Extract from interview with Susan Fowke, 7 June 2009

Reproduced with permission of Terence (Terry) Burch

Another occasion was, and it was a little bit funny, in some ways. We were going back from the work area to the, to our accommodation – this was one of the times when we were all armed because it was high alert – the vehicle we were in – we had a Vietnamese driver – and I mentioned the traffic before, and it was all congested, so we actually knocked somebody off their motorbike. That was all right. We just continued on and then this, we heard this word, "Dang lai! Dang lai! Stop." And there's this, another little 50cc Honda with this Vietnamese policeman – who we used to call ‘white mice'. I don't know if you [yes]. Why they were called ‘white mice' is because of their uniform of white shirt and blue trousers.

There's this great big .45 pistol in his hand, pointing it at us and saying, "Dang lai! Dang lai! Stop!" So we did. Bruce, I think, said, "Oh, we should bloody shoot the bugger," but I think jokily. He couldn't understand us, and we were accused of running this guy over and all this sort of thing. He wanted compensation. So then, so that, that guy was pointing a gun at us, and that sort of thing. I don't know if he'd have fired or whatever, but he might have – if he had, he might have got fired back at.

And the, next, they called in the Viet – more Vietnamese police – because they couldn't speak English anyway. So then they called in the Vietnamese military police. That wasn't much chop. Then we called in, they called in the – about half an hour later – the American military police, and they had no jurisdiction over us. And then they called in the Australian military police. And I, so –

This was all – you were still on the street?

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, so we had to hang around for that and once the Aussies come along, they took the details down and said, "Go on your way." So that was the end of that, sort of thing.

During the elections, the Vietnamese elections, there was quite a bit of unrest. Fortunately – I suppose I've always been fortunate in a lot of things. I've been at the right place at the right time. And one of our vehicles was, during the elections there was a lot of anti – the Americans had announced the pulling out and there was very anti-American. A lot of vehicles – and there was fire bombings in Saigon. There were a few Americans actually killed through fire bombs of vehicles – Molotov cocktails. So, one of our vehicles was going, Landrover going down the road, just through Saigon and it was fire bombed but the Molotov cocktail went into the back of the vehicle with the guys in it but fortunately didn't, it didn't, it extinguished when it was thrown. But you know, you wouldn't have a clue who it was.

Reference: 

Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage

How to cite this page: 'Danger in Saigon - Terence (Terry) Burch', URL: http://www.vietnamwar.govt.nz/audio/danger-saigon-interview-with-terence-terry-burch, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-Sep-2013