Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll

Posted on May 10, 2010


Drug use in Vietnam was not as rampant as everyone says. Yes, Marijuana was smoked by many. Darvon was used by some. No one that I knew of ever used drugs while on a mission. No one ever got so smashed they couldn’t perform their assigned duties. Now, this isn’t to say that there weren’t exceptions. Of course there were. I knew one guy who when on perimeter Guard Duty would take a couple of pills and stay up all night and then about 5AM would start smoking Marijuana to come down so he could sleep that day. I can honestly say that I did not know anyone who took any hard drugs on a continuous basis. If that had happen, the rest of the men would have done something to stop it. Our lives depended on clarity. Most who tried marijuana in Nam gave it up quickly. When comparing the feeling on one hand and the inability to perform properly on the other there wasn’t a whole lot of going pro and con. It was just con.

When I first arrived in Charlie Troop up at Camp Evans we had several guys from New York. They were pretty heavy into smoking marijuana but once again they limited themselves to night time at base camp. I won’t lie. I tried it but I was one of those that really didn’t like it. I realized that you lost true control over your thought process with even a little use.

While at Phouc Vinh it was easy to get marijuana. You could go to the perimeter and find the local Vietnamese and they would be selling marijuana packaged in regular Winston or Kools cigarette packages with all stamps in place. When we were up north in the High I Corps area, we could go to the sand bag point and the Vietnamese would put it in the sand bags. Markings were clear and you would just untie, retrieve, retie and get high.

The 60’s music was and still is the best. I know the younger generation won’t agree unless you were to listen to Cousin Brucie on Sirius 6 on Saturday night. Then you hear a lot of 10 – 40 year olds calling in requesting our music.

After the late 50’s the music started to change. Up until then it was more love, happiness and apple pie. After the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper (The Day the Music Died) our music became influenced by the British invasion and by people like Bobby Vinton, who had served in the Army as a DJ, came out with some great songs. Groups like the Momma’s and Pappa’s sang songs that were light-hearted and would put you in a good mood. Others came out with songs with messages. Social Injustice and anti-establishment songs were big. It didn’t make a difference whether it was “I’m Coming Home” by Bobby Vinton or “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire the songs all touched someone.  They were sing along songs. Try that with the songs of today. Barry Saddler sang songs about “The Green Beret” and “Salute to The Nurse of Vietnam”. There were also songs about “Snoopy and the Red Baron” by the McCoys and “If you’re going to San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie. The importance of these songs and others from that time is they kept us singing along and going on. Music was a way we could lose ourselves even if it was only for 2 minutes or so. The Armed Forces Radio Network was what we had to listen to in Nam. At different times of the day they would play different genre’s of music. A record player was a valued possession.

Now you may ask why did I wait until last to write about the sex part? Well, I figured if I wrote about that first you wouldn’t read any further. I am right, aren’t I?

Sex in Vietnam was dangerous. Almost every STD was there. The women of Vietnam did not have a very hygienic life style. Even baths were done in streams. To pee when they were working in the field, they would just slant over to one side and pee down the leg. It wasn’t their fault. That is all they had. The people of Vietnam lived in the stone age when it came to living conditions. There was no plumbing of any form unless the Seabees put it in and that was for other GI’s.  Most GI’s stayed away from the Vietnamese women. Those that didn’t could be seen at the outside urinal grabbing and holding on as they relieved themself.  Now going to a place like Saigon and getting a Steam Bath and whatever else you wanted was okay. Just make sure you had some protection.

Rest and Relaxation or R&R as it was called was a different matter. Not all men went on R&R for a little I&I or Intoxication and Intercourse as my mother said it looked like. Many did. Some even remember where they went and what they did. I went to Bangkok and in the seven days I was there I saw the Golden Buddha. Does that count? A lot of GI’s came back madly in love with the lady they stayed with. Remember, most of these guys were 19-22 years old. For some it was their first time. I mean away from home of course. Some men were Killed in Action before they got to go on R&R and therefore they never had a first time.

Other men went to places like Hawaii to meet their wives. They came back smiling but they could remember everything they did. Boring. I remember one of those who came back with an STD. That was a cause for Divorce.

Sex was there if you wanted it. We never even seen a woman the first 8 months I was there unless we went to a village on recon. That change after we moved to Phouc Vinh. I remember going to the village at Phouc Vinh once. It wasn’t for sex either. So it was R&R or nothing for me. It wasn’t for nothing.