A letter of warning from Vietnam

Name: Letter of warning
Date: 1960's
Unit: All
Location: Vietnam

This is to inform you that as of........................ 196 , a certain mudhound water-soaked and slightly crazy individual known as......................... is leaving our little City of...................... securely nestled among the jungles and rice paddies, located in the Southern part of a semi-tropic country in the Far East known as The Republic of Vietnam.

Therefore your attention is drawn to the following advice, of which you should take careful note and observe that he is no longer the sweet, unspoilt boy who left Australia fired with the patriotic fervour and Zest for adventure. He is now older, probably leaner, wiser in the ways of the world, and possibly short tempered, so get the women off the streets, hide all the beer and grog, put a chain around the fridge, lock the cow in the barn, and note the Following:-

  • This man has survived the worst the Far East can offer: - Mud, rain, heat, dust, sand, mosquitoes, loneliness, monsoons, not to mention a liberal sprinkling of Typhoons, and a couple of Coupes-de-etat.
  • Be he husband, sweetheart, friend, son or brother to you he is still yours.
  • He may look a little strange and act a little peculiar, but this is to be expected, after.. Months in VIETNAM. He will gaze in awe and fascination at blonde hair, trams, blue eyes, clean sheets, hotels, and tight sweaters. Remember, that his only contact with white women has been via the centre pages of Playboy magazines, and he will probably think that all girls have staple marks on their stomachs. If you wish to disillusion him, do so gently.
  • Pay no attention when he smears 'soy sauce' on his potatoes; or mixes raw snails with his rice, in the hope of making them taste better.
  • Neglect to say anything about etherised eggs, 'C' rations, spare ribs, dehydrated potatoes, weenies, fried rice, fresh milk and ice cream, and above all do not mention or even hint at the subject of fresh bread or Aussie tea.
  • If your family is fond of ham and lima beans, corn beef, sweet corn, or Vienna Sausages - serve them when he is not around.
  • If he walks across the garden and climbs through the window, humor him, he doesn't trust the path - it may be mined.
  • Flushing toilets will be a source of constant wonder to him; after he overcomes the initial fear of them. If he grabs a shovel and heads for the back garden merely direct him to the nearest correct room and gently take the shovel from him. Act as if nothing happened if he, "Pees" in the gutter, as it is common practice among the native people of VIETNAM.
  • If he prefers to sit squat-legged on the floor and insists on everybody joining him, in eating squid soup with chopsticks, pay no heed, (humour him).
  • ABOVE ALL - do not ask him, "How was the mail over there?,' as he is liable to get violent and go into convulsions.
  • If he offers you "Hai Muoi Dong' to go Chop-chop, humour him, and go, but do not ask him any questions, such as, "You buy me one Saigon Tea?"
  • If he mumbles in his sleep such things as, "Black Market", "Tea Sippers" or other odd things and sayings, just ignore him.
  • ENCOURAGE him to drink out of a glass. If you give him a CAN he will drink it certainly, but he may then fling it over his shoulder with a roar of "UP THE OLD RED ROOSTER" and the furniture will suffer.
  • FORCE of habit may cause him to do some apparently odd things - sleep with his boots on - shower in public - swear fondly at his closest friends - grind his cigarette into the carpet. He will constantly look at trees, not for their beauty but because he suspects a sniper. He will distrust bus stops because they have an unpleasant association with grenades, and if a litter bug throws something from a passing car - he will scream loudly and dive for the gutter. This can be amusing and endear him to passersby.
  • Unless you want to risk life and limb, do not ask him, "Does it ever rain in VIETNAM" or "Are the women really flat chested?"
  • If he happens to be driving as a postman blows his whistle, hang on, for you can expect a very sudden stop; in Vietnam the second blast of the whistle is followed by bullets.
  • You may have to make allowances or explain to visitors if he wanders about the house wearing only a towel or just in his under pants. Tell him that people in Australia normally wear clothes.
  • When crossing the street take care of him as he has become impartial, indifferent, and completely oblivious to car horns, cycles, pedi-cabs, bicycles, water buffaloes, horse and carts, bullock drawn wagons and other such things that are found on the streets of BIEN HOA, BARIA, SAIGON and VUNG TAU.
  • When he wants a taxi, be kind and get one for him. He may stand on the edge of the road, waving, as you would indicate goodbye, and may get abusive when they wave back at him. After getting him a cab explain that the driver is not a cheat, or DINKY DOW or even NUMBER TWELVE and that he has to pay the price that is showing on the meter when the journey is completed. Above all else never - never - let him get into a blue and yellow taxi, under any circumstances.
  • If he complains of being thirsty and is looking for a five-gallon plastic jerrycan, explain to him that the water in the tap is potable (drinkable).
  • Remember that beneath that rough, water soaked, weather beaten and dishevelled exterior, beats a heart of gold, sweet, pure, though a little wet.
  • He may not look or act like it, but he is your very own. Just allow him a few years to get used to being back in civilization again.
  • If any problems arise that you cannot handle, please call the Vietnamese Police at BIEN HOA, BARIA, SAIGON or VUNG TAU. They will not be able to help you, but they like to use the telephone, as it makes them feel important.
  • Do not send any letters or parcels after.………….. as this crazy looking, bloody-eyed, mud-splattered, damp, lonely, dishevelled and idiotic so called soldier is on his way back to you.

Good Luck. You'll need it.


Last updated: 4 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), A letter of warning from Vietnam, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 21 October 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/letter-warning-vietnam
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