Rest and Recuperation
United States servicemen on a twelve-month tour of duty were given seven days R & R outside Vietnam.
Sydney Australia was my choice.
Heading to ‘The Land Down Under’
It was November 1970, almost eight months, since I first set foot in Vietnam. It was time for a much needed break, so I put in for R & R at Sydney Australia.
It wasn’t long and my wish was granted. I had orders to leave for Sydney on November 23rd and had only a week or so to get prepared. The only clothes I had in my possession was jungle fatigues, and I had to find some stateside clothes real quick. One of the ‘Blues’ came through by lending a pair of jeans, shirt and shoes to wear until I bought something more fashionable in Sydney.
On the morning of the 23rd I hitched a ride on a C-130 cargo plane out of Phuoc Vinh to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon. From there the flight to Sydney was about 4,000 miles with one stop at Darwin, which is in the northern most part of Australia. The plane was jam-packed with other GIs like myself seeking a week getaway in the ‘Land Down Under’.
Upon arrival in Sydney, we were bussed from the airport to the United States R & R Center in the King’s Cross section of the city. There we were briefed on what Sydney had to offer GIs for the next seven days. My first stop was a clothing store, and they definitely saw me coming. I walked out looking like a ‘Hippie’ on the TV program “The Mod Squad” and a hundred bucks lighter.
I still had to find a place to stay for the week. King’s Cross is where the night life was supposed to be, so I checked into a hotel in that area of the city with-in walking distance of the hot spots. As I was leaving the hotel I was approached by a young lady that offered me a better deal. She talked me into staying the week in a house close to Bondi Beach with some of her friends at half the price of the hotel…
Down Under and Broke
The young lady and I caught a cab and headed to the house owned by her friends. That was my first ride in a civilian vehicle in over eight months and what a ride it was. In Sydney, they drove on the left side of the road (which freaked me out) and apparently had no speed limits. We pulled up in front of an older two story house, paid the cab driver and went inside. Her friends were a young married couple that looked to be in their early twenties. They were expecting a baby, and I learned he was a GI that went to Sydney on R & R, met his wife to be and failed to return to Vietnam (AWOL). I believe he was from Michigan, but chose not to discuss it because he would probably never return.
I was given a room close to the front door which would be mine for the next seven days. After I got settled, I walked down to Bondi Beach, which was just a short walk from the house. It was springtime in this part of the world and the weather was too cool to swim so the beach was almost vacant. I took my shoes off and got my feet wet so I could say I was in the Tasman Sea.
It was now time to check out the much talked about King’s Cross night life. I took a cab downtown and ended up at the hottest bar in town the ‘Whisky a Go Go’. After another taxi cab ride that night back to my living quarters at Bondi, I wished I would have kept my hotel room in King’s Cross.
The next day when I was getting ready to go back downtown the unthinkable happened. I reached into my back pocket and my wallet was missing. The first thing I did was head to the R & R Center and see if someone turned it in. Sure enough it was turned in by a taxi cab driver, and he took all my money. I was happy to get my wallet back with all my important papers, even if my money was gone. It must have fallen out of my back pocket the night before while riding back to Bondi in a cab.
What a feeling! Five days left in Sydney and no money.
Then I remembered Marv Lundervold was also on this trip. Marv and I both served with the ‘Blues’ when I first came to Charlie Troop. We went separate ways upon arrival in Sydney. I managed to locate Marv, and he saved the day, which was not uncommon for a fellow ‘Blue’. He loaned me three hundred bucks of which most got spent at the ‘Wiskey a Go Go’ at King’s Cross in the evenings to follow.
Besides just partying that week I went horseback riding, bus tour of the city and ate at some mighty fine restaurants. It was a great city to visit and would love to return someday…
Sydney Opera House under construction in the early 70’s