British Ambassador McLeod
Song of Saigon by Chalmers Benedict Wood II The Fay School, Class of 1961 Published in the Fay School Magazine, 1991
Light brown, vermilion, and yellow leaves scuttled across the surface like tiny coracles. Imaginary little men rode in these hapless boats, striving valiantly but vainly to control their course against the gusts. The fickle wind blustered one way and then another, generating thousands of small interlocking wave patterns. I was sitting by my family pool where I had spent many happy days doing flips from the board and swimming underwater. Sometimes I built special plastic model airplanes which I “flew” under water, delighting in their slowly turning props as they glided down into the depths. I would release squadrons of them near the surface, dive down to the bottom, and watch with the unspeakable joy of childhood as they flew down to me through the shimmering rays of watery sunlight. This was my secret world, where Wing Commander Wood released his safeties, switched on his gun heaters, and banked sharply through the February skies toward the Focke-Wulf diving down upon him from the sun; where Messerschmitts and Heinkels flew down to blitzed London, which lay by the pool’s drain grating. By blowing bubbles in such a way that they floated up and hit the outer wing, a plane could be tipped out of control, sending Jerry crashing into the Thames, next to the ladder. Anti-aircraft Gunnery Captain Wood had fought many desperate campaigns in this theatre, giving his all as he made his calculations and ordered another round into the
beech. These were ecstatic three-dimensional battles, the miniature and carefully aired ack-ack bubbles rising to meet the dreaded Hun, my guns running low on ammunition, the Luftwaffle diving closer and closer, and my body shaking uncontrollably as my nervous system mutinies with demands for oxygen. This pool was my special place. Oils Painting by Robert Koch,1954
It was 1954 at our home â€œLindwoodâ€? in Virginia. I was eight, and I had just heard my father in the library talking with friends about the two Joes. He had delivered a discourse on what their lives meant for the world neighborhood in which I was growing up, and for America, which we represented in that neighborhood as a diplomatic family.
Joe Stalin had recently died, probably poisoned by his own doctor. He had been one of the most terrible leaders in all history. For many years he had enslaved and murdered his people. He had left them in a situation which would make them miserable for many more years, and could possibly destroy them. He had created the Cold War. Joe McCarthy was a senator making a living with Stalin’s creation. He had gained power by indiscriminately accusing people of being communists and was destroying careers and lives in Washington, D.C. where I lived. But Joe didn’t care. He was addicted to accusations and booze. Both Joes would go down in history as jerks, dad said. His words woke me from my childhood. My life would not be spent in a neighborhood of prosperous nations as I had believed while living in Belgium and in the Philippines. Instead, we would be involved in a long and miserable war because of some boneheads and their stupid followers. At that moment, it seemed that my duties and aspirations became one. I would seek to free people from bad leaders through knowledge and relationships, and I would work for a community of wise and prosperous nations. From years of dinner-table lectures by my father, I concluded that this would be the right thing to do. Trying to become president didn’t seem to be the answer, for Eisenhower appeared to be afraid of McCarthy. Dad said they didn’t talk to each other, even though they went to the same Republican parties. Perhaps it would be better if I tried it as an artist; that way I wouldn’t have to be polite to so many bores. I sat by the pool and cried with the deep and fleeting sorrow of an eight-year-old. Feeling better, I went inside for dinner. *** Dad had been born into a New York City aristocrat’s family which had derived some its fortune during the robber baron days with commercial compressed gas cylinders and, more recently, on Wall Street. His parents had bitterly divorced when he was a child, and he had grown up mostly under his mother’s wing. He attended all the “right” schools and served honorably in the cavalry and air force during World War II. His mother, Katherine, inclined toward utopianism and had influenced my father to enter the State Department. There, she felt, he could render a greater service to making than just “grubbing for filthy money on Wall Street.” Though she and my mother were titanic rivals for my father’s attention, they both entered into supporting his career with gusto, and all three set their hearts upon making the world a better place. With postings in Belgium during the great Marshall Plan, and in the Philippines during the Huk’s Rebellion, Dad was well on track to an ambassadorship when he arrived in Vietnam. Now my older brother and I were finally on our way to join him and my mother there. ** * It was early June, 1958. Cumulonimbus clouds stretched to the unseen horizon for an eternity, a blinding white sea of angry cotton inside a cerulean blue and white bubble. The endless drum of the plane’s four huge super-charged radial engines had long ago sapped any sensation from my tired body, and the blur of the propellers outside my window drained all thoughts from my mind. Suddenly, the pilot announced our descent. Ramsay and I exchanged knowing glances; our dangerous assignment would soon be over! Four days previously we had left the expensive, sophisticated, and very strict “old world” schools Fay and St. Marks in Southborough, Massachusetts with worried and extremely serious instructions to fly half way around the world to Southeast Asia without attracting absolutely anyone’s attention. Fay had been my first lonely year in a boarding school. I had been virtually lost there, though I had enjoyed making model airplanes and playing in the school band. And I had noticed that music in my country was made more for profit than for Art’s sake. I had heard great music and concerts in Europe during its rebuilding, concerts for audiences that arrived broken and hopeless, and left crying, reborn, and profoundly inspired to rebuild their countries and never, never create another world war such as those by which they had almost destroyed themselves in the previous two. Fay, on the other hand, shamelessly used us cute musicians to play vigorous and charming happy-music from the adolescence times of old alumni as the key to persuading them to give cultural support and lots of money to the school. We musicians liked the genuine appreciations and special considerations this brought us from our masters, and we became good at this rude game.
In a manner forbidden in American passenger aircraft, the Air France pilot dropped the Super Constellation’s flaps and dove down through the rainy season thunderheads. We bumped and jiggled, and then roared out through the ceiling like a B-17G in trouble and breaking cover over the Ruhr in 1944. Below us was a weirdly beautiful landscape. Green and silver rice paddies circled and wove their way across Arcadian terrain to the horizon. In places they radiated out from some terrain feature in a mysteriously mathematical pattern. Ancient religious structures dotted the countryside. Water buffalo and Asian kids in black pajamas and conical hats took little notice of us as we circled overhead.
Drawing by Chip, 1991 Finally, the pilot flubbed his flare and we ricocheted down Ton Son Nhut Number One until he groaned the Connie to stop with her brakes. Ramsay and I giggled. This would be our seventh home town. We would spend our next two summers far from Western civilization here in Saigon, Vietnam. The door opened and sweltering heat flooded the aircraft. My parents stood out on the tarmac along with our Vietnamese chauffeur, Sinh. They were dressed in tropic whites and broad-brimmed hats like characters in an old Empire novel. We had been separated for nine long months, and our reunion was wonderful! Sinh disappeared, and we walked through customs with a nod and a tip to the officer. Outside, a fantastic surprise awaited us. Sinh drove up in a white 1957 Chevrolet Bel Aire sedan. It had a V-8 engine and a special, extra-heavy-duty air conditioner. My brother instantly named it “the Great White Shark.” It was, my father quietly hinted, the fastest car in Saigon, but he refused to speculate as to whether it would lay any rubber.
1958, Dad & Mom at Saigon’s Ton Son Nhut “Aerodrome” On the way to Saigon, father ceremoniously congratulated us on having successfully completed our secret mission of flying half-way around the world, infiltrating Saigon disguised as kids, and avoiding capture by communist agents. There had been some odd characters on our flight, Dad had spotted them, and so we had all and winked at each other with rolling eyes and little smirks. Outside my window, schools of bicyclists drifted past. A peasant held her child at arm’s length while it urinated carefully in the gutter. The streets of Saigon were flooded with Asian humanity and every form of transportation from ox carts to the British ambassador’s Rolls Royce. Apparently all the police knew our car, for they waved their little arms and blew their golden whistles with real enthusiasm so we could motor by. Many Vietnamese smiled at us, as if they knew us well. Their warmth was genuine. Dad said that for the first time in many generations, thanks to the help of representatives from our farming universities, the Vietnamese were growing rice to feed themselves. They had experienced considerable famine under the rule of the French colonialists. Here in Vietnam we were making the communists look like they couldn’t even grow a potato, much less get it to market! One man on a bicycle shook his fist at us. His anger was clear, and seemed touched with insanity. Sinh said that he knew this person and that he was bad. He was a communist agent and we should be careful of people like this, for they would try to kidnap me or my brother, and perhaps hold us for ransom, or worse. Mother turned to me from the front seat. “Chip, you stay away from those people, and do as Sinh says!” she ordered. She was a dark-haired Brun-hilde, and her eyes glinted when she issued commands. She had been born in Ocala, Florida, and did not like to be reminded that to my father’s side of the family, she qualified as a Florida Cracker. Her father had been the town doctor, sheriff, real estate broker, and the first man in Ocala to own a Model T automobile. In his day, selling gopher holes to the Yankees had been a glorious and honored profession, and preparing for surgery meant honing his knife on the sole of his boot. When mom was a teenager, Johnny Weismuller, the original “Tarzan”, was her idol, and probably inspired her to try out for the Olympics in swimming. She was the third woman to have a pilot’s license in the Sate of Florida, and was in charge of the weather station in Ocala Airport when she met my father. Mom had been big fish in a small pond, and now, as a bustling diplomatic wife, she appeared to operate on the assumption that the entire world was also a small pond. Paired with my father, for whom this view of the world had always been a fact of life, they were quite a duo. American diplomats unchained. “Yes, Mom, I will stay away from commies,” I said. It was clear I just had to meet one. I would have to win Sinh’s trust, and then probably bribe him in order to do so. . . Sinh was born in the northern part of Vietnam, and had fought against the French with the Viet Minh nationalists. He had even been a spy while working under cover in a high French official’s household. Except for his eyes and a gentle scar on his arm, he looked no more than nineteen, and must have weighed about the same as I did. His soft, white, embroidered shirt concealed an old U.S. Army Colt 45. My life would often be in
his hands, and though my trust in him would be complete, there would be some areas of my life into which he could not come, and about which he would know never to ask. We hastened on to my new home. The whole city seemed in a hurry. Dad said that the afternoon monsoon was due in a few minutes, and everyone was trying to get their shopping done before it hit. Apparently, so much moisture was sucked up into the atmosphere in the heat of the day that the moment the temperature dropped a smidgen, it all fell back at once. This happened every day a little past three in the afternoon. At 3:16 p.m., as I stood on my new porch, the heavens suddenly poured millions of gallons a second on Saigon in an infinite melody of rain. A billion tiny suns flickered through the falling droplets. Then, in a breath, it stopped. Steaming puddles covered the ground. The plants crackled as they absorbed in the water. The air was refreshing, and my nose tickled with the smell of vegetation so fat, healthy, and bold that it seemed this was their kingdom and I a guest.
Ramsay, me, & Dad on the Great White Shark *** Saigon was the beloved pearl of the Orient. It possessed extraordinary beauty, capable of freezing you in your tracks. It possessed corruption of a depth and complexity that made Washington, D.C. late in Eisenhower’s presidency seem like a romper room. Its history date back five thousand years, which made our few hundred seem infantile. It was said that their ancient kingdom of Van Lang had relations with the pharaohs of Egypt. In the eyes of the Vietnamese, we were the diplomatic representatives of a young barbarian nation from the other side of the world that had acquired South Vietnam by default. For most Vietnamese, the difference between capitalists and communists was about as important as the difference between the Yankee’s right fielder and the Dodger’s right fielder for us. The most powerful Vietnamese man was in the northern communist half of Vietnam. His name was Ho Chi Minh, who had helped our soldiers behind enemy lines, against the Japanese during World War II, and who even tried to pattern a constitution for Vietnam after ours. Unfortunately, President de Gaulle of France had wanted to continue his colony-playing with Vietnam after World War II. Roosevelt had been against this, but when President Truman was faced with an enraged de Gaulle threatening to torpedo the formation of NATO, Harry caved in and stood aside. With a huff and a flounce, France snatched back this Oriental bauble. Nine years later, in 1954, this acquisition forced France’s face into the mud of the Dien Bien Phu battlefield ending her colonial rule forever. Vietnam was divided into two countries. The communists got the northern half; now they wanted the southern half and had announced the consolidation of their command in the Mekong Delta south of Saigon. Even though I was a kid, I knew all about this because our family discussed current events every night at the dinner table. I understood that I was representing America to the Vietnamese, and that there was a certain amount of danger involved. This was an adventure, and I was able to turn silent sorrow I felt at being separated from my
friends in America into a desire to represent them in a manner in which, if they could know, they would take pride. I also understood that being an American in Saigon had special meaning. Just over a hundred years ago the U.S.S. Constitution, â€œOld Ironsidesâ€? herself, had shelled Da Nang over a drunken French soldier. Now, America was the most powerful nation on earth, the Cold War in full swing, and we were in a country where there actually were real communist agents lurking about trying to destroy us. To add to our difficulties, this was a totally different culture, where the minds of the people and the rules of the game were often incomprehensible. Some pitched battles stopped entirely so combatants could nap in the early afternoon, and whoever was trying to overthrow you today might be working for you tomorrow. The Vietnamese were patient in a manner inconceivable to most westerners. They could work all their lives for something that could benefit only their great-grandchildren. But the Viets had just experienced many generations of misery at the hands of the French, and patience was wearing thin. I knew I would always have to be sensitive to their feelings. One false step and I would lose them as friends. If they didnâ€™t like you, they could pick your pocket, take your watch, and slide a knife into your stomach while you were under the impression they were groveling before their Great White God. Despite this, I found life in Saigon as hot and almost pleasant. The American community was small, and we all knew each other. The United States Information Agency would show films once a week. We often met there for snacks and scratchy outdated movie watching. Sometimes the more backward Viets would attack the image of the bad guy on the screen, especially it were a John Wayne film! Once an Embassy Theatre Club put on an amusing production of Arsenic and Old Lace. The evening was a great success, as the old ladies who poisoned their guests were seen as our politicians back in Washington, the son was seen as the embodiment of our foreign policy, and naturally we in Saigon were the ones constantly and thanklessly trying to set things right. That evening, we roared with laughter in our little forgotten oriental capital. After the performance we felt like one big family.
On Sundays there were flying lessons in full-size airplanes at an abandoned Japanese airstrip north of Saigon. The French pilots were a little sad and crazy, but excellent instructors. We attributed their craziness to their recent clobbering in the north; they had had things in Vietnam all their own way for eighty years. We would pitch sun tents by the runway and take turns learning to fly. We had some Piper Cubs, Stinsons, and a two hundred mile per hour four-place Nord/Messerschmitt ME-108. We would shoot landings all day, do mild aerobatics, and buzz the peasant kids in the river making them splash around in delight. Occasionally, an instructor would fly down the runway upside down. In the late afternoon, after some fortification, the old French pilots would sometimes open up and talk. It seemed like they knew almost everything, as they had served in every air force, fought in every war, and flown for every government, party, syndicate, company, gang, big shop,
and desperado in Southeast Asia. They boisterously predicted ultimate failure about America’s future in Vietnam, a posture most American laughed at as sour grapes. Life was not all fun though. There was business to attend to, as the life of a diplomat brat had a price. Ramsay and I wee ordered to learn to use chopsticks. When we demonstrated an acceptable level of proficiency, a luncheon with a respected local Vietnamese family of the necessary caliber was arranged. The night before the luncheon, Dad told us the following story: A young American diplomat, his wife, and their two children wee assigned to Paris. He was to be a trade officer, and protocol dictated hey they would have to invite his counterpart in the French Trade Ministry, together with his family to dinner with the understanding that the diplomat’s children were to charm he French family. This alarmed the diplomat and his wife as their children, like most American youngsters, tended to comment freely on things around them. It happened that this minister was an old roué with an extremely big, red nose about which he was profoundly sensitive. To even let one’s eyes rest upon this proboscis was to invite diplomatic ruin and a possible Franco/American trade war. Obviously the kids would laugh at the Minister’s nose, and the young diplomat’s budding career would draw instantly to a close. For weeks the parents grilled their children on what was required. On the fateful night, the minister arrived and was ushered into the living room. After the formalities, the children came down and were introduced. The minister was impressed. The children went to the piano where the son played a carefully researched ditty from the Minister’s youth while his sister sang the words. The minister was indeed charmed. As they left he room, he looked admiringly after them, and their mother with a infinite pride and relief, turned to the minister and said, “Oh Mister le minister, I am so glad you like my children! Would you like a little more tea on your nose?” Clearly, the pressure was on. Dad was inviting Ramsay and me onto the team, saying that there were ways we could contribute. This was a huge thrill, enhanced by a hunch that such a partnership would give us access to any loot which success might generate. Dad was also asking us to stand at our mother’s side, ready to assist if necessary. Our good mom would occasionally let slip stimulating and intriguing faux pas amid the normal flow of diplomatic banalities, such as her classic, “We should nuke those damn commie crumb bums…!” Mom could be relied upon to add sparkle to otherwise boring occasions. So here we were, off on our first diplomatic mission. At 11:30 sharp, we pulled out of Chez Wood and were silently driven to the house of Lei Si Ngoc. During the introductions, it became clear that they were as nervous as we were, and everyone stuck to the script like frightened novice off-Broadway actors. We watched each other like hawks. When we demonstrated chopstick proficiency at the table, it was as if the Lei Sis’ ancestors had given their progeny permission to be more comfortable with us. But as all this was taking place, Ramsay and I, and the Lei Si kids started to sense something interesting. Every time we were cute, funny, or charming, it was if a small weight were lifted from our parents, and they would become more as we knew them in private: adoring parents. With the secret language of the young, we tacitly conspired to work this lode. And so we did, as there was self-interest involved, and we all, in our own ways, loved our parents. By the end of the meal, we were friends for life, and we have kept in touch with the excellent Lei Sis ever since. All in all, our family was quite a team. On our way home early that afternoon, Ramsay and I reveled in our new-found diplomatic duties and kept whispering to each other, “Boy, did we pull Mom and Dad’s skins out of the fire this time!” Thus I learned an important lesson in diplomacy: the best social ice-beakers are often kids. If they become friends, the parents are almost irresistibly drawn in the same direction. We traveled extensively in Southeast Asia that summer. Nothing compared to the ancient temples at Ankor Watt and Ankor Tom. To my mind, these ruins blew the Egyptian pyramids into the Papyrus weeds. The pyramids are monuments of engineering and design artistry constructed with untold amount of labor. In comparison, the Ankor temples had been built with hugh armies of skilled artisans who produced kilometer after kilometer of intricately carved walls, and main buildings far more elaborate than the pyramids. In September I was back in my little New England boarding school with my friends. That fall the turning of leaves in Southborough was especially beautiful, and I was even glad to see Mr. Murphy and Mr. O’Neill. I shamelessly used Vietnam as material in every class possible, for I found I could substitute content for the quality of writing I often lacked as a slow dyslexic. ***
Little had changed when I returned to Saigon for my second summer in June, 1959. Yet the city seemed subtly different. A slight ill humor had replaced some of the sleepy good cheer of the previous months. There were more dangers this summer. Our Vietnamese friends occasionally ventured pessimism. The communist world was practicing psychological warfare and some regular warfare. Communist China had taken Tibet,were shelling the island of Quemoy, and had developed more alliances with North Vietnam. A large Chinese underworld was developing in Saigon. North Vietnam had started a military draft. In the press, President Eisenhower expressed displeasure at what he called the “munitions lobby”. Sure enough, Pentagon agents had started nosing about Saigon looking for evidence they could take back to the Senate Appropriations Committee convincing them of a potential communist takeover in South Vietnam, and justify obtaining a sizable about of funds out of the committee. Perhaps this would help the agents’ career as some were very ambitious. On June 24, an article appeared in the papers saying massive blindness and huge casualties would result if America were attacked by a “dirty” atomic bomb. We discussed this at great length during our dinner table every evening. The idea of an attack didn’t seem all that far-fetched, as MIGs had just attacked a U.S. patrol boat off Korea, and Kruschev had been arrogantly uncooperative at a recent meeting with Ambassador Averell Harriman. Fifteen Reds had just been arrested in Thailand. It also seemed odd that in late June, Pop John XXIII had urged nations to meet and establish a “Law of Love”? What in the world is “Law of Love”? By early July, his words seemed almost desperate as he urged statesmen to “try every approach in search of peace in our troubled world.” I had been raised a Catholic, and it was my instinct that the Pope didn’t get worried without some well-founded bad intelligence. Then, on the night of July 11, 1959, communist guerrillas killed Major Buis and Sergeant Ovenand in a small American Information Agency film theatre in Ben Hoa, a few miles from Saigon. They also killed one of their own young soldiers in order to create a martyr for their cause. The next day, we knew all about it. A depthless sorrow filled our hearts. At the dinner table that night, my father predicted what this meant. I had never seen him like this. He was frightened; an emotion I soon learned could carry a considerable baggage of wisdom. He said we would be drawn into a war here, and that the way things were shaping up unless a miracle occurred, we would eventually lose it. It would be me, my brother, and our generation who would fight it. With those words, a portion of my youth drew to a close. I felt a peculiar pain behind my breastbone, and I thought of my friends back in America who, in a few years, would be cannon fodder. It was more the tone of his voice that I heard, for I already knew the message. It seemed the fate of our whole planet came to my heart and mind with a feeling of melancholy. There was another problem; a big one. I would not be able to tell people about any of this when I returned to America. They wouldn’t believe me, and they would get angry. They would think I was pro-communist since I was predicting a communist victory. If I spoke, my friends would think I had lost my mind, and with dark murmuring, strangers would attack me. I would have to keep this secret and assume an unremarkable outer identity. That would be easy. I was remarkable; I would be junior agent “out in the field.” *** Being unremarkable at Fay was no problem. Fay was stuffed with a constantly rioting mob of the brightest and most self-assured kids the social register and the nouveau riche could cough up. In their midst I could disappear. They were a sophisticated crowd, and it seemed to me that they understood, without asking, the change that had taken place in me. They seemed to sense that I could no longer talk about Vietnam, and that my secrets frightened me, for them, for our whole generation. It seemed that they came to shelter me in a manner too subtle to understand. Some of my teachers, however, were not so perceptive. A few times I was cornered by an outraged master who demanded to know why I was unenthusiastic about our need to fight communism anywhere in the world. Understanding that my patriotism was being questioned by well-meaning and passionate ignorance I counterattacked bitterly, saving no one and damaging only myself. My secrets created two worlds for me—those “in the know”-- and the rest of mankind in the “outer world.” With those who knew what was happening was a bond created by shared danger, and with some, a sense of duty, and responsibility. This world was like an inner sanctum where I shared with those who “knew.” In this group were individual who prayed for a miracle. We had our own codes, languages and laws; we spoke in plain text only when in each other’s company. The rest of the time we usually spoke in metaphor, or double metaphor.
One of our laws was that we did not talk about anything that had not made the papers. The outer world, in the field, where I spent most of my time, became barbaric in comparison, ruled by superstition, and danger. I heard that Russia had started using music as a Cold War weapon to entice Europeans into their Stalinist dream. This made me sad and angry. So the Cold War would become a musical conflict, and a conflict of concerts. I didnâ€™t play in the band during my last two years at Fay. I only played the piano when I could be alone. Instead I became a rebel, and started openly countering the masters that abused me and my diplomatic family for political reasons. It became a powerful game that outraged a few of my masters because they knew I had the advantage of holding the future in my hands. But many of my masters backed me, and occasionally we were greatly amused because they had professional rivalries as masters, and their own private hopes and dreams.
But I loved my artless schoolmates, and even the teachers who attacked me. I learned to understand that they were victims through no fault of their own save the absence of interest and the study of history. Through the waters in which I swam with them were shallow, my feelings for them became profound. Over the course of my remaining years at Fay, I tried to communicate with them subliminally: “My friend, Vietnam. Danger. No matter what happens keep your heart strong. Don’t give up.” Shortly before I graduated, I published this story in the school magazine as a warning and encouragement for what was to come in our generation’s lives.
*** 火球上的旅行 Dar驾驶着滑翔机在Liens星球上飞行，虽然飞机性能不错，但由于没有了空气动力，还是从高空飘落了下来，摔到了地上。 Dar没办法乘着飞机继续旅行了，他怀疑自己能否走出这片熔浆岩石地带，但是，他决定试一试。Dar爬上了一座岩石，向地 平线处放眼远眺，寻找出路。远处三英里外的地方，融化的焦油中间正冒着一缕缕轻烟。Dar意识到他的时间不多了，于是赶 紧回到了他的舱内，收拾起书本和仅有的食物。温度计显示已经201摄氏度了，刚刚Dar围着Liens星球飞的一圈温度就升高了 13度。Dar开始了在岩浆中的徒步旅程，他慢慢走着，想等待夜晚的到来，那时候温度或许会降一些。他艰难地走了六个小时， 跨过了一道道悬崖，翻过了一座座山坡。大约每个一个小时，他会从罐子里拿出一丁点食物来补充一些能量。到了第六个小 时的时候，他已经筋疲力尽了，只能用一只眼睛看着天空，而另一只眼已经失去了知觉…夜晚不会到来了。 他的父亲Dar-Lang曾经跟他讲过Sith星球的故事，每个世纪Sith星球都会擦过他们所在的星球一次，并烧毁星球上一大 片地方。父亲告诉Dar当温度超过181度的时候，就要把他们家庭的历史档案送到雪山上安全的地方保管。 但是现在父亲Dar-Lang已经去世了，Dar必须依靠自己的力量！他又坚持着走了一个小时，双脚磨出了水泡，甚至已 经流血了！但他依然在前进，他觉得自己一定不能放弃。“可能我会到达目的地的，”他对自己说，“会的，会的，会的， 会的…”
An orgy of learning, an ecstasy unto exhaustion I entered Fountain Valley Middle School in Colorado as a freshman in the fall of 1961 with a sense of failure. I had not been accepted into a “good” prep school in the New England I loved. To me, Colorado seemed like America’s version of Siberia. Oddly enough, though, the next nine months were the happiest in my life. Washington, D.C. and Saigon were on the other side of the moon. School work and learning became an orgy of mental fun; athletics an ecstasy unto exhaustion. I lived happily in my cover identity, and made what I felt like everlasting friendships in its shimmering pools. *** My bubble of happiness burst the moment I returned to Washington, D.C. for Summer vacation in June,1962. Our friends in foreign police had lost a key debate in the developing debate between those who wanted involvement in Vietnam and those who wanted to stay out. Kennedy had sent 12,000 Special Forces troops to train the Vietnamese army, and anybody else who stood against the policy suddenly started finding themselves transferred to interesting posts like Guyana, or back to Vietnam to “reevaluate the situation.” American news services were the only ones in the world that described these troops as “flood relief workers.” Who were they hoping to fool? Almost every night the developing catastrophe unfolded at our dinner table. Father was extraordinarily candid, and the situation was endlessly complicated, fascinating, and dreadful. Our cultural fear of communism, out arrogance at being top dog in the world, the munitions lobby as defined by Eisenhower, and the ambitions of green domestic politicians and self-serving government officials were all converging to rush us like lemmings into the abyss. It seemed that the communists knew exactly what little red flag to wave in front of us to usher us in the wrong direction. The greatest danger was that our self-deceit would grow and would ultimately break us. Kennedy appeared politically too weak to pull us out of this quagmire. Father said that if he had a landslide for his second term, he could extricate us during the second term honeymoon. On the other hand, there was oil off the coast of Vietnam, and we needed to develop it and other fields before the sons of the newly rich Arabs returned from the Western Ivy Leagues and start explaining to their countrymen what they had been sitting on for 1,00,000 plus years. In the fall of 1962, I made goalie on the varsity soccer team. Having had polio, this made me happy. However, inside I had become an old man and tired of games quickly. I would stand in my goal and watch my teammates play with all the boundless energy and heart of naïve youth. Soon, perhaps, one of them would be in a rice paddy in my Vietnam sacrificing his all this from the depth of his soul and still die. The Cuban missile crisis came and went, and it seemed to me that my cover identity became a desert, a means of self-preservation which excluded my friends and condemned them to their fate. At Christmas vacation, the first movie comedy about accidental nuclear war opened in Washington, starring Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove. Even my family’s evening dinner discussions sank into black humor. Our role in Vietnam had just increased again. Was anybody in the wheelhouse? Then, on January 3, 1963, after years of
seeing catastrophe coming, after almost a year of intensive training by our soldiers, a South Vietnamese division supported by helicopters was slaughtered by a tiny force of communist Viet Cong at Ap Bac, forty miles out of Saigon. Next, the Pacific Theatre commander blew into Saigon and declared it a South Vietnamese victory. In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Eisenhower suggested a freer hand for people aiming for peace. He had been saying things like that for a while. With whom had he been talking? The Pope? I fell into an abyss of depression and my cover identity became extremely difficult to maintain. I believed I could never again share a friendship with my classmates, and they would never know how I felt for them. A few times I went out onto the prairie behind Sage Dorm and cried. As I looked out over the prairie, I could sense America stretched out before me in terrible danger. And I could only sit and cry. What a patriot! Early in February, I read a newspaper article which was utterly silly but transformed my entire outlook. An Indian man of God had predicted the end of the world. On the fateful day, his followers, who and sold all their possessions, gathered with him on a hillside to meet their Creator. But the guru had missed it by a few billion years. When his destitute followers realized this, they turned on him, and the women beat him with sticks. A few days later, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson declared in the papers, “The tide of world affairs is with us.” Right, Lyndon. Ever heard of the Bay of Fundy? Then on March 4, in London, M15 big shot, Kim Philby defected to the Russians. Astounding! Had we confused our vision of destiny with a Laurel and Hardy flick? Were these desperate time so few knew about? When I called Dad, he confirmed that this might in fact be the case. He also told me I had carte blanche if I wanted to do anything about it, but must realize that nobody could be trusted, and that I would be operating entirely alone. Well, it was going to be a long and dreary haul. I might as well get on with it. ***
Principal of Fountain Valley School, Lewis Perry Jr. I went with a plan to the School’s Principal, known to me as “Lew”, my most trusted friend. He agreed with my plan, and it was arranged that I would train a fellow student for a career in music. I knew the Cuban Missile Crisis had in fact very very nearly resulted in a global thermo nuclear war between America and Russia, and the need to educate and impassion the voting public against such potential disasters seemed to me acute. The Student’s name was Robert “Bobby” Hall Weir, the spoiled and corrupt son of a rich family from San Francisco
who was about to be kicked out of school for poor grades, anti-social behavior and stubborn arrogance. Bobby believed in miracles because that was a major tenant of his family’s religion. He believed that God would instantly fix him if, for example, he broke one of his bones. I thought he was a bit of an idiot, but he played the guitar passably, the only thing in which he appeared interested. His religion also believed that people can go into divine trances in which their eyes roll up into their heads, and during which the spirits of people far away, dead, or God Almighty Himself can speak through them. So one day Bobby came into his dormitory room and was outraged to find me suddenly his roommate. But I had done my homework, fell back onto my new bed, rolled my eyes up into my head, and started talking gibberish in a voice not my own. TO BE CONTINUED HERE RE CREATING THE Grateful Dead.. ***
Butter Bar Chip I returned to Vietnam as a Special Forces officer in May, 1968. Oddly enough, it was within the ranks o this group that I might be able to do the most good and prevent the loss of life in a hopeless situation. For those determined to fight to the death, I could do nothing; for others, I could perhaps turn aside the mindless point of the sword. Because Vietnam’s national character was formed by kicking the Chinese out over a thousand-year period and the French over eighty years, the Viets had learned how to survive as a group of families in the course of this process. They instinctively knew our young and fidgety nation would not be able to focus attention on the situation in their country for even three decades. My first assignment was with the Special Forces “A” Camp at Phu Tuc, in Phu Bon province located between the central highland capital of Pleiku and the coastal town of Tuy Hoa. It would be down this road that many thousands of refugees would flee when the highlands fell to the North Vietnamese six and one half years later. When I first walked sheepishly into the Phu Tuc team room, I was surrounded by seasoned combat veterans who wanted to know if I was an idiot Butter Bar Second Lieutenant* who would endanger their lives, or an O.K. rookie second lieutenant. Forthwith, they subjected me to their first line of security check. [* so named because the insignia of a Second Lieutenant, the lowest officer rank in the US Army, is a small brass bar which has the same shape as the bar of butter sold in American food markets]
The team room was a cheap jungle bar and grill festooned with late sixties war zone artifacts and decorations. In a box above the bar lived two Rhesus monkeys, a crotchety old female and a young male totally at mercy of his adolescent hormones. They were named “C” and “P”. The moment I entered, both of them jumped on me from the ceiling and started subjecting me to every indignity in their extensive repertoire while my team-mates roared with laughter. After a while and with some sympathetic advice from the non-commissioned officers, I was able to win C and P by hiding bits of food in my pockets and engaging in a various forms of nutritional bribery. When C started preening my scalp and P forgot me and began to woo C instead, I knew I had passed their test and gained two new friends. In fact, the company trusted C and P’s judgment, as they could “read” human motivations extraordinarily well. They also provided an acceptable means of getting rid of dangerous fools who came to our camp. Any such individual who placed his own interests ahead of our safety was assaulted the moment he stepped into the team room. C and P would fly into a rage and attack such people with genuinely frightening ferocity. Naturally, we would “save” the poor guy by rushing him out to his chopper while explaining that the monkeys were special gifts from the local village chief, and that we had to honor the sacred trust between our peoples embodied in the ambassadorial primates sent to us humans by the Buddhist monkey god, Hanuman. “It’s a native thing, you understand,” we’d explain apologetically.
Swimming in the river with C & P. The Phu Tuc area was populated with Jare and Rade Montagnard tribes and as a new American in the area, it was necessary to win some support among their local village elders. To this end, a “numpi” festival was arranged. Numpi is a beverage generated when warm water is poured into a jug of carefully fermented rice seedling. For several days before the festival, the team medic made me drink huge amounts of water to stretch my stomach. An hour before the event, I ate two loaves of bread to neutralize the alcohol content of what I would be expected to imbibe, and hid some stimulants up my sleeve. As we walked over to the village long house, Loi, my interpreter, nervously told me I would have to drink at least three canteens full of numpi or he would lose the considerable amount of money he had bet on me with a local Viet Cong sympathizer. When we arrived, a small crowd had gathered, dressed in ceremonial garb and sporting lots of clean automatic weapons. The ceremony was long and complicated but enlivened when the village virgins danced at the end. I managed to survive the doses of the noxious liquid and made all the necessary gestures and noises which this pagan ritual required. Loi and his friends profited handsomely at the expense of their communist rivals, and I was comforted by the knowledge that I now had some supporters in the south central highlands as I lay groaning on my bunker. Soon I was ordered back and forth across central Vietnam in a series of assignments, some of which were challenging, and some astonishingly boring. Late in 1968, I was assigned as the “A” team commander of Camp Cung Song, which lay on the road to Tuy Hoa southeast of Phu Tuc. Our camp sat on a hill overlooking the town of Cung Song. I was able to think of our airstrip and the lush little river valley as my home. I had seven other Green Berets under me, a team of Vietnamese special forces, 632 Montagnard mercenaries, 14,000 local inhabitants, 840 square miles of “area of responsibility,”1.3 million dollars worth of equipment, and an attached artillery battalion manning two eight-inch and two 175-millimeter pieces. To fund this theatre, a little clerk
jumped out of a helicopter each month with a gunnysack of $62,000 in V.N. piastas, and I would trade it for a book of vague jottings on the camp’s expenditures for the previous month. In fact, I was an occupying mayor.
Departing on a deep reconnaissance into the Highlands with my team. Amid the normal missions and working of the “A” Camp, I felt it was necessary to help prepare the Viets for the day when we would skulk away from the scene, leaving them to their fate with the neighboring northerners. To this end, I played volleyball with my mercenaries in the evenings. This was often the high point of my day. During these games, I always switched sides, playing for the team with the least points. After the games, we would talk, and in that setting, in the way of soldiers the world over, we developed a trust. After a while, I told them that the North might win in a few years. They usually smiled warmly and shrugged; They had seen this situations for thousands of years, and I paid the best wages. I told them that I would like to meet any local cousin they knew who was angry at me. Sure enough, one evening, on the opposite of the net stood a tall Champa Viet who was extremely uncomfortable to be near me, and played with insulting savagery. After many vignettes within the ritual of volleyball over several days, he calmed down to the point where he could talk to me through intermediaries. When he could finally look me in the eye, I laid out my bluff/bargain: I would try to keep the devastating American B-52 strategic bombers away from “our” valley if he would attempt to keep the North Vietnamese regulars out. This was the initial agreement which allowed us to communicate. To sweeten the pot, I indicated that there were some medical supplies I might “lose” upon my departure. If these were stored for the day when Northern troops swept the valley looking for Viets who had fought with the Americans, the supplies ld be used as bargaining chips to help avoid the inevitable and brutal “re-education” camps which would soon follow. And so a local civilian administration was eventually set into place, and preparations were made to preserve Cung Song’s interests during the nasty times looming ahead. Fate smiled upon us; the North Vietnamese and we Americans lost interest in our verdant vale. It was a sad day when we lowered our flag and the Team A-226 streamer for the last time at Camp Cung Song. My father visited for the ceremony. He was working as a senior advisor in Binh Dinh province to the north. That evening we choppered back through the gloaming to Qui Nhon where we discussed the changes taking place state-side over dinner. Our enthusiasm was not overwhelming but our hopes flickered on.
Shortly before returning to America. Years later, I heard that the Chung Song area had not been mauled too severely after the fall of Saigon. It seemed to me that it all might have happened the way it did anyway, but t seems to me that the wise prophesy of my late father, the appreciations of or friends in that by-gone era, and cultivation of on-go intelligence had been key in helping to sew seeds of warmth and nourishment in the traces we left behind. We had devoted over a decade to Vietnam, and on the whole I was proud of the life we had sought to preserve. I would miss Phu Tuc, Cung Song, ad my friends in Vietnam. I had completed my missions with honor as I understood it; I had done my best. Now I needed some sleep. After note: Over three million of my friends died or were ruined in that war, Veitnamese, Ameicans, and countless others. I returned several times to help get my Dear Little Country back on its feet. Vietnam is booming now, Saigon has become Ho Chi MinhCity, and I will return again. But the war had made many Americans naively bitter, as it was the first complete failure of almost everything the average citizen had believed in about the destiny of their country and its relationship with the world. This was reflected in our political environment, which gradually became a poisonous struggle between the two dominant parties. By the late ninties Americaâ€™s political environment was exhibiting symptoms of an unacknowledged civil war in the same way you, good reader, do not consciously spend, with your friends and associates, more than perhaps 0.00001% of your life acknowledging, and actually looking carefully at, with both eyes, the reality that right between your eyes is your nose. I had read Confucius when I was a child, Early in the Bush administration
This Rice Tastes Like Blood Review by Peter Charlot FVS ‘65 Chalmer's (Chip) Wood was privy to the future of Vietnam at the age of eleven in 1958. His Father was an American Envoy during those years. Between dinner table talk, his bodyguard/spy chauffer named Sinh, and Chip's experience on the streets, Wood embraced Viet Nam. Chip Wood loved those who would be enemies of his country during the war, and, as he knew, friends and trading partners in the distant future. How do children of potential enemies play together? Both Fathers watch carefully, for the bonds of their children may be more important than their own. In this case childhood friendships were made that would last beyond the bordeom of blood letting. As it happened the ticking clock marked precisely the predictions Wood recognized, this being American hubris and eventual defeat. This young boy marked out a path for himself that is dipomatic fine art. As a Green Beret lieutenant, Wood arranged an “understanding”, in a tiny part of Viet Nam, that mirrored the eventual international settlements, and long before these were achieved. Wood vowed to do his duty by his country without kill his country's temporary enemies” He achieved both.
Review of Song of Saigon: Chalmers Benedict Wood II offers a perspective of one of America’s quagmires - Vietnam - that is not just unmatched, it is unprecedented. In 1958 he lived in Vietnam as the child of a prominent American Diplomat who was tasked by Dulles evaluate South and North Vietnam, and establish back-channel liaison with the family of Ho Chi Minh. In 1968 he returned there with the elite Green Beret Special Forces as a Liaison Officer, and Area “A” Team Commander. His Command, Cung Song a town of 14,000 souls in the highlands, becomes the only one successfully returned to civilian domestic rule during the entire war. Knowing that America’s loss is a forgone conclusion, he struggled to save the lives of those around him while attempting to “turn aside the mindless point of the sword,” and plant seeds of trust for the time in the distant future when he will return to start again his father’s work.
Wood’s unique experience sings from these pages. His adventures on the center-stage of history don’t just raise eyebrows, they alter American political philosophy as we know it. His lessons from the 1960s about the vanity of Western ideology reach out and strangle the reader in a post 9-11 world with the warning: those that don’t take care to remember history are doomed to repeat it. S. McLaughlin Senior Writer, Nextel Corporate Communications Public Relations Society of America Strategist Magazine Inc Magazine Best Practices July 27, 2004