“WHISKEY SOURS AND TOE POPPERS”
January 4, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad–
Got the packages today. Thank you very much! I shared with everybody. The canned whiskey sours were a big hit! Thanks you guys for the knife and sheath. Cool as hell. I’ve got it strapped on now. It will be put to good use.
Last night we were moving through a bunch of bamboo into a place we call “Paladin’s Pad,” where we were going to set up a perimeter. All of a sudden, BOOM, and one of the PF’s went down. We thought it was incoming but it was a toe-popper and it blew off half his foot. Red Lynch went running back into the treeline to pull him out and Sgt. Thomas says he’s gonna put Red in for Bronze Star. I called in the medevac chopper. The crazy thing is, 8 of us stepped right over the thing before it blew.
Dad, I’m keeping my head down and my socks up, like you tell me. And Mom, don’t worry. A Marine can do anything but sew the crack of dawn shut and put wheels on a miscarraige. I sent some pictures home in another letter. Please keep putting my checks in the bank. I might try and buy a car when I get home.
Love–ATK, in the Nam
“SINGIN A SONG, HUNTIN’ THE CONG”
January 6, 1971
Mom and Dad,
Long patrol today way out to the river and back. A long, hot afternoon and nothing happened. Boring. I chucked a grenade in the river and that was the most exciting thing that happened. But on the way back we took turns swimming in the river. 3 guys swimming, 3 standing guard. As you can see, great artist that I am, I’ve sent you a map I drew myself of our AO. This will give you a better idea. But I don’t think you’ll find Viem Tey on any map. As near as I can figure I’m about halfway between Danang and Hoi An, out in the boonies, huntin’ for Cong, eatin’ nouc souie and singin’ a song…Talk to ya l ater Mamasan and Pappasan.
Your Green, Lean, Marine
Al The Kat–
January 7, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad
We are at a day haven site far from the redline today and got resupplied by a CH-46 helicopter. This morning I partook of and enjoyed coffee on the veranda with Doc Donoghue. He’s 22 and from Medford Mass and a good dude. I kid him about how he could be eating steak with gravy on some nice safe aircraft carrier and instead he’s out here playing mother hen to a bunch of scuzzy-assed Marines.
I need you guys to send me my holster. The black one. I think it’s somewhere in my room. I got a 22 revolver from a Vietnamese friend of mine named Sgt. Bayr (pronounced: Bye) and I’ve got 6 bullets, 22 long rifle. It might come in handy if we get overrun. (Just kidding, Ma). But I need you guys to send it okay? And maybe more bullets if you can get away with sending ammo by mail. I just have it as insurance.
Dad, we have a lot of strange weapons floating around out here. We had a blow-back 45 cal. grease gun like some paratroopers had back in your war, but it didn’t have the punch to go through a flak jacket so we got rid of it. And we got a 12-gauge riotgun for close quarter stuff but Sgt. Tom may send it back. I’ve got my 16 and I’m still humping the radio and about 80-pounds of other crap I don’t need. Anyway, take care you guys and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE try to find that holster. Thanks
Love, Big Al
“THE BLOOP MAN”
January 10, 1971
I’m back at CACO tonight for 24 hour R&R and it’s raining like hell. Red Lynch, Cpl. Boutwell, and Oettinger rotated back to the land of the Round-Eyes. 4 new guys came into the CAP, Allen, Crum and two others. Frank Hutson is now the new Bravo (2nd in command). Chief, Davey Stevens, Sgt. Thomas, Frenchy, Doc Donoghue, Ronnie Ross, Paladin and Hutson and me are left of the guys who were here when I got here.
You guys having any luck finding my old holster? I have another request. Sure would like some canned grapefruit juice. I need fruit real bad. Some of my teeth feel loose and I think it’s from the c-rations. Please send grapefruit juice. Also I need socks. I have only 2 pair and they’re wet all the time and I can’t get socks anywhere. I bet the Army’s got socks.
The good news is, I’m off the radio. Tom’s giving one of the new guys the radio and I’m getting the M-79 when I get back in the bush tomorrow. We call it the bloop because that’s the noise it makes when it fires. It shoots HE (high explosive) LUME (illumination) and CS gas rounds, which are like tear gas. But I don’t get a sidearm. Paladin’s got the other bloop. He’s been a bloop man a long time.
Please send the grapefruit juice, the socks and the holster and ammo if you can. I got 4 bullets left for my 22 and can’t find any anywhere. (I got a letter from Val kind of telling me to get lost so I took the letter out and shot it with the 22 and then blew it away with a 5.56mm auto burst. The guys were amused and it made me feel better. But I’m not really ticked about it. I never really figured her as a girlfriend or anything). Anyway, take care guys.
ATK — Al the Kat
“LOWERING THE ODDS”
January 20, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad
Well, more excitement. We got hit 2 nights ago crossing some graveyards near Viem Tey 2. Took some AK and RPG fire (rocket-propelled grenade) while moving to our night ambush site around 8pm. Got my first chance to use the bloop in contact and we blasted a treeline for about ten minutes. Charlie must need glasses. Nobody got hit and we didn’t hit anybody but found some bloodtrails.
CAP 2-7-2 had a major contact last night and got into it with about 10 VC and killed four. We’ve been told to brace for the Tet Holiday. Intel says the NVA are on the move–which is okay with me. Bring ’em on. “If the odds are too high… we lower the odds.”
My feet are in pretty bad shape. Ringworm. It’s from constant immersion in rice paddy water. Doc Donoghue is making me wear sandals as much as possible in our day havens. Sure could use the socks. I understand about not being able to send the ammo. It’s okay. I got one round left for the 22 and I’ll probably give the thing away if I can’t get more. It’s pretty much just a toy anyway.
I miss you guys
“LIVING THE LIFE”
January 27, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thanks for the stuff! Your package arrived today! Got the instant oatmeal, the Old Grandad, the Slim Jims and the Tiparillos! Good Stuff! AND I’M WEARING THE NEW SOCKS RIGHT NOW! I had some oatmeal this morning and me and Frank Hutson smoked the cigars. Living the Life!
It’s been a pretty quiet week. None of the hairy stuff that was supposed to happen has happened yet. I lost my prescription aviator shades somewhere at our ambush site last night. Also I sent a check home for $67.00.
We’re at a day haven today near the redline called “Frenchy’s Place”. It has a good well and we get to wash off some of this paddy mud.
Take care guys.