Decades in development, Rare Orchids, copyrighted by Dean Adams Curtis, has had various titles, such as "Uncle Ho", "Ho", "Ho Chi Minh", and "Special Operations."

Vietnamese Paphiopedilum

Mother told me this blank book of paper was for me to write my diary, or poetry, or whatever I wanted to write. Then she died. For the last two years this book has been at the bottom of my bottom drawer. Then, this morning, I pulled the drawer all the way out and turned it over on my bed. The book is bound in pink leather, which is what drew my attention to it. I was searching for a pink saffire necklace that Mother had given me on my sixteenth birthday. It belonged to her mother, her grandmother, or both of them. Father had said the necklace's saffires were the same color as the pedals of a rare orchid that he was searching for, worrying that it was already extinct. Last year he found his orchid. Today I found my necklace and this book. Later today, Father is going to announce his success at cultivating the orchid in captivity. Since Mother is gone, I am the hostess. So that is all I am able to write, for now. I suppose I should have written down the date before I started this scribbling. It is January 20, 1945.

U.S. OSS officer Peter Dewey and team fly over the Vietnam/China border
prior to parachuting down to work with the Vietminh.

I am back. I decided to write a few more words while I am mid-change into my white blouse and long pink dress with the daring slit Father hates and pink saffire necklace Father loves. I should tell you that the name of the rare orchid Father was looking for is the Vietnamese Paphiopedilum. He called it by its Latin scientific name, Paphiepedium vietnamense. He was so obsessed with the rare orchid that he named his only daughter after it, me. He always made me feel very special to have such a fine and rare name, though it was a bit long for the other children to say and for daily usage. Thankfully, Mother always called me Lan, Vietnamese for orchid, for short.

AAARRRGH! My uncle can be so annoying. Today was Father's event. Uncle should not have used it to make one of his political speeches. Father did not say anything, even when Uncle handed out leaflets with inflammatory writing by Nguyen the Patriot. Some patriot that guy is. They say he lives like an artist in Paris, where he can be as free as a bird, while here in Vietnam, we, his people, are occupied by two foreign nations at the same time, with each of them seeming to compete with the other for which can be more noxious to those of us whose ground they stand upon. Father had listened to his brother politely for a few moments. I even saw a slight look of embarassment cross his face. Then, he had motioned to one of his botany buddies and wandered with him deeper into our orchidarium on the outskirts of Hanoi.

Father's way is to avoid conflict. I am always the one who has to stand up for our interests with merchants and those we hire to help us. Of course, I understand Father always has his mind in the clouds, up on some mist-wrapped mountainside, imagining, I suppose, that he is peering between wet foliage at some saffire pink orchid pedals. I just wish he would come out of the clouds once in a while, such as to usher Uncle out the door, rather than retreat from his guests like a pensive child. I was the one who needed to put a stop to the verbal cascade from Uncle's mouth. The guests did not need much enouragement to rouse themselves to my rescue refrain, that our gifts would be given to them on their departure, being none other than the featured Vietnamese Paphiopedilum orchid itself that Father had cultivated for them. The orchidarium cleared out fast, with Uncle leaving along with the guests. He was in mid-point when he passed me and his eyes barely flickered as they skittered across my own.

Blood? Yes. My bloody fingers write this now. Our guests were long gone and the day had almost gone, when loud, urgent knocking rattled our strong wooden door. Was it Uncle? What had he forgotten? Or was it one of our other guests? The botanists could get pretty passionate when they had a point to make, but I thought it unlikely one was worked up enough about an idea to return to us with such fervor. As I neared the door I could hear more than one voice but could not hear what was being said. I was tired from the long day and paused a few feet away from the door, almost turning around in retreat to hope whomever it was would go away. But then the pounding came again so intensely I worried that our door would be damaged. I strode forward angrily and unlocked it. I was immediately swept back and thrown aside into a sitting room by a wave of uniformed male bodies shouting in French, that reeked of stale cologne failed at its job. I was manhandled but they were not there for me. As I lay on the sitting room floor with barrels of three Legionnaire rifles pointed down at me, I saw them drag Father past and heard them shoving him out the door.

For what seemed forever, I was prevented by rifle barrels from rushing after Father, but as the Legionnaires withdrew from our house I dashed from it. The truck where they had him was already rolling away, between two others filled with the French soldiers. The scene did not make any sense to me, so all I could think of to do is run after the soldiers, shouting that they had made a mistake, that my Father did not do anything. The trucks kept rolling, oblivious to my shouts, and I kept after them until they passed through an ancient, deteriorated archway that heralded the entrance to the Nature-nestled community Father had found perfect for the orchidarium. It was there that I stopped short and for a moment could not breath. Hanging from the arch, blood soaked, with Nguyen the Patriot leaftlets stuffed in his mouth and in his eyeless eye sockets, was a lifeless corpse of a male Vietnamese man. Though I felt the individual's identity somewhere deeply as I approached, another part of me rejected the truth about the horrific entity. It was Uncle.

Story With Many Muses

Entering your eyes here are words that begin a broad sweep of seventy-five years of Vietnamese and U.S. history, from 1945 to today, featuring as central characters four generations of Vietnamese women in a single family who share the first name Lan, or Orchid, as they are named after a rare orchid found by a Vietnamese botanist in the wild up in Vietnam's northern mountains before then successfully propogating it in his orchidarium, a character of imagination who was their father, grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather. You are being offered these words, not by a Vietnamese author, but by an American writer born in 1956, me. Cultural expropriation, you ask? I think not. Vietnam was a big part of my formative years. It loomed as my inevitable destination from the time images of America at war there flickered across our black and white television screen. I was obsessed by war. The borders of my first grade papers were decorated with war murals, which resulted in a parent teacher conference. I assembled the largest G.I. Joe collection on the block. A few years later, as battles still raged across Indochina, I was at demonstrations against the Vietnam War with my parents before I was out of grade school, made a winning speech in junior high advocating protesting, published an underground newspaper in high school with info on protests, such as at the nearby Warren, Michigan GM tank plant, and attended a antiwar demonstration planning conference of the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War, the Mob, also during high school. But I was spared being drafted by the end of the war. In the interim, I had absorbed The Pentagon Papers as published in the New York Times. However, the part of the formerly secret story that I my brain could not let go of was the very beginning, to notes about how U.S. Office of Strategic Services agents had worked during World War Two with the man who was the villan of the conflict by the time 60s rolled around, Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho. I would continue to dive back into that storyline in my brain for years to come, resulting in this version of words arranged for you to read. I wanted to offer readers a ride to the roots of the U.S. involvement in the conflict when our best and brightest men who put boots on the ground recommended we go with Ho.

In Hanoi, U.S. OSS officer Peter Dewey is watched by Japanese Naval Intelligence officer Imai.

After the war ended with the Fall of Saigon, my mother convinced her Presbyterian Church congregation to adopt a family of South Vietnamese refugees. Later, they, and all the congregation's members, endured the tragic loss of the family's mother to gun violence paired with mental illness, committed by another Vietnamese refugee who the family had taken in. At some length after that, the family's daughter requested that my mother become her legal guardian. Mother did so. I protect her privacy by referring to her Lan. She was the one who suggested the main character's name over a feast of Vietnamese food at a crowded restaurant in Orange County. So, calling her Lan herein, from now on, Lan has been like a sister to me. She is now a county health department leader in the U.S. Midwest and has a daughter in college conducting cutting-edge bio-medical research. Muses herein include Lan, as she has told us stories of her family's time in Vietnam, of their escape by boat after South Vietnam fell under Communist control, of their harassment by pirates, and of much more. Lan has returned to Vietnam and met with her grandmother and others. Mother, Lan and Lan's daughter, have all reviewed and commented on earlier versions of these words, so know they are not absent, even though they are not the physical writers who are wordsmithing this story for you. Another muse is U.S. O.S.S. Major Lawrence Archimedes Patti. His thick book on the matters at hand, the reason for these words lining up as they do, is a combination roadmap and bible for this journey. When, after years, I finally found out about its existence, I rushed to it. L.A., as he was sometimes referred to, did not disappoint. You will meet him and travel with him for the first part of the story. I have combined him into the character of U.S. O.S.S. Major Peter Dewey, into whose character stories of other O.S.S. agent operatives have also been added.

All but one of the O.S.S. officers returned from their experiences during the early days of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. To a man, they all reported that Ho Chi Minh was the Vietnamese leader the U.S. ought to continue engagement with, that he was most interested in independence for Vietnam, not Communist expansion. All who read this now can and will judge from safe perch far ahead in time whether such early O.S.S. sentiments were correct.

In Hanoi's Hotel Metropole, U.S. OSS officer Peter Dewey says good-bye to
Vietminh Propaganda Brigade leader Lan Nguyen before his departure to Saigon.
Storyboard artwork by Dean Adams Curtis. All rights reserved.


We go to Ho, just so you know. He said drop in. We said we would. Now here we are. What's there to fear? We go to Ho. I wish I could write down what I am thinking right now, to expel some of my nervous energy, but I am not on assignment as a reporter. I am on an investigation, however. Except on this mission, unlike when I write for the New York papers, I will also be intervening to direct events. Intervention is frowned on by journalists, but favored by framers of secret operations like I am on. A big no-no on secret missions is to write down your thoughts in a reporter's notebook. But that is how I have trained my mind to think. I am talking to myself. And you are listening. You are also commenting. Who are you? I am you. What would Sigmund Freud say? "We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle." I remember my psych prof, the pudding-faced and ponderous Professor Ferrill, quoting these exact words of Freud's to me on his ideas of about our Id, one of his big three, Id, ego, and super-ego, three distinct and interacting agents in our, my, psychic apparatus. And what would Carl Jung, who Freud mentored, and who then was a rival of his, say to me. I bet he would say that I was a reporter for our collective unconsciousness. He certainly was a reporter of his own unconscious. His journey stuns me. A friend of mine who writes for The New York Times Magazine told me that between appointments with patients, after dinner with his wife and children, whenever there was a spare hour or two, Jung sat in a book-lined office on the second floor of his home in Zurich, Switzerland, and induced hallucinations that he called active imaginations. Jung wrote, "I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them." He also wrote that he found himself in a place that was as full of creative abundance as it was of potential ruin. Jung believed he was traversing the same borderlands traveled by both lunatics and great artists. Why are you going on about Jung to yourself? Your brain is keeping its wits about it. It is what you have been trained to do. Office of Strategic Services training has instilled it. Take no notes. If captured be carrying no evidence. Remember everything that happens with vividness so as to report on it up the chain of command. In short, Dewey, you are talking to yourself. It is what you do when you are about to plummet down from a plane into enemy territory and do not know what to expect.

Ho Chi Minh

"Dewey!" It was Archimedes. I had dozed off.

Additional installments coming soon. Please check back.
For more historical fiction about this era investigate...
Sukimoko - by Dean Adams Curtis