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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Diane Getz

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Object ID: WV0454.5.001

Description: Diane Getz summarizes her early life, education, and service in the American Red Cross. She tells of her service in Vietnam.

Summary:

Getz primarily documents her experience in the American Red Cross from 1969 to 1978. She describes the various military installations that she was stationed, and the conditions and morale of these locations. Getz discusses in great detail her service at Long Binh Amery Base from 1971-1972, and the general state of the United States military and war effort at that time.

Other topics include Getz’s parents’ involvement with the United States military, her academic interests, her political views, and an account of her return to Vietnam. Additionally, Getz describes the political atmosphere found on the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the late sixties.

Creator: Diane Reynolds Getz

Biographical Info: Diane Getz Reynolds (b. 1947) of Morehead City, North Carolina, was stationed in Vietnam while serving with the American Red Cross from 1969 to 1978.

Collection: Diane Getz Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Therese Strohmer:

This is Therese Strohmer. Today is March 10th, 2009. I’m in Denton, North Carolina. This is an oral history interview for the Women’s Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I have Diane Getz here with me. Diane, go ahead and say your name the way you’d like it on your collection.

Diane Getz:

Diane Reynolds Getz.

TS:

Okay, very good. Well, Diane, why don’t we start off with you telling me when and where you grew up?

TS:

I grew up on the coast of North Carolina—the Morehead City area—and was pretty much there all the way from infancy until I graduated from high school. Went to UNC-Chapel Hill, [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] graduated in ’69.

TS:

When you were in Morehead City growing up, what kind of a community was it at that time?

DG:      Oh, it was a very small town. I think on a good day—because we moved from Morehead City a little bit further in to a place called Newport. And on a good day, it probably had 638 people in it. We lived kind of on the outskirts—if they had an outskirts or suburbs. Now, I think the community is up to two thousand people. But it was on the coast, near the beach, in between two large military installations: Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, and, down not too far from Jacksonville, [Marine Corps Base] Camp Lejeune. So I got indoctrinated to the military right off the bat—upon birth.

TS:

[laughs]

DG:

And both my parents worked at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station for many years.

TS:

What did they do?

DG:

My mother was the first civilian nurse that they had at the hospital in Cherry Point. They had had mostly military personnel there at the hospital, but they began hiring nurses there. I didn’t know this for some time until some time ago, but she was the first civilian nurse that they hired at that hospital. And my father worked as a supervisor in the overhaul and repair area of Cherry Point. They brought in the large jet aircraft after so many miles, or I don’t know—hours, is it of flying—they had to be completely stripped down and repainted and completely overhauled. So he worked in a large hanger there as a supervisor in that area. So, both of them were associated with the military in civilian capacities.

TS:

Now, we had talked before—how your mother was in the—

DG:

Yeah, my mother was a navy nurse.

TS:

Navy nurse?

DG:

Back during W-W-II.

TS:

And what about your dad?

DG:

He was not in the military, because he had bad eyesight [laughter]. And while he was working at the Norfolk navy shipyard at the time also, so he had one of those military essential—or non-military essential—jobs. And that’s where my parents met, was in Norfolk, Virginia.

TS:

Interesting, okay. So what was it like growing up at the beach?

DG:

It was wonderful. [laughter] It was nice. I enjoyed it. It’s a much different place now, than it was then. Because it’s quite populated now, and it wasn’t populated when I was growing up.

TS:

Yeah. Well, did you have any brothers or sisters?

DG:

Nope, I was an only child.

TS:

Only child?

DG:

Yes.

TS:

Well, talk about that a little bit, growing up then. When you were a kid do you remember what you did for games or anything?

DG:

Well, I did a lot of bicycle riding, because it was out in the country and you could do that without harm. Oh, I don’t know what we did. Three summers I worked in tobacco, when I got older. And I don’t—maybe I just don’t remember. [laughter] We always—

TS:

It’s ok.

DG:

I used to pick blueberries a lot, because we had a lot of blueberries in the area. Always had kids that were my age in the neighborhood, and we just kind of hung out. And I remember trucking [DG corrected later: walking] through the woods a lot, which was amazing because we had rattlesnakes and all sorts of things. And it’s amazing, you know, it is true that God watches out for fools and small children, I think. It’s amazing we never got [DG added later: bit] —we did get some ticks, but I never encountered a rattlesnake. We scared them away or something.

TS:

Maybe so. So you lived kind of on the outskirts of town, you said. Was it—

DG:

We had three acres of land.

TS:

Okay, did you have any—grow anything out in this land?

DG:

No, no, we—one year we’d grow sunflowers in the back, and another year we might grow field peas or something; but, it wasn’t a farming type thing

TS:

Okay. Now, where did you go to school?

DG:

I went to—we had an elementary school there in town. And my senior year in high school, our school and the high school consolidated with Morehead City. And we were the first graduating class of West Carteret High School.

TS:

West Carteret?

DG:

Yes. And that was kind of interesting, because we’d all gone through first grade—up to the eleventh grade—with the same people. And—but, we had—because of the military installations—we had an interjection of people from all over the—I think it really gave our community a little bit better perspective on more diverse things. And we weren’t quite as narrow-minded—or, you know, as maybe some other rural parts of the country were—we were a little bit more—because the military bases were integrated.

Coastal North Carolina—or a lot of North Carolina—was not integrated. Our schools were not integrated, but the coastal area of North Carolina didn’t have a large black population like you found in the Piedmont. But because of the military installations, if you went to anything there—the pools, the theatres—they were all integrated. So I think because of that, we just—it wasn’t a big deal for us, you know, the integration situation down there. And eventually in our county they built two high schools: the West Carteret High School and the East Carteret High School. And if you lived here, you went there, and if you lived on the other side—so it wasn’t—the integration wasn’t a big deal, you know. That went well down in that area.

TS:

[clears throat] So it was more just a big deal of the two—like the two communities coming together. That—

DG:

Yeah. If you lived at this line you went to that school. And if you lived on this line you went to that school. And it didn’t matter if you were black or white, but we had different types of people in our—in our community. We had some Filipinos. We had, you know—just as a result of the military—we had a lot of military people that ended up retiring there. So they brought with them their families—Japanese, you know, and the Filipinos. So you know we didn’t have this big thing about all the separate situations you see that may be in some other civilian communities.

TS:

Did you since both your parents worked on the base, did you—were you able to go to activities on those?

DG:

I know I did stay in a childcare facility there when I was very young, but most of the time—if I went on the military installation—I went with my next door neighbor. His father was a Marine Corps pilot, and that was how I got access to the military facilities. We’d go to the pool. We’d go to the theatres. We would go—just different—whatever was going on at the military installation. So everybody knew somebody that was associated with the military, so that’s how you got to go.

TS:

Oh, I see.

DG:

Because we didn’t have access. But I remember my senior year in high school, though, I ended up with a broken nose in a car accident right next to the military installation, and I kept telling these people, “I am not a military dependent, I cannot go to your hospital.”

“Oh, you have to go anyway.”

I went. They found out. “Oh, you’re not supposed to be here.”

So, you know, so I ended up, you know, going to a civilian facility.

TS:

What happened in the car accident?

DG:

Oh my next door neighbor— I was with my next door neighbor. He and I had gone to a concert, and he was looking away and he hit the car. And it was like a five car pileup, so his daddy was not happy. [laughter]

TS:

Neither was your nose.

DG:

No, it was it was it was all scrunched up, you know, and all the football players on the team were real sympathetic, you know.

TS:

[laughs] Yeah, I guess so. Well, what kind of things did you do socially?

DG:

Well, let’s see. We went to the beach in the summer time. We—Let’s see, what did we do socially? I did a lot with my church—the Methodist Youth Fellowship—that was a part of it. And in a small town and school, the school activities, when school was in, and that was pretty much your social activities. The church, the school, and we had the beach where a lot of people don’t have, you know. That was pretty much in the small town what was going on back in 1965, you know.

TS:

Right. Well, did you—so when you were a young girl is when [President] J.F. Kennedy was assassinated. Do you remember that at all?

DG:

Oh yes, because I remember Eddie Robinson coming in with his boom box on his shoulder, telling us “The president” —this is in Mrs. Farmer’s English class—the president had been shot. And we go—and everybody didn’t believe him, you know. I remember that was one of the worst days of my life, because I had flunked the only geometry quiz, I got a score back on my PSAT [Pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test] and Kennedy was shot. It didn’t get much worse than that, you know [laughs]. It was—I remember we went to memorial service on the military installation. I think I still have something from that, but I remember that quite—quite vividly.

TS:

Well, what was school like for you? Did you like school when you were a kid?

DG:

Yeah. I liked school. I was one of those few people that—when holidays came, I was ready to go back, because I did enjoy school. Yeah.

TS:

Did you have a favorite subject or anything?

DG:

I pretty much—I liked math and history. Didn’t care for English, because I couldn’t spell. [laughter] And those are probably my favorite subjects.

TS:

Do you have a teacher that you remember that you really enjoyed?

DG:

That’s a tough one, because I had—I have some—a friend of mine’s mother was a teacher. And she was—I didn’t have her—because she taught first grade. I had the other first grade teacher. We only had three classes, you know. And we were unusual, because we were this baby boom group moving through the thing [DG changed later: sytem], and they were all discombobulated, because they didn’t have enough teachers. But this friend of mine’s mother was a first grade school teacher, and she was a very wise woman. And she passed away about a year ago. She was ninety-six years old. But she was a very—a very wise woman—maintained very high standards. So I’ve just always admired her and her—I worked on the tobacco farm. Her husband was the one that had the tobacco farm that I worked on for three summers.

TS:

Do you remember her name?

DG:

Mary Katherine Millis.  Ms. Mary Katherine.

TS:

Now when you were a young girl, and you’re growing up, and you’re going to the beach, do you have any idea of expectations for your future?

DG:

Well, I was thinking about things. And one summer, the home economics extension agent, who was a good friend of my mother, called me. And she told me that normally in this area—it was a large farming area, and they had migrant workers that came in. And they would have different [DG added later: youth] groups that would come in and work in the summer [DG added later: to work with the children]. They were usually church groups that would help take care of some of the smaller children. And they had run out of groups. So she went to our church and she knew that there was a group of young people—I don’t know, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old—that were available. And so she called me and asked me if I could get some of these kids together, and if we could go—just during the week—and work with these young children.

And I had no idea what we were getting into. But they were all black children, and they had led a very itinerant lifestyle, because they just went up the coast and followed the crops. And so I got a bunch—it was probably five or six of us—together, and we went to this center they had in Beaufort, North Carolina, that they took care of these children for the day. They didn’t really have a very structured program. It was just—they might have been more structured before we got there, when they had these groups there. But we kind of took them out, we did activities with them during the day.

And I remember this friend of mine—he was there—and this little girl, she was probably ten years old, and she latched on to him. And they sat back in this classroom for six hours. All she wanted to do was simple mathematics. She knew all the—she went through the multiplication tables. And he had a blackboard, it was at a school. He went through everything with her, you know. He spent the whole day. That’s all this little girl wanted to do. She wanted to learn, you know.

And that kind of got me into the work of sociology, and that type of thing. That was kind of my first little spark of this. But they were so funny, because somebody would stub their toe and you’d get a band aid. And then all the rest of them had to have a band aid, because they didn’t get a lot of attention. So when they got attention—and we’d go outside and play games and do on the swings and stuff like that. It’s kind of like your first realization [that] there’s another world out there besides your own little thing. And I found it very rewarding. We did it for a week, because they moved on and went on up. But that’s kind of when I got my first little spark that there’s another world out there.

TS:

So what’d it make you think about that world that was out there?

DG:

Well, it just made me think that, you know—it kind of gave you an exposure, because sitting in the coast of North Carolina, you go to your church, you go to your school, you don’t have a lot of things—You know, we had television and stuff like that, but you really don’t know what’s going on in the world. [laughs] And I don’t know if kids now—larger metropolitan areas can see beyond themselves or not. But I’ll tell you what, I didn’t see a taco ‘til I was twenty-two years old. [laughter] And, you know, and I never met someone that was Jewish until I got to college, you know. So you just have such limited exposure to things, you know, when you’re down in these really rural areas. So it was, you know, it kind of brings you out of your little self I think.

TS:

Yeah. That’s a good way to put it. So did you start to focus on a way to do something different when you were done with school?

DG:

Well, I just—I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I decided I wanted to major in sociology. And I—you know, that was kind of where I was focused. Now, what I was going to do with it, I wasn’t really sure. So that’s where I headed off. And I did end up with a bachelor’s degree with a major in sociology.

TS:

Where did you go to college?

DG:

I went to UNC-Chapel Hill.

TS:

That’s right. So you had—[cough]—when you—what year did you graduate from high school?

DG:

Sixty-five, high school—‘69—and I was a child of the sixties.

TS:

Yeah. So you went through the sixties. Sixty-eight would’ve been a big year. What did you think about everything that was going on with the like the counterculture, and any of that?

DG:

Well, in North Carolina [laughs] in 1967—’69, you know—Chapel Hill was considered the hotbed of communism, which it really wasn’t, you know. Compared to Berkley [California] it was [laughs], you know, it just didn’t really have it going on. But it— according to [Senator] Jesse [Alexander] Helms [Jr.]—it did, you know. There were protests, but compared to campuses like Michigan and Wisconsin and Berkley, it was [DG added later: not bad] —you might have had—at least this was my perception of it.

I wasn’t—so I go back and read some of my alumni stuff. I obviously was not in that crowd, because I just went to class and did my stuff and had to study, you know. I had people—friends—that were in the Air Force ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] and Navy ROTC. So, you know, I didn’t really get into that counterculture thing. It wasn’t as bad, because you would have like ten or twenty people protesting, and then you would have two thousand people watching, [laughs] So that was kind of how it was.

TS:

Do you remember if they had teach-ins or anything like that at that campus?

DG:

I don’t think so. The most penetrating [DG changed later : provocative]  thing I remember was Stokely Carmichael [also known as Kwame Ture] came and spoke. And it was kind of interesting. It kind of—it made you really—he was inflammatory, let’s put it that way.

TS:

Did you listen to him talk?

DG:

Oh yeah, I went and listened, because he was at the [[DG added later: a prominent figure at the time]—he gave his speech, but he was very inflammatory and somewhat intimidating. You came out of there feeling, you know— Because, I mean, it was the sixties, you know, and that was what was going on. And it’s so funny, because you could see all these people—there was a whole mixture of people in the—because they had it in Carmichael Auditorium—our gym—and there were all these people that were just clapping. And then there were the black people, and they were just sitting there. It was just, you know, you’d think they were—because this was their leader or something. But they weren’t particularly enamored so such. But it was a mixed response, I think.

TS:

Interesting.

DG:

Because he—it was an inflammatory type presentation. But, you know, that was better than not having people come and speak like when they did the—outlawed the communist people coming to speak on campuses in North Carolina. I know you know that don’t you? No?

For a while in North Carolina—I don’t remember the dates—but five or six years the state legislature passed a law that said a known communist could not speak on any UNC campus: NC State [North Carolina State University], UNC Greensboro [University of North Carolina at Greensboro], Carolina [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill], or any other state school. And that was a major brouhaha. And in Carolina they could come, and there was a fence or a stone wall, and here’s the campus and here’s Franklin Street. They could stand over here and speak, but they could not come on campus and speak. It was the same way at other universities, which was, you know—just—I mean it’s non-constitutional, and it was repealed so other speakers— [DG added later: could come].

TS:

Oh, interesting.

DG:

Because you couldn’t have somebody come and speak that was—I mean they were communist—and they were card carrying communists—but they were not allowed to speak on a North Carolina campus.

TS:

There’s a lot that’s going on. And you said you had a sociological interest, and that’s your degree—and a history interest too. So are you in tune with all this at the time, or is this something that you had learned later?

DG:

I’ve finally—after years and years—I’ve decided that I am a true sociologist. I don’t go and I don’t see the scene—I do see the scene, but I watch the people looking at the scene. And that’s the part—and I’ve always been gravitated toward that type of thing. You know, because that’s what sociologists do: they watch people, figure out how they’re interacting as a group, you know, at least that’s my interpretation of it.

But I see the scene going on. And I’m not—“Okay. This is a scene and its happening, but, as a social phenomenon what are the people doing?” And that’s when I noticed that there’s ten or twenty people protesting, and there’s two thousand people out here watching. [laughs]

But the news reports, “Oh, these thousands of people out here protesting.” No, that’s not how it was, you know.

TS:

Interesting.

DG:

That was my—

TS:

Yeah

DG:

—my seeing the situation.

TS:

Well, did you have any personal feelings about the reasons they were protesting at all?

DG:

Well, having grown up in a military community—and this was in the sixties, and we still believed in our government—we didn’t know that they lied to us. So I was more—I wasn’t so much pro-war or pro-this, but I—you know, I was more supportive of the military; and, most of the people in Chapel Hill were really. They had the second largest number of navy cadets—second only to Annapolis. I mean, they had a huge navy program there. They had an air force program. NC State had the army program. So by and large, North Carolina was pretty conservative and supported its military. But, you know, I didn’t that much get into the protests, because I still believed my government. [laughs]

TS:

Right.

DG:

And we learned later on some of the things that, you know—our government didn’t tell us exactly what was going on as far as Vietnam was concerned.

TS:

Did you have, like—1968, you know when we look back in history it was a really pivotal year.

DG:

Oh yeah, Tet Offensive.

TS:

A lot of different things. And the Tet Offensive, and then Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassinated. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.

DG:

I remember those days.

TS:

Can you just talk about that a little bit?

DG:

Well—

TS:

All three of those things if you like.

DG:

Well, I was in college. We didn’t have as much access to TV then. I would only generally see it daily when I was at home in the summer time. So I can’t really say I kept up with what was going on in Vietnam; because, like I said, I went to class, I studied, and you know, doing all these things. But I didn’t—it’s kind of when you live through this stuff you don’t [laughs]—you don’t notice it as much, until later on people start telling you these things.

But I do remember when I heard that Martin Luther King had been assassinated, because I was sitting in a car with somebody listening to the radio. And I didn’t really—I’m not sure I understood the complete implication. And I remember when Robert Kennedy was—because I was—I came to work. I evidently had been out and came the night before, I came home and I didn’t turn on the news or TV or anything. And the next day somebody said, “Oh didn’t you know?”

And I go “Oh no!”

But it was kind of a scary—it was a scary time, because these things were happening. But as this idiot friend of mine said “But the music was great!” You know, the sixties. [laughter] But it was kind of—and —you — I don’t know if after you’d gone—you went through the sixties. And I remember the Chicago riots during the Republican [sic, 1968 Democratic] convention. I suppose when you’re going through it you kind of think that’s the way it is. But you look back now, 1968 was a horrendous year. You know, just—you know, all over the country. You look back now, and you go, “How did we get through that?” But everybody’s going along and doing their thing you know. You just think “How did we get through that?”

Evidently, you know, there was a lot of just—people maintaining their lives. It was those times I do remember. And I do know where I was and what I was doing.  But I remember seeing the Chicago—the riots and stuff. You know, watching that in the summer. For North Carolina it didn’t have a lot of implications, at least where I was. Because I like I said--

TS:

Did it seem like really far away or something?

DG:

Yeah. It was far away, and North Carolina was a rather provincial place back then. It didn’t come into its—the way it is now for several more years. So it was kind of provincial.

TS:

Well, you mentioned music. What kind of music did you listen to?

DG:

Oh, beach music!

TS:

What’s beach music?

DG:

Well, the closest to it is probably what you’d equate to Motown. But that was the beach music. You have to—it’s The Embers—the—it’s not the Beach Boys.

TS:

Okay.

DG:

There’s groups here that were up and down the coast here that played. In the summertime they played at Myrtle Beach, and in the winter time they played at frat houses on college campuses. That was the music.

TS:

So here I’m going to ask you about some of them—so not the Beach Boys. The Beatles at all?

DG:

That was Florida. The Beatles—we liked The Beatles, but they weren’t beach music, no. But they were popular.

TS:

The Kingston Trio?

DG:

They were okay. They were [laughter]—that was going through our folk period.

TS:

I see, okay. And then we’ve got The Temptations?

DG:

Oh yes, The Temptations.

TS:

Peter, Paul, and Mary?

DG:

The folk period.

TS:

[laughs] How about the Rolling Stones?

DG:

You know, I don’t even remember the Rolling Stones. Not a bit. Not one—now I might have been totally out of it, but nobody talked about the Rolling Stones, you know. And God, they’re older than I am you know. [laughs]

TS:

How about, like, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix?

DG:

Oh yeah, I saw Janis Joplin in concert at Carolina.

TS:

How was that?

DG:

Oh, it was awesome. It was so funny, because here are all these people trying to be really cool, you know, they were all decked out in their cool outfits you know. But she was awesome. But that’s one of the concerts I saw, and she was fantastic. She had everybody up rocking, you know. It was a great concert.

TS:

She put on a good show—incredible voice and all that?

DG:

Oh yeah, she just had everybody going. And it was fun. She was an excellent t—It was an excellent concert.

TS:

How about a little more mellow, like James Taylor?

DG:

He was later.

TS:

Later?

DG:

In fact his—I think his father was head of the Department of Public Health there.

TS:

Oh really?

DG:

Yeah, and he grew up there.

TS:

Yeah, that’s right. How about Bob Dylan?

DG:

No. I wasn’t a Bob Dylan person.

TS:

Any Jim Croce?

DG:

I liked him, but that was later.

TS:

Later? How about Elvis?

DG:

I liked Elvis after he died. [laughter] He’s kind of one of those icons. But, you know, when I was growing up I wasn’t that into Elvis—but, you know.

TS:

Now do you—how about—you said you didn’t watch a lot of TV, but do you remember any of the TV shows at all at that time?

DG:

We had—we didn’t have cable. You got—first we got two TV stations. We got NBC [National Broadcasting Company] and CBS [Columbia Broadcasting System]. And then they got—I think when I was in high school—we were able to get an ABC [American Broadcasting Company] station. So, I don’t know. We watched all the normal things: Lucy [Lucille Ball, star of I Love Lucy] and Milton Berle—all those people. And I remember the Hallmark Hall of Fame. That’s the only thing that’s still going on now.

TS:

Yeah. [laughs] How about like M*A*S*H?

DG:

Oh, M*A*S*H was after I got back from Vietnam.

TS:

Okay. So that’s pretty—what about Flip Wilson?

DG:

He was—he was—this is one I did like, this is after I got back from Vietnam—was Laugh In.

TS:

Oh, Laugh In. Yeah.

DG:

I liked that one.

TS:

That’s on here too. Did you have a—so when you graduated from college, did you have an idea of what you were going to do next?

DG:

Not a clue. I was out—this was about February of my senior year. This friend of mine, we said we—it was a week night, and we just wanted to go out and have a beer and chit-chat. And we were talking about what we were going to be when we grew up. [laughter]

Here it was. We were about to graduate, and, you know, most all of my female friends were about to get married or some of these things. And so I was, “Well, I don’t think I’m going to make it by June.” So we were sitting there. And, of course, he was going in the military, because everybody in 1969—either you went to study to be a minister or a doctor, or you went in the military. Because that—because you were going to get drafted, because the draft was still in effect.

And so he was telling me this wonderful romantic story about his brother and now sister-in-law at the time. That his brother was in the Marine Corps—this is before his brother got married—and the girlfriend was trying to figure out a way she could get to Vietnam to see the boyfriend. And so she was a Donut Dolly [American Red Cross civilian volunteer]. And I—you know this—you know. I said, “What did she do?” You know and he gave me some things—with the American Red Cross. So I said “Well, I don’t know.” [laughs]

So I went to the university placement office. And they have little things—cubicle—the little boxes with information from different companies. And I pulled out the one for the Red Cross. And I saw the stuff about the Donut Dollies. And then I saw they had other positions for people—case workers working in hospitals. And I’m going “Ah ha, this sounds like I can do this.”

And so I—they had an application there and I filled it out. They asked me to come for an interview in Atlanta [Georgia]. That was so cool—my first big executive trip. So I went and I got hired. I thought that was—that was how I ended up in the Red Cross, because I couldn’t see—I had looked into other jobs.

It was coming out of a university, a college-educated female in 1969. Your parents had always told you, “You can be anything you want to be if you get an education.” They forgot to tell you that if you’re a woman it’s a lot more difficult. Because they were still asking stupid questions—the people that were interviewing you. And they would tell you that females made some of their best employees, this that and the other. But they didn’t generally hire women, because they went off and got married. And they would ask you questions like, “When was the last time you cried?”[laughs]

TS:

How’d you respond to those questions?

DG:

Well, at that time I was just one of those females of the sixties, and I just would be honest. I said a friend of mine’s father died and I cried. I thought that was a traumatic experience, you know.

And then, you know, but they were asking—and they were just plain out, flat, tell you that women were going to get married, and it didn’t matter what you said to them. Maybe if you’d weighed eight hundred pounds and looked like King Kong or something—of course, they wouldn’t have hired you then. If you were a halfway decent looking individual, they assumed that every female was going to get married and give up their job and run off.

And I was an average student. I’m not going to tell you I was inherently brilliant, but my roommate was. I mean she had a—she was getting a degree in economics and she was very close to Phi Beta Kappa. And we’d come back and compare stories about the stupid questions that people would ask, you know. And the best job she could get was as a teller in a bank, because they wouldn’t hire her. And she was getting married, but she was going to go to grad school and stay in the area. But nope, they wouldn’t hire her as anything but a teller. A college educated female in those days had a hard road ahead.

TS:

Did that upset you at all at the time?

DG:

Well [laughter]—

TS:

It’s hard sometimes to separate, right?

DG:

Well, this group of women that we were coming along—as I said—were told we could do anything we wanted to do if we had an education. But, you know, maybe our parents—our mothers—had worked in something traditional like teachers or nurses or something like that. And—but we wanted to do something different—and it got to be upsetting you know?

But we weren’t mobilized yet. [laughs] It took us a while to get—you know, we weren’t—we hadn’t—all of us hadn’t gotten this together yet. It was probably in another ten years before women got really fed up with this, you know, and just said “time out!” —you know—“Let’s do something about this!” And that’s when you started seeing more the legislation about you can’t ask how old people are, their marital status, and things like that. It took us a while to get there. But, you know, after we finally figured it out—maybe had some experiences in jobs, you know, worked our way up.

TS:

Yes.

DG:

It kind of made you mad. But my roommate and I, we just said, “Okay.” And we had our interview dress, you know, and we’d wear one dress, that was the thing. And so that was just—it was just frustrating the stupid questions that these people were asking.

TS:

So do you think that this is one of the ways that you were being redirected—I guess a little bit—with jobs? Do you think that led you to the Red Cross a little bit more than it otherwise would have?

DG:

I wanted—something a job that I could travel. I could get out of North Carolina, and I wanted to see the world, you know. And just do something other than sit in some little place in Podunk, North Carolina. This sounded like a good opportunity. It matched my degree and it matched—you know—they were willing to hire—you know—put people in these positions. And it looked like there were positions you could work your way up in this organization, so I went for it.

TS:

So then what happened? What about your—What did they say that you might be able to do? What were your expectations, I guess?

DG:

My expectations were to get a job. I had been educated, and I was tired of being educated. You’d gone through high school and college, and I was just tired. I wanted to get out and do something with my life—just do something, you know. So I just wanted to get out and do it. So I just kind of took it from there, and it sounded like something I could fit into. And as I got into it, there were ways that you could stay in it if you wanted to progress. You could become a hospital field director, a field director and other things. So you could do that. And I’m not sure I looked at it as a long term employment, but it was a place that you could progress if you wanted to.

TS:

Well, was there like a contract that you signed or—

DG:

Only thing that you signed when you came into the Red Cross was that you had to be worldwide mobile, which meant that they could send you anywhere at any time. And at that time you had to—you couldn’t marry. If you got married you had to resign. And so that—See, I know, you’re younger you’re going “that is outrageous!” That went by the wayside, because some of the Red Cross people were married to people who had retired. And if there were European assignments—if you went to Europe—the spouse could come with you.

So they fought that.  I don’t know when they started, but they—because by the time I married in 1974, you did not have to resign. But once you married you were not worldwide mobile anymore, which meant if they wanted to put someone in your slot where you were sitting at that particular time in Red Cross—that if they had to—that they could kick you out, and fill that position. But that was a time that everything had really settled down from Vietnam, and there were not as many positions open. So it was really not bad if you were in this place, and you could’ve just gone on forever most of the time. Things weren’t changing around as much as it used to be during, you know, Vietnam. So I sat there from ’74 to ’78. I could not be promoted though.

TS:

Because you got married?

DG:

Because I got married, and so I had to stay in that case. In fact, I had been told that I was up for promotion, and they were going to send me to [Marine Corps Recruit Depot] Parris Island with the Marine Corps. So I told the guy I was dating at the time—which happened to be my husband now—that, you know, as a hint to him [laughs] that I—“Hey, I’m leaving probably.” So we got married.

TS:

[laughs] It’s like either pop the question or—

DG:

Right! That was it.

TS:

There you go. Okay. So let’s go—so in 1969 you signed up with the Red Cross, and where did you go?

DG:

I went to Fort Polk, Louisiana, the garden spot of the army.

TS:

How was that?

DG:

It was not a garden spot. It’s a basic training facility for the army. They have—It’s about the equivalent to Parris Island for the Marine Corps. Because I went—I didn’t know—I’d heard of Fort Bragg, Fort Gordon, and all these other places in the south. So I went down to the local army recruiter and asked him where this was, and what was—give me some information about it. He said “Honey, what did you do to make people mad?”

I said “I don’t even know anybody in the Red Cross. I couldn’t have possibly made them mad.”

He said it was considered the armpit of the army. And it was a basic training facility. All of their buildings were of World War Two vintage—including the hospital. And so [laughs] I said, “Oh, this sounds like fun.” And it’s hot. It’s humid. And I’d never sweated in my life until I went down there, like that.

It was just—but the community itself was-—it was in Leesville, Louisiana. And they had just gotten required drivers license for everybody in Louisiana, like, eight or nine years prior to that in my arrival in ’69. That’s what they were telling me. They were doing some big campaign on the television and radio stations to get people to go out and get the GED [General Education Degree], because Louisiana had been tagged as one of the lowest high school graduating states in the country. And they were sure that Louisiana was a lot smarter than that, so they were trying to get them. The head of—the sheriff in town was named Fatty Fatita[?], and he was about [gestures] this big. The judge was gay. The—what was it? Anyway it was just a real—and Fatty Fatita was part of the delta mafia. You know, and it was real interesting little community. They—

TS:

What’s the delta mafia?

DG:

Well, the Louisiana mafia—you know—just high corrupt government—highly corrupt. The old [Governor] Huey Long welfare system that they’d had down there for eons. They did not have the same law structure like we do in most other states. They had—they were under the Napoleonic code, which is a different type of thing.

TS:

How was it different?

DG:

I’m not sure about all the intricacies of it. But their judicial system is like—somebody told me one time there are no illegitimate children in Louisiana, because every year is the beginning of the state legislature; they declare all children legitimate. [laughs] So it’s very based on very heavy the Catholic religion, you know. I mean they were fun people, you know, good food. [laughs] But most everybody pretty much tried to stay on the military installations, because there was nothing down there. I mean, there was nothing as far as activities off the base—you know, nothing—or the post.

TS:

What kind of housing did you have?

DG:

When I first got there I stayed in a BOQ [Bachelor Officers’ Quarters], which is, you know, two separate little rooms, and shared a bath with another female. So then another girl came—another Red Cross girl came—and we—the best accommodations in the area were mobile homes, so we went out and everybody lived off the post in these mobile homes. So that’s what we lived in. It was a very poor place.

TS:

Do you remember what month you were there?

DG:

We—I arrived in June and suffered through the summer and the main—it was basic training, and that’s what these guys did. In the hospital—and the patients that we had were sometimes basic trainees—they got heat exhaustion during the summer. They had to quit training if the wet bulb index [Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index] went above something, because everybody would start flaking out. And in the winter months we had upper respiratory infections. And then we had a large number of Vietnam returnees. They were there because Louisiana or Arkansas was their closest home, and they were recuperating—they were mending.

A lot of orthopedic injuries from Vietnam. They were in traction. They were, you know, heavy duty casts and all that type of thing. In the summer, you know—like I said—they were bringing in people that had—they were putting them in ice to get their temperature down. And the upper respiratory infections. And then sometimes we had people that—several people—that would get meningitis. That was a real problem down there.

TS:

Well, can you describe like a typical day for you, like, what you did?

DG:

Well, I was a case worker there. We were on call. The Red Cross functions 24/7. We would work our eight hours. And one of the five staff members there—We had a hospital field director, myself—we did the majority of the case work. Then we had two or three recreation people. They went out on the wards and did recreation activities. Once the day was over one of us went on call. And we couldn’t—we didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have all these wonderful gizmos, so we had to stay by our phone. And we did not get paid overtime. If we worked a weekend we would get one day off—a compensatory day.

But our typical day would be something like—the recreation people would go, and they would do their recreation activities. We would go and sometimes we’d do ward rounds, but we’d have to do follow-up things. We’d get calls at night. We were notified of all DOAs—Dead On Arrival—or people that were placed on the seriously ill list. This was such an isolated place that if somebody was placed on the very seriously ill list—or seriously ill list—it’s, like a critical—civilian term was critical. Sometimes they requested that the families come, because they were so near death or something like that. And so we would have to coordinate with the chapter in wherever this man’s family were. We would meet them maybe at night—during the day. We had some quarters that we could use on the post for the families. We would take them to the wards, and, you know, try to give them some idea of what they were going to be seeing on the ward. Some people hadn’t had any experience with the hospital situation, they were just totally freaked. Then just show them where they could eat. We allowed them to eat in the hospital cafeteria which was wonderful food. [laughs]

TS:

Is there sarcasm there?

DG:

But they didn’t have any other the choice, because you ate there or you did not eat. So, you know, we just generally facilitated their visits there and helped the families out.

Then sometimes, if the illnesses weren’t that serious, we would get inquiries from the chapters—you know—that Johnny called home, and he has got a really bad cold. And he’s in the hospital. Well, in a civilian thing you would not be put in the hospital for a bad cold. You’d go home and momma would give you some chicken soup, and you’d be fine. Well, these guys didn’t have anybody in the barracks to give them chicken soup. So basically they put them in the hospital, which alarmed a parent.

So that’s why we’d get all these inquires “Well, if it’s so bad they have to put him in the hospital then why is—?”

So we’d say, “If he were at home you would be taking care of him, but, since he’s here, he doesn’t have anybody to take care of him in his unit, so he’s resting comfortably and he’s doing just fine.”

And we had our individual offices, but we also had a large recreation facility. Back in the olden days, Red Cross used to have huge recreation halls. We had ping pong tables, pool tables, and, of course, we served donuts and coffee. So they would come down to our recreation hall and—oh, and playing cards—my word, we always played cards. So they used our facilities quite a bit, because these guys—okay, they’ve got a bad cold, but they can go up and walk around. So here they all were in their pajamas, you know, coming—but that was the atmosphere.

TS:

So, when you went to this hospital in Louisiana, and you’re around all these men for different ailments. It sounds like it was, you know, like from bad cold to—I think you said orthopedic injury. How did—What was your reaction to all this?

DG:

I was pretty adept at it I thought. Because, evidently, I grew up with a mother that was a nurse—you know—needles and things, and all that stuff didn’t bother me. Some people are always afraid of—or didn’t think they could function with amputees. But when I met somebody that was an amputee or something like that, I never saw—everybody was in a bed, right? And it didn’t matter what was wrong with you, you were in a bed. So I focused on the face, and never really realized what was going on elsewhere [laughs] you know. And so I never got into the really—hung up about somebody being an amputee—that never bothered me.

The only thing that ever bothered me was if something smelled bad. You know. I could look at—compound fractures were a little, eh, freaky—but if these guys that had these wounds from Vietnam and these orthopedic things, they would put these large heavy duty casts on them. And they would get this infection sometimes under their cast. That was the most awful smell I can ever, you know, in my life—that one smell bothered me. Everything else, people throwing up, people bleeding, it didn’t bother me but that one smell.

And it bothered a lot of people, because they—this one poor guy—they put a little window in his cast, so they could get some air into his thing. And they put him at the end of the ward where there was a little window, and put a tent out. [laughs] But bless his heart, he didn’t mean to be offensive. It was just this bad infection that he had. But I didn’t get really all hung up on the amputee—the bad wounds—you know. And some of them—they were in full body casts, you know. I think that’s best for them, because you don’t—you didn’t dwell on their limitations. And then they got better and they were down at the recreation hall—and so, you know, that was—it didn’t bother me. Maybe I’m insensitive, but it didn’t really bother me, because I got to know the person and not the ailment.

TS:

So as a case worker, what was like your goal for the person?

DG:

Well, medical case work in this atmosphere was not generally real extensive, because it wasn’t an ongoing thing; because, the military had social workers, but they didn’t have any there. Basically, we did a lot of just helping these guys out—just different things. Sometimes I would get them in my car, and take them over to somewhere they could get all new clothes; because, they would just ship them from Vietnam with no military uniforms. They had just—because they were hurt and they just took everything off. And so, I had to get them all new uniforms, and we had to go down the steps in crutches and all this stuff.

Just—and at Christmas time we had to get them—if they could walk, crawl, or fly—they would get these guys out. And so we worked with the JAMCO, which is the Joint Army Military something, to get them flights out. It wasn’t a lot of big stuff. Most of the time it was a lot of small things that had to be coordinated—getting all their money, so their checks could be cashed. The bank was only open four hours a day in this little Podunk place. So you had to go out there and stand in line with two hundred people in ninety-five degree heat, you know. They had—it was what is called health and welfare needs. They just needed stuff. They were Vietnam returnees. They didn’t have all this stuff. Their families weren’t nearby, in some cases.

When you got working in other hospitals you got into some more serious type case work, but in this facility this was the kind of thing you did; and, they were exceedingly, exceedingly appreciative. I mean you could do the tiniest little thing, and they were more appreciative than somebody you had worked with and stood on your head for. And, you know, they didn’t acknowledge you. But these—they were the most appreciative group of people that you could ever think to work with, you know. That’s why I enjoyed it.

TS:

We’ve been talking for about an hour; do you want to take a little break?

DG:

Okay.

[End of CD 1—Begin CD 2]

TS:

Okay. We’re back with Diane Getz, and we were talking about Fort Polk in Louisiana.

DG:

Yes.

TS:

About how long did you stay there then?

DG:

Stayed there about one year. And the day I left I got stopped by a highway patrolman on a regular plate—or license check, and he asked me if I was ever coming back to the state of Louisiana. And I said, “Not if I can help it!” [laughter]

“Have a good day ma’am.”

TS:

No ticket or anything?

DG:

Oh, no. It was just a routine check your license type thing, you know. I did go back. New Orleans was fun. I enjoyed going to New Orleans. When I was there Camille [Hurricane Camille was formed August 14, 1969, and dissipated August 22, 1969] came into New Orleans. That was one of the big hurricanes.

TS:

How was that?

DG:

Well, I didn’t get involved in that, because I had been working with the Red Cross—I don’t know—four or five months. But we had a staff member that came in—and she was there like four days—and they sent her to Camille, because they said she didn’t know anything about anything. So they sent her there to learn disaster work. So she was down there about four or five months. And that was what got me a free place to stay, because she was staying at the Richelieu Hotel down in the French Quarter; because, that was the area that was okay—much as what happened in [Hurricane] Katrina.

So it was a wonderful—we went down there, and one night at a party we decided we wanted to go to New Orleans. Well, it wasn’t a party. We were all just sitting around, and I was “Why don’t we go to New Orleans in the morning?” And so we just got in our car—you know how young people are. And we showed up at 5 a.m. in New Orleans, and waited until Brennan’s opened and went to breakfast. So that’s what you do when you’re—[laughter]

TS:

Well that’s good. So then what happened after Fort Polk? Did you get like assigned somewhere else?

DG:

Right. After Fort Polk I was assigned back to North Carolina at Fort Bragg. And I was delighted, because I was going back home. And—but—at that time we started working—you know, we had some Vietnam returnees. This was 1972 and this was—Vietnam was kind of winding down somewhat. No, it was 1971, excuse me—’69-’70—maybe it was 1970.

We didn’t have quite the number of Vietnam returnees. It was a whole different atmosphere. Because it was a specialized treatment center, we had a lot of dependents that were seen at this military installation. So this was a whole different ball game—a lot more structured. We were still doing—you know—answering the requests for medical information on people, but we got more into probably the situation with the dependents. We did have a recreation facility there, recreation hall, and serving coffee and donuts of course. We had a—like four recreation workers, four case workers, two supervisors, and a secretary—two secretaries. So we had a fairly large group there.

So as people were getting transferred and everything—once again, we were still on call 24/7—and but we kept losing workers. And our recreation people didn’t take call there. It was only the case workers that took the call. Well, we kept losing people and losing people for whatever reason. You know, they were going to other stations and that type of thing. So it got down [to where] there were like two case workers taking the call. And, once again, we could not take calls from any other place besides our home phones, and that didn’t do well for your social life. So it did not bode well.

So I was just antsy. I wanted to go somewhere—go somewhere, you know. I’ve been doing this, you know, for two years. But having those two years of working in hospitals prior to going to Vietnam, I’d met a lot of people who’d worked in Vietnam— Red Cross—a lot of military people who’d been in Vietnam. And it gave me, of course, that exposure to the patients and the hospital facilities. I think for the donut dollies who’d just walked out of college and sent themselves to Vietnam, I would think that would be so hard not to have that. And if you didn’t grow up in a military background, I just think that would be so difficult to adjust to all that, you know, real suddenly, you know.

But after talking to people and—you know—it helped you deal with the patient situation. And you knew what the dependents were going through at this end as well, because you got to working with the dependents. Then you learned about what relationships you have with people that you meet in Vietnam, because somebody said “It’s not a good thing to fall in love with somebody in Vietnam.” Because it’s a war atmosphere and things are different there.

But one of our things with the dependents, they were always—our big thing was getting doctors to recommend that a serviceman come home from somewhere, you know. If it was not a life-threatening problem, the doctor would not recommend it, you know. And so that created a lot of, you know, there was [sic] childcare problems. And what I found was in—whenever you came into these communities like this—and Fayetteville is where Fort Bragg is—to really be effective you needed to learn what your outside resources were. You had a lot of things available to you in this social work atmosphere, because when you can get people free medical care—and some money of some type—for patients and stuff like that, it solves a lot more problems than what the people—a social worker— would have in the civilian world.

And I found it real beneficial if you could establish what all your little civilian— and not so much civilian resources—but your support resources that the military had, you know. Who was responsible if this unit or this—whatever it was needed somebody to call about childcare situation, you know. If you could call the CO [commanding officer], and somebody said “Do you know what this—?”—and to establish those groups. And that was—working at these big hospitals both at Charleston and Fort Bragg, that was an essential thing—is to find out how you could get, you know, support for these dependent families and that type of thing. That was a whole different thing than you had working with the Vietnam people or the basic trainee. We did some of the health and welfare things. But these people were more—they had more family near them, because they were at a bigger facility than they had at Fort Polk.

But I was ready to go [laughs], and they gave me orders to Japan. And I was so excited. My mother was planning her first trip there to visit me, and so but—they cancelled my orders after two weeks. I was devastated.

TS:

Why did they cancel?

DG:

They just cancelled the slot. They just didn’t—they just cancelled it. I went out and bought myself an ice bucket. [laughs] I don’t know what that has—they say a shopping woman is an unhappy woman. So I went out and bought myself an ice bucket. Then about—I reckon—a week later they gave me my orders to go to Vietnam, which was fine. I wanted to go. So I was happy. I stayed there for about a year.

TS:

How did your folks feel about you going to Vietnam?

DG:

Well, my father passed away when I was a sophomore in high school [DG corrected later: college]. So I— my mother wasn’t—she was—you know—she’d been a nurse during W-W-II. I don’t know why she ever joined the navy, because she can’t stand to be on water. But, you know, she wasn’t really perturbed about it. You know, it was fine with her. You know, she didn’t plan a visit. But— [laughs]

TS:

Yeah.

DG:

So you know.

TS:

Well, how was your trip over there?

DG:

It was just incredibly long. I just—because I went—I had to leave from here to go to San Francisco. And they had to process us out at San Francisco, because you had to have a special passport. You had to have diplomatic passports, you know. So I didn’t have that when I left to go, because they were going to have all that paperwork there for you at the western headquarters in San Francisco. I went there in September, I froze to death. But then we got there, and they had everything all set up for us.

We had to go to Travis Air Force Base and wait for like ten hours to get on a—what they called a MAC flight: a Military Airlift Command flight. These were regular flights—like United, Continental—but they were chartered by the U.S. military. And they took only military and some civilian—like me—type personnel over. We went from San Francisco to Alaska. And one, there was no snow. [laughs] It was September, you know. I thought it always snowed when I was that age. But then we went to Tokyo, and by that time I’d been sitting for so many hours [that] my feet were swollen like little watermelons, and I could barely walk. Nobody told me about sitting with your feet up, you know. I’d been to England, but I don’t remember it being that bad, you know. And then we flew from Tokyo to Saigon, and it was like thirty-six hours. You’re a little out of it by that time. When we got to Saigon, it was—they were having the election for the president, so they were in what they call a minimized[?] situation. That meant that only emergency transmissions could go out. They were just kind of making sure that anything didn’t get out of hand and all. Normally you could probably wear civilian clothes out and about, but in this situation you had to wear military uniforms or your Red Cross uniform.

So I was to stay at the hospital there in Saigon in their quarters until I could get processed the next day to go out to my duty station, and there were no lights on. All the lights were out in the BOQ that night. So here I’ve travelled thirty-six hours, there’s no lights, and I didn’t care, I was going to go to bed anyway. And there was some mail waiting for me, and that was fine. I got there and it was two or three letters from people. And one of them was from a guy I had dated in college telling me he was getting married, and I’m going “Oh, yay.” [laughter] I don’t care, I’m going to bed. So I slept for two or three hours, and they told me where I could go and eat. I was trying to remember how I got money, because you didn’t have real money in Vietnam. You have stuff called MPC— I think military something scrip [sic, Military Payment Certificate]. I must have done something, because I paid for dinner. But then the next day I went to the headquarters there and they gave you—they took your passport, because they didn’t want you travelling. Because, being a female in Vietnam you could’ve gotten on any plane in the world, but they didn’t want you travelling. So they took your passport, and they gave you a non-combatant card. I think we talked about this at that thing. It’s a non-combatant card that explained that you were not military, but it was in English. You know, if you got captured by a Vietnamese, you know, they couldn’t read this.

TS:

So it was something you were supposed to carry on yourself?

DG:

Yes, we had to carry—and we had dog tags. But we had our non-combatant cards, and they gave us a few words to—so we could tell people that we weren’t a doctor, and we didn’t speak Vietnamese. And [sneezes] put us in a little car with this crazy driver, and sent me to Long Binh.

TS:

Were you going by yourself?

DG:

Well, with this driver, yeah.

TS:

[laughs] Okay.

DG:

No, I didn’t drive. I mean, it was insane. It was like any third world country trying to drive, you know.

TS:

But I mean there were no other Red Cross workers coming with you?

DG:

No, I had travelled with one. This guy and I had— he was processing through western headquarters the same time I was. I can’t remember where he was going, but you know it was kind of nice to have someone. We were kicking our luggage around Travis Air Force Base, you know, for ten hours. I think he actually got on a different flight—an earlier flight or a later flight. But we were there, and we just—you know—but he was going somewhere else in Vietnam. I don’t remember where that was.

TS:

Were there many male Red Cross workers?

DG:

Oh yes, quite a number. In fact, one of the ones I worked— he was in Long Binh. I’d worked with him at Fort Bragg. He married a Vietnamese girl when I was there, and we all went to the wedding. It was wonderful! [laughs] There was a lot of people—a lot of men there. They worked in the field office. They did not work in the hospitals and all those things, but they worked in the field office; and, took care of all the able-bodied troops.

TS:

Interesting. So what did you think about Vietnam—your first couple days there? If you even remember after that long trip.

DG:

Well, they told me that I was going to Long Binh, which was this wonderful place. You know—unlike anywhere else in Vietnam—it was wonderful. But when you get there it’s all barbed wire and fences and dirt that’s got little vegetation on it. It was a huge sprawling place, and this was supposed to be the best place. And it was just—I mean it was—it was just—it was like a run-down place, I mean—it had all these little low buildings, but they did have over the other parts they had some like—two or three—where the MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] headquarters were and that type of thing.

And after I got around and looking at stuff—they had pools, they had special services, they had recreation facilities there, they had tennis courts. These are all above ground, rubber lined pools and stuff. They were about three and a half feet deep. Everywhere had a bar, you know. There was more bars than you could shake a stick at. Every little unit had their own bar and this type of thing. And then—and we were air conditioned. So our quarters—we had little rooms that were about—I don’t know—six by twelve. [I] had a bed, a dresser, and some bookshelves in it. We were in the quarters with the nurses.

TS:

Was it like a Quonset hut?

DG:

No, ours was not a Quonset hut. Our office was like a Quonset hut, and we shared it. We were one half of it, and the dentist’s office was the other half. Some of the Quonset huts—but ours was just this little building. But we had air conditioning, which was—we had hot and cold running showers most of the time. It’s amazing if you cannot get a hot shower—how that really affects your mood. You can have cold water, but if you do not have—after you’ve been out in this grime and heat—if you cannot take a hot shower at the end of the day, you’re just—your mood is just altered tremendously. We did have that. But we had platforms in the shower stalls and you were told to take—wear flip flops all the time in the showers, because god only knows what was crawling on the floors there.

We had mamasans that did our laundry. You put it out on a little bag or sack. And your put your shoes out if you had—we mostly wore tennis shoes most of the time, and they just rotted away. But you paid your mamasan three dollars a week and she did your— would beat your uniform on the floor [laughs]. And they would wash them and iron them. And they did a pretty good job. We all wanted to take one home with us, but we didn’t think we could afford them. They’d ask for more if we took them to the U.S. But they did a good job, you know. So that’s how we got our laundry done. We had to provide our own laundry detergent though. We got—when we were there we got—most of our pay we had direct deposited into a bank account. And we would get hazardous duty pay. I think it was sixty-five dollars a month or something. But if you had your food and your lodging provided, you could just live off of sixty-five dollars a month. A drink was like a quarter. And you ate in the dining hall all the time, so you know you had very few needs there. So most everybody saved up their money for when they went on R&R [rest and recuperation].

TS:

I talked to one woman who said she bought roses every day, because it was about like only a quarter.

DG:

Yes.

TS:

She had fresh roses, and she had a couple pictures of it.

DG:

We could get our hair done. We had this beauty shop. If you wanted to get your hair done and a manicure and a pedicure they would have one person on every extremity, and maybe sometimes two doing your hair, you know. It was that way in Bangkok too. And you felt like, “My god, is all this going to come out? Is it going to match?” And it did.

I really admired the Vietnamese people, because I thought they were very entrepreneurial. I mean they were hard working and just very smart and they recycled everything. And they were just very, very entrepreneurial people, and knew how to make things out of nothing, you know.

When I got there, it turned out it was one of the better military installations to be at. And we had everything that you could have, I suppose. My mother kept all the letters that I wrote to her when I was in Vietnam. And I thought I could find these wonderful profound thoughts that I’d had [laughs]. Evidently, I had no profound thoughts, because I was just always asking for Tide and tampons. [laughter]

TS:

Priorities you know.

DG:

I think it was tennis shoes and tampons actually, because you couldn’t get a lot of women’s products over there. We had access to the big PX [post exchange] over there, which was the biggest one in Vietnam at Long Binh. And they just didn’t carry tampons. Not a lot of feminine hygiene products, you know. So you had to ask for those from home. Usually the parents are real good—you’d get all these things, you know. It wasn’t good to send candy, because it usually melted, you know.

But I did—I had this friend and he was—he was over at a place called Plantation, which was another part. It wasn’t a part of Long Binh, but it was connected. And he was the procurement officer for his unit, and he went to the big PX in Saigon. I mean, he had the authorization to buy for generals and colonels and all this. And he could get me Twinkies. [laughs] And that was—because that was his thing—he’d bring me back “How many do you want?”

I said “Just get me two or three right now.” And he’d let me know when he was going to the big PX in Saigon. But he could get—all these generals and stuff wanted salad dressings, and all these different kind of things. And he could get it for them you know, but he had access to Twinkies.

TS:

That’s pretty significant.

DG:

And M&Ms.

TS:

Oh now—that’s what I would’ve been going for. Now, how was the work different than the work you’d been doing in the hospitals in the States?

DG:

Well, you had no contact except by wire. With thing—with the people in the United States you’d get these inquiries about people—what was happening—but you didn’t have to be on call at night, because we were in the exact opposite of the time zone for the U.S. Because whatever happened in the daytime—then they could send a message, and it was good turn around, because you could turn around. But we were asked—because the military would just send out a message “John Doe has been injured. He’s now at 24th Evac Hospital at Long Binh, Vietnam”—you know—“Updates will be following.”

Well, you know, people back home, they don’t know what’s going on. So they get— you know—depending on what the situation was, we would go and we would talk with him if he was able. Most of the ones at this particular time weren’t as severely injured as like in ’68 and ’69, because this was ’71, ’72. And so we would converse with them and tell them—we had this little portable phone. And we could drive it around and they could get all their change, and they could call home. It was a rather laborious situation. But we would ask them since you can call—call your parents and let them know—or your wife, or your girlfriend, or whoever—and let them know how you’re doing.

So we would send a message back that we had talked with him—did this and that and so on. And—but if they were really seriously injured, then—you know—we would make other information. We also had a phone booth in our office, and you could come in and sign up for a time. And these guys were there at 7 in the morning, because they could call home. It was free, but it was called a MARS [Military Affiliate Radio System] line. I don’t know what that—do you know what that is?

TS:

I don’t remember what it stands for, but I know what you’re talking about.

DG:

But anyway, when you called you had to say, “Hello mom. Over.” “How are you doing? Over.” You know, it was insane. And they were supposed to only call. But those were some of the minor things we’d done. Some of the other things—if somebody was very seriously injured, you know, we’d have to do other types of—we had—I just remembered this one, because it was particularly—I knew about this particular illness.

This one guy had Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is a type of viral infection that usually follows like a cold or something like that. But it starts off with tingling in your hands and extremities and then it—you become more paralyzed. And I had worked—when I was at Fort Polk I had worked with people that had this. And so they were trying to get this guy stabilized enough—they could get him to a hospital in Japan, and then back to the US. But this paralysis type thing, they don’t ever know where it’s going to stop. And it can in fact go to the respiratory system. And he had gotten to that point, and they had him on the ventilator. I would go by and I would visit with him, and, you know, and they would let—they would fix the ventilator, so he could talk, just briefly, little sentences.

And I was off one day. And I was with somebody after work, and they said “So and so, you know, wanted to see about writing a letter to his wife. And but—and I told him you would go by.”

And I said, “I’m going.”

I went back to my room, put on my uniform, and went to the ward. This is like six o’clock in the evening, because he was not—I mean he was kind of doing well and they were—So I went back and I wrote a letter. That was the only letter. That was the big thing about Red Cross, writing letters for patients, you know. That was the only letter I ever wrote for anybody in Red Cross. But I felt it was imperative, because he was—he was not doing well. He kind of stabilized, but they did get him to Japan. I don’t know whatever happened to him. But generally most of the ones I’d ever seen with this type of illness, it subsided and they generally regained full use of all their limbs. And I had a female patient at Fort Bragg, and her daughter would come in and do her hair every day. And I told her she looked better sick than I did well. But most of these patients they did— you know, we did have one POW [prisoner of war] and that was a big deal. Oh, that was a big deal. He had his own ward—I mean, you know.

TS:

He was a North Vietnamese?

DG:

No. He was one of our POWs, and he just walked out.

TS:

Oh okay, an American POW. I see.

DG:

Yeah and his name was John Sexton, I think.

TS:

Ah.

DG:

And it was a big deal, because they thought this was kind of pre—you know—they thought, well, maybe more and more of them are going to be coming out. So they did all these things. They painted the medevac helicopters, white [laughs], and they set up this special ward. This was getting to, you know, when they were doing all the negotiating, and things were winding down, you know. And everybody was praying. They would have these—standing down these units, and they would send them home, you know. Because every day we’d hear, “So and so unit is going to be stood down, and they’re going to be going home.” All these doctors of course wanted to go home, and this that and the other. So we were, you know, they were essentially closing different units. They didn’t need the hospitals as much. They’d always—they had the 93rd which was a hospital there that had closed even before I got there.

But a lot of what I did when I was in Vietnam—a good portion of it—and it got to be more and more at our hospital—was working with the drug patients. And it was— heroin had gotten to be a very, very bad problem there. Because they were sending these guys home, and they had not been detoxified and they were jonesing on the MAC flights.

TS:

What’s jonesing?

DG:

Jonesing is when you’re coming down and you don’t have your heroin supply, and you’re just freaking out, you know.

TS:

Oh, on the plane.

DG:

They’re sweating and they’re twitching and they’re doing all this stuff. And, of course, that just freaked the flight attendants out, and there wasn’t a lot you can do. And so the military—the flight people—just said, “We can’t have this anymore. You’ve got to take care of this.” Because I had been working at Fort Bragg, we had had some substance abuse type programs that were coming into effect because of this. And so they set up these big detoxification centers. And they admitted forty to fifty people a day. Everybody had to have a drug test before they got on that plane to go home. And if you showed up positive you stayed.

And, of course, they had sent mama a letter that they were coming home, and so mama got real upset when they didn’t show up. And at first they just sent these messages, “He’s been detained for out-processing.” And they did an FYI, and that was the code in Red Cross that indicated: “This is for your information only. Not to be shared with the family.” That he had been detained for drug detoxification. Well, sweet little Daisy Jane in Mississippi—or somewhere—just knew this family, and so she would relay this information to the family. And that just caused a lot of problems, so they quit sending FYIs. It got to be—just about everybody knew once that verbiage went out—it was the exact same message for every single detox patient.

They were having—they had a detoxification center up in Cam Ranh Bay. That one closed. That wasn’t open very long. That was up north from us. And then they had a place called TC [Transportation Company] Hill. They built this huge facility—very nice—out in the middle of nowhere in Long Binh. I don’t know—didn’t last three months? They closed it, and refurbished the old Long Binh jail. And you know all the horror stories that came out of the Long Binh jail. They had to two double wire fences. They had two or three wards. They had two wards, I think for the regular jonesing people, and then they had to have an intensive care ward; because some people were so strung out that they became severely dehydrated, and they were having a lot more problems.

And, unfortunately, the jonesing symptoms and the symptoms for malaria are very similar. And they did have a death, because they thought this guy—and they were treating him for malaria—and—or they were treating him as a drug patient—because he tested—he was doing heroin as well as he had malaria. So they were treating him for the drug reaction and not treating him for malaria, and he died. So, you know, that caused problems. But they had three or four patients in that intensive care, because they had such severe reactions to the jonesing. But some of these people came into the army with addictions—some of them didn’t.

I had it figured out. Let’s say ten people—there were four of them that came in and they found Vietnam a wonderful place to get all these drugs. Four of them didn’t know anything about it, they tried it and they got caught, and they would never have a another problem. And then there was that other two people that were on the fence. They could go either way.

They had a special ward of—somehow they identified certain patients, and—that they were putting in some type of long term type program. One of them was this guy that I knew, and he was a charmer. He had been in—and some of these guys had been through some of these incredible drug treatment programs in the United States. They could tell you about the things going on in California and this and that. I’m going “Whoa!” But I mean, they knew the whole scene. But this one guy we all got—because he was just such a charmer. He had—he was always neat and clean and tidy, which was a real deal in itself in Vietnam. He had a manicure. He was—his haircut was great. His uniforms were pressed. And he could—he could talk, you know. And he was in this special program, and they really—but he could barely read and write. He came off the streets of Detroit, and all these bad family situations. His mother had been a prostitute and this, that, and the other. But they thought he was doing really, really well, because he’d stayed straight for about a month, you know.

And then he took one day—he thought he could take just a little bit of heroin, but he’d been off it for so long it just about killed him. And I was walking through the hospital. It was in early evening, and somebody said “Well, you know, Michael’s back on the ward. He overdosed.” And you know [laughs]—and they said, “You need to go. Somebody has to keep talking to him, because his respiratory system is going to shut down if you don’t keep him awake.” And they said “Don’t be nice to him either. Don’t be nice to him. He needs to know that he screwed up.” So I went in there and I must have spent two hours yelling at him. And he was “uh”, you know. And he got—he came out of it. He was fine. He was pretty straight. And then—but I saw—I was walking down the street outside our hospital one day. And he saw me coming, and he went to the other side of the street. He knew he would catch hell. And he did, you know.

TS:

Was that a surprise to have all the, you know, the drug issues when you were in Vietnam? Was that a surprise to you?

DG:

No.

TS:

No?

DG:

I had known it before I went. No. I had—that detoxification program had started and—What was happening—see, back in ’68 people were just trying to save their butts. They didn’t have time to sit there and smoke pot and do heroin. We were in a totally defensive posture from about ’70—the middle of ’70 to ’72. And all we did was stay in our little contained things. And these guys didn’t have to—and there were all these incredible rules. And you were sitting up here on guard duty, and somebody fired at you and unless it was—you were in imminent danger of being killed, you couldn’t fire back, you had to call your CO [commanding officer], and they had to call the village chief and it was—so you just sat there, you know. And waited—you waited it out—was basically—that was when the drug problems started, because they were out—the only was one place up near the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] was still kind of hot. The DMZ was kind of moving down. And then over to the west—in an area called An Loc—that was really hot.

But most of the—it was pretty much a defensive posture at that time. And this is when the drugs—I used to think it was so funny. We were over in the Long Binh jail and we had a little papa-san doing some work. And he was out there smoking his pipe and his little—his little heroin pipe—and [laughs] in front of our office. You know, oh my word.

It was a very severe problem. The military was detoxifying these people. And, you know, we had to answer inquires. And we, they—we could allow them to use our phone to call home on the MARS line. It was really sad in some cases, because there was this nineteen year old—and we didn’t have a lot of privacy—so he got—and he sat underneath my desk on the phone crying to his mother, telling her what he had done, and you know, that he had gotten into heroin. And a lot of them didn’t want to call home and tell them that, but for some reason he did.

You know, it was—somebody told me one time. They said, “Oh, I heard it was just overblown. It wasn’t a big deal.” It was a big deal. And somehow one day stuff ended up in our—we had all these duffel bags and we were emptying out. Oh, they said the Red Cross wants them—the Red Cross always wants everything. There was everything in there from a red high heel to—god only knows where this stuff came from. But they still—heroin came in little capsules about an inch high with a little screw-top cap. And it was pure heroin, 99% pure heroin. And we found some of them in this duffel bag. Because I think it was stuff that had been discarded at the ports of embarkation, or something like that. But it was pure heroin. You know, it was really—and they were smoking it, shooting it, and whatever else you could do with it. But that was kind of our main emphasis probably the last six months or so when we were in Vietnam.

TS:

You ever wonder what happened to a lot of those guys?

DG:

Oh yes. My field director and I said, “You know if we went to Detroit, we’d probably see half of our patients there.” We said “We’ve met the underbelly of Detroit here.” And I do wonder—like I said—I think there’s probably of the 100%, 40% of them ended up on drugs when they left, and there was 40% of them that’ll never do it again, you know. And then there’s that 20% in the middle that you probably—they could go either way. But you know what? You know, we had a whole team of people. We’d have group therapy with them every day. And the Red Cross people would sit in on it, and we had the nurses and the doctors and all this stuff. And we tried all these whiz bang programs trying to get them to listen, you know.

And do you know what we found out finally after—I don’t know—two years of people beating their head against the wall about what these guys would listen to? Myrtle Thompson—one of the nurses on our ward—finally started telling these guys “Do you know what’s going to happen when you go home and try to have sexual relationships?”

And they go “Well, you know, blah, blah, blah.”

You know, said, “Honey, you’re not going to be able to get it up.” Said “I know” —I don’t know if this is going to translate well on this—she said, “Because you—your system is depressed. You can’t—you know” She says, “You’re not going to be able to do it.” She says, “If you think you can, you get on heroin again, and you try to see what happens to you.” And we found all of a sudden every—all these guys just—I mean, it was like the lights came on, you know.

And the chaplain was sitting there. He was a Harvard educated guy, and he’d tried all these wonderful programs, and, oh, he was “Mr. Psychology”—you know, all this stuff. And the case, we had a case worker that was assigned there—military case worker. And they tried all these things, counseling, and all of a sudden and everybody showed up. Myrtle Thompson gave her sex lecture every day at three o’clock, and it was standing room only. So that was—Now isn’t that funny?

TS:

That is really interesting.

DG:

And they finally—that was the one thing that I saw that they all were interested in. You know, they’d come to the group therapies, they’d talk about their past lives, and all this. But this, I mean you could see—

TS:

Made a connection.

DG:

It made the connection. And I don’t know if any other therapeutic programs [laughter] have gone in that direction.

TS:

We’ll have to do studies.

DG:

I know, but—

TS:

Interesting.

DG:

But, you know, all these people that have these great ideas, and Myrtle just started it. Just you know—and she was a big black army nurse, married to a sergeant, and he was back home. But she, you know, she just told it like it was. And she said, “You know, you black guys think you’ve got it going on.” She said, “I see you in the bathroom out there.” You know. [laughs] But Myrtle could tell them like it was. But she was the most effective thing I saw that made these people—these guys really stand up and take notice—you know—these profound things. But that was the thing that made them aware—and, like you said, the connection.

TS:

Yeah. Well, when you were in Vietnam, was there anything that was particularly difficult, emotionally, for you?

DG:

Well, when I first got there, I couldn’t sleep for about three months, but I think that’s the Circadian rhythm thing. You’re on totally the opposite of your cycle—your sleep cycle. And I didn’t know about that then, but, because—I had thought about all these guys out in these little towers out there protecting the perimeter and all this. I think then after about three months my rhythm got into sync with it, and then I realized they were all out there smoking pot. [laughs] So I didn’t worry about them so much, you know. I probably should have been a little bit more concerned than I was, you know, especially towards the end. There were people—military—were driving around in their jeeps with their flak jackets on. And we were just walking down the street, fat, dumb, and happy.

TS:

So you never really concerned for your safety?

DG:

We did ask about—[laughs]

TS:

Okay.

DG:

You know, what we would do—and the best advice we got—was “take your mattress and put it over your head and jump to the floor.” You know, there were some times—it was—as it was winding down—there was a place called Bear Cat, which had been a major—it was like twenty-five miles from Long Binh. And it had been a major installation and it had been turned over to the Vietnamese. And we knew that it had been—once it went over to the Vietnamese it had been stripped for all resources. But they were concerned about the VC [Viet Cong, North Vietnamese soldiers] infiltration over there. And I don’t know—this was maybe a couple months before I left or so—they decided they were going to do B-52 bombings there. And, I don’t know, it was like three in the morning, and they were dropping these bombs twenty-five miles away. And, I mean, the earth shook. Books off the shelves, everything—everybody came running out of our little hutches—that’s what we called our quarters. And we didn’t know what was going on. We just—we would just look over the hill to see if they were coming you know. And I don’t know— somebody came and told us what was going on, but it was it was frightening, you know; because, we didn’t know you know what was happening. I mean I can’t imagine being at ground zero where that was going on. I just cannot imagine how terrifying that would be.

The friend of mine that got me the Twinkies, he was— [laughs] —he would take part of the guard periodically, so many days of the month, he was responsible, and his men were responsible for a certain area of the perimeter. And, you know, it was his worst fear that the perimeter was going to be overrun or something like that. And two days after he left [laughs] they did have—they hit one of the fuel tanks by the perimeter. When I— because he came in and out of country about the same time I did. And finally when I came back to the States he said, “Yeah. It didn’t happen on my watch.” But that was the biggest fear that, you know, that something would be—the perimeter would be overrun. But I think when you’re young and you just don’t know better, and I probably should’ve known better. If I’d known better I probably wouldn’t have gone. [laughs]

TS:

That’s true—that’s probably true. Well, did you get outside the base very much?

DG:

Oh yeah. We weren’t supposed to be out very much, but I went down to the south to Vung Tau. And I’d always heard about how gorgeous Vung Tau was. The beaches in Vietnam were really beautiful, beautiful white sand. And Vung Tau was south, it was about an hour’s drive. And it’s where the New Zealand Kiwis and the Australians were. They were notorious. We even had some Australian nurses at our hospital for a while. The Australian soldiers were just awesome in their little shorts and their socks and their hats. They had their hats up to one side. They were all like 6’4”. They were bodacious. They had the Kiwis and the Aussies right next to each other with a big fence. They didn’t get along well. But it was a beautiful beach down there.

I didn’t get—I didn’t get north at all. I went to Saigon several times, because it was a big—and I went over to another, like the plantation—another adjacent type military. And I went to Bien Hoa. And Bien Hoa is now closed, because the Agent Orange contamination is so bad. It’s just—you know—but they had a lot of Marines over there.

And they could—somehow people could tell if they—you could hear fire in the night and you could tell—some people could tell if it was incoming and outgoing. I could never, it was all boom, boom, but really knowledgeable people could tell if it was outgoing or incoming. But I wasn’t ever really seriously afraid, so—maybe I should’ve been, but I wasn’t. And I didn’t see—see I was in a totally different world than these donut dollies were. They were going out to the fire bases. I stayed in my little compound, and I knew I didn’t want to be there. [laughs] And they were in serious, serious danger a good deal of the time. So I didn’t do that.

TS:

Well, you were in a combat zone yourself, too, though.

DG:

Yeah there were possibilities, but they were taking these girls and they were putting them out there. And they generally didn’t put them in harm’s way, but things can happen when you’re doing that.

TS:

Did you ever ride in any of the helicopters?

DG:

Oh yes, you have to ride in a helicopter if you go to Vietnam.

TS:

Well, how was that? Did you—

DG:

It was kind of cool, because one time when we went—we went to Saigon—we went over to the MACV headquarters—no, that was the party. We went to the [laughs] —I don’t remember. We had a chopper pad right next to the hospital, so we could—we could just catch a flight there if we needed to be. And being in a hospital, we had a whole medevac unit that was assigned to our hospital. And so we got on there, and we went into Saigon. We were very low level, because you had to come down out of the flight zone. And we were—I don’t know how many feet just going over the paddies. But it was kind of cool. It was cool. And we were invited to an aviation unit party, and of course they picked us up in their helicopters and took us out to wherever it was, and then they brought us home. But I didn’t do a lot of flying.

TS:

Did you fly on anything else besides helicopters?

DG:

No.

TS:

Any of the planes?

DG:

No. Because they had helicopters—they had some fixed wing—but they didn’t have a lot of other fixed wing aircraft there.

TS:

Well, what did you do socially?

DG:

[laughs] Did a lot of partying. That was about the recreation activities. They had the pools there. They had the tennis courts. If you went to the pool the sun was so blistering hot you didn’t stay out very long. We worked six days a week, usually, with one day off. The nurses worked twelve hour shifts, so they were—you know—there was only two shifts of them. Then we had a small little bar type thing next to our—in our little hospital things.

And then if you wanted to be really up-town you went over to—they had a—the MPs [military police] had another bar. And so they had the best onion rings in the place. And then, really up-town they had I reckon a couple of big clubs, you know, there, and you went over there. And the big trick was to, you know, laugh at the girls when they wanted to go to the bathrooms. Like one night I went up there, and I said “I have to go to the bathroom.” They didn’t have any women’s bathrooms, so what the deal was the guy stood outside and wouldn’t let anybody go in. So you—and they just didn’t have any—so you had to have someone watch. And you’d open the door and there was nothing, but urinals in there. And you go, “Okay.” And here’s a whole two hundred men out here laughing at you, you know. And finally somebody, you know, one of the Vietnamese waitresses would come over and get you, you know. But you know, there’s got to be a bathroom here somewhere, you know.

TS:

Did they have one?

DG:

Yes, it was over here somewhere, but they, you know—

TS:

So they were playing a trick on you?

DG:

Yeah. They were playing a trick on you.

TS:

They do it once though, and then you’re—

DG:

Yes, they do it once. You do it once.

TS:

That’s good.

DG:

But we did go to the beach in Vung Tau, and we went—and the Red Cross would have some parties, and get-togethers in Saigon. And those were officially sanctioned and—

[End of CD 2—Begin CD 3]

TS:

Well, did you feel like you were treated really fairly while you were—the whole time you were in the Red Cross, with your opportunities and things?

DG:

Yeah, I was pretty happy. When we were at Fort Bragg, and we just didn’t have, you know—we kept losing people and losing people. And I got—you know—I was on call for ever and ever, you know. And I ran into some of these people when I was in Vietnam. And they go, “Well”. He said, “You were always working,” you know.

And I said, “Yes”. And I couldn’t take call from anywhere else.

It’s funny, because I met people in Vietnam, I mean just this whole microcosm of different people I’d known at Fort Polk, at Fort Bragg—just everywhere, you know. I met the guy who was the comptroller for Micronesia. I didn’t even know where Micronesia was. He was there buying excess equipment, because the military didn’t want to send it back to the U.S. They were closing these hospitals. He was buying all this equipment so they could take it to Micronesia and use it in their clinics. I met this guy who was Cuban— he was in the American military, but he’d been in the Bay of Pigs. He’s one of those people that the government paid fifty thousand dollars to get his behind out of Cuba. Interesting character, because that was when Watergate [Hotel scandal] was going on. And those were all his friends who were involved in Watergate—those Cuban guys you know.

TS:

Oh, yeah.

DG:

So I said, “I bet your buddies here got caught.” But just different people that I’d known in college—just all—standing on a street corner one time in Saigon this guy is—I looked over, and I’m going “Steve!” [laughs] I’d known him in college. He lived in the dorm across from me. I had known him at Fort Bragg, he was there. And so there he was just standing on a street corner in Saigon, you know.

TS:

Small world.

DG:

Yeah, so you know. You just ran into all these people.

TS:

That’s really neat. That’s really neat. Well about—had your feelings about the war, or anything, changed from the time?

DG:

Oh, yes.

TS:

Okay.

DG:

I had decided it was a terrible waste of human resources and other resources—all our other resources. I learned and I saw. It was pure waste. My eyes were opened, you know. And I saw what the government was doing there. And it finally—you know—and I suppose that’s what—you know—other people went and they saw. And they were—like at the end—they were closing our hospital down and they were building—What we had to do—we had this piece of plywood nailed to the back of these uprights. And we brought lawn chairs, and they had these benches to sit on for watching movies at night. They showed movies at the hospital.

And when we got ready to leave, they built this big covered thing with—concrete paved thing. They still had the same—then enhanced the screen thing. And we’re going—we sat out—well, what we’d do if it rained, we’d sit on either side of the corridors that went to the wards, and we’d watch movies. You know, but they were building—they built a brand new pharmacy. And this was all the month before they’d closed everything, because they had contracted to build these things. And they were taking inventory of what they were going to turn over to the Vietnamese, and they hadn’t built them. So it was either give the government money back or build it. So—and we’re going “This is insane.” So they built a new pharmacy. They built this covered thing and doing all these other things—and just the human waste. I mean just these people that just gave up their lives for this. I did—one thing I did see when I was there, I went to the last Bob Hope show. We took our patients, and it was great because they got front row seats, you know. It was interesting because he said, “Next year, I’m letting all of you guys come here to me to see me in Palm Springs [California]. If you’re still here next year, you’re coming home.”

And everybody goes “Yay!”

TS:

So even Bob Hope was changing his attitude a little bit.

DG:

Yes.

TS:

Interesting.

DG:

So he was—it was—you know—he—they were—I mean, he was—you know, the thing about it was he didn’t stay in Vietnam. He went—he stayed in Bangkok, went shopping, and he flew in by a big old helicopter every day there. But probably that was the saddest moment. If you could imagine—is standing in what they called Long Binh Bowl, which was this huge thing that held ten thousand people. At the end of his show they always sang “Silent Night.” If you can imagine standing there and hear all these people—it still brings a tear to my eye, I suppose. But it was very moving. [pause] But they all wanted to go home.

TS:

Yeah.

DG:

Yeah. They all wanted to go home, but here they were. And the funny thing is they come out before the show starts, and say “All you people, if anything happens—all of you people that are here—if anything happens you go this way. And all of you people on this side, you go this way.” Like, duh. But I think that was probably the most moving thing.

[emotional pause] Why am I doing this? It’s only been forty years. But that was probably the most moving thing. Of course he had the voluptuous females there. He had—at that time he had [baseball player] Vida Blue and different ones. One other celebrity came, that I saw. And he—a lot of the celebrities would not go to the drug treatment center. Miss America wouldn’t go. Miss Black America would go, but Miss America wouldn’t go. She did not feel it was appropriate. Sammy Davis Junior came, and he had Lynn Kellogg with him. She had been in the Broadway production of Hair. And here’s this long legged blonde, you know, with, oh there were all these guys. And we Red Cross girls were sitting there in our frumpy little blue uniforms going “hmm.” [laughs]

TS:

I’ve heard that before too.

DG:

Yeah. So she was—she sang, he sang, and he did a great show. And his wife, Althea [sic, Altovise]—I think his wife was there. But he came and did his thing, and he was one of the few entertainers I knew that would go to there.

TS:

To the—

DG:

Drug treatment center.

TS:

Oh, okay.

DG:

But who else was there? What else do we need to—what time is it getting to be? Oh, we’ve got time. But, you know, I didn’t see a lot of devastation. The one patient that I do remember that really bothered me was a guy who had tried to commit suicide. He had stuck a gun in his chin, and basically done a frontal lobotomy on himself. And they could put him back together, but he was never going to be a whole human being again. We had Vietnamese patients. And the nurses would get very frustrated with them, because, you know, they—we had translators of course. But they were—some of them were VC, and they weren’t really conducive to what was trying to be done for them.

TS:

So kind of combative? I mean like resisting what they were—

DG:

Well, they would put things in them, and they’d yank them out—like IVs and stuff like that. But you know—I can’t think of—there’s probably tons of other things. But our social life, like I said, revolved around the parties and the bar. And if you couldn’t—you got to the point where you just couldn’t—you did one of two things—you laughed about it, or cried about it. So everybody elected to laugh about it. And that was what you did, you know. And there were wild and crazy antics sometimes, but that was how you got through it, you know.

TS:

You’d said at the beginning when you were learning from people at Fort—I think it was Fort Bragg, you were at. When they were talking about when you go to Vietnam—don’t get attached.

DG:

Don’t fall in love.

TS:

Don’t fall in love.

DG:

But if you do it’s the best place in the world to get over it. [laughs]

TS:

Is that right?

DG:

I used to ask these guys in Vietnam—I said, “If you ended up in an atmosphere—where if you had 7,000 females, and you were one of the few males there. So would you date everybody you could, go out with everybody you could, or would you just stick to one or two different people?”

And invariably they all said, “I’d date everything I could” you know.

So I decided I would just stick to maybe two to three people in my lifetime. So—I did end up— it was so funny, because the guy who wrote me the letter that he was getting married—

TS:

Oh, right.

DG:

He was ended up—he was in Saigon. And because he was flying, he was in the air force, flying C-140s. I think that’s what they are—big old honkin’ planes. So we got together and had dinner. By that time—I don’t know if he’d gotten married or not; I think he had. But we had dinner, and that was okay. It was cool. He had a roommate in flight school, and I had known him because he had been at Fort Pope [sic, Pope Air Force Base]—next to Fort Bragg. And he came out to visit me. So all these people I knew from everywhere—and that I’d gotten in contact with, and you know that, type of thing. What were we talking—

TS:

You were having this dinner with this—

DG:

Friend?

TS:

The friend.

DG:

Yeah, it was nice. We were having it at the BOQ—the BOQ. We were just sitting on top. They had a place where you go and have dinner and just sit up there, and see the firing tracers or something going across the city. We got locked up there, so we had to find a way to get down through the kitchen. I said “I can’t spend my night up here on the top of this roof,” you know. But it was a place where you saw everybody coming through for one thing or another. Are there any more questions?

TS:

[laughs] So did you serve like a full year there?

DG:

Yeah. We were there a full year. And then you were—you had to, at the very end, because everything was kind of winding down. And they were saying—they were asking us if you had to go—if you went back to the states, how long—could you go without working, because they were having hard time placing these people. And they did everything in their power. If you were coming back from Vietnam they were giving you where you wanted to go. And that was the one ace in the hole; because, they figured in a hardship tour, and that you had priorities. So I looked at my big old southeastern schedule there to see where I wanted to go. And I picked Charleston, South Carolina, because I thought it was nice. It wasn’t too far from where my mother lived, you know. So I chose Charleston, and went back to Charleston from there.

TS:

So how was that, this was ’72?

DG:

Yeah, ’72. And they signed the whatever—the peace treaty in January ’73 [Paris Peace Accords]—and that’s when they started, you know, evacuating the embassy. And they were pushing helicopters off the end of aircraft carriers [This was done during the 1975 Operation Frequent Wind to make room for the overwhelming number of evacuation aircraft landing aboard waiting aircraft careers]. I just couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. I think that happened in ’74 actually, when everything was just—the embassy was overrun and that type of thing. [The United States Embassy was overrun by North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong during the April 30th, 1975, fall of Saigon.]  

TS:

So what did you think about—when you came back home—the environment in the United States? I’m pretty sure probably changed somewhat.

DG:

Especially in Charleston.

TS:

Oh, okay.

DG:

Well, not in Charleston per say. I had worked with the army ever since, and here I went back to the navy. And the navy is a bit stiff, you know. [laughs] And I was staying at the navy BOQ in Charleston. And after working with the army at Fort Polk and the army in Vietnam, I mean we were really—I mean it was really a loose atmosphere. And then you come back to these—you know—everything was just—these people were [laughs].

And I would go down in the evening and have dinner at the BOQs. I didn’t know where to go—that type of thing. And these people—I mean—they were just so stiff. And finally I was having dinner with this navy captain—there was a whole group of us—you know, they made you all sit in a little group. And he was the CO of some type of ship. I should—I didn’t know anything about the navy except my mother had been a navy nurse, and I had to learn all the stripes and stuff like this. So he was very nice, very polite, and he offered to take me on his ship. And I go, “Am I supposed to do this?” You know, and it was fine.

But there was this other guy sitting at the end of the table. He was from my home town. And he just, you know, I mean you find somebody from your hometown—you’d like to talk about it, you know?

TS:

Sure.

DG:

He was just no.

TS:

Well there was only 968 people you said, right?

DG:

Well, this was in Morehead City. There were about five thousand people there. In fact, his father’s home was like—ours were on this corner, and his was down here. I mean, but he didn’t want to talk. Most people you meet from your home state they want to talk about it.

TS:

Yeah, state. That’s all you need is a state.

DG:

Oh no, they were all just very sedate you know.

TS:

Interesting.

DG:

So it was an adjustment.

TS:

Sure.

DG:

And we had an older hospital there, but while I was there they built a brand new hospital so—and the older hospital had a recreation facility. But then the newer one did not have the big recreation halls like the older World War II vintage hospitals did. And we did a lot of work with dependents there. And by this time, Vietnam was virtually a non-entity. They had started some substance abuse programs there too. But they navy, I don’t think, had the problems that the army did with their substance—theirs was more alcohol related. So they didn’t have problems that the army had as far as heroin. Because they—these people were on ships; they didn’t have the access like the army guys did.

TS:

So what were you thinking about for your career, and what you wanted to be when you grew up? Were you still thinking about that?

DG:

Well, at that point, I had—I’d met my husband and I got married. And so he was in the navy.

TS:

Did you meet him in Charleston?

DG:

Yes.

TS:

Okay.

DG:

And so, you know, at that point your career thing changes, you know, because he was going to be in the navy. And he wanted to be in there, so I would go where he did. But after—in ’78 I decided I’d had enough of this [laughs], and I resigned. Because I just really—being on call, doing all this stuff, you know, it was hard, because when they brought the USS Yorktown into Charleston to set up a museum there and everything. I had call, I couldn’t go. This ship had all these launches and everything. They were going out to greet it, and I had to work.

You know, and everything was—I always had to be on call, you know. And he was—at one point he was a radiological control officer on one of these ships. And we—sometimes weekends, it was insane. They were calling him. They were calling me. We bought a motor home so we could just go out and sit in the state park somewhere, so nobody could reach us, you know. Because it was always, “I’m sorry. I’m not on call this weekend, but if you’ll call this person—”

“Oh yeah I see, down there.”

It was just nuts. So [laughs] so this being on call, and I just, I said “I’ve had it,” you know. And I knew we’d be leaving with his change of assignment or something like that. And he ended up getting out of the navy, so we tooted off to Washington State. And, you know, after that—a few months after that. So—but it was an interesting part of my time there.

TS:

Well what—if you’re looking back and you’re thinking about [pause]—well, if you think back about the veterans who served in Vietnam. And now the way you talk about the drug problem. Did you have any thoughts about—for a long time there was a—and there may still be—a homeless problem with Vietnam veterans.

DG:

Yeah. You know, it’s interesting, because when—back then they had programs that were in effect that they aren’t around anymore. Because even Red Cross and their chapters did some of this processing for their veterans benefits, but the Red Cross has had to get out of that business in most places, because they don’t have the money to support that. The military—like in Charleston—they had—we had Marines that took care of helping—they had—he was a veterans affairs person, and he would help the [U.S.] Navy and the Marine people getting out on medical discharge. They were helped.

And you heard the thing about the problems up at Bethesda [Naval Hospital], because these horrible wards and all this stuff. Well, those have been around for years, and they’re old and decrepit. Well, we had some old and decrepit ones when we were at Fort Polk and at Fort Bragg. But these people—basically, these people were outpatient type people, and they would just go back at night and go to sleep there. And then they’d—if they had to have treatments during the day, they’d go get treatments, and then they hung out at the Red Cross playing cards and pool and ping pong all day. So they didn’t spend a lot of time—they weren’t the greatest quarters in the world, but they spent their life at the Red Cross recreation facilities.

They don’t have those in hospitals anymore. But they had some services, and I think when Vietnam ended they just got rid of all those, because, one thing, there wasn’t the need. But I do think there’s probably a lot of residual things left over from the war. The drugs—the experiences these people had. I did find in some cases—I’m not saying all of them—but some of these guys in our drug treatment facilities, or detoxing, tend to exaggerate some of their experiences. And that’s not all of them. But they would be—they were blaming other people for their things—their problems. Not all of them, but there was a good number of them that did.

Some of them just came from—because this was the draft—we had the draft going on there. So you just drew from all sorts of people, where I don’t know what kind of caliber—I haven’t worked with the military since then, so I don’t know what kind of caliber people you’ve got in the military right now. But they had everything there from PFCs [Private First Class] with master’s degrees in [laughs] foreign language. I know this guy who processed our R&R stuff. He had a master’s degree in oriental languages or something—couldn’t get a dinner in Hong Kong. [laughs] But I mean he just wanted to go in, do his two years, and get out. And so they would go in and take these lowly jobs. Highly educated, but, you know—but they just—because the draft required them to do this, so you had a full gamut of people there.

TS:

Interesting. Well—

DG:

Have I talked too much?

TS:

Absolutely not. You talked a little bit about your feelings of change about the war, how about your feelings of change—or maybe not—about some of the leaders? Like we had LBJ [President Lyndon Baines Johnson] and then [President Richard] Nixon, and—

DG:

Well, everybody was loving Nixon. I mean the people—I think what happened was we’d hear—some of the guys would go home and they would—like our hospital staff—would go home. And they were so upset, because, you know, people just did not like the military. And Jane Fonda [Jane Fonda famously disparaged the United States during a visit to North Vietnam, and questioned the character of returning American prisoners of war], and her thing you know.

Because these people are over there doing their best, and they didn’t want to go to Canada, you know. They just wanted to do their thing, because they were drafted, or they were going to be drafted. They just wanted to do their thing and go home. And the country was calling them pigs and all these things. They felt really—you know—they were just disgusted by it, you know. But now, see, we love our military. It’s a whole different ball game, you know. And finally they have learned you don’t yell at the military. You go for the leadership, you know.

And that was the thing. I think they liked Nixon, because he got us out of Vietnam. And that was the big thing. But I think that’s when people—everything came out later on with [former Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara, because it was so funny, when I went back to Vietnam. I don’t know when was it—2004, 2003—the tour company that did these tours was housed in [General William] Westmoreland’s old headquarters.  And it was kind of—I don’t know—weird is the only word I can say for it, you know. Westmoreland had lived in Charleston when I was there, because he retired there. He lived down on the Battery. I think after everything came out and you know, people—and that’s what they’re so afraid of what’s going on now. It’ll go on and on, and we always contended that if you cut off the air conditioning everyone would go home. [laughs]

TS:

Maybe so, maybe so. Well, do you have anything that you want to add that we haven’t covered? And maybe you want people to know about your experience that we haven’t talked about?

DG:

I consider it one of the few things I did in my life that I wouldn’t ever give anything for. You know, there’s a couple things I’ve done in my life. One of them was get in and out of college. Getting out is the real—and having gone to Vietnam. Because one day when I was in Vietnam, I got on the wrong bus going the wrong way—or I don’t know where it was going—and I just got off, and I was standing on a street corner in civilian clothes and my suitcase. And I said, “If I ever get out of here, I can do anything.” [laughs] And you know you’re standing on a street corner in a war zone place. So, I did get out of there and so—you know how I got out of there?

This colonel in a staff car with a driver came by. And he said “Do you need help?”

And I go, “Yes!” [laughs]

He said, “Where are you going?”

I said “BOQ One.” And of course he lived there, because all the big muckity-mucks lived in BOQ One. I said “I just need to go there.”

He said “Fine, come on,” so he took me there.

But I’m just standing there “if I ever get out of this,” —I think it gave you a certain amount of self confidence that if you could do certain things in your life, you could do about anything. That’s my reflection on it.

TS:

Well, let me ask you, also, why did you go back to Vietnam?

DG:

Oh my gosh, I had to go back and see, because I felt so incredibly despondent about that reeducation program—when the Vietnamese took over South Vietnam—that I just—these people were so smart, and they were so entrepreneurial. And then these people were just taking all these wonderfully talented individuals, and sticking them in these places so they could brainwash them, you know. Because I had a secretary—we had a secretary that—this before we all had computers—and she was so smart. And she would come to me, and we’d have to write these letters. She’d have to type. She was a little—you know, with the commas and the semicolons—she wasn’t really good on that. But spelling, she’d come to me and say “Miss Diane, I think you spelled Cincinnati wrong.”

I said, “You’re probably right, Miss Kim. I do not know how to—”

But she was so—you know, they were so smart. And when we got ready to leave, we gave her all of our stuff that we’d had there. We gave her money and ketchup. That was the one thing she [laughs] —we got like a gallon of ketchup. She really liked ketchup. And her family lived up in Da Lat, which was a cooler area. And she wanted—they had a generator, but she wanted an electric blanket for them. So we ordered one from Sears and Roebuck. Sears and Roebuck was our lifeline there.

But it just—when I saw all these things they were doing to these people. And then I heard, you know, that the reeducation camp wasn’t working, so they relaxed all that. And I wanted to go back and see, because I had talked to people that had been. And they were telling me that, “Oh, they love the Americans”. And they’re just going ninety miles an hour and they said—this is before they established relations— “The Americans want to get back over there, because there’s money over there.”

So they reestablished relations. So I went with a tour over there. And it was interesting, because, of course, I’d never been to North Vietnam. And they don’t believe they ever tortured anybody. Okay. And North Vietnam and South Vietnam, it’s all one big Vietnam now—are two different places. The north is—its cooler of course. We went up to Ha Long Bay, which is up on the Chinese-Vietnamese border. And it’s really an interesting sort of mysterious place with these big of sea stack sort of things like you have in Seattle and Oregon, like, on that coast there. Not Seattle, but on the Oregon coast you know. But we went up there and then they had this resort they took us to. And I think there’s some Disney money, because there was these little packets of things like tissues and things that came from the Disney corporation. And they’re trying to push all this development up north and it’s not happening. Well, it’s happening—it’s being forced.

But if you go down south in the Saigon—and all those Da Nang—and all those— it’s going ninety miles an hour, because, one thing, it’s warmer. [laughs] But they just— they’re trying to make this, you know, just the up and coming thing. And they do have beautiful beaches. They have just some incredible scenery, you know. They have no birds, because people eat the birds. I didn’t really recognize this until one of the people on our tour was going, “Uh, do you notice there are no birds here?”

And we go, “Oh, yeah” because they eat the birds. And people in the north are thin and skinny—people in the south are fat. Not all of them are fat, but you never see any fat people in the north. And our tour guide and her husband—he joined us—they have—the communists are still in charge, but you’d never know it. They have the regular, like, communist jobs, and then they have what they call their left hand jobs, and this is where they make money. Because she was—she had some—she had—both of them had gone to school in the U.S., Long Beach State and Syracuse. And he had a master’s in business. And he was—

[phone rings]

TS:

Let me pause it.

[recording paused]

DG:

The husband of this—one of our tour guides—she was younger, and he was a little bit bigger built than everybody. And it seems his family during—because they had famines in North Vietnam—that they were kind of higher up in the political echelons there in the communist thing. And they had access to food—more food than most of the people did. So he was, you know, sturdily built.

And so—but the other guide—she was probably fifty-five or so, when we were there. And so she had been a “resistance”. That’s what they called it. She had lived in Saigon, but she had been—she was born in Vietnam. She went to study and lived in Paris until she was thirteen, then she came back to Vietnam. And her family was in the “resistance”, so they were spies for the VC.

So, you know, she was they were—the Vietnamese contend that they were never tortured—that they never tortured the American military. And you go, “Hmmm, have you seen John McCain lately?” [laughs] And, you know, I know we did it. I said, “It’s war, let’s leave it at that,” you know. And so I mean that was it.

But they have—they kept a part of the old Long Binh—not the old—the Hanoi Hilton, you know, where they had all the torture and everything. But right next to it is this big sparkly granite marble mall. I mean it’s high end, you know. And so—but they preserved a part of it, and they have an exhibit there. But if you go the north is—you know—it’s a little bit more cloudy. The weather is kind of, you know, like, you know, it’s like seventy-two degrees during the day. And it gets cooler at night. But then we went down the coast, and they had just started this new train going down the coast and went to Hue. And then we went to Da Nang, and then we went on down and were in Saigon.

And Saigon is going ninety miles an hour. It is just gung ho. And so it was so funny, because the people in my tour said, “Did it look like this when you were here?”

I said, “No way.”

I mean, there were things that—They had this cathedral there. And I said—and you know—I drove around, because we—the guy that was a Cuban—he drove us around one day, and he was showing us stuff. And I really don’t remember that big church thing, you know. And they had these—and they had some parks, but they didn’t have any grass. Everything was—now there’s these big beautiful parks with flowers. I mean, it was beautiful. And these just the hotels were just great, you know.

So just—it was just a wonderful place, but all these little shops and all the people—if you walked in there you would not know this was a communist controlled country. I saw very little—you know, I didn’t feel very intimidated by what was going on at all—except we lost the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] when we were there. When—I think it was when we were at the UN [United Nations] saying they had weapons of mass destruction, and we were going to bomb Iraq or something like that.

We were all, “Oh my god, here I am on a communist country, what’s going to happen?”

We did lose—for twenty-four hours we did lose the BBC, because that was all we could get that we could understand. So we were like, “Oh, what’s going on?” So everyone was emailing back home. [laughs] You know it was—they were doing—somebody in our group wanted to go down and do a protest at the embassy. And I’m going, “No, you don’t go protesting in a communist country.” You know, just—you know, keep it low.

But we did go— I don’t know if you knew about this, but in ’97 there was a doctor in Charlotte that put together a bicycling trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh [City], which was Saigon. And he got veterans—all able-bodied veterans, some disabled veterans. They had these recumbent bicycles that they did. And they took—it was quite a trip. I don’t remember how many days it was, but he led this group from Hanoi all the way down. And I saw—it was a documentary that was done, and the guys did fine until they got at the DMZ, because they didn’t know anything about northern Vietnam. But then they got—different ones of them kept having their experiences as they went down. And that’s when it became very, very difficult for them, because all these things were coming back to them.

TS:

When they got into—

DG:

The southern—

TS:

—the south, okay.

DG:

We went to a—I can’t remember what the office was, but it was a guy who had worked with this bicycle group. It’s a group of Americans that are there in Vietnam working. They’re trying to do—find the land mines, and all these different things. Agent Orange is just a horrendous problem. It caused a lot of birth defects among the people. So they’re trying to do some work with that, and locate the mines and things. But it was interesting going back and seeing, you know, and I was—and everybody in that place has a motor scooter. They have very few cars. But they just—everybody has a motor scooter, and they’re all going every which way. But they’re doing well. I was glad to see that.

TS:

Yeah—still entrepreneurial.

DG:

Yeah, and, you know, they’ve got their own thing. And they’ve just, in fact, I got a little sick, when I was there. And I had to have a Vietnamese doctor come and see me, and basically gave me some really water type—had some type of stuff to hydrate me well, and give me some stuff. But, I mean, he charged me less than what my co-pay was if I was at home [laughs]

TS:

I’m sure.

DG:

He had worked with the Americans when he—and he spoke fluent English, and he had worked with the American doctors when he was here—when they were there. So he was a very nice doctor.

TS:

Interesting.

DG:

But the doctors evidently had to decide. They worked in the clinics for everybody, but then at night they held private hours. So that was their ‘left-hand job.’ So that’s the way the whole society was: you had your government communist party job, and then you had your left hand job, where you actually made money.

TS:

That is interesting. So when you reflect on that, what do you think about the difference between—?

DG:

Once again, you say “Why did we do this?” There—I mean it’s like China right now, because see that’s what Vietnam did. They looked at China and go, “These people are making money. They’re communist,” you know, and “why can’t we make money?” There are all these U.S. factories there. I bought my husband silk Polo shirts for twelve dollars, you know. And Polo Ralph Lauren, they’ve all got these places there. And these people had rather work for two dollars a day in one of these factories than, you know, whatever they get paid out in the rice paddies. All these factories are all over Vietnam. And the people would rather work there—some of them work both. They make money in the factories, and they go out and work in the rice paddies.

And they do not want to work in the rice paddies. They hate it. It’s a back breaking job, you know. But it kind of reminds me—the feelings of the south and the north—you know, there’s this thing of the—the north is ruling, Hanoi is the capital. And the south is where it’s all happening. It kind of reminds me of that old contentious saying about the southerners, you know—and the Yankees and the rebels and—you know—no matter what the Yankees do—the rebels— [laughter]—it’s that type of thing—

TS:

Sure, regional competitiveness.

DG:

Right. And, you know, the southerners go, “Fine, everybody’s here. We’re doing a booming business and you guys are pouring all this money—”

Because I did ask this guy that was telling us about the bicycle trip. I said—because I wanted to go to an old military installation—just like Long Binh and see what was there. But, of course, you can’t do that without great whatever. I said, “What happened to—”—because we left the equipment there, because it wasn’t worth sending home, you know. And they said they took it all North. So it was just left out. So anything that was useable, you know, they took it all north.

The Vietnamese—the ones in the south—they’re just going right along you know. I just—I thought it was such a shame that they stuck them in these “reeducation camps”, you know, because they were so smart. And I told them. I said I just wanted to come and see that they had recovered. And it’s kind of like, why do we even bother? And the French had had a big—see they—my Vietnamese secretary told me.

She said, “Well, if it wasn’t the French,” because they fought with the—the French were there for a hundred years. In fact, the French gave them their alphabet—their Latin-based alphabet. And they hated the French, because they treated them like slaves, you know. But evidently, I reckon, when the Americans came they just had somebody new to hate. So she said, “Well, if we’re not fighting the French, and we’re not fighting the Americans; we’ll just fight with each other.” Which was true, the north and the south kind of just fought with each other.

TS:

Interesting. Well you gave me some great stories. I really appreciate it. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

DG:

I don’t know. I don’t think there’s—I can show you my things I have there.

TS:

Oh yeah, let’s take a look. Let me do a stop here. And I’m going to—Well, thank you very much.

[End of Interview]