Monday, May 31, 2010

31 May 1970

31 May 1970
(from diary)

Today I observed the influence of politics!  One of the sergeants  was to go to Danang to meet the mayor of his hometown, Macon, Ga.  Well ---the General’s chopper came down to pick him up!!  But no one could find the sergeant.  After a good deal of screaming by colonels, majors and lieutenants, it was determined that the sergeant had got on the wrong helicopter and was on his way to Danang!  Well, this flabbergasted the heavies who couldn’t understand how anyone could be so dumb.

However, it seemed perfectly logical to me.  The poor guy had been told to get down to the VIP pad because the chopper was there waiting for him.  So he went there and got on the only chopper that was running!!

Well, Ron finally got in touch with that chopper and told it to take our lost boy to LZ 400 in Danang.  He got there, probably completely oblivious to all the trouble he had caused.

I have to go back to the bush because Ron is afraid to go to the bush!!!!  He says he doesn’t want to risk getting hurt this close to his R and R. I really feel for him!  Ha.  He has skated this whole tour.   But, he’s a pilot and I’m only a RIO.  Besides, he is six months senior.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

30 May 1970

30 May 1970

Well, another week and month are just about over.  Time is beginning to fly by now.  I have less than four weeks left with the grunts, and less than five months in Vietnam.

Only 8 weeks ‘til R&R and then 10 weeks after R&R!  So just about over this miserable year!

The little operation I went to Danang to brief, was yesterday.  We dropped 40 barrels of napalm from a helicopter, attempting to burn out a bamboo thicket.  Well - 16 of the barrels landed in the river next to the thicket, and the other 24 missed the thicket to!  So the whole business was a big waste of time!!  The helicopter pilot got some practice dropping napalm - and I got two free trips to Danang - and it did break the monotony of life.

I expect to go back to the bush in about two days  as Ron will be back from R and R.  I’ll probably stay out about 11 days - until Ron leaves, then I’ll come back to Baldy for the rest of my tour.

I received a Lubbock newspaper and it had all the pictures and stories about the tornado.  That was really some storm.  I’m glad we weren’t there.

I guess you all are starting to make preparations for the wedding.  Sure wish I could be there for it.  Just doesn’t seem possible that kid brother is getting married.

When I get back to the squadron I’ll be the top RIO for a PAR trip to Japan!  So maybe I can manage two trips to Japan during the next 5 months!

The temperature here is really becoming hot.  Each day the temperature is about 100 degrees in the shade - and this isn’t even the hot season yet!  I can imagine I’ll be most uncomfortable for the rest of my FAC tour.

I bought this pen I’m using in Danang the other day - on impulse - and I can’t decide if I like it.  It writes so heavy the page looks cluttered!

Chocolate from the world to really great to get.  The candy we get in our c-rations has a funny flavor and just doesn’t taste like chocolate.

Photo - A viet cong prisoner, a Korean Marine and one our Marines.

Friday, May 28, 2010

28 May 1970

28 May 1970
(from diary)

We’re in the process of running an air strike on a target of dubious quality!  We are going to throw bombs and napalm on the ground for fun.  Oh well - we’ll all get some good practice.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

27 May 1970

27 May 1970

Right now we’re having a thunderstorm of all the ferocity of the South Plains!!  I’ve seen nothing like this since I’ve been here.  I’m sure glad I’m at Baldy right now.  We’re supposed to have a USO show - but it was to be outside - so I don’t know if we’ll have it now.

I went to Danang yesterday - but we didn’t have the brief I went for.  Someone had screwed up, and no one knew about the brief.  So - I’m going up again tomorrow and try again!

Bravo Co is here, now, for rehab.  I’ll probably go back to the bush with them on the first.  Ron Boehm is leaving the 13th or next month, so I’ll come back to Baldy for the rest of my tour.

Getting back to Chu Lai will be a great feeling!  I’ll never complain again after this 100 days!  It’s still raining and thundering just like the storms at Lubbock.  One thing good is that in the space of 15 mins - I bet the temp dropped about 15 degrees.

I got a package of candy, Kool-Aid, etc.  The candy was all crushed - but still very good.

The mail hasn’t come yet today, but I hope I get some - I look forward to the mail everyday.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

25 May 1970

We’re just now getting the magazines over here with all the stories and pictures about the Kent State episode.  From the way the stories are written - it’s not hard to see why people are upset about those killings.  I may be hardened - but I wonder just how objective those stories are.

I got a box of children’s clothes from my Grandma and cousin.  Instead of taking them back to Chu Lai, I gave them to the Chaplain here, and he’ll distribute them in the village here at Baldy.

So far I haven’t had any trouble with the Col this time as ALO - and everything is going very smoothly. Tomorrow I have to go to Danang to brief the helicopter people about something we’re going to do day after tomorrow.  It’s nothing much and I don’t understand why they need a detailed brief.

Monday, May 24, 2010

24 May 1970

24 May 1970

I said yesterday that I was going to D Co.  Well, that operation was canceled - so I came back to Baldy yesterday.  I’ll be here until about the 2nd or 3rd of next month.  Then I’ll go back to the bush for about 10 days.  Then Ron will be ending his time, so I’ll be the ALO until my time is finished here - only one more month.

I haven’t had any mail in a couple of days - and I don’t have any news - so this will be short.  I went to the movie last night, and saw “The Fixer”.

While I’m here at Baldy, I’ll be sending out some more slides I have.  This batch will be the last, because I’m not taking my camera to the bush anymore.  I already have about 100 slides of this place, and I figure that’s plenty!!  Ha.

Photo - fellow lieutenant catching some zzzzzs in his cot.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

23 May 1970

23 May 1970

I have only one more month with the grunts - then back to Chu Lai!  I’m switching to another company today.  I’m going over to D Co for an operation they’re having tomorrow.  Then - probably day after tomorrow, I’ll go to Baldy to be the ALO for a week.

I have now earned 5 ribbons.  National Defense, Vietnamese Service, Vietnamese Campaign, Air Medal, and Combat Action.

I’m still not doing a thing - just killing time ‘til my 100 days is up!

(following is from diary written after the above letter)

Have, this day, returned to Baldy.  After dinner, played several games of volleyball!  Then saw “The Fixer” at the club.  Movie was run as usual with number of frustrating interruptions.

Will become ALO tomorrow and will have to put up with the colonel!

Friday, May 21, 2010

21 May 1970

21 May 1970

Things continue the same here!  We’re still on this hill and all I do is eat, sleep, and read!  It’s really amazing - the Marine Corps is paying me more than $1,000 per month and I’m not doing a thing for it - except being uncomfortable! Ha.  Think I’ll find a civilian job which will do the same?

I’m eating some cream of wheat right now.  Yesterday for breakfast I ate oatmeal and fried bacon.  We get certain canned meat which we cook.  We had pork chops for supper two days ago.  I’m not eating with the Viets anymore.  I guess I offended them someway!  Ha.  Probably I wasn’t giving them enough C rations and cigarettes!  These people are a pack of thieves and beggars!  They come over to our part of the hill and take any food that’s not being watched.  Then they ask for food, cigarette, etc.  One guy asked me to give him my knife!

This company has a “campaign” to get one kill everyday.  To this end the CO has offered an award to any trooper who gets four kills in one month!  Sounds sort of like a bounty to me.  The CO has only one thing on his mind - for this company to have the most kills this month in the regiment!  How sickening to have such a goal.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

20 May 1970

20 May 1970
(from diary)

I’ve fallen from the good grace of the viets.  For two meals now I have not been invited to eat with them.  I cannot say I’m upset!

This company got four kills last night - which puts us ahead of our goal of one kill per day.  The skipper has offered an award of R and R to each man who kills four gooks in one month!

Each squad that kills 12 gooks in a month will get a free R and R!  I’m concerned about this.  Perhaps it’s all very innocent competitiveness - but perhaps not.

Seems as though we’ll be on this hill for some time yet.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

19 May 1970

19 May 1970

Seven months down and five to go!!  It is so hot here I’m soaking with sweat while sitting in the shade.  There is no breeze and the humidity is very high.  We’re still on Hill 45 and looks like we’ll be here for awhile as we now have some miniature artillery up here with us.  We have a recoilless rifle and some mortars - so we’re a small fire support base.

I had trouble getting to sleep last night - so I was thinking about the book I’m going to write some day about all this.  I think I shall entitle my book The Longest 100 Days!

I haven’t had a bath in several days - so I smell to high heaven!  I think some of us are going down to the water hole this afternoon to bathe.

I’m still eating all my meals with the Vietnamese.  They have some curious customs.  They only eat two meals a day - one about 1000 and the other about 1800.  When the meal is ready to eat, someone comes over and gets me.  In return for these favors, I give them C-rations which they cook, and cigarettes.

This morning we had rice, beef steak, onions, and some kind of melon.  They drink hot tea with their meals.  However - they don’t drink the tea until they’ve finished eating.  However they know how Americans like to drink as we eat, so they always pour me a small glass of tea at the beginning of the meal.  All the food is placed on the table in small bowls - smaller than, say, a cereal bowl.  Then each individual has a small bowl in which he puts his rice and then just helps himself to what ever he wants from the other bowls.  It would be kind of like each person, back home, getting his potatoes out of the main bowl with his own spoon, instead of using a large spoon in the potatoes. 

Of course the whole meal is eaten with chop sticks.  I’ve developed a liking for their food - mainly because of the seasoning they use.

I still have not heard anything more about me going back to Baldy for a week.  Tomorrow is the day I was to do so.

I received the pudding and cereal today - yesterday I got two Navy Times.  Three cans of the pudding was broken open, but was still fresh - so I ate two cans and gave the third to my hooch mate, our corpsman.  He may be an enlisted man - but I’ve found him to be much more educated than any of the grunts.  We’ve made a sort of tent with our ponchos to keep out the sun and rain.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

18 May 1970

18 May 1970

B company CP moved to the top of “hill 45" (45 meters high) where we have a real good observation of our whole area.  This hill has been a Vietnamese regional forces camp in the past.  I don’t know how long we’ll be here - but I like it.

I was up here about 2 days ago to control an air strike and made friends with the people up here, so they’ve invited me to eat with them each day.  Believe it or not - I like rice now - as I do all their food.  They do eat some things I can’t stomach - and their hot sauce is pretty hot - but on a whole, I like their food.

The Vietnamese eat such delicacies as fish heads, brains, intestines of chickens and animals - etc.  Needless to say - I don’t eat that! Ha.

I don’t know why I’ve come to like rice so much - but I have.

I eat real good with chop sticks now - as I use them every time I eat with the Vietnamese.  These people also drink hot tea with their meals - which I’ve also come to like.  I may stay on this hill from now on because it has such good observation and I could run air strikes for any of our companies. 

I may go back to Baldy in a few days to be the ALO for a week.  The regiment’s ALO is going on R&R and Ron will do that job while he is gone.  So I would have to go be the Bn. ALO.  I don’t know for sure about that yet.  I only have 36 days left with the grunts hooray!!!

These Vietnamese on this hill are very friendly, and apparently really like the Marines - but they are worthless as soldiers!  They don’t do a thing except sit up here on their butts and watch the Marines fight the war for them.  If we left tomorrow they wouldn’t have a chance against the VC.

Photo - one of our Marines playing his harmonica. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

17 May 1970

17 May 1970

(from diary)

I’ve just observed some tactical wizardry which defies imagination!  The order was given this morning that members of the CP group would move to the tree line 200 meters to the east.  We were to take our fighting gear - but could leave all our other gear behind, including tents - because we would be coming back tonight!  We must camouflage our tents so the VC won’t know where our exact positions are.  We left a squad behind to guard the gear and act as an OP.

Now, the purposes for all this were to keep the VC from knowing we’re going to be staying in the same place for two nights in a row and… to make the colonel think we had moved our position!  Now, the colonel is not the most brilliant man in the world - but he is not the dumbest either. 

In order to make this move, we had to maneuver around a flooded rice paddy and across a deep stream.  Result - total confusion and a classic cluster ____.  Everyone yelling - etc.

Gunny’s temper seems to be a little on edge this morning.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

16 May 1970

16 May 1970
(from diary)

Rain!  Everyday - all day today - off and on.  Looks as though monsoons are here - rats!

Have made brilliant discovery!  Traded a can of sardines to Vietnamese RF for can of concentrated milk.  Milk is great for making cocoa, or for use in coffee.  Will try using in cream of wheat for breakfast tomorrow.

One of our units killed a VC nurse night before last.  Seems she was carrying a lot of VC documents - strange how she was walking point.

We are staying in same place for two nights.  Because of the rain, we have to erect tents, shelters, etc.  will see if we get hit tonight!

Am becoming bored because of lack of contact - action.  All in all - life is very good with Bravo Co.  Good CO, good gunny - lots of chow and juice - morale among troops appears to be very good.  Started reading New Testament.

16 May 1970

My stationary is a bit wet as we’ve had rain the past two nights.  The rain starts each evening about 1800 - just when we’re moving to our night position - so everything gets wet!

I put up a “tent” using my poncho last night and stayed fairly dry.  It’s still cloudy this morning and looks like we’ll be threatened by rain all day.  Just something else to make life in bush uncomfortable!

The helicopters are on their way out now so I’ll have to hurry this letter so I can get it out.  I controlled a flight of air yesterday afternoon - it was fun - but not especially exciting!  Ha.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

14 May 1970

14 May 1970
(from diary)

Am lying in my hammock - bored - have just finished lunch.  Am tired of reading, as I read A Dream of Kings all the way through this morning.

If VC knew how lax we are during daylight - he could sneak up on us and wipe us out!  We are spread over an area about 200 meters - and are all sleeping or resting.  We have a token guard out!?

Kids are bothering me for chop-chop.  I gave them some already - but they’re never happy - always want more.

The kids are most fascinating individuals.  They are only children - yet the war has already made them adults.  One boy says he is 9 - smokes cigs like old man.  Another boy says his papasan killed by VC.

Friday, May 14, 2010

14 May 1970

14 May 1970

Back in the “bush”!  I’m with B Co again - I came out yesterday morning and things are the same as before.

Well, we’re fixing to move - so I have to pack my gear.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

11 May 1970

11 May 1970

It is hot here!!  I’m in Chu Lai right now.  I came down here two days ago and I leave tomorrow to go back to Baldy.  I’ve flown twice - once last night and once this morning.  The hop this morning was off the hot pad.  It sure felt good to get back in the F-4.  At the end of the hop this morning, we made a low pass over Baldy - as I had promised some people I would do.  The squadron is still the same - except for a few losses and a few additions.  They’ve lost no aircraft since I’ve been gone.

Most of the people in the squadron think we might leave country between July 15 and Aug 15 - but who knows!  Everyone is just guessing now.

Rick Hines wife had a baby boy born 30 April.  9 lbs 9 ozs.  I’m glad this one was o.k.  I’ll bet they were really worried.

Everyone here says I look as though being a FAC agrees with me because I’ve lost weight and, so they say, look “more fit”.  Also I’ve a good tan on face and arms which makes anyone look better.

I’ve slept in Ken Bonds bed the past two nights.  He is gone on R & R!  I couldn’t believe it, after he had 3 weeks with his wife in January.

I expect I’ll be going back to the bush with B. Co when I get back.  I kind of like being with them. 

I only have 5 weeks to go - I hope they go fast.

In one more week, I’ll have 7 months - with 5 to go.  Now that we’re over the hill, time should go by much faster.

I got my pay record audited - and I have $600 on the books.  This is after I drew some money to buy the slide projector.  That $600 includes my back pay.  My pay in the future is to be $365.00 per month!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

9 May 1970

9 May 1970

(from diary)

Third platoon was “chicomed” last night.  We put illumination out for over one and a half hours.  What a comedy - the platoon leader was so screwed up he kept giving ridiculous corrections to get the illum just right before he would start his sweep.  Result - one Marine dead, four Marines wounded - 1 VC dead.

Am at LSA now waiting to go to Danang.  Everyone blaming everyone else for the death of that one Marine.  Cause should be laid on Commanding General!  He should be tried for murder.  That young Marine would still be alive if the brass wasn’t so damn interested in “body count.”

Photo - illumination

Friday, May 7, 2010

7 May 1970

7 May 1970
(from diary)

Have joined Bravo Co.  Left Suicide Charlie yesterday afternoon and spent last night at Baldy.  They thought Baldy would be hit last night and word was passed that everyone would sleep outside in fighting gear!  I just might sleep outside on my one night at Baldy!

All the Lts in my hooch ignored that ridiculous order passed by God knows who.

Perhaps I shall be happier at Bravo.  The CO is breaking his neck to be friendly - but I just want to be left alone.  He is just to pushy.

Vietnamese kids are everywhere!  Can’t get rid of them.  They want to sit right next to me - massage my back - stir my coffee - do anything that they think will get them some chop-chop.  My observation is that they are just like flies!  Lt. D says they’re just like locusts.  I wouldn’t mind them so much if I didn’t know that all they want is food - and that they are probably VC sympathizers.  Very frustrating to know that the people are just as apt to help the VC as the Marines.

I’ve heard some bad things about Bravo.  I.e. they have some bad platoon leaders - and they have lost a lot of people killed and wounded.  Charlie Co may be fucked up - yet, I guess, much safer -has very few casualties.

Am listening to Lakers - Knicks play off game - Go Lakers.

I have just been joined by one of the “flies”.  He is sitting to my left and watching me writing.  He stinks.  Must be about 10 years old.  Will get no chop-chop from me!!!
Kids stole my cigarette lighter!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday morning
6 May 1970

I don’t have anything else to do right now, Ha.  So I’ll write a letter.  We’ve actually been in this same place for two days now - and we’ve had no contact during that time - so things are pretty boring!

The Battalion CO won’t let me go fly until after this “high threat” period is over.  Seems the enemy are in their spring offensive.
I just now received word that I’m to return to Baldy this afternoon and go out with B Co for a few days.  Don’t know just exactly what all the details are - but something big is going on.  Of course this takes care of any plans I had for going to Chu Lai to fly.  Oh well!

We captured eight real live Viet Cong about two days ago.  A Vietnamese woman told us there were some VC hiding in a bunker, and she led our people to them.  These VC were between ages 18 - 45 and were all very healthy, able men.  This is the first really confirmed Viet Cong I’ve seen alive.  I’ve seen a number of dead ones - not a pretty sight - but you can’t tell much about them because they are all shot up.  Most people take pictures of these bodies, but I haven’t!  Somehow the act of taking a picture of a body is just to inhumane - or animal - for me to stomach.

I haven’t received any mail since the other day when I got all that mail at once.  Perhaps today I’ll get some. Seems like I get my mail in batches - and it’s very depressing to go several days without mail.

This place where we are right now has a small grove of young pine trees which provides a fair amount of shade through the day, which makes life a little more bearable.  The heat can be absolutely miserable when there is no shade.  Of course we put up our little shelters, but they just keep the sun off - and it’s like sitting in an oven.

I’m simply aghast at all the trouble they’re having with the college students back in the world.  I just can’t visualize what really makes those students think the way they do.  I must say it’s pretty demoralizing to the troops over here who are seeing their good buddies killed by the enemy - and then to hear about the students who object to our carrying the fight to the enemy - even to going into Cambodia.  People in the states are pretty mad about those four students getting killed at Kent State - but people get killed over here every hour of every day.  And most of the men getting killed are PFCs and Lance Corporals - mostly ages 18-20.

Monday, May 3, 2010

3 May 1970

Sunday morning
3 May 1970

It is Sunday morning - another week is beginning!  The spring season is here at this time - which means we have hot, stifling hot weather during the day, and during the late afternoon or early evening we have violent thunderstorms.  These storms build up over the mountains to the west and then move across the low land to the sea.  These storms are just like the spring storms of the Texas Panhandle.  The rain is quite cool, which cools the air at night - however, I and everything I have gets soaking wet - which means sleeping in wet clothes!

I have developed a bad prickly heat rash on my back and buttocks.  This is caused not only by the heat - but by the lack of bathing plus having to wear the same, sweaty clothes constantly.  This company will not let the men take off their shirts during the day to expose the skin to a little sun light - so the rash just gets worse.  The company gunnery sgt is responsible for the ridiculous rule of not taking off shirts.  His theory is that this keeps people from getting sunburned!  Of course this theory is absurd - because after a period of time we would all be tan.  This gunnery sgt is really hard on the troops - and as a result, all the men hate him - and morale is low.  However he claims he is only interested in keeping the men alive.

Yesterday’s thunderstorm began just as we started to move to our new position for the night.  So we walked about a mile in a drenching rain.

We have RFs (regional forces - Vietnamese) working with our company - and they are worthless!!!  I can understand why the people might like the VC just as well as they like the government forces.  Every Ville we stop in, these RFs kill or take any livestock or food they want.  They killed a family’s whole flock of chickens yesterday and ate them.  They kill pigs, ducks and I understand they just now killed a cow!  All of this without paying the people.  Of course we give them c-rations also - but seems that’s not enough.  They are also a bunch of beggars!  They will come up to me and ask for water, the cigarettes from my c-rations, any extra c-rations I don’t want, etc.  Sometimes they help themselves without even asking.  All this - and they are an impossible military force.  They are more like a boy scout troop on a camp out!!  I certainly hope the regular Vietnamese army is better than the regional forces!!

The 6th will be 2 weeks in the bush this time, so I’m going back to Baldy and have the other air officer come to the bush for awhile.  I do like the bush better - but with this heat rash, the hot weather, and the daily thunderstorms - it’s just not much fun!  Ha.  I have been in some good direct enemy contact this time which I really like - but........

Saturday, May 1, 2010

1 May 1970

1 May 1970

Another month is behind!  For breakfast this morning I had apple & cinnamon flavored oatmeal, and it was delicious!  One of our corpsmen said his wife had sent him 80 packs of instant oatmeal!  I also understand that instant cream of wheat is quite good for breakfast.  I bet you think I never eat c-rations - but I do - every day.

The past two days we’ve spotted approximately 40 gooks (VC) carrying packs and rifles, operating in our area.  We’ve tried everything we can to get them, but to no avail.  In fact night before last we moved after dark to where they had been seen.  Only - they ambushed us, and the whole company was pinned down for about 3 hours.  This was at 2100 - 2400.  I requested 2 flights of air and received them!  Which also required a plane to drop flares.  Anyway, I got to control some air in a real emergency type situation - and I had a ball!!  We only had two casualties - both minor.

Last night I saw four gooks moving across a rice paddy about 300 yards away.  By the time I told some one and we started shooting at them - the gooks were already gone - so we didn’t get any.  We know they’re here - but we just can’t actually get them.

There are four places in S. Vietnam that are considered hard core, VC controlled, and we are working in one of those areas!  This is the Queson Mountain area, and the VC are really plentiful all around here.  Also, most of the “civilians” are considered VC sympathizers - but we can’t do anything about them.  We know they feed the VC, hide them, and are probably married to them in some cases.  But the women and children are immune from our fire!  I suppose that’s only right, because we can’t very well go around shooting women and kids!

I often ask myself - does the average Viet Cong soldier fight the Americans because he is a communist, or because we are here, destroying his villages and crops, killing his friends and in some cases his women!  Pillaging his possessions, etc, etc, etc.  How would I feel if some foreign army entered the U.S. and proceeded to do the same thing to me?  I’d fight back, just to protect my family and home - wouldn’t I??  Anyway, I often wonder just what the real reason is that the VC fight us.

We had a real thunderstorm yesterday afternoon!! Complete with lightening and thunder.  These are real rare over here.  I saw right away I was going to get wet, so I just stripped down to my shorts, go my bar of soap, and took a shower in the rain!!!  Most of the other men wee under their ponchos trying to keep dry - and thought I was crazy - maybe I was - but you have to be a little bit crazy to survive over here!!  Ha.

Photos - these photos were taken in a village in the area we bombed after we were ambushed.