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The Hanoi Hilton and River

Updated on August 13, 2020
Ericdierker profile image

Holding degrees in philosophy and Law. Formal studies or certificates or degrees in business, theology, insurance and security. Ex-preacher.

Just a Boy On a Peaceful River

What a difference
What a difference | Source

Just a Rag Tag Group

It was just the right time of the morning before scheduled meetings. Those of us ex-pats were up and at it early. The breakfast buffet was wonderful and they served the best Western style coffee. It really is a lonely crew, those of us far from home for indefinite stays. You can tell a seasoned foreigner by with whom and where they sit. Not alone, not with locals and not anywhere near a family.

Motley Crew

In this land of the Hanoi Hilton you also chose by size. Sorry but real small white Westerners were kind of shunned. Or probably they shunned us big old light brown guys. My table that morning had a Melbourne translator fellow. Broad at the shoulders and narrow at the hip with a crooked nose, I would not give him lip. He had his uniform on (we all had uniforms that matched our work) Tee-shirt and shorts for a Techie, Kakis and a hat for a translator, tropical sweater for real estate and fancy silk suit for us negotiators. Shoes either had to look and feel like they hurt or be like an Italian boot. To hell with them I always wore real good walking shoes. Oh lord how I love doing my urban walkabouts.

So we all had our newspapers. Of course the translator was all over a UK sports section – soccer and rugby. This guy must have spoken 10 languages and his Aussie “brogue” was like he was a professional singer. His skill was communication and he was awesome at translating things like attitude. I would say 6ft 5. We called him Thug.

The German was a real jerk. But he was our jerk. I call B.S. but his name was Hans. This guy was GQ for Ivy League schools to beat all. Pink sweater tied over shoulders and tassel loafers and a gold Mariner watch. Hands so perfectly manicured without a single callous. This guy could smell a real estate deal three miles away in a hard upstream wind. I jokingly called him Barracuda but again he was my Barracuda.

The Canadian was Korean, living in Vietnam. Have you ever seen a 6 ft 2 Asian? Their presence is enough to intimidate. We just called him Ill. How rude. But he seemed to like it. A finance guy, kind of a trader but basically just in currency. If Hans said go, Thug said they weren’t lying and Ill said it was doable I went to work.

I just have never figured what people think of as a negotiator. Seems people think they do valuations, and predictions and legal crap and math. Wrong. We do people. Sometimes they are super sophisticated so I leave the sales to Hans. Sometimes you are as cheap as a 5 dollar suit. I leave that to Ill, sometimes you need to understand the situation (often a lie) and I leave that to Thug. My job as a negotiator was to make them want the deal. I would not be sitting in my home office in a 500 thousand dollar house not having to work for a living if I had done that poorly.

Young Man River

Viet Street

A good clear day.
A good clear day. | Source

No Choices

I hope you notice that it is a full on international team effort. And as I was trying to open up a communist regime to free enterprise and commerce I never lost a moment of sleep by guilt. By the way we slept about 4 hours a night. Drank about 4 gallons a night and chased women. We did not suffer hangovers we medicated them with champagne and beer or brandy and coffee each morning. My favorite was an IV of Irish whiskey.

IN SHAPE

You can laugh but we had massages, laps in the pool and in my case 6 klicks of walking a day and maybe some bicycle action not to mention unspeakable exercise. Huge stress seemed to keep the weight as well as the sleep down.

The night before there was a power deal with nasty lightening. This morning raining like an ocean upside down. Our power was from the Hotel. Generator. Did I mention we all had laptops with double extra power back ups? Did I mention this was a 5 star hotel complete with brass standards holding big red ropes to block off areas for us haughty taughty rich dudes? Only a guy with a taxi or chauffeur could walk on the right, tourists of the norm and locals were on the left.

On that unforgettable morning the lightening cracked so loud and close it was at the same time as thunder. Thug got up to look out our restaurant’s 3rd floor window and said, the river is in the street and it is rising boys to no joke. “Aye” I wiped my mustache with starched linen napkins and headed over and I just about did my dooty in my pants. Folks were drowning as they were washed away in the current. Hans immediately had a plan and we started to run.

Ill coiled up a good bunch of that rope over his shoulder and grabed 4 stauncheons. I freaked out some more yelling. Thug grabbed as many cushions as he could from the lobby. Hans just ran out fast down the 40 steps and started grabbing arms and literally flinging souls up on the steps. Many a broken bone I reckon.

The Big Freak Out

Finally I stopped freaking out. I grabbed the rope from the lobby and ran up stream with it secured around my waste. No thought. Thinking would have crippled me. I ran so hard to about 80 meters up. My rope trailing behind bright red and thickl Thug had grabbed the other end and tied it on and followed me up. At about 6 meters he yelled “It is now or never punk”. I backed up 3 meters and got a running start and did my best racing dive into the debris and people filled water. Ten hard strokes and I was losing fast. So 4 pumps of air and it was the dive. I had to “lever my fists” into the road cracks and hand over hand to the other side underwater with crap hitting me all over, including small children.

Wells bells and cocker shells I made it with Thug holding tight and securing is rope on his side. I found the concrete light pole and swung myself around to gain purchase. The safety bridge was up. Victims could grab hold and breathe for at least a moment. Then Hans dove in and raised up as the water was only 4 feet deep and he started grabbing people and using the rope as a kind of bridge brought them to “shore”. Ill was grabbing them and doing a triage on the side. Thug dove in and started clearing debris so the rope would withstand the pull of the flood.

A Little River

That Boy Can Swim

Surf a 10 footer, no big deal.
Surf a 10 footer, no big deal. | Source

The End

This only lasted about 15 minutes. We all got some medal of something. We were busy insisting our bosses pay for new clothes and a few other issues like Thug’s dislocated shoulder. I spent a few hours puking out that nasty water, but whiskey cuts through much.

Now you all just go and say that this is a tall tale fully made up from whole cloth. Call Hi-Tek Multimedia and ask them. The medal hangs on their wall not mine.

I am no great man but I have been blessed to do a couple of good, well kind of good things. Thank a first responder for me.

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    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mel if you can formulate anything in the heat you are a finer man than I. I am writing down many of the stories they seem to not be ready to be published. I have a trio about ready on being crazy. It is tough because some people think it is a dirty word.

      This story has a sister story to go with it. Did know that in many places CPR is only taught to Doctors.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      11 months ago from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado

      I read this story with extreme delight, it just took me 11 days to formulate a response. The reason you never turned into F Lee Bailey is because of your extreme humility, which is a big-man thing. Bailey is a pugnacious bantam rooster at 5 foot 7, and those puffed-up, strutting types tend to make themselves known. But your sense of narrative flow is genius, and I submit to the court once more that you really should write your memoirs, because I'm sure you've got a lot more stories like this in you.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Dora when my son retold my story to our wife and mother, she just put her hands on her hips and shook her head, and told the boy not to be like me.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      11 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing these memories. The details make your story interesting; and the readers appreciate seeing the action so vividly.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Denise what a pleasure to hear from you. Your articles give me joy -- not not just happy but joyful.

      Let not your heart be troubled as I got 3 new suits out of the deal. Tailor made by a Parisian trained artist for about 20 buckaroos a shot. She still does all my wife's fancy work dresses. We send her cards. You should see me in my pure white dress suit. Oh the ladies swoon to my lady's delight.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      11 months ago from Fresno CA

      That was pretty intense. I was on the edge of my seat. Did you ever get a new set of clothes out of it? Thanks for your daring!

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill I think today will be so boring. So I fixed the soccer net and pumped up the balls. I am sending off a check today to St. Jude Children research hospital.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mona my friend I read your comment yesterday. What a treat. So I thought on it for a day. Yes I was actually in a Hilton hotel. I have visited the museum twice. The stink of death still resides there. It reminded me of Auschwitz. Good to remember the past so we do not repeat the bad parts.

      I got an email from Thug the other day which got me to write this. He reminded me that I was one stupid bloke. And added that "God takes care of idiots and drunks" how funny.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      11 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Well done, my friend - both in life and on paper.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      11 months ago from Philippines

      It sounds like you had a tsunami. You tell the story very well, Eric, and I am very glad you survived, and feel awfully proud of you. I looked up The Hanoi Hilton and it's now a museum. Maybe the hotel you guys were in is nearby. The USA has so much shared history with Vietnam. I went to a Catholic high school in California at the time when they were drafting citizens. I remember girls praying for their brothers. Overall, it was very nice reading this.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      My little family were all laughing at dad (me). I have settled down lately - a decade -- except for San Francisco, Portland, Grand Canyon, Bend Oregon, Washington DC, Hanoi, Sedona, Mexico, Flagstaff, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Mexicali/Imperial, Anza Borrego, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Dallas, Yuma, Phoenix, Puerto Penasco, San Jose and Las Vegas. Of course I leave out places in between. I need to get a life.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      11 months ago from Gondwana Land

      What a great story. What an exciting life you have led, Eric, though you could make a day auditing account books sound interesting haha. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Linda, how fun my life was -- oops is. Since my wife curtailed my travels I have only been to five countries. I have got to settle down.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      11 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a fascinating story and a wonderful effort by you and your companions. It sounds like you've led an exciting and interesting life, Eric.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Liz I started telling the story to my youngest and he said my eldest already told him she heard it from my boss.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      11 months ago from UK

      This sounds like too original a plot to make up. An impressive act of bravery.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Vikram it most assuredly is more my pleasure than yours :--)

      I just go back to places. And they are really interesting.

    • talesofvikram profile image

      Vikram Brahma 

      11 months ago from Assam, India

      Hi Eric, you can easily describe any kind of situation. I like the way, you have mentioned everything.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Flourish you are too kind. I blush.

      My Gabriel came into my office and asked why I was writing with my eyes closed. "To go back there".

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you MG.

      Hey now could you give us your perspective of the latest peace accord.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      11 months ago from USA

      You really can tell a story, Eric.it makes me feel like I was there but not.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Abby, that was fun as I remembered them. I could have gone on longer. Good men.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Reniai, it is remarkable, French colonial to dirt floor shops to parks 300+ years old. The food is insanely varied and fun.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Danny I think of Turtle Lake and the wood working street.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      11 months ago from UAE

      Nice article and you created a very nice picture of Vietnam. How long did you stay there?

    • Abby Slutsky profile image

      Abby Slutsky 

      11 months ago from America

      I liked your descriptions. You did a good job of talking about the different backgrounds of each individual.

    • Rania Heikal profile image

      Rania Heikal 

      11 months ago from Egypt

      You made me look forward to visiting it. I see, from your words that it is a marvelous place.

    • Danny Fernandes profile image

      Danny 

      11 months ago from India

      Eric, I know its indescribable. The floating markets, colonial charm all contribute to its majestic charm.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Danny, it is richer than most can imagine. I walked way over 100 miles there. I cannot get started as I cannot finish.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mary - I contemplate this. I have lived in Vietnam and I live in California.

      California 39 million in 163 thousand square miles

      Vietnam 97 million in 127 thousand square miles.

      If we like it or not. Each life precious in my eyes.

    • Danny Fernandes profile image

      Danny 

      11 months ago from India

      Hanoi is a beautiful place, Eric. Thanks for creating a post on it.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      11 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love being in Hanoi and I'm so happy with the help you gave these people. I can only imagine the chaos—great deed you did.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Pamela, the aftermath makes me laugh to this day. Hans relocated a shoulder. I went ahead and got a pedicure right in the lobby. We were actually measured for new clothes.

      That of course is another story.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Too short Greg but to the point. My brother did something cool for another. I complimented him and he through something near me and said "Yea, lucky freaking us".

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      11 months ago from Sunny Florida

      What a wild experience you had, Eric. You sure did some good that day with people being swept away. You were with quite a unique group of men. I'm sure that whiskey was good after that stressful event.

    • boxelderred profile image

      greg cain 

      11 months ago from Moscow, Idaho, USA

      Eric - Great life lessons right there. And integrity, service, excellence, duty, honor, country mean more to me than anything else on earth besides family. Raised that same way by a 30-year veteran myself. The needs of the many, the greater good and all that. Be well, friend.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Greg I was knee high to a grasshopper without a present dad. I did something good for Auntie. She doted of course.

      My uncle (WWII Ace with 50 missions) took me aside and made certain that I knew that doing good was not something to be proud of, it was honor, right and a duty.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Devika, just imagine a country boy who was taught to just get it done. I can't really remember exceptions or options to that rule. I will call my sister and ask.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Linda, I would sometimes report back home - to mom, bruised and battered and clothes in clear poor proper manner. I would tell her my tale of woe and she almost always asked why I did not do more.

      Something from Jesus about the Sabbath. Who is going to get that donkey out of the pit?

    • boxelderred profile image

      greg cain 

      11 months ago from Moscow, Idaho, USA

      Eric - an adventure lived and only partly shared, I’m sure. Selfless service warms my heart and you demonstrated that here. You are and were a hero to many that day. Bless you and the rest of the gang. Well written piece here.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      11 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have done more than one can imagine and I so admire your courageous mind.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric very few work shoulder to shoulder with guardian angels. You did, and only God knows how many lives you saved that day. Bless you.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill we all chilled with the partying and spent more time in the gym and pool after this. We all also put in for time back home. Thug is now a Cowboy and Ill a happy tax accountant.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Kinda puts whatever challenges I face today into perspective, me thinks!

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Lorna a part I did not get into much was that we were all experienced "river runners".

      I hope you got a small blessing from this story.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      11 months ago

      An unforgettable experience Eric and your response to this flood was above and beyond. An amazing story full of life, humour and an IV of Irish Whiskey - priceless.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Festus these are easy to write as I do not have to research but hard to get the ambiance.

      This one is fun as there is no embellishment just the facts told story like.

    • Ernest Festus profile image

      Ernest Festus Awudey 

      11 months ago from Ho, Ghana.

      That's a bit of overwhelming experiences shared. Thanks Mr Dierker.

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