I don’t know if you’ll get this letter because Yin addressed the envelope. He copied the address from another letter I wrote to you.
I just sent an envelope to you with a North Vietnamese coin in it.
(The letter above doesn’t mention how I knew the coin was North Vietnamese, but I suspect somebody told me it was. While entering this letter I found the coin, polished it and scanned it (below). Since I don’t read Chinese characters, I couldn’t tell its country of origin. But I began to suspect it wasn’t a North Vietnamese coin because there was no propaganda on either side. No profile of Ho Chi Minh, no brave PAVN soldiers killing U.S. and “puppet” troops. Nada.
One thing I know about the North Vietnamese is they put war propaganda on everything from cigarette packs to postage stamps. I couldn’t believe they would miss a chance to put propaganda on a coin. So, I took the coin to work and asked a native of Taiwan if he could decipher its origin. He says it’s a Japanese coin. So much for the North Vietnamese theory. But it’s still interesting to speculate how a Japanese coin wound up circulating in the countryside of Vietnam.)
Well, as usual, I can’t imagine anyone being interested in the dull, dirty stuff we do but there’s nothing else to write about. I’ve just finished leading my 37th combat patrol. (That must have been an estimate. I don’t remember anybody actually keeping track of how many patrols we ran.) We checked the I.D. papers of about 80 or 90 people. Most were in good shape but we did tell a few people to have their papers up-dated. I noticed two men with slight irregularities in their papers who, I think, are VC trying to infiltrate our area. We’ll check on them later. As usual the language barrier made questioning a tedious pain-in-the-ass process. The two new guys who went with me were bored and impatient for some action. I feel the same way but it’s easier to put a V.C. out of business for a bad I.D. than to kill him with a rifle at 300 yards on a dark night.
Mike Kubina, a buddy who was wounded, sent us a letter yesterday. He’s still in the Bethesda Naval Hospital but he’s starting to think about clothes, and the latest dances, and growing his hair long. I could almost envy him that chunk of iron they took out of his lung.
John Artega, who was wounded by the booby-trap that killed Greg Keller a month ago, came back from the hospital ship today. He was on the USS Sanctuary in Da Nang harbor. I guess he had a nice wound, very little pain but lots of tender, loving care.
Guess what, I got two shirts on re-supply today. It’s a real miracle. Getting clothing from the Marine Corps supply system is like getting blood from a turnip. Even more unusual is that both shirts are my size.
I was put on the “eligible for promotion to corporal” list yesterday. It was automatic because I have time in grade as a L/Cpl. I doubt if they’ll put a recommendation by my name because I’ve been kind of outspoken, especially when things get messed up. I’ll bet I’ve walked on some sensitive and high ranking toes in the last six months. (Uh, I remember being pretty mouthy in those days, but I doubt that anybody outside of CAP 2 took any notice of my insubordination … and they most likely told me to “Shut the fuck up.”
Not only that, but I also anger people of my own rank and lower, because I tend to lean hard on those who make mistakes involving my life.
C’est la vie.
I’m sorry to hear that John (John Dietrich, a family friend and Army chopper pilot flying VIPs out of Nha Trang) is bored but I’m not surprised. I thought something like that might happen. Once a man gets used to the freedom you have “in the bush” it’s hard to adjust to life “in the rear, with the beer, and the gear.”
It may be for the best if the Reusches (Family friends) get a divorce but I can’t help thinking that Monica and Bo (Their children) are the ones who will lose either way.
I feel sorry for Jeff, (My younger brother) that pathways program sounds like a useless bunch of crap. Why waste a summer on the history of Winfield!? As far as football goes I was not much of a player myself, due to clumsiness and deficiencies in my attitude but I still had some good games and a couple of real proud moments. You don’t have to be a spectacular player to get a tremendous reward from playing football. Football is also a good way of gaining friends and learning to work with other people.
I don’t know if I can get another hammock made or not. The material is very difficult to get, even on the black market, expensive too. (Hmmm. Inconsistent here. In an earlier letter I bragged about how cheap the hammock material was.) I don’t imagine that Dad would get to use it much with all those improvements going on. I’ll try to have one made and send it home when I go on R+R.
I have another cellulitis infection on my face. Like the last time I cut myself shaving and then rinsed my face with well water. A marble sized swelling occurred filled with hard green pus. Very painful. I picked the scab off of the cut and squeezed out the puss today so the swelling is less and it’s not so painful. I’m taking some anti-biotics that Doc Doggett gave me too.
Doc left for his R+R today. He’ll fly out in another couple of days to Australia.
I’ve already sent the money back. You might be interested to learn that I was offered about 60 piastres (Huh?), which is supposed to be worth 40 American dollars even on the black market which offers rates much higher than the official ones. It was a real lesson in the power of the American dollar.
I don’t like to accept favors, especially in money. I hate to be indebted to anyone for any reason, especially for money.
I wonder how Joel would get along in the world if he didn’t finish college. I don’t think he’d do too badly. I never figured Joel as one to shoot all the angles like he does but he seems to have some very well planned irons in the fire. On the other hand, a college degree is worth money to you no matter how you make a living (almost).
The funny thing about my acquaintance with the Red Cross girl from Kansas is that she never asked me my first name and I never asked her last name. I called her Marsha (her name) and she called me “Kansas.” She was safe in calling me that because there seem to be very few Kansans who are in the Marines or in Viet Nam.
Well, I lost my little black address book somewhere. Most of the addresses can be replaced or remembered but a few important ones are lost forever. Maybe it’s just as well because the addresses belong to guys (mostly) that I met in rough, tough, days of training and we might have a lot less in common after we are discharged into the stratifying influence of civilian society.
I mailed my $500 check to you on August 4th. You should mail it back on about August 25 or so.
Wow, I’ve got dysentery again! Gotta run. (Literally!)
Don’t make Nan or Jeff write unless they feel like it. I would resent it and I know they do.
I showed around the picture of Linda Emerson that was in the Courier a while back. I explained that she was my “old man’s” secretary and everybody was drooling with envy. Hah!
I never did finish “The Arms of Krupp.” I also failed at reading “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky. My concentration is so bad that my reading ability is down to comic book level.
Since it’s better to give than to receive here’s a list of things that I need.
- Johnson + Johnson or Ammens medicated power (yep, I’ve got diaper rash).
- Books — any kind as long as they might interest me and do not need too sustained concentration.
- Oreo cookies
- Kool-Aid, Lemonade, Iced Tea.
- Socks — thick, solid black or green colors.
- A set of nail clippersThat’s about it …We’re supposed to be hit by a VC/NVA offensive the next three nights so we might get some action.Gotta quit.
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Dear Mom + Dad,
Well, I’ve been trying to write this letter for nearly a week now but every time I start, I get sidetracked.
Approval for my R+R should be in sometime this week. I’ll be glad of that. I need a real rest. I’m really running my batteries low. Maybe I’ll save all my money on R+R by sleeping for 7 straight days.
We had an operation in CAP 1’s area this A.M. I beat myself to death walking. Now I’m so tired that I stagger and it’s only 5:30 p.m.
I’ve got $10 left from payday but I can’t spend it because it’s in a ten dollar bill. Nobody has change. That’s the way it is all the time.
I got the package with the kool-aid and just finished the last of it. Will didn’t get his yet. If he doesn’t get it, I’ll let you know.
I really groove on the kool-aid and lemonade, it’s easy to make, and it tastes good, also it’s cheap (for me).
I started reading “The Arms of Krupp” the other day. It’s kind of interesting but it goes slow and I doubt if I’ll ever finish it. I’m going so slowly that the book will probably disintegrate by the time I’m halfway through.
I’ve got a cold. It’s not too bad but I’m still surprised that I got it. We’ve had a couple of cool nights, though, lately so I guess I got it sleeping in the open.
I guess that some of my buddies have leaving out the dangerous things that happen to them in their letters home. For some reason this never occurred to me. I usually tell you exactly what happens to me whether it’s dangerous or not.
The infected cut that I had on my face is healed now.
It looks like it may rain tonight.
Yin wants me to get him some boots. His feet are always getting cut up on patrols, night movements, etc. I haven’t got any way of getting boots for him but, I thought, that if you want to, you could send him a pair.
I’m getting really attached to Yin. I know I’m going to feel real bad when I go home. He’s an affectionate little kid.
I just watched a Western on TV at headquarters. The good guys wounded a murderer. Then they captured him, treated his wounds and rehabilitated him.
I wonder if people will make whitewash movies like that about Viet Nam. If they do I won’t go to them.
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There’s not much going on here. I just finished writing to Nan. Since I wrote to her the temperature has gone from 98 degrees to 102 degrees.
I think I’ll be glad when the monsoons get here during September. It’ll be a lot cooler then but it’ll be real wet too.
I’ll be going on R+R in September too, so that will mean about two weeks of easy living.
I wish I had applied for my R+R sooner than Sept. I’m about to go crazy already. Also, I’ve got a lot of steam to blow off.
I’ve been trying to write to everyone more often but so far my record isn’t too good. It’s lousy. There’s not really much to write about.
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Will got his package today and he was really delighted with it. I guess it was the first package he ever got in Viet Nam (7 months). First he spent about 15 minutes trying to guess who it was from then he spent about ten minutes opening it up and looking at everything.
It made me feel pretty good to see how much he enjoyed getting one little package. I hope you’ll send him another one occasionally because he really enjoyed it.
I also got another package with film, smoked salami, etc. Thanks, for Willie and me too. If somebody had told me a year ago that my favorite passtime would be sipping kool-aid from an old tin can today I’d have called them crazy.
Doc Doggett took his camera to Sydney with him so I won’t be able to use the three rolls of film I have for a while yet.
CAP 2-7-1 captured a VC yesterday near our ville. Today he showed us two large bunkers and an equipment cache in our area. We were kind of disappointed because we only found one weapon, a P-38 pistol. Tomorrow I’m going to blow up the bunkers, fun, fun, fun! (We actually did consider it fun when we got to order a couple of demo kits and blow up something. It was like 4th of July, but with a lot bigger bang)
Well, I have to quit for now, work to get done.
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Well I made corporal and I’ve already had my new stripes slugged on but it didn’t hurt so bad this time. Only corporals or higher can tag on a new corporal’s stripe. There are only two corporals in my CAP besides me.
I sent home my corporal’s warrant and my lance corporal chevron that I’ve been wearing for the last five months.
My R+R has been confirmed for the 25th of September to the 1st of Oct. It’s not as soon as I wanted it but at least I’m going to get it.
The rice is starting to get ripe now so the VC should be trying to come into our area in real force soon. We’ve been seeing more and more of them.
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Return the check as is and I’ll cash it here before I go to Hong Kong. I’ll keep my eyes open for your shoulder bag. I’ve never heard of anyone robbed outright on R+R but lots of guys let themselves get gypped. I’ve gotten advice, etc from some guys who have already been to H.K. so I think I know what I’m getting into. My dates are September 25 to October 1. Mail the check back now and I will keep it in the company safe until I go on R+R.
Did I tell you that a guy in CAP 2-7-4 was from Gunnison? We were pretty good friends. He got killed on July 6.
I think that Marsha Reynolds is 22 (She was a Red Cross volunteer I met who was from Neodesha, Kan. She was based at Freedom Hill near Da Nang and she went back to the World in August.). It sure was nice of her to take the time to call and I’m a little surprised that she did.
My moustache is looking great. When I spend a long time thinking about something I suck on the ends of my moustache. It does tend to get a little greasy when I’m eating. The Vietnamese are impressed by moustaches, beards, etc. supposedly a sign of age and maturity.
I hope that I can be sober enough of the time to really see Hong Kong. It would be a bust if I was so drunk etc that I never saw anything but the honky-tonk, night life area.
I read the clipping you sent me about the RF offensive and, to me, it shows a lot of encouragement for the Vietnamization of the war. (I eventually came to believe that “Vietnamization” was a scam designed by Henry Kissinger to allow the U.S. to pull out of the war and leave South Vietnam to its grisly fate.)I wish I had the time to tell you all the similarities I’ve been noticing about Viet Nam and our Revolutionary War.
I don’t believe I know who Jarvis Snyder (I later learned the obituary my folks sent was for “Tom” Snyder, a couple of years ahead of me at Winfield High School, killed by a holdup man at a liquor store in Topeka) is but I see that Mrs. Osborne (a former babysitter) is his grandmother and I am sorry for that. Actually, when I hear of people being killed nowadays I get kind of a ho-hum attitude.
I don’t remember much about Nancy Osborne (another former babysitter, daughter of Mrs. Osborne) and I didn’t even realize that she was still in the Winfield area. I would kind of like to talk to her sometime. I remember riding on a horse with her (I think).
Jeff informs me that David Cameron is dating? No kidding! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; Sarah Dietrich was making very sophisticated use of face make-up etc the last time I saw her and she can’t be any older than David.
You know by now that I’ve been promoted to corporal. It came as kind of a surprise to me and I’m really proud and happy about it. Just think, I’m a Non-Commissioned Officer! Eight months ago I was saying “sir” to anyone with two stripes and now I’ve got my own set. It’s kind of outstanding to make corporal in less than two years, much less in thirteen months.
So far I haven’t been handed any more responsibility due to my promotion. I’m still just responsible for communications in CAP 2, and, if I do say so, I’m doing a damned good job of that under bad conditions. It’s possible that I may be transferred to another CAP sometime in the future to be CAP leader or team leader. I hope not, but once you’re a corporal you can’t be part of the herd anymore, (Hee-hee, I sound like I just made brigadier general!) the officers look to the NCOs to do the actual leading in the bush. (True)
I think that my gross pay is about $309 and my net is about $290. (Since U.S. servicemen in a combat zone are not required to pay income tax, our payroll tax was very small)
I’ve been making myself pretty popular with the kids in our ville. They all run out of their houses when I come down the trail and yell “Hello!” at the top of their lungs. It’s just as easy to make friends with kids here as it is at home. All you have to do is remember their names and talk to them.
It rains about five times a week now. The monsoon season is fast approaching.
CAP 2-7-4 killed two 12 yr old boys running grenades for the VC.
You’ll have to send me stamps for those Kodak mailers you sent. The processing is prepaid but the postage is not.
There is a guy in CAP 2 with a tape recorder now. It’s the small cassette type. If you can record a tape and send it to me I’ll be able to record a letter and send it back. I can give you lessons in pidgin Vietnamese. I think it (the tape recorder) is the same size as Joel’s.
If you could send me some steel wool, I can really use it. The rain is really tough on our weapons. The socks you sent are just what I need, pretty soon a dry pair of socks is going to be a luxury.
I’m going to send my hammock home when I’m in Hong Kong. I can’t use it safely at night because shrapnel tends to do a job on people in hammocks. I’ll probably send home my journal too since I’ve quit writing in it.
Dum-Dum still has his baseball hat although it’s a little battered now.
Dum-Dum has an older sister named Bo who is just as cute as he is and one year older. She does all the cooking for the family of six, on a wood fire. She keeps their house clean too and generally runs things while the father is working in the fields. She’s a little doll and a real hard worker. She’s very shy about having her picture taken but I’m working on it.
Doc has a really good Japanese SLR camera that uses Kodak instamatic packs. My photography should improve now that I have a better camera.
Well, I have to quit.
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The check cannot be put in the 10% Savings now. The only way deposits can be made is by allotment on the pay roster. Also it would be a big hassle for you to send me expense money because it is illegal to have greenbacks in Viet Nam. Each time you sent me money I would have to arrange transportation to Group Headquarters and go through the red tape of changing my money.
I guess the bank drafts will work OK, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble cashing them.
I’m really interested in Hong Kong after looking at that folder you sent. I’m trying to plan my time with it. I already know that I’ll be staying in Kowloon at either the International or the Empress Hotel.
My R+R dates are confirmed now, September 25 to October 1.
The camera I bought is in my seabag at Group Headquarters and I can’t get it out. I’m going to buy a good camera in Hong Kong. Until then I can use Doc’s camera.
Here’s a list of stuff I need that you might send if you want to.
Marbles (for the kids)
I have to quit for now.
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There’s not much to report today. I just finished destroying a dud grenade that some kids brought in. Last night two or three stray bullets went zipping through our ambush site. That’s about all the excitement we’ve had lately except one of our patrols exchanged fire for a while with a couple of gooks yesterday. Today some old lady told one of the RFs that one VC was killed.
Except for that we’re just hanging around as usual. I’ve been leading a lot of patrols since I was promoted. It’s beginning to tire me out a little.
I had a letter from John D. the other day. He’s tired of flying VIP’s, wants to go back to his old unit. He’s thinking about extending his tour for 6 months so he can get out of the Army early.
I hear that everyone has Great Expectations for K-State’s football team this year. I assume Joel will be right in there going along for the ride.
Speaking of Joel; he surprised me with a letter about two weeks ago. Didn’t say much. Apparently he isn’t satisfied with the life of a beer truck driver. I don’t think the job had all the benefits he anticipated.
I also heard from Steve Tadtman. He was arrested for loitering in Aggieville. I guess the cops are cracking down on the hippie set. He was guilty as hell naturally but not of anything worth being arrested for. They cut his hair in jail and turned him loose on bond.
Steve and I may spend some time in California after I get home from ‘Nam but nothing definite yet. Sounds like fun, but there are still a lot of “ifs” to bypass yet.
I’m planning a list of things to do for each day in Hong Kong from the travel brochure that Mom sent. The time will sure go slowly until my flight date. I’m going to sample the different kinds of Chinese cookery, also Russian, French, and Portuguese, if I’m sober enough. I don’t want to miss anything but if I’m not careful I’ll miss most of it. (I wonder how my parents felt about my plans for heavy drinking while on R&R? Back home I would still have been a couple of years short of drinking age.)
Tell Mom I’d like to have some more snapshots from the old home town. I’ve about forgotten what everyone looks like. The two she sent me must have been left overs; I couldn’t identify more than two people out of about 20 shown.
For some reason it took me less than three hours to write these three pages. Lately I’ve averaged about one hour of effort for every sheet of paper that I fill. It’s frustrating as hell.
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