Gringo’s and Kings

One morning, riding a rented Chinese bicycle through town I noticed a middle-aged American who seemed bewildered. Was he searching for landmarks or reliving the past? In ‘68 a terrible month long battle reduced Hue to rubble.

Friend, were you a Marine caught in the dread house to house combat? Were your buddies killed or wounded by the Viet Cong or NVA? Did you witness the frightful civilian losses? Were you ordered to attack the ancient Citadel after the enemy defiantly hoisted their blue and red flag with its five pointed star?

At war’s end Hue slowly turned into a kind of poor man’s resort. Around the restored Citadel, once the capitol of kings, Vietnamese and gringo’s lounged on blankets or picnic chairs. Children played badminton. Reluctantly, I rode on until struck by the sight of an American tank, several APCs and 155s parked on a wide cement square. Instantly, I hopped off the bicycle, walked to the captured weaponry, and ran my fingers over the Howitzer’s tapering steel barrel, pressed my palms to the tanks rusting armor. As if it were yesterday I knelt before the Armored Personnel Carrier, the better to read the painted over graffiti etched inside. “Twenty and a wake up! Fuck the Army! GI Numba One!” My heart pounded as I waited for the tank and artillery to open fire. Waited for young Americans to come charging out.