“WE LIVE HERE”
February 1, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad,
Yesterday was insane. In the morning Sgt. Tom told Paladin and me to go into Danang, 20 miles away, and buy some film and pogey bait (candy) and any stuff any of the guys needed. So we went up to the hiway and I put out my thumb to try and hitchhike and Paladin says, “F____ that”, and he aims his grenade launcher at the face of the next Vietnamese driver to come along and the guy stopped. So we rode to Danang hanging on the back of what we call a gook-cart, full of old women and chickens. We went to the Freedom Hill PX and bought all the stuff on our list and then went to III MAF disbursing to straighten out a snag in Paladin’s pay, and this Lieutenant balled us out for bringing loaded weapons into the compound. He was really chewing us out. All the Marines at III MAF had clean, starched uniforms and red wooden blocks in their rifles where the magazines are supposed to go. We came strolling in there with grenade rings decorating our bush hats, loaded weapons, knives, trousers caked with dried paddy mud. They thought we were real outlaws. It was pretty funny. Finally hitched a ride back down hiway one on an Army truck and the guy was pretty surprised when we told him to stop in the middle of nowhere and got off and just disappeared into the bushes. “Where the hell you going” he called and I yelled back “we live here, brother!” Far out.
Then, last night, the Lieutenant came out from CACO and Tom told me to take him out on a “reinforced KT” (kill team). So I got to lead my first mission kind of, and I took the lieutenant and 3 of the new guys out to the graveyards about 100 meters east of our night ambush site. At about 0130 an RPG or a M-79 round exploded near our position and we opened fire on a treeline near a schoolhouse. I called in lume. I saw some movement near the school house and fired and thought I saw a VC go down, but when we swept through later we didn’t find anything.
Hope you’re all, okay. I’m hanging in there.
“ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE”
February 7, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad,
All hell broke loose out here yesterday. The day before yesterday we evacuated our far eastern ville and sent all the civilians packing down the road to Dien Ban. Tom said we were making the area a free fire zone. Yesterday Lieutenant Ivy came out from CACO for the operation.
Tom told me to get the machine gun and he told me and Frank Hutson and John Shockley (Paladin) to get down to the riverbank and act as blocking force and nail anybody trying to cross the river. We left the day haven around 1300 and it was hot as hell and we busted our asses getting to the river. Tom and Lt. Ivy and the rest left the day haven later and approached the ville. Pretty soon they surprised some VC at a tunnel entrance and the you know what really hit the fan. We didn’t know what was going on. All of a sudden tracers started coming through the trees at us and something smacked into my flak jacket. I looked down and it was a spent 45 bullet! I meant to pick it up but then Hutson yelled and pointed out a VC trying to swim the river. I opened up with the pig and chewed up the water something fierce and then the guy disappeared under water.
CAP 2-7-4 was running up from the south to reinforce us and they were on the radio thinking Hutson, me and Paladin were VC! And Hutson was saying negative, negative and waving at them. Finally they got the message. Then the shooting stopped and we went down to the river looking for bods and found none. When we went around the treeline to where the others were, we saw the mess. There were dead VC everywhere. Doc was working on somebody and Tom and the Lt. were talking to the PF’s. Some of the guys were taking pictures and pretty soon the place was swarming with PF officers and all kinds of officials, all trying to snag up a souvenier gook weapon. The amazing thing was, not one Marine got a scratch. (Wish I saved that 45 bullet!)
Anyway, me and some others dropped purple smoke grenades down the tunnel entrance and it started coming up airholes all through this large area of bamboo. This is a place we’ve walked by many times and never saw a thing. We also followed it all the way to the riverbank and found–you’re not gonna believe this–a tunnel entrance dug into the side of the riverbank UNDERWATER. So you get in or out like a submarine. This is where my swimmer went.
To make a long story short, we packed that tunnel with so much C- 4 it was like an atomic bomb going off.
Well, I can’t write any more today. Don’t worry about me, I’m keepin my head down and my socks up. Take care,
“WE COULD ALWAYS COUNT ON DOC”
February 19, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad,
Sorry I haven’t written for awhile. Sgt. Tom rotated home about a week ago. He really knew his stuff and we were sorry to see him go. We also said goodbye to Davey Stevens, another solid Marine. Doc Donoghue is rotating back to the world later today and he will be missed. We could always count on old Doc– a man who can enjoy his coffee or beer in the harshest locales. I got his address and plan to give him a call when I get out of this place.
Frank Hutson is the new boss. We’ve been hunkered down close to the redline for a week or so. It’s been very slow around here, hot and boring. I think that big daytime contact we had a few weeks ago put a world of hurt on the local chapter of the VC. By the way, I’m sending home some flicks from that day and some of them show dead VC so don’t freak out, Mom. Just put ’em away somewhere.
Have you guys heard anything about some big invasion of Laos? That’s only 48 miles from here. We’re hearing that a bunch of ARVN units crossed the border and that a lot of the local ARVN boys from around here went in and got chopped up pretty bad.
Well, nothing much more to report. I lucked out and got the pecan cake roll and pineapple bits from the c-rat box this morning, my favorite breakfast.
Al The Kat