Monday, October 22, 2007


Susie (not her real name) was a Vietnamese teenager, maybe eighteen, or nineteen, living in the worst conditions imaginable. She lived in a two-room shack assembled from debris discarded by the United States Air Force at Da Nang Airbase. A few pieces of plywood stuck up and covered by corrugated tin covering a dirt floor, her parents, a grandmother, and three siblings.
They all survived on what Susie made turning tricks for the Air Force, Army, and Marines that were stationed in the area. Susie was probably cute by Vietnamese standards, but it would be hard to see, even if a GI took the time to look at her for other purposes. She wore dirty shiny black silk pants with a flower pattern top that loosely covered her unwashed skinny body. The only thing attracting any GI was her large breast, full of milk for her six-month-old baby. They moved back and forth as she walked around in front of customers negotiating her “boom boom” price.
Fy dolla or cartn of Salam!” she insisted, while the GI tried and tried to get her to lower her price. The cost of her dignity was so low, you could by Salem or Kools at the BX for $2.50, but she had many mouths to feed.
Susie sat down in a chair facing the fire in the middle of the largest room and folded her arms across her chest, resolute that was her bottom “dolla!” The big guy from Georgia stood behind her, unzipped his pants, and began playing with himself while he continued to try and talk her down.
Susie did not know what he was doing until the instant something hot and sticky hit her in the back of the head. Jumping up and turning in his direction she flailed his hard chest and defending arms for all she was worth, but only succeeded in making him laugh. He turned and ran out of the hooch and into the darkness, heading back toward the guarded entrance of the airbase.
Susie cried and cussed the GI at the top of her lungs and the little ones moved closer to their grandmother. “He numba 10,000! He dinky-dao Merican!”
She left the room and I eased out the door feeling very ashamed to be an American. I was also not able to grasp how a woman could lower herself to turning tricks, or cleaning up in shower rooms full of naked GI’s, but America has never had to suffer such a degrading thing as having your country be at war on its own soil and be occupied by a foreign country. I suppose we all would do what we had to do to feed our children, but God help us, Americans would find it very difficult to transition into that mode.
I visited Susie sometime later and went through the motions of loosing my virginity! Yes, nineteen, remember I was too busy partying with the guys, but I knew the moves, just had never done the deed completely.
I handed her a carton of Salem cigarettes and she led me into a tiny room with a piece of thin cloth for a door. There on a ragged dirty little bed she striped down and laid full out before me, doing “come here” motions with each hand at the end of outstretched arms.
I dropped my pants to my knees, unbuttoned my shirt, and walked to the edge of the bed.
You were always ready to run, so you never got completely undressed. Sometimes little kids who were part of the ruse would come running in after the money or cigarettes had been handed over and yell out, “MP come, MP come!”
GI’s would scatter like chickens from a fox and their money or cigarettes were gone without anything in return.
I remember one unfortunate fellow high-tailed it out of Susie’s and, in the dark, made the mistake of dashing into a little shed out back. He knew immediately, but much too late, that the little shack was actually an open trench outhouse!
Sometimes the MP’s did come, and this area was off limits, so you ran and hid without knowing if it was real or not.
However, this time Susie and I were alone, so to speak, separated from her family by a flimsy piece of cotton. In these situations, there is no kissing, there is no feeling around, or fooling with foreplay of any kind. You simply crawled on and got it over in as dignified a manner as you possibly could. There is no great conquest there, no feeling of nailing a prime piece of ass, just a little more than old-fashioned manual masturbation!
You pull up your pants sheepishly, flinging your condom to the corner, as she wipes herself on a rag that has served its purpose countless times before you. You are just the next “john” and the very next one is waiting impatiently on the other side of the cloth door.
I came back once more, but could only muster a request for oral sex. Remembering the dirty imprint of her body on my chest had ruined any further intercourse for me. However, the BJ did little for me and so, I returned to the base and to masturbation for the remainder of my tour.
On February 27, 1967, a round of fifty 122mm rockets, earmarked for the airbase, overshot us, for the most part, and hit this little shanty village. Susie and her family were all killed instantly from the Katyusha rocket’s fragmentation, or so we heard.

On the base, and just one hooch south of mine lived Airmen Fuller and Jones. They received their wounds at the same moment.
  • Gary Leroy Fuller - The Plains, Ohio – Married - 22 Years Old (Vietnam War Memorial Panel 15E Row 105)
  • Robert Henry Osborn Jones - Arlington, Virginia – Single - 21 Years Old (Vietnam War Memorial Panel 15E – Row 106)

Both died on February 27, 1967 at Da Nang Airbase, South Vietnam during an early morning Katyusha rocket attack on the base. Fuller died as he sat up startled in his bunk from another explosion that occurred just half a second prior to the one he never heard. Shrapnel caught the young man in the jugular and he almost surely died instantly. Airman Jones was wounded running for a bunker, catching shrapnel from the same rocket in his lower body. He died minutes later on a hospital ship in the China Sea.
In the dayroom, the next evening, where we gathered for what would now be called psychological counseling, we raised our warm Black Labels in honor of our fallen comrades, and, those of us that knew her, in “Susie’s honor!”
War is hell on many fronts! 

To hear the rocket attack, go here: 


BRUNO said...

And to this, I shall keep my earlier promise, and add nothing.

You tell it with a lot better quality of "restrained-compassion" than I ever could---or would.

You are EXACTLY on target, about "what if" the tables were turned? What would YOU be willing to do?

We Americans ARE spoiled in that way. I just pray that we never find ourselves in that position, at least not while I'm still breathing...

Mushy said...

Amen to that Bruno.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

You tell that one with a lot of heart felt sympathy for a sad situation. It’s a credit to ya. There's a tendency to objectify these people when you're young and coming from a society that seems a world away. I’ve seen that myself, most often when I was traveling with the Navy to the Philippines or Thailand. But the hookers in Rome or Catania Sicily were no less tragic looking.

There are a lot of ugly realities to the way other people in the world live that would shock a lot of folks in polite American society, even if they see themselves as worldly. It's apparent to anyone who travels in the developing world that we've got a lot to be thankful for. But there's folks in this country turnin' tricks to pay for their crack, or whatever, that might give Susie a run for her money. Very sad.

Wish our young men weren't put in positions to need to go to poor raggedy assed locals for their needs, but those needs are eternal, and history is full of stories of soldiers taking what they can when they need to, however they can. Read a story once about Roman soldiers stripping the leg tendons off dead enemy warriors to use as condoms when they took their pleasures with the dead men’s widows and daughters. Time rolls on.

david mcmahon said...

There is a book publisher waiting for this and other vital chapters in your personal manuscript, Mushy.

Chuck said...

Every time I read one of your stories from the war I always feel so stupid because all I can say is wow. You really put us there Mushy.

Mushy said...

Thanks biggest fan!

David - Thanks for the praise...I continue largely from your support.

Chuck - Thanks, my friend.

Lin said...

Mushy, you're right - would we have the guts to do what that lady did to help her family survive horrific conditions. Likely not. We have been so very privileged ... to date. We should never forget that.

Waitress Polly said...

Excellent writing.
You kept me reading and the way you unfolded the story was well done.

You've given me a lot to think about. I'm grateful I stumbled across you from Sarge Charlie's blog.

May I add you to my sidebar?

Suldog said...

Mushy - What David McMahon said. I'd snap it up as soon as it hit the shelves. AND be very proud to say, "I knew him when..."

Buck Pennington said...

I think FHB nailed it when he said "But there's folks in this country turnin' tricks to pay for their crack, or whatever, that might give Susie a run for her money. Very sad."

The Vietnamese, the Thais, and/or the Laotians didn't have a corner on the squalor market...then or now. You'll find a "dark underbelly" to humanity wherever/whenever you want to take the time or make the effort to look. Even here.

An excellent post about an uncomfortable subject.

Hammer said...

Once again. Great post. That's got to be one hell of a life and I'm sure it still is for a good many of those folks.

I remember the stories that my dad told me. He was always elected to sneak into an off limits town to find pussy for his squad.

Waitress Polly said...

I just noticed your photo, Mushy. You're not one of those Autumobloggers like Lemonette over on You Tube, are you? Lemonette at the Sonic

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Oh Mushy, the experiences that you have endured at an age far too early to have dealt with it (any age would still be too early, never mind as a kid) is heart-breaking.

You are one hell of a writer my friend. This is your book - David is right, please piece these chapters together and get it to an agent. He would snap your hands off.

Mushy said...

Polly - Heavens no! I get too much flak from just carrying my still camera!

Carol - From you that's the best! Thanks.

Becky said...

There were so many emotions in reading this post -- from embarassment to laughter (crawling on top) to sadness.

pat houseworth said...

A million "Susie" women and children over there...sad story, as is war itself.....

As for Airman Fuller, he was from "The Plains" which in reality is Athens, Ohio, home of my Alma Ohio University(not to be confused with Ohio State)...the Plains is a small little berg on the edge of Athens(only 20,000 minus the college itself) in the foothills of Southeast Ohio....just for historical refernce Mushy.

Catmoves said...

Thank you, Mushy.

Kevin said...

Wow. That was an intense read. Thanks Mushy.

Debbie Does Nothing said...

I agree with David McMahon. You need to gather up these posts and send them to a publisher. No editing, just as is. Your writing is so raw and beautiful, heartfelt without being overly sentimental. Bravo.

*Goddess* said...

For some reason, the story of that solider trying to get Susie to lower her price always makes me sad when you tell it. I guess I feel ashamed FOR her.