Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I gotta tell you about the time I was captured in Vietnam. This happened in ’67 while I was working on the railroad spur into Cam Ranh Bay. I wrote about that in A Cobra Finds Me. No, it didn’t happen while we were out in the boonies in a free fire zone. It happened on the highway to Nha Trang.

The US contractor (RMK-BRJ) at Cam Ranh Bay had loaned us a pickup for use in our railroad design. They told us we couldn’t take it off base after dark. Well Cam Ranh Bay was one of the most perfect harbors in the world, but there wasn’t much civilian type civilization going on there, if you get my meaning. A friend and I drove to Nha Trang one night. Nha Trang was maybe 30 miles to the north. They had some kinds of adult recreation going on there. We found a bar loaded with booze and girls. It was no surprise. It was kinda’ the point of the mission.

We both got pretty soused, if you can believe that. When it came time to leave, my friend refused.

“I’ve fallen in love,” he explained.

I could believe that because it had happened before to him. In fact it happened nearly every time we went out together. He was a very loving guy.

“We gotta go back,” I told him.

“You go,” he said. “I’ll catch a ride in the morning.”

It was no use arguing with him. When he was in love it was like an elephant in musth. And if you could see him, you’d know how apt that description is.

So I took off back to the base without him. Little did I know that someone had stolen the radiator cap of the pickup. Without the radiator cap the water evaporated and the engine overheated. Half smashed myself, I drove until the engine just bound up and stopped. There I was, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a war, and on a deserted road in the middle of the way between Nha Trang and Cam Ranh Bay.

I had to make a decision in my drunken state. I decided to walk the rest of the way to Cam Ranh Bay. How long would it take? 15 miles? I thought I could do that in maybe 4 hours. So I started out.

It was pitch black. I had gone less than a mile before someone in black pajamas rose out of the side of the road. This guy had an assault weapon trained on me. He was heavily armed with a pistol, grenades, knives and a cartridge belt.

What I did next wasn’t brave because I felt no fear whatsoever. Bravery is something you do despite being afraid. What did I do? I said, “Hey buddy, how ya’ doin’?” Now I didn’t know who the hell this guy was or who’s side he was on. I figured I was probably captured, but I felt no fear. I get fatalistic in those kinds of situations.

He marched me down the road until we came to self-defiance outpost. It turned out I was captured by our side. They let me sleep there on a cot and gave me water for the radiator in the morning and sent me on my way.

End of story.


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