Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dadlands: Flying with the stars

From my dad's Vietnam War letters:

Yesterday we started off at Da Nang expecting to make a couple of trips to An Hoa. I could think of a lot of places I'd rather go. When we got to Da Nang we found that our loads weren't ready so they asked us if we wanted to take a USO troupe to Saigon. Are you kidding?!! 

 USO starlets entertaining the troops in Vietnam, late 1960s

The troupe included 4 or 5 guys and a blonde who looked pretty sharp. I decided it was time to take a group snapshot that we could put up on the bulletin board with the caption "War is Hell." It was a bad decision. At closer range she looked tough as nails. It turned out she had nothing on under her thin pullover blouse and that she was very proud of that which was unsupported. She took such a deep breath of air and pulled her stomach so far in that I was afraid she would explode and injure me. Her conversation was full of the show world "darling" etc. etc. I disliked her enormously.

We started off for Saigon, which is a pretty good haul, and I made a second decision. Since we are constantly in contact with radar sites en route, I thought it would be novel if she made one of the transmissions. It was decided she should make the initial contact with "Portcall" Control, a particularly jovial bunch. We wrote out a script for her and cued her on the mike. 

My gosh, what a mess she made of it. She expanded that 5 second transmission to 30 seconds by inserting extraneous "darlings," "babys" and "lovers." Once she had started there was no way of turning her off. I slunk down in my seat, covered my face and blushed like crazy. Bill Von Thaden, the navigator, hid his face in his arms on his table. We couldn't believe it. When she finished Portcall screamed “Speak to me baby!" but there were very few other comments. We later decided she had stolen their thunder by saying it all. We all got a kick out of it and roared with laughter at the bar last night. 

Much as I don't care for show people, I had to admire them. They had been to some pretty grim places trying to cheer the boys up. That takes guts. Some of the things they saw weren't very pleasant. They didn't have to come over here if they didn't want to.

June 24 Cam Ranh

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