The diarrhea stopped while I was in the hospital, but now it’s back although not so bad. I talked my way out of the hospital before the doctor was really prepared to let me go so that I could go on R+R. When I got to my company I found out that my R+R was cancelled. I’m still mad as hell about it.
Combined Action Force Headquarters was phased out about three weeks ago. This does not affect 2nd CAG which is now an independent unit. 2nd CAG is the only USMC pacification unit left and there are only 35 or so CAPs left. I’m lucky enough to be in one of them. Lucky me! Zilch, on your 4th question.
I wish I was back in the hospital.
My next chance for R+R will be sometime in November. By that time I ought to be completely insane.
The monsoon season is in full swing. It’s been raining hard forthree days. I lost my poncho the very first night of heavy rain without even using it and for some reason I can’t get another one from supply. In other words, I’ve got some wet, miserable nights ahead of me.
The Captain passed word today that we have to stay up until 2:00 AM every night until further notice because of a high-threat period by the VC. We didn’t get enough sleep before! Now we’ll really be in bad shape.
I won’t get any money this month because I didn’t sign the pay roster.
I have to quit now and get some sleep so I can stay awake tonight.
I’ve just re-read the letter you sent on Sept. 9, I decided it’s about time to answer.
I guess I’ve finally lost all desire to write letters. I used to answer each letter I got on the day I received it, or at least on the next day. Now I usually don’t answer my mail at all.
I write letters to you and Dad because I feel a responsibility to keep you informed of my movements. I’ve lost all my feelings of connection with my life before I came to Viet Nam. it’s an effort for me to visualize the faces even my own family.
There’s probably a very logical reason why I no longer relate much to anything outside of Viet Nam but I’m not interested enough to work it out for myself.
I do write occasionally to the few people outside my immediate family who still bother to write to me. I probably do that because I’m afraid of not having any friends when I get “home.”
There’s another thing. I don’t think of 2218 W 9th as my home anymore. My “home” is a feeling I carry around in my head. My home is wherever I drop my poncho liner.
I hate this stupid non-war. I’ve had nearly a year of hard training and I’m using about two weeks worth. Screw it!
Speaking of my watch; Jeff’s will have to be a damned good watch to last like mine has. The crystal and case are covered with deep scratches and nicks, but the watch itself seems indestructible. So far it’s been impervious to everything I’ve put it through. It’s only fault is a slight tendency to be about a minute fast every 24 hours. I’m not complaining.
Did you know that a watch exactly like mine costs only $38 in a military exchange here in Viet Nam? There’s a lesson in international economics for you.
My morale has been good since I got out of the hospital except that I get mad any time somebody mentions my R+R.
Yin got his boots while I was in the hospital and I haven’t seen him since, so I don’t know if they were satisfactory.
The Captain ordered us to fire Yin as our interpreter since he refused to work as an interpreter at company headquarters. I guess the Captains reasoning is that if headquarters can’t have him, nobody else can. Yin tried working at headquarters for a while but quit because they made him get up at 7:00 AM and do menial chores in addition to his interpreting.
I don’t know what he’s doing now since his home is in a ville about four miles from Than Quit. He hasn’t visited us since I got back from the hospital. I kind of miss him. He sure has got big feet for a kid his size.
It made me sick to hear about the antics of the Dietrichs and Reuschs. The sound like a bunch of eighth graders trying to decide who they’re going to go steady with next. As much as I like all the parties involved, I think they’re all acting kind of low and childish.
Please send me some pictures. Becky Jarvis sent me a whole roll of film that she took at school. It was like looking at pictures of another planet but I enjoyed them a lot. Some of the flics were taken at a sorority slumber party. Can you guess why the hard chargin’ gyrenes of CAP 2 enjoyed those? Only one guess now.
Well, I gotta quit. Be patient with a lack of news until I get home and then you can grill me on the whole year.
Just throw those souvenirs I sent home in my drawer.
Well I’ve always wanted to have a room at the top of a high hotel; for the novelty I guess. The 48th floor sounds good and high. The highest I’ve ever been was the fourteenth floor of the San Diego Holiday Inn.
My buddy Mike Turner and his wife had a room on the 14th floor during our last shore liberty before shipping out back in February. We rode from Camp Pendleton to Dago on the bus and I went up to their room to meet Judy before I went over to Uncle Willie’s.
The view from their room was fantastic; covering the harbor, Point Loma, and a lot of the downtown area down to the fleet landing.
Dago is a pretty town and it would be nice to take some time and see it.
Nothing much is going on around here. We’ve seen a couple of bodies floating down the Than Quit River lately.
Nelson left for his in-country, three day R+R yesterday and Will goes to Bangkok in a couple of days. I should know if my R+R is approved by the 18th of this month.
That’s about it. Ask Mom to send me some film and some oatmeal cookies next package.
Dear Mom + Dad,
Several of your letters got here today, some of them catching up with me after going to the Sanctuary, etc.
I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying your vacation. I’m not surprised that it feels different without the whole crowd of us tagging along. I would think that the feeling of freedom would more than make up for the feeling of sharing enjoyment. I always have a hard time enjoying myself if I have to be responsible for someone else at the same time.
Speaking of responsibility: now that Willy is on his R+R (Bangkok) Mac is squad leader and I’m the Bravo team leader. I have to ride herd on seven people including myself; I also help supervise ten RF soldiers. It’s a lot like being a squad leader in Basic Infantry Training School except that if I make a mistake at the wrong time, people get hurt.
I do believe that I’ve done a good job so far and I’m confident that I won’t run into anything I can’t handle. Eight months of experience sort of smoothes out some of the rough spots.
There is a USO show at 2nd CAG HQ today but I didn’t want to go. The shows are usually pretty bad and just serve to remind you of things that you can’t have.
One nice thing about being a temporary team leader is that I don’t have to carry the radio. It feels funny not to have all that dead weight perched on my back. It feels good too.
We’ve been getting big 1 qt. 14 oz. cans of tomato juice on re-supply lately and I’ve really been guzzling it. Too bad it’s not cold.
Joel admitted to me that his “spending money” situation is very tight. He has his major obligations all covered, but otherwise I think he’s short. I think he made a mistake driving a beer truck this summer, monetarily anyway. I offered him a no-interest loan of a few hundred but he turned it down.
Don’t tell him I told you this because he didn’t want me to tell you. You might bail him out a little at Xmas with a green gift, which I may do if I’m still in Viet Nam.
I’m not planning to be out of Nam in December, but there’s always hope.
I’ve sent some newspaper clippings which may help clarify my position (the CAPs).
A CAP in 1st Co. 2nd CAG was wiped out the other night. I’m worried that it may have been 2-1-4, Mike Turner’s CAP.
We’re getting hot chow every day now! They send it out in cans. Usually, there isn’t enough to go around but it’s better than C-rats.
We’re going through another cycle of rain, now. We were supposed to see our first real “monsoon” storm last night but it was just an ordinary rainstorm.
A “monsoon” is a storm with 50-70 mph winds, heavy rain, and temperatures like 40 degrees. All of a sudden our tropical weight clothing is inadequate. Everyone is sending home for wool socks, sweatshirts, etc. Everybody has begun wearing underwear again now that the hot weather is gone. I could use a couple of heavy sweatshirts and some socks like you sent before.
Socks are a big problem, there is no way to keep your boots and socks dry while walking around in ankle deep water all night. The cold, wet, weather presupposes any attempt at air drying. Add to that the fact that our good ole supply system has preserved its reputation for not having anything that is really needed. The least we’re going to get is wet, cold, feet but there’ll athletes foot, jungle rot, and the common cold for the less careful.
I did manage to talk the re-supply driver out of a pair of new jungle boots. Now I have two pair and, theoretically, one will be drying while the other is being worn. Theoretically.
It’s 10:50 A.M. and re-supply is not here yet. Whoops, as you were; re-supply just arrived.
I just received another of your letters that followed me to the “Sanctuary.” You must have read one of my letters wrong.
It wasn’t Doc that was killed, it was Dan. Dan Gallagher was only in CAP 2 for about a month before the accident. The other guy killed was John Arteaga.
Doc’s arm wound is healed, and he has a couple of nice scars from the entry + exit holes.
Myself; I’m too bad tempered, selfish and disagreeable to get killed. I’m planning to die in bed after a long life of crime; probably with a priest paving the way.
I’m not surprised that Joel didn’t inform you of his social activities in Kentucky. The reason for this is that since I can remember, any kind of socio-romantic activity in our family has been greeted with a lot of exaggerated teasing and speculation (led by you and Joel). That’s why you never found out about half the dates I had. I spared myself a lot of harassment. It’s Joel’s business who he dates.
I’m glad you enjoyed your vacation in the East. I’ve been thinking about touring the East myself the summer after I get home, either on foot or by motorcycle. I could spend a month at it on about $500. It would cost me less to hitch-hike but I could cover a lot of ground at a reasonable expense on a bike. Five hundred is probably an over-estimate but it’s a round number.
I’d like to hit Chicago, Philly, Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington and then come back through the South.
I might even take all summer.
(My mother wrote several times to her congressman, relaying my gripes about poor food and water in the field, the difficulty of obtaining new socks and other important matters. This reply demonstrates that she also wrote to the Commandant of the Marine Corps!)
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20380
|IN REPLY REFER TO
21 Oct 1970
Mrs. Helen Thornton
2218 West 9th
Winfield, Kansas 67156
Dear Mrs. Thornton:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 10 October 1970 to General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps.
The Commandant has requested that I reply to you personally and express his appreciation for the concern reflected in your letter.
As you properly recognized, it is not possible to discuss future plans with respect to troop withdrawals from Vietnam. However, I can tell you what has already transpired. At peak strength, the Combined Action Force consisted of a Combined Action Force (CAF) Headquarters and four Combined Action Groups. As a result of the most recent U.S. troop redeployment from the Republic of Vietnam, the CAF Headquarters and three of the four Combined Action Groups which make up the CAF have been inactivated. The remaining group, the Second Combined Action Group, of which your son is a member, will continue combined action operations until such time as it also departs Vietnam along with other Marine units.
We all share your concern for your son’s safety as well as for the safety of all American boys in Vietnam. But let me assure you, a CAP Marine is in no greater danger than those serving with the regular forces. In fact, since he becomes a member of the Vietnamese community, he has the additional support of the eyes and ears of the villagers he is helping to protect.
Please be assured that the welfare of all Marines is of personal interest to the Commandant of the Marine Corps and to all Marine Corps commanders in the field.
If there is any way that I may be of assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to call on me.
Major General, U. S. Marine Corps
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3
By direction of
Commandant of the Marine Corps
We had a monsoon last night and everything I had got soaked. We’ve been on an operation for about a week now, living outside of the village and ambushing in the jungle. I haven’t been getting much sleep or doing any writing at all. This op is supposed to last for 30 days so I may not be writing much for a while.
Our food, water, and mail is flown in by helicopter every other day. Our mail goes out the same way. We don’t get hot food any more, sometimes the choppers can’t come in because of the rain and wind. Then we go hungry and thirsty.
I don’t mind going hungry and thirsty if I know that they can’tget the stuff to us.
(I don’t know WHAT this letter is all about. Our supplies nearly always came by truck, although I remember being resupplied by choppers a few times. Anyway, the statement about food and water shortages got me in trouble. My mother wrote to her congressman demanding to know why CAP 2 wasn’t getting regular re-supply runs. The congressmen passed her letter to the Marine Corps officer assigned to congressional liaison. It was then passed down the chain of command all the way to 2nd CAG HQ in Hoi An.
I got word one morning from CACO 2-7 to catch the resupply truck on its way to 2nd CAG and report to the 2nd CAG XO. I was mystified how a lowly E-4 had come to the attention of the XO. Hell, I’d never even seen the guy. A couple of hours later I was standing at attention in front of the XO’s desk, getting athorough tongue-lashing. I believe the XO said something about helpless idiots writing bullshit letters to their parents back in the World. I was a lot more careful after that.)
We killed 3 VC during the first 24 hours of the operation. We captured two 9mm pistols and a Chinese Model 56 rifle (SKS). One of the VC was an officer. I got an orange nylon blanket from him (made from a cargo parachute). We also got about ten lbs. of papers, etc.
Dear Mom + Dad,
It started to rain two days ago and the river in our area went over its banks that night. We spent most of yesterday and the night before watching the water rise.
By twelve o’clock, noon, yesterday the water was hip deep on the highest ground in our area. We called for evacuation by helicopter and started helping the people move their pigs and chickens to their roofs.
Our choppers came at about two o’clock so we put on all of our gear and moved onto the highway which had waist deep water (on me) at that time. There was a strong current running and the water was too deep for the chopper to land. They tried to take us aboard by hovering at water level and hauling us in through the cargo hatch at shoulder level to me and it was too high for us to climb in with our heavy, water soaked gear. We got two guys in before the chopper had to pull up.
Our Vietnamese scout was hanging onto the ladder extended from the hatch when the chopper took off and he hung there as the chopper took off and flew to shallower water about 200 meters up the road. We walked up to the chopper and finally got on, along with about ten half-drowned civilians.
While we were trying to get on the chopper the first time the chopper knocked me down and all of my gear got wet.
The two bank drafts of money for my R+R got soggy but they are both still readable. Please find out if they are still good.
All but a couple of my pictures and my address book are ruined so I’m sending some of the addresses that I remember in this letter. My diary was also ruined.
I sent you a MARSgram today. Just for the heck of it. I think the district that includes my ville has been declared a disaster area.
My good buddy, Mike Turner was pulled out of the bush and is now on guard duty in Da Nang. He’s as safe as a church on Sunday, and he only works six hours every two days. He also raises the flag in the A.M. and takes it down at night. Nice, huh? He deserves the good break and I’m glad he got it.
We won’t be getting any mail for awhile so don’t get nervous. I don’t think I’ll have much time to write anyway.