Rach Soi Vietnamese Naval Base
Kien Giang Province, South Vietnam
T-152-1 and T-152-10 were "chopped" from our main River Assault Squadron 15 and placed at the tiny Rach Soi Vietnamese Naval Base following a large operation in Kien Giang Province. It was November 1968 and we became a facet of the Operation SEALORDS interdiction plan. Our Tango boats alternated night patrol duty for 8 or 9 weeks. We patrolled with 1 or 2 fiberglass Patrol Boat Rivers (PBR's).
Rach Gia is 5 kilometers north of Rach Soi. Each day one of our Armored Troop Carriers would transit the 8 kilometers to Vinh Thanh Village and await the arrival of the faster PBR's. In retrospect it was very poor planning by our superiors. We traveled the same route daily and tied up at the same village. The enemy could have captured or killed all of us at any given time.
KIA - December 27, 1968
You Shall Not Be Forgotten
To read my recollections of this tragic night click Here
The Vietnamese built wonderful wooden fishing boats.
A military aircraft preparing to land at the small airfield. The Rach Soi Base is in the foreground. The (2) ASPB craft left soon after our Armored Troop Carriers arrived
Fishing was always good with concussion grenades.
A child negotiating the bridge over a small side stream at Vinh Thanh Village.
Here we are having dinner with the local Vietnamese Navy personnel and their families. We provided the Budweiser and they prepared the food. L to R with chopsticks: Myself, Robin Lee and Patrick Denny. We slept on our boats. This was at the Vietnamese quarters.
Robin Lee, Tom Brunner and Patrick Denny partaking of the Thanksgiving dinner that was flown into us by chopper. My plate is in the foreground.
We all had our little "girlfriends". This was mine. It took weeks to get close to her. The big breakthrough came when I shared a bag of rubber bands with the kids. They played a game like marbles with them. The kids were precious and gave us hope in the midst of war.
Here I am with another "little one" in 1994 when I journeyed back to Vinh Thanh Village. I had boarded a tiny ferry to cross back to Rach Gia when she and her mother got on. They were going to "market". She insisted on sitting beside me. It was as if she knew that we treated the kids well 26 years earlier.
Two sisters circa 1968.
The same sisters in 1994. The taller one is the youngest in the 1968 picture. She was ill and was showing her age.
This lady was also one of the "kids" back then. She rushed to her home and brought back an old wrinkled Polaroid photo that we had taken of her in 1968. Amazing..! I revisited Vinh Thanh Village in 1999 again. That time I took a large photo album of "kid" pictures back to give to them. Vietnamese are very "ancestral" so they stay close to the area they were born. I met many other "kids" that I used to play with during the war.
I photographed this man in 1994. I recall him from 1968 and he remembered me as well.
A child partaking of a can of C-Rations in front of our boats at the Rach Soi Base.
Cunningham helping load hundreds of enemy grenades found in a sunken barrel.
Somewhere in Kien Giang Province. Note the older ragtop Armored Troop Carrier and (2) PBR's tied up at the rivers edge.
Another weapons cache of brand new AK-47 and SKS rifles discovered when a secondary explosion exposed the sunken sampan they were in. They were covered in grease to keep them from rusting.
Here is the old Rach Soi Base in 1999. The communists use it as a base now. I took this photo covertly as my guide and I passed in a sampan on our way to Vinh Thanh Village. I was able to take some good video and still shots before a communist soldier ran up to me and said, "No picture...no picture..!"
This is the old entrance into the Rach Soi Base. The guard tower is still standing. The large yellow fuel tank in the back is still where it sat when I was there in 1968.
While surfing the Internet one day Raymond T. Gray found my webpage on Rach Soi. Raymond helped build the Rach Soi Base in 1966 while working with RMK BRJ Construction. His "Tour of Duty" lasted from 1965 to 1972. Raymond is still married to his Vietnamese wife who is from Can Tho. Click HERE to read some of what Raymond shared with me about those early days.
This is a very special lady. We tied our boat to her coconut tree each afternoon before our night patrols in 1968 and early 1969. She took care of my little "girlfriend" (above). One day my mother sent me some hard candy in a "Care Package". It was in a nice ornamental Danish can. When the candy was gone I gave the can to this lady. I recall her placing it on her small mantel where all of her heirlooms were. When I arrived at Vinh Thanh Village in 1994 she sat down in front of me and held both of my hands as if she were my aunt. Later I mentioned the can and she told me how she had buried her valuables in it in her backyard when the communists took over. Unfortunately she had never been able to find it again. Oh how I wish I would have had a metal detector with me to help her out. I found out that she was 81 then so in 1968 she had been 55 years of age. When I returned in 1999 she had passed away. I am thankful that I captured her pleasant countenance in this photo.