I still do not know if I am an uncle
or not. Can't understand what happened, unless it just isn't time yet.
Dr. Weiss says that when the fruit is ripe it will drop.... and not before.
A new plan has been inaugurated, and
I think you will be very happy mother. It is for you. When you wrote to
me and told me how pleased you were with those photos of me I decided
that if it took so little to make you happy, I would do so. As a consequence
I went out, bought a movie camera, took three rolls of colored movies
of this area, of a typical loading, a typical day, etc. Only my corpsmen
took all the pictures, and your son is the leading actor. You will recive
them very shortly, as I sent the film to Texas to be processed, and they
mail the finished product to you in St. Louis. I mailed the film last
week, and it only takes about four days to process it. You should be able
to figure out its ETA from that.
The movie camera is a little Brownie
Movie Machine, 8 mm. I suggest that you take some of my bank money, buy
a small 8 mm projector and a small screen. Have this already so that the
minute the film arrives you will be able to see it. Then write me and
tell me if they are too light or too dark, or if they didn't come out
at all. In this way I can improve as the time goes on. I shall take a
roll of film every few weeks and send it on. This way you should have
almost monthly memories of me, complete with facial color, and whiteness
I will send a little list tomorrow
( I left it in my room ) which tells about what each roll concerns...
you will have to figure out which iternary fits which movie. This shouldn't
be hard as one is of a typical loading, complete with DDTing and all the
shots of the refugees, the second roll is of my Camp de la Pagode with
the tents and all, and the third is some sightseeing that I took some
of tthe officers from the station ship .... can't get away from being
a tour guide.
So there is a surprise for you. I believe
that you will like it. I don't expect you to pay for the projector, so
use my bank money for it. I don't believe they are two expensive. If so,
at the most $50.
All is going very well here. The new
unit, and its new CO are doing well. We are doing all that is asked of
us, and doing it well I believe. Some new things concerning the refugees
however. As you very well know lately we have been running a daily census
of about 4000 in the camp. We load them into ships about every other day,
which means that they are escaping from the reds at a rate of 2000 per
day. And we are shipping them out equally fast. The Camp de la Pagode
which is my camp, where I treat them, keep them, have them processed,
inoculated, where I make their potable water, and keep their sanitation
somewhat decent, etc.... this camp has a daily census of about 4000, cahnging
every other day.
Well just 1ateley, the last three nights
the following has happened. Through a "system" which no one
will explain, the people around Phat Diem, and Nam Dinh and Nam Binh,
and Bui Cbu ( south of Haiphong ) are getting out on small rafts and extremely
small boats to the seaport village of VanLy. From here, at some "exact
time" they paddle out beyond the 3 mile continental limit and are
there met by french LSMs and small craft which bring them up 77 miles
to Haiphong and to my camp. This is the first time that we are actually
picking them up.
Heretofore they have had to get to
us as best we could, and then we would take them south. But now the combined
operation is actually picking them up. According to the Geneva conferance
we are not allowed to send ships on red soil, on waters, which means that
the only place we can go is this very very small area around Haiphong.
The final perimeter rich forms the day after tomorros is from the city
of Hai Duong ( halfway between Hanoi and Haiphong ) down to Haiphong,
and then a north and south direction of about 30 miles. At night here
we can see the large fires from the Communist Army camps. They could literally
walk in and take this area over, in spite of the French Garrison of some
10,000 men, and the thousands and thousands of tanks, trucks, jeeps, etc
that have been brought here from all over North Viet Nam to be removed
The refugees now are getting to the
mouths of the small rivers, like the one near Van Ly ( the River Fleuve
Rouge, and the Ha Ly ) and then at the "appointed" hour, they
paddle out beyond the continental limit, where our vessels pick them up.
The question that comes to mind immediately
is how do they know exacgly at what time they should be at the appointed
This can be answered without any fear
of security risks when you realize the strong Catholic church, and the
true meaning of the Church Militant. These old and young Vietnam priests
who come to the mission here in Haiphong and go back and forth into their
villages ( for they are not yet imprisonned ) are in laison with us...
And the times are appointed.
How long we will be able to do this
we don't know. However, we now have 12,000 people in the refugee camp
( almost at maximum capacity ) one night 2650 came up, arriving at 0300.
I was called down to the camp to direct traffic ... and again and again.
I made a run on one of the fast French
Corvettes which we use to pick these people up. It was a very thrilling
sight. We left at ten in the evening, and got to a spot three and one
quarter miles off the coast at Van Ly. Not a thing in sight, at 0300.
We went below had some cognac and coffe and talked for about an hour,
and were called up. There coming out to the boat, was a solid mass of
rafts and bum boats, and little tubs, with 1800 refugees, complete with
their pigs and cickens, and three had water buffle on the rafts. The rafts
were made of bamboo about four inches in diameter, and lashed together
with line. They were about ten by ten, with perhaps 30 people squatting
on them. You could not even see the rafts as the weight kept them submerged
about a half afoot. Not a sound was made, you couldn't hear a paddle touch
the water. They got to the boat, most of them. When the final count was
over the old man with a goat like gottee said there over 2000 had started,
but many drowned on the way out. I personally through the glasses saw
one raft tip over, and many people unable to get pulled up on other rafts.
So when he said 300 drowned I believe him because I saw a group of babies
These old men and women have been beaten,
they are full of black and blue marks, and have many broken collar bones
and upper arms. These are from being hit with gun butts by the Viet Minh.
These aren't young and hardy soldiers, but old debilitated people. This
is the kind of war it is.
We loaded them all around the decks,
and brought them back up the coastline, up the river, and into the usual
Embarkation site, which this morning was a Debarkation site.
We radioed the number and the Viet
Nam officials at the refugee camp started the rice kettles going, so when
they were trucked from the Embarkation site to the camp ( three miles
) they were received and fed and given hot tea.
This has been done three times now.
The last one was last night, and I was at the Embarkation site ( now the
Debarkation site ) at 0200 when they arrived last night. At the camp site
there is a road that is just a dirt trail from the main paved highway
to the camps themselves. This is about 800 yards long. The large trucks
are unable to drive on this road, so the people are put off the trucks
on the paved road, and they walk down the wide path to the tents. This
morning at 0200, and I was there, there were several thousand people lining
that road on both sides in perfect column formation, with candles and
lanterns. As the new arrivals from the sea arrived, and were dis-engorged
from the trucks, they walked down between this long two lines, down this
living corridor. In this way, people looking for relatives could see them.
This way people who were looking for friends, or for information could
get them. As a relative would spot in the new line of people someone dear,
she would cry out and they would get together, help carry each other,
and walk on down the end of the line to the tents, where I would direct
them into the various camps.
You just can't picture nor feel the
scene mother unless you are here. It is so pitiful you want to weep, yet
so tender and fine and noble that you feel humble before these refugees.
And every night that we are able to
bring people in the others will line the road. We are unable to get them
all to leave on our ships now because so many are waiting for relatives,
however, with such a large census of 12,000 there are usually some 2000
willing to leave.
Well this letter is growing in lengty, and I am getting short in time. So I'll close for now. More news tomorros.
Love to all,