LETTERS HOME FROM VIETNAM
Jan 12, 1969
I got the package yesterday, and I was real grateful. We are low on C-rations, and there is hardly any water.
We are supposed to be out in the bush for 4 days, but it ended up we're still out here. It's been about 2 weeks now. We are guarding this road. Making sure no VC get anywhere near the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines area, (1/1). Every afternon I've got gate watch. We all take turns from dawn to dusk. We just have to check out the ID's of the civilians going up and down the road. If they don't have an ID they are suspected of being a VC. The gate is a big cement grave. Our whole perimeter is set up in a big graveyard. In fact, our bunker is on top of a cement grave with sandbags on all sides. On one end we built a little hootch, and our machine gun is set right on top where the body was laid. I think that's pretty cool. Inside the hootch there is the tombstone with all kinds of Chinese writing on it. At night we have a candle burning inside to see by.
Last night I went on a fire team-sized patrol, a fire team consists of 4 people. The leader was some corporal who I don't feel safe with at all. He got here in Vietnam the same time I did, but he was put in charge right away because he's a corporal. He goes by the book on everything. If we get hit we aren't supposed to fire back, only on his command. I'd rather be with somebody that has a little more time in country, and knows what to do.
In about 5 months I will be the machine gunner for this squad, and in about 7 months I will be team leader. All the other guys in this gun team will be going home around the same time. Now I'm just the last ammo humper, but I don't mind just as long as I gradually learn my job.
Soon I will have T-I-C, (time in country), and the experience. That's what counts here.
I'm learning this language ok now, but the Marines only know a few phrases like "come here," "go away," "let me see your ID," etc; but I want to learn more than this.
Mom, you were wondering what kinds of birds they have here. They are beautiful, nothing like in the USA. There's swans, and big white birds with long necks, and ordinary birds with crowns on their heads, and then other birds that look like sparrows, only half their size.
I'm glad to hear you had snow. I kind of wish it would snow here once in awhile.
Enclosed are some pictures. Could you save them for me? They'll get ruined over here. You can have the ones of me if you want. Also enclosed is part of a diary I started when I first got here. I'd better go now.
Note: VC = Viet Cong
Hootch = this is any temporary, or permanant dwelling either built by Marines, or already existing. It is a place where Marines live. It can be made of sticks covered with canvas, or a poncho liner. It can be a wooden building built by Sea-Rees. It can be small, or big.
January 29, 1969
About those pictures that I sent home. I know some of them didn't turn out so well, but I believe that man you talked to was wrong. Mom, all those pictures were taken in broad daylight. They were so light probably because the way these Vietnamese people develop them. They don't even develop all the pictures.
They cut off about 1/16th of every picture so it would fit the paper they use. I'm sending some more pictures in this letter. These were taken while we were guarding that road. I took one picture of a Vietnamese grave, but they cut part of the grave out of it so the picture ended up looking like I just took it of a tree line. You can send film if you want to. Right now the PX is out, and has been for over a month. But don't send any flash bulbs. I dropped my camera a couple of times and now it won't take flash bulbs. That little light doesn't work anymore. One time I tried flash bulbs but it didn't work. 126 is the size of film. I'll send negatives home too because I want to keep them. Yes, they were all taken with my camera.
Most everybody takes their camera out in the field, There's a lot to take pictures of.
I got that birthday cake about the 24th, and it was good. I opened it and cut it up and took a piece out, turned my head a second then looked back and the cake disappeared. Everybody in the tent got a piece. They liked it. Especially since it came from the "World." Everything you sent so far is in good shape except for a few crumbled cookies, but that's ok. The cake was in perfect condition. The paper gets here regularly. Sometimes I get 2 papers at a time.
Here I am 20 years old now. I'm a man now, not a teenager anymore. We went out this morning as a blocking force while another platoon swept through a ville. Usually our platoon is the one that always has to sweep. It's pretty interesting when you sweep a ville, because you get to check out houses and people. Sweeping a field is a pain in the neck.
A couple of nights ago there was this guy playing his guitar on a platform in our area. He was singing folk songs. I went up to watch, and some guys I knew wanted me to play and sing, so I went down and got my guitar and we took turns playing and singing all night long, and swapping songs. It was fun. Usually at night when I'm playing my guitar, a couple friends of mine come over and we sing all kinds of songs. One night we sang 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore' for about 2 hours. The songs we mostly sing is stuff like 'Red River Valley,' 'Tom Dooley,' 'JesseJames,' and stuff like that. I like to sing other things, but most of the guys in this tent are from the south, and that's all they know by heart. In fact everyone in this tent is from the south. I'm the only one from the north. I'd better go now.
February 24, 1969
Sorry I haven't written in a while. We just got back from an operation yesterday, and it's been a very busy 2 weeks. We went down to a place called Dodge City and there is buku gooks (there). We got choppered in. While we were landing we got sniped at all the way down. One guy got shot in the leg. We landed in a big field of elephant grass. It's about 6 feet tall and is real thick. (The temperature) is about 1000 out. (In addition to all this) we had all our gear on, including packs, so it was a hard hump. Out of our company we had about 5 heat casualties, and four of our men got medevacked out. (Medical evacuation) Everyone else was physically exhausted, and we were short of water. Finally we made it to where we were going, so we set up a perimeter. The next day Bravo Company went out, and Mike Company stayed back. They got into a fire fight and one man got killed. The next day, and all the rest of the time we were there; we went out, and Bravo stayed back. We were cut no huss. Everyday we'd go out in that blazing sun with only two canteens of water. It was truely hell. The third day we got into a real bad firefight. There was NVA everywhere. Everyone was hollering "Guns up!" We were already on our way. We ran about 20 meters. The NVA already made their hat on the other side of a birm wall.
We made it up (the wall) and set the gun up, and sprayed the area in front of us. I was so busy getting belts of ammo ready to feed into the gun, I didn't have time to shoot my rifle. I only shot up around 18 rounds, one magazine. The other gun team hit a booby-trap and Kenny, one of my good friends, got a piece of shrapnel in his arm. It was a miracle that nobody else in the team caught any. I guess they all hit the deck at the right time. Another one of my friends, Butch H. got a piece of shrapnel in his chin. He got really pissed off. Finally the shooting stopped, and they called in air strikes. So the bombers came and bombed the hell out of the area 20 meters in front of us. We thought they were bombing us at first, because it was so close, and all kinds of dirt clods fell on top of us. If it weren't for our flack gear and helmets we would have taken casualties. As it was, Kenny, the guy who got shrapnel in his arm (while on the birm wall), got a big chunk of dirt dropped on his back and broke it. We could hear him screaming and yelling in pain as they took him on a stretcher. Finally Doc decided to give him morphine to ease the pain. Then they took him to the chopper to be medevacked out. There was one man killed in the firefight. He got shot in the back of the neck. By the time Doc Collins got to him the last of his blood spurted out of him.
Doc was in hysteria. He's really a brave guy. Whenever anything happens he's right there. He's always worrying about us too. Always making sure everyone takes their salt tablets and malaria pills. All together that day we lost 11 men. 1 killed and 10 injured. For seven days we lost one man a day. Sometimes 2,3, and four a day. They were all heat casualties. We were down to 17 grunts left out of 32. Then after a few days they brought new men in.
At night the gooks were at it too. They'd sneak up to a hole and drop a grenade. Many people were wounded (this way), and a couple were killed. I just thank the Good Lord none came up to our hole. A couple of times I thought I heard something and threw grenades, and shot at it with my rifle even if it was nothing. I felt a lot better about it after I fired at it.
Well, it ended up we came back yesterday. We weren't even back 20 minutes when we had to go back out again. One guy got killed (a guy I came over to Vietnam with), and 5 injured. We were very happy when we got back from that operation, and then that had to happen. It was hard on everyone.
A few days later
We had to go out again since I started this letter. We weren't here over 8 hours and we were (called) out in the bush again.
Concerning that old graveyard (in Snohomish). I knew there was a graveyard there, but somebody told me it was an old Indian Graveyard. I never went there. Someday maybe I will.
You asked me if I wanted to be a member of that Historical Society. Well, I wouldn't mind it, but is it for old people or what?
|This site designed by WhatRain Internet Services|