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By Jim Hale
The following is lifted from my forthcoming book, Casualty of Peace.
When our sworn enemy the president of North Vietnam died, on September 2, 1969, I happened to be living on Le Van Duyet Street, Gia Dinh, Saigon.
It was evening and the city was starting to cool down. I was smoking my pipe on my balcony watching the street scene below. For some reason, the din of people and traffic suddenly quieted. All the noise and humanity in motion came to a halt.
Cars and Honda's pulled to the side of the road as a long procession of mourners came up the street. Wide-eyed, bystanders stood frozen in reverence. In front of the march, Buddhist monks in gold robes slow-walked. Behind them, a cart with a huge banner displayed the image of their national hero, Ho Chi Minh.
I was already against the war but was stunned. Why hadn't the South Vietnamese National Police stopped them?
Exactly four months later I was watching the nightly Armed Forces TV news program. Two uniformed reporters, one a Marine, the other a US Army soldier ended the broadcast with a personal statement.
"We are not allowed to report the truth."
The disastrous war went on for years more. It ended with the collapse of the unpopular government. Tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Indochinese lost their lives in the gruesome process.
This was just the beginning of my education. As we see another disastrous war come to an end I was reminded of this story and wanted to share it.
I'm left to wonder. Why am I always a witness to such historical spectacle?
Jim Hale is a Vietnam vet who served in the Air Force from 1965-1969. He currently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.