February 2024
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Richard Murphy Reunites With Saigon Kids

Richard has found our Blog and joined. Welcome Richard!! 🙂

He was in Saigon from 1958 to 1960 and attended the American Community School.

His father, Frank, was a Project Director with JDP (Johnson, Drake and Piper) construction company who built Highway #1 in Vietnam.

Richard’s father was a good friend of Father Crawford helping to build his church. Father Crawford was the sponsor of our Baseball team *The Teenagers* at American Community School. In fact, if he had not helped us when we were starting the ball team up, we may never have had a ball team in Saigon.

Richard lived with his family at the JDP Compound while in Saigon.

I’ll let him fill everyone in on the rest of his adventures in Vietnam.

Everyone give Richard a *BIG WELCOME* – 🙂

We are glad you found us, Richard. Please feel free to make Posts to the blog and leave your Comments to others Posts, as we share our memories and experiences of Saigon.

I’m sure everyone would enjoy hearing about your visits to the Highway #1 construction camps.


PS: If you’d like to reconnect with Richard, you can contact him directly through *Friends Connect* located at the top of the left side Menu area.

20 comments to Richard Murphy Reunites With Saigon Kids

  • Gilbert Medina

    I was an alter boy for father crawford spent a lot of time with him. I served the mass for President Kenndy was a real sad time. I been wondering what ever happened to father crawford. I enjoyed watching him buzz aroung on that motorcycle of his. My mother and father always said that God rode on the back seat with him. I would like to find or make contact with anyone that knows Robert Peck, Hal Brient and Rip Westmorland we use to hang out a lot with each other. The VC bombed a hell of a lot of places in Vietnam but during our time there 1962-1965 they kept away from the church.
    I dont care to much about talking or bring up memories of Vietnam. Brings bad dreams. I saw to much for a kid that should have never been there in the first place. I till this day dont know what my parents were thinking of taking their four children to such a terrible place. For me the Kinh Do theater bombing was the last straw from that day on I started wetting the bed sleeping under my covers no matter how hot it was. When I went back to the states I had all kinds of problems until a doctor told my parents that I was showing all the sides of a combat veteran. What shocked my parents they never told him that we were in Vietnam and I never ever talked to him about it. Well that took a load of my back he started treating me as if I was in combat and to tell the truth I was. Several hundred other children were in the same boat with me. I still wonder sometimes when I read some of the stuff on this blog site that some of these kid now grandparents think or make comments to how cool it was back then. What was cool watching one community after othe burn down around Saigon. Bodies being laid out on the streets to be pick up because of the pest. Or maybe it was cool to watch some poor budist monk burne himself to death. Yeah I saw it all and it was not cool.

    • Gilbert – Father Crawford has passed away. From what I understand he remained in Viet-nam after South Viet-nam fell to the North in April 1975.

      Rip is an attorney in New York. I don’t have confirmed contact information for them. Perhaps some of the other SKs might know how to get in touch with him.

      I don’t have any information on Robert Peck or Hal Brient. Maybe someone else has been in touch with them and will come forward with contact information.

      I’m saddened to learn of the problems you encountered as a result of your stay in Viet-nam. I don’t think any of the SKs think the bombings, destruction and loss of human lives, which took place around them was *cool*. Also, from talking with some SKs who were in Saigon from 1962 and thereafter, I think most (like you) lived in a constant state of *fear* to various degrees.

      I think what many of the SKs today refer to as *cool* about their Saigon days is in referrence to their *positive* experiences while there, such as, interpersonal relationships with other SKs, school activities, and their positive adventures in Saigon. I think most, if not all, would like to *forget* the negative aspects of their days in Saigon ever happened. I tend to agree with you, that a war zone is no place for children.

      For us older SKs (such as myself) who were in Saigon prior to 1962 (mid-1950s through 1961) it truly was a wonderful experience in a beautiful city. We could pretty much go anywhere and do anything we wanted in relative safety. It really wasn’t much different then living in the States – except for us teenagers who could do all the things they wouldn’t let us do in the States (such as walk into bars and be served, etc.). We didn’t have to deal with bombings and destruction like what took place from 1962 on. My dad was with the State Department. In early 1961 the State Department advised all there personnel in Saigon to get there dependents out of the country, as things were starting to heat up and by late 1961 to early 1962 it would no longer be safe for dependents to remain in Saigon. This is the reason I was sent back to the States to boarding school in early 1961. Many of my classmates at ACS followed during 1961.

      From what I’ve learned from folks who were in Saigon after I left in early 1961, in many ways, I’m glad I left when I did, as everything changed for the worst (in my opinion) starting shortly after I departed. I truly don’t think I would have enjoyed Saigon much after 1961 or so. Particularly, having known and experienced what a wonderful and beautiful place it was while I was there.

      Peace be with you …


  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    I was there from 1961 to 1963, away and then back in late 1963 to fall 1964 and yes, there was and had been some attacks, but most SKs were pretty calm about the whole thing. I was NOT there during the bombing of the theater and I am sure I would have been “shell shocked” as well.
    While not directly related to SK stuff, I was a GI in Vietnam from 1968-69 (just missed the Tet Offensive) and we were shelled or rocketed a number of times during my Army stay. After that, any time a firecracker went off or the door to my communications vault to slam shut (metal on metal) and I jump…and that lasted for years. Fortunately, I was a support troop and didn’t have to endure some of the horrors that many GIs did in Vietnam. As a cop in Florida, I also saw my share of dead folks, some not pretty. But to return to the SK thread, Bob is right…Saigon was a great place to be and I don’t regret a moment I spent there as a teenager, (dancing with Brooksie was soooo much fun)…could have done without the Army time, but even that wasn’t too bad for me.
    Hot as hell in north Germany….gotta ride.
    Ciao – Ken

  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    Being a Sk from 1958-60 changed my life. I was very fortunate to have only good memories from Saigon, but my heart goes out to any kid, American or otherwise, who has had to endure any effects from being in an area experiencing conflict.
    Saigon was a beautiful city and bonding with other SK’s and reuniting with them after all these years is an amazing experience. My opportunity to learning, through this blog,that so many of us have led productive, and interesting lives is great news to me, and I hope you can reconnect with your friends too, Richard.

  • Leri

    Greetings all. What a difference a year or two made in our experiences in VN. Having been there from ’55 ( or early ’56) to ’60, the only wars I experienced were those at home. Actually, when the first coup happened, there were trucks traveling through the city with 50 caliber machine guns atop. A general across the street from us was eliminated. But I think my father’s calm attitude toward all of it was what saved me from any sort of serious trauma. I knew there was fighting. I knew you couldn’t leave the city. i knew people were getting ambushed, but I never felt afraid. The domestic scene wasn’t great as my folks didn’t get along. That probably traumatized me more than bombings and war. Fortunately I returned to the States before the Brinks bombing and the burning monks – thank God. I have missed the place for most of my life and hope those who were damaged during their stays there are able to reconcile those experiences to the degree that they can rest easy now. Blessings to all. Seullen, I was there when you were, but I was in the fifth grade.

    • I know what you mean, Leri – since starting this site I’ve found it very interesting how all of us have so many different memories and experiences depending on the time we were there, what age we were then, and other variables, etc. – and, the effects our Saigon days had on each of us.

  • Richard Murphy

    Bob, thanks for the kind welcome to the ACS site. Gilbert, my heart goes out to you for having to grow up in those difficult times in Saigon. I was 7/8 years old when my family was there. I only have fond memories…even though I did sense a danger “out there”…usually after tagging along with my father when he drove into the countryside meeting with construction crews. He/we were stopped more than once by the fledgling VC guerilla bands. In a strange way they never really threatened my father…maybe because he made a point of embracing/employing many of the villagers in building HWY #1… maybe because they knew he was a friend of Fr. Crawford.
    I hope to post some Saigon pics from my family’s photo collection in the near future.
    Suellen, thanks too.

  • Susan Drake-Johnson

    Hi Richard – I’m the granddaughter of George Drake, founder of Johnson, Drake & Piper. My dad worked at JDP too, but I think it was my grandpa and maybe my great uncle who were more involved in the Viet Nam work. I was 12-15 at the time and not paying much attention. The company went under in the early 60’s due to massive problems on jobs, mainly airfields in Korea that were wiped out by monsoons. I’m really interested in the experience your father had in relationship to the company and anything else about his Viet Nam experiences.

    I have an article from a magazine called “Big” put out by Goodyear Tire from 1961 in which it the JDP staff in Viet Nam is called “roving ambassadors in hard hats” and other very complimentary statements about the people who were working on the job. I can scan you a copy if you want it.

    All the best!

    Sue D-J

    • Sue — Welcome to Saigon Kids! 🙂

      Thank you for your comments about JDP. Much appreciated. I’m sure all Saigon Kids would enjoy reading the article about the *roving ambassadors in hard hats*. Please send it to me via the Contact Form, email or DropBox. I’ll post it on the site to share with everyone.

      Again, WELCOME!

    • Kevin L. Wells


      For what it is worth; I seem to remember a television show about JDP and its efforts to build roads in South America. I also seem to remember that the JDP compound was slightly more like the USA. Do I remember a golf course, snack bar and housing?

  • Kevin L. Wells


    The fortunate ones among us experienced Saigon in the years up to mid-1962. During those years, American dependents probably had more freedom than the adults, and other than the palace bombing I witnessed and the newspaper accounts I read, the trouble was at more than arm’s length.

    For me, things changed when my father was in the field working on malaria eradication. The project used bright yellow Land Rovers on the theory that anything so glaring could not represent a threat to insurgents.

    The VC took the shot anyway and the round entered the passenger side front window and exited the front passenger side right window. My father, normally in the front passenger seat was in the back and the translator was in the front. Other than some glass cuts and four hours lying in a ditch waiting for darkness, there was no other drama that night. That event made al the difference and as far as I know I was the only person in the family apart from my parents that knew the story.

    The ambassador suspended civilian missions outside of Saigon and we were gone six months later.

    Up to that time, it was the adventure of a lifetime and I would not trade it for anything.

    I just wish that everybody’s experiences were as good as mine were because it is an incomparable art of the world.


  • Sue Drake-Johnson

    Thanks, Kevin. JDP did do work in Honduras and Guatemala, but as far as I know not in actual South America. I didn’t know about anything on TV – a documentary, maybe?

    I know very little about the work in Viet Nam, but I know JDP would have tried to provide good living conditions for their employees. I’m writing a bit about the company for my family so your comments are of real interest to me.

    S D-J

  • Sue Drake-Johnson

    I am confused about the JDP compound. I assumed that it stood for Johnson, Drake & Piper Compound and was where the company employees, like Richard Murphy’s family, lived. But it sounds like a lot of people lived there who didn’t work for JDP. Could anyone clarify this?

    Sue D-J

    • Kevin L. Wells


      As far as I know, only JDP-V people lived in the compound, but that does not mean that others were excluded from visiting.

      I was at the golf course exactly once and my recollection is limited to the locker room, the snack bar and one tee with a pin flag visible in the distance. The only reason I remember any of it is the revelation that the women teed off closer to the pin and that fact is about 1/4 of my knowledge of golf.

      I think other so-called official Americans joined the golf club, but I do not know that for a fact.


    • Sue – JDP Compound was primarily for JDP families. However, depending on the number of JDP families in Saigon at different times all of the housing units were not always fully occupied. When there were not enough JDP families to occupy all the housing units, JDP leased them to other USA government agencies, military, missionary groups, civilian contractors, etc. for there personnel’s families. Also, during late 1961 and early 1962 things began to heat up in Saigon (and Vietnam). As it became more and more unsafe many JDP families felt it best to leave Vietnam for the safety of their families. During this phase the JDP employee would remain in Vietnam and their spouses and family would return to the States or other places where it was safer. This resulted in fewer JDP compound houses being occupied. Hence the leasing of excess housing units to other USA agencies and groups, etc.

      There were also many specialty sub-contractors who worked for JDP in Vietnam. There families where also housed at the JDP compound.

      The JDP compound was occupied by JDP personnel, as well as, the personnel of many other companies who were contractually connected with JDP’s operations in Vietnam.


      PS: JDP did stand for Johnson, Drake & Piper as you assumed.

  • Daniel Murphy

    My name is Dan Murphy and My Father Raymond (Spud) Murphy worked for JDP.
    We lived in Ban Methout from June 1958 to May 1959 more or less and then outside of Pleiku towards the East in a JDP compound called camp 134.My father was the project manager for the highway construction from Camp 139,Ban Methout to Nha Trang and later from Pleiku camp 134 to Quinhon. I was 8 years old when our family moved to Viet Nam.

    Over the years I have looked in on your website and enjoyed the Deja Vu.

    I remember the JDP compound outside of Saigon near Tansanhout airport. and I remember the French concrete guard tower by the golf course by the compound surrounded with barbed wire.When driving to Saigon from the compound there was a small Seventh Day Adventist Hospital with a Blue Neon Cross that lit up.

    Over the years we met Father Crawford . He gave my sister her First Communion in the Saigon Cathedral in 1959.

    Since we lived up country My sister and I received our lessons through the Calvert Correspondence School.

    The only family that I remember living in the compound was the Kleppich family from Red Lodge Montana.Their Daughter Karen taught My sister Gayle and I how to play Monopoly.We would sometimes stay with the kleppich family when we would come to Saigon. Other wise we would stay at the Majestic Hotel near the River or the Continental.In my book the Majestic was was nicer. It was close to the
    miniature golf course across the street.

    Well Thanks for your stories.

    Dan Murphy

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    My family lived on the JDP compound from about 1964 until my dad left Vietnam in 1965. Dad was a contractor with USOM during the JDP time after retiring from the Army in 1963. I lived with them for a few months on the compound and commuted into Saigon with my red Honda 90cc motorcycle. The houses were build on stilts with the primary living area above the carport and laundry and staff rooms. Upstairs consisted of a kitchen/dining area, living room with a narrow balcony, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Some (at least ours was)were converted a bit so that a third bedroom was created on the ground floor by adding a door into the stairwell of the house. The houses were, if I recall correctly, made of wood. It wasn’t a bad place to live but who cared at 18, right?

  • brooks toland kasson

    we, too, were in saigon during what i now understand to be halcyon years…l960 to the summer of 1962. the french had gone, i believe, about 1954, and left some of their delicious culture behind: the cerc sportif and its sunday tea dances (where we learned le twist), french baguettes and coffee, and our wonderful chinese cook who had worked for the french ambassador and casually whipped up cheese soufflés for my sister’s and my lunch.
    as kenny has said, we had more freedom in saigon during that time that ever might have occurred stateside. i recall being out alone on the streets at all hours of the night, in cyclos, on foot, exploring. drinking. hanging out with each other. ah. did my parents know? of course not. and did i enjoy flirting and dancing with kenny. ah. indeed, yes.
    those were, truly, rich teenage years for me.

    • Ken

      Ah Brooksie, you embarrass me….Yes, they were indeed great times in our lives. One of my biggest regrets is not staying in contact with you and others after we all disappeared to the various four corners of the earth. However, we have had the good fortune to reconnect thanks to this site, the internet, Google and just good luck (still no Suzie Hunt appearance yet). But should we all return to Saigon for a few days and try to reestablish ourselves, it wouldn’t work. For one reason is out spouses would object (LOL). Hugs.

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