Author and fellow veteran John O'Callaghan with a local outside Dalat - January 1995

      The Montagnards, native dark-skinned Vietnamese who inhabited the mountain regions, often skilfully and faithfully served the Allied forces during the Vietnam War. After the Communists took control of the south in 1975 these people were marginalised, treated with a degree of distain and referred to by other Vietnamese as ‘The Minority People’. This poem reflects the plight of those who had the misfortune of being on the side of ‘the losers’.

         “The city of Dalat (which means ‘River of the Lat Tribe’ ... local Montagnard tribe) is located in the Central Highlands some 200 kilometres north of Saigon. It was founded by the French in 1912 and soon became popular with Europeans as a retreat to escape the heat. Like Vung Tau, with tacit agreement from both sides, Dalat was spared the ravages of the Vietnam War, being used as a leave centre.
           The stuffing of all types of wild animals is a popular Dalat past-time. It has been suggested that the local taxidermists were most disappointed when the contract for ‘stuffing’ Ho Chi Minh upon his death in 1969  was awarded to the Russians.”

                                                                                                                                                 - Lonely Planet.

Broken  Dreams  in  Dalat

Broken  Dreams  in  Dalat

Supported by sticks, two old men,
Shuffled by me today;
In broken English I listened,
To what each had to say.
Faint smiles on their faces,
Despite what they’d been through;
Deep burning love of their country,
Friends all dead that they knew. 

One told of a time, years ago,
Dreams tattered and torn;
When he’d fought for the French,
But they’d all long since gone.
Transported to an island,
As a ‘prisoner of war’;
Con Son’s cruel ‘Tiger Cages’,
Under Diem’s martial law. 

Now chronic aches in his back,
Sadness revealed through his eyes;
Colonial masters’ betrayal,
Promises, all turned to lies.
In these Central Highlands, a lake,
At the edge where I sat;
Watching an old man limp away,
With broken dreams in Dalat.


Another, whose path I had crossed,
On a high dusty dirt road;
Had been travelling by foot,
Far from his humble abode.
To ward off the chill, an old coat,
Woollen cap for his head;
Limping quite badly and bent,
And very sick, so he said. 

When Bao Dai sat as emperor,
He knew him, I was told;
A local here all his life,
He was 80 years old.
With eyes and ears in full focus,
Remaining suspicious, on guard,
Relating his sad lonely story,
He was an old Montagnard. 

At first fighting the French,
As a Viet Minh in that cause,
All his hopes for his nation,
Dashed down in confusion, by wars.
Now a thin frail old man,
Dumped, by those who grew ‘fat’,
Is alone with mere memories,
And broken dreams in Dalat.