February 2024
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Saigon Kids™ Stories: Marines In Hanoi

by Kevin Wells, Contributing Editor (ACS)

One of the great things about teaching online courses is the wide variety of people you get in the classes, and the wide variety of backgrounds and experiences that get revealed.

In most cases, I have never met these people, or meet them in the flesh only at graduation. I have had helicopter, fighter and bomber pilots, and representatives of all uniformed services with the exception of the US Public Health Service. I have also had spouses thereof in some classes. One Coast Guard Commander had the burden of being stationed in Hawaii, (tragic, yes?) and of course loved it, and another Coast Guard wife is currently stationed with her husband at USCG Station-Kodiac (a little brisk for my taste) but they like it there.

One spouse of a Marine casually mentioned that she was looking forward to the Marine Ball. The Marine Ball, of course, has a long tradition.

On November 1, 1921, Marine Corp Commandant John A. Lejeune issued Order 47, recognizing the establishment of the US Marine Corps, and directing that Order 47 would be read to the commands on November 10 of every year. Until 1952 the celebrations took many forms, but in that year, Marine Commandant Lemuel C. Shepard added the tradition of the cake and the modern observance came into being.

Marines still gather to cut the cake and listen to Order 47 on November 10. When the situation allows, a ball is held and a good time is had by all hands.

Although I was not in the Marine Corps, I admire a good dust-up and apparently the Marines know how to have a party.

The interesting part is the location for the gathering that year. She, being the spouse of a Military Attaché, was looking forward to getting away from their duty station in Thailand to attend the Marine Ball, in Hanoi.

Let me repeat that, a Marine Ball was in Hanoi in 2007, and Marines in the neighborhood thereof assembled, cut the cake, and had a Marine Ball. I shudder to think about the guard mount back at the embassy at her husband’s duty station, but apparently things worked out well they dispersed back to their duty stations in good order.

When the US Marine Corps picks Hanoi for the site of the annual Marine dust-up, I think we can declare the Viet Nam War to be well and truly over. Although you would have to be there to determine the facts and read the ribbons on those dress uniforms, there is a chance that some of the most senior of the celebrants had some time in the South during the conflict.

Intersections like the ones above are not rare at all. My father had a counterpart in Saigon who served as a medical officer in the Japanese Imperial Army in WWII. He knew another man, a surveyor who was conducting a topographical survey of RVN. The project was part of war reparations. Ironically, one of the critical things ground forces need is accurate topographic maps. The VC knew this and eventually forced them to stop, so in that regard, Viet Nam was still fighting the Japanese in the early 1960s.

I just got an academic conference announcement for the Fifth International Conference on Soft Computing and Pattern Recognition (SoCPaR 2013) scheduled for Hanoi, on December 15-18, 2013.

It looks like things are back to normal and the rest of the world is visiting Viet Nam again..

2 comments to Saigon Kids™ Stories: Marines In Hanoi

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    Having worked in a number of American Embassies and Consulate, I have also attended a good number of Marine Balls. In my early years with the State Department, Marine Balls were a highlight of the year, with food, booze and dancing and it was free to invitees, mostly those who were supporters of the Marine House open house nights, usually on a Wednesday and Friday evening after work. The Marines made good money in those days, selling tax free booze and beer to primarily embassy/consulate employees and their spouses as well as some other guests from other embassies/consulates. The Marine House was a good place to meet folks from other embassies/consulates, especially for those American employees whose duties did not call of too much interaction with local government or other mission officials. Drinks were reasonably inexpensive and the mood was good.
    Don’t recall when the change was made but at some point in the last 20 years or so (probably after 9/11), the Balls were by purchased ticket only and the persons allowed to purchase the tickets was a somewhat confined group. I might point out that the price was somewhat high in my opinion. At that point, my wife and I stopped attending the yearly event except for one time in Rabat.

    At some point as well, the Seabees (Naval Construction Battalion sailors) began to have a ball as well as did the Army….where those came from I have no idea and I never went to one either.
    I think that after 9/11, the folks responsible for security at our embassies and consulates became so risk adverse that any social event became something that had to be tightly controlled. Hence the limited number of folks who were permitted to attend these balls and in my opinion ruined the great event (Marine Balls) that they used to be. And frankly, I missed the interaction that used to take place at the Marine House with the drinks, snacks, playing darts or pool and enjoying the company of others. Oh well, all that is now way behind me but there were some good times and great memories.

    (wanted to include a photo, but ….?????)

    • Ken – Send the pix via the *Contact Form*. It gets a little complicated adding pix to *Comments* as it involves editing the pix, uploading it to the Media File, obtaining the Media File link to the pix, then inserting the link into the Comment, etc.


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