I realize that this photo from the year 1965 is quite blurry, but I’m posting it here anyway because this house with the little steeple is the only building I recognized when I returned to Phước Vĩnh thirty years later.
Unlike Tân Ba, which was basically unchanged when I returned in 1995, Phước Vĩnh had been thoroughly rearranged in the intervening years, so I didn’t recognize much when I went back. This did not surprise me, since I had lived in military compounds, not in the town. The Vietnamese had no particular reason to preserve the old compounds from the early 1960s, and they had long since torn down the old fences and cleared away the minefields.
Most of the buildings I had known in Phước Vĩnh were quite nondescript to begin with, and the whole place had already been changed around in the late 60s when Phước Vĩnh was a large American base and was used for staging numerous operations and battles in the region. For this reason the airstrip had been paved and was maybe ten times as long as I remembered it.
When I returned to Phước Vĩnh in 1995 some local farmers had spread out their rice on the airstrip to dry, but I hope they had some way to cover it up because there was a heavy shower later that afternoon.
Our driver, Tanh, knew a good local restaurant in the town of Phước Vĩnh, so we went there for a delicious bowl of Pho, the Vietnamese soup. Then he asked if we (my son Nick and I) would like to return to Biên Hòa by a slightly different route so we could stop by his parents’ home and meet his family. We immediately agreed to this, as we always enjoyed meeting the local people.
On our way down route 13 there was a short but heavy monsoon shower, just as I remembered from my time in Vietnam thirty years before.
The adults took a short tea break until the rain stopped, but the children seemed to be having a great time running around in the rain.
Somewhere in the vicinity of Thu Dau Môt we had a pleasant visit with Tanh’s family. This was where he had grown up, evidently, and since it wasn’t far from Biên Hòa he could often come home to visit.
This is Tanh cutting open a coconut during our visit to his parents’ home.
We had met Tanh through a man who worked at the Peace Hotel in Biên Hòa and hired him for a day to drive us around in hopes of finding the two main places I had been stationed in Vietnam thirty years before, Tân Ba and Phước Vĩnh.
Our visit to Tân Ba, especially, was a big success, and it was also very nice of him to introduce us to his family on the way back.
Thanks again, Tanh, for a fine excursion!
Thanks to my son Nick for the photos from 1995. I revised the text in 2017.