Sunday Night, 16 January 1966
|General Creighton W. Abrams, Jr., U.S. Army (Image courtesy U.S. Army)|
The briefing went pretty well this afternoon for General [Creighton W.] Abrams [U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff]. And right after it was over, I just sent the charts back to the office and took the rest of the day off. There wasn’t too much risk to it as General Crowley had departed for Honolulu at 1:30 p.m.
Lieutenant Colonel Price who works in J-4 (and who was another briefer) and I went first down to the Hong Kong BOQ and celebrated everyone’s departure and the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). Then we decided why not go out and have a good meal and relax for a while. So we discussed the relative merits of various places to eat and ruled out all the places like the My Canh (floating restaurant that always gets bombed) and finally decided that the Majestic Hotel was probably the best of the lot as well as the safest. After we changed clothes we decided to stop by the Rex BOQ and see if there were any other people we might see and like well enough to go with us. We ran into Grady and asked him if he wanted to go but he said he was out of money and in spite of our willingness to buy him a dinner, he continued to decline and we went on our way.
It was a Royal feast. I had a green salad, hors d’ouerves, French onion soup with baked cheese, filet mignon well done, and apple pie. We decided that since it was the Vietnamese New Year we might as well make it an occasion and share a bottle of good French wine. This isn’t done very often over here as wine costs a fortune because it is considered a luxury by the government and is highly taxed. I think the bottle of wine we bought cost $1200 VN which is roughly equivalent to $10.00 US.
At any rate, it was a real pleasant evening. The Majestic overlooks the Saigon River and it was real relaxing to sit on the top floor and watch the ships working and the lights winking out in the harbor.
After dinner we went in the bar and listened to the singers and the band for a while and then called a Navy radio taxi to take us home. It felt real good to go out for a change. Now I’m back at the Vinh Loi Hotel and wishing I were home instead.
Tet is roughly the same as our Xmas and New Year’s combined. It is time for the Vietnamese to throw firecrackers, visit each other, exchange gifts, and otherwise have a good time. The New Lunar Year (this Old Year is the Year of the Snake---the New Year is called the Year of the Cracker) does not officially begin until 21 January but they start celebrating early and are throwing firecrackers all over the place tonight. Last year it was the vogue to give friends a snake as recognition of the name and patron saint so to speak
of the year. This year they will give each other crackers. They have Tet cards just like we have Xmas cards and we have been informed that we should give Tet cards to people like our driver, office boy, maid, bellboy, and the like. Not to do so is an insult to personal servants. And if you are a benevolent master, you will enclose $100 VN in each card so given. I already have the necessary Tet cards and tomorrow will get some money changed so as to make the proper representation and appear benevolent!
On 21 January we are supposed to stay off the streets so I reckon to go to work real early and stay there later. Can’t see locking myself in this hotel room all day. At the office I’ll at least be able to walk around the compound.