After getting up early, I got ready for our last day of visiting locations that are important to Mike and I. We had the buffet breakfast and waiting for our driver to pick us up at 7:30. The last couple of mornings we moved the pickup timeout 30 minutes so we could get a little extra rest.
Ben pulled into the hotel street and open the side door for Mike and me and David climbed into the front passenger seat, navigator seat, of the van. We departed for My Lai Massacre Museum in the Quang Ngai area.
If you aren’t familiar with the My Lai Massacre - A young lieutenant, William Calley, a platoon leader in the 11th Brigade Americal Division, and his platoon killed over 500 civilians. Being a career soldier, I wore the Americal Division insignia on my right shoulder for 20 years, and it was immediately associated with the My Lai Massacre. Mike and I were with our unit one year after the massacre occurred, in March 1968 and the area we operated in was just across the river. Mike and I thought we should pay our respects to the civilians that lost their lives that day due to one criminal, a lieutenant.
I found the Museum and Memorial educational and humbling. It was slanted towards North Vietnam and their people, but it should be, it’s their story. The platoon shouldn’t have committed these murders under any circumstances.
I had a woman in her mid-twenties that was with her boyfriend and sister ask me how I felt about the massacre, as she was crying. I told her I thought it was a criminal act, and I felt sorry for villagers that were killed that day. She thanked me and left.
We departed Quang Ngai for the last time and headed north towards Chu Lai. Chu Lai was the Americal Division Headquarters and the location of the Combat Center. The Combat Center is where all division soldiers entered to get transportation to their unit. It was also the location of my rear job, after I left my infantry platoon, where I was responsible for shipping these soldiers to their unit.
After an hour drive, we reached the Combat Center. Of course, nothing was there, but it wasn’t too hard to visualize the layout of the Shipping Shed and where my hooch was. It was at my hooch that Mike came to visit after he got a rear job, and we sat out front watching the South China Sea and sipped on our Jim Beam and Coke and talked of our time together and our platoon brothers. It was the same location we hugged, for what we thought would be the last time, when I left Vietnam to go back to the states.
What a fitting ending to an exciting, unforgettable, and emotional trip back in time. A trip I could only do with Mike.
More to come tomorrow.
When I Turned Nineteen: A Vietnam War Memoir and Soldiering After the Vietnam War.