Friday, April 30, 2010

30 April 1970

30 April 1970

It is so hot here - I don’t even believe it - so I know you couldn’t.  We’ve been in one place since last night, but will probably move to a new position this afternoon.

Night before last it poured down all night - and I was soaked and cold - all night.  And now it’s hot - oh well - can’t always be happy.

Got the package of sardines and newspapers.  The sardines are just fine, even though they’re not in olive oil.  Any kind of food from the world is most appreciated.

The Combat Action Ribbon is a “grunts” ribbon for being involved in actual combat.  Most flyers don’t get this ribbon, so I’m proud to have it - even though it’s kind of dangerous to earn.

Photo - A Marine relaxing in the shade.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

29 April 1970

Wednesday morning
29 April 1970

I finally got some mail!  The first in 10 days!  The reason it took so long was that the dumb mail clerk was sending my mail to B Co instead of C Co.  Anyway - I got 2 letters and 2 packages.  Also, a box of slides, the last roll I sent off.

The more I think about Nixon’s speech - the more depressed I become - because he has it set up where he’ll not actually remove troops - but will just stop replacing the ones who leave at the end of their normal time. 

There will be some units pulled out as the people become less - which means I might still get out within the next 3 months.  If any F-4 squadrons leave, my best bet to go also would be about 2 - 3 months from now.  But that is much better than a full 12 months!

Today was 7 days in the bush this time.  Makes about a total of 30 days I’ve spent out in the bush - sleeping on the ground - looking at the stars, sweating and cursing through the long hot day - walking ‘til I’m about to drop - for no apparent reason - all for nothing as I’ve only controlled 1 flight of CAS during all this time!!!  The Marines do not need FACs in Vietnam.

C Co will probably remain out for about another week, then back to Baldy for rehab.  The purpose is to cut down on heat casualties and malaria cases.  When people stay out in the bush for extended periods of time, their stamina begins to break down, making them susceptible to illnesses.  When C company does go back for rehab, I plan to go to Chu Lai for about three days to do some flying, in fact I’m looking forward to it.

I earned my CAR the other night!  It was just about dusk when VC began shooting at us with small arms fire!  Bullets could be heard whistling over head and I was “kissing” the ground!  I couldn’t even get to my fox hole because the bullets were coming so thick!  Fortunately  no one was hit.  An artillery fire mission was called on the area where the fire was coming from, but by that time the VC had run away.  They don’t wait around long, just hit and run, highly mobile and very hard to catch.  One of our ambushes did kill six VC.  One of the VC had about $20,000 in Vietnamese and American money!!!  A big haul.   We figured he was probably a pay master, and we got the payroll!  This ambush spotted these six VC coming down a trail during the night.

The big shots in the Regiment were really impressed.

Today is really hot!  I’m not sure if it’s high temp or high humidity.  We’re set up on a low hill where we spent last night.  We’ve been here all morning.  The sun is glaring down and I sure don’t look forward to having to pack up and move this afternoon.  But we will, because we move every day, if only a little way, just to keep the enemy from being able to really attack us.  What we fear most is mortar attacks, so that’s why we move each evening.  The longer we stay in one place the longer the VC have to set up their mortars and attack us.

My radio operator right now is the  from Amarillo.  His wife is living there now.  He is a Lance Corporal.

This shelter is constructed of four bamboo poles stuck in the ground with a “poncho liner” stretched between them to provide the shade.  A poncho liner is a sort of light weight nylon blanket which is ideal for keeping warm on cool nights, or spreading on the ground, or using for shade.

Since I haven’t been to disbursing since I left Chu Lai, I don’t know for sure how much I now have saved, but I estimate about $460.  Also I have back pay on this new pay raise which should be about $150 more.  I expect the pay raise for me to be about $45 - $50 per month, but am not sure.  Then, if I make Capt, this time, I’ll be making a lot of money during my last year in the Corps.

I intend to go to disbursing at Chu Lai, and see just how much money I do have.  Also I have a very depressing feeling that I’m being over paid since the first of January.  If so, that’ll cut back a little on what I’ve saved.  But I’m not sure.

Photo - make shift shelters

Sunday, April 25, 2010

25 April 1970

0630 Saturday
25 April 1970

Just finished my coffee - so will finish this letter.  During the night one of our ambush patrols killed 6 VC.  That’s an outstanding job - because it’s not often we see that many at one time - much less kill them.  The patrol had one of their men injured and we had to call in a medivac  to get him.  Other than that it was a quiet night for Charlie Co.

I saw 4 falling stars as I was trying to get to sleep and I made the same wish on every one.  So maybe they’ll come true!

We’re set up in the sand dunes, and the sand gets in everything.  This sand is whiter that the sand at Pensacola, and is very fine - almost like powder - so it clings to everything.   Fortunately there is some grass growing in this area, so the sand is not so bad.

I haven’t shaved in 3 days - so I badly need to. But first I have to see if I can find a well in this Ville.  I’d better get started.

Photo - Marines killing time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

24 April 1970

Friday night
24 April 1970

It’s nearly dark - and when the sun sets, all activity ceases!  I’m in the bush once again.  We came out yesterday afternoon.  We spent last night in one place, then moved to a new place for tonight.  I went out on a patrol this morning with a squad.  I wanted to go out to break the monotony.  Also I was hoping we would run into some VC and perhaps get a little action!  But - no!  My phenomenal luck for staying out of direct enemy contact continues!  Ha.

At the end of two weeks, C Co will go back to Baldy for 3 days of rehab, and I will try to go to Chu Lai and do some flying.  I don’t particularly want to fly - but I’d like to get a short vacation from the grunts!

Tonight I had vegetable beef soup for dinner.  Since one package makes so much, my radio operator and I shared it.  Also, I’ve already eaten one can of pudding, and 2 packs of Kool-Aid.  In only 24 hours in the bush.  So, I’ll need more.

We should get resupply tomorrow, so I’ll get this in the mail, and maybe I’ll get some mail, to.

Right now is the best part of the day.  The sun is now down, there is a cool breeze, I’m smoking a good cigar, and have a full stomach!  What more could I want?  Ha.

Photo - Marines eating meal in a burned out house.  In center of photo can be seen the opening of a cache of rice buried in the floor.

Friday, April 23, 2010

23 April 1970

23 April 1970

I’m returning to the bush this afternoon!!!  I’ve had all the soft life I can take!  Ha.  I guess it might look like I’m quitting by running back to the bush to get away from the Col. - well I am!  I just can’t see putting up with him when I can be out in the bush where the action is and no one bothers me.

C Co has a new CO.  He is a guy I went to TBS [The Basic School, six month course for new Marine officers ] with - but he is a Captain now.  He had graduated from the Naval Academy a year before TBS and had gone to school in Europe.  So - since he is a Capt, I have to say “sir” and I can’t call him by his first name, etc.  Proper protocol dictates this in the division!

Right now the helicopters are on weather hold in Marble Mountain, so things are already getting all balled up.  Everyday something seems to get messed up.  Although yesterday was better than most!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

22 April 1970

22 April 1970

(from diary)

Am listening to our new S-3 giving the daily brief.  Boy, is he a loo-loo!

Photo - not the new S-3.  Rather, a fellow Lt. sitting at the table in our hooch.  Note the television.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

21 April 1970

21 April 1970

Got a letter today!

I may go back to the bush day after tomorrow with C Co..  They are here at Baldy now for a few days rest.  Ron Boehm, the other air officer, has been out in the bush 3 days and he’s ready to come back!  He earned his combat action ribbon last night - and I still don’t have mine.  I talked to Ron today when I was out at B Company’s position.  The Col. went out there on the C & C helicopter, and I had to go along.  Ron actually prefers to be at Baldy - and I prefer the bush!  I just can’t put up with all the nonsense which goes on back here.

There’s no doubt in my mind that by the end of July I’ll be out of Vietnam.  President Nixon’s speech today reemphasized the troop withdrawals - and there are a number of indications that most of the Marines will be out in the next 3 months.  I expect the 7th Marines will leave before the end of June.

I said Ron had earned his C.A.R.  He is with B Co. right now, and they were ambushed last night.  Ron said he was in his hole and the bullets were really flying!!  Luckily no one was hurt.

A lot of our injuries come from booby traps.  The way booby traps are placed, most of the injury is to the lower half of the body.  As a result a lot of legs are blown off.  But something else - in most cases the man’s testicles are severely injured!  Something a lot of people wouldn’t think of.

Photo - Vietnamese cemetery.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

20 April 1970

Monday night
20 April 1970

I have not received a letter for about 4 days.  However, I did receive 2 Navy Times one day, and a package of chocolate pudding and a pack of instant soup.

The operation I wrote about several days ago, was this morning.  I had planned the whole thing as far as the helicopters we used (9) and fixed wing air (2 A-4’s).  I planned the schedule or time table.

L hour minus 45 minutes - Aerial observer on station.
L hour minus 30 - Artillery prep of Landing Zone begins
L hour minus 20 - Helicopters arrive at Baldy
L hour minus 10 - Helicopters depart Baldy
L hour minus 01 - Artillery prep ends
L hour    Helicopters land and air strike begins.

The objective was an inland island, surround by rivers.  I went to Marble Mountain yesterday with some other officers from here, to conduct the “Zippo” brief.  Marble Mountain is the helicopter air field at Danang.  We went up before lunch, and then gave the brief at 1400.  There were about 20 people there from the various squadrons that would be supporting our operation.  I briefed these people on the whole operation.  That is what my job as ALO is really all about.

I can say, truthfully, that 2  first lieutenants planned this whole operation!!  The artillery officer for the Battalion, and myself.  We have a new operations officer here and he is totally incompetent!  The CO was very pleased with the way the operation went.  He said it was just like the book says.  Just like a field problem back in the states.

The LZ itself wasn’t defended, but one of the A-4’s took a hit while he was bombing the south end of the island.  The A-4’s dropped napalm on one end of the island, while the helicopters were landing at the other end.  They didn’t find anyone on the island, but some civilians in the area said they saw several wounded VC going through their village right after the artillery prep and air strike.

I had put in a lot of time planning this helicopter assault, and I was quite pleased with the outcome.  So now that the operation is over, I’ll go back to the old day to day routine of petty details - like the C&C helicopters!

I’m anxiously awaiting President Nixon’s speech, which I hope we’ll finally hear tomorrow night!  However, I don’t expect him to say much, if it was so unimportant he could put it off.  Or, maybe, he didn’t want to share the news space with the astronauts in space!??

Photo - Marines making a meal of c-rations.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

18 April 1970

18 April 1970

I conducted the C & C this morning, which went fairly successful!  We had a couple of problems and the CO was peeved a couple of times - but as a whole things went well.

I’ve been very busy the past couple of days and will be for a few more.  We’re planning an operation, and I have to do all the planning for helicopters and air support.  Also, I might be going to the bush again in a few days, but I won’t mind that to much because I’m already tired of being back at Baldy!  I’m tired of the nonsense that goes on in this COC!!  Never happy!!

Photo - that garbage can is in a lot of my pictures.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

17 April 1970

Friday morning
17 April 1970

Another day - another headache!!  We had requested four flights of air for this morning - and aren’t receiving any!

I got two Navy Times yesterday, but that’s all.

I think I’m already ready to go back to the bush!  Yesterday I spent about 14 hours in the COC.  I finally left about 10 last night to go to bed, but I was called back at 11 so the CO could tell me he didn’t need a C & C bird for today!!  A C & C bird is a Command and Control bird, helicopters, which we use for the CO to go out to the bush and visit the companies, or make visual reconnaissance, or any general purpose we have. 

Anyway - I have to make up the schedule for this helicopter and the Col. gets very upset if things don’t go exactly as planned.  A lot of times we can’t get the helicopter when we want it and the CO becomes quite difficult.  I usually spend my whole day just planning and worrying about the C & C and we only use it for about 1 to 11/2 hours.  Thank god we don’t have it requested for today.

We heard a new rumor this morning - that the artillery battalion which is supporting the 7th Marines, is to be pulled out of Vietnam by 15 June!  Which means the 7th Marines must be going out also.  Of course that only means I would go back to Chu Lai before my 100 days is finished.

Friday, April 16, 2010

16 April 1970

Thursday morning
16 April 1970

Rats - Rats - Rats - President Nixon put off his much awaited speech, much to the disappointment of every Marine in Vietnam!  I couldn’t even believe the reason that was given for doing so.  If the men in Vietnam don’t mean more than 3 men in space, I wonder if he is going to announce a troop withdrawal at this time!

R & R in Tokyo would be wonderful.  Of course, it’ll cost more, but that shouldn’t be any problem.  So from this minute forward, I’ll plan on R & R in Tokyo on the 1st of August.  I’ll put in my request for that.  I haven’t talked to anyone who has gone there for R & R, so I don’t have any idea about places to stay.  But they’ll have a Hilton Hotel there.  Of course all of this will be subject to cancellation, in event I leave Vietnam before 1  August and I’m fairly sure I will ! (I hope)

As things stand right now, I’d like to stay here until June or July, then go to Japan for the remainder of my tour.

I’m sitting in the COC right now, and another long day has begun.  I hope this day won’t be as hectic as was yesterday!!  Last night I went to the o’club to the movie, and I was called back to the COC in the middle of the movie.  One of our companies was in contact and they had requested an airplane to drop flares over their position.  As it turned out, they didn’t need the airplane, and shouldn’t have requested it.  Fortunately, I had already seen the movie, so I didn’t miss anything there!

I received the package of soup and Kool-Aid yesterday.  I won’t have to use it here at Baldy, but I’ll save it until I go to the bush again - then it’ll be great to have!!  Haven’t got the pudding yet.

Photo - View of enlisted housing at LZ Baldy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

15 April 1970

Wednesday morning
15 April 1970

I am now the ALO, the duty expert - and responsible for everything that flies! Ha.  The CO of this battalion is so screwed I don’t even believe it!  He is always worried about things getting screwed up and he causes about 50% of our trouble.

Tomorrow, I hope, we’ll hear some good word about troop withdrawals.

Since I’m back at Baldy, now, I’ll have less to write about - because everyday is just like the day before.  Nothing new ever happens.

I do plan to buy a slide projector before I return to the states.  I can probably get one at Chu Lai, when I get back there.  I intend to get a projector with a slide tray that holds as many slides as possible, 80 or more.  Then I’ll get some extra trays.  I figure I’ve taken over 200 pictures since I’ve been over here.  Right now I have over 50 slides, here.  I  have another 36 slides sent off for developing.

The pictures I sent in my last letter were taken with my new camera.  I bought it at Chu Lai for less than $50 - and it can take pictures inside without a flash!!  However, it has to be real well lit inside.

The camera is a Konica S2, 35 mm, and has an automatic electric eye.   It also has all the goodies I wanted.  It takes up to 36 slides or pictures per roll.  I’ve been taking it out to the bush with me, so I have a lot of pictures of the troops, Vietnamese, etc.  The roll I have sent off now should have the best pictures on it.  I’ll be sending a few of the B & W pictures in each letter.  I’ll send the slides when I get a chance.

I intend to buy a flash attachment, and a tripod for the camera.  The camera has a time setting on it that allows about 15 secs between the time the button is depressed and the picture actually takes.  So by using a tripod, we can take pictures of ourselves, with everyone in the picture.  Great, eh?

I’ve been very pleased with the pictures I’ve been getting with the camera.  I borrowed a flash attachment at Chu Lai and took pictures of one of the floor shows we had.  Some of the slides are real good.  However, I was to far away to get really good pictures.

Photo - LTs with to much time on their hands.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

14 April 1970

14 April 1970

I got back to Baldy yesterday, and I hope to be here for awhile.

I stayed with the 3rd platoon for 3 nights, and even went out on a  patrol one day - but I still wasn’t in any direct enemy contact.

The past two nights have been very cold.  I guess it must be some kind of cold front, because the wind blows very hard and cold.

I received a package of candy, but that’s the only mail I’ve had in the past 5 days.  It’s possible some mail may have gone out to Charlie Co. on the re-supply yesterday.  If so, I won’t  receive it for a couple of days.  I don’t have any news in particular, because nothing has happened.

It’s really great being back at Baldy.  Had 2 good meals yesterday and my first decent night sleep in 12 days.

Only 3 more days until Pres. Nixon’s speech.  I just hope we’re not disappointed when he makes it.

This new job, ALO, will be mostly a pain-in-the-neck.  The main thing is to be the duty expert on anything that flies!  The ALO has to see that all re-supply, troop lifts, CAS, etc. are requested and run smoothly.  The Battalion CO is a real character, and he gets very upset if things go wrong.

I have a feeling that the  days are going to be much longer here, than they were out in the bush - if possible.  I have to sit in the COC all day long, and be available all night.

Photo - Command Operating Center, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, LZ Baldy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

13 April 1970

13 April 1970

(from diary)

Returned to Baldy today.  Will become ALO - the duty expert on anything that flies.

Went on Command and Control flight with the battalion commander this afternoon.  Murphy thoroughly routed!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

12 April 1970

12 April, 1970

(following is entry from diary)

Spent all day on patrol with 1st Sqd.  No contact, and went swimming!! Most enjoyable.  Observed many civilians going north early this morning.  Figure they were going to the market some where.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

11 April 1970

11 April 1970

For the past 24 hours I’ve been attached to the 3rd platoon.  We are acting as a blocking force for an operation - the theory being that we’ll keep the enemy from escaping in this direction.  However we’ve had no contact and haven’t seen any particularly suspicious people.  We’re set up around a burned farm house right now, for the night.

Well, the President has announced his announcement, concerning future troop withdrawals and every Marine is most anxious to hear his speech.  We all expect the 7th Marines to be withdrawn this time and, I hope, the F-4’s.

The Commanding General of 1st MarDiv - Maj. Gen Wheeler - visited C Co in the bush day before yesterday (or was it yesterday).  Of course all the officers in C Co talked to him, reluctantly.  Actually he did all the talking!  He asked me how long I had been with C Co, where I was before, how long there, etc.,  then he said C Co was a very good company to be with.   C Co is the largest company in the battalion and, in fact, (I guess) is the best.  Even if they are, I’ve seen a lot of practices I wasn’t very pleased with.

I had to stop and put my gas mask on!!!   For the second time in two days I’ve been gassed by our own people.  It’s CS gas, used in the states for riots.  It’s being put in bunkers in that hamlet that C Co is in.  however, we are about a mile away, but a strong wind is blowing the gas right to our position.  This gas burns the eyes and skin and can cause nausea.

I have a new radio operator with me.  He came out yesterday.  He is from Amarillo.  He’s been trying to get emergency leave for about the past week.  Red Cross approved it and so did battalion - but division denied it.  I think he’s having  some kind of marital trouble - but he hasn’t talked about it.  He has a son about 15 months old.

When I think that my boys are 2 and 3 - I really feel like an old man!  Most of the Marines (enlisted) are between 18-21.   When I tell them how long I’ve been in the corps, married, sons, etc. they are really awed.  Doesn’t seem that long ago that I was 21.

Right now I can see traffic moving along Highway 1, about 2 miles away.  Those vehicles move in relative safety,  yet we suspect there is a Vietcong battalion operating in this area.  There  is really no way we can rid this country of the Vietcong - because we can’t catch them.  They fight on their terms, when they wish.  Their tactics consist of sniping, ambushes, and booby traps.  All the casualties we’ve had in the past month have been from booby traps or snipers.  And it’s frustrating because we can’t do a thing about it!!

Photo - my radio operator frying a slice of ham on a "c-ration can stove".

Saturday, April 10, 2010

10 April 1970

10 April 2010

I should be selected for Captain this time - if they promote as many as they did last year.  However, I probably wouldn’t actually get promoted for a few more months.

I took a shower today!  Of course I had to build my own shower and get people to poor water for me!  I suspended a bucket, with holes punched in the bottom, from a bamboo pole near the well in this hamlet.  Then two people poured water into the bucket while I showered beneath it.  Then we switched and I helped pour water for the next man.

I found out today that I’ll be going back to Baldy on Monday - probably.

I got a package of Hershey’s from my folks today.  It was the candy they had sent to Chu Lai and it just now reached me.

They are burning all the houses in this village.  The village chief and hamlet chief say that this village and all the people in it are VC sympathizers.  Seems that the Vietcong live here until the Marines come, then the VC all leave and only the women and children stay behind.

So this hamlet which I said was so prosperous, is being completely destroyed by the very people who, supposedly, govern it.  I don’t know who elected (or appointed) the chiefs (mayors), but I’ll bet the people who live here didn’t have anything to do with it.

I got a couple of good pictures of my friend taking a shower.  They may be obscene!  He also took some pictures of me on his camera.  We’ll probably exchange pictures when they get developed.

We’ve been in this position for 4 days now, which is really great.  I get tired of having to walk to a new place every day.

(following is from diary entry dated 10 April)

Today I tired of being dirty and lazy so I remedied both by building a shower and recruiting two men to help me shower by pouring water.  I, in turn, poured water for them.  We, jokingly, labeled ourselves “geisha guys” and toyed with the idea of hiring out our services as pourers.  Idea rejected!

This beautiful hamlet is a shambles because Marines live like pigs!  But, never mind, we’re allowing the hamlet to be burned down by the local officials (?) who claim this is a VC hamlet.  I wonder who elected these officials.  Also, how much profit do they pocket from the sale of the confiscated rice which we gathered up and then turned over to the village officials.

Friday, April 9, 2010

9 April 1970

9 April 1970

I finally got a letter today!!  Something I would like to have is packages of instant oatmeal or cream of wheat, etc.  Anything that can be mixed with water I would love to have!  Makes a good relief from c-rations.

We’re still in this village where we shot the VC.  We found out that the woman who was protecting him was either his wife, or they were “shacking up”.  I guess we’ll be moving out of here tomorrow - but I’m not sure.

Ron, the ALO, wanted me to come back to Baldy, so he could go to Danang for a few days to get some flight time.  However the Battalion CO said he would have to wait a few days.  Why, I don’t know.

Right at this minute we’re having trouble with the helicopter who is supposed to pick up the Bn CO.  He came out here to our position for a briefing with all the company COs but now we can’t get the helicopter back!  I hate working with the choppers because they are so undependable!

A nice thing about being in this village is that it has bamboo thickets all around so we can stay in the shade at all times.  The sun really glares down and, with the humidity, is quite uncomfortable.

I’ve started a diary!!  Seems like every day there is something happens that is so ridiculous that I just have to write it down - since I can’t bitch to anyone, really.  These ground pounders are so retarded I can’t even believe it!

(following is from diary entry of 9 April)

C and C [command and control] bird is all screwed up, as usual.

Village and hamlet chiefs showed up and want to burn this place to the ground.  All the civilians packed up and left.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

8 April 1970

Wednesday morning
8 April 1970


During the night we found a VC inside one of the straw thatch houses right here inside our lines!  In fact this house was about 25 yards from where the company CO  was sleeping, and less than 50 yards from me! 

He apparently was flashing a light, as though signaling someone.  We got our K.C.S. (Kit Carson Scout - former VC turned good guy) who tried to get the VC to come out.  He would not come out so they threw a flare grenade up next to the house to light it up.  The VC still would not come out - so the K.C.S. opened  fire with his rifle and killed him!

 So I’ve now seen my first dead VC.  Meanwhile, the house caught on fire and burned to the ground, so the Marines turned firemen to keep the fire from spreading.

We found out that this VC had been here about 3 days and these people were hiding him all yesterday afternoon after we came in here.

So this morning, all the people who live in this hamlet have been gathered up and we are going to search this hamlet good.  These people are definitely VC sympathizers .  We came in here to protect these people from the VC!! and we find out they’re hiding one.  How about that.

(Following is entry from diary - 8 April)

Yesterday we moved across the sand dunes again and set up in a hamlet.  This hamlet appeared quite prosperous and friendly.  However, the "friendly" was mere put on for we discovered a VC hiding in a house near the C.P.  He was shot to death by the KCS when he refused to come out.  Also, the house caught fire and burned down.  The remainder of the night passed uneventfully. 

This morning all the people in this hamlet were gathered in the C.P. and the KCS harangued them all morning long.  We sent for National Policemen to come, and they arrived about noon to take charge of the villagers.

One young woman especially strikes me as being quite intelligent and even educated - as she seems to be a bit amused by all that is happening.  She is quite attractive as far as peasant Vietnamese women go.  Has small child about 2 years.

VC was shot in head and had gaping hole in left temple.  My first look at a dead (or live) VC.

Ate dinner with the National Policemen.  Very good food - c-rations cooked with rice.  Also hot tea followed by cigarettes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

7 April 1970

Tuesday night
7 April 1970

This is the first letter I’ve written since last Saturday.  This is first time I’ve really felt like writing.  We’ve moved thrice since then and all have been long, tiring walks!! 

Yesterday and today we moved across white sand dunes at noontime under a glaring sun!  Last night I had a bit of a sun burn.  This afternoon we’ve set up in a very nice, prosperous hamlet.  It is surrounded by fertile fields of ripe rice which they are harvesting.  They have, also, fields of vegetables, and we found a field of ripe cucumbers!  Boy, were they good!!

I don’t know just how long we’ll be here, but I expect we’ll move on tomorrow.

I got some mail today on the re-supply, a letter and some newspapers.

Each day I’m out here with the grunts I realize more just how little good we are doing.  There are supposed to be lots of VC around, but we just can’t ever catch them!  We’ve had more casualties than we can claim to have inflicted!  Also, I’ve done absolutely nothing!!  In the 3 weeks I’ve been a  FAC, I’ve done my job one time!  One time I’ve controlled a flight of CAS!!!!

The kids in these hamlets are professional beggars!  Ha.  All they know is to ask for cigarettes and food!  I took a picture of one small boy who was "selling" water for cigarettes.  I got another good picture of an old woman being doctored by our corpsman.  She had a bad sore on her hand and he cleaned it up and dressed it.

The best thing of all about being in the hamlet is that the VC probably won’t attack us because they would hurt the civilians - not that the VC particularly care about the people.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

4 April 1970

4 April 1970

I’m in the bush again.  We came out yesterday.

Today has been, perhaps, one of the most enlightening days of my entire life.

We had a squad out on patrol this morning and they found three North Vietnamese soldiers sleeping in a hooch and took them prisoner.  They had uniforms, weapons, packs, first aid equipment, hand grenades, and other equipment.  There is no doubt they were from the north.

The POWs were brought back to the company CP, where a LT we have with us interrogated them.  He found out they were from Hanoi.  One was a sergeant  and the other two privates.  One of them had three pictures.  One picture of him, one with his wife and child, and a picture of, he said, his sister.

The POWs were tied by the neck to a long pole, and their hands were tied behind their backs.  They were, needless to say, very uncomfortable.  None of the Marines cared, though.  Instead they called them dirty names and threatened to shoot them if they didn’t talk, etc, etc.  All this pissed me off!!  I gave the POWs cigarettes (which I lit and put in their mouths) and the company commander made a wise crack about that.  He later said he thought I was in love with them.

Then one of the prisoners complained that his arms hurt, so I loosened his bonds and massaged his wrists.  Another Marine followed suit and helped do the same for the other two.

We had the prisoners here about two hours before a helicopter finally came to get them.  In all that time, only four to six people showed any compassion at all for these people.   One guy gave them some water and another one gave them some food.  After eating and drinking, two of the prisoners had to urinate and the third had to “pass his bowels”, so I took the initiative to untie one of them so he could urinate, them some other Marines helped the other two.

It’s a very sad thing that the majority of the Marines felt nothing but contempt for the prisoners.  I’m not bragging a bit to say that I was the first to show any compassion for them.  Fortunately I’m the senior man here, so no one said anything about it or tried to stop me.  I was so disgusted at my fellow Americans, lovers of peace and freedom I could vomit.  One Marine who was guarding them said he hoped they tried to run so he could kill them!!!!

These three men were asked why they came to the south to fight and one said “he didn’t want to come, they made him.”  How many of these Marines say the same thing about why they are here?  Nearly everyone of them!  Yet they hate these poor prisoners, tied up, scared stiff, uncomfortable, and definitely not dangerous anymore.

Although these prisoners probably would kill me if they had the chance, I still felt sorry for them.  When the helicopter finally arrived, I blind folded them (I really don’t know why, it just seemed the thing to do) and helped load them on the chopper.  I could tell they were scared because they didn’t know what we were about to do with them.  They’ll be taken back to Baldy and interrogated more, then put in a POW camp.

I took a couple of pictures and I’m anxious to get them developed.

We left Baldy yesterday afternoon about 1645 and walked out about two miles south of Baldy.  Our mission is to provide a react force against the enemy if Baldy is rocketed during the night.  Last night passed uneventfully.  However it did rain during the night which was very uncomfortable!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

3 April 1970

Friday morning
3 April 1970

Things are the same here - boring!!  The only bright spot on the horizon is the dim hope that there will be a big troop withdrawal announced 15 April, which will get me out of here.

The past two nights I’ve had to stand the watch in the combat operation center, from 0400-0800.  I’m doing that right now.  It’s kind of like ODO.  The reason I’m having to stand it is because there is a shortage of operation people here to handle the watch.  The battalion is due to return today, so I should be out of this watch in the future.  It does give me something to do, but such an ungodly time of day.

The battalion will be taking over a new area of operation and will be off of “swing battalion”.  This means the companies will be doing individual operations in the immediate area of LZ Baldy.  I’ll become the ALO for the battalion, I think, because Ron wants to be a FAC for awhile with a company.  I don’t much want to stay at Baldy, but it is better than being in the bush.

I went to the movie last night and saw two thirds of “The Sergeant“.   We watched the first reel of the movie, then the last reel, by mistake, so didn’t bother to watch the middle reel!  Only in Vietnam can things be so screwed up!!

The combat operation center is the nerve center for the battalion and has to have a watch officer at all times.  The two times I’ve had the watch have been uneventful.

Photo - our artillery forward observer, who was, later, awarded the Purple Heart.

Friday, April 2, 2010

2 April 1970

2 April 1970

It’s raining now and I’m proud I’m not out in the bush getting soaked!!

We’ve decided that the reason we are on the “react” deal is because of the “expected” spring offensive.  Seems like we expect some kind of offensive attack by the enemy for every season change and every national holiday!

Photo - my radio operator.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

1 April 1970

Wednesday morning
1 April 1970

Here it is - April Fools Day - beginning my 6th month.  I’m not counting this as half way point.  I count it as about two thirds point!!

We’re still at Baldy doing nothing!  In the past two days I’ve read three paperback books and part of another!  I’ve done nothing except read and eat!  I think I’ve already put back the weight I had lost in the bush!

We’ve been told that we may go out tonight on tanks to practice reacting, or something.  It is almost impossible to get the word ahead of time because of the security problems.  Yesterday and today the troops of Charlie company have had some exercises with the tanks - so I guess that might be some indication.  Apparently this period of time is a high threat time and we might get attacked.

We were supposed to have a brief yesterday on “the selection of landing zones”, but the brief was cancelled when the helicopters carrying the briefing team collided with each other!!!  The helicopters are something we can’t do without - but they are so undependable!  The chopper brings us our food, water, and mail, and picks up our wounded, but we still curse them!!  I’ve grown to dislike helicopters even more than I did before!  I especially hate to fly on them.

My radio operator is a negro boy from South Carolina.  He jumped from a PFC to Cpl in two days and was nominated for the Silver Star, all because of his heroic actions during a battle in February.  He is a real character, as most young negroes are - but a good man all the same.

A friend of mine, an artillery forward observer assigned to Charlie company, and I are about to walk down to the PX just to have something to do - because I really don’t need anything!  This guy is from Boston and knows Don Mikulka and his family - in fact they lived in the same neighborhood.  Small world (again)!

Listening to the news and hear that Maryland has legalized abortions - it’s about time states have finally begun to do this.

Photo - three Lts. - air, artillery and naval gunfire.