Frank's Story

Frank Riviere returned to Vietnam with the goal of finding out the current status and situations of the Vietnamese he worked with during his tour of duty in 67-68. He returned to his old AO to locate the three men he worked with during the war.

He relates the story as follows:

From February, 1967-February-1968, I was the Officer in charge of an Army Intelligence unit headquartered in Can Tho, Vietnam. I had subordinate 2-man offices in My Tho, Vinh Long, Long Xuyen, Rach Gia and Soc Trang. We advised the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) on methods of collecting information about enemy forces and passed along information collected to the appropriate US and VN Intelligence agency (G-2). I worked closely each day with an ARVN Major and two civilian Interpreter/Translators (I/T). Our office in Can Tho was located about 500 yards from the airport. We resided in a house in Can Tho which was about a mile from Eakin Compound. I formed a close business and personal relationship with the ARVN Major and the two I/T's and after formal relations were established in 1995 between the United States and Vietnam, I vowed to try to find out their whereabouts and whether they had survived.

October, 1995 Trip:
I remembered only one full name of the three Vietnamese I hoped to find and I had no photographs of any of the three so I knew that it was a long shot at best. I met a man at my hotel in Can Tho who was born in Can Tho but who was now living in California and was back to visit relatives. After hearing my story, he introduced me to a Vietnamese friend who spoke excellent English and who offered to be my driver and guide during my search. We placed an advertisement in the Newspaper in Can Tho asking that anyone knowing the whereabouts of the man I was looking for to contact me at my hotel. We also placed a similar notice on the local TV channel in Can Tho. My Vietnamese driver/guide, who had been an ARVN military policeman during the war, also made numerous inquiries but we came up with no useful information. I returned to the United States quite disappointed but not finished with my quest.

I used the internet to find my former Executive Officer (XO) in Virginia. I recalled that he took numerous photographs when we were in Vietnam. It so happened that he had the complete name of the ARVN Major and his photograph. He also had an aerial photo that he took out of the window of the plane while he was landing in Can Tho which showed the vicinity of where he resided near the Can Tho airport. He also had a photograph of one of the I/T's. Armed with this information, I decided to make another trip to Can Tho.

APRIL, 1998 Visit to Can Tho:
I had kept in touch with my Vietnamese guide/driver by mail and he hired a car and he and his son met me in Saigon for the trip to Can Tho. Later that day I showed him the photographs and he said that he had a friend who lives in the area where the ARVN Major formerly resided. We went there the next day and were sitting outside in front of his house looking at the photographs while my guide explained the situation to his friend.

My presence seemed to draw a crowd of curious Vietnamese residents and quite a few joined in the conversation about the man I was looking for. When an elderly woman who had joined the crowd heard the complete name of the man I was looking for and saw his 1968 photograph, she told my guide that he was now in the United States but that two of his daughters currently reside in a house about two blocks away. She described the house and gave us directions. Both my guide and I were skeptical but upon entering the storefront coffee shop, I saw a picture on the wall which I recognized as my former friend. We had a long conversation and I took pictures of both of the daughters and gave them my name and address in the US. They gave me their father's address and telephone number in Kentucky.

The next day I called the ARVN Major from Can Tho and he was very excited to hear from me. I told him about finding his two daughters in Can Tho and asked him if he knew anything about the current whereabouts of our former IT's. He told me that he heard that one was now in the US but he did not know where. He said he had been in the same prison camp with the other IT but that he knew nothing of his current whereabouts. He did give me his full name however. I promised to be in touch with him upon my return to the US. Luck would have it that the second IT's last name was quite unusual and the derivative of a Chinese name.

My driver/guide made inquiries and determined that the wife of this IT lived on a canal about 15 miles outside of Can Tho and the next day I hired a car and we took a lady with us who knew where she lived. It was necessary for us to take a motorized sampan about two miles up the canal to a remote village. My guide acted as interpreter and we spoke with this IT's wife at length. She gave me his address and phone number in Oakland, California, along with a current photograph. When compared with the 1968 photograph there was a striking similarity. I took her picture as well as one of their grandchildren to send to him.

All things considered, I was more than pleased that we had been able to find two of my former associates after more than 30 years. Two days later I left Vietnam to return home.

I told my guide that I would be honored to have him visit me in the US at my expense. He is working on getting a passport and visa and we hope he will be able to come to the US in a few months.

US Investigation and Reunion:
As soon as I arrived home I called my former XO in Virginia and he was as happy as I was about the results of the trip. I wrote to the ARVN Major in KY and to the former IT in Oakland and sent them copies of the photographs I had taken. I ran the other IT's full Vietnamese name through the Yahoo People search on the Internet and came up with five hits. I sent identical letters to each of the five inquiring as to any connection they might have had with me in 1967/68. In about a week I received a letter from the former IT along with a current photograph. He is now living in Massachusetts.

We planned a reunion for June, 1998 in Kentucky and I, my XO, and the IT from Mass. all attended. The IT from Oakland was unable to make it. We had breakfast and dinner at the ARVN Major's home and thoroughly enjoyed a memorable reunion. The next day we met for dinner and continued our reunion. The ARVN Major spent 10 years in prison in the northern part of Vietnam after the Communists took over. The IT from Mass. was only required to spend a year in a "reeducation" camp. The ARVN Major was allowed to come to the US as part of an agreement the US made to try to assist former Vietnamese servicemen. The IT escaped Vietnam with his family by boat to Thailand and subsequently to the US.

I hope to make a trip to Oakland to see the other IT in the near future. I understand that he also spent about 10 years in prison after the Communists took over.

You can use my E-mail address to contact me.

Regards, Frank Riviere

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Copyright Frank Riviere, 1999.
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