ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — Sitting at his office desk, Jim Reischl looked fondly at two faces in the faded photographs. And what he saw in the background was a tiny apartment somewhere in Saigon.
Pointing to the photo, Reischl said, “That was the apartment right there. It was the third floor.”
From 1969 to 1970, Reischl, like a generation of Americans, was sent to Vietnam. But it’s not the hell of war that still haunts him. It’s that attractive young lady in the photograph — Lihn Hua.
“The possibility is there that she’s there somewhere. I just wish I had more information to go on,” said Reischl.
He and Lihn Hua shared an apartment not far from his airbase. When his tour of duty was over, both the war and young woman were left behind.
“I did send a letter to her address but never got anything returned, so I don’t know if it got there or got lost. I don’t know,” he said.
Reischl’s mystery had lingered far too long. In addition, when Jim left Saigon in 1970, Lihn Hua told him she was pregnant. That was a thought he couldn’t bury, so for the past 10 years Vietnam began calling him back.
He got a visa and studied maps of what is now Ho Chi Minh City. If he could find the apartment, it might, just might, give Reischl a clue as to Lihn Hua’s whereabouts.
Jim packed his bags for a 20-hour flight to turn the clock back some 41 years. With the help of his translator and two foreign journalists, they narrowed the search, asking questions of neighborhood elders.
Sitting in the living room of an elderly Vietnamese woman, Reischl told her, “I’ve got memories. And I’ve got more memories now.”
But Ho Chi Minh City has grown three times its former size. Streets crawl with scooters and 10 million people. It was more than a long shot.
Reischl learned his old apartment’s address was changed years ago. But suddenly, after two days of searching, the woman led him through an alley and to the back stairway of his old apartment.
Sadly, without Lihn Hua’s family name, his search for her wasn’t as lucky.
“If something would have come of it that would have been great, but I didn’t want my expectations to be up too high,” Reischl said.
Back home, a new album filled with photos from his recent trip will only strengthen his quest. For now, Vietnam will keep calling him for a face he can’t forget.