“Rock and roll music contributes to both the usage of drugs and the high VD rate among the enlisted men in the Army today.”
This statement from an Army Captain, represents the off-the-record opinion of most high-ranking officers in the Armed Services today. But there is nothing they can do about it.
The Armed Forces have changed radically in the last four years. The raising of draft quotas and the tightening of deferment and exemption loopholes has made for a different military, with a higher proportion of men who would otherwise be in college, and a far greater number of men of one generation drafted into the service.
Briefly put, there is a flowering of rock and roll and dope among the unwilling soldiers of today. It is altogether out of hand. It already involves so many men that the brass can’t even begin to crack down on it.
“Lots of guys come over here very lame but go home heads. Everyone is excited about trying it ‘back in the world’ because it is so groovy even at this down place. Guys have mustaches and long sideburns that the average citizen would never believe they were soldiers. We are anxious to get back and grow wild hair and beards without any restrictions. Beads and Peace symbols are worn with the uniform.” —A Corporal in PhuBai, Vietnam.
In the past year the Army has been directly responsible for turning on probably more than a quarter of a million young American innocents by sending them to Vietnam, and thousands of others merely by putting them together with others of their age — whether in Europe, Asia, or even right down home in Louisiana. But most of all it is Vietnam: the Army has taken hundreds of thousands of students out of school and plopped them into what seems like a marijuana-heaven on earth. In Vietnam, you can buy marijuana already processed into cigarette form, packaged 10 to the pack (200 to the carton) and a pack costs a dollar. At least in Nha Trang, it costs a buck.
In the highlands of Vietnam, where daily battle is waged, such amenities do not exist. Instead, it grows wild. And thus, so grows the United States Armed Forces overseas, wild as a march hare.
The Navy and the Coast Guard, favored duty for men facing the draft who want to avoid combat duty and bad chow, is filled with even more unmilitary types than the Army, especially among the Medical Corpsmen. The voluntary combat services, the Air Force, the Special Forces (Green Berets), and the Marines, are a different story —— but not altogether, as we shall see.
In order to find out what was going on, Rolling Stone recently sent questionnaires to a selected group of servicemen who reported from nearly fifty military stations — Air Force Bases, ships at sea, Pacific Islands, stateside bases, Saigon, huge military bases and even jungle patrols in Vietnam. Respondents represent just about every branch of the service, including Marines and Green Berets.
Allowing for the self-selection in the various branches of the service, you can say that young men bring the common tastes of their age-group with them when they enter the service. A Navy Personnelman 3rd Class with over three years’ service breaks down this way:
“The median sailor comes from a small town in the Midwest and comes generally from the wide middle-class stratum, is high school graduate, has dabbled maybe even with college, and may have been picked up by local police for some minor infraction. Well, here is the rundown: About 10% of sailors know rock in every form, can rattle off managers’ and band members’ names etc. About 20% have their foot in both deep rock and commercial sounds. Another 30% are R&B fanatics (mostly from east of the Rockies) and 10% dig country (in our idiom, shitkicking) music.
“Maybe 5% are classical buffs, maybe 10% folkies (the ‘Seekers’ and ‘Weavers’ types). The rest of swabs just generally drift around with either no musical tastes or completely absorbent so that it doesn’t matter to them what type —of rock or soul or whatever it is. I have offended some, converted others, and made some more music-deaf by playing my disks. But I guess we are still pretty good off, compared to the Marines and Airedales, anyway.”
The greatest difference is not between the services, however, but between upper-echelon officers (essentially, career military personnel) —all ranks above SP/5 (sergeant) — and enlisted men. As an SP/4 writes from near Thu Dau Mot, “Lifers can’t comprehend rock and roll, they’re completely disoriented doers of the establishment. Even ROTC and OCS three-year officers who should have some appreciation seem bound by some kind of unspoken code of conformity.”
“Ned from Nha Trang,” a GI stationed in Vietnam, elaborates: “The NCO’s are a belligerent lot who spend their free time drinking in ‘the club.’ Officers aren’t ‘allowed’ to associate with us lowly, peon, scum bag EM’s (that’s ‘enlisted men,’ what a fucking label, ugh).
“You must realize that lifer dogs (besides being the most sexually fucked up minority of society) are the most colorles and slow group of people (yes — can a lifer be considered a person ???), for it takes the act of war to make them face the reality that ‘something is happening but you don’t know what it is.’ Lifers are so out of touch with the emotionalism and combustion of rock that to a dog, ‘it all sounds the same’.”
A sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor: “Officers consider rock at best the music of a stage from which they have long since passed into ‘maturity.’ At worst, the braying of a smelly, dirty, leftist, commie, pinko, homosexual, dope (generic term) taking hippie. Or vice-versa, depending on which you consider worse: a screaming jerk-off or a smug condescender.”
A Marine Lance Corporal in Central Vietnam: “When the lifers & C.I.D. hear Doors or Dead, or Dylan and especially the Beatles, they bug ya, always looking for something.”
The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service provides entertainment for military personnel overseas. But as you might expect, it is of, by and for career men (in enlisted men’s idiom, “lifer dogs”). Says an SP/4 from near Khanh Hoa:
“Very few people are into AFVN Radio ‘serving the capitol, Saigon,’ because military radio is a real down. Army commercials are so dry that I would rather not go through the hassle. Every time the music stops there is Big Brother Uncle Sam talking to you with his liferdog propaganda.
“Some people make requests (to all the ‘swingers’ of B Company, 14th Med) but those are the people still goofing on the Beach Blanket Fuck-In Movies. I never listen to the radio because it’s mainly piped-in restaurant type music although someone told me he heard Dylan once. But you people must realize that most people are into tapes.”
An SP/4 now back in the States, formerly stationed in Nha Trang: “The AFVN Radio comes across with swinging Chris Noel and her ‘groovy’ songs for an hour a night. They have a request show, but not all requests are played. The DJ apologizes and plays a substitute. The South VN Government won’t let us play certain songs on the air. For instance, the Animals — ‘We Got to Get Outa This Place’.”
A Corporal who gives his name as “Very Obscure,” from Chu Yang Sin: “AFRN sucks, as the programming tries to please everyone. The Chris Noel show makes most GI’s vomit. Don L. Brink, former WIBG (Philly) DJ used to be OK.”
A Naval E/4 on a ship ported in San Diego: “Most of the Armed Forces radio I’ve heard was while we were operating in the Da Nang area. It reminded me of typical Top 40 stations in the States for less advertising, and, believe it or not, less variety. It’s often broken up . . . several hours a day are devoted strictly to C&W music, the rest of the music is usually teeny-bopperish with only an occasional, uh, psychedelic surprise thrown in. To sum it up; it’s better than listening to the ship rattle in the wind.”
A 3rd Class yeoman on a ship out of Yokosuka, Japan: “Armed Forces Radio is totally lame. The songs they pass off as hits on their rock shows were on the charts at Christmas in the States. I don’t know why they are so lame and out of it, but I was so disappointed on first hearing it that I don’t bother to listen now that I have my tapes. The first two months I was here I listened every day, all that was worth hearing that I heard was ‘Boogie’ by Canned Heat and ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ by Cream.”
A Navy E/5 out of Long Beach: “Armed Forces Radio is for Lifers Career Men! There is a young chick saying ‘Hello Lovies’ (it’s Chris Noel — a phoney) & she plays Don Ho, Trini Lopez, Johnny Rivers & the bubble gum Top 10. Very Lame.”
Adak, Alaska: “AFRN stinks. During the hours when most men would listen to them, they play ‘Hawaii Calls’ or some sort of ‘Polka Party’ crap. About the only time they do play good music is between midnight and three in the morning and the only time I catch it is when I have the midwatch. During those hours they play most of the top 40 stuff, very few psychedelic or protest songs if any.”
Luzon Island, in the Philippines: “AFRTS is the world’s shittiest, small-town midwest old – woman right – wing plastic useless propagandizing bummer unturned-on controlled low-fidelity non-stereo — in short, it’s just what you would expect. Actually, it’s unbelievably bad — you’d think it would be ‘camp,’ but ‘Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club’ just isn’t.”
An Airman 1st Class stationed in the Near East: “You haven’t heard ‘ugly radio’ till you’ve heard AFRTS. Every other song there is a commercial for Savings Bonds, Red Cross, or something like that. You can make requests, but they had better be general. I once had a request turned down (Butterfield’s ‘Work Song’) because it wasn’t ‘good rock.’ I can’t stand ‘Prissy Chrissy’ Noel. There is a taped show from LA, Jim Pewter who once a week plays things like the Doors, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly, etc.”
An AFRTS DJ explains why it’s so bad:
“Music is provided by the AFRTS in Los Angeles. It comes in the form of pre-recorded programs varying in length from 10 to 55 minutes, with such swell personalities as Chris Noel, Ira Cook, John Doremus, and Johnny Grant. This is mostly middle-of-the-road stuff.
“They also supply album-sized disks of current releases in several catergories — —from religious to what they call ‘Top Pop.’ After getting permission from the recording companies, publishers, etc., they press these LP’s themselves. They are mailed to AFRTS stations all over the world.
“We get no protest and very little psychedelic music. We never got ‘Lady Madonna,’ probably because of the ‘baby at your breast’ line. Some top twenty things just never show up — god knows why. We get very little album material—used to be none at all—it took a year to get anything from Sgt. Pepper. Now we get a few things by Country Joe, Cream, Grape and Hendrix.
“It’s getting better all the time . . . but as you can guess we never got ‘Eve of Destruction,’ ‘Universal Soldier,’ or anything obvious like that. They’re not too hip in LA or AFRTS — we did get ‘Acapulco Gold.’
“The main hangup is not what they send us, but the fact that we can only play what they release.
“As it stands now, we are on the air AM 24 hours a day. Of these, four are solid rock. Programming is mostly middle of the road. We have an FM station which simulcasts about 12 hours — other 12 it’s music from classical to CBS’s ‘Young Sound.’ We are in the process of revamping the AM schedule to make the most of programming ‘contemporary,’ which would mean nothing lighter than the CBS ‘Young Sound.’ It’s about time. If I remember the figures correctly, about 90% of the Americans in Vietnam are under 23.”
Things are looking up on another front, at least in Vietnam. A Corporal writes from near Bien Hoa: “About 4 weeks ago a new FM station appeared; it broadcasts from a 10’×10′ steel army ‘conex’ on the Bien Hoa Air Base. It’s WACI. They play songs from the Top 10 in the States plus some ‘underground’ stuff (last night I heard ‘Crystal Ship’ and ‘The End’ by the Doors which is pretty heavy for Vietnam). Last night I heard the Doors’ ‘Unknown Soldier’ and I rejoiced at that and ‘Wild Tyme’ by the Jefferson Airplane being played in Vietnam.”
When at sea, most naval vessels have shipboard radio — “to keep everybody from going nuts with boredom.” This is extremely various, largely depending on what music sailors want to donate, as privately-owned tapes and records are played (upon permission of the commanding officer). On many ships C&W and oldies rock are all there is.
“It is ironic,” says Ned from Nha Trang, “that the true American status symbol here is the taperecorder — it parallels the car thing in the States. The taperecorder is more ubiquitous than the radio and the record player because they’re so much more practical for the Nam. You’re either into rock through tapes or you’re into a jukebox ’cause you’re in town digging the whores.”
For that matter, a Corporal in Saigon reports that the whorehouse jukeboxes are often more current than the AFRTS radio.
Post Exchanges and Naval Exchanges usually (though not always) stock records, but there is no uniform practice. Stateside exchanges sometimes have very good stocks: in the the North of South Viet Nam there aren’t even PX’s. In some places PX’s are run by wives and children of lifers, others by native civilians. The larger ships have Exchanges aboard, operated by assigned divisions of the crew.
According to a Corporal in an MP Platoon near Baie de Ben Goi, “Record selections are poor at the PX — mostly outdated lousy LP’s from the pre-rock era. Gooks work in the PX’s with an occasional lifer overseer. Why try to get any records — the damp dusty environment here isn’t exactly conducive to long life of records or record players.”
Ned from Nha Trang again: “The PX is not ‘OUR’ store. Whereas the PX always carries the latest in perfume, hair spray, and 17 different kinds of hair curlers (for all the whores), the record collection would make you puke — Wayne Newton, Herb Alpert shit, and 99c reject records. Since most people are into tapes, the record ‘selection’ is neglected and out dated.
“About half the PX’s I’ve been in don’t even bother to stock records; and if they do, their selection is always small and about a year or two behind the times. And most records sent by record clubs arrive all bent out of shape. Tapes, like good wines, travel so much better than records and are less expensive and more numerous in circulation.
“Although most people get tapes through other channels, tapes are just beginning to start up as a purchasing thing in the big PX’s. The Nam is about 8 months behind the States.”
A seaman on the USS Wahkiakum: “In early 1967 when rock album buying began to hit big (here) the navy exchange was surprisingly well stocked. Since then the selection has fallen far behind the volume of good stuff being put out. Now it’s big names only, with a sprinkling of psychedelic covers. Get your new, turned on Rascals but no Butterfield.”
A medical officer in the Philippines: “Absolutely no rock records on the island. PX has 50 copies each of ‘Sing & Skate Along’ and all of Hank Snow, etc., etc. (So bad, really, I don’t want to bum you out any more.) Plus: we are not allowed to play a record before buying it. Found Nilsson and Firesign Theatre among the children’s records, by luck! We get only shitty records here.”
An airman in Turkey: “The PX gets records about once a week. In the most recent batch they had things like John Mayall, Beacon Street Union. My biggest complaint is that they are so damn slow getting them. I don’t know who buys the records for the PX, but he has to be a James Brown fan, as they must get 200 of them in a week.”
A petty officer stationed at an isolated Stateside post reports: “They have a fairly decent selection of records at the Exchange if you are fortunate to get there just as they unpack a new shipment. They stock primarily C&W and the Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin type junk, but occasionally they come up with some Butterfield or Stones or down in the dirt blues bag music. I was really surprised to find the Country Joe Fixin’ to Die album. It was in the country and western section. All in all, most of us order our records from the States.”
The USO live entertainment service offers little to a rock fan. An airman at Forbes Airforce Base in Kansas reports that in the States, “the USO puts on ‘nice’ dances. Nothing to compare with Winterland.” A naval officer stationed in the Aleutian Islands: “You wouldn’t believe the trash they pawn off on us under the name of talent. Could you dig watching some dude twirl a damn lariat for an hour and a half. No rock acts at all. Mostly pure shit.”
A corporal in Saigon: “I have seen only one USO show in the year I’ve been here—it was the only one I thought worth seeing, James Brown.
“To the best of my knowledge it is the only rock/pop/soul show that has been through. There should be more. It is a documented fact that more people came to see Brown than came to see Bob Hope. Says something.”
Mostly the USO’s feature what respondents call “Hollywood has-beens,” comedy acts, girl singers, C&W, and clean-cut collegiate acts like the New Christy Minstrels. Vietnam is exceptional— — there many Philippine, Korean, Vietnamese and other Asian Rock groups play, often enlivening their imitations of English and American hits with Oriental go-go girls in miniskirts, and anything in miniskirts always goes over well.
This Vietnamese rock scene will come as a surprise to those who imagine the Vietnamese either in quaint foreign dress or reproachful rags. SP/Scott Manning describes it:
“Amid the confusion and concussion of the war, Vietnamese teenagers are having a cultural revolution all their own, heavily influenced by the French, —American and Australian colonies that have become almost a permanent part of their society.
“In Saigon their dress is mod-ish. Most girls prefer miniskirts to the traditional ankle-length ‘ao-dai.’ For most young men. the current style is Army green, but those under 17 (the legal draft age) wear low-rise tapered slacks with wide belts, usually topped by a high-collared shirt trimmed with lace panels.
“The most way-out fashions are found on the city’s pop music groups, made up of Japanese, Filipinos. Malaysians and draft-deferred Vietnamese. They call themselves the Dew Drops, the Blue Stars, the Dukes. Like their names, their music is predominantly American, favoring soft commercial sounds like ‘Simon Says’ (a long-time hit here) and soul.
“No set at Saigon’s Whiskey A-Go-Go would be complete without well-rehearsed versions of ‘Black Is Black,’ ‘Unchained Melody,’ ‘Gloria,’ and ‘San Francisco (Wear Flowers In Your Hair).'”
These Asian bands, who learn their songs largely from pirate pressings of American and English records made in Hong Kong, are found in bars in every Far Eastern port. One of their big headquarters is Subic Bay in the Philippines, where the town of Olongapo has some 10,000 registered prostitutes working out of 4,000 whorehouses, and every bar has a rock band.
A good number of American enlisted men buy guitars and amplifiers, mostly Philippine imitation Fenders (good British equipment is available in Hong Kong, a free port). A relatively small number of bands are formed, though, due mostly to the instability of military assignment. Says ‘Sparkley,’ of an MP platoon near Bien Hoa. “I’d like to tell you about our band that happily existed for a couple of months in Vietnam. The name of it was the Leadville Feed, Seed and Bag Company. Two guitars, bass, drums, lead singer.
“We got screwed by the Army, but then— — doesn’t everything? We were going pretty good but then we couldn’t use the hootch [barracks] any more because we were ‘too loud’ and they forbid our drummer from playing with us because he’s an officer (very young 2nd lieutenant who also hates the Army) and then they wouldn’t let us use the Army truck to haul or equipment plus our lead and rhythm guitarist just got out of the Army. Which is cool but not for me because I’m the only one left and I’ve got a year to go.”
Says our respondent in Adak. Alaska: “Listen, man, it would take more than two pages to tell you this bit, but I’ll relay what I can. I was a professional musician in the States for 4 years before I joined this mess. I played all over the Southwest and in California and I have played for every type of audience and nearly every type of music. Never did I ever find such difficulties involved in playing gigs.
“We formed a group here, the Purple Haze playing primarily hard rock and blues. First we had to submit the name of the group for approval by the Commanding Officer. (Purple Haze was passed, he obviously has never heard of Hendrix, and related to some 1920 Standard like ‘Deep Purple.’)
“After this problem was solved, we had to submit a special request to start a private enterprise on the Naval Station. We nearly got in trouble for this because we played one gig before we learned of the regulation requiring authorization. After we played for about three weeks we were banned from the Officer’s Club on pretty hazey reasons, but most of it boiled down to the fact that three of us had mustaches.
“Soon thereafter we were canceled out at the Enlisted Men’s Club because the men were too hard to control on the nights we played. (Naturally, it has been so long since most of us have heard good live music that it’s impossible to keep your feet still.) Even though they had plenty of Shore Patrol on hand, they just didn’t want to be bothered with the problems that might arise when the men have a good time.
“So now, the enlisted men and everyone else on this rock get a steady diet of bad, bad country and western. After getting the boot from those two clubs, the best gigs here, there were only two other places to play, and all they allowed in the first place was C&W.
“We were also individually harassed because of our connection with the band. The men can make it pretty rough on you if they don’t dig you, and still stay within the limits of the law. We had to call it quits. We aren’t the first band to get this treatment, from what I understand, this has been the policy here and in other places in the Navy for the past few years. Why give the men good entertainment, and have some of them get out of hand, when they can dish out lousy crap and have no trouble whatsoever? Of course, the men don’t dig it, but what the hell, you can’t please everybody, can you? This is their attitude.”
Recently the word has been getting out in national weeklies and the underground press as well: if you missed out getting turned on marijuana in high school or college, the Service will give you the opportunity to continue your education.
There was a small-scale marijuana scandal right after World War I centering upon servicemen stationed in and passing through the Panama Canal Zone. (A seaman on the USS Boxer reports that everyone is still searched coming aboard in the Canal Zone.) This was before Federal legislation against cannabis, and it was also a different scene, mostly non-specific hell-raising.
World War II and the Korean War were also different scenes—there was no talk of a “drug menace” attacking the ranks, although thousands of men saw combat in North Africa and Southeast Asia, where hemp has been cultivated since time out of mind (as the phrase goes.) Both cannabis and opium are known in Korea, but it seems only a few of the generation of the Fifties thought to experiment with the two quite different smokes.
Plainly the difference is in the generation and in the war. The Forties and its war were crusading against Fascism and the Fifties operated in numb obedience. The key word in this generation is revolt and the current war has no meaning for most draftees — —it is obvious that the Vietnamese don’t want them in their country, and it is not obvious at all what interest a draftee has in being there.
So incredible numbers of enlisted men are smoking grass to “get away,” and more than that, to reinforce their feelings of solidarity with other unwilling conscripts. This is on top of the generation-wide taste for novel thrills and some of these men were blowing pot even even before they were drafted.
The fact remains that the military provides at least as much exposure to marijuana as a big-city college. This is implicitly recognized in the practice of allowing servicemen to turn in contraband before reaching US Customs, with no questions asked.
A corporal writes from a former French resort town in Vietnam:
“There is something about being a head in Vietnam that you can’t get back in the world. It may have something to do with complete feeling of oneness (same clothes, same paycheck, no competition for girls, etc.) or it could be other things. But I’m not here to philosophize, am I?
“There is one interesting thing about grass here. In Vietnam you buy ten already rolled J’s for about 100 piastres (88c). 1 or 2 at the most is all you need to get high, where it might take 4 or 5 in the world. Because it is so cheap and effective, many very straight people come over and by the time they return to Altus, Oklahoma, or wherever, they are full-fledged heads and have a new outlook on many things. The Vietnam experience is doing a lot more good, in some ways, than you would think.
“Because pot is so cheap and abundant, it is smoked like a regular cigarette—tossed away like butts when it becomes too short, and a new one is lighted up. The paths are littered with roaches. Walking along a road one might think how ironical it is that here, in Vietnam, the streets are literally ‘paved with gold.’
“Unlimited supplies. Pot and opium is all they have here. Out of 600 men a good solid half, possibly more, turn on with J’s regularly. A few dozen of these on opium. The common practice is to blow outside the barracks, rap a while, then back in to listen to some music. You see GI’s walking to and from places blowing all the time. Of course it’s not so open in the world.”
An SP/4 writing from a mountain in Vietnam: “Grass is plentiful and cheap. LSD comes from the States. Occasionally we have Afghani and Pakistani hashish and sometimes meth. Opium is plentiful. We take or smoke anything we can. I’m stoned 50% of my waking hours, like now for instance. War? What war?
“We smoke semi-covertly. We work stoned. Music most of the time. Our favorite combination is HOG (hash, O, grass.) I dropped 500 micro-g’s of Acid last month. Four people total dropped and we mainly had an introvert head trip, as there was little visual stimulation. I tripped on Byrds’ music for about two hours. I also went to Army school in the States stoned on acid. Big color trip.
“Most Army jobs are so intellectually easy that it is possible to be stoned all the time, which many of us do for (literally) weeks on end.
“Oh yeah, I went to reinforce an ambushed patrol once stoned on Meth. Bodies splashed all over the road, and I just diddleybopped down the road digging people with no heads, and some sergeant starts yelling at me to get down. I walked up to him, an only then did I realize that I was the only guy standing up, and everyone else was under cover. So I turned around and walked back down the road which really blew the sergeant’s mind. Speed is good for combat, though.
“I’ve met many paratroopers who swear by grass for killing people. Never killed anyone yet, so I don’t know.
“I hitchhiked from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, in February. Spent about 30c that day. Lived in Laos for four days on about $5, smoking opium with the Laos. The Third Eye in Vietiane is a head-run night-club-restaurant featuring folk and rock. Much of the audience is O-heads.”
An SP/4 in Dian: “Grass is easier to get than booze. About 60% of the company blows grass and about 40% of the entire post does. The Army likes to lie about these statistics—I am not exaggerating in my estimation. It is smoked everywhere, especially around groovy sounds.”
A “Speedy 4” from Nha Trang: “Grass is all over the place if you’re aware of it. Any kid on the street who pesters you with ‘Hey GI, you want number one girl?’ knows where you can score. Most barbershops carry it.
“For 100 Piastres (about a dollar) you can cop 10 prerolled fat joints (round as cigarettes) wrapped in groovy plastic bags. For just 300 Pee you can cop about four ounces of the most beautiful loose shit. You become lazy here—throwing away roaches and acting so nonchalant about the whole thing—just because the prices are so mindblowing low.
“I’ve found that I can swap a carton of Salems ($1.50, tax free, at the PX) for four or five bags. The best grass I’ve smoked is from Cambodia, although the Mekong Delta has some excellent shit.
“I would say that about 25% of my unit smoke ‘regularly.’ It is almost as if you can’t afford not to smoke, boo is so cheap. I would say that at least 90% of the GI’s here have smoked at least once. From what I can gather, the troops in the field smoke a lot more regularly than support troops. Apparently a lot of ‘the enemy’— — Charlie and NVA’s— — get all fucked up before they fight the Americans.
“Recently I’ve been getting into the Magic O. Opium usually goes for 50c a bowl although I’ve blown at one place for 25c a bowl. Like, this place where I go there is a beautiful Buddhist temple in which to freak. ‘Papasan’ tells me that when the French were here that some of their troops used to do O.
“I try to stay away from the fucking Army when I’m flyin’ high, the military in such a fucking drag. War is a bore.”
Report from Saigon: “Pot everywhere! From cab drivers, bar girls, cops, you name it. Very cheap I’m told . . . hash as well, and the security people warn us that heroin and opium are flooding across the border. They say that the commies are putting opium in the joints to get GI’s hooked . . . I don’t know any.
“I would guess that 40% of the people here use pot regularly—some places openly—with commanders, NCO’s. 80% must have tried it one time or another.”
Another Marine near Da Nang: “Weed is a snap but I’ve never looked for acid. I am almost always in places where an acid trip might prove fatal. Not too groovy. As a rule, weed and opium (if that’s your thing) are easy as they are native. Other things take longer and more devious routes. Everyone turns on to weed. Pot will be legalized if the 18-20 year-olds can get back from here to vote.”
Vietnam is the center of the action, but the Navy, because of the continuous travel and the selection of men who enlist, is also full of heads of all sorts. A sailor whose ship runs between Japan and various South East Asian ports reports this:
“Marijuana and other drugs are easily available in most ports of the East, but LSD is non-existent. Japan is very poor for marijuana—downers are easily had in any pharmacy, although they are supposedly off-limits to US military. The Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore are all great for pot, and Singapore and Hong Kong have a lot of opium. Hashish is great in Bangkok.
“On the ship I was stationed on up until a month ago, forty per cent of the crew turned on regularly. The back (fantail) of the ship was just like a big party with sometimes as many as thirtyfive sailors all turning on in groups of three and four. The cops on the ship had no idea what was going on.”
A lieutenant ported out of Long Beach: “LSD is only available through the mail from California. Not many guys turn on to acid because the ship is small and it’s hard to hide yourself. Grass is plentiful and almost one-half the non-career men turn on.
“May I recommend Singapore for Indian hemp and very cheap — $10 a pound. ZAP!”
A Seaman 3rd on a communications ship: “Grass is easily available in Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Japan, Subic Bay, P.I. There was one guy who said he’d ‘taken’ marijuana and then he asked me what ‘pot’ was—kinda mixed up.”
An E-3 (enlisted man 3rd class) on a ship touring in the Atlantic reports on the scene on the other side of the world:
“When you hit a foreign port it’s as easy to get grass as it is in Tijuana. Acid is practically impossible to get. Speed is fairly easy. In Turkey it’s easier to get hash and opium than anything else.
“In the Caribbean grass is very easy to get. You can get it from the farmers for between $2-$10 a pound. You can buy it in the city for $20-$30 a pound. I’d say at least 50% have tried it.
“I was stationed at the Nuclear Power School in Vallejo (near San Francisco) for 6 months. I’d say approximately 30% turned on regularly, it could be higher. It is definitely not lower. I don’t know whether to attribute that to the intelligence of the personnel there or to the area. I also think if you took a count of the number of servicemen attending the Fillmore and Avalon you would be surprised.”
The reputation of California as a drug scene is such that, as a sailor on the USS Arlington says, “Right away if you’re from California you’re a hippie or a queer (to the officers). It used to bug me.” Here’s a report from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey:
“What available? Just about everything — Grass: Vietnamese, Columbian, Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Carmel Valley Local. Then there are the pills that people get through their local friendly dispensary, Darvons have always been very big. At one point last fall I knew that fully 50% of my barracks had at least tried grass. This is only unusual in that there are no Vietnam returnees here. I would guess that 30-35% of the enlisted personnel as DLI turn on. At Fort Ord it’s not unusual to find whole companies turning on.”
You don’t have to be stationed abroad or in California, though, according to a respondent from Fort Polk, Louisiana:
“Grass is most popular. Not too hard to hold of. You can always get high because the people in the dispensary always get things. A lot of people smoke, but it is very much discouraged by the MP’s. So it’s not possible here to turn on in the open. When we do usually we smoke in my room or out in the forest.”
In Germany, one of the largest duty stations outside South East Asia, a PFC reports that “grass is easy, hash is easier, no LSD. I don’t deal in other drugs, but if somebody wanted some, it would be only a small hassle. Very few turn on, never openly. The few who do are very tight. Being stoned and listening to music helps you ‘get away.'”
An Airman in Turkey says, “Hashish is fairly easily obtained. The price is about $10 for a stick about 2 fingers wide, and about the length of your middle finger long. Recently seven of my buddies got busted for smoking. One cat thought that he was going to die, so he went to the hospital, and turned everybody in. All of them are currently being nailed to the cross.
“Generally hash is in fairly widespread use, I’d say that 1/3 of the enlisted men turn on. A lot of the smoking is done in the rooms, although I did see one cat light up a joint in the snackbar.”
Despite paranoid stories in the Berkeley Barb and other underground papers, it does not seem that apprehended or suspected smokers are being sent to the front lines on certain – death missions. While troublemakers may be treated maliciously, inconspicuous marijuana usage is currently being winked at by all branches of the service, although naturally no official statement has been made to this effect.
The reason is simple — —there are too many men involved, and a full-scale crackdown would make for serious depletions in the ranks, especially among the trained specialists. Individuals at lower levels of command, including senior enlisted men, may go in for harassment as individuals, but the top-level policy is to turn a blind eye to the phenomenon.
Convicted drug users face discharge, but most often an administrative discharge, which is not dishonorable. Both sailors and Vietnam GI’s report cases of men provoking a bust in order to get out of the service.
Recently some people in the peace movement have been taking an interest in the plight of the large scale slice of this generation unwillingly imprisoned in olive drab. In addition to the organized pacifists and radicals who put out the GI-oriented newspapers The Ally. The Bond, Vietnam GI and others, an organization formed by Fred Gardner of Ramparts Magazine (Summer Of Support) has been establishing coffeehouses in the vicinity of half a dozen Stateside military bases.
These coffeehouses provide a place to talk and listen to music in an un-military environment. They provide the only taste of freedom and Bohemianism available to the men at the bases, many of which are located in dreary places in the rural South. Tom Cleaver writes about musical tastes at the Oleo, Strut, near Camp Hood, Killeen, Texas:
“There is more political content than one would probably find in a civilian community, but I think that this is because of the same reasons that black slaves had ‘political’ music. It is a quiet way of expressing what they think without being too active about it, thus keeping down the possibility of individual visibility.”
Enlisted servicemen make up a lot of people, caught in a particularly nasty and confusing middle-of-things. But it seems plain that it’s all one generation, uniformed or not.
“I feel guilty when I think of the people who resisted and went to jail. That was something I couldn’t do. I’m not serving my country, the ones who are in jail are serving their country.
“There’s nothing I can do now but keep stoned. Am I ‘passing the buck’? I did go as far as I could. I refused to do anything that had to do with combat.”— —A medic in Germany.
“People who are lucky enough to get CO or 4F classifications have no idea at all how bad it all is. Especially basic training. Girls have no idea at all what we go through. I am at an Army Reception Station where guys come their first five days in the Army, and I’ve seen the Army drive people to do things I could not believe. Suicides and attempted suicides are regular things.
“I can only suggest that people with the draft very close do either of two things if they don’t think they can handle it. (1) Split—they will never catch you if you’re cool, and (2) press for a CO (conscientious objector) very hard.” ——Fort Polk, Louisiana.
“I guess about the only thing that really jucks with my mind is the thought of how foolish this whole ordeal is. Every day I see evidence that indicates the Vietnamese people resent our presence—if they don’t want us and we don’t want to be here, just what the hell gives?
“For three weeks in a row, ‘Sky Pilot’ was number one in Bien Hoa. I keep thinking of the line, ‘A young soldier so ill/Looks at the sky pilot, remembers the words, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”.’ Man, give me some slack, huh. Thank God for the sense of sound.” ——An MP in Vietnam.