“The air base at Da Nang saw considerable action that was not particularly warlike during these early days in Vietnam. The veranda of the officers’ club at China Beach was a favorite place for REMF [rear-echelon mother fucker] gay cruising. And the swimming pool at any Army or air base also became a cruising zone as the numbers of troops swelled in 1965 and 1966. Most organized gay life, however, was in Saigon, a cosmopolitan city that had long considered itself the Paris of the East.
Saigon’s best pickup spot was t he bar at the Continental Hotel, which had been a favorite gay meeting place since the days of Tom Dooley, where a casual visitor might not even notice the subplots being played out between five and seven every evening. Here, large numbers of handsome young officers gathered to strike up convivial conversations before pairing off for dinner.
A few blocks from the Presidential Palace were the Louis Pasteur Scientific Baths, where a gentleman could usually spot like-minded companions. If no assignation occurred here, one might make a trip to Tu Do Street, a honky-tonk thoroughfare with rooftop bars and restaurants that served thick American steaks. Rooftops made the bars fairly safe from random hand grenades thrown by passing Vietcong bicyclists, and, at night, tanked up with plenty of beer, one could watch U.S. Air Force bombing raids on suspected enemy supply routes, the explosions lighting up the horizon like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Curfews complicated cruising. You had to pick up early enough to get your business over with in time to return to the barracks, or you had to be sure you could spend the night. Curfews also presented a cover. Army intelligence officer Lieutenant Dave Dupree learned this one morning when eyebrows raised over his having spent the night in the room of an Army major with whom he was having an affair. He had gotten drunk and missed curfew, Dave explained, and everybody understood, because under the pressure of the fighting and dying just about everybody got drunk at one time or another and missed curfew.”
Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 42.
Tom Dooley was a US Navy physician who served in Vietnam immediately following the signing of the 1954 Geneva Accords. He oversaw the medical treatment of thousands of refugees fleeing North Vietnam under Operation Passage to Freedom. Dooley was also investigated for “participating in homosexual activities.” He is the author of Deliver Us From Evil.