This memoir of an American teenager coming of age in 1960s Vietnam “is a rip-roaring historical snapshot of a capitol teetering on the brink of war” (Rick Frederickson, Vietnam Magazine).
In 1962, when US Navy Chief Petty Officer Bryant Arbuckle brought his wife and three sons to his new post in Southeast Asia, Saigon was a vibrant, dirty, exciting, and perilous metropolis filled with exotic temptations. Young Leslie Arbuckle was fourteen at the time. A fearless and inquisitive American boy, he was eager to explore the city’s forbidden wonders, from its bustling black market to its late-night brothels. The new world surrounding him was intoxicating, and he enthusiastically drank it all in.
But Saigon in the mid-sixties was a lit powder keg about to explode, as an expanding war in the Vietnamese countryside began creeping closer. For Les, an exciting overseas lark would soon turn darker and more dangerous. Instead of running from angry street vendors, he found himself fleeing machine gun fire and witnessing the self-immolation of Buddhist monks protesting a corrupt political regime. As life went on within the confines of the US military compound, Les watched the city dissolve into chaos on the other side of the barbed wire.
At once vivid, funny, beautiful, and frightening, Les Arbuckle’s Saigon Kids is an unforgettable evocation of a unique adolescence spent in a strange and volatile world—a remarkable memoir of growing up American on the edge of a war zone.