A lo­cal story of the Viet­nam War

Euroa Gazette - - CLASSIFIEDS -

PROBUS got a visit from Pierre Du­rand who spoke about a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence in Viet­nam which in­cluded a near death ex­pe­ri­ence, and a visit to a Leper Colony in the Port of Quy Nhon, over three days, late in 1971.

Pierre’s Ship ar­rived at Quy Nhon and an­chored in the Bay just out­side of the Port.

Af­ter the Ship was all se­cured, an Able Bod­ied Sea­man named Ed­die Mo­ran, who was a friend of Pierre’s came off watch and told Pierre that from the ship at an­chor you could see on Queen’s Beach a set­tle­ment of some kind.

Mo­ran told Pierre that this set­tle­ment was a Leper Colony Hos­pi­tal and Com­mu­nity. (Hansen’s Dis­ease).

Pierre was in­ter­ested be­cause he was the Chief Purser / MPA (Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer), and it caught his in­ter­est im­me­di­ately hav­ing a long-time in­ter­est in this an­cient dis­ease.

Mo­ran went ashore and re­turned with news that the next day was Na­tional Mar­itime Day and all sea­men aboard ships in port were in­vited to a Spe­cial Day.

While at the Mar­itime day func­tion Pierre met Mr. Como the Man­ager and Miss Lee, the as­sis­tant Man­ager of the Club.

They in­vited him to join them the next day for a visit to the Leper Colony to meet the Staff and see the Med­i­cal Fa­cil­i­ties.

The fol­low­ing day, Satur­day they all met at the Fleet Land­ing and set out, Miss Lee, Mr Como and Pierre trav­elled in a Toy­ota Ute, Sky Blue in colour.

Even­tu­ally they passed into VC ter­ri­tory and fi­nally Queen Beach and the Leper Colony, ar­riv­ing late in the morn­ing.

Pierre was told that there was to be a lun­cheon at the Beach Bun­ga­low, of var­i­ous Mil­i­tary branches who sup­ported the Colony. (Friends of the Colony).

Very soon they started to ar­rive, US Army US Navy, and US Air Force, and Med­i­cal peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing the Amer­i­can Red Cross, Aus­tralian and New Zealand Red Cross.

No weapons were al­lowed on Church prop­erty by the Or­ders of the Mother Su­pe­rior of the Fran­cis­can Mis­sion­ar­ies of Mary, a French Or­der of Nuns.

About 40 peo­ple had ar­rived, lunch was held back un­til the Guest of Hon­our Lt. Colonel Robert Sch­weitzer ar­rived.

When he ap­peared all hands stood to at­ten­tion, se­nior of­fi­cers as well, with Mr Como, Miss Lee and Pierre the only three civil­ians.

Af­ter Lunch ev­ery­one toured the Colony, to de­ter­mine what was needed to be done, fi­nances and sup­port.

The Leper colony con­sisted of 300 - 400 dis­eased pa­tients, liv­ing in small houses, which were fab­ri­cated of stone blocks.

Af­ter the in­spec­tion all Mil­i­tary per­son­nel col­lected their weapons and left in small groups, later Pierre, Mr. Como and Miss Lee left in case the Viet Cong for­got the truce!

When Pierre re­turned to his ship very late in the day, (Still ly­ing at her an­chor­age in the Bay), he called for his own lit­tle ship.

Ed­die Mo­ran was re­cruited to pass the word through­out the ship to see Pierre.

There were seven dif­fer­ent union rep­re­sen­ta­tives on his ship.

What could the Amer­i­can Ranger Crew do to help th­ese peo­ple, sick and caught in the mid­dle of a war with lit­tle or no money and Christ­mas was com­ing.

What fi­nally hap­pened was that four very large boxes (Cases) of cig­a­rettes were emp­tied and filled with gifts, mostly Christ­mas gifts that they had pur­chased in Japan (their pre­vi­ous port) for their own fam­i­lies.

The Stew­ards and Cooks put in food sup­plies, oth­ers do­nated al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes.

Boxes were sealed up the next day and ready for trans­port to the Leper Hos­pi­tal af­ter lunch.

At this time the Chief Cook went on deck for a breath of fresh sea air.

He was lean­ing on the ships rail look­ing out to sea and just glanced down and up popped a Viet Cong Diver (Sap­per) get­ting ready to place a bomb on the side of the ship.

The diver looked all around but did not look up and see Joe the Cook.

Joe ran to Pierre’s of­fice, Pierre took him to the Cap­tain, who im­me­di­ately con­tacted via the ships ra­dio (Har­bour Se­cu­rity 24 Hours).

Im­me­di­ately the US Navy Port Com­man­der despatched Armed Swift Boats to the res­cue.

Ar­riv­ing quickly they started a Bomb blast of con­cus­sion bombs all around the an­chored ship.

While this was hap­pen­ing Pierre got the at­ten­tion of Com­man­der Ryan, who had come aboard and he ex­plained about the four Boxes of good­ies for the Colony.

They were safely de­posited on the mo­tor launch and off to the Fleet Launch­ing, then picked up by Miss Lee and two Nuns in the Blue Ute and off they went to the Colony.

AB Ed­die Mo­ran, “The Re­li­gious Mys­tic”, was not sur­prised when it was agreed, the Ship’s sur­vival and the four large boxes of Gifts for the Leper Colony was a pri­or­ity for the Good Lord and no mat­ter what hap­pened it must reach those peo­ple.

So, that is the story Pierre has al­ways been glad to be able to tell.

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