Got your letter, only six days old. Got a letter from Marcia Mandrell with no postmark and an un-canceled stamp. Mail strike I guess.
Sent Joel a birthday letter a couple of days ago.
Had two fire fights in the last two nights. The gooks threw grenades and rifle fire at us. Nobody hurt except maybe a few V.C.
Slept out in the rain a couple of nights ago. Have a slight cold.
All letters and packages are appreciated. Canned puddings are very popular, also hard candy, big marshmallows, etc.
We get lots of fruit and fruit juice (In C-rations) so we’re not hurting there. If Mom wants to send cookies, tell her to send them in empty coffee cans.
I’ve been made a machine gunner since one of ours is rotating to the states. I don’t mind except that I don’t know anything about cleaning a machine gun, and cleaning is important. Also the machine gun is kind of vulnerable in a close fire fight. They made me turn in my rifle so now all I have is Mom’s pistol.
The M-60 is a mean weapon. It’s effective range is 1100 meters and it can penetrate light armor.
Glad to hear that Terry told her folks. I think I’ll write Willie and Marge tomorrow.
(My cousin, Terry Thornton of San Diego had secretly married her boyfriend, Paul Gleim, who was in the Navy)
I really hope they make me a rifleman again. I was trained for it.
We’re short on Marines now. We’ve only got eight and a corpsman. We’re supposed to have at least fourteen. We’re supposed to get five new guys in the next two days. I hope one is a machine gunner.
It’s getting dark. I’d better quit.
(Written partly on wrapping paper and partly on a piece of onionskin paper torn from a page of another letter)
CAP 2-7-2 is temporarily out of stationary so we are making use of available materials.
I had to “stand tall” in front of the “Man” this morning. I received non-judicial punishment for goofing off when I was at CAP school. The Captain fined me $15 for having a disagreement with the OD at CAP school.
The Marine Corps does have something similar to WD-40 but it’s very hard to get and, naturally, when some does appear the office pogeys at HQ get it.
Iodine tablets are supposed to be the only effective method of purifying Vietnamese water in the field. I’ve tried halazone but it didn’t work.
I got a big package from Mary Graham yesterday. She sent home made cookies and pumpkin bread, also some hard candy, and Corn Nuts. It was all delicious and went fast.
It may not be exactly couth to say, I told you so, but I’ve always thought (and said) that Nan was spoiled. End Message.
The new boat sounds great. I assume that each family paid $400.
The latest rumor has it that all Marines will soon be pulled outexcept for one Brigade and 2nd CAG (my outfit). Khong bich?
My CAP leader, Sgt. Burd, is being transferred to another CAC (Combined Action Co.). I’m not very happy about it because Sgt. Burd is good. He knows what he’s doing and doesn’t get people killed. His replacement is supposed to be a real craphead.
No contact last night. I blew up an anti-tank rocket, an M-26 grenade, and a 60mm mortar round this A.M. All were supposedly dud ordnance turned in by Viet kids.
The Courier is getting here about every day now. I got the April 3 issue today.
I’m in good health and keeping fairly clean. I’ve had no attackes of dysentery (Basically diarrhea from bad water) in a week. Since the dry season is here we have no more trouble with jungle rot. I don’t even have athletes foot.
I’m thoroughly fed up with war as a way of settling disputes. Especially this one. I think I could go for the rest of my life without being shot at again and not mind at all.
I’m already looking forward to R&R. I’ll be eligible in about twenty more days. I don’t think I’ll go until July when I’ll have some money saved up, and by then I’ll really be desperate for a change.
I think I can manage to save about $1,000 (at least) while I’m over here. I have $300 saved already. With the ten percent interest (compounded quarterly) that I’ll get on my savings the total will be about $1100. I want to buy some kind of used vehicle for traveling etc. when I get back to the “World.”
I was thinking about a panel truck, about ’67 or ’68 vintage in decent shape. Maybe a VW or GM. It could be fixed for camping out so Joel and I could make long trips at reasonable cost.
With a flashy paint job and some mag wheels it would also be reasonably stylish. I don’t know anything about gas mileage for such vehicles, but I imagine it would be better than many passenger cars. I wish you would tell me what you think of the idea. With the G.I. Bill and my summer work I don’t think I’ll need whatever I save for school.
I’d better quit for now.
I wish you would send me a couple of paperbacks. The days get pretty long sometimes. Don’t send more than two because I wouldn’t have anyplace to put them.
I found out that halazone is not so much dangerous as useless. I tried some halazone on one canteen H2O and had dysentery for two days. Iodine is supposed to be better but still not entirely effective.
Don’t feel guilty about not going through what I’m going through. In a way Dad and the uncles paid the bill of responsibility for your generation. I feel like I’m doing approximately the same thing now. Unfortunately the issues are a lot less clear cut now than in WWII.
In WWII the guys who did the fighting could feel that they had their friends and everybody else behind them. Now I know that even if the kids my age don’t oppose the war the chances are darn good that they don’t support it either.
With younger people, opposition to the war often extends into hostility towards people in the military. There were two reasons I didn’t wear my “greens” while I was home on leave. I didn’t like being stared at and I didn’t feel like being forced to clobber some anti-war loudmouth.
I don’t mind people being opposed to the war, I’m against it in a lot of ways myself. I just get hot under the collar when someone bad mouths me because I fit a generality.
If you can find a copy of “Stranger in a Strange Land” for me please send it along. I’ve heard a lot about that book.
Sorry to hear about Corky’s leg. I hope he gets better fast. The cast must make him really frustrated.
I’m going to see if I can get authorization to hitchhike south to see John Dietrich and Jim Tadtman (an Army engineer who was the older brother of my best friend from high school) when I get my 3-day in-country R&R. I sent a letter to John but I kinda doubt if he got it. I haven’t gotten any answer yet. See if you can get Jim Tadtman’s address for me from Monica, OK? Tell her that Tommy had better get on the stick and write me a letter.
Also ask her if Steve is still working for J.B. Malone in Mareeba, North Queensland. I sent a letter for Steve to that address and haven’t gotten any reply yet.
Neither my letter to John D. or the one to Steve have come back since I mailed them so they may have been delivered.
My R&R isn’t due for four more months (at least) but I’m already looking forward to it. I want to go to Australia to see Steve and maybe Rodney Watts. If Steve isn’t in Australia by the time I get R&R I think I’ll go to Bangkok. I’ve heard it’s a fantastic place and dirt cheap.
I wish I could send my watch home, the crystal is getting badly scratched. It’s difficult to turn the bezel because of the dirt in the grooves. It’s too bad there’s no way to make a package, and no way to mail it if I could.
The yellow rice paper is a poster the V.C. put up in our village. A rough translation (very rough) is that it says, “The Popular Front is well armed and will soon slaughter the Marines.” I imagine it was made by a little slant-eyed optimist with communist leanings.
The spring rains will be along soon (according to the old salts). It’s been windy and uncomfortably cool at night for the last few nights.
My camera is in my seabag at CAG headquarters, I can’t get it out until I go on R&R. The camera wouldn’t weigh much but I would have no way to carry it. Even 1 lb. is too much extra weight with all that I’m humping now.
How did Corky break his leg?
Save that poster for me.
Will quit for now.
No contact last night, light contact the night before.
The Korean Tiger Division is on our south and the White Horse Division is on our east. They must have had some Korean holiday the night before last because they filled the whole sky with colored star clusters and flares.
I hear that Steve Tadtman (my best friend from high school) is back in Manhattan.
I found a 60mm mortar shell this morning. We’re going to blow it later on. The bore riding safety was still in it so I moved it to a less inhabited area for disposal.
The Courier has finally started having my new address on it. It had the notiec of Kathy St. Peter’s engagement in it yesterday.
Patti Walker wrote and told me that Julie Hauber is engaged. Is that true? Who to?
Mike Kubina had a birthday a couple of days ago. His mom sent him two angel food cakes (store bought), a can of icing, cake decorating icing, and candles. We all had a blast. We threw a real stateside birthday party except we didn’t do any spanking.
Today we’re staying in an old French house. It’s a two storey stucco job, with tile floors, high ceilings, and pastel painted walls. It must have been a really nice place once. It has balconies all around the upper floor and huge windows. We really like to stay here.
Somebody must have had a pretty stiff fight here once because there area at least three huge holes left by anti-tank rockets and the whole thing is splattered with shrapnel holes.
We’re supposed to be getting hot chow every day now. I guess that baloney sandwiches are supposed to be hot chow. It’s better than nothing though.
Today is the 74th day of my overseas tour. Only 291 more days to go.
Not much to say right now. Will quit.
If I don’t write it’s usually because it’s business as usual at CAP 2-7-2. Or maybe I’m down unloading sand for the marketplace we’ve been trying to get built for a month.
It’s a real bust unloading truckloads of sand by hand in 90 degree, 80 percent humidity weather.
Two of the last three nights have been unusually wild. Lots of loud noises, etc. We still haven’t had anything but very minor injuries. I don’t think the VC have been so lucky but we don’t know for sure.
I can remember how much confidence I gained when I bought myself an expensive pair of football shoes in my Jr. year. That’s probably what happened to Jeff (My little brother). I remember what a blow it was to my morale to be issued ancient shoes, and sweat clothes when I was out for track in Jr. High, Sr. High too for that matter.
I’m growing a moustache. It’s slow work but I’ve got a whole year to kill. I should have something to show by the time I get R&R. I’ve about decided on Bangkok for R&R since Steve Tadtman isn’t in Australia any more. I’ve got about 3 1/2 months to wait yet but I’m already anticipating it.
The sailboat sounds like a great idea. It ought to be a lot of fun taking big groups, etc.
The kids in Winfield (Kansas, my hometown) must be really desperate for a place and an excuse to gather if they go to a dance with a band like that.
Putting “Ned’s” off limits left a lot of kids in the air for a place to hang-out. Maybe hanging-out is not very beneficial but, let’s face it, there’s not much to do in Winfield.
Those dances at the armory were a good thing for a while but kids started abusing the privilege; coming drunk, fighting, etc. It got to be a bad scene so people stopped going.
You may not believe this but I’m gaining weight, both muscle and probably, fat. We eat almost nothing but C-rations, and big cans of fruit that we get on re-supply. Every other day or so someone gets a package full of candy etc. and we eat that too. Every ten days the whole CAP gets a crate that contains cigarettes, candy, stationary, toilet articles, and misc. Add this to just brief periods of fierce activity and long hours of waiting for something to happen, and you get the idea.
(Called an “SP pack,” the ‘crates’ also contained Red Man chewing tobacco, used occasionally by Dennis “Hucklebuck” Prock to the fascination and disgust of the Vietnamese. You’d think people who accepted blackened teeth from chewing betel nut wouldn’t quibble at chewing tobacco.)
Than Quit is beginning to seem just as familiar as home. Maybe more so. I know a lot of the people and all of them know who I am. The Vietnamese daily routine seems a lot more natural than it did at first. I know the trails of the area as well as I know the sidewalks of Winfield.
Our Area of Operations is about the same size as the city of Winfield.
Nothing going on so I’ll quit.
This leaflet is V.C. propaganda. Keep it and the yellow poster somewhere safe. They are rare and hard to get. (Really?)
(The VC leaflet is about four inches by six inches, mimeographed both sides on cheap, white typing paper. The text is below.)
C.A.G. UNITS' SERVICEMEN ! The policy of Americanization of the Vietnam War has met with complete failure. This military adventure has cost the US tens of thousands of American lives and brought dislocation to the American economy and blemish to the honour of the United States. Under the so-called Civic actions,the US rulers are pushing you into the same path of death... C.A.G.'s activities serve the US odious program of Vietnamizing the war which would prolong it in another form. They go countering the interests of the US people and trample on the sovereignty of the Vietnamese nation. Be aware that the Vietnamese people don't need the presence of C.A.G.units on their soil! Even if you are assigned to work in those units, it is very wise for you to keep a neutral attitude. Don't risk your lives to make yourselves a shield to protect the traitorous Thieu-Ky clique despised and hated by all the Vietnamese people. Refrain from patrolling and setting ambushes to massacre the Vietnamese people. Remain in place and let the people go freely to farm and earn their livelihood. If you keep such an attitude you will be welcomed and safe until you return home with your beloved ones. Otherwise, if you keep on doing harm to the Vietnamese people, you will be severely punished by the People Liberation Armed forces and even by the puppet troops who are working at your side,since they are also Vietnamese.
Dear Jeff, (My younger brother)
I heard from Dad that you won the shot-put in a meet with A.C. and Oxford. Congratulations, maybe somebody in our family will be good at track. Did they give medals? Probably not. I got my first medal when I was a Sr. and won the discus at the Southwestern Invitational. It sure felt good.
You’ll have to congratulate me too. I’ve been promoted to Lance Corporal. My pay will go up about twenty dollars but not much else will happen. Around here the amount of responsibility you have depends on the amount of experience in combat that you have.
There’s a tradition in the Marine Corps that when a man is promoted all of his buddies get to “tag” on his new stripe by hitting him on the shoulder as hard as they can. Once on each shoulder. They can only do this if they hold the same rank or more. There are eight Lance Corporals in my CAP, all of them got to slug me twice yesterday and boy am I stiff and sore today.
A Lance Corporal’s insignia looks like this
(I inserted a crude drawing of a L/Cpl’s stripe)
that’s supposed to be one stripe with crossed rifles underneath.
We’ve been working to rebuild the village marketplace the last few days so I haven’t had time to write.
Have to quit.
I got a letter from you yesterday telling how John didn’t believe you’d mailed me the pistol. The letter had no postmark and the stamp wasn’t canceled. I also got a package with cheese and instant drinks in it.
I’ve gotten four packages from you and Dad, one with the gun + cookies, one with ammo in bread, one with instant drinks etc, and the one with cheese yesterday.
That instant lemonade you sent is really good. Our water supply has improved considerably recently, we now get six gallons of water daily. There are usually fourteen of us and it goes pretty fast but it’s better than nothing. Any water we get, even pure water, tastes bad. The mixes and stuff make the water easier to get down.
I’m humping ammo for the machine gun again. At least that’s better than being a gunner. I carried 1100 rds. for one night and nearly killed myself. Those rounds weighed about eighty pounds altogether. Now I carry only 600 rounds. No sweat.
A little boy in our village found an M-79 grenade yesterday. It was unexploded but obviously not a dud since it went off when he picked it up. Most of his hand was blown off and he got lots of shrapnel in his legs and groin.
When I got there “Doc” (Doggett) was working on his hand and “Willie” (Williams) was working on one of his legs. I started putting battle dressings on his other leg. He looked pretty gory but he’ll probably recover 100 percent except for his hand. Most of that was gone.
Another little girl had shrapnel in her leg so we called an Army Huey and flew them both out.
No contact again last night. Things are really too quiet around here.
I signed the pay roster for April today. I’m taking $50 cash and leaving $235 on the books. As soon as I have about $500 on the books for my R&R I’m going to start putting all but $50 per month into the 10 percent savings plan. A Lance Corporals’ gross pay is $226. After income tax deductions, G.I. insurance, etc. I’m not sure what it is.
I think my back pay is catching up with me. I got $318 last month when I only rated $201 and $285 this time. I’m not sure if I rate L/Cpl’s pay this month or not. I don’t know how my promotion is dated. Either way I’m getting more than I rate.
I don’t mind getting my back pay this year instead of last. This way it’s all tax free. Taxes are still deducted from my pay but I’ll get it all back next April 14.
I just finished a book called “An Operational Necessity” which is about two German U-boat officers who are tried and executed for machine gunning the survivors of a ship they had sunk. They did it because their chances of being sunk themselves were about 100 percent if they survivors were found. It’s a really interesting book. I sympathized with the U-boat officers.
One of the guys in the CAP got a plastic soap bottle full of whiskey in a package today. The drinkers in the CAP are pleased. Marines cannot buy hard liquor unless they are staff sgt or above which angers the drinkers and non-drinkers alike because in the other services anyone can buy liquor. It doesn’t mean much though, to us, because we don’t dare get drunk or even high in case we’re attacked.
The ceilings and doorways of Vietnamese houses are giving me a headache, literally. They’re too low.
The VC were in our ville last night terrorizing the people with grenades. Unfortunately we weren’t there to do anything about it.
That damned pistol is causing more trouble than it’s worth. After this letter I hope I never have to say anything about it again. I’m beginning to think it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
I’ve found out that when you leave Nam they (Marines) put you through a customs examination that is designed to find anything bigger than a pinhead sized piece of hashish. Naturally the pistol would be found.
I have two choices: A. I can try to get it out of the country on my R&R and mail it from my R&R stations — or —
B. I can wait until we capture another VC or find a body, and claim that I found the pistol then, and claim it as a war trophy. Registered semi-automatic weapons can be carried back to the “World.”
The first course has the best chance of success.
The second could succeed but more than likely the pistol would be confiscated by Counter-Intelligence Division or stolen by some officer or rear echelon office pogue looking for a handy war souvenir.
The only advantage of the second method is that I might be able to keep the pistol with me until near the end of my tour. With the first method I would have the pistol only until my R&R (6 months).
I think I’ll use the first method, and take my chances the last six months. I’ve only used the damned thing once and then I didn’t hit anything.
Somebody (we really know who) threw a grenade into our ambush the other night. Our luck is still good. Nobody got damaged.
We humped about 4 km last night. I’m carrying 600 rds of mg ammo again so by the time we set in our ambush I was staggering. Every piece of clothing I had on was soaked with sweat and my boots squished when I walked. After all that work we didn’t have any contact either.
I don’t seem to have very much energy any more. I’m always tired. I have to force myself to clean myself, my clothes, and my weapons. I sit around all day if I can. Working on the marketplace takes more out of me.
(CAP 2’s big civic action project during this period was building a new marketplace in our main ville, Than Quit 1)
When I sleep I must have dreams because I twitch and moan and grit my teeth. Whenever I’m awake and hear a sharp noise my left eye blinks automatically.
It makes me nervous to walk into an empty room or to sit with my back to an open window or door. It also makes me uncomfortable to have anyone stand near me, especially behind me.
Sometimes I repeat myself or stutter when I talk and I have trouble writing anything down. Concentration is very hard for me.
John (“Crazy”) Sigouin says he’s the same way and he’s been here eight months now. He has two purple hearts.
When I have to be calm, though, I’m calm. I blew up a booby-trap today, and had no trouble with the blasting cap or fuse or setting the charge. I don’t have any trouble going to sleep either.
I guess I’m not abnormal. “Crazy” says the strain of being in a CAP affects everybody in different ways.
I got the package with space food sticks, marshmallows, books, Mad, etc. All hands enjoyed the goodies. I ate the whole can of pudding by myself. Thanks a lot.
Had another quiet night last night.
We have a new CAP leader, Cpl. Geudy. I think he’s just temporary. He’s going to make me a sniper. I’ll turn in my M-16 and draw an M-14. If it works out all right I won’t have to carry machine gun ammo any more! The rifle itself and the ammo for the M-14 are heavier than same for the M-16 but much, much, lighter than machine gun ammo.
The advantage of the M-14 is that it is easier to clean and more accurate at long range.
We’re down to nine men again, bad scene. Everyone is carrying a heavy load.
Thanks for the books. I’m going to make them last.
It rained 8″ in four hours last night. I tried to sleep through most of it. Succeeded partially. All of my clothes are soaked.
That 8-inch rainfall is a wild exaggeration!
I check out my M-14 today if everything goes right.
The books you sent are ruined. I think I can finish the one about Jack London, it’s good.
Had a little shooting last night. I was shaking (from cold) so hard I couldn’t shoot straight. One of the RF’s was shooting grenades so that they landed inside our positions, for the hell of it I guess.
From the news reports it sounds safer here than in Lawrence or Manhattan (college towns in my home state of Kansas — Lawrence was especially prone to anti-war demonstrations). What am I fighting for? What are they fighting for!?
The WD-40 arrived and, since everyone uses it, it’s nearly gone. There isn’t such a thing as personal property in our CAP. All packages received are considered CAP property although the person who receives the package gets first pick of the contents. I think if you try to supply us with WD-40 you’ll go broke, so don’t bother. The stuff is great in the field but in the amounts we use it it’s just too expensive. Thanks anyway.
Non-judicial punishment is authorized by article 115 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It will go on my record but won’t hurt me much. Most officers use non-judicial punishment in cases where a good Marine rates punishment but not a summary court martial. It’s a military slap on the hand. I can still get an honorable discharge.
The fine goes into the Disbursing Office and, presumably, is part of the $21 million that the Marine Corps returns to the Navy Dept from it’s budget annually. The fine is deducted from my check before I get it.
Don’t bother with the iodine. We’re getting plenty of good water now.
Heavy contact last night. I threw seven grenades and generally had an exciting time.
(I recall this incident, though “heavy contact” is an exaggeration. CAP 2 night sites had been getting fragged once or twice a week. Though nobody was ever killed and wounds were rare, the fraggings were dangerous and nerve-wracking. On this occasion we got an incoming frag and I retaliated by peppering the area outside our perimeter until I ran out of grenades.)
Will write again tomorrow. I have work to do now.