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     Rest and Recuperation - R&R!

"China Beach Sunset", photo by Shannon Nichols, Company E, 50th Infantry

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R&R Hard Luck Stories!

Dave Parker wrote in, "Ray, here's a short story on R&R. I NEVER GOT ONE and I'm still pissed off about it. I had heard all of the great stories from guys coming back from R&R and I was looking forward to mine. That was at the same time 1/50 was taking its colors home and I had two months left on my tour so I was shipped up north to the 1/10 Cav in An Khe, and they put me on the bottom of the list for R&R so mine went out the window. So let these guys know so they can send in their stories that way I can enjoy theirs and that way I'll get mine."

Let's all help poor Dave out by telling him what he missed!

In-country R&R Destinations.

China Beach (Bac My An).

Otherwise known as the US Armed Forces R&R Facility, Da Nang, Vietnam. Vietnam has 3,260 kilometres of coastline - more than the west coast of the USA.

(Left) Danang's Hong River. (Right) China Beach.

Saigon was (and still is) a thriving metropolis with an unavoidable western influence. Cyclo drivers rested between fares below neon lit billboards. The streets swarmed with life. People bought and sold things, bargained, cooked, washed, urinated, slept, ate, drank, and lived on the streets of Saigon, while the wealthy sped by in their closed cars living a life of indulgence. I hear that little has changed in today's Ho Chi Minh City except the name, but the locals still call it Saigon. Pictured on the right, Mark Hannan on R&R learns that Saigon was a jungle. Pictured below is a picture of McGee, Sheppard and Willuoghby preparing for a night on the town while on R&R , New Year's Eve, 1967-68...sandwiched between two typical street scenes taken by Jim Sheppard in 1967 while on TDY.
Vung Tau.
Vung Tau is a beach resort on the South China Sea coast 128km (80mi) south-east of Saigon. It has been a favourite getaway destination for Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) residents for over 100 years. During the Vietnam War, Vung Tau was home to the Royal Australian Army and American support units, and was a popular spot for In-country R&R for U.S. combat troops. Now as then, Vung Tau is a party town, full of sun, sand, surf, good food, beer and even a disco or two. After the war, Vung Tau was a popular launching place for the Vietnamese Boat People fleeing the communists.

Vung Tau scenes, from the Grand Hotel (left), shot of the street in front of the R&R Center, to the beach to Bar Street (formerly Phan Thanh Gian, now Ly Tu Trong)..

Out of Country R&R Destinations.

(with minimum in-country requirements):

  • Australia (Sydney) 10 months in country
  • Bangkok 03 months in country
  • Tokyo 06 1/2 months in country
  • Hong Kong 03 months in country
  • Manila 03 months in country
  • Hawaii 06 months in country
  • Singapore 03 months in country
  • Taipei 03 months in country
  • Penang - From 1 July 1969 onwards.
  • Kuala Lampur 06 months in country - Closed 1 July 1969


Hawaii was the most popular destination for R&R (Rest and Recuperation) but was generally reserved for married soldiers so that they could meet with their families.

If someone else doesn't tell about their R&R first, I'll be forced to tell about how the Hilton Rainbow Towers on Waikiki was overbooked and so they gave my wife and me an ocean-front suite for the whole time at no extra cost, and about the looks I got when boarding the flight back to Vietnam with a J.C. Penney's toilet seat under my arm that was destined for Phan Thiet. (Ray)


Here's a chance to lay down your politically correct "official" tale of R&R to impress the little woman.

One Australian Navy website says of R&R in Thailand, "There was nothing that wasn't for sale. I guess this had something to do with providing for R&R grunts fresh from the killing grounds of Vietnam, their every concievable wish was catered for. During the R&R Days there were plenty of good cheap hotels and certainly no shortage of massage parlours. The kind where sometimes up to one hundred girls dressed in their evening gowns sit behind a soundproof glass window in plush surroundings watching TV, chatting with their mates, reading magazines and waiting for their number to be called. A 24 hour escort and tour guide would cost around 400 - 500 Baht $A20-25, with an option to extend. Beers cost around 20 baht or $A1.00 which was damned expensive!

"During the war Thailand was one of the most popular R&R destinations for the troops and the yanks always had an R&R Center. The US R&R Center in Bangkok was the Windsor Hotel in Sukhumvit Soi 20. This was popular for the married blokes for everything was at US Service Club prices and you had to have Military ID to get in. The bar down below used to provide live entertainment in the manner of strippers, until one young US serviceman on R&R took some pictures and sent them home to mum, who immediately informed her congressman that the service was corrupting her son. That soon stopped! Here was was this young Marine out there killing people but watching naked ladies was corrupting him! Now that's crazy!!

"Thailand was a very popular destination, but it did suffer from the very difficult language barrier (sailors were not noted for their interest in asian languages) and the high beer prices for the day."


Hong Kong!

Traditionally, the Wanchai District (Suzie Wong territory) on Hong Kong Island was where sailors and horny businessmen head when they have just one thing on their minds. During the heady days of the Vietnam War and the GIs' famous R&R junkets, Hong Kong's girlie nightlife spread across the harbour to Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, the area along Nathan Road close to the Star Ferry. Most of the R&R hotels were there so the extension was only natural. Incidentally, Hong Kong is still a popular R&R centre for warships of many nations on patrol in the area.

In Wanchai, along the famed Lockhart Road and its side streets were dozens and dozens of girlie bars, hostess clubs and pubs, cheek-by-jowl, ranging from evil-smelling dives where anything went (and where one ventured at one's own risk) to respectable establishments with live music and uptown prices. That's changed somewhat these days --- Wanchai has become respectable with an excellent selection of ethnic restaurants and up-market pubs. The number of earthy girlie bars and discos has decreased since Suzie Wong's heyday, making meeting your very own "Suzie" much less likely these days.


Here's an interesting tidbit from the National Archives of Australia, " The Government considered extending the American R&R scheme to include Australia, while expressing concern about venereal disease and noting that 'a good proportion ... would be negroes'. Meanwhile, the Minister for Immigration was determined to maintain Australia's homogeneity and to 'retain our characteristic Australian identity'. He reported that the changes introduced in 1966 had not had any significant effect on the population mix." (The historical context: events and issues that made news in 1967 by Ian Hancock, BA (Melb), BPhil (Oxon), Reader in History, Australian National University, and Australian Archives Historical Consultant).

Brisbane - The City, Fortitude Valley, Cloudlands, Festival Hall, the Gold Coast.

Brisbane is Australia's third largest city and the state capital of Queensland. During the Vietnam-era, the rest of Australia considered it little more than an overgrown country town, which it basically was until it hosted Expo 88 in 1988, but now Brissy has become one of the country's most progressive centres. People who took their R&R in Brisbane would likely recognize nothing today but the pretty girls and beautiful women that seem to sprout up in the sunshine. But despite innumerable attempts to renovate its seedy underbelly, sailors taking liberty ashore today still flock to Brisbane's Fortitude Valley. Another popular venue, the Cloudland Ballroom perched on a hill overlooking the river and inner city suburbs of Brisbane, was demolished in 1982. The Fat Lady has also sung for Festival Hall, which hosted the world's top rock'n'roll since 1959, including the Beatles first tour in 1964 and the Monkees last tour in 1968, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, the Who... you name it. Of course, many spent lazy days on nearby broad Gold Coast beaches and frantic nights in Surfers nightclubs.

Photographs of Brisbane, 1969.

Downtown Tram on
Queen Street, 1969

Queen Street, 1969

Corner Queen and
Albert Street, 1969

Construction of
SGIO Building, 1969

Rushing to work,
Brisbane, 1969

Above photos were Copyright © 2002, Marcus Clark. Printed by permission.
Melbourne - Downtown, St. Kilda, Brighton.

Melbourne is a mix of old and new, high-brow and low-brow, art and sport, rich and poor, with something for everybody. As the Lonely Planet says, "It is cosmopolitan, suburban, cultivated, football crazy, conservative and a haven for the avant-garde." The Gold Rush in the 1800's is reflected in historic old public buildings like the Flinders Street Station, St Paul's Cathedral, Town Hall, the flamboyant City Baths... and the atmospheric Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail). The Royal Botanic Gardens are considered to be among the finest in the world. But R&R wasn't solely about architecture... the action was found in St Kilda, then Melbourne's sex and sin centre, full of drunks, drugs, girls, shady deals and shady characters. Weather permitting, and Melbourne weather is notoriously fickle, St Kilda also had a string of beaches and boasted attractions like Luna Park, an old fashioned fairground, and the St Kilda Ice Arena, which mysteriously burned down after National Heritage listing. The inner city suburbs like Carlton, Fitzroy and Richmond each had their own attractions, not to mention fanatical football fans.
Sydney - King's Cross, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Taronga Park Zoo, Bondi Beach.

The Lonely Planet said, "During the Vietnam war, Sydney became a major R&R stopover for US GIs, and the city started tasting of Coke and burgers, while King's Cross developed a fine line in sleazy entertainment for the visiting lads (a speciality it maintains to this day)."

But in our feature article "I'll Always Remember!" Jan Byron notes that the Cross wasn't all sleaze as she reminisces about her experiences as a young lady working there amongst the famous and infamous - the Whisky a GoGo, Texas Tavern, Bourbon and Beefsteak, memorable scenes in the Concerto Record Bar and La Tete a Tete which later became the GI's Hut, the buses streaming down Darlinghurst Road filled with handsome young men (boys) dressed in uniform triggering images of the movie, "South Pacific". Read her story to be transported back to another time and another place... the hustle and bustle of King's Cross in Sydney in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

Jan has "Followed up" the story about her King's Cross experiences with two more stories about "reconnecting" after many years and looking back to the memories of Vietnam. Read her stories: "Mail Call" and "Phil's Birthday".

Photographs of Sydney and King's Cross, 1964-1972.

Martin Place, 1968

Sydney Opera House
under construction,

Manly Beach,
pretty much the
same now as then.

Bourbon and
Beefsteak Bar,
Darlinghurst Road,
Kings Cross

Coke still welcomes
all to Kings Cross but the nearby Pink Pussycat and Hasty Tasty are history.

William Street,
Kings Cross, 1964

The infamous Piccadilly Hotel, Victoria Street,
Kings Cross, 1964

William Street,
Kings Cross, 1968

El Alamein Fountain,
Kings Cross, 1968

William Street, 1972

Above photos were Copyright © 2002, Marcus Clark. Printed by permission.

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