R&R in Sydney

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


Filed under Vietnam War

74 responses to “R&R in Sydney

  1. I was in Sidney on I & I the week of Sept 22, 1969. what a great place to party. Girls loved US soldiers and they loved to show it. Wanted to go back and almost made it, they stopped me at the airport check-in, saw that I had already been there once. What a bummer. Later, T

  2. usastruck

    Got that right!
    An adventure I’ll never forget…

  3. I really do anticipate your next posts. If this one is any indication of the quality of your future posts, then I should say I’m hooked.

  4. I left CU CHI AO for R and R in Philippines islands and spent two of the best weeks I ever had in my life. What captured my eye was the aid in Stars and Stripes that asked you to come to the PI and see the brown skin girls and drink San-Mequele beer. I spent most of my time in bed at the Manila Grand Hotel of course not alone. The women I was with was breath takeing in view and had a mind to go with it. I hated to leave and back to extended combat. Just thinking of that thime brings a big smile to my face.

  5. Pretty excellent post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have quite enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I am going to be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post once more soon.

  6. Jim Wands

    I had the same experience in Aug 1970. From the girls to Bondi to the Whiskey-a-go-go. I still have the matchbook cover from the Whiskey with the address and phone number in Bondi. The homeowner was a guy named Eddie. He was a lead dancer at the Whiskey. 14 New St in Bondi was his home. You can see it on Google.There were at least 5 GI’s staying at the time. We had a good week. BONUS: Jet had engine trouble and we had to return to Syndey from one extra day.

    • usastruck

      Sydney was a great city to visit for R&R. I wouldn’t mind returning some day.
      Welcome Home Jim…

    • Anna Bryers

      Hi Jim, my name is Anna and Eddie was my boyfriend at the time, although I found out he was gay some time later!!! I was too young and innocent to really get it at the time. I also danced at Whiskey and am looking for any photos from the period. Do you have any?

  7. Richard Cooper

    I was on R&R in Sydney in may of 68.
    I went back to live there in 70,71 & 72.
    I loved it !

  8. Bob Gouveia

    I sayed at a hotel on Coogee Bay Road in Sydney ,Nov. 1969 for my R&R . I dont remember the name of the hotel. Does anybody know, or photos.
    Thank U

  9. usastruck

    No clue here.
    Welcome Home Bob…

  10. Joe Leatham

    I left for Sydney three weeks after you (December 1970). I remember the C-130 flight from Phuoc Vinh to Bien Hoa and checking in to the 1st Cav R & R/Deros Center there (I stayed there at least one night and maybe two). Then I went on one of the OD buses with the heavy wire-mesh windows down the Bien Hoa-Saigon Highway to Camp Alpha in Saigon and finally to Tan Son Nhut. After arriving in Sydney the next day we were bussed to the R & R Center in Palmer Street. I stayed in a hotel in Kings Cross and spent a lot of my time in that area but also walked around a lot. I especially enjoyed hanging around the Circular Quay watching the ferry boats coming and going and took a few trips on them myself – went to the Taronga Park Zoo and also to Manly Cove. What a beautiful location – I loved that harbor. One day I took a green double-decker bus to Bondi. It was a hot day so the beach was crowded and there were a lot of people in the water until a really loud siren went off – someone had spotted a shark. It was quite a sight seeing how fast those people got out of the water! I remember the head shops around Orwell Street smelling of incense and playing sitar music, walking up and down William Street, the Australian Museum in Hyde Park, sitting a another park listening to a Salvation Army band playing Christmas music. Although it was always hot during the day the trade winds always arrived as the sun was going down. I really liked the people too. I recall walking across the Harbour Bridge one afternoon near the end of my stay and thinking that if things didn’t work out for me in the States after I got out of the OD that I would come back to live in Sydney. One final thought – after I got back to Phuoc Vinh the place seemed even more like a dump then before I left for R & R, and from then on I really started counting the days.

    • Jacqueline Smith

      hello, im looking for my mother, Kim Marie Hawkes was the name she went by .. She went to a bar called the Texas Tavern in Kings Cross, Kim Lailoli ..
      Does anybody remember a blonde kiwi girl, fresh from new Zealand, looking for love x?.. She had a baby in Sydney November 1970, given up for adoption at royal hospital for women, (B.E.Hawkes) .. can anyone help me find my mum.. im 53 now with a enlarged heart and lupus, I don’t know my family medical history.. I so want to find her, she had twins with Paul Griffiths CPO Australian navy in Sydney, micheal and Janelle will be around 30ish now, somewhere in Australia, born 4 sept 1980,..My fathers lies have kept us apart, now divorce records opened Im tracing back the past of my mother…email me if u have answers to my prayers anyone out there in this big world.. =) email me.. jacquiSmith91@gmail.com..
      glad ya all made it home..

  11. Julie Bates

    Anybody in Glenn Dulsky’s company. Glenn was from Furlong Pennsylvania and did two tours of duty in Vietnam. I believe wounded in one of them. He was a tank driver and came to Sydney for R&R staying at the Bronte Charles Hotel in Bronte around 1969 I think. Sadly he passed away a few years ago but I shall remember our 7 or 8 days together like it was yesterday. We met at the Whisky a go go!! fell in love, spent every waking hour with each other during those 7 or so days and wrote to each other every day for the next 9 until he return to the States and took up with his first love.

    • Blake Reep

      I also stayed at the hotel Charles on R&R twice. April and June of 1970. Met a girl at the Whisky and we pretty much were together the two weeks I stayed there. She was a Freshman at the University and her name was Cheryl Oliver. Always wondered what happened to her, if she finished school, got married or what. My name is Blake Reep, in North Carolina. E-mail is barfootball@yahoo.com

  12. Erik Granneberg

    Oh forgot to say… was approached by some mercenaries in Sydney who tried to entice me to desert the army and go to some jungle outpost and be a radio forwarder. Good money….but …..nah

  13. Erik Granneberg

    This is what I somehow forgot to say…. I had three R&R’s. Hong Kong, Taipei, and Sydney. Sydney was great … had a great time. Especially remember some restaurant on a corner where my daily was mushrooms with gravy over toast. Discovered and crashed a British NCO party. Man those guys could throw down the booze. When you went on a R&R you seemed to live like it was your last 5 days. I don’t remember the name of the club…but there was one that had telephones at every table where you could call another table. Never left Kings Cross.

  14. Tim

    I was in Sydney January 1970 for R&R stayed at Kiings Cross and have some old pictures of that era. I was in the Air Force stationed at Tan Son Nhut ab, my hootch was next to the heliport and Camp Alpha. Moe, tony and I really enjoyed oiurselves.

  15. Therese

    Hi Tim, my mother Joy Anne and her good friend Peg (who had a limp) was a regular at the Whiskey au go go, a girl in the you tube clip strikes a strong resemblance to her. She was definitely there January 1970 as I was conceived the night she was at the Whiskey. Would love any information or photos from around this time. Thanks….great reading.

  16. John Pfister

    HI Folks – Good posts! I was in Sydney April 1970. Went out to Bondi Beach and stayed in a hotel called…”Alice….something… Hotel…(?)”… anyone ever stay there?…anyhow, the week was for me – a life altering experience…an epiphany…a total transformation. The contrast between where we were to where we had been… added high octane fuel to the experience. It’s as if a whole new world opened up! In Sydney, saw the musical “Hair”…and listened to the tape every day for the next 6 months…went horseback riding, spent sometime at the wonderful zoo…saw a platypus!…took home some stuffed Kola bears…met great people…had great parties!!…a “girl” brought me all the way out to Manly to meet her parents. Opera House was forever never going to be finished. But that was all on the surface…underneath, much was moving. I was stationed in DiAn…originally with the Big Red One but newly reassigned to 22nd Finance…since we had just transferred the 1st Div back to Ft Riley. The day after we completed the transfer, I was on my way to Australia.
    R & R in Sydney…1970…what a year!…what a time.

    • usastruck

      Welcome Home John…

    • Blake Reep

      Who were you with in the First Infantry? I also was with them, but got sent to the Americal divison when the 1st. went home. I was in Sydney also in April of 1970 and June to!

      • Jaaa Pee

        Yes – I was with the Big Red One…in Admin / Finance / Disbursing. After I came back from R&R Sydney, we were assigned to 22nd Finance…still located in same base – Dian. Not easy times when we were there but looking back – great memories.

  17. Nanci

    I was a go go girl Dancer 67 and 68 at Whiskey a go go… and then went to Vietnam for 3 years 2 shows a day 6 days a week…..anyone got photos…I joined a show called Pussy cat a gogo…and the Midnite Movers…you can contact me at gokiwi68@gmail.com
    I live in California…and ride a Harley…..

  18. Darren Hannaford

    Looking for my wifes father, who we think was on R and R, in Sydney around March 1970. Any suggestions on where to start would be appreciated. Apparently he tried to make contact and was told she didn’t exist.

  19. Blake Reep

    I to went to Sydney on R@R from Nam. I went in April of 1970, and stay at the Hotel Charles in Bronte Beach. Loved it, I can see why some did not go back once they got there. I met a girl there and as soon as I got back to Firebase Hawk Hill I had the Co. Clerk type up 7 day leave orders and took them with me the next day, when they choppered me back to the field. I jumped off the huey, got the C.O. to sign them, and sent them back in with a medic and I went back to Sydney in June on a 7 day leave!!!!

  20. GeoRick

    Australia Tour. My Sydney R&R story is a little different. I was in my late 20’s, got drafted out of college: trained AIT. Arrived Sydney, went downstairs R&R Center (Palmer St.?), told them I wanted to tour Australia. Got on a plane to Broken Hill, went a few thousand feet underground in mine, ate hamburgers with beets, got totaled on Fosters, ate rack of lamb/mint jelly at mine.Then flew to Adalaide, toured zoo, took paddle boat on Torrens Lake Park. Then flew to Melbourne, toured around. Then flew back to Sydney on Ansett (stews had uniforms). Stayed at Regis, near Hyde Park. Walked around Opera 1st evening. Met some local guy named John 2nd day. Took me all over: Bondi (bikinis), Captain Cook floating restaurant, Doyles restaurant, Suicide Cliff, Squash Courts, bought boomerangs, sailboat Sydney Harbor and a gazillion bars.Got back to hotel, which I couldn’t recall name to taxi driver, at 5:30 AM – wasted. Left back to Nam that day. I had already been to the Whiskey a Go Go in the Bay Area early-mid 60’s, so walked through Kings Cross area, stopped at Brass Rail, but didn’t hang around. Sorry to read about those looking for their fathers in comments and glad to read about GoGo dancers who left and came to USA.

  21. Melinda

    I’m trying to find a US Serviceman I think by the name of Andy who was in Sydney on R&R in October 1968. Long shot I know!!

    You are welcome to join the group below if you took R&R in Sydney during 1967-1971


  22. Richard

    My name is Richard, I was on R&R in Sydney in April 1969, stayed at the Charles on Bonte, ,met a girl name Robin, the next night met a British girl named Wendy… It was a very exciting time of my life , always wanted to return to Sydney someday…anyway 6 days then back to hell, but just 40 days then home. short…!!!

  23. Robert Longmeier

    I server in ‘Nam in the early 70’s and visited Australia twice. I stayed with ranch families in western NSW each time. I loved every minute of it . I’ve never knew an Auzzie I didn’t like. My only regret was that I didn’t continue to keep in touch with them.

  24. Charlie Brown

    Gosh, I can’t believe it… It’s been almost 49yrs since I was in Sydney… Stayed at The Gazebo at the top of Williams St…I will never forget the two ladies I met there… Beverly Brightwell from New Zealand, which worked at Whiskey Au Go Go & Louse Van Milner from Sydney…Its seems like yesterday.. I went the 1st time on a 7 day R&R and went back on a 7 day leave but stayed 13 days…I thought, what the heck, I’m goin’ back to Nam and may get killed so what the heck can they do to me when I get back….! Semper Fi… The only regrets I have are not going back there to see my friends… The Australian people were like family and they’ll always have a piece of my heart there in Sydney…..! I didn’t see much of Sydney because of Whiskey Au GoGo but what the heck…I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for the world…And by the way, Beverly & Louise were perfect ladies….I hope they both are well and found what they were looking for….Thanks for the memories Sydney…I’ll NEVER FORGET YOUR HOSPITALITY….
    Charlie Brown

  25. im looking for anything on my mother , she was agogo dancer at whisky agogo in sydney say 67 to 69 her artner was mick black can anyone help me solve my puzzel cheers mark she had blonde hair allso danced when they had cages to dance in hanging from ceiling can anyone help

  26. hi all my mother was a go go dancer at the whisky she had blonde hair , her partner i believe was mick black, she allso danced in a cage hanging from the cieling can anyone help me she lived in the western suburbs cheers mark

  27. Joan Axthelmweston

    I hope you might be able to help me as I cannot find confirmation anywhere but I believe the following to be true: my family took in a US serviceman on R&R in Sydney in the early 70’s when I was about 13. I remember the story being that the Servicemen did not have to go out on their own but could request a family to take them in so that they had a family experience. We picked him up in Kings Cross, opened our house to him, my mom cooked food for him, we took him to see the sights…this happened. But I cannot find any Information about such an option anywhere and my elderly parents think I am a nut even though I have photos of the serviceman with us all. They say they never saw him but they are right there in the photos! Can you confirm such a program and maybe tell me where I might find some information on it to help us all remember this? All I see on the web is that the servicemen came to Sydney and were on their own until time to leave again. ..we volunteered somehow….to provide a home experience to someone in need of this comfort….the serviceman had a choice if they wanted that experience right?…..Thank you for any help you can provide

    • Very believable. Thank you for your comment…

    • Richard López

      My name is richard lopez i was in Vietnam in 1969 with the 1st infantry division while there in put in for Sydney Australia R&R when we arrived we had a chose to stay in the city or the coast or with family in there homes in the country if we stayed in the country with family’s it would be like our own family’s some of friends stayed in the country iam sure some people don’t wanted to remember those days because of the war. Iam living proof because Iam now 68 years old went to Sydney and i loved your country.

    • Richard López

      Joan axthelmweston my name is Richard lopez i live in texas i was in Vietnam in 1969 with the 1st infantry division i put in for r&r and i went to Sydney we had a choice to stay in the city i stayed in kings cross or you could stay in the coast or country some chose the country with family’s iam living proof so i know iam 68 years old maybe some people want to forget because of the war.

    • chris harden

      i have no idea if you get this, but yes they could option for a family experience, i had one come to my home eat dinner and take me out the next few nights, he loved it and so did my family

  28. Richard López

    Went to vietnam march 21 1969 while there i put in for Sydney Australia R&R one week in Sydney and i met many beautiful women French, Italian, Australian went to the wiskey a go, go club met many women at the club went out on dates with some and i loved Sydney also went on a big boat ride off the the coast of Sydney. I thought about going awol but i went back to vietnam to finish my tour i went from heaven back to hell in the war.

  29. terry seevers

    went to Sydney in 71. stayed at thbe Chevron in Kings Cross, my best friend an d I had the most amazing time that week! the Aus people were awesome to us. the whuskey a go go, texas tavern, checkmate clubs , ythe harbor, the toronga zoo, the opera house, all such great memories. wish i had taken pics. we met two sisters that chaperoned us the week. beverly and Chris. hope they are alive and well. will always cherish my R&R to Sydney and the wonderful people.

  30. Dennis Martell

    Dennis Martell I was in Sydney in December 1968 and June 1969. I stayed in a room in Padington. I saw Hair at the Kings cross theater and
    shirley Bassey in one of the hotels singing gold finger. I wore a naru jacket to the Don Lane tonight show the night that Robert Lancing was one of the guests. He had his fiancé with him. After the show I met her and she invited me to the wedding in north holywood that I attended. I tried to find Kerry Kecthing from Frenches Forest. I have been unable to find her.( I remember that her first name rhymed with her last name. ) While I was in Sydney I met a lot of women for alll over the UK. they came to Sydney, trip paid for by the government. I all ways wondered how everyone faired after the R&R troops left??

  31. Dennis Martell

    Dennis Martell. I will be back in Sydney March 7-10, 2019. I am staying at the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. If you remember 50 years ago, leave a message at the Hotel.
    Is the Ferry ,the San Francisco still in operation?.

  32. Lorene

    My Name is Lorene Connelly My mother was with my father Gerald Johnson when he was on RR it he alive I would love to meet him all I know about him is his name my mother name is Kerrie Connelly.Thank you and my number is 916-807-4814 Thank you

  33. chris

    i am look for a Marcus Steve Webb……..met in Sydney on his R&R …….and spent the entire time together, how to you meet someone and just want to be with them …..i did………..i so hope he is alive and well and happy and that the time together helped him erase the hell for awhile

  34. Jim Thompson

    I worked at the Texas Tavern 1970/73.. Great times in the cross

    • Dennis Martell

      Hello Jim. I went on R&R to Sydney in 1968 and 1969. It was a much needed rest from Vietnam. This year 2019 i returned to Sydney to see what’s going on. The City is as beautiful as I remembered. There are a lot of changes.i stayed in the rocks.the part of the city the criminals lived
      I stayed at the Lord Byron hotel and brewry. The hotel has been in continuous service since 1841. The bars and hotels! Lived in in 1968 and 1969 are all gone. This time I went up the coast and visited 6 cities ending in Darwin. I hope you are going back to remember the special times in Australia.

  35. Dana M Averill

    Your R&R about mirrored mine. Stayed at the Bondi Beach hotel. Went to bars named Down Under and Whiskey a go go. Met a girl named Allison Mcgillvary.She worked in a flower shop in Kings Cross. When I left, I gave her all my money , about $500. I should have gone back.

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