Before I shipped out to Vietnam, I never received any classes, lectures, inservices or workshops on Southeast Asian culture and at that age—without a college education—I wasn’t curious or interested.
We were US Marines trained to kill. We weren’t there to understand the culture. The only workshop I remember was one about how to avoid getting an STD and how dangerous one strain of syphilis/gonorrhea was in Vietnam.
We were told that if we were careless with a Vietnamese woman, it could be a very painful death sentence from a viral form of an STD that no drugs could cure.
In fact, I didn’t know anyone in my unit who expressed the slightest bit of interest in Vietnam’s culture or history. When we went on five days of R&R during our tour of combat—for example to Hong Kong, Thailand, Okinawa, Japan, or the Philippians—most of us were interested in only one thing: getting drunk and getting laid.
And the hundreds of thousands of US troops who felt the same way were not alone in history.
“According to Beth Bailey and David Farber, during the Second World War a large number of prostitutes in Hawaii, each servicing upward of 100 men a day, made a fiscal “killing.” “Shackjobs,” or long-term, paid relationships with women of Hawaiian or Filipino descent were also common among military personnel stationed in Hawaii (as they were later in Vietnam). …”
And “during the war in Indochina, U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright and Sunday Times of London correspondent Murray Sayle maintained, independently of one another, that U.S. forces in South Vietnam had turned Saigon into a “brothel”—a reference to the estimated 500,000 Vietnamese prostitutes who served an approximately equal number of GI’s. … Source: John Brown University
In fact, “There were 20,000 prostitutes in Thailand in 1957; by 1964, after the United States established seven bases in the country, that number had skyrocketed to 400,000.” Source: Prostitution in Thailand and Southeast Asia
In addition, “At the height of the US presence in the Philippines, for example, more than 60,000 women and children were employed in bars, night clubs and massage parlors around the Subic Bay and Clark Naval bases alone. Estimates of the total numbers of Filipina women and girls engaged in prostitution and other sex-based industries range between 300,000 and 600,000.” Source: PeaceNews.info – Command and control: the economies of militarized prostitution
And if you think times have changed, read this: “As recently as 2002, a brothel in Australia closed their doors when a group of 5,500 U.S. Sailors coming back from a war zone stopped off in Australia. From the article: Mary-Anne Kenworthy said she was forced to close the doors of her famous Langtrees brothel for only the third time ever yesterday because her prostitutes were so worn out they could no longer provide a quality service.” Source: Cause of Liberty – Prostitution
Do you condemn those who sinned—if it was a sin—or is it wrong to send a young virgin off to possibly die for his country while denying him the pleasure of a woman even if a prostitute was his only choice? What do you think?
Return to US Troops and the Prostitutes Who Service Them: Part 2 or start with Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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