(The letter below was written on the back of a letter from my mother as follows:)4-28
Mailed 2 cakes today — hope they don’t mold. You will not see how much Nan & Jeff picked off the bottom of one!
John was shot at — the copter with him was shot down! I think he is over around Cambodia on flights.
Sent film in box — will send a mailer soon as I get one. The slide you sent was good. Thanks
Got the cakes yesterday and I must say angel food travels well. Everyone enjoyed the cake and Dum-Dum went wild over the toys and balloons.
I’ve been snowed under with mail the last three days. Your packages, one from Tredways, and letters from, Patti Walker, Barb Fields, Mary Graham, Jeff, Pam + Pat Gordon, Mike Turner, + Debby Hoffman. Since we have some envelopes but no writing paper I’ve been forced to use the materials on hand as you can see.
If John is seeing action in Cambodia he’s got the envy of every Marine in I Corps. We feel like the Army has snatched off a job that was tailor made for the Green Machine. Everyone here would rather be “kicking asses and taking names” in Cambode than fighting the kind of small, tedious, but usually fatal actions that the VC specialize in. We are fighting the VC on his terms, and winning, but the process is slow and frustrating.
I’ve already used the film. I think I will have it developed here and send the negatives home in envelopes so that you can have them made into slides. Send more. I got carried away and used most of the roll on everybody but me.
Guess what the C.O. told Cpl Goatley about me yesterday.
“Thornton is a good Marine, he’ll bust hard when it’s needed, but if the work starts to get petty he’ll disappear. He’s gung-ho, he likes to fight, and he has good relations with the people. He’s nearly as crazy as “Crazy” is, and he’s too independent.” There’s a candid professional opinion for you.
We’ve finished one big building of the new market place and have the second one half finished. The villagers are doing most of the work now, which is good. They have to learn to help themselves.
I’m supposed to draw an M-14 rifle some time soon. I’m going to be a sniper for my CAP. I’ve already turned in my M-16 and I’m carrying our machine gunner’s M-16 (Denny Erpelding) until I get my new rifle.
Dum-Dum is here now saying, “Give me chop-chop.” The way he says it is “Give me shop-shop.” Dum-Dum loves C-rations. I hate ’em. Will quit.
Dear Mom & Dad,
I got a letter from John Dietrich this morning. I don’t feel like writing but I owe you one. I owe just about everybody a letter but I just can’t think of anything I want to say.
My utilities are beginning to stink. I’d guess they need washing.
I got the birthday package. I was surprised at how fresh and good the cakes were. The card addicts in CAP 2 are really grateful for the cards. We haven’t had any chance to get cards lately.
I remember when Mom used to ask me what kind of cake I wanted (for my birthday) and I would always say angel food. Sure enough I got angel food again. Thanks.
In answer to your questions about the boy who mangled himself picking up the M-79 grenade, the M-79 is a U.S. weapon but the VC in our area have at least one captured M-79 launcher that they use. It may have been a “dud” fired by either US or VC troops. It may have been buried by a VC for future use. The parents of the child have been vague and evasive about details. They may be VC.
Your second question leads me to believe that you have nounderstanding of what is going on over here in spite of my attempts to inform you and what you can gather from magazines and television.
Nobody is going to give my CAP Hell for letting the VC get into our ville. As much as 10 percent of the people in my ville are possible VC sympathizers. The VC live in our village. Our villagers are VC goddamnit if they weren’t we wouldn’t be in this damned (crossed out)
Excuse me for losing my temper. All I can say is that it’s no wonder the war has been so badly handled if people have so little understanding of what is really going on. Sometime when I feel like writing I’ll try to set down a complete picture of the situation for you.
P.S. I’m reading a book called “The Godfather” which I got from a buddy. It’s good.
Well, if you know you’re worth more money than you’re getting, explain your reasoning to the commission, then if they understand why you’re asking for more money, and they don’t give it to you, tell them to go to hell.
I think people in Winfield have the idea that if you’re working for good ‘ole Winfield, the honor should be worth as much as money.
Winfield is a nice place to live, but the people are basically tight fisted. They would pay the minimum salary in every job if they could get anyone to work for that.
I don’t know what the grade school principals do but I do know that they don’t have half as much effect on the people of Winfield as you do.
I think Mr. ——- is lacking as a track coach too. He supposedly spends his time helping the men in field events but the only field event he knows anything about is the shot-put.
I learned everything I know about the discus from Tim Simmons and Butch Sharick, I taught Mike Baldwin most of what he knows. All that Mr. —— dispenses is philosophy and theory. I guess he’ll be track coach as long as he wants to be, though, because he is well liked and he is status quo. Also, track is not a very important sport in Winfield.
Since the family finances are a closed book to me I wouldn’t know about the advisability of Mom working. It would be nice if she didn’t have to but I’m not sure that she wouldn’t be bored stiff with nothing to do. Maybe she likes to feel she is contributing to the family pot?
I wonder how you are able to support Joel’s extravagances at school. It seems to me that he is living very high but maybe he is just working all the angles.
There is another Combined Action Platoon in a village about one kilometer to the north of us. The night before last, they were wiped out. They were hit by NVA with B-40 rocket launchers, grenades, and rifle fire.
Of the fourteen Marines only four could stand (walking wounded) the rest were stretcher cases. Four of them will probably die including a good friend of mine who lost his right eye. If he loses only his eye he’ll be lucky.
We (CAP 2) went to help them soon after they were attacked and got there just as the most seriously wounded Marines were being flown out. We helped evacuate the RF’s and civilians who were wounded.
I got all bloody carrying wounded to the choppers. I thought I would get sick when I saw people who were all blown to pieces but I didn’t. One guy kept asking us to find his leg so he could take it with him to the hospital. We didn’t find it until after he had been flown out so we burned it with the rest of the broken or useless equipment.
I have a cut on my lip that has somehow started an infection inside my lower lip. It is swollen up about 3 times it’s size and very painful. I have been to the 1st Med Bn hospital in Da Nang twice (May 8, May 10). They took some culture samples and gave me antibiotics to take but no results so far.
When I was at the hospital yesterday the doctor wanted me to stay for three days. I know I’m a fool because I talked him into letting me go. I thought CAP 2 would be hit last night and since we are under-strength they needed the extra gun.
We didn’t get hit last night but I think I’ll stay another night and go back to the hospital tomorrow if my lip is not better. Then they can keep me in the hospital if they want me to.
Well, I was only nineteen for 27 minutes before somebody tried to kill me. I woke up at 12:27 A.M. May 8 because there were about six VC throwing rounds at us.
That same morning at about six o’clock we captured one NVA with a B-40 rocket launcher, 1 rocket, 3 chicom grenades, & personal gear. Some birthday, huh.
I just got a birthday card from Woods today.
I’ll have to write them now.
Congratulations on getting to go to the Little Ark Valley Meet. Don’t worry about the results, you’ll do better next year.
I got real wet last night but it wasn’t from sailing. We had an ambush in a tobacco field and it rained all night. I have a rain jacket but the only part of me that stayed dry was the area between my shoulders and breastbone. The rest of me was soaking.
To make it worse, it was cold and windy and I was (am) sick too. I’ve been feeling lousy since yesterday evening.
Tonight we’ve planned an ambush in a graveyard and I can already see thunderclouds covering half of the sky so I’ll probably get soaked again.
I slept about four hours today but I’m still tired. You can’t get much sleep in the rain. It’s uncomfortable.
Good luck on making a team in the Babe Ruth League.
I blew up a 105mm artillery shell that we found the other day. I had to carry it out into an open area to blow it up. A 105mm shell is about 30″ long and 5″ in diameter. It made a nice bang.
Tell Dad I got the package with film and lemonade mix. That lemonade really tastes good when we don’t have any chow. It makes me feel like I’ve had something to eat. It also takes some of the plastic taste out of our water.
Well I have some more letters to write.
Enclosed are a couple of VC propaganda leaflets. Please put them away with the rest of the stuff I have sent home. I would like to have them when I come home.
Today is Buddha’s birthday, so all the people are burning spirit sticks. Spirit sticks are the same thing as 4th of July type punks. Instead of punk, though, they are made of incense. Devout Buddhists will burn several spirit sticks each evening for the spirits of their ancestors.
Spirit sticks can also be burnt for the spirits of people who are dying or about to die. Several families burn spirit sticks every night for the Marines and RFs here in Than Quit.
We (CAP 2) are actually responsible for three villages; they are Than Quit, An Thu, and a small hamlet that has no name, we call it the “Island” because it is usually above water during the monsoon. The total population of all three is probably 500 or 600 people. The area is exclusively agricultural, the main crops being rice and tobacco. Since the Buddhists believe in burying their dead, large areas of our AO are covered with graveyards. Bamboo thickets are very common along the rivers, often extending 100m or more from the banks. Houses and small temples are usually located along the hundreds of tunnel-like paths that crisscross these bamboo jungles.
The climate is damp and tropical. The spring rains run from the last half of April through May and most of June. In this time it rains four or five times a week, usually at night. The monsoon season begins with the last half of August and continues through January. In this time it rains every day and often as much as twenty hours a day. Between January and April it is usually cool and dry and between June and August it is hot and humid.
If you would like to do me a favor you could look for a waterproof jacket (w/hood) to get for our interpreter Yin. Yin is fourteen and about the same size as David Cameron. He has been interpreting for the Marines since he was ten years old and has been wounded twice. I’ll be sending you some pictures (and negatives to be made into slides) of him and everyone else as soon as they are developed.
Yin has no rain gear so he gets twice as wet as anyone else when we are out in the rain all night. If you could get him an adequate jacket and waterproof trousers too, if possible, I’m positive he would get along a lot better.
The jacket should be dark green or some other dark color so that he would not make an obvious target when wearing it.
I told Yin I would ask you to look for a suitable rain jacket for him when we were drying out from our soaking yesterday. Dialogue follows:
Scene: Room at the “French House” with hole in the wall from anti-tank rocket. Wet clothing is draped over everything and water is puddled on the floor.
Four Marines are in the room. One has disassembled the handset of a radio and is setting the parts on a cloth to dry, meanwhile cursing the object of his labor. (That’s me, Mom) The other three are engaged in wringing out various articles of clothing. All are dressed in skivvie shorts and sandals.
(Authors note: this dialogue will be conducted in pidgin English)
Slosh, slosh, slosh. Enter Yin, stage left.
Me: Hey Yin, tai shau anh got beaucoup nuoc? You look like somebody souvenir you in well.
Yin: Naw, got beaucoup mua last ni’, I khong got ponchos, get beaucoup wet.
Crazy: Maybe ti-ti time you do same-same fish, do water all time.
Yin: I khong muon do same-same fish, fish numbah ten, stay water all time get beaucoup cold. (Starts to shiver)
Mike (Kubina): (Throws a dry towel and T-shirt to Yin) Get rid of those wet clothes and put this on.
Me: Hey Yin, you muon rain jacket?
Yin: I beaucoup bich rain jacket, but no can buy, khong got tin.
Me: Maybe I send letter yak-yak my Mama-san, say Mama-san look-look rain jacket, send package, I souvenir rain jacket you. Can do?
Yin: Te duoc. I beaucoup muon rain jacket.
Me: I send letter ngay may yak-yak my Mama-san.
So here’s the letter and I know Yin would appreciate getting a rain jacket.
(Author’s note: All profanity was deleted from the preceding dialogue for purposes of clarity.)
(Following is the text of one of the leaflets I mentioned in the letter above. The second leaflet is in Vietnamese and is likely identical to the English version.)
TO SACRIFICE YOUR LIVES TO …
It is my belief that for the honour of the U.S., the happiness of your families and the interests of your own, you will actively respond to and participate in the coming struggling drive Apr. 15, 70 and in the following month’s as to force the Nixon administration to materialize the common aspirations of the American people and of yourselves, namely peace in Vietnam and repatriation of the U.S. expeditionary corps.
Owing to the dictate of your conscience and your legitimate attitude, no order whatsoever can coerce you to set out on operations, to commit further atrocities such as setting fire to and destroying villages fields and orchards slaughtering the Vietnamese people, no authority whatsoever can coerce you to sacrifice your lives to carry out the commitment of preserving the traitorous anti-popular Thieu-Ky-Khiem clique that the South Vietnamese people resolutely mean to overthrow.
The just cause of the struggle of the Vietnamese people and the progressive American people against the Nixon administration’s obdurate policy of dragging out the war is sure to win complete victory.
(Excerpt from the letter of Lawyer NGUYEN HUU THO, President of the Presidium of the SVNNFL C.C. to progressive American servicemen and people in South Vietnam)
I’m just as confused as you on Viet Nam except as to the part that I am involved in personally.
About those Snipes (small sailboats) that the boy scouts are selling. One of them is the first sailboat I ever sailed. I sailed in it when Roger Chisum and I went to Aquatics Camp back in the summer of 1966.
I’m glad you got your raise. Going back to school sounds like a good idea to me. Nobody is ever over-educated and a Doctorate is a real nice thing to have. Maybe you and I can start classes together in 1971.
At the end of 4 months in Viet Nam my financial position is pretty good.
I have $217 in the 10% (quarterly) savings plan, $350 on the books. I’ve drawn about $140 to spend since I’ve been here.
I have to get some sleep or I’ll be useless tonight.
P.S. Enclosed are some negatives that, I think, can be made into slides. They may be ruined, though, from being rained on.
The mailer you sent for film was ruined in the last rain storm.
(My parents numbered my letters as they received them, telling me there is a letter missing that I wrote in the last week of May. I think that letter described an ambush I narrowly survived.)
Please send me Joel’s new address.
I got a letter from John Dietrich yesterday. Things are hairy up his way as usual. I’m going to try and get five days liberty to pay him a visit, next month.
We had contact last night. Nobody on our side got hurt.
I’ve got dysentery again so I have to quit now and look for some toilet paper.