The Sampan

Sunday, June 30, 1968

During our afternoon bathing activities, a large sampan floated into Kilo’s beach area.  It was fully loaded with maize, and we pulled it close to shore.  The vessel was manned by a middle-aged couple navigating with long poles, fore and aft.  The big question was:  What other cargo is stored beneath the maize?

Captain Cavagnol spoke to the couple individually and checked their ID’s.  They were bringing the maize to market and planned to unload near the bridge down river from us.  It was a plausible story so Cavagnol allowed them to proceed (the load was too big to go under the low bridge).

We pushed the sampan back into the current, and the couple expertly maneuvered the craft back on its course.  I was suspicious of the cargo and asked Cavagnol about it.  He pointed to the “fleet” of sampans docked in and around Thuong Duc.  It was a center of economic activity and served the surrounding communities.  He said, “We should go to the market . . . it will be good for relations.”

The peepers * were weaving rice hats and keeping watchful eyes on the naked Marine bathers.  The Captain approached Trinh and started a conversation regarding the market in Thuong Duc.  It was open every day, but the busy period was on Friday.  Trinh offered to be our guide, and Cavagnol accepted.  We planned to go later in the week.

Just before sunset a Chinook helicopter dropped a pallet of 155mm rounds, attached by a cable, and then made a quick landing.  Supplies were promptly offloaded, and we transferred our outgoing mailbag to the helicopter.  During mail call I received letters from Jenny.  She was now in summer school at San Diego State and living with her friend, Nancy.**  Jenny had already received some of my letters, and we were now back into semi-regular communication.

*  See previous blog “Losing My Soap” June 17, 1968

** See previous blog “Ala Moana Center” May 12, 1968

Next Edition:  Jenny’s June Update

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