Vietnam & Trip Home
Mid-May through Mid-September, 1967

Prologue:  The Vietnam war happened and it's over.  I did not create this web page to offer an opinion about America's role in the conflict . . . I'm just telling about my experiences in country and sharing a few pictures!

My name is Bill Mullin, in 1967 I was working for U.S. Government in Washington, DC.  At the time I felt guilty that 500,000 American men and women were serving our country in Vietnam, but due to medical reasons I was unable to join the effort.  So when my employer offered me a chance to go to Vietnam on a temporary assignment (TDY), I grabbed the opportunity to do my part .

Upon my arrival in Saigon, I joined a group of 11 other US Agency for International Development (USAID, State Department) employees.  We were given the lofty title of the USAID Importer Task Force (ITF).  The problem which we were were supposed to solve was that the war had caused a huge paperwork backlog at the Port of Saigon and that all the warehouses were full of unclaimed goods whose ownership was unknown due to lost manifests.  Additionally, over 100 barges were sitting in the Saigon River waiting to offload their cargo but were unable to do so since all the warehouses were full.  What's worse was that freighters were waiting in the South China Sea to unload their cargo onto barges.  The 12 of us were tasked with helping to unsnarl the mess by inventorying the goods, notifying importers that their goods were in port, and clean up backlog of undelivered goods so that ships waiting to unload their cargos could do so.  By the time we left, the warehouses were almost empty and all of the barges and ships had offloaded their cargos.  We had been very successful in our assignment and were feeling good about the effort.  Of course the 1968 Tết Offensive occurred only 4 months later and the situation at the port became worse than it had ever been before, but that's another story . . .

What was most interesting about my experience was that I was one of only 2,000 American civilians in country, so the Vietnam I experienced was substantially different from that seen by typical American GI.  The biggest problem I had was that the work was boring, even though I spent the better part of each day traveling all over Saigon and Cholon (the Chinese part of the city).  Sightseeing was interesting, but there was only so much to see in the city before that lost its interest.  I know ~ those who fought in Vietnam are wishing it could have been a little more boring . . . I wished the same for you, but it wasn't to be.

On the topic of sightseeing, towards the end of my TDY the boredom was getting the better of me and I did a foolish thing . . . I went out into the countryside sightseeing.  I drove my Jeep about 50 miles outside of the city where I saw bombed out landscapes, craters in the road, burned out vehicles (military and civilian) and other signs of the war.  I knew it was dangerous for an American to be out there, but had been told that there would be no problem as long as I got back before dark.  As the sun got lower in the sky, I began my return trip when suddenly my Jeep overheated and the engine seized.  I let it cool down for about 15 minutes, then started it up, but it seized up again after only a few seconds.  The problem was that somehow the radiator had sprung a major leak and the Jeep needed to be towed back to Saigon for repairs.  Of course I wasn't worried about the vehicle as much as I was worried for myself, so I began walking back towards the city.  There was very little traffic, but I still tried to flag down any vehicle hoping for a ride.  What few cars I saw were full of Vietnamese and none would stop for me.  There were also a few Vietnamese pedestrians, who as they passed me were laughing at my predicament . . . they knew that I was in trouble!  Suddenly I saw a small convoy of US Army Jeeps and trucks coming towards me heading for the city.  As they passed I waved my arms and yelled out for them to please stop, but every single person in the vehicles looked at me as if I wasn't even there.  I don't know why they did this (was this the 1,000 yard stare?), didn't they realize I was scared half to death and in serious danger?  Anyway, the story had a happy ending ~ a Lambro 550 "bus" came by and gave me a ride.  The price for the ride was high, but I would have given just about anything for a trip back to the city before the sun went down.  I arrived at my hotel only 15 minutes after dark, unharmed and greatly relieved, swearing to myself to stay in the city until the end of my assignment!

I actually took about 5 times more pictures than you see below, but I had just purchased a quality Canon 35mm camera and was new to this kind of photography.  Because of this, most of the pictures were pretty bad and were immediately thrown away.  Additionally, I preferred print film but the PX sold only Kodak slide film, so all the pictures you see below had to be  converted from slides, which I did in mid-2009.  The conversion was done using a Plustek OpticFilm 7300 slide/negative scanner with SilverFast UScan-SE software, Polaroid's PolaDSR program for severe dust and scratch removal, IrfanView for viewing and other miscellaneous functions, and Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 to clean up any defects left after using the previous programs and for resizing and rotating the pictures.  All of the hardware and software mentioned above were new to me, so any remaining imperfections are solely due to my own lack of training and experience.  The following is an example of a particularly bad slide which was repaired using the equipment and software mentioned above:




The comments about each of the following pictures came entirely from my memory of events that occurred in 1967.  If you see any problems as you are reading, or if you know any additional information which will make viewing more interesting, please send me an E-mail using the link at the bottom of this page.

The following 88 photographs are the best of the 500+ pictures that were taken during my four month TDY . . . enjoy!

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I arrived at Tan Son Nhut airport where military planes were a common sight.
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Inside the Tan Son Nhut terminal
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This sign was ironic since I arrived near the beginning of the monsoon season and left close to the end.  I almost never saw the sun!

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Each of us were given one of these green WW2 surplus Jeeps.
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Before entering American compounds, vehicles are searched for explosives.
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Me and Joe Whaley, another one of the ITF employees. 
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Me and three other ITF people.
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This was my interpreter, Hua Minh Chánh.  Hua was an intelligent, friendly person and became a good friend of mine during my assignment.  

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During the war, Hua and I lost touch with each other.  If anyone knows what happened to him, please let me know!
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Me at work.
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One of the ships in Saigon Port.
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The German Hospital ship Helgoland ~ similar to America's Project Hope.
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Because were were locked in each night after curfew (11 PM), we played a lot of poker.  Joe Whaley took this picture and caught a blue chip in mid air as it was being tossed to me! 

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I lived in a hotel at 22 Vo Tanh Street in Saigon.  This was the view out my window, showing another monsoon storm on its way.
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One day I looked out of my window and saw this massive traffic jam.  At the time I remember being amazed that every car, truck, motor scooter, bicycle, etc. was imported!

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I picked up these silk paintings for $1 each, then laid out on my hotel room floor for a picture.  I still have 4 of them, the others have been given out as gifts over the years

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This was my shower.  The water heater was only 5.5' above the ground, which meant that every shower I took was with bent knees!
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One of the hotel's more attractive desk clerks.
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My maid.
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This bar was about 10 steps from my hotel's front door.  I spent many happy hours here playing gin rummy and drinking ba muoi ba (33) beer (pronounced bah-me-bah).
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These were bar girls and/or prostitutes in the Puerto Rico bar.  My wife saw this picture and asked me why I was in a bar with prostitutes, I told her that all Saigon bars had prostitutes!  I have no idea why the little boy was there.

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Good looking kids.
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It seemed that everywhere one looked was a Hynos toothpaste advertisement.  I must have seen 1,000 variations on this ad before I left the country!
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Pipérol Forte is for those with tape worms, as you can see from the picture.
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War statue . . . but why is one soldier pushing the other?

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Road through a park.
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Sampans on the Saigon River
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Poverty sucks!
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The Ben Thanh market.
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Near the Central Market were plants . . .
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. . . and animals for sale.
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Old Citroën's like this were a common sight around the city.
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This guy's owner was nowhere around, but he seemed very relaxed anyway!
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This baby was sleeping on a wire mesh ~ Mom didn't bother with diapers, she just mopped up the floor when needed.  The rope at the corner was for rocking the bed.

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This fountain was at the intersection of Nguyen Hue (pronounced when-way) and Tu Do, the two best known streets in Saigon.  One little fellow seems to be having trouble keeping his pants on!

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Saigon school girls wearing the traditional ao dai.
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We don't need no steeeeeeenkin' SUV!
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A legal street vendor.
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Black market street vendors.  You can tell from the Kodak film being sold.
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There was a small military bowling alley in Saigon.  One day the professional bowler Dick Weber (red shirt) showed up and put on an exhibition.
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Movie signs were very colorful.  "Johnny Yuma" was an Italian western which was shown in French with Vietnamese, Chinese, and English subtitles!  I saw it twice, it was sensational ~ really!
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This movie was "The Thundering Sword" starring Cheng Pei-Pei, who many years later had a major role in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".  I enjoyed the movie, but not the typical sad Chinese ending.

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My jeep in front of a pagoda.
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An unusual pagoda tower.
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The Saigon Medical School.
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The Continental Palace Hotel.  This hotel is very well known throughout western Europe.

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A catholic church in Saigon
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The National Assembly building.
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Madam Nhu's palace ~ she was the first lady of Vietnam during the early 1960's.
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The Presidential palace!
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This is the nearly completed but still empty American Embassy as photographed in Sept., 1967.  Shortly after this Americans began occupying the building.  During the Jan., 1968
Tết Offensive,
the Viet Cong invaded the embassy!  They blew a hole in the wall near the front entrance and were on the grounds around the front entrance where they were all killed or captured.  Fortunately the embassy building itself was never entered by the Viet Cong.

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The Rex Bachelor Officer's Quarters.  I ate just about all my meals here and spent many weekends being entertained by various bands in the Rex.  The fellows holding hands in the foreground are not gay, men held hands with men friends but not with women . . . definitely a different culture.  The movie playing was Marlon Brando's "The Ugly American".
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Barbed wire surrounding the Rex.
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This is Muriel and her Filipino band entertaining in the Rex.  As well as being very talented, the lady was nice to look at.
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The next 10 pictures were taken in the Saigon zoo.  There weren't many animals but the scenery around the zoo was great.
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That's me feeding sugar cane to the elephant.
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This parrot bit me when I was trying to feed it a sunflower seed!  When I was being treated by a military doctor, I was told that if I had been in uniform I would have received a purple heart!  That's a strange but true story.

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Interesting stair railings!
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That's a banyan tree behind the dragon.
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This is just a water tower, but it made a nice picture.

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This pagoda is out in a lake in the middle of the zoo.
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A bridge over the Saigon River.
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Siesta time.
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This little girl made a colorful picture.
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This is the market in Cholon, the Chinese district of Saigon.  The next 5 pictures were taken in Cholon, which butted up against Saigon just like Minneapolis borders St. Paul.  While in country I was told that Cholon was physically larger than Saigon and had a bigger population!

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Market in Cholon.  Note the little boy making a "camera face" at me.
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A Chinese funeral car.
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A pagoda in Cholon.
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A Catholic church.
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The next 6 pictures were taken during my sightseeing trip to the countryside as described above.  Note that the water in this picture is actually black.
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A country farm, although I have no idea what they were growing.
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Man working in his rice paddy.
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A Chinese cemetery.
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I stepped out of my Jeep to take this picture, when this huge water buffalo lowered her head and started to charge at me.   You don't believe it?  Check out the blur on her right horn!  The picture was taken as I was jumping backwards into my Jeep ~ it's amazing that the picture came out at all!

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This is a Lambro 550 bus which I discussed in the introduction to this web page.  The vehicle is powered by a Lambretta motor scooter engine!

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The next 4 pictures are of me.  Above is the mother of all banyan trees.
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I think this was taken in the Saigon zoo.
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I'm holding up a bamboo tree.
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This is not too good a picture, but it's so rare that I smile for a camera that I saved it.
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Nguyen Hue and Tu Do streets during the day . . .
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. . . and at night.
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4 flares hanging over the city as seen overlooking Nguyen Hue and Tu Do streets.  The flares were supposedly to keep the bad guys out.

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2 flares hanging over the city near my hotel.  The tall building at the left is the USAID headquarters.
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The Eden Roc Hotel & Bar.
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A 20-second nighttime exposure taken out my hotel window.
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Another picture out my hotel window, taken just a few minutes before curfew . . .
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. . . and this is the same picture taken a few minutes after curfew.  It's not surprising that the streets emptied fast since you could legally be shot on sight if you were on the streets past 11 PM!

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My last morning in Saigon.  This was the only pretty sunrise I saw during my time in Vietnam, as nice sunrises are rare during the monsoon season.

The remaining 29 pictures were taken on my return trip home ~ they are included here because it seemed the best place for them . . .

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This was the plane that I took out of Vietnam.
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The first stop was Phnom Penh, Cambodia to pick up a few passengers.  This picture is Phnom Penh from the air.

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The airport terminal at Phnom Penh.  It's hard to believe the horrors that would occur in this country within a few years.

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The next stop was Hong Kong ~ this is the harbor.
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I stayed at the Hong Kong Hilton.
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Double decker electric trolley.
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The view up the hill behind my hotel.
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The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company.  Among other things, I believe that the local currency is printed here.

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A Hong Kong side street.
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Another side street at night.
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The tram up Victoria Peak.
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View towards Hong Kong harbor from Victoria Peak.  That's Kowloon on the far side of the harbor.
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This is the view to the back side of Victoria Peak.  Although it was empty in 1967, my guess is that this view is crowded with high rise buildings nowadays.

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My next stop was Hawaii, where I stayed at the Oahu Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel.
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A Tiki statue at the hotel.
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Since I was under 25 years old at the time, no auto rental agency would rent me a car.  I ended up with this under-powered motorcycle.  It wasn't bad transportation, but it rained a lot and the rain hit HARD when I was in motion.

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The next 6 pictures were taken at the Sea Life Park in Oahu.
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Hawaiian flower.
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The view from Pali lookout.
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I liked the way the mountain was covered by the cloud.

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Diamond Head.
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The Holona Blow Hole.
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Aloha Tower.
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Waikiki at night.
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My last stop was Denver, Colorado where I was visiting a friend.  This mountain range is part of the Continental Divide, seen as the plane descended into Denver.

After Denver, I flew to Dulles Airport in northern Virginia and from there took land transportation to my home in Alexandria.  It's interesting to note that on the Denver to Dulles leg of the trip I sat next to Mr. & Mrs. Don "Oh Lonesome Me" Gibson, the country western music writer and singer.  This final leg of my journey was delayed in Denver for two hours because of a bomb threat on the plane, possibly this was because a celebrity was on the flight?

You may use any of the above pictures for any purpose and may do so without giving me credit.  Note that these pictures have been downsized for those with slow connection speeds.  If you'd like copies of the original JPG pictures, send me an E-mail telling me which pictures you want and I'll be happy to send the original pictures to you at no charge!

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