Page 48
Photos From Mike Haas
My name is Mike Haas.  I was adjutant of the 71st Transportation Battalion from June 1969 to June 1970.  I later went on to be an MP officer and then a JAG, retiring in 1988.
Mike Haas - One Of My Trips To The Saigon Zoo
I Left My Bag in Ho Chi Minh City
My Return to Saigon, 8-10 September 2005
   Mike Haas          
The first big change I noticed was in the approach to Tan San Naht (note the change in spelling) airport. In 1969, the TWA Boeing 707 that carried me and about 150 other soldiers to Bien Hoa Air Force Base stayed very high until we began a steep, final descent unlike
any I have seen before or since.  We were all hanging on to our seats and all floor items were headed forward.  Instead, this landing on 7 September 2005 was quite normal, but the airport looked very dark, small and old outside the Airbus window.  The plane was
completely full and I really wondered if the seating configuration with two very narrow aisles allowed for evacuation in an emergency.
The Vietnam of 2005 is the 13th most populous country in the world, with over 80 million people.  Over half the population is under age 25!  Ho Chi Minh City has a population of over seven million.
Mike Haas - One Of My Trips To The Saigon Zoo
Paying The Vietnamese - One of my Jobs As Adjutant
Paying The Vietnamese - One of my Jobs As Adjutant
Paying The Vietnamese - One of my Jobs As Adjutant
Cpt Haas And Administration Assistant Phan Ti Phan
Bob Hope Christmas Show 1969
                            Cpt Haas And Administration Assistant Phan Ti Phan                                                                              Bob Hope Christmas Show 1969
1st LT Dave Brant In Saigon Market
1st LT Dave Brant In Saigon Market
Office Dinner At The Floating Restaurant
Office Picnic At The Zoo
                                          Office Dinner At The Floating Restaurant                                                                                          Office Picnic At The Zoo
Cpt Mike Haas In The Office
Cpt Mike Haas In The Office
BOQ Lounge - Newport
Newport Dining Hall At Thanksgiving 1969
                                                                                                BOQ Lounge - Newport                                                                                                                                                            Newport Dining Hall At Thanksgiving 1969
Saigon Zoo
Saigon Zoo
More Of The Picnic At The Zoo
More Of The Picnic At The Zoo
 US Embassy
Presidential Palace
                                                              US Embassy                                                                                                                           Presidential Palace
Saigon Taxis
River Housing
                                                            Saigon Market                                                                                                                              Saigon Taxis
 Saigon Market
Majestic Hotel - No Trees
                                           River Housing                                                            
Entrance To Newport Terminal
Entrance To Newport Terminal
Left Photo - Newport Terminal Administration Buildings - 71st HQ Moved Here From Camelot - Also Used for BOQ - Cargo Accounting - The Official Opening Ceremony Was Held In September 1968 - Right Photo - Day 365 Time To Go Home
Left Photo - Newport Terminal Administration Buildings - 71st HQ Moved Here From Camelot - Also Used for BOQ - Cargo Accounting - The Official Opening Ceremony Was Held In September 1968 - Right Photo - Day 365 Time To Go Home
Naplam Bombs
Retrograde Tanks
                                                            Naplam Bombs                                                                                                                       Retrograde Tanks
Refrigerator Ship - SS Matapan Of The United Fruit Co.
US Likes Ship - American Reliance
      Refrigerator Ship - SS Matapan Of The United Fruit Co.                    
 Newport Chapel
LCU Going Up The River
                                                            Newport Chapel                                                                                                                  LCU Going Up The River
River Traffic
PBR On The River
                                    River Traffic                                                                                           PBR On The River
he Night Shift At Newport
The Night Shift At Newport
Fred Moss Jokingly Practices The But Stroke On Bob Burgermeister
 Bob Burgermeister
Fred Moss Jokingly Practices The But Stroke On Bob Burgermeister                                     Bob Burgermeister
Can He Really Shoot That M-60 Machine Gun
Can He Really Shoot That M-60 Machine Gun
Left Photo - Newport Terminal Administration Buildings - 71st HQ Moved Here From Camelot - Also Used for BOQ - Cargo Accounting - The Official Opening Ceremony Was Held In September 1968 - Right Photo - Day 365 Time To Go Home
Entrance To Newport - They Still Call It New Port
Another View Of The Entrance To Newport
Below - Photos And My Story Of My Trip Back To Vietnam - Sept 2005
Entrance To Newport - They Still Call It New Port
Another View Of The Entrance To Newport
I Took A Few From Across The River Of The Deep Draft Area - The Eight Warehouses Are Still Being Used
I Took A Few From Across The River Of The Deep Draft Area - The Eight Warehouses Are Still Being Used
Inside the airport, the immigration line moved quickly untill the officer noticed that my visa began on 8 September and it was now 2335 on 7 September in Ho Chi Minh City.  When I told him it was good in 25 minutes, he stamped all the paperwork and let me in.  At the
baggage claim area, I was not going to be surprised if I did not find my bag, checked in Charlotte, North Carolina some 26 hours earlier.  My flights were all booked on Korean Air, although the leg from Charlotte to Atlanta (40minutes) was on Delta, then non-stop from
Atlanta to Seoul, Korea (16 hours) on a Korean 747-400 and then Seoul to Ho Chi Minh City (5 1/2 hours) on a Korean Airbus 340.  The baggage system appeared to be at least 40 years old and made for planes which carried 100 passengers, not the 288 on this flight.  
After all other bags were picked up, mine appeared in the adjacent baggage area, but it had made it.  I then quickly paid $5 at the cab counter for a taxi to the Renaissance Riverside Saigon hotel and was led out to the proper cab.  The only words the driver and I
seemed to have in common were the names of the various main streets, such as Hai Ba Trung, Le Loi, Tran Hung Dao.  I was surprised I remembered.
I Took A Few From Across The River Of The Deep Draft Area - The Eight Warehouses Are Still Being Used
Two More Of The Deep Draft Area
Two More Of The Deep Draft Area
I had chosen the Renaissance Riverside Saigon hotel after my initial try at making a reservation at the French colonial Majestic Hotel (built 1925) was delayed until I sent the Vietnamese travel bureau a copy of both sides of my credit card.  I was sure I did not want to
send that information and instead used my familiar Marriott website.  The Renaissance Riverside Saigon appeared, with a military discount rate of $72 a night.  Although breakfast was an additional $12, it seemed like a bargain for a five star hotel-and they already had
my credit card information.  This hotel was very worthy of its five stars, with large, actually beautiful rooms and the friendliest hotel staff imaginable.
My room was on the sixth floor and on the 21st was a large health club and outdoor pool, all overlooking the Saigon River.  For a $30 upgrade, I could have had a club floor room with free breakfast and afternoon cocktails.  I was going to do that for my last two nights,
but see below!
Renaissance Riverside Saigon On The Left - The Hotel Where I Stayed
Renaissance Riverside Saigon On The Left - The Hotel Where I Stayed
View From The Renaissance Riverside Saigon
View From The Renaissance Riverside Saigon
This being September, the weather was hot and rainy and not hot and dry.  Each day there was some rain, but it was not a hindrance.  A few quick observations-most people are still riding motorbikes, but there are fewer cyclos, in fact the government is trying to
eliminate them.  Cyclo drivers usually speak some English and pester English-speaking tourists for business.  I found saying "I live here-dee-dee" did the trick and they left me for others.

The Vietnamese currency is now the Dong, as it officially was in 1969, but the old North Vietnamese Dong is worth considerably less than the South Vietnamese Dong or Piaster was 35 years ago.  Five US dollars equals75,000 Dong and if not exchanged in Vietnam, I
could find no other airport money exchanges who would accept it-not in Singapore or Korea, at least, I found out later the currency is considered "non-convertible".

My hotel was staffed by very well trained, friendly college age men and women.  Their English was quite good and when I asked a few of them if they also spoke French, they laughed and said their parents did, but they studied English only, for it is the language of
commerce.  One told me his father had been in prison for two and a half years after the North took over in 1975.  They seemed very proud of their hotel and of their city and beamed when you told  them how good it was to be back and how I was enjoying the visit.
The Rex Hotel - Still Has Its Roof Garden
Continental Palace - Now Called The Hotel Continental
                                      The Rex Hotel - Still Has Its Roof Garden                                                               Continental Palace - Now Called The Hotel Continental
I hired a car and driver one morning for a trip to what had been US Army Terminal, Newport.  The driver arranged by the hotel spoke good English and was about 50 years old.  He explained that the old Newport area was now a high security port facility, and he would
try to get me as close as he could but could not stop at the gate.  He also sighed as he reminded me that he had lived under both systems, and both have their positive and negative sides.  The Ho Chi Minh City map I purchased labels the area as the docks in that
section of the city (my map is still in Vietnam, so I cannot check the name out.  More on this later.)  Vietnamese driving is still the same-everyone honks as they proceed, and the biggest vehicle has the right of way.  The painted pedestrian crosswalks are completely
ignored.
Former US Embassy Site
British Consulate
We drove over the Newport Bridge slowly so I could see the docks, but then the driver picked his way through the small roads on the opposite side of the river to the shoreline, where I could photograph the old Deep Draft 1, 2, 3, 4 area.  Surprisingly, there was a good
deal of new home construction on these roads by the river, with the structures  looking very modern.  This seems to be a developing subdivision by the river, which the official Ho Chi Minh City website says is primarily used by foreign workers.  We then returned over
the bridge after paying a toll to do so and he very slowly drove over an overpass that leads toward the new port entrance.  I was able to photograph the sign and was surprised to see the words "Saigon New Port" under the Vietnamese.  The warehouses at the deep draft
piers looked a bit old and rusty, but still stand.  I sure wish I could have entered to see if I could find our headquarters and dining hall buildings.
After I returned to the hotel, I decided to retrace the same route on foot, to see how close I could venture, but after a forty-minute walk, I was shown the "No Photography" sign and asked to leave!  I figured landing in a Vietnamese jail was not a good idea, so I walked
back to the hotel, passing what looked like the 4th Transportation Command area closer to downtown.  The "See Rock City" birdhouse was missing!

I also spent a half-day really looking carefully at a street now called Le Duan (it had a different name in 1969) which was the location of the US Embassy.  That area is now cleared of the embassy and inside a high walled compound, with very tight security, are both the
US and French Consulates.  The building across the street, which was the British Embassy, is now the British Consulate.  Directly across the street from the British Consulate used to be the St. Christopher's Anglican church at number 2B, which was supported in
1969-70 by the Church of England (provided the priest) and the American Episcopal Church (provided the budgetary support).  That church is now completly gone - made into a Korean restaurant, but from the rear, you can see parts of the roof of the church.  I attended
this church on numerous Sundays and often the American Ambassador, Ellsworth Bunker and the British Ambassador, John Moreton and their families attended.  I especially remember the Christmas Eve service.
Newport Bridge From The Opposite Side Of The Port
Newport Bridge From The Opposite Side Of The Port
I also had a good time walking the streets and visiting some of the French colonial hotels as well as the new ones.  What had been Rue Catanet, which we knew as Tudo (Freedom) Street is now Dong Khoi (Uprising), although at least one shop is called Tudo and
another Catanet.  The street is still full of tourist shops.  In general, the older French hotels have been greatly spruced up.  I enjoyed visiting the Majestic and Grand hotels, both on Dong Khoi near the river, and the Rex, which still has its roof garden.  The
Continental Palace is now the Continental and its terrace seating of Graham Greene's
The Quiet American fame has been renovated into a reasonably good Italian restaurant.  I had dinner at the restaurant, and it was very enjoyable.  It advertises that it provides
"Unobstructed Views of the Street!"  The Caravelle that we knew now has a 24-floor tower addition to complement the 10-story tower there in 1969-70.  Between the Caravelle and Continental, the French built Opera House or National Theater has been refurbished
and has a modern fountain where the large, rather ugly South Vietnam soldier monument used to be.
Park Hyatt Hotel - Opened July 2005
Majestic Hotel - All New Trees Since 1970
                                                                                               Former US Embassy Site                                                                                                                                                                                British Consulate                            
                                                                              Park Hyatt Hotel - Opened July 2005                                                                                                                                                           Majestic Hotel - All New Trees Since 1970
A beautiful new Park Hyatt Hotel just opened about two months ago.  There is also a very modern Diamond Department Store, with a KFC complete with Col. Sanders statute on the top floor.  The Ben Thanh market, much fixed up and painted, still sells most anything
you could want, from all foods, to clothes and souvenirs.
Diamond Department Store
After two full days in Saigon, I flew to Singapore for the weekend on a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777, which was too short a flight (two hours) to enjoy all the features of the individual entertainment centers and good meal.  Singapore is certainly the cleanest, most
high-tech city I have ever visited, although the entire way of life there seems to center on buying things!  I especially enjoyed visits to the Raffles Hotel (the Long Bar is home to the Singapore Sling) and to the Asia Civilizations Museum, which has high-tech features I
found intriguing.
The only glitch in the trip occurred as I tried to check in at the Singapore airport for the return trip to Ho Chi Minh City.  My Vietnamese visa, which was to be good for 30 days, was issued for only one visit and since I had made my visit, I was instructed to take a cab to
the Vietnamese Embassy.  The embassy personnel were happy to give me a new visa, for about $300 US on the spot, but since I had done most of what I wanted to do, except buy a few souvenirs, I elected to fly directly back to Seoul for the trip home.  This allowed me
to return to Charlotte just in time to drive home as Hurricane Ophelia approached Wilmington.  Still in Saigon is my suitcase and dirty laundry.  The hotel emailed me to say they will send the suitcase by DHL for a payment of $400 US.  I think I'll let them keep it and
buy a few new things when Express has a sale.
Diamond Department Store
Ben Thnah Market - Has Everything You Need
                                Ben Thnah Market - Has Everything You Need                                                                                Over The Newport Bridge Again
Over The Newport Bridge Again
Singapore
Singapore
Some general thoughts - Saigon is now an interesting mix of 1st world hotels and office towers and 3rd world street vendors, cyclos and motorbikes.  I am told there are plans to expand the city to the other side of the Saigon River, with a subway linking the two areas.  
The Newport Bridge continues to be the only bridge across the river, with ferry service continuing at numerous locations.

The city has really been "beautified".  There are large flowered parks and many trees, most planted in large pots along the streets.  I almost could not see the Majestic hotel for the trees and as the photo of the same hotel in 1970 shows, there was not a tree to be seen
then.  One abandoned pier by the river was made into a veritable forest.
The Grand Hotel
Reunification Palace - Former Presidential Palace
The Grand Hotel
Reunification Palace - Former Presidential Palace
I never saw any sign that Sealand Services is operating in Vietnam, but I did see Pepsi, which sells bottled water "made by reverse osmosis in our Saigon plant" and Nestle, which also sells bottled water.  The Foremost Dairy's are all gone!

In the market, I saw no brass shops.  I guess there was a good deal of brass only when the war was on.  There is now a major Ford plant at Long Binh.  The tap water at the hotel was listed in the hotel booklet as non-potable and the hotel provides two bottles of water
per day, per guest.  Government offices and areas often are surrounded by barbed wire and have "No Photography" signs.  Throughout Saigon, I saw the new Vietnamese flag (yellow star on red field) as well as many yellow hammer and sickle flags (also yellow on red
field) interspersed.  I bought a flag, but alas, it is in my left suitcase.  Large ships seem to off load south of Saigon on the River.  There were no ships at Newport when I took the photos.

As to the flights, Korean Air was extremely friendly, with the flight attendants doing their all to make people happy.  Like the bloggers say, the Korean food is a bit better than the western meal.  Singapore Air may be considered the world's best airline, but they were
"business efficient", not particularly friendly or welcoming.  The Singapore planes are very well equipped with individual entertainment centers and even a card with exercises so passengers keep fit while on long flights.
I ate most Saigon meals in tourist hotels to avoid getting sick and did not need any of the anti-diarrhea medicine I packed.  Singapore eating was less rigid, since all water is potable and the "hawker centers" and food courts are well inspected.  Meals tend to be spicy
Malay fare, but there are also Italian and other types of restaurants. Banking - In Saigon, the closest and most convenient bank was ANZ Bank, an Australian Bank founded in the early 1800's as the Australasian Bank and made up of many merged colonial banks from
throughout Asia.  Their ATM's were great.
I never got to the Metropole hotel, which is where I stayed my first night in Saigon before I was assigned to 4th Transportation Command.  It is listed as located at 148 Tran Hung Dao and is a three-star hotel, with rooms for $34 a night.  There are also two very nice
new hotels in the Phu Nhuan District (near the airport) - the Omni (5 star) at 253 Nguyen Van Troi and the Novotel Garden Plaza (4 star) at 309 Nguyen Van Troi.

I understand from others who have spent a good deal of time in Saigon (English as a Second Language teachers) that government officials who staff the offices in the South tend to be former North Vietnam officials and a government lack of trust in the former South
Vietnamese persists.  With the college age hotel staff reminding me that their fathers spent a few years in prison after the take-over, people seem to select their words very carefully and just cooperate with the new system.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable visit and I want to return.  However, I will never see my running shoes again.
Thank You For Looking At All My Then And Now Photos And Story
Please feel free to email me.
Mike Haas
Full Speed Ahead
Post Office
National Theater
                                                                                                    Post Office                                                                                                                                                                                                  National Theater
Hydrofoyles For Trips To Vung Tau
Hydrofoyles For Trips To Vung Tau
Park Along Saigon River
Park Along Saigon River
In My Life - Beatles - 1965
Majestic Hotel - No Trees
US Likes Ship - American Reliance
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