The Saigon Affair
Now in the spring of 1972, the streets to the prison camp were all bare and muddy; I rode to Saigon from the prison camp. We passed a truck loaded of captured Vietcong on the road, and I looked at them and the countryside there beyond. The trees were sparse and the grass was tall and it all was of a yellowish-green, to dark ไซง่อน vip green-greens, with tints of brown in-between. There was wet dead grass on the road from the wide rows of tall shrubbery along the edges of the side road, and Vietnamese women were working alongside the opposite side of the road, in a nearby rice field, a few men with oxen, plowing to and fro, making ruts, as our jeep crushed stone and rock and in-between wild wet grass between each axle.
It had been raining in the area for a week straight. We came into Saigon past the factories and nightclubs and then residential houses and villas on the many narrow streets. I was Lieutenant Colonel Cooper’s driver, Staff Sergeant John J. Weber. The Colonel’s face was long and thin, droopy eyes, long arms, small shoulders, walked slowly with his hands half curled up, he took small steps when he walked; I didn’t not know him all that well. I stopped the jeep at the Officers Club on the Air Base in Saigon. I got out of the jeep I handed him his bag full of papers-and he went inside to see the one star General.
I walked down the gravel driveway looking at the club and over towards some barracks, through an alley smoking one after the other cigarettes-just trying to spend time. Then I went back to the club, went inside, found the Colonel with the General, three hours had passed, he was sitting at a table in a back room with maps and all kinds of paperwork about.
“Hello,” he said to me when he saw me. “General,” he added, “This here is Staff Sergeant Weber, my driver.”
The General looked much older than what he was; his face was dried up like a prune. “Sergeant Weber was a Licensed Psychologist before coming into the Army, why he never became an officer is beyond me,” query the Colonel.
“I’m fine being a Sergeant,” I said. And the General said, “How is everything Sergeant?” adding, “The war is just about over, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “Colonel, do you want me to make arrangements for your quarters this evening, or are we going back?”
“What do you wish me to do General?” he asked.
“You haven’t been up here for awhile, I’d guess Colonel,” said the General, “have you?”
“No,” said the Colonel.
“I believe it,” remarked the General.
“It has been bad at the secure unit (meaning the military incarceration compound or center outside of Saigon).”
“I’ve always felt you were lucky to get that assignment, away from the ongoing fighting, and attacks-the real war.”
“I suppose I was, or am…” whispered the Colonel.
“Next year it will be worse, we’re going to making a major drawback, and the VC (Viet Cong) will attack more readily and heavily I assure you. It is too late to save the country.”
“Yes, I believe so,” stated the Colonel.