Jessel

Furnished by John Freiberger

 

Four years ago I took a phone call from a fellow in Texas. He invited me to the 5th Special Forces reunion. It amazed me because I never served with Special Forces. He said they have a picture of me taken at Nha Trang -- more amazement. Likewise, their records show that a few John Freiberger’s went to Vietnam. Most had middle initials, but my name matched their search. I laughed to myself thinking these guys know no boundaries for gathering information. That’s why we called them "Sneaky Petes". I thanked him for his invitation and added it’s a case of mistaken identity. The 48th and 390th had many interactions with Special Forces and it’s easy to make a mistake.

The good thing about Kontum was the Special Forces camp at the upper end of town. It was this B-camp that hosted the 390th’s stay outside their perimeter fence. Our advance party got permission to eat evening meals at their open Mess. It was a treat to walk in; have a couple of drinks at the bar and sit down at a table to dine from porcelain plates. Even the old MACV camp next door had indoor plumbing and hot water. We learned that when water supplies ran short at Dak To and people flew to Kontum for a shower and a night on the town.

One evening a green-hat and I walked through the camp after dinner. A strange sight caught my eye. Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) personnel clung to the outer wall of a particular hooch like a swarm of locust. They dangled in midair to peer over the sill separating the building’s lower frame from its screened-in portion. "What is that," I asked? "Our dayroom," answered the green-hat. "George Jessel is here tonight to put on a show at 1900 hours." "He brought along his young bride and our counterparts have never seen an American woman." I climbed the steps to see for myself. The green-hat tagged along.

In the back of the room was a goddess of love and beauty setting up folding chairs. She wore her golden hair in a beehive fashion that complemented the long, blue gown gracing every inch of her voluptuously curved figure.

The green-hat and I found empty chairs in the front row opposite center stage and settled in for some entertainment. It was early and I was groggy from a full stomach, those drinks, and the heat. I stared at the stage in my stupefied state and watched a nervous twit in front of us scrutinizing the audience. His uniform was sloppy and non-conforming, but the annoyance subsided when he disappeared

It is uncertain if what happened next was part of an act or pure panic. Show time arrived and Jessel stepped out from behind makeshift curtains. I realized then who the twit was and that his uniform was not a uniform at all. Instead it was a collage of clothing taken from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. George started his monologue by saying that this show was the second on his tour and challenged Bob Hope to come to dangerous places like Monkey Mountain and Kontum. The latter brought a huge roar of approval. Just then a booming sound rattled the hooch’s foundation and old George went down face first to the floor below. The green-hat leaned over and said that the neighboring artillery battery fires its cannons with a full charge about this time every night. It caught Jessel by surprise.

George picked himself up, regained his composure and continued the show. I merely focused my attention on the beauty he brought with him and dreamed about home.

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