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Douglas House Cover Author
Douglas House
The Adventures of An African American Sailor In London during the Vietnam War

Gerald A. Collins

 

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From the Author's Foreword

Many times over the past three decades, I have started writing the story of Douglas House ("D-House"). No matter how hard I tried, I was not able to complete it. However, in the past ten years, a series of small events have occurred that culminated in an emotional outpouring that literally thrust the story into being. The Douglas House is my "coming of age" story as a young man in London during the mid-1960s, told through my fictional alter ego, Harry Butler.

The 1960s were a time of tremendous upheaval in America. There were demonstrations on college campuses; assassinations of government and civic leaders; troops with fixed unsheathed bayonets patrolled the streets; and our cities were ablaze with the rage, anger, and frustration of a generation coming of age. The defining moment for many was the undeclared war that raged in Vietnam.

Between 1946 and 1960, the people of England had managed to vanquish from the landscape most of the visible signs of the devastation that had occurred during World War II. London, in particular, had removed all of its surface scars. Now, in the 1960s, as the Vietnam War was beginning to burst onto the front pages of American newspapers, a quieter, more subtle social and sexual revolution was beginning in England.

This new revolution was fueled by several factors: a reaction to the immense severity of the post-war years; an increase in spending power of the average Brit; and an awakening of the British youth to the fact that, like their American cousins, they too could lead lives different from their parents. As a result, with the introduction of the contraceptive pill, legalized abortions, and the general lifting of the inhibitions and limitations of previous generations, "free love" became a part of life for many. And, they openly pursued an agenda that allowed them to, in the words of the time, "get their groove on."

Such was the backdrop for those of us who managed to escape the Vietnam War and find ourselves in England. The period, the social events, and the war in Vietnam all became inextricably intertwined in a way unlike anything we could have imagined. While for us, the Vietnam War raged a world away, the social and sexual revolution was taking place right in front of our faces. We did not smell the gunpowder! We did not hear the wailing of the war sirens. We had no fear of booby traps or napalm. At night, we usually slept on clean sheets; not in foxholes. The most disruptive thing we encountered had been the draft. And, in our minds, we had prevailed. The war had little direct impact on our lives beyond the headlines of the morning paper.

Despite this, the ripple effects of draft, the war and those times changed us dramatically. You see, we were boys who became men as we served our country honorably from 1966 - 1968 sitting on barstools in and around London and partying in the bowels of the American Servicemen's Club at #66 Lancaster Gate, London, W1, United Kingdom, aka D-House!

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