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Maine Public is encouraging Vietnam Veterans and anyone affected by the conflict to share their own story on the Vietnam War and correspondence they had during or after the war. Submissions can be written, recorded or videotaped and sent to Maine Public at mystory@mainepublic.org. The stories will be collected and archived here and some may be shared with the greater Maine audience.Watch "Courageous Conversations."Click HERE for support opportunities for veterans in crisis.

John Richardson

Although I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, 1971 – 72, I was stationed solely in Japan at Yakota Air Base. My story about Vietnam is when I went to work in Saigon for an oil company in 1994. The American embargo had just been lifted in February of that year and I arrived in May to plan the drilling of several offshore oil wells off the coast of Vung Tau, southern Viet Nam. The government officials we worked with were Vietsovpetro employees, a joint coop of Vietnam and Russian employees.

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The Vietnamese officials were primarily from North Vietnam and most were veterans of the NVA, North Vietnam Army, during the war. I asked several of the NVA employees who fought in the war if I could record a discussion of their experience. They were more then happy to have that conversation so we met at an outdoor restaurant outside Saigon, three NVA veterans, an interpreter and myself. They had told me that they had no choice but join in the army fighting for unification. I sensed bitterness of them not having a chance of having any semblance of a normal life, their life and family was the war effort which for them lasted for 15 years until the war ended in 1975. They were told by their superiors that they had to fight the south since the Americans were treating (abusing) their people in the south much as the French did when they had colonial rule in the north. And that the standard of living in the south was far below that of the north and they must save the south from the Americans. This was the NVA rallying call.

They told me about the B-52 air strikes and what that was like. They knew in advance of the bombing runs from their own intelligence gathering from the time of arrival and location, thus giving time to go into the tunnels and prepare. They would all have a piece of tire rubber to bite into, not to do so would shatter their teeth from the percussion. The tunnels were very effective and elaborate with hospital facilities, canteen, sleeping areas and classroom training.

When the NVA arrived in Saigon the veterans told me they were shocked to see people running away from them and not rejoice at their liberation. The biggest shock, I was told, was that they were surprised to see the high standard of living most had, far superior to what they were accustomed to in the north. It was then that they realized that they had been misled to on having to save the people in the south, They felt betrayed and further more they had lost 15 years of their life, not being able to start a family and be with their loved ones. The people in the south certainly did not love them.