Re: Louis Emil Janca
Posted by Anne Watts on 14:01:00 12/01/10
I read, and re read your e mail with great interest, and some astonishment.
When I think of Gloria Redlin I find myself smiling, then wanting to laugh out loud at the memory of the bundle of sheer joi de vivre and energy that was Gloria. . That is the effect she had on people. I also thought Osh Kosh, Wisconsin was a figment of someone's imagination till Gloria told me that is where she hailed from!
She joined Pat Smith's Minh Quy hospital in Kontum a few months after I did. It would have been a little before Christmas 1969, though I cannot remember exactly. She arrived unexpectedly from Saigon, having pitched up there ready to help in any way she could. She was not a nurse, but was sent to Pat's hospital to help with the administration. She was a total Godsend - dealing efficiently with paper work, replying to sponsors, fund raisers etc etc, which freed up Pat and we nurses to deal with the clinical pressures and not having to worry about the public relations stuff. Inevitably her role expanded and she drove up and down to Pleiku for supplies of oxygen, I/V fluids, dressings, food, and the thousand and one jobs that keep the machinery of a hospital functioning.
She was a larger than life character. She was a trained operatic singer with a powerful soprano voice and on Sundays the Army Padre enlisted her to sing at the services he held for the young soldiers. I remember with tears in my eyes how they would appear at the tent where the services were usually held. They would prop their rifles and helmets outside, and enter for prayers etc. Gloria would sing her heart out, and for a brief moment those soldiers were exposed to something quite ethereal, amid the madness that you knew all about in the 69/70 highlands.
In my book ALWAYS THE CHILDREN, I write about Gloria and the few adventures we shared. You need to read it to get the flavour of this gutsy woman.
Rather plain in appearance, Gloria was much loved by all. Her humour was infectious, her laugh boomed out and she always seemed so much larger than life. She embraced life fully and we were good friends. But, Gloria had little time for rules and regulations. Civilians in a war zone can be a pain in the ass to the military and I was always telling her that. She had no hesitation in going out after dark, or into a risky area at risky times. She gave no heed to red alerts etc. Whenever I cautioned her she would say "Anne honey, stick with me and nothing bad will happen to you." I tried to make her realize that it was important to heed the words of warning or caution given by the military and that I was not a nervous Brit, but was aware that if anything happened to us through our own carelessness, or lack of vigilance, it would be the military who would have to try to get us out of whatever mess we were in.
Not fair to them and definitely not respecting the stringent rules that Pat Smith insisted on.
I think it was about September 1970 when I had to ship out after a bad bout of choroquine resistant fallcipirum malaria. It was after I reached home in Wales that I received a letter from Shirley Chu, (a Chinese/British nurse at Minh Quy) telling me that Gloria and a US Army friend had been shot dead. Shirley said they had been on a motorbike, the US Sergeant driving, Gloria riding pillion. They approached the base, were challenged (which meant giving the appropriate password of the day I guess) - it was dark, but they were within the circle of light thrown by the perimeter lights. They failed to respond correctly (Shirley's words) and both were shot in the head by friendly fire 'from the guard'.
The guy was killed immediately, Gloria, as you say, died later. I was shocked, yet not surprised. Somehow, it seemed so in character for Gloria to not worry about being on the back of a motor bike, at night, in such a situation. I felt very sad about it, but know nothing more.
Right now I am in London - busy and 'on the hoof' with meetings etc. At my home in Devon, where I will be this coming weekend, I have the letter that Shirley sent me. I'll scan it and send it to you.
I also have a picture of Gloria. With her is a black Sergeant with whom she was friendly. I dont know if that was Louis Janca or not. It was taken fairly early on in her arrival in Kontum. I will scan that also and send it.
In the mean time, I will try to trace Shirley Chu. She was there when it happened. Sadly, others have died since. Pat Smith, Jean Platz, but I will see if I can trace one or two others.
Meantime George, the stuff about the bounty etc sounds like a plot in one of Nelson B. de Mille's books about Vietnam. Stranger stuff has happened, so who knows?
I'll be in touch. Meantime, good luck with your writing. I'll help in any way I can.