February 2024
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Before Saigon: Maile (Miller) Doyle

by Admin and Richard Turner, Contributing Editor
© SaigonKidsAmericanCommunitySchool.Com

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Maile (Miller) Doyle (1961-63)

My dad was stationed at Fort Monroe, VA when he came home one evening to ask us if we wanted to go to Vietnam. We did not know even on what continent to find it, so Dad got out the Atlas and we looked for it.

We had moved so often, that this was just another in a series. As a family we withdrew from friends and became more insular as a means of coping with the impending move. We had to begin our series of shots which were very unpleasant for my little sisters. My brothers and I were old enough to face them with a modicum of courage. We moved in the summer, so the transition was easier.

We traveled by car across the USA to Washington State to visit my grandfather before we left on a military cargo plane from Travis Air Force Base. It was a dreadful flight! We were traveling for 36 hours stopping in Hawaii, Guam, Wake, the Philippines and finally to Saigon.

I don’t remember the exact day we arrived in Saigon, but it was in the summer 1961. My very first venture out of our house was to the Circe Sportif to meet the other kids who were there. Ernie Coutler asked me if I smoked – all the kids had cigarettes, so I made the quick decision to say that I did. He handed me his cigarette and said prove it – talk about peer pressure! I took it and I puffed on it and thought I would die right there on the spot – LOL.

I remember the assault on my senses of noise and smell when we arrived and were transported to our new house. Everything was so strange and so very hot! There were street vendors and the people next door to us had a large barrel that truly smelled – it was the household fermenting barrel for nuoc mam. We had cut glass on the top of the walls surrounding our house and many servants.

I remember being so excited to be a part of this new adventure for our family. My time there has had a lasting impact on my life unlike any other.

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