National Geographic : 1965 Jun
into it." To that man that day, what mattered was the safety of his goats. Didn't the people of Saigon realize the seriousness of their plight? They did indeed. I asked a policeman at the airport what he thought of the situation. His expression stayed blank as he said, "We are a fish on the chop ping block." And who could feel more deeply than the women trying to cheer their broken men in the army hospital (page 859)? I thought of a classic Vietnamese poem, the Chinh Phu Ngam, or "Warrior's Wife's Plaintive Ballad," whose lines begin: "In time of devastating war, the gentle sex is submitted to many mis fortunes...." As War Mounts, Saigon Grows Every day the newspapers of Saigon showed white gaps, where type had been removed by censorship. But it was no secret that the VC attacked in growing strength. American planes stepped up their bombing of the in filtration routes from Laos, but the VC kept coming through the jungles. They had infil trated singly or in squads. Now they came sometimes in groups as large as battalions. Concurrently, more and more people seeped into Saigon. War in the countryside had been a big factor in tripling the city's population in the past 25 years. 868 In many already crowded blocks, the last Congestion of cycles clogs a parking area in the middle of a downtown boulevard. The city counts some 1,500,000 such two wheelers, an estimated two to a family. Amid the rows, a boy balances a tray of sugar cane chunks eaten as candy. Two Saigon factories, built with U. S. funds, assemble parts for Italian motor bikes. Butterfly on wheels, a Vietnamese beauty pedals along a Saigon street. She ties down the flowing rear panel of her ao dai to pre vent it from becoming entangled. Barbed-wire barricade snares a scooter; riders try to free it. Saigon authorities often string such a defensive fence without warn ing; this one was thrown up during the Feb ruary coup. Some hapless cyclists saw the roadblock too late. "Several times in the evening I heard squealing tires and knew that another driver had hit the wire," re ported photographer Garrett.