Wally and I were buddies. I don’t how that came to be, other than we were in the Army together, in Viet Nam, and were in the same hooch at base camp. Wally was from the Los Angeles area and had been a draftsman. I was from a tiny town in the Midwest and had been a surveyor. He was damn near a genius…and the only reason he was in the Army, was he was drafted like I had been. He had been a job shopper for defense contractors, doing drafting on a per hour bid basis. His ideas were just brilliant. His biggest problem, like mine, was boredom. We’d do anything to break the boring routine of base camp.

I was able to get away from camp often, ship out to help build an LZ, go out with the log ship and deliver supplies to the different LZ’s, and get to other areas a lot, but Wally was chained to his desk. Soon after he arrived in our company, he had been given a task of making a sign. Wally was an excellent draftsman. When he finished with the sign, it was just beautiful. For him, it was kid stuff, but when it was delivered to the Col., and hung in place, the Col. was thrilled with it…and immediately every officer wanted signs made…a lot of them, and Wally was the guy elected. Now here was a guy, who helped design the Vulcan mini-gun, delegated to making sign after sign. It was killing him. He was bored to death, had no other work to do, had a list of signs that all the officers wanted done immediately, and it looked as if his entire tour of duty in Viet Nam would be making signs….something he hated.

It came time for my R&R and Wally decided he needed to go with me or go crazy. It was fine with me. Wally was always interesting to have around. He never met a stranger, always found a way to make his off duty time interesting, and was really wanting to get to Japan so he could buy a super stereo system…to have to listen to as he made signs. At least he could listen to some good sounds, was his reasoning.

We went down to the 1st Cav R&R camp down in Bien Hoa. We had to stay there a day or so until our flight left for Japan. We were excited. A chance to go someplace where we could get hot showers, some good food, not get shot at, and of course, there might be a woman or two we could hire for the week to wash or back or whatever came up. We finally got to take off and after landing in Japan, the first thing we did, was exchange some of our money. We about passed out when they began to hand us $100,000 yen notes. We were rich! We each had several hundred thousand yen on us…and ten days to go spend it on fun.

Six days later, after finding a guide who had been deported from the US for chasing his head chef through the dining area with a meat cleaver….and who wanted us to sponsor him as a race car driver and bring him back to the US, ending up with three hotel rooms, in a whale of a poker game with a couple of hookers, seeing some of the sights of Japan, such as the ancient capital, pachinko parlors, and the horse races….we ended up broke, back at the Army camp in Tokyo. We has spent nearly all our money…we’d had a great time and they couldn’t chisel the smiles off our faces, but just had to retreat to a no cost area, until our plane back to Nam, which we never got on….showed up.

It was while we were having a few beers at the EM club, I gave Wally his great MPC idea.

We were drinking beers and a couple of guys from Guam sat down and began to visit with us. They were there on leave also. The four of us were buying beers, 8 at a time, to have one waiting while we worked on the one in our hand, and when it came time for the guys from Guam to buy, they paid in the MPC they were issued in Guam. Once or twice a year, you’d get about an hour notice to change your current MPC in and get issued new MPC, one of a different color, making all the MPC in the hands of anyone who wasn’t supposed to have MPC, worthless. All the Vietnamese feared this. To have a lot of MPC and one day, hearing the announcement of the current MPC being changed and not being able to get their MPC changed in for the new color, was bad news for those who would change the MPC in for Vietnamese money, and a very high exchange rate.

Now MPC, stands for Military Payment Currency. It’s money used by the military, but its all paper…even the quarters and fifty cent denomination. It comes in red, green, blue, and an assortment of colors. We noticed right off, the Guam MPC was a different color from the MPC we used in Viet Nam. We sat and drank for a while and Wally was grousing about how the MPC got into the hands of the Vietnamese, then was exchanged for green backs, and the green backs, American dollars, was used to buy guns to shoot at us with, and we were there to help defend the Vietnamese. That’s what we’d been told anyway, and we’d had several beers so it was easy to believe. Wally was in the middle of one of his outrageous indignation tirades, when I said, “Wally, you want to get even?”

Well, it took a few seconds for it to soak in…and he said, “Yeah Man,” which was pure Wally. I then told him of idea that I’d just came up with. I said, “If you wanted to, you could buy ten dollars worth of MPC off this kind man here for greenbacks. You could then go back to Nam and make a trip into town, find the local head hooker, and tell her for a percentage, you’d take all her MPC and trade it in for her. The MPC was going to change the next day and it would be worthless if she didn’t …but do it, the day before you got on the plane for Saigon, to go home. You show her the money, she would round up all the money she could, you’d tell her you’d only take 5%, she’d go for it. Then you take the good MPC she’d give you, throw everything but the dollar denominations away or give it to someone, put the money in your bag, and get on a plane the next morning for Saigon….change it back to greenbacks before you left the country down at Saigon … never to see anyone in that whole place again. By the time they figured out what happened, you’d be out of the country.

“Yeah Man!” he said…and ordered more beer. He had a smile on his face, of pure larceny.

Wally kept the Guam MPC pressed in a book, with other books on top of it, till the day before he was to go home. We figured it all out, down to the last detail. We even had it figured out how to get the gals downtown to get him their money and get passed the MPs’s at the gate into town. We’d have them put the money in sandbags, then about dusk, they’d go to a certain guard bunker on the perimeter wire, where he be, and they would throw the money to him. It worked.

The night before he was to leave, he was at the bunker and he was thrown 7 sand bags of money over the wire. I had left about three months ahead of him, but I heard from the guys and Wally. He spent several hours than night in the drafting room, sorting the bills which were less than a dollar, for the one which were a dollar or more. He ended up with several hundred dollars. Wasn’t the thousands he had dreamed of, but it was a substantial amount. The next morning, he was packed up, shined and shaved, and was at the airport for the first flight to Bien Hoa and the 90th Replacement, to catch his Freedom Bird home.

The guys told him, that by noon, the gals downtown had realized they been flim-flamed when there was no post closure as there always is when the color of MPC is changed and half of them were down at the perimeter wire yelling, “Lai De!!! You know Wally? You get Wally for me.” They were yelling at anyone who would stop, “You go get Wally!” The guys in our hooch, had been given the bags of the smaller denominations and told the gals, “Wally out on LZ, be back in one week,” just to make sure Wally had time to clear the country. By chow time that night, the whole company knew the story and every man was laughing and singing praises of Wally. The whole company was in good humor over Wally getting the best of the hookers downtown. The gals wouldn’t take Vietnamese money for their services and every man in the company found it funny, Wally had got the best of them.

After he got home, I moved to California and we were room mates for a while…and he never tired of telling the story of how he got half the hookers in Phouc Vinh, to pay him.



Originally posted on 1st Cavalry Association Guest Book
by, and included here with permission from Steve Richey.

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