In a letter from Xuan Loc dated June 19, 1965, I wrote about a helicopter crash that had happened a week earlier:
I was there -- not when it crashed but shortly afterwards; I was part of a search party that went out in jeeps to find it. Fortunately another helicopter located it from the air and circled overhead until we could find a road leading in to the crash site.
Needless to say, none of us were too happy about driving around the Vietnamese countryside at night in a driving rainstorm.
Eventually we found a way to drive in to the downed helicopter; it was lodged among three trees and was badly smashed up, especially the co-pilot's side. There was no sign of the crew.
Soon we got word on the radio (that's what I was along for, to operate the radio) that the crew had walked in to Xuan Loc, carrying the co-pilot who had a broken leg.
When we got back to Xuan Loc I talked to the crew chief, who said they had started walking away from the crash because they were afraid the Viet Cong would find them if they stayed by the helicopter. They didn't know exactly where they were; fortunately they weren't far from Xuan Loc; after half an hour of stumbling through jungle, underbrush, barbed wire, etc., they happened onto a Vietnamese army post on the outskirts of town.
Second photo: Clipping from the newspaper Pacific Stars and Stripes.
10° 55' 56.00" North, 107° 14' 3.00" East
Except for the helicopter crash on June 12 (previous tip), Xuan Loc was quiet during the five weeks I was there in 1965. I suppose I must have worked shifts in the radio shack, as in Phước Vĩnh, and occasionally we made feeble attempts at digging trenches in the sticky wet clay, but otherwise I don't remember much.
Actually I went to Saigon twice during those five weeks, so I only spent about 27 nights in Xuan Loc.
Nearly ten years later there was a fierce battle in and around Xuan Loc, from April 9 to 21, 1975. This was the last major battle of the war. I was already living in Germany by this time, listening to the news on the radio every hour at least.
My son Nick was not quite four years old at this time. Every morning when he woke up his first question was: "Is the war over yet?" And one day it was, on April 30, 1975, when the North Vietnamese forces took control of Saigon.