Even though I spent most of my two years either in Thailand or north of the border, I did have occasion to visit Saigon more than once on business at 7th Tactical Air Combat Control (TACC). I was there for a month getting up to speed on French with a lovely young lady who was assigned to make me literate in the language again.
When off duty, I tended to seek entertainment in the downtown area. The marketplace known as the Cholon District was on the other side of the river and for the most part, off limits. All rules are made to be broken and I was a victim of the siren’s song. In addition to being a marketplace for foodstuffs, it had a thriving prostitution trade.
Without going into detail, I can say that finding a prophylactic when you need one is futile. Oddly, we had access to them by the gross where we were stationed, but nowhere to employ them up country. If I had been foolish enough to fool around with a young Hmong maiden, I would have found myself the guest of honor at a shotgun wedding. No one in their right mind would even conceive of doing this. We were warned repeatedly at every Commander’s Call and there were messages to that effect posted discreetly at the Air Operations Center. Why then, did they have enough rubbers to sink a ship on hand? We found out soon enough in August when the Monsoon began. You could employ them to keep water and dirt out of your weapon barrels. They were absolutely perfect for that. You didn’t have to remove them to shoot. They fit my 12 gauge and M-79 equally well. They could be carried in the hollow handle of a Car-15 and were also useful when stretched over the top of extra clips.
The problem was always being shortsighted when departing for a short TDY or a liquor run. Somehow the raincoats always got left behind and the need arose when far away from them. This is what leads me to believe one of the reasons we had such high numbers of HCV was due to unprotected sex. Back then we didn’t consider it high-risk sex. It could be cured with 3 million units of Penicillin in most cases. The approbation of your First Sargent was the big issue. For some reason the military took surveys and kept track of this disease. They engaged in “body counts” much the same as they did with enemy killed. Why we will never know. I suppose they don’t have to worry about that in the Afghan Olympics.
The fact remains that we almost always had these objects in our pockets during Monsoon to protect our weapons (no pun intended) but did not make a practice of carrying them during the dry season. If they kept the records I have mentioned, I surmise it would show a marked drop in reported cases of STDs during the Monsoon. It stands to reason if everyone was packing them during that time, that they were employed more frequently.
The VA has chosen to grant me SC based on the Genotype being 3A which is endemic in that region, and because of a transfusion from an encounter with the silver BB. Regardless of why it was granted, there is an equally recognized risk now that high-risk, unprotected sex was the culprit. VA never considered that and I luckily never had any STDs. I did have several instances of NGU, but that happens when you are wet a lot in that environment.
Veterans who are filing for Hep. should check their medrecs and if they ever had urethritis (non-gonoccocal), it would support a risk of HCV. Many mistakenly think that to win a claim, they must prove a genuine case of the clap. What most don’t know until they look at their records is that the pecker checkers were liable to throw a prescription of Penicillin in on top of a NGU diagnosis just in case the test was defective. Often you wouldn’t be back near medical facilities to test again soon, and pills were cheap. This saved everyone a lot of lost time and kept the wheels turning smoothly. This gives more weight to a “possible” dx of a dose whether you actually had one or not. VA will grant SC for this , but it may take a trip to D.C. to attain it. This is being offered as a FYI to all of you. I’m really not trying to wreck any marriages.
Fortunately my wife realizes the exigencies of war were far different from anything we encountered here. Certainly no one was aware of the host of diseases we all have come to fear since the eighties. That knowledge has changed the way we think and behave nowadays, but the sixties had a different cache. So check your medrecs before filing and look for the signature abbreviation of NGU or the words gram-negative if you ever had occasion to go on sick call for the telltale symptoms. A win is a win in this business. I do believe the jetguns will be found to be the greatest risk, but I also expect that finding won’t be published by VA until all of us from that era are room temperature.