BRUCE BRANSON Transcript
Q. I'd asked you last time about the story I'd heard about the medical technician that stayed behind. Did you come up with any leads?
Well, I've been checking with quite a few people around here and no one seems to have recorded his name. I have one last lead, the church official in the Adventist church headquarters back in Washington, D.C., Ralph Watts. But he wasn't in this afternoon so I will have to try again tomorrow.
Q. Having found one, I wanted to compare his story.
Let me start by asking how you came to be in South Vietnam in 1975. Was that a volunteer position?
Yeah. It came about about three years earlier, approximately, around the time of the peace of Paris when the American military were to leave. The State Department contacted our Adventist hospital which was in downtown Saigon and asked them if they would be willing to be responsible for taking care of Americans there at the embassy. And the hospital that we had there was taking care of Vietnamese almost exclusively at that time. It was a relatively small place, so the administrator of the hospital said, "Well, if they had larger quarters and could get more help in, that they probably could do that." So the Third Field Army hospital there had been pretty well evacuated already. It was about a mile from Tan Son Nhut airport. So an agreement was reached to transfer the whole hospital over there and that became the new Saigon Adventist Hospital then.
Q. What happened to the old?
The old one was renovated to some degree and was used for housing for some of the national ministers and they had a publishing department that was installed behind the area there, so it was used for mission activity.
Q. You weren't there at that time, were you?
No. One of the provisos of the embassy was that they would need to have specialists available in surgery and orthopedics and internal medicine. Now there had been specialists there in orthopedics from the United States -- there was a lot of trauma, of course. And in anesthesia, but they didn't have regular full time specialists from the United States in surgery or internal medicine. They had had some general practitioners there. So the dean of our medical school here was contacted, which is a church connected institution at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and he flew out and met with the embassy officials along with some of the mission personnel and they signed and agreement to provide clinic specialty care with staff from the medical school here. So I went out on a regular rotation along with quite a number of other people in '73. And put in about a three month's rotation.
We worked that out from our staff at Loma Linda, covering out there on a rotating basis.
Q. This was all voluntary now?
Right. Well some people went out for six months or a year. I had most direct interface with it in the surgery department, and internally we worked out a three month's rotation.
Q. Your position at Loma Linda at that time was a staff position?
I was Chief of Surgical Services at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
Q. When you got out there in '73, summer, it must have been fairly slow, wasn't it? You didn't just take care of the embassy personnel, did you?
No. The hospital was usually full. And we had very large clinics. We had a couple or three wards that were reserved for Americans and the rest of the hospital was for Vietnamese. The Vietnamese government required that we give something like forty percent of the people we saw had to be indigents. And the others could be part-pay patients or full pay patients, and then the Americans reimbursed us at cost for the Americans we took care of. When they got well enough to transfer, if they were close to the time when they needed to go home, the military transport or the medivac team would fly them out to the Philippines.
Q. When you went there, you certainly didn't sense doom, or anything like tha, did you?
In '73 things were reasonably stable and it was felt that because the South Vietnamese at that time seemed pretty stable. I, in fact,--they took me up on a trip to Da Nang and to Hue. We had mission hospitals and orphanages up in Da Nang. Even that far north it was reasonably stable, although there were Viet Cong guerrillas living in the hills and mountains around that area. In the cities the South Vietnamese had pretty stable control.
Q. So it would have been like an assignment to Korea, or someplace else?
Q. You came back--had you been in the military before then?
I had been in the military back during the Korean War. I put in two years in the Army Medical Corps then, although I was assigned to France and Germany, so I didn't see any fighting in Korea.
Q. You came back to Loma Linda again, and when was your second trip out?
In '75, in March, things began to crumble and there was a real panic in Da Nang when the North Vietnamese began a real serious advance. You remember some of the refugees were crowding out onto boats in the harbor or trying to get onto planes to get out, and things became quite chaotic. It came my turn again to go out there. And there had been some confusion actually as to whether or not the hospital should try to stay open there in Saigon. And a couple of the Americans who were there decided they'd pull out, without much organization, and left a gap there in the surgery coverage.
Q. You mean they just left on a commercial flight?
No. They went to Hong Kong and decided they'd sit it out there for a while to see what would happen. We got an urgent call from the embassy that they were not being covered, so I decided to go out there and fill the gap that had opened up.
Q. You weren't afraid?
I don't think we were getting completely accurate information. Things were a bit confused. But it seemed to be relatively safe in Saigon. You have to remember that six or eight months before Phnom Penh in Cambodia had been surrounded for about a year, six months to a year, and the city had held out with a siege and it was possible to carry out an orderly withdrawal from the embassy there. So people felt, both in Saigon and here that this fighting in the north was probably going to be contained and that it wasn't really all that serious.
So we went out and we were able to communicate most of the time back home by telephone, so I could keep in touch with people back here at Loma Linda and my wife and family. After a while the telephones were difficult to use and we began to use ham radio operators that were out there and would contact people here in California and patch us through into the phone circuit and we could talk. So I was able to keep some communication open that way.
Q. You said this was after Da Nang had fallen? So you arrived there just about the time of the orphan airlift crash, didn't you?
Yeah. My wife had been quite active in trying to organize places for orphans to stay over here, and open up homes. We had quite a few contacts, people who were willing to take some of the orphans. Then that C5A crashed.
Q. Were you in Vietnam when it happened?
I was here in the United States. But I got over there just shortly after that had happened. My wife and I had planned to try to help out with other avenues of getting more orphans out, but after that crash, the Vietnamese government clamped down and they only let one or two planes out after that. We never were able to get permission from the government to get any sizable air lifts out after that crash.
Q. You found the situation, however, still not hopeless? Did it disintegrate gradually, do you remember?
Well, what began to happen was that we had had a nursing school that operated there at the hospital. But they had let the nursing students go home when things became really unsettled out in the countryside. Many of these nurses came from different parts of the country and they didn't know what had happened to their relatives, they wanted to go home. So they closed down for an extended interval, and then about two weeks after I had gotten over there we began to receive nursing students back again who had been up country, Na Trang, along the coast. They said that the advance of the Viet Cong was much more rapid than the South Vietnamese radio was admitting to and that they had witnessed massacres and had to travel by night and hide out during the day.
Q. They'd witnessed massacres?
Yeah, by the North Vietnamese in Vung Tau. There was active fighting all up and down the coast. They'd gone by foot. So they all started coming back, there was probably twenty of them that straggled in over a period of a week or ten days, and the stories they told were so intimidating that it got everybody quite edgy about what was happening. Nobody felt then that they could believe what the government radio was saying.
Q. What types of stories would be intimidating?
They would tell stories of the North Vietnamese coming into a village or town and rounding up what they thought were the leaders and just shooting them or beheading them or if the captured South Vietnamese soldiers as prisoners, they would just line them up and shoot them. It was that way all up and down the coast. It seemed to almost be a planned program of terrorism. It made us rather worried down in Saigon because it was well known that our hospital had previously been an army hospital and that we were taking care of Americans and there were a lot of American nurses and physicians. We discovered that quite a number of people who lived in the vicinity around the hospital and actually some of the employees were Viet Cong sympathizers. And yet some of them also had close friends that were working right there in the hospital. So they told them there were certain people on the staff who had been put on a black list to be executed as soon as the North Vietnamese came in. And it involved most of the administrative personnel.
So we talked to the embassy folks about this. And they said, well, if it really comes to evacuation, we'll do everything we can to help you get some of those people out who would be most vulnerable. It also made everybody a little uneasy because you didn't know for sure who was on our side and who was working for the Viet Cong. I think some of them just wanted to be on the winning side no matter which way it turned. It was sort of personal insurance for them.
In any case, some of our church officials which were headquartered down in Singapore came up and we told them the situation was worsening. They got up there and at first it looked like things were sort of stabilizing again. And there was quite a little debate in the South Vietnamese assembly, and President Thieu would come on the tv almost every day and try to reassure everybody that things were under control.
The other thing was that everyone seemed to expect that Congress back here in Washington would vote additional funds to send over and beef up the South Vietnamese army. But as I would talk by ham radio with folks back here in the United States, it became obvious that what we were hearing over the radio and tv there was quite different from what was happening over here. And probably our best, most accurate news, came from the BBC overseas broadcast. The local Army radio would just be playing juke box music most of the time and nothing substantive at all about what was happening.
When it became obvious to Dr. Hinshaw and the folks here in the United States that Congress was not going to vote any more money and that they really were not going to go to their aid, they began urging us to get out while we could.
Well we stayed on, I guess all together about six or eight weeks that time. While our own administrative personnel and ministers were up from Singapore trying to assess the situation, in our emergency room we began getting casualties from guerrilla warfare and hand-to-hand fighting out in the periphery of the city. That was the first inkling we had that the Viet Cong were that close. So we reviewed that with our leadership people and then they began to practically live down at the embassy trying to find out what was going on and what plans were being made for an evacuation if it became necessary. They never could get any really straight answers about it. The ambassador was determined not to appear that anything was wrong. He didn't want panic and civil unrest and rioting to break out in the city, so he didn't start any evacuation.
But there was a major general there in the embassy who began dealing directly with the problem. We found out later that back home here in Washington there was a tremendous debate going on between the Defense Department and the State Department and finally the Defense Department just started taking things into their own hands. At that time they still had about fifteen thousand Americans out there who had been in the military but went into civilian clothes and were doing various important jobs in the country. They realized they had to start getting those folks out. Many of those individuals has Vietnamese dependents, wives and children. So they began an airlift about April 15 as I recall, roughly, and then things did begin to move.
We began to get large numbers of Vietnamese that would come to the hospital and want us to help them get out. We had some Vietnamese friends that were already in this country. We had two Vietnamese students here going to medical school. One was the son of the dean of the School of Medicine of the University of Saigon, and the other was the son of the Chief Appeals Judge of the Appeals Court in Saigon. They desperately wanted to get out and join their families that were over here. So we began a series of trips over to the embassy and then to the airport.
The embassy at that time had a ruling that the only Vietnamese that could be gotten out would be dependents of Americans. This is at the time they were trying to get this rather large number of Americans evacuated. So some of us started adopting some of these folks. We would take relays when we weren't in surgery or at that hospital or clinics, and go over and stand in line to process all these people to get them out of the country as our dependents. Before it was over, I think the eight Americans that were there each adopted fifty or sixty Vietnamese formally. Some of whom were older than we were.
Q. Legally they were your children?
We guaranteed we would support them and house them and take care of them.
Q. The process of getting through the guards at Tan Son Nhut --
All during this time we were trying to get as many American patients out of the hospital, and the medivac flights were still in progress, so we could put these people in the ambulances and we would put in as many Vietnamese attendants and nurses, acting as attendants and nurses, as we could with each one of these American patients that needed to be evacuated. And when the guards at the airport would see the ambulances coming, and they would see the IVs running and the bandages and everything, they would let them go on through. Then they would not come back, they would stay with the patients and ended up in the Philippines. Medivac Headquarters in the Philippines -- this was illegal at the time because only dependents of Americans were supposed to get out -- but they agreed that we could send Vietnamese attendants along. But before long we ran out of American patients. And we pleaded with Medivac Headquarters in the Philippines to keep the flights coming so that we could get more people out with ambulances who were employees and people that were at high risk.
So for several days they were willing to keep up that facade and that helped us get through the line. But after a while they said "We can't continue to do this. We don't have authorization any more since there aren't any more American patients there."
So then Ralph Watts, who was the head of that section of the Church's work, up from Singapore, finally got approval from the Department of Defense representatives that were at the embassy to evacuate a certain number of the Vietnamese hospital personnel. They at first gave us just a few slots because there weren't nearly enough planes for all the people that really needed to get out, including a lot of folks who had worked for the CIA and been promised evacuation if it should come to that. But things began toppling so much more rapidly than anybody anticipated that a lot of people were left behind.
We took out the last day, we put one American in each ambulance, and we had eight ambulances, and we piled the rest of it up with Vietnamese civilians who were hospital personnel and we were given just blanket approval for this list of names. But even though we had approval by the American Defense Department it was still tough to get throught the South Vietnamese guards that were guarding Tan Son Nhut airport. There were big barriers, of course, to get into the airport, and there were thousands of people that were standing outside the airport against the gates and the barriers and the wire, trying to get in. So it was a messy business trying to get the ambulances through. But we did have the advantage of the sirens and the flashing lights and so on.
Q. What day was this?
This was -- we left on the 25th, and it fell on the 30th.
Q. Did you turn the lights off and lock the door?
We went through and transferred all of the patients to other hospitals in the city during the last three days so that we left no patients behind that were unattended. There was a medical school that had about ten medical students rotating through out hospital and most of them decided to come with us. The rest helped to transfer the patients to other hospitals. Then the rest of the workers who had been there, many didn't want to leave because they didn't want to leave their families, they wanted to stay there.
So this lab technician decided that he would stay too. As I recall he was a Canadian citizen and he felt that he could help to protect the remaining workers there and at least he could look after what was happening there in the hospital and maintain some kind of control in case riots should break out. We did have guards that were assigned by the city police there to maintain some sort of order. There were hundreds of people outside the gate of the hospital too, trying to get into the hospital because they thought they'd be safer inside the hospital than they would in their own homes. So things were beginning to get rather uneasy there.
Everyone, I think, was concerned that it might turn into a real riot situation, and there would be no order of any kind. That never happened actually within the city. When we got to the Tan Son Nhut airport the staging area there had been set up by a contingent of Marines and there was very little water and no housing, of course, so that first night we slept out on the sidewalks and the streets that were paved inside the airport. The next morning we got our names on the list, the manifest lists as they called them. They were just long lines of people that would laboriously and slowly make their way through up to the point where the loading area was. And the Marines went through all our luggage and baggage and made sure there wasn't anything--firearms or anything. While we were waiting in line, of course, you could hear guns and fighting on the other side of the airport. So we knew the Viet Cong were very close.
The Marines held out and kept them at bay, though, while this air lift was going on. We were able to get out on a C130 or C141. I'm not exactly sure. They flew us to Guam instead of the Philippines.
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. . . it was quite cold for everybody and a distressing situation for the VIetnamese who had never been in a cold climate. But we finally got there to Guam and they had set up tent cities in Guam, housing for everyone. We then were able to arrange--it took about two weeks there of processing through the immigration people--we were able to arrange to get out group out on two 747 flights. Pan Am had donated their planes to go over and pick these people up. We landed at Camp Pendleton and there were tents set up at Camp Pendleton for the folks for a staging area.
Loma Linda then emptied out our gym and set up cots in the gym and were able to accommodate everybody in there. Then they set up tents outside for a camp style mess. Altogether I guess we got out about four hundred and twenty-five people.
Q. Personally what was it like for you out at the airport having left the hospital carrying your bags. Was there sadness, tiredness? Particularly when you realized this country was going down and the U.S. was pulling out.
It was extremely frustrating. I think the pervasive feeling on the part of the Americans was that we'd let them down. And yet we all knew there was intense amount of feeling back in the U.S. about the Vietnamese War. The feeling of most of the people out there was that if we were going to get into something like this and preserve South Vietnam for a democracy in the free world, and if we're going to have to fight a war to do it, that we should have gotten in there and done the job right. But throughout the entire affair we put limits on ourselves. We announced in advance that we would not bomb the border with China, and China kept pouring equipment and ammunition and so on across the border. We constantly kept announcing in advance what we were not going to do. At every point the North Vietnamese took advantage of that.
Q. You shared that feeling too?
Oh, yeah. I think I felt as the others, if we are going to do a job, to get in and get it over with. By doing a half-baked sort of war, with limits, it made it almost impossible to win. As a result it dragged out over years and years and in the end cost far more lives, I think than if we had gone in with a short sharp attack and gotten it over with.
On the other hand, if you are not going to do that, you had better not start to begin with.
Q. You are a Seventh Day Adventist?
Q. Are you a Seventh Day Adventist pacifist, or not?
Well, we're a bit peculiar. Most Adventists don't like to be termed "pacifist", they like to be termed non-combatant. And there's a bit of a difference there. The difference that, as most Adventists have worked it out in their own minds, is that they are willing to help the military in the medical field or non-combatant roles and wear the uniform, but not to bear arms. Since the Army and the military always need plenty of medical personnel, back during the First World War and then very much during the Second World War and since then, we've had the equivalent of an ROTC kind of training available aimed towards the medical end of things. One of our Adventist young folks who was an enlisted man out on the battlefront was given the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Second World War out in the Pacific.
But even within the noncombatant group, there are often heated discussions about national policy and what could be done to minimize the overall casualties as you get into a war.
Q. Did you feel when out at the airport, that you were at a turning point in history? Did you realize that this was a major event in history?
I think everybody realized that with the fall of Saigon the whole thing was over. And what was frustrating and I think preoccupied our minds at that particular point was the total lack of planning on the part of the embassy for any realistic evacuation and to fall through on their promises to get the Vietnamese out that were extremely high risk. And that left a great deal of sadness and I'm sure bitterness on the part of the people they couldn't get out.
Q. Some of your people did not get out?
Well, about half of them stayed.
Well, no. Some voluntarily, but others because we couldn't get enough names on the list through the embassy people. They were under a lot of pressure, of course, to get people out from other areas as well, so there was a definite quota system there. It was a bit of a hair raising exit from the hospital compound, because just at the last as the sirens began to go and people began to close the doors of the ambulances, there were probably thirty or forty of our own hospital workers that tried to rush the ambulances and tried to get in so they could get out. It almost turned into a riot then. The only thing that the ambulances could do was speed up and go, because if we lingered any later, we couldn't have gotten anybody out.
Q. So what, these people tried to hang on to these ambulances?
Yeah. There was a lot of yelling and screaming.
Q. They didn't know ahead of time that you'd be leaving that way?
The only ones that were notified were the ones that were on the list that we could take that we had permission to take out. We only told them and told them not to tell anybody else. We had about two hours notice for them to get back home and get their wives and children, or whoever was allowed to come with them. So the rest of the people didn't really know what was happening until we were actually loading up the ambulances. It was very rough on everybody, because some of the people who were left behind were very close friends and relatives of the ones in the ambulances. But it was one of the cruelest things to try to decide who should be on the list.
That's another story. Ralph Watts had told the hospital folks that they had to make up the list of the people who should get out, that we couldn't be given the responsibility of deciding who should leave and who should stay. So they stayed up all night the previous night trying to make up the list. In the middle of the night they called Ralph Watts and they said, "We just can't do it. It's just too painful." And he said, "Well, you're the only ones that know these people and know which ones are in the worst danger." So he sent them back to work again and by morning they had the list. But it was a wrenching experience for them.
Q. What happened to the ones that were left behind? Was there ever a black list so to speak?
A lot of them were sent to detention camps out in the jungle for reorientation, as they called it. Some of the relatives of the folks that were at the hospital, finally after a long period of time, were able to get letters out to France and then from France to this country. Some of them were in prison essentially, out in these re-education camps, for two and three years. Quite a few of them began to get out and then to escape and to get out on the boats and flee to Malaysia or to Thailand. In fact, we're still getting refugees. Ever since ten years ago there has been a steady stream of Vietnamese that have been showing up here and in San Jose who have gotten out by boat and then have gotten to the refugee camps and then have waited for quota numbers to get into the United States.
My wife teaches and church school class on Saturdays for the Vietnamese and Cambodians, the teenagers, and practically every week there is a new face showing up.
Q. Have you visited the Memorial in Washington?
Q. What did you think of it?
It was extremely moving. It has a powerful impact. It's just a real tragedy.
Q. Why? It's only a black slab with names on it. What struck you?
I think just the enormity of the numbers of names on it. You hear "forty-five thousand," "fifty thousand," and you can look at the number and say, "Well that's that." But when you go there and you see row after row of names of real people that lived once and were killed out there, suddenly the enormity of it takes on a human dimension, I think, that mere figures don't.
Q. When you got back here, did you find that people did not want to talk or listen about Vietnam?
Not amongst our group. I think that the soldiers that saw actual combat, really bloody combat, were the ones that were so shocked by the whole thing. It's true that in our casualty room and emergency room toward the end before we started transferring patients to other hospitals we were getting large numbers of casualties, and so we saw quite a bit of the effects of small arms fire. But I think those helicopter fire fights and the infantry fire fights and the grueling kinds of things that were vividly portrayed in the movie Platoon, that sort of hell we didn't experience as civilians. So I think there's somewhat of a difference. Besides I think a lot of those young Americans had never been outside the country and had no concept of the poverty and the difficult living circumstances that existed in South Vietnam, whereas most of our people were South Vietnamese who had lived out there all their lives and they were comfortable living in the country. That's one of the things, there was a cultural shock to our own troops, which was probably as great a problem as the fighting was.
Q. Were you personally, emotionally enriched by the experience in the end? Was it more positive than negative for you?
Well, yes, I found it extremely rewarding and enriching from the standpoint of seeing the bravery of the people under extreme tension and pressure. And also, seeing what these folks have been able to make of themselves once they have gotten over here. I have been immensely impressed with the toughness and the instincts for survival. My wife and I worked with quite a group of our faculty here to get the Vietnamese out into homes and the other thing that impressed me a great deal was the generosity of the people over here, who were suddenly faced with large numbers of refugees immediately and spontaneously would come over in large numbers to the gym and sign up for families and for people to come and live in their homes.
We still have one Vietnamese living here in our home. Quite a few others did too. But the majority were able to and wanted to get into American society as soon as they could, and we set up English language courses for the physicians and nurses that were here, the medical personnel. And of course with the skills that they had already, it was possible to get that group of people into jobs fairly soon, as soon as they had sat for exams and passed their qualifying certificates for licenses.
Like Nguyet, for instance, she and her son came and lived with us and she took National Board Exams. She didn't pass the first time, but she passed the second time, and she was accepted into our medical school and finished the last two years here. Then she interned back in Washington, D.C., came back to San Jose and has been in practice ever since. Her son is staying with us and he's taking pre-med. He's extremely bright, and that's been our observation about many of them. One of the nurses that was my nurse in the daily clinics out there at Saigon Adventist Hospital is now a nurse on our ob-gyn ward here at the hospital doing extremely good work. Another nurse who was in charge of the operating room over in Saigon is now one of our main operating room nurses here at the hospital.
And they scattered out to San Diego, to Portland, Chicago, Florida, Washington, D.C., all around the country. Within about two months we had everybody placed. And they have done extremely well. A few have married Americans starting up biracial families, and they send money back home now to their relatives. As I say, some of their relatives have been able to get out and join them over here. Nguyet's half brother just joined them, I think, last year, after escaping and having to spend a year or two in Malaysia, I believe it was, in one of the refugee camps.
One of the things that Nguyet did, which I think was very commendable, was that after she finished her internship, she went back to Thailand and visited the various refugee camps and tried to help out. I don't know whether she told you about this or not, about the report that she made of what was happening to the boat people.
The report that she made was so savage. It's one of the most unbelievable documents that you'll ever read in your life. That was forwarded on to the high commissioner for refugees in Geneva and has become a standard reference now, that's been quoted in Congress and other parts of the world, about what the boat people have been going through, the rapes, the savagery, the murders, the banditry, particularly of the Thai fishermen that have turned into bandit boats, and pirates. And the stories are absolutely ghastly. If you get a chance, read it.
Q. I also interviewed Father Joe Devlin who was at Song Khla with her. He kept a diary of journals and letters from all the kids. They were not publicized much here, but people who read and hear the stories never can forget them.
As a physician, Nguyet was a trained scientific observer, and she did a meticulous report on each one of these, a sort of clinical appraisal, really very straight forward, not much editorial writing, but just the sheer facts of what happened was just so ghastly.
Q. I will get in touch with her.
My brother was so moved by it that he organized a group of people that went out into the South China Sea and interviewed some of these boat people and then some more refugees, and he prepared a report on what his findings were, including a copy of Nguyet's report, and gave testimony to some of the Congressional committees on it.
But the press has lost interest. And after a while it just faded from view. There were some courageous folks in France and Germany who got a refugee boat together and armed it to try to criss cross the South China Sea and pick up the boat people. But that all had to be privately financed. They couldn't get any financing from any of the government people.
Q. You're right. The press is trendy. Whenever they want to try to win a prize they'll send reporters out, beyond that they don't report much at all.
What is your background? Born, where, school?
I was born in Massachusetts, 1927, and when I was about ten my parents went to Egypt to be missionaries. That was in 1938 and war broke out in '39. So we lived in Cairo in a suburb called Heliopolis. I attended an English school there and eventually took my school leaving certificate from the University of London. We were out there all during the Second World War. Rommel and his Afrika Corps team was within about thirty miles of our home and we were being bombed daily. We were evacuated by the American consulate and shipped down to Eritrea on a tramp steamer down the Red Sea, and then we went on down to Addis Ababa and spent about six months there until after El Alamein and they pushed the Germans back across the western desert.
We went back to our home in Heliopolis, and then I came home during the war on the first convoy that went continuously from Alexandria Egypt across the Mediterranean, through Gibraltar and then across the Atlantic in convoy, so that I could start pre-med. We were attacked by submarines in the Mediterranean and lost one of our ships, a tanker that blew up.
So we'd been exposed to war there in the Second World War, and I suppose one of the reasons that being in sort of a wartime atmosphere in Saigon didn't seem so unusual.
Q. It seems like you yourself were a refugee of sorts.
We were out there in the Second World War. So we knew what it was like.
Q. Where did you go to medical school?
Here at Loma Linda.
Q. So you had also been under fire.
Yeah. It was sort of humorous looking back on it. One of the pastimes for the boys at the English school each day was to compare shrapnel fragments, and we'd trade. What would happen was that most of the apartment buildings we lived in had flat roofs and balconies and the shrapnel from the bombs or more likely the anti-aircraft guns would fall all over these flat surfaces, and we'd go out each morning and sweep it up and try to get the largest pieces. Sort of like trading baseball cards.
Q. The kids didn't do anything like that in Saigon, do you remember?
No. It was more grim over there.
Q. Thank you very much. It adds a lot to the story.
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