In March 2008, I was invited to attend an Asian Banking Conference in Hanoi. After weeks of soul searching I decided to attend and see what the city looked like. I flew into China and then flew into Hanoi.
To begin the journey, I had a huge problem getting onto the plane from China to Hanoi because the travel agent fubared the ticket arrangements. While I had a ticket, I did not have an actual seat on the aircraft. I argued with the gate ticket taker for about fifteen minutes and they were about to close the gate for the plane to depart. I stood in the doorway and would not permit them to allow the aircraft to leave. In the U.S. I would have been arrested, but having traveled in China for many years, I knew they
would be too polite to do so. Anyway, they allowed me on the aircraft and I flew to Hanoi. It turned out that I did not have a reservation either on the return trip. My wife worked with the travel agent to have this corrected so I could get out of enemy territory. Sue tells me that I was in a state of panic during
the three days of negotiations to get an actual reservation. I did get out of there a week later as
I have to admit that the people of Hanoi were very welcoming. Most of the population are in their 30s and were not alive during the war. The cab drivers, wait staff, hotel employees, and people on the street spoke English quite well. When I traveled overseas I would wear a travel vest with big pockets to store things for the extended plane flights. On this trip, I pinned all types of Marine Corps, Corpsman, and flag pins on it. On the days I was sightseeing I wore it and quite often was saluted by their uniformed guards
and soldiers on the street. I am not sure why but they did.
I stayed at a Western hotel on the West Lake in Hanoi and daily took a taxi to the conference. The taxi passed this large open area with a large building and lots of people around it. I was told it was their “beloved” Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum where his body was preserved in a glass coffin, their great hero, their George Washington, etc. In other words, Uncle Ho was under glass and his body was visible like a
preserved frog in a biology lab. For some reason, communist countries like to keep their leaders
under glass. The Chinese have Mao and the Russians have Lenin. It’s creepy!
During the afternoon when there were no conference sessions, I took a cab to the park with a desktop Marine Corps flag I had brought with me. I am not certain why I brought the flag, but it was somehow
reassuring as if Hotel 2/5 was with me. So I walked up to the mausoleum with the flag in my pocket to have a look. I did not have any intention of entering the place but wanted to check it out. While there, I thought it would be a good idea to take a photo of the flag by the mausoleum. I wrote on it “Hanoi 16 Mar 2008” and planted it by a tree. I took a couple of photos and drew the attention of a guard. He was out of sight, but suddenly appeared, fully armed in uniform with a weapon. He looked like an NVA to me.
He quickly walked toward me and I knew this was not going to be a positive experience. I grabbed the flag and quickly headed in the opposite direction across the park. He started shouting “You no do!”,
“you no do”, “you no do”. I am not sure what his problem exactly was and did not wish to find out. So I ran. He followed me for about a block or so at a fast pace until I crossed the main street. He then turned
back. I half expected to hear an AK47 shooting in my direction, but I guess he thought I was just nuts.
I brought this flag home with me and still have it in my home office. In my estimation, it’s a reminder of the day that H 2/5 was the only U.S. military unit to actually “invade” Hanoi.