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The Times
What had been
The French had been defeated at Dienbienphu in 1954 and Vietnam becam a divided country. Elections were to be held in 1956 to reunite the country but they never happened. The north would have won.

The old school had been in the Norodom compound. Later the compound would serve as the site for the US embassy. . In 75 it served as a helicopter landing pad as folks left Saigon quickly. A new US Consulate has been built on the site. I wonder if it will have a helicopter pad.

When my family flew to Saigon in late 1958 we flew on a Pan Am Stratocruiser (real propellers). We stopped at Wake Island to refuel in the middle of the night. Hot. Humid.

In early 56 Audie Murphy had been in town to film "The Quiet American" (released in 58) . Based on a novel by Graham Greene the movie was your basic dud that no one seems to have these days. Even Ebay.

It was hot.

What was
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The music was really bad. Think of it...Fabian. It would drive anybody to war.

No cell phones, no pagers, no email, no personal computers, no Internet, no TV, no Howard Stern. Maybe it wasn't so bad.

All kinds of agencies of one type or another were involved in trying to keep the communists from gaining control of Indochina - or anywhere else. It turned out to be difficult.

A really good highway was being built between Saigon and Bien Hoa. It was so strong it would support tanks. JDP (who built the highway) had a compound near the golf course to provide homes for their US workers and families.

One way to gauge the growth of the war was by how much stuff was in the PX. It went from not much to enough to feed thousands. I hated the canned milk. It tasted like milk from a can - duh.

We were all too young to know about 33 Export. I think it was a beer. Then there were the big bottles with a tiger on them. Had some kind of nickname...Tiger something.

General Sam Williams was the only US Army General in town in 1958. By 1963 there were 12 US US generals of one branch or another.  The airport was getting busy.

Ambassador Durbrow wasn't optimistic about the ability of the Diem government to win the support of the people. He had a chauffer driven black and white Nash Rambler. Very goofy car.

There was a coup attempt in 1961 that failed but made life exciting for folks in Saigon. Got my attention.

In 1962 the palace was bombed by some rebellious Air Force pilots. They destroyed the west wing of the palace. The whole palace was rebuilt.

It was hot.

What was coming
Vietnam got famous in a few years and few of the folks from the early sixties went back for awhile. It was different, lots of opportunity to camp and hike. You may have read about it in some of the papers.

Even the Pentagon had some papers.

The music was better.

It was hot.

And then there is now
During the years Saigon has gone from 1 million to 5.5 million in population. Crowded. There are buildings over 30 stories tall. Hard to imagine. The Majestic is still around, so is the Caravelle and the Continental. City Hall has a statue of Ho Chi Minh rather than a picture of President Diem.

The embassy that was built in Norodom compound has been torn down and replaced by the new US Consulate. The stairway to the top of the embassy that was used during the evacuation is now in the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.

Now they have 333 Export. I think it is a beer.

There is a special version of YaHoo for Vietnam - with chat rooms.

The Apocalypse Now Bar is one of the more popular joints in Saigon. Go figure.

It is hot.

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