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© 2012 Tom Davern

While I was assigned to a Vietnamese Language Course I had a leave pass in Vung Tau which was a Rest and Recreation area, not only for us, but also for the enemy.

There I was getting nicely drunk, and being pestered by the bar girl to buy Saigon tea. No, that is not correct, what happens after a while, both Mamasan and the girls realize that certain 'Cheap Charlie's' (Australians) can't be conned by womanly wiles, they just want to get drunk.

The young lady, who has been flitting around the bar conning others in her seductive mode for the past three hours sits down beside me, a bit of a rest amongst the rubbish, both her and I know that it is a rest period.

Suddenly, two Vietnamese males enter the bar. In her professional way, she leans towards me and whispers seductively into my left ear 'VC'. I immediately start to get up and head for the back door which I have scoped out before as you do in exotic resorts. She pulls me back. "Stay, stay" she whispers.

I am really a bit worried right now! Then the bloody lights go out and the music stops! I am really toey now until she informs me "'VC' tax collectors, they will go before the lights come on."

Well not even two minutes later the lights come on, the music starts up and the two Vietnamese are no where to be seen.

I immediately order another Bai me Bai (33 beer) and a Saigon tea for the young temptress. Although she is supposed to sit with me whilst she drinks her Saigon tea, I tell her to go and do her thing (conning others into buying her Saigon tea, which is just coloured and sugared water).

In the meantime I scoff a couple of more bottles of Bai me Bai. (You don't order it ice cold or you will get a lump of suspicious looking ice in the glass, a dirty yellow colour made from water taken straight from somewhere in the Mekong delta which will give you the trots, literally).

She has a break, comes back and sits down. She tells me in her stilted English, "You talk Vietnamese like a baby". (Not so surprisingly as I was learning it!).

What I did learn during our conversation was all the bars in Vung Tau paid protection money to the VC, if they didn't pay up on the dot (when the faceless Vietnamese men arrived). Dire actions could take place, and did take place. Such as grenades being flung into the establishment or more serious infringements of 'late payments' could and did result in Enemy claymore mines exploding in establishments.

To suggest that some 15 yanks were killed and quite a few others were wounded, during 'a firefight against the enemy' probably is half fact. Because they were drinking beer and being conned by bar girls in Vung Tau.

Tom Davern
Tom Davern
8/9 Platoons 1966-67

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