contained all the data about people in
the company. It used to be very cryptic and there was a
regulation as to how it was to be filled out. Later on, they
simplified it a bit, but you still had to put in a lot of
When I first took over this MR job, it was all screwed up. None
of those numbers matched. It looked like we had about 50 more
people on record than in reality. The reason for this was that
my co-worker would spend nights in Vung Tau bars, then crawl back in
the morning, and while typing the MR he would fall asleep.
I had to make a one time fix and explain to the above battalion,
group, brigade, etc., why all of a sudden we lost some 50 people.
Then our commanding officer had to sign this fix which made him
look funny. I don't want to mention his name here.
One thing about these morning reports is that you could not make
a typing mistake. If you did, you had to retype the whole thing.
So there was usually a pile of retyped morning reports in the
waste basket. One day
blew his top when he found
these reports in the waste basket. You see any Vietnamese "mama-son" or "papa-
son" wondering around could find out how many men and officers were in the 73rd
Company just by pulling one of those MR's from the waste basket.
So we had to start burning all that stuff.
After the MRs were signed by the CO, they then went to the 222nd
Battalion, then to Aviation Group, then to Aviation Brigade, and
so on. I suppose they eventually ended up in Washington, D.C.
somewhere. Somebody up there was feeding computers with all that
data. This is enough about MRs.
TET in Vung Tau
There was not really much action in Vung Tau during "TET Uprising in 1968".
I remember it was towards the end of February that we all woke up
at night. I heard several "bangs" and everybody was rushing into
those bunkers we built between the huts (hooches). These were
made of steel rails and sand bags. The rails were just like the
ones they used to make airfield runways.
So everybody was running into these bunkers, in their underwear.
I did not feel like going but they made sure everyone got
there. I was hoping they would give us weapons, but they did
not. I suppose we would do more harm to each other if we had
In the morning, as I was driving to Vung Tau to post guards, I
one of the planes
was burned. It was either hit or they
tried to blow it up. Some of our men found pieces of Russian
made rockets and kept them as trophies.
That day I saw U.S. jets bombing the big hill north of us. It
was the larger of two hills next to Highway 15.
Apparently this was the
from which VC's were firing their
Even though this was about all there was to TET in Vung Tau, I
could not see my wife for about a month. The town was OFF
LIMITS! When I was finally allowed to see her, she was not in
her apartment. After talking to Vietnamese women living around
the area, they led me to a small house at the intersection of
Le Hong Phong St., Bacu St., and Truang Cong Dinh St. (from this
point you could go directly to the airport). Inside this small
house was my wife with Jackie (my daughter). It was
one of the happiest days in my life.
It is interesting to note that hospital cost was $50 when Jackie
was born. When my son was born a year later, the hospital cost
was $1,400 in the U.S. I could hardly afford it back in the
Getting Married in Vietnam
"You wise men, highly, deeply learned,
who think it out and know,
how, when, and where do all things pair?
Why do they kiss and love?
You men of lofty wisdom, say
what happened to me then.
Search out and tell me where, how, when,
and why it happened thus." - Burger
Between June 1966 and April 1967 I have been a friend with
also a clerk like me,
working for the U. S. Army's 73rd Aviation Company stationed near town called Vung Tau in South
Vietnam. Finally, in April of 1967 we decided to get married.
I was 24 and she was 22 years old. With four years of college (electrical engineering), I felt I was
mature enough to approach the 222nd Battalion Chaplain as was required. I brought Lang
with me and we discussed the marriage with the Chaplain. It looked like he was going to help me,
therefore I asked him for the Army Regulation I needed to comply with. He indicated he lent it to
someone in another company. After this meeting I got hold of this other GI but he did told me
he did not have it.
Being a Company Clerk, I ordered the MACV Dir. 608-1(
which dealt with Marriage in Vietnam.
Also useful were
After few weeks I got them. I was beginning to feel the gravity of my request.
There were some 20 different forms and documents to be prepared, not including translations.
You see I'm from the Czech Republic, and I had to obtain translations of things like birth
After another couple weeks I had all the necessary documents ready. I went to see my Commanding
Officer and I thought things would start rolling. Well, he took my paperwork and put it into the
company safe and that was that. It was about July 1967 and nothing was happening, therefore I
wrote to my Illinois Congressman and Senator. In about 10 days my commander called me into his
office and chewed me up. Then the
called me in and told me that I lied to my
Congressman and Senator. I do not know what these lies could have been, but I assumed it was their method
of intimidation as usual. I suppose you cannot maintain from top to bottom command using just
reason, you have to show power.
This time I knew they had to do something. There was a Congressional Inquiry. Luckily, we had
a new Commanding Officer who felt it was not his fault. The old one would have probably sent me
Quang Tri Province.
The new one needed an expert who knew how to write Morning Reports
and that was me. Not delivering a Morning Report to the Battalion just one day would have been a
This time the Battalion Chaplain wrote a letter recommending a disapproval of my marriage. He
also made some oral remarks to me about putting my human development hundred of years into the
past. I thought it was strange for a man of religion to talk like that. It sounded racist but then that
is the way things were during those Vietnam years.
Later on, I found out from paper orders I was receiving from the Battalion that this Chaplain was promoted
from Captain to Major. I was really amazed. What exactly is an Army Chaplain? What does he have to do to get
promoted? Certainly he cannot obey his orders (stop any GI from getting married) and God at the same time.
That is a contradiction. Few times as I was walking by his barrack, I heard him arguing with some GI trying
to discourage him from getting married. It did not matter if this GI had several children with the woman
he wanted to marry.
Using the Chaplain's letter, every commander up to the MACV in Saigon recommended disapproval
of my marriage. A separate letter which was typed by another clerk was sent to each of my Congressmen.
It stated that "(Chaplain's) interviews with SP4 Krejci and Miss Lang have revealed an
unwillingness on their part to accept the possible pitfalls to their marriage, a lack of understanding
of the adjustments the girl would have to make in the United States, a noticeable immaturity on the
part of Miss Lang, and a reluctance to comply with appropriate Army regulations."
The only "pitfalls and immaturity" I saw was the Army blocking my marriage. That was their job.
According to newspapers I read, only 100 GIs got permission to get married in Vietnam in the
year 1967. I wonder how many GIs wanted to get married. I recall several men in the 73rd Avn.
Co. had women and kids in Vung Tau. Some of them probably did not want to go through what I
I made a trip to the
American Embassy in Saigon
seeking an advice. The man in charge told me
to "just go home and when you become a civilian, then come back and get married". Years later
I read in a newspaper that US Government would not issue passports to civilians to visit South
Vietnam because it was a combat zone. A lot of GIs were trying to get back and pick up their
women and kids but could not. So the man at the American Embassy was lying to me. It became
difficult for me trust anyone.
My paperwork finally went to MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) and bounced back once.
More documents were needed, including a "Detailed statement of assets by the applicant since he is
below the grade of E5." I was definitively running out of time. It was August 1967 and September 15th
was my Army discharge date. I added more statements and hand carried those papers through all
the necessary commands, virtually
from location to location. I came back
to Vung Tau in the evening and I was tired and hungry.
I should mention at this point that I also needed a statement from a legal officer indicating there was
nothing wrong legally. I am proud to say that I received such statement from an African American
legal officer at the USARV Headquarters in
God bless you Sir wherever you are!
About a week before my discharge I got this weak call from a sergeant in MACV. My marriage was
They had letters from my congressmen and they had no choice. They never had the
right to stop a man getting married. Next day I got into a plane to Saigon. I wore no uniform. I got to
some MACV Compound in the middle of Saigon and the guard would not let me in since I had no
uniform. It took about an hour to convince him to call the sergeant who contacted me the previous
day. Finally they let me in. I got into a small room with records everywhere stacked up. I knew I
needed more time to get actually married, to get passport and visa, etc. This sergeant, blessed be his
soul, told me about a regulation which allows an Army man to join
on active duty for
a maximum of 11 months. He even gave me an example of how to prepare such a request. I wish I could
meet him some day and thank him.
I tried to get back to Vung Tau but the Air Force sergeant would not allow me on the plane because
I did not have a uniform. I spent several hours in Saigon and at another MACV Compound one man
added a sentence to my traveling orders that I did not need a uniform when traveling. The Air Force
sergeant did not accept this. Eventually, I found an officer who was flying a small plane to Vung Tau
and he gave me a ride. There are good people everywhere, seek them and you shall find them!
Back in Vung Tau with only few days left and orders to get back to U.S., I gave the paperwork to the
Commanding Officer to become an Army Reservist on Active Duty, probably the only one in Vietnam.
He wanted me to sign up for 3 years but I thought 11 months was plenty to get my wife out of Vietnam.
Now the 222nd Battalion Personnel sergeant got in my way. I do not know what his problem was but
he "wanted me on that plane" which was taking off in about 2 days. He did not want to approve my
request. I also had a friend officer in the 73rd Avn. Co. He was a major and he gave a call to the
Battalion sergeant and my request was approved. My service number changed from US55835001 to
I was under the impression that the rest of the process would be easy but I was wrong. I had to fly to
the American Embassy in Saigon and get more papers which were needed by the Vung Tau
Municipality Ward so that they could cut the marriage papers. On the 7th day of October 1967
I brought Lang and two witnesses to the Vung Tau City Hall and finally we got officially married.
Since the marriage certificates were in Vietnamese I had to get English translations at the Special
Law Court, 120 Hong Thap Tu Street in Saigon.
Some of those Army regulations did not make much sense. I was suppose to have my wife out of
Vietnam within 90 days after the marriage. I was committed to stay 11 months so where was my wife
I had to make more trips to Saigon. I brought Lang there to get another medical examination at the
218th Medical Disp. She passed with flying colors. We needed more
for the American
Embassy, the Vietnamese Ministry of Interior, and the Police Station. There were no Xerox machines
in those days. We provided these places with all the documents. I thought that perhaps in a month
Lang could have a passport and a visa. Again, I was wrong.
Here is a description of the Vietnamese Ministry of Interior. It was a room jammed with about 100
Vietnamese people pressing towards a table behind which there were one or two seated officials. After a
while, I made my way to that table and gave people in charge papers I received from the American
Embassy. They took those papers and said "OK now you can go". I left wondering what to do next.
I went back to the American Embassy and told them what happened. They gave me more papers and
told me to bring them to the Ministry of Interior. This time I was not going to leave without some
results. I followed those officials around and I found out where my first set of papers ended. It was on
a three foot heap of other documents. Finally, I got hold of some Vietnamese major or colonel and
this time Lang explained to him that we were legally married, she was pregnant, and she needed to
get out of Vietnam. This seemed to have some effect on that officer. We got additional papers which
we paid for dearly because each clerk had to exploit the situation. We took those papers to the Police
Station in Saigon and applied for Lang's passport. Then we left for Vung Tau thinking everything
After waiting for a month or two, Lang's sister went to check on the passport at the Police Station in
Saigon. She found out that as usual nothing was happening. Then I wrote a letter to the top General
in that place and I got a reply from him that everything was OK and that I should just come and pick
up her passport. At this point the TET of 1968 started. There were people being killed all over Saigon
especially in the section called Cholon. Most of us remember this from the TV where we saw a
putting a bullet into a suspected VC's head.
I realized the situation was temporarily hopeless. Even Vung Tau was OFF LIMITS for about a month.
Besides Lang was going to have a baby and they would not let her on the plane anyway. I waited until
the situation was better. I did make a trip to Saigon. I had a 45 caliber pistol hanging on my belt and I
was in the uniform. I was not sure if I'm going to achieve anything. I was a good target for any
remaining VCs. At each government office I had to leave my 45 with the Vietnamese guard. I believe
during this trip I accomplished nothing.
Since my 11 months as an Army Reservist was running out, I decided to attack the passport/visa problem
with everything I had. Lang found a baby sitter for Jacqueline, my daughter, in Vung Tau. On that day
we departed for Saigon. I was determined to get that passport for her if I had to stay there for a month.
I no longer cared for the Army, the war, the government. I was beginning to feel the
"Fire in the Lake"
, and the
condition. Perhaps it was the June heat or the helplessness of Vietnam. I was
going to come out of Saigon with the passport or I was not going to come out at all.
The first day during that month of June 68 Lang and me went through the usual American Embassy -
Ministry of Interior - Police Station roundabout. In the evening we found a hotel. We ordered some
expensive food: tiny cup of soup, which I swallowed like a shot of whiskey; and "English Beef" which
was a small piece of cold meat. I could not tell what kind of meat it was but I was hungry and I ate it.
Up in the room I turned on the hot water in the shower and the tiles were pealing off, falling on the
ground and breaking into small pieces.
Next day we went through some more bull. They finally realized we were not going to go away so
they had to milk us. We paid 20,000 piasters ($200) and we got the passport and visa. It was good for only
10 days and then we would have to go through this again. We went back to Vung Tau and I had to get
my orders cut so that Lang and Jacqueline could travel with me. I still had to visit
near Saigon and report
to them that my dependents were going to depart Vietnam. I remember someone in that place was trying
to tell me to leave my wife and my daughter behind and that they would be shipped to US later. After
all I have gone through, I was not even listening to that person.
Lang's relatives came to Vung Tau the day before we left to collect what we left behind. This was the
first time I saw them and I did not get any impression about how they felt. I suppose staying too long
in Vietnam can turn one into a Buddha with no feelings or emotions. There was no "good bye",
perhaps they thought they will see us tomorrow. We arrived at that small plane terminal at the end
of the runway in Vung Tau. This was the same little area where I got off in June 1966 to start my one
year duty in Vietnam. Exactly two years later I was leaving. The Vietnamese official did not want to
let Lang and Jacqueline on the plane (as usual) but when he saw the signature of the Saigon Police
Chief on her passport he became much more cooperative. I felt this was the last time I was risking
my life flying one of these small
In Saigon, we took taxi from one airport to the main civilian one. The taxi driver was telling my wife
how bad she was marrying an American but Lang told him to shut up if he wanted to get paid.
I did not know this until later. I never bothered to learn Vietnamese. Finally, we got on
and we were taking off. I was looking down and I was feeling sad. Was this all a dream or reality?
Since I remember all these details and I have pictures and documents, it could not have been a dream.
We stopped in Phillipines and then flew directly to Los Angeles. There I was discharged as required by
Members of the 73rd Aviation Company:
Other 73rd Members
Appointment of Officers,
Personnel Organization and Procedures,
Enlisted Personnel Management System,
Command Policy and Procedures,
Marriage in Overseas Commands,
Standards of Conduct,
Individual Sick Slip,
Officer Candidate School,
Personnel Selection and Classification,
Military Awards And Decorations
Request for Orders,
Medical Exam Certification,
TDY Travel Request
History of the Vietnam War (declassified):
1960-1968 (Part 1),
1960-1968 (Part 2),
1960-1968 (Part 3),
1971-1973 (Part 1),
1971-1973 (Part 2),