Sumo Returns From Tokyo


roadside hooch
Roadside Hooch near Dai Loc

Saturday, September 21, 1968

Max was packed and ready for the trip back to Battalion Headquarters.  We shook hands and parted ways in a cordial manner.  He and I had completely different styles and attitudes about the mess hall (and the war).  I was sure he would succeed in his own way, wherever he was assigned.

Mama-San and Hua were relieved when Max left with the Admin truck.  They didn’t like him but couldn’t give me a reason why (maybe they felt the tension between us).  The Vietnamese could “read us” with accuracy.  Our American culture was more emotional compared to theirs . . . we let it all hang out, while they were much more reserved.

Sumo arrived with the Admin truck and was a sight for sore eyes.  He looked refreshed and was happy to see us.  We spent some time exchanging the latest news and went to mail call together.  As usual, I received a letter from Jenny.

Fernando came over to give me the gossip from Headquarters . . . Max was transferred to Lima Battery.  As it turned out, Lima Battery was now located at Hill 55, and they ate at the 5th Marine Regimental mess hall.  This meant that Max would be assigned duty at that facility.  Good for him.

After dinner Sumo presented Reb and me with the “gifts” he had purchased with our money in Tokyo.  Reb was thrilled with a large box of “Washi” art paper.  It had a smooth surface on one side and was textured on the other.  Either side could be used for sketching.  Reb said the paper was exotic and had a natural feel to it.

Sumo’s selection for me was a box of handmade Ha-ze candles.  They were long lasting and had the unique feature of keeping the form of their flames; they didn’t flicker as they burned.  The candles came with a special nipper in order to keep the wick trimmed properly.  These would be used when I wrote to Jenny . . . Sumo couldn’t have picked a more perfect gift.

We got a basic rundown of his R&R.  After arriving in Tokyo, he took the short flight to Iwakuni.  He and his wife spent the first night together in her parents’ house.  The next day they rode the train back to Tokyo and settled into a hotel for the week.  There were similar happenings there, as in Sydney.  Student anti-war demonstrations were against any presence of American servicemen, and it seemed the Vietnam War was being protested around the globe.

Art Paper
Washi Art Paper

Next Edition:  The Rice Crop

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