Woman of Saigon (1966-1967)
By Lt.Col USAF (Ret) Hank Brandli
        When I flew from Boston on Thanksgiving day and got to Saigon-Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, South Vietnam- in 1966, it was very hot, like a steam bath, ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit.  My friend, Jim, met me at the plane and took me in a jeep into the city, the Paris of the Orient.
        During this ride, I was “scared shit”.

      We parked the jeep on a main street –Nguyen Hue, walked down a back alley, up five flights of stairs, down an outside corridor and stopped at an apartment.  It was a two bedroom, small bath pad he shared with another USAF captain.  I spent my first night on a cot in Jim’s small room at 129a Duong Nyuen Que.
    The top floor (7th) of this apartment building consisted of one apartment, three bedrooms that were occupied by four weather personnel.  Jim told me he was next in line for a bed in this “penthouse apartment”.
In the meantime, he was stuck in his present abode with Captain Donnie, General Westmoreland’s personnel weather briefer.  Donnie also had a penchant for Vietnamese women or whores, as Jim described it.                             
        The first night I was there was typical of this fact.  Shortly after dark, as Jim and I sat in his bedroom talking, the door opened and there was an Air Force Captain in fatigues.  Jim introduced me to him (Donnie) and we made small talk for a short time.  Donnie excused himself, went to shower and got into something comfortable. 

     Suddenly, I heard giggling and a knock on the door.  Jim got up , opened the door, and let two young Vietnamese girls enter. As they laughed to themselves, he said to them, “this is new Daiqui (Vietnamese for Captain)- called Hank.” 

      I bowed, not knowing anything better to do.  Don, from the back of the small apartment, yelled for the girls to come to him.  I could see through the doorway in the back.  I could see them removing all their clothes.  Completely naked, they climbed into Donnie’s bed.  He had been in the bathroom during this time, then came out and joined them.

         A curtain separated our rooms, but I could see figures through them.  The giggling went on and on.

    Jim and I got ready to retire for the night. Once the lights were out, he whispered from his bed to where I was lying on the cot and said, “Welcome to Saigon, Hank.” 

          I just lay there staring at the ceiling, numb!!

            Not all the girls in Saigon were whores; and not all the bar girls were necessarily whores.  Some of them were married.  Some of them were supporting a family, relatives, on the salaries they made hawking drinks in the many bars around the city.

        Of course, the attractive girls – and there were a lot of them – could make a fortune in the bars having the GI’s buy them Saigon teas, which were nothing more than watered down cokes or watered down tea for the price of $1 a throw.

          Buying a girl five or ten drinks was nothing for a GI out on the town. The GI’s themselves would be drinking American beer or hard liquor, and they would spend $10 to $20. It was nothing in one of these bars in a short time.  A lot of these bar girls would have three or four guys going at one time, buying them drinks. The guys would be giving them a little squeeze; every once in a while one of the girls would take a guy in the back if they offered money, and have intercourse with them on the floor in a room, sometimes right at the table; there were things going on under the table, where a girl would have her hand under the table and she would masturbate a guy while he was having a few drinks.

     It was really wild, the whole place was like another planet; in fact, it used to surprise me that so many of the young and the old guys acted like they were on another planet; like they were never indeed going to meet their wives and kids, or their girl friends back in the States again.

     So many guys I have met since then, and I know what they were doing.  I know what kind of carrying on was going on. Most of their wives never knew about it, or their kids and it has bothered them for years.  This attitude existed by this cross section of American workers in Saigon in that time frame.

           To make themselves look attractive – at least they thought they made themselves look gorgeous – the Vietnamese girls would dress very western, with the miniskirts, the boots, they would dye their hair, they would have silicone injections in their breasts like Carol Doda– all these bizarre things that they did to themselves to increase their productivity, you might say, or their commercial value.

      The ironic thing was that the Vietnamese girls themselves were very attractive, very petite, and if they wore their native dress, the oudai, and kept their beautiful black hair natural, they were very pretty girls; they didn’t have to go to this western garishness they thought was so attractive.  Of course, it was attractive to some of the guys and you would see them strutting around the city with some of these girls. 

  Jim used to say, “when you first get here, most of the women look like they got hit in the face with a shovel, but after two weeks, they all look like Ann Margaret”.

       Many of the GI’s fell in love with these girls. I know they fell in love with them for different reasons, but mostly it was because the girls would do anything to please Americans.  They were very submissive, and some Americans liked this.  They couldn’t even carry on a conversation with these girls, and yet they would be jumping in the rack with them and they thought this was terrific.  We had one roommate that used to bring a girl back to our apartment every night.  He was married and he felt guilty so he tried to get Jim and I or any other guys in the apartment to do the same.  It galled the hell out of him that we didn’t shack up with these girls.

            “Do you really enjoy it that much with her?” I used to ask Chuck.
“You can’t even carry on a conversation with her”.

        He did admit that he really did not like her but he felt, what the heck, he jumped in the rack with her once, so whether he got laid once or a thousand times what difference would it make. That was a common rationale that prevailed throughout the city.

         One of the worst problems with this sexual promiscuity was the R&R. Some GI’s would go to Hawaii to see their wives for a few days and have sex with them. This activity only increased their sexual frustration when they returned. 

        Jim and I and many other guys decided not to take R&R to visit our wives. Our reasoning was after living several months abstaining from sex, not having any sexual encounters, it was better to continue our monastic condition until we returned to the states.

        We all had desires, but there were other ways of channeling our sexual urges.  We sometimes gave a girl a hug or grabbed at her ass but we drew the line at what we felt was innocent sexual release; we never partook in the sex act. Sometimes just having a sexual discussion with the Vietnamese or American girls helped our pent-up frustration.

         After Jim left, I started something at our apartment; a weekly strip show. I felt this was a compromise that could satisfy our urges and yet keep us faithful to our families at home.  It worked to some extent but in some cases it backfired.

              I approached an older woman in her 40’s who spoke English and was the procurer or the Mama-San of many attractive whores.  I asked her if it would be possible for her to get me a couple of girls that would strip for us in the apartment to a tape I had of Frank Rose’s “The Stripper”, a very popular rendition that was used at burlesque houses all over the country.  She laughed at first.  She thought it was kind of ridiculous; in fact, after a couple of weeks, she confessed the girls would rather shack up with everybody in the apartment than to take off their clothes for the same amount of money.  I found this to be peculiar that they would rather have sex with strange men than to just dance around and take off their clothes.

       I had a bed in one of the large rooms off the kitchen where a girl could do her little act and be watched by about 15 or 20 guys.  No one was going to rape her.

           The Mama-San finally agreed to this and brought in one girl who had a terrific figure and was fairly attractive – not beautiful but she wasn’t bad.  She came into the apartment and I told her we would pay her a thousand piastres (1000 p), which was a little less than $10, if she would take off all her clothes to a tape which I played.  I showed her what I wanted her to do; in fact, she only had to do this for 15 minutes.  They giggled and laughed and talked, and finally agreed.
      That Friday, I had 10 or 12 guys in the apartment. I charged them each about fifty cents. We had beer and drinks, and had the tape recorder blasting.  I brought out this girl and introduced her, and we had a little strip show there, and everything went fine and the guys loved it. 

               So I did this once or twice again, and it was really great.
A couple of different things, however, happened. One night Mama-San said she was going to bring a new girl who was very attractive with a terrific body.  We were in the kitchen and the Mama-San told her to take off all her clothes so I could see what she looked like.

      I enjoyed this! I have to admit- I enjoyed this whole business. I felt like a big-shot Hollywood casting agent watching as the girl proceeded to take off all her clothes. 

               Just then one of my roommates, the lieutenant in the back, came in the room.  He was very horny all the time; he was shacking up with everybody in the city. He got all excited when he saw this girl, and he said, “I will give you 500 p. if I can take her in the room right now.

   So the Mama-San said, “Fine”.

  He put down 500 p, took the voluptuous girl in back, jumped in the rack, went at it for about 40 seconds, came out, took a shower; put his clothes on, and that was it.  Slap –bang -it was over.  To this day I laugh like hell.  Bob was really the quickest guy I had ever seen in the sexual act; in fact, we talked about this months later, how he did have a terrible problem with premature ejaculation. I had a long talk with him about it and I was trying to cure him of it, of different things I had read and known. We had many wild sexual discussions while we were roommates. He was one of four roommates that I had; he was a bachelor. I didn’t blame him for what he was doing. He enjoyed these girls and he just enjoyed having sex with them and he had sex with as many as he could.

     Of course, he contracted a hell of a lot of venereal diseases-STD’S; he had more pills on his counter than a pharmacy, and this didn’t bother him.  It bothered the hell out of me, though. I used to be nervous every time I went into the john that I was going to contract one of these Southeast Asia gonorrhea cases from my roommate Bob.

      One case with a stripper really bothered me. It was the only case where I felt personally responsible for a “straight arrow” going home un-straight.

    John lived below me and had been there for a whole year.  He went out with us many times.  He lived with another guy in the apartment below us.  He had never shacked up with anybody while he was over there.  In fact, he told me many times how he was determined to be straight the whole year he was there.

     Well, just about a week before he left, he had been drinking real heavy the last week or so, and he was up in my apartment.  The girl that was there on this particular night was really something else.  She was French-Vietnamese and had an unbelievable figure; I’ll bet she probably had a 38 or 39 D chest, and she was very willing to do this dance routine to the music.  She did, and she was running around bare assed in the apartment, and she was really turning on old John, I could see that. 

          Well, the girl was supposed to leave, and we were going to the International House for dinner. The party broke up about 9:00 or 9:30 and everybody made his way out of the apartment and down the stairs.  I was supposed to get John.  I couldn’t find him. I went down to his apartment, knocked on the door and there was no answer.  I walked away and I heard a little grunting in the corner.

         I walked around to the side of the apartment and looked in the window and there was John in the rack with this girl that had just stripped for us.  Well, for the next week John had the look of the cat that swallowed the canary.

            The poor guy, I found out afterward that when he went back to the states, he ended up getting divorced.  He got out of the service and I think maybe part of his problem was that encounter he did in the sixth floor apartment in Saigon in June of ’67 or whenever it was. 

              There were a lot of American girls in Saigon that were working for companies and were also living with the Americans.  Some of these affairs became true love affairs. 

          One in particular; the girl’s name was “Bobbie” O-----.  She was our “weather girl” on television.  She was a beautiful blonde girl that worked for the American Red Cross.  She lived in the McCarthy BOQ, right next to us.

       I used to coach her on the weather and drive her to some of our various Weather Service functions. I even brought her up to my penthouse apartment. She was stunning and sexy with a gorgeous body; I know I was very attracted to her.  I often wondered what I would have done if I had encountered her in a compromising situation………..that’s another story.

         But, anyway, Bobbie met this Army doctor, and fell in love with him.  They were inseparable for many, many months.  I thought they were going to get married.  He supposedly was single.  She left to go back to the States and he left also.  Three months later, a friend of ours sent us a newspaper clipping where Bobbie had killed herself; committed suicide in Seattle, Washington, or some place in the northwest, because she was despondent over her relationship. Evidently, this doctor did not want to marry her and she took her own life.  That was just one of the sad instances of a love affair gone wrong.

         Another one involved an American reporter who worked for a very big newspaper on the East Coast whom I met in the Rex BOQ when he first arrived in the country.  We became friendly at the bar when he asked me about the local water and what he should do about brushing his teeth.  I told him about using vodka that you could buy at the BX for $ 1.00 a liter.  He laughed uproariously, and from that point on we became very good friends.  He had done some magnificent stories on some very touching situations that affected the GI’s out in the field.  They were published in his newspaper back in the States.

      One particular evening, Vince and I were sitting there when this beautiful American girl came over and had a drink with us. Elaine worked as a secretary for a local construction company, and she was truly beautiful – probably the most beautiful American girl I had seen in Saigon.  She and Vince had hit it off, and the next thing I knew they were living together and they became lovers for the month or so that Vince was there.  It was ironic.

  Vince had left Vietnam to go back.  I was on the same flight with him on a trip to Hawaii, a temporary duty trip that involved official business. We shared the same plane, a TWA commercial plane.  We talked about the girl he was living with and complications that had arisen and how he was going to get back to normal when he got home.  This girl wanted to get married.  Vince didn’t know what to do.  He was in love with her, yet he had a family back home that took a higher priority, and he hoped to God that everything would work out all right.
Vince was one of the good reporters.  There were a lot of other reporters that were kind of wild over there in Saigon.

  One night at a party in my house there were four or five reporters, and they had no scruples. Some of them worked for the Stars and Stripes, Air Force Times, Army Times, local papers back home that had sent them over there to do stories on different military people from their states.  Some of them were really wild. At this one particular party we had about five or six girls, two of whom were just American whores.  There was no other way you could classify them.  Two of these reporters were – I mean – they got laid right outside my room, right on the floor – I mean – it was crazy, the atmosphere over there at that time.  A lot of these guys were dealing in the black market and were making a lot of money and getting terrific allowances from back home, and they were just having one hell of an orgy, is all I can say.

Most of the American girls, though, were making themselves a hell of a lot of money without being a hooker.  A lot of Civil Service employees were getting tremendous housing allowances and making anywhere from $12,000 to $15,000 a year and were banking a great deal of it.  They were getting free meals; different guys would take them out every night for meals.  Their quarters were outstanding.  Their transportation was minimal.  Many of them lived in swanky apartments very close to where they worked in the city.  They were able to pick up terrific bargains in the BX or on the local economy.  They were able to travel, go to Bangkok and buy good jewels, go to Hong Kong and buy other goodies so they really had themselves a good time of it. Of course, they felt the lechery in the eyes of so many of the frustrated young troops who would love to have gone out with them or shack up with them.

   As Raquel Welch once said when she went over to Vietnam with a Bob Hope show; showing good looking women in front of these starved GI’s was one of the worst things that anybody could do.  It was like throwing food to a starving man.  Well, that might have been true; but a lot of my compatriots enjoyed looking at the beautiful women and talking about sex or other conversations with them.  Still, they didn’t feel they had to jump in the rack with just any girl or whore for that matter.

                 My R&R was to take place as late in the tour as possible so that I would only have a short time left before I would return home.  I had not quite decided where I was going to go.  Jim had gone to Hong Kong and turned it into a shopping spree, buying goodies for everybody and his brother, including some motorcycle parts for Bob, our motorcycle roommate.  Some, as I said, went back to Hawaii, and a lot went to Bangkok where they purchased jewels and saw the sights.  Australia was just beginning to open up as a very popular R & R site in the late 60’s.

          When some of the guys left to go PCS back to the States and they had girl friends that they wrote hoping to keep their amour going with their Saigon sweethearts.  Many of them never realized that as soon as they left the city, these girls would immediately try to find another sugar daddy to live with.  Some GI’s even sent money to friends to give to their former girlfriends to help them out.  They had really carried on with these girls, and I could never for the life of me understand.
            Col Kazan, my boss, before I left the states, called me into his office and told me about his SEA tour and his Vietnamese girl  friend.  He said he would mail me some  money for her occasionally. She worked at the Swing bar a block from where I lived.,
Sure enough, I got an envelope with cash from the Col to give to the girl friend.  Jim  was very curious about the letter and kept bugging me about it.  More followed.

             I didn’t tell him for years.

               My buddy, Jerry, was going by the Swing bar off Tudo one night and he heard guttural sounds coming from the next dark alley that sounded  like  “su….ck  ,su…………ck.”
What?  Jerry yelled.  And, in perfect English, a female voice shot back,” Do you want a blow job or not?”

         I still laugh over this one.

                   Everybody started looking attractive to me, very seductive. There was a busty blonde, head of the Saigon USO, that used to go over to the Rex pool once a week who was very friendly toward me. She had a very pretty face. She was slightly heavy-buxom- “pleasantly plump’’ as my mom would say.  But, she had a very good personality, and she was always asking me to come to her apartment, to go dancing, and I kept putting her off. I kept thinking, “What the hell am I going to do with this situation if I get in a bedroom with her?” At that time, everybody was looking wonderful.  I was getting more and more concerned, and everything I read was the wrong thing.  I really started getting involved in the magazines, and the pinups were starting to look great.

          So anyway, one particular night I decided not to go to the Blue Moon.  I went to the next place over and gee, there was a gorgeous little Vietnamese girl sitting there whom I had bought tea for before. I went over and I was plastered. It was before my day off.  I was really horny. I was sitting over there and hugging her and grabbing her ass and she was grabbing me.  I was feeling her up and I had my hand down her dress. I just don’t know what came over me.  But she kept rubbing me and caressing me. I had been concerned about this ejaculating and why didn’t I have a wet dream; was something really wrong? I should have after all these months; and would I ever function again?  I really did – I became a nut on this.  I just got carried away with this girl and the next thing you know I just ejaculated on my pants. I was half in the bag, and I started laughing and she looked at me and laughed, and we laughed and laughed.  I said, “I’ve got to go home and change.” I started back to the apartment and I’m staggering down the street and I walk up the stairs, and lo and behold, I get to my door and here’s the blond girl from the Red Cross. She said I’d promised to come down to her apartment and go dancing.  I’m standing there thinking, “Oh, my God, I hope she doesn’t recognize what the hell’s going on”. So I said, “Wait a minute, I’ve just gotta go in and use the bathroom.” So I went in and changed my clothes and came out all smiling. She obviously didn’t know what happened.

So I agreed, I would go down to her apartment and dance to her beautiful stereo sound system which she did have.  It was on the second floor. She turned the key to her door and I went in.  It was just beautiful. It looked like a whore house, let’s face it. But she wasn’t a prostitute, by no means.  She was really a nice girl now that I think of it.  And we were dancing and she was really enjoying herself. I had a few thoughts; I know she did because, I mean, we were right there almost in the bedroom, as I recall.  And I just danced. And I look back and I think that when I had this little adventure in the bar just an hour before, I might have got only to the point where something would have come out of this dancing marathon on the second floor of our apartment building on Hguyen Hue in Saigon on a steamy night in August.
          Several times, I went to parties at CIA also called SOG villas on the outskirts of downtown.  These villas were big, hidden and very classy with catered food, music, sometimes sex or porno movies and tons of beautiful women.

At one party, a star and stripes pinup and four other girls were there.  l told them the following joke; there were three secretaries in Saigon office; the first one was typing terrifically fast and efficient and was yelling, ”I was in NYC and had a great car, fabulous apartment and wonderful job. What the hell am I doing in Saigon!”

   The second girl said, “You know I was  in Chicago, also had a super job, sports-car, penthouse and also typing like a pro and yelling,” What am I doing in Saigon?”

     The third girl typing like a child, one key at a time, looked at the other two girls and said the following, “I don’t know how you whores learned to type so fast!”.

       I danced with Lori, the gorgeous pinup girl, who was in “Stars and Stripes”.  Everyone of the guys in the room watched us enviously while we waltzed around the high ceiling veranda.

    I said to Lori, “there’s a room up the stairs in the back and every one is watching.”

   “Why don’t we slip into the room, talk for a half hour, mess up our clothes, look disheveled, and come out.”

   We did.

Heads wagged…there were stares and to this day, I meet guys who heard stories about this incident and spread unbelievable gossip.
                                                                            THE END