14th day, June 16
Our sergeant I thought was so great got drunk last night. Well, actually, he gets drunk every night, but last night was worth mentioning. Fortunately he was in the other hutch. He woke me up yelling at the people in the hutch to go to bed, get up, run around the building, sounded like Tarzan, and a few other things I’d better not mention, although this is supposed to be an accurate account. I doubt it they would have done everything he said, but he was holding a loaded M-16 on them. Finally the noise they were making attract the sergeant major and he came over and broke it up. I don’t know what happened after that. Apparently not much – he’s still a sergeant.
As a matter of fact, he’s also an airborne ranger, Green Beret, jungle expert, and combat infantryman. They call him “Rock”.
The rain stopped yesterday, but made up for the lack today. Now it’s 15 out of 16 days since I left it has rained, if only slightly, during the 24 hour period. It was really hot today until the rain came. When it did come, I was right by the ammunition bunker so I ducked in there to keep from drowning. In doing so I made a great discovery – the only cool place in Vietnam is the ammunition bunker. It’s mostly all sand bags on the sides and top, about 3 deep and the heat simply does not get inside; it was like air conditioning.
They did put me to work today - I went to the motor pool to help change tires on our jeeps. With no tire changers, you can imagine how pleasant a morning I had. It was too hot to work with our shirt on, so I took mine off. In just an hour (from 9-10 am ) I had a beautiful sunburn. I can hardly stand to wear my shirt, let alone lie down.
Another one of the colored boys has been running around here and occasionally spitting up blood. He went to the doctor t find the trouble and hasn’t gone back to see him since. The doc told him he might have ulcers, but to find out he’d have to run a tube through his nose into his stomach to draw out some fluid to find out. Just while he was telling me about it his eyes got big and his voice rose – he was scared to death. He said he’d just as soon have ulcers than to let some crazy doctor man run a tube clean through my body.” He shakes ever time you mention it to him.
I’ve got two more complaints about this place:
1) The PX is well stocked in some areas but in other it falls apart. They sell shelves of shaving gear – after shave, shaving brushes, shaving cream, but no blades or razors. You can buy flashlights by the barrel full, but try to buy any batteries. And the thing that got me started on this in the first place is the great amount of beautiful drawing paper and artist pads, but no pencils or ink or even felt tip pens. Also, cameras at cellar-low prices, and no film except for Brownie cameras - which they don’t sell. I’ve seen tape recorders and no tape and records but no record players. Maybe the gooks think that the records will play on the tape recorders.
2) The other is the food ( I suppose you expected that). It’s not that it’s so bad, it’s just that you only get enough to taste and that’s it. The main thing is what there is to drink. The milk (and ice cream) is all powdered and tastes like it’s sour when you drink it. Some say you get used to it, but I never will. The only other thing they serve is ice (?) tea and coffee. The coffee is awful and the ice in the ice tea melts within 5 minutes, then it becomes warm and diluted. At dinner they serve water, but it’s the same as the ice tea only the melted ice doesn’t dilute it. When you’re not in the mass hall, it’s impossible to get a drink of water or anything until 12:00 noon. At 12:00 the main club opens, but by the time you walk the ½ mile up there, you’re dead and by the time you walk back, you’re thirsty again. At 5:00 our club opens, and if you can still breathe and move you can crawl up there and get a Coke or beer. About the only thing I get to drink is a glass of water at each meal and a couple of Cokes at night. This doesn’t seem to bother anybody else, they say to take 4-6 salt tablets a day and you won’t get as thirsty. I think they seem to make things worse.
I was looking at the Sports Car Graphic I bought before I left the world. Some guy came up and saw a picture of a Camero.
“Hey, is that a Camero?”
“Yes, what does it look like, a Firebird?”
“What’s a Firebird?”
I didn’t realize that this cat had been over here since July of last year, and had never seen a Camero or heard of a Firebird. That got me thinking about how far behind a year over here can get you. A year is really a long time. I wonder how much I’ll miss during the next year. (besides the Trans-Am Sedan race, S.C.C.A. nationals, U.S.R.R.C. and the Regional Team Races). I will be home for next year’s June race provided they have it either the second weekend or thereafter.
I figure I should be getting some mail either today or this weekend (“weekend” is only a figure of speech over here) if my letters have reached the world and if yours have reached here. I guess it takes about 4 days each way, airmail. Believe me, it will be nice to know that the world is still out there.
Would you believe I just looked out the window to see if the movie has started yet and out on one of the bigger stagnate mud holes in the compound I see about 12 or so little yellow ducklings. The silly things were out there last night but I didn’t figure they’d be back. I don’t know where they come from – there aren’t any bigger ducks around; maybe the Easter Bunny! Such a peaceful sight in a place like this. Happy Easter, Bob
PS: 2:30 am, June 17
The artillery has kept me awake all (boom) night. Not only the artillery, but off in the all too near distance I hear mortars, machine guns, and rifle fire. Now I know they’re not having target practice at 2:30 am. It doesn’t seem to bother anybody though. I guess it must be out on the perimeter defense line, but everyone’s asleep so I guess that the perimeter guards can take care of it. I was awake so I thought I’d add this (I had to ruin an envelope to do it).
15 day, June 17
Peace, The time drags on. Everybody’s gone now, out to the field again for 3 days.
Last night several guys got drunk including the sergeant (again). Actually it was disgusting. One guy could hardly talk, let alone walk; another ran out of the hutch every five minutes to vomit and then would come back and have another beer! I lay there in bed trying to sleep until about 1 o’clock while they were running around playing the radio, saying things that made no sense, laughing at things that weren’t a bit funny, vomiting and generally making fools of themselves. It wasn’t as though they were having a good time or that the beer, etc. had made them happy, it was more like they were in a state of depression and were trying to force themselves to laugh. It was pathetic. Yelling and shouting at each other one minute and then laughing, almost more like crying, the next.
The more I see of this kind of behavior the more I say that will never be me. Just seeing how ridiculous they look and act, I just can’t see myself making such a fool of myself. I do that enough when I’m sober. And there’s no reason for it – just getting drunk just to be getting drunk. I’ve never seen anybody who liked to make them selves sick like that.
If/when I get back to the world, I’m going go to school and find out why people are so stupid, why they reduce themselves to such a low status on 3.2 beer, why they fight stupid little wars. . . .
That’s the sermon friends, now if you’ll rise and turn to page 105 in the hymnal . . . . .
16th day, June 18
Is this place getting me down? Is the Pope Catholic? Did Errol Flynn like girls? I’ve had a lot to do today. I went to church – very nice. I figured out that by way of the Philippines and Hawaii, I’m 11,213 miles from my home back in the world. If I went by Tokyo and Alaska, it’s only 9,337 miles. We’re twelve hours ahead of you, while you’re on daylight savings, and 11 hours ahead the rest of the time. If I was to dig a hole directly through the center of the earth, I would wind up about 300 miles east of Lima, Peru. If I was facing north and angled . . . let’s say it this way: I have to angle into the ground 28 degrees if I was facing east, and then turning north aimed 82 degrees east, I would come out in Columbus. I don’t know how long it would take but I bet if I had to, I could do it in a week.
I also decided if a frog had wings, it would bump his tail when he jumped.
I’ve been in the army 159 days, with 571 left. That’s almost 23 weeks and 81 weeks or a little over 9 months with a little less than 14 left. I’ve been in Vietnam 16 days with 349 left, or about 2 weeks, 50 left, ½ month, 11 ½ left. On Jan. 19, 1968, I’ll have my first year in the army done. On June 2nd, that same year, I’ll have a year in Vietnam done. That comes out to 2 years, so I figure they ought to let me out then, instead of keeping me another 6 months. (If I wanted to get out permanently when I leave here, I would have to extend my tour here 4 months, to bring within 90 days of my scheduled discharge date. If I did that, they’d drop the 90 days and I’d be out for good.)
I have a few more startling facts. $1.00 is worth 118 p (piastres). One piastre is worth .84745762110161 cents. Over here, “Do You Believe in Magic” by the Lovin’ Spoonful is number one on the Saigon Survey. And it hasn’t rained for 2 days now.
Well they just brought in a block of ice to make some Kool-aid. We use a 5 gallon water can, break up the ice, add water and about 5 packs of Kool-aid (presweetened). We’ve only got 3 of orange and 2 of black cherry, so they’re mixing it; wonder how that will taste?
17th day, June 19
Everybody was still out in the field last night, so the lights went out about 10 o’clock. Probably a half an hour later I heard a strange sound; “cheep, cheep; pitter-patter, cheep, cheep.” I got up, loaded my M-16 and turned on the lights. There, all over the hutch, were those silly little ducklings, running around the floor like chickens with their heads off (that doesn’t sound right). Little Vietnamese ducks, slanted eyes and all; they didn’t seem to be bothering anything, so I went back to sleep. They were gone this morning.
I did something today! Painted some of the officer’s hutches, have to finish. The paint was about the texture and consistency of cottage cheese. Now that the First Sergeant knows I’m here, I have an idea that I’ll be doing more little jobs around here until I get ambush school.
I’ve got bunker guard tonight. Out on the first defense line around the base camp. I guess this is the closest I get to the action until my school. I’d rather paint. More about bunker guard tomorrow, fans.
18 days, June 20
About a half a mile away from our area, there is a line of sandbag/bunkers which completely surrounds the whole Cu Chi Base Camp. They look like mounds of dirt from a distance, but are made of sandbags covered with dirt and camouflage net. The opening leads underground where there are two cots and shelves of ammunition. It’s a little room down there but no place to be if you’re scared of caves.
The bunkers are spaced about 100 meters apart with five rows of rolled barbed wire spaced 30 meters apart, stretched out in front. The area in front is cleared for about 1000 meters to where the wood line and jungle begins. Just a few shrubs, weeds, and trip flares and land mine for 1000 meters, then the barbed wire, then the claymore mines in front of the bunker, then the bunker with 4 M-16s and on M-60 machine gun. Behind the bunkers are the mortars and artillery that I keep talking about.
I got there about 7:00 when it was still light but looking like rain. The rain clouds in Vietnam are towering thunderheads, larger I think than any I’ve seen back in the world. One was shaped like a gigantic gorilla head; it was a perfect silhouette, with forehead, eyes, jaws, and teeth, all perfect. I was waiting for lightning to come out of his mouth and his eyes to light up, but it never happened and the wind soon blew him into some undetermined form. This is “gorilla” warfare?
There was a magnificent display of lightning also; bolts were leaping clear across the sky in all directions. What was really sharp was the way the whole clouds would light up and just glow like a huge Japanese lantern.
It got dark and the clouds went away and the moon and stars came out. I lay there on the roof of the bunker and for some reason began thinking how strange it was that the moon was the same here, and the stars still had the big and little dippers, north star, and all the other familiar stars in the same places, as they are back in the world.
I don’t know, I guess I just thought it all should be different over here. I even saw two satellites moving across the sky and one shooting star.
Suddenly over the tree line, there was a shower of mortar tracers. They were so far away that the sound couldn’t be heard. It looked like a Fourth of July celebration which lasted about 5 minutes with hundreds of red tracer coming from somewhere, going somewhere else, luckily in the opposite direction from me. If they were shooting at “Charlie – poor Charlie”.
Shortly, afterward, the artillery started shooting out to our front. I found out then that what they shoot most is aerial flares. There was one of our ambush patrols out to our front. When they spotted something suspicious whey called the flares in. I guess the advantage over using flare guns is the flares from the artillery were brighter and longer and didn’t give the patrol’s position away. Also if the suspected position is out of reach of the flare guns, the artillery can reach it. After about 3 flares, I guess they saw something and I heard a l50 caliber and saw the tracers out in the woods. After that, quiet.
My shift was over, so I crawled under my mosquito net and got two hours sleep; then it was my turn again. Everything was quiet except for the mosquitoes for these two hours. The guy that was up with me asked me if it was true about all the girls wearing mini-skirts. I told him the only mini-skirts I saw were at the High School and not at the colleges or anything.
I slept for two more hours during which the artillery was busy again. This time the guns were closer and when they sent off, I swear they lifted me right off the air mattress. They were shooting so far away I couldn’t see the flash when they hit (they weren’t flares).
That was it. No action, luckily, just a lot of noise and bugs. This morning when I got back to the hutch, I slept till 11:30 to catch up on my sleep. This afternoon I stayed inside and watched the rain and now I’m looking out at the stars and wishing I was on one of them instead of here, and also wondering what you’re doing right now; it’s 9:30 p.m. Tuesday here and 9:30 a.m. Tuesday there.
Good night, Bob
19th day, June 21
Greetings from Vietnam -- yech!
20th day, June 22
Wiped out a V.C. regiment today with a fiberglass slingshot and a pair of surgical tweezers. Would you believe I accidentally dropped a hand grenade and scared the Hell out of an 80 year old farmer being ridden by a water buffalo?