Saturday, August 27, 2011

Aug 18 - Aug 25, 1967

77 days, 18 Aug. ’67 Friday

They captured some VC documents last night. (Not us, someone else). One was a list of people with prices on their heads. Capt. Barkman, LT. Cito, and the new ARVN lieutenant, were among the top ten most wanted men. There was also a list of people or groups to be destroyed or killed. Two individuals were at the top two places – both VN civilians. Number 3 was to “inflict heavy casualties on the Rat Platoon”. The “Rat Platoon” was written in English – the rest Vietnamese. They must’ve picked the name up for our radio call sign, which begins with “Rat” then a number of the person called. Cito is Rat 5. It’s nice to know you’re wanted, but that’s the kind of information you wish you hadn’t heard. Lt. Cito was thrilled; “at least this means we’re hurting them!”

We relaxed today. I got the pictures back I took with the borrowed camera, only these four were worth anything. The rest were ruined when the film got wet. So now I have no pictures of Sugar Mill. Okay, we were only there 4 days. And we’ll never see the place again. At least not the bunkers we were in; we tore it all apart when we left. The town is still there, though. Maybe someday I’ll get back there.

The first one is at the “Pits” where we pulled security guard for the engineers all day. While they played in the dirt, we sat and watched the woods across the road, and the rice paddies on the other side of the Pits. The kids are just a couple of the hundreds who sold us Cokes and souvenirs, and bothered us all day long. (2) One of our favorite little girls, Shai was her name, a little brat; reminded me of Ann Addington. (3) Bruce Horwerter, form Illinois. He’ll extend his tour a whole year to be a gunner on a chopper. The background is the mess tent at Gladys. Someday I’ll get some good pictures of Gladys, too. (4) Branch – toothless. Same background. He’s the one I borrowed the camera from. He’s also the one that left it out in the rain and ruined the film.

We went out at 4:30 today, and after today we must be number one on the VC hate list. We went to the same area as the other day, only this time we went fast by chopper instead of advertising our coming by walking in. last time, we got there in time to see two of them running across the swamp. This time we hadn’t been on the ground two minutes till the ARVNs got a body count (kill) of one VC.  All afternoon (2 ½ hours) we had the support of choppers and the element of surprise. Choppers spitting machine gun fire, rockets and M-79s. The 2 hours ended with the score 22 to nothing in favor of C.R.I.P. Recon got 4 confirmed kills, the S-2 ARVNs got 4 confirmed kills, and the choppers accounted for the other 14. At least that’s the story tonight. The choppers also got a water buffalo when one of the rockets hit a hutch, completely destroying it. Burned to the ground, with the buffalo inside. Smelled like the ox roast.

Esterline, Wallace, and I were on flank security in case some VC ran our way. They never got that far; and we didn’t see any of the action. They said it was like a shooting gallery – sitting in the hedgerows, watch the gooks run and get mowed down by choppers. When the choppers missed or didn’t see one either Recon or the ARVNs got him. Only two VC had weapons; one had a wallet full of North Vietnamese money, and pictures of Ho Chi Minh, Mousey Tongue, and all the Red boys, no doubt about that one. I’d heard rumors, but I didn’t believe it till today, but all the VC kills Recon got received a Wolfhound crest in the middle of his forehead with the blessing of rifle butt. The choppers really tear the VC up. One had an arm torn off form M-16 rounds! Cito had more fun that a 5 year old at Disneyland. He’s really gung-ho!

Yep, we really brought smoke on Charlie today. This is good enough to get in the news. After a 22 body count, it’s better than the 2nd battalion has some for a long while. One of our guys did get hit; one of the advisors to the ARVNs got a little singe on his thumb. Big deal! He’ll get a Purple Heart.

I got 2 pictures of nearly all the Rat Pack standing around a very bloody VC trophy, but that’s all I had. I shot 8 form up in the choppers on the way out to the area, and 10 was all I had left on the roll. Too bad; I could have had a couple more of the burned out hutch, etc. The ones I did get might be a little grotesque, but it’s all a part of the war, so I took them.

78 days, Aug 19 ‘67 Saturday

We went back to the same place we were at yesterday, this morning, to look for any weapons, etc. the VC might have hidden there. All the bodies had been removed (even the buffalo’s) and no weapons were found. We came across one group burying one of the VC killed yesterday and took them in as VC suspects. A little later, we saw six running across the field, but they got away before we could catch them. The ARVNs got one man who was a VC platoon leader. They marched him out on a berm, made him kneel down, and executed him.

The ARVN lieutenant fond another house where they were preparing another one of yesterday’s victims for burial. He beat one man with a stick until the man could hardly stand up – he still wouldn’t talk, so the Lt. Threatened to shoot his family; he talked. All the VC that were in the area yesterday were there to visit their families; this one man lost a brother and a son yesterday. I guess we spoiled their family reunion.

This afternoon we were supposed to be getting ready to do out all night, but they called it off and for the first time in quite a while, I got to go into Cu Chie. Wish I hadn’t, now. I was riding in Cito’s jeep (he was driving). We passed Clark’s Corner all right, but at the next one, the wheels got caught in a rut, and the jeep went sideways, tucked its rear wheels a la Corvair, and dove into the rice paddy about 2 feet below the road level. I saw it coming, and could picture the thing rolling over on me, so as soon as he left the road, I left the jeep; so did Wallace. As it turned out, the jeep didn’t roll, but rather stuck in the mud nose first like someone had dropped it from a chopper – it was nearly straight up and down – with Cito still sitting in it, holding on to the wheel. It took us a half an hour to pull it out and recover all the gear from the water (it was deep enough to swim in – I went clear under when I dove off).

The worst injury I had was my camera. Nothing broke, but it did get wet and sandy/muddy. The shutter is stuck on the down position; the shutter speed dial and cranking lever don’t work right. The delay switch doesn’t work. The viewfinder is fogged, as is the lens. I can see sand in the light meter, but it still works. I’m not sure how accurate it would be.

At least I had a new roll in it with no shots on it. It was ruined but at least I didn’t ruin any slides. There’s a camera and watch repaid shop at the PX. I hope they can fix it at a low cost. I know that your camera, Dad, cost quite a bit to have fixed for something similar. Just think – that could have been the big Petri, it I hadn’t sent it home (shudder).

No more slides for a while. If I have to, I’ll buy another one, but if something happens to it, forget it. So far, I’m buying cameras at the rate of one a month. Pretty soon I’ll have more than Walt Disney ever had. From Disneyland, Asia Branch,
Mickey Mouse

79 days, 20 Aug. ’67 Sunday

Peace. While they had the ’67 USRRC at Mid-Ohio, we had a meeting. Seems as though some three-star general has heard about CRIP, and is pleased by what we’ve done, especially two days ago (body count finally was 26 – 5 Recon, 4 ARVN, and the other 17 victims of the gun-ship choppers). He ordered M-16s for all the S-2 platoon – before they nearly all had .30 cal. Carbines, with the power of a B-B gun. Only they were dependable. This is the first time an ARVN unit has been issued M-16s. Another first for us and this area – we’re getting some special .30 cal. Carbines with silencers for use at night! Also, two .22 cal. sniper rifles.

We were out in the boonies for awhile today, doing mostly nothing. We did come to a house where lived an actual midget. Large head, small body (about 3’ high) and large, stocky legs. He looked stocky enough o pull a plow, but he was so short.

Later on, one of the ARVNs spotted a man running across the fields ahead of us. In this game, anyone who runs away is a VC. Our gook began shooting at him, and immediately both platoons opened up with everything. One problem was that the man was about 800 meters away. Our max effective range of our longest-range weapon is 750 meters. We did scare him pretty bad, though. He stopped and let us catch up to him.

That was all night, though. All day I’d been hoping to see someone running like that so I could fire my gun to see if it would still jam. Even though he was out of range, I fired a magazine at him – didn’t really want to hit him. Beautiful! I guess it only jams when we test-fire. Every time I’ve had to shoot it, it has worked. I guess as long as that stays true, it’s all right.

We did capture a couple VC suspects, and one confirmed VC – he was sorry he’d ever heard of HO Chi by the time we got him back to Bao Trai. He was tied, then thrown on the floor of the truck. All the way back, the ARVNs beat him with fists, feet, rifle butts; one tried to shoot him in the foot. He was next to unconscious by the time we got back.

Here’s something interesting. Remember yesterday, when the ARVNs executed that VC platoon leader? I found out today that in the rules of war, if the S-2 lieutenant had ordered a U.S. to kill the man and the U.S. had done it – he could be court martialed for murder. The ARVNs can do it, and get away with it. When out in the field, ARVNs do not necessarily have to follow orders of  a U.S. officer, and the same with U.S. and ARVN officers. If we think that an order  by the ARVN officer is not right, all we have to do is say so, as in the case of the execution. In other words, if the order is something that we could get burned for, we don’t, in fact can’t, do it. The only one we’re responsible to, and in turn he’s responsible for orders he gives to us, is Lt. Cito. If he’d told us to kill the man, we’d have to do it, but Lt. Cito would be responsible if anyone ever found out. All we did was carry out a direct order – if anyone would be charged, it would be Cito. Sounds silly in a way, yet that’s the way it is. Hope no one ever orders me to shoot a helpless unarmed bound and tied person; I might get a court martial for disobeying a direct order.

80 days, 21 Aug. ’67 Monday

Went to the Duc Hoa PX today and saw some laundry ink. I got it, planning to mark my clothes (even though the girls mark it themselves now). I found that it, along with the pen it came with, works fine for drawing. So I guess I’ll use it for that instead of laundry. You said once that things would be easier to copy if I could use a pen. I can get a lot more detail with the pen, too. First time I’ve done anything with a drawing pen and ink – I liked it.
Another box of 36 slides came today and were on their way to the world shortly after I had looked at them. One more to come yet, then I have to get the camera cleaned before I can take anymore.

We went out today for the “fun of it”. The same area where we had the booby trap incident (2 more died, making three killed – some bomb!). As always, we brought in a couple of suspects, or draft-dodgers, to make it look like we did something. These guys might as well hang it up, either they’re VC or, if not, they are automatically drafted! I thought I got a raw deal – these people are drafted at gunpoint!

Learned some statistics today. In less than a month, CRIP, the S-2 platoon, and the Rat Pack, have accounted for 36 VC killed, not counting 5 killed the night Pee Wee was killed, and we weren’t with them. Also, not counting that night we had taken one US and 3 ARVN sounded and 3 ARVN killed (kill ratio 12:1). I’d much rather be keeping lap times and race points, but that’s the way it is.

Mother mentioned the ARVNs and their refusal to help any of the wounded that one night. Said it was maybe something to do with superstition or fear of the dead and dying. That’s interesting. Actually, the Vietnamese don’t value life as much as we do. For example, executing that one VC. No American would have done that – legally, anyway. The ARVNs would just as soon kill a VC rather than bring him in. when they question people, if they don’t get cooperation, they sometimes beat a person to make him talk. I don’t mean slap him a couple of times – they use rifle butts, knives, anything.

I imagine that when the 5 were hit by the mine, that the others simply figures xin loi, they’ll probably die, so let’s leave them – their tough luck. But we couldn’t leave them because we’ve been taught to value life. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the fact that we’re supposed to be Christians – so are they; Catholic, mostly. It’s just that in our world and society, life is one of the most valued things here, where live doesn’t really mean that much. It’s not valued as highly. At times, death is probably looked at as a relief, a way out. I don’t meant to say they’re suicidal or anything; they want to live too, but the thought of them, or especially someone else, dying, isn’t as terrible to tem as it might be to us. It’s something they’ve lived with all their lives. They think nothing of it. Am I rambling?

Speaking of people that aren’t concerned with people’s welfare, Johnson was on the news tonight, making one of his take-a-nap-between-each-sentence speeches about why we’re in VN. (same old hash re-hashed). Everybody in the club gathered around the set and booed and called names, etc. not just PFCs and Spec. 4s, but some sergeants, lieutenants, captains, a major, and a full-bird  colonel! Wonder what his chances are in the ’68 election? Every man in the service, especially over here, must be against him. And it’s all his doing (or undoing). He sent them here.
Dan Gurney for President,

81 days, 22 Aug. ’67 Tuesday

I thought for a while we’d make it through the day without going out, but . . .  at 4:30 we left by chopper and got back about 7:30. I got a birthday present today – I’m now the machine gunner for the scout section. They gave me a 23-pound M-60 today, and their best wishes.  The guy who had it before also gave me his .45 pistol, and I gave him by M-16 (hope it works for him). He told me the .45 wasn’t necessary, but I feel that if something jumps out of a tunnel at me, I want something I can shoot fast at close range. With the ’60, it has to be cocked, taken off safety – a 5-minute operation practically – and set down. Some people fire it from the hip at times, but it still takes about 30 seconds to get it ready. By that time, it could be too late. No matter what happens, I’ll keep my pistol; no one will take it away. Think I’ll practice my quick draw. .45s don’t jam, either.

Little Joe almost got it today. He stepped on a booby trap – heard it click, and Capt. Barkman pulled him away fractions of a second before it finally went off – no one hurt. That’s pretty quick action on the part of ;the Captain, and pretty close shaving for Little Joe.

We’ll probably be out all day tomorrow. Bet my shoulder’s awful tired by this time tomorrow night, after humping the  ’60 all day. Better get more ammo for the .45, too. Horwerter only has two rounds in the magazine. Guess he wasn’t kidding when he said he never uses it.


23 Aug. Happy Birthday! 82 days, Wednesday.

Twenty years old today, no longer a teenager, but still a minor. Minor or not, I think I’m getting too old for war.

At least we spent the day right – did absolutely nothing. Only got one card actually on the right day – several others earlier. Patti’s came right on time. Also got an application for membership in the Key Club (Playboy-type) from my parents, of all people. I don’t understand that at all. Anyway, the age limit is 23, so I’ll have to wait.

Branch got his upper and lower front teeth. Now he looks like a squirrel, instead of an eel.

Saw another freedom-bird today, they go over quite often at about 20,000 feet; headed for Tokyo and then the world!  Today’s was about the fifth I’ve seen, but I think one must go over just about every day. I cry every time I see one.

Oh, another thing. I played some basketball today. Vietnam is simply too hot to play basketball.

83 days, 24 Aug ’67
Thursday – 6 months and I’ll be 100 days “short”.

Got a birthday package today form C. Ogg. A jar of peanut butter, and a far of Tang. The peanut butter had melted quite a bit in the heat, so we mixed the Tang with it and had a new breakfast drink/sandwich spread.

Lately, we’ve been taking Cheui Hois out with us to aid in finding hiding places, etc. I trust the ARVN S-2 people who were Cheui Hois – they’ve proven themselves. But these guys aren’t even ARVNs that we take with us now. There’s only 1 – now 2 – that goes out, but he’s not even given a weapon, which is probably a good thing. He’ll show us a few things – ammo or something, but I know that there are a lot of things he doesn’t show us – weapons, for example. Sometimes when we start to search a house, he’ll stop us and say, “No VC here,” hiding something maybe. We found a lid from an ammo box today and he tried to tell us that it fell from a helicopter. The worst part of it is that both of them live in our compound. They use our club, hear our plans, etc. Wonderful opportunity to spy.

Apparently, the higher-ups trust them, and I guess I do to some extent. They do help at times, and they seem all right. But if I ever see one try to slip off into the woods when no one’s looking, I’ll make sure he doesn’t get too far – one way or another. I’ll trust them, but I’ll also keep my eye on them. I’d hate to find one missing and then find him a half-hour later with about 50 or his friends.

We had a terrible time tonight. Every night the projector goes bad – picture flips – but tonight it did it all night. We did fix it finally about ½ way through the film, but just as we did, the generator got drowned out. Now power for an hour. It took 4 hours to show a 90-minute show. Longer that Ben-Hur. It was of so much I forget what is was about.

84 days, 25 August ’67, Friday (already?!)

Not that there’s anything special about the 25th, it’s just that is seems like Tuesday instead of Friday. Went into Cu Chi today, to take my camera to the repair shop. We spent the whole morning cleaning all the junk out of the ammo bunker – I never did make it to the PX. I never got a chance to even eat lunch. Guess I’ll wait some more.

Didn’t go out today and apparently we’ll be in tonight, so chalk up another day off. The brass has a meeting tonight in the movie room, so no movie.

We got a new guy yesterday, but today we got word that two of our boys are being transferred to the 199th Infantry-line Company. They’re going to have it rough now. Wallace has been wanting out of Recon for some reason, but Harris is worried, and I don’t blame him.

I’ve only carried my machinegun on two short operations, but each morning afterward, I’ve awakened with a very stiff and sore back. I either need one less machine gun, or replace my dot and air mattress with a Sealy Posturpedic. I don’t know, I’m 20 now. That’s about the age to develop a weak back. I’m just glad it goes away after I’ve been up for about a half an hour, and it wasn’t as bad today as it was yesterday. Send me a cane,  Bob

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 10 - August 17, 1967

69 day, 10 Aug. ’67

Got the word we’re off for the rest of the day and night, so I’ll write now. All that can happen theoretically, is bumper pool and ginger ale at the club this afternoon, and a movie and Dr. Pepper tonight. Last night, after we got back from our ordeal at about 11:00, we had a snack in the mass hall and went to bed – very tired. About 3:00 a.m., we woke up to the sounds of distant machine guns and not so distant incoming mortar rounds. Our compound was not hit, but the ARVN compound was, with little or no damage, and zero casualties. The machine guns came from Gladys, which also got a few rounds of mortar and light arms fire. Negative damage there also. I was afraid they’d call us out to go after the VC, but after it was over we went back inside the tent and slept till morning (10:00).

When I say our compound wasn’t hit, but the ARVN was, maybe you’re confused. Our compound sidewalks, palm trees, nice buildings, showers, etc. is for the 43rd advisory team, mostly officers, with a few enlisted men – who advise the ARVN units. All here on our side are American. The ARVN compound (including the S-2 platoon) is across the street, and there is one on the other side of town. That’s the one that got hit; it’s right by Gladys. About the only time we mingle with the S-2 platoon is in the field and when Little Joe and friends come over to visit.

The laundry is taken every day now, instead of once a week like I thought. Just leave my wet clothes on the line every morning, and they come in and wash it. They hang it our all day to dry, and unless it rains before they take it in, your get it back that evening. Once in a while they get the stuff mixed up. I’m missing 3 pairs of socks, 2 pants, and one shirt, so far. I think it got wet in the rain yesterday, and they’re doing it over – I hope. They probably sold it to the ARVN or VC.

I got another exciting Vietnamese haircut today (2nd one in 2 months, not bad.) Haircuts over here have one nice thing about them. They’re only 40 p (40c). A shave, haircut, shampoo, massage, and manicure come to about 150 p – less than a haircut alone in the expensive world.

The propaganda sheet, [was enclosed] we found last night on the way to the village (which almost makes sense, especially after last night),

The chopper cartoon comes from the choppers over here. All have a picture of a tiger, wasp, or greyhound (like the bus) on the nose to identify the unit they are from. I was just imagining what would happen if one had a picture of Snoopy on it. [missing]

70 days, 11 Aug.  ’67

I’m enjoying our little vacation. I just wonder how long it will last. We didn’t do anything today, and aren’t supposed to tonight. The only exciting thing that happened today was when I went to Cu Chi and picked up my new pair of specs. No sunglasses, yet, though. I guess they take longer – besides, the sun wasn’t out today anyway

A couple of guys got pretty tight at the club last night, and caused a little disturbance. The C.O. of the compound (whoever he is) said, once more and we’re all kicked out. After all, we are guests here and we should act like it, not like we owned the place. There’s nothing in the S-2 deal that says we have to stay in the adviser compound, but they were nice enough to let us. If we don’t behave, we’ll be out in the rice paddies in pup tents.

I spent about 2 hours doing the Mustang. I was afraid I might get rusty – I was. Thought I’d send it along. It’s about the only thing I’ve done today. I think the hood’s too short, but . . .  Maybe Jere can hang it in the shop or use it for an oil rag.

71 days, 12 Aug. ‘67 Sat.

*I’m going to start naming each day of the week to help me keep track of them better.
Everybody was up late last night (seems to be a bad habit around here) talking and telling lies about everything from their childhood to fast women and hot cars. Especially women and cars. You wouldn’t believe some of it. I told about my Alpine, and sports cars, but everyone was on the drag kick. I told them about a certain ‘Beam I knew what ran at the strip and would be much better if the guy would run it at the sports car track by saying it was just a Tiger.

They said it was impossible to put an engine of that size into a car that size, and if it was done, it probably wouldn’t run better than the average 289 Mustang. I felt like saying the Lotus Elan would run circles around even the hi-performance Mustang, indeed, run even with the Shelby GT 350. But I knew they wouldn’t believe that.

Our vacation continues. Staying up late isn’t so bad, since we get up at 6:30 for breakfast and then go back to bed till 9 or 10 o’clock. The laundry girls came in today and brought us bananas, sweet potatoes, and wild peanuts. We had a party. The younger one is named Em Ut (like ammo) and Mama-San is named Co Ba, which speaks for itself. Like cobra without the “r”. we got quite a kick out of them and they love the phrase book.

We did go out for a couple hours this evening, just to be doing something to keep the Major satisfied. “You can fool all people some of the time and some people all the time, but you can’t fool all people all of the time.”

Want a biology lesson? I mentioned wild peanuts. Some of the fields are not strictly rice, some are peanut plants. They grow underground like potatoes, only there are a whole bunch of them at the end of the roots. I don’t know why, but I always thought they grew on trees or in comic strips. In one area they had Charlie Brown plants – to balance our the peanuts, I imagine.

Also, there are sensitivity plants everywhere. Whole fields of them growing wild. You can tell where we walk through – there’s a path of shriveled up leaves son the middle of the still open plants. Some of the leaves are about the size of my thumb.

Still another plant which I noticed only a few days ago. Growing along the berms in the rice paddies are clumps of clover. Big deal! There’s one unique thing about this clover – it’s all four leaf! No 5 or 3 leaf. If you can think of a way to get some home safely, I’ll see what I can do. Every time we go out now, I pick one and stick it in my hat.
One last thing. Lt. Cito made a comment tonight in the club. He was sitting there with a group of us in the soft lounge chairs, drinking a rum and Coke, watching “Wild, Wild West” on TV, when he said, “Recon’s really got class. Who else has three days off – 2 hours on and then can come in to a dry place to sleep, take warm showers, have people serve you in the mess hall, and then have a rum and Coke, watch TV, or a movie, most every night, or play pool?” You know, he’s right.

72 days, 13 Aug. Sun.

The most exciting part about this day was the meals. Lunch – a real live peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a braunschweiger sandwich, hard boiled eggs, potato chips, and the usual huge glass of iced tea. Usually for lunch they have either some rice dish or grilled cheese or luncheon meat sandwiches, but today made the first peanut butter in 2 ½ months.

We went out at 3:30 until 6:00 and saw nothing except the peanut harvest. Every house we came to was busy picking peanuts – the whole family was out in the yard, which was covered with grass mats, loaded with peanuts, doing the harvest. The nuts were still green and foul tasting; maybe they ripen on the way to market. Maybe that’s the reason for peanut butter today. Come to think of it, we saw them making peanut butter. They had a couple of acres filled with a layer of peanuts and about 4 water buffalo on roller skates, doing the squeezing. The juices ran off in a little trough and the gooks collected it in jars. To get crunch, they took ice picks and scraped the bottom of the buffalo’s feet and between his toes, mixing the chunks with the collected juices!

For diner we had barbecue! Steaks! Real live T-bones, cooked over a charcoal burner on the patio outside the mess hall. Sauce and tenderizer! I cook a pretty good steak! I’ve had worse cooked in our back yard at home (sorry, Dad).

73 days, 14 Aug. ’67 Mon.

I got a birthday card form “the Red Cross girls,” and another roll of slides, in the mail today, and that’s about it. The slides should be home in a few days. We’ve lain around drinking Coke and shooting pool all day today. Tonight we make up for it on an all-night mission. Ambush a supply train – ox carts and gooks. All night for ox carts and gooks! I could scream. We’ll discuss the outcome in the morning.
Leaving you in suspense,

74 days, 15 Aug. Tue.

At least we didn’t shoot each other last night. We were supposed to be on an ambush patrol, but we ended up doing what we do in the day – walking and searching houses.

We set up along a road and waited for about an hour for the supply train. It had been threatening rain all the time we were moving, and as soon as we sat down, it began. You can hear the rain coming for quite a ways, as it comes across the daddies. Sounds like a distant waterfall, and grows louder and louder, then, it hits. At times it rains so hard, and the wind is so strong, that it feels like someone’s sticking you with a million dull needles. It hurts! It’s a wonder it doesn’t beat the little ARVNs to death. Anyway, whatever you were doing at 8:00 Monday morning the 14th, it was 8:00 Monday night here, and I was sitting in a puddle getting drenched.

We got up to move and the rain stopped. We did the usual acrobatics necessary to stay on the berms at night, and stopped again at a house and remained there for about another hour. As soon as we stopped, it began to rain again – a slow, steady, drizzle. If you don’t think it’s possible to freeze in Vietnam, try this sometime. Whenever it rains hard, go out and sit in it for an hour or two and stay there after it’s over, and let a cold wind blow over you for another hour or so – if you can stay out there that long. At least we could move from place to place, usually on an ambush, you stay in one spot all night and freeze, moving kept us warm until we stopped and it rained again.

We moved out again and never stopped after that. Went through a rice paddy, waist deep in water! Deepest on I’ve seen for a true rice paddy. There were berms to walk on, but they were a foot under water. It’s hard enough to walk on dry ones at night, let alone submerged ones. Every other step, I’d fall off and make a large splash. And we were supposed to be moving quietly. We go back in at about 3:00 a.m. At least we didn’t stay out till 5:00 a.m. as planned. We slept till 11:00 this morning.

Unless we go out tonight, we’ve had the day off. I was playing with a radio today and got a Batman episode – in Vietnamese. Some music, and similar voices, but a different language. They also have a jackpot type contest on one of the VN stations. The girl behind the bar in the club was listening to radio today and kept writing down numbers every once in a while. We asked why (she speaks some English) and she said people send their names in and are given numbers – if their numbers are called during the day, they can win 20,000 p, if they give 5 other numbers that were called that day. She said they give about 10 numbers usually. Not many people have the opportunity to take part; just the city people and people like her that are close to mailing facilities like here at Bao Trai.

75 days, 16 Aug. ’67 Wed.

Up at 8:00 for an all-day mission. We did nothing but walk from 8 to about 3:30 that afternoon. We had a little trouble with one of the water ox, though. He almost charged us as we walked by; we almost shot him. Sanchez (he killed on one) said the only way to stop them with an M-16 is with a full 20 round clip, fired at one time on automatic. Hope it doesn’t jam. Ever try to shoot an armored cow?

We stopped for lunch and had bananas, pineapple, coconuts, etc. One thing about this place – you can always find something to eat, especially with the ARVNs to help. They made one old woman cook us some chicken and rice – delicious!

We had another treat at the end of our walk. We returned to the road at a very small village – about 3 houses – and while we waited for trucks to pick us up, we went into a little store where they sold candy. For 3 p, I got a whole handful of pineapple candy about the size of lemon drops. It was made from real pineapple juice – no artificial flavoring – by the gooks. Best pineapple candy I’ve ever had. I should have saved you a piece.

I did save you this Chieu Hoi pass. They dropped them on us from helicopters as we walked across the paddies. I don’t know who they thought we were, but I think we’re lucky they were armed with passes, rather than machine guns. Also I saved you a few of my four-leaf clovers, which grow in abundance around here.

76 days, 17 Aug. ’67 Thurs.

The Cheiu Hoi camp got mortared last night, and the bunker line just outside our tent got a few rounds of sniper fire (two rounds hit our jeeps, if the jeeps hadn’t been parked there, they would have hit some on inside the tent!) We had had to get up and go to the mortar bunkers in case our compound got mortared. It never did, but we had to help man the bunkers all night (1/2 hour each man). I guess the VC hit the Cheiu Hoi camp quite often. After all, the defectors are hated as well as dangerous in the eyes of the VC. After every attack, the Cheius have a parade down the middle of Bao Trai to show everyone in town, including the VC – that they are still alive and against the VC and proud of it.

I see in the P. O. [Westerville, Ohio Public Opinion newspaper] that Marlynn was nominated for Fair Queen, but I got a letter from my parents saying she wasn’t elected. If it’s not too late, I’d like to cast the tie-breaking vote. Who did get it – Christy? You know, Marlynn, by not going to WHS for your senior year, you’ve missed your chance to be Homecoming Queen, making me a liar; I told you that you would be someday. Maybe you’ll make it at Otterbien.

Unless we go out tonight, we’ve had the day off (I’ve heard that before). Three jeeps went to Duc Hoa (they’ve fixed the bridge – the VC blew it out a week ago) to pick up a couple of Chieu Hoi to bring them back to the compound here.

Nearly everybody in the platoon has a bad case of the GIs. Doc had some stuff went out from Cu Chi that’s really great. Now ever one is asking him for a laxative!

Let’s see now. In 16 days, I’ll have an even 9 months to go over here. How should I count it – as an expectant father or as one school year? Maybe if Patti would get pregnant again . . . I remember the first seemed like only 3 months, instead of 9, to me anyway.
Cont. tomorrow, Bob

Aug. 17  [letter to Carole Ogg]

Hi, Carole,
I don’t know what happened to your letter, but I just got it today, and it was postmarked the first. (I got L. Demorest’s letter today, too). Of course you know by now, the cookies came in beautifully – thanks again. And there is probably another box of slides there by now.

Sorry about your voice, but as Linda D. put it, “Carole Ogg had throat surgery in June. Couldn’t talk for 1 week. Then, when she was permitted to talk, she over did it and now she can’t talk for 2 weeks.” You think you’ve got problems? What about Mrs. W.? Sounds to me like she’s gone to the dogs – call the pound. If no claims her in two weeks, they’ll put her to sleep.

Everything here is, I guess you could say, satisfactory, considering the situation. As long as we don’t shoot each other. I do think I have hay fever, though. It’s either that, or pneumonia form being out in the rain all night a few nights ago. I froze!
Believe me, I wish I was home right now, too. I’d paint every house in Westerville, if I could come home today. I don’t know though. If they have any riots in Columbus, it might be safer here. 290 days, Bob

PS. Just discovered why your letter took 16 days. You didn’t sent it air mail. Quite a difference!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 1 - August 9, 1967

60 days (2 months), 1 August ’67

More convoys today. You see a lot of unusual things along the road to Cu Chi and back to Duc Hoa. Today there was a herd (flock?) of ducks being marched along the road by a half-naked, foot high peanut, with a piece of straw.

There was a big card game today where about 3 people lost $140 each – one month’s pay. One guy collected $396!!!

Believe it or not, that’s all we did today – run a convoy to Cu Chi – sit around for 3 hours (PX, etc.) and run another back to Duc Hoa, and relax the rest of the afternoon and evening, and listen to all the riot news. Riots, snipers, bombs, etc. I think it might be safer over here.

61 days, 2 August ’67

Another day of leisure – I didn’t even go to Cu Chi today. I wasted a little film here and there and used up my third roll.

I also got some cookies and fudge from Carole Ogg. She wrapped each piece individually in Saran Wrap and packed the whole affair in popcorn. Delicious!

The word is we’ve got to Bao Trai tomorrow. Looks like more hard work and less leisure for a while. Better clean my gun.

Gotta cut it off here – I have no idea when I’ll get a chance to add to it. I’m sending a couple of ticket books from the Bao Trai and Duc Hoa clubs. We have to buy the books in either 2, 5, 02 10 dollar sizes, and use the tickets (25c, 10c, 5c) to buy drinks and sandwiches. Pretty exclusive?

[cartoon of Snoopy with flight goggles and scarf, parachuting from crashing chopper, saying :Curse you, Ho Chi Minh”]

Only 10 more months, Bob

2 Aug. ’67

Hi lo, [letter supplied by Carole Ogg]
I got your package today – beautiful. Everything was as fresh as if I had gone next door and taken It right out of you oven. Usually cookies take a pretty rough beating in the mail, but these came through in one piece; must have been the individual wrapping. The fudge was still moist and flaky – delicious.
The popcorn got stale, but a few of the guys ate it anyway (I noticed you buttered it). Maybe if you had wrapped each kernel individually, like you did the cookies, it would have come through fresh also.

I took out half of everything and then passed the rest around. They thought that’s all I got, but took it all anyway – glad I saved some out for myself.
Is it time you can’t talk again? The neighborhood must be pretty quiet again.

How do you like my camera? Don’t let Dave get a hold of it – he might break it like he did my Argus )I expect $40 in payment for the Argus by the way).
My slides I’ve taken should be there by now. I’ve sent an explanation of them all. I don’ know how clear they are (the explanations) but the pictures are good and we’ll have a big show come next June. I’ve taken three rolls, plus four or five borrowed shots, in two months. I’m going to try to have one 36 shot roll every month if possible. Maybe two for February; R&R time. Where should I go? Bangkok, Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Hawaii? That’s not all of them, but it’s the ones I’d like to go to.

Having a ball; wish you were here, Bob

62 days, 3 Aug. ’67 (written Aug 4)

Today – no, let’s call it yesterday, we were up at 5:00 tearing down our “holey” tent. I found out what happened to it causing all those little holes. I noticed that there were four spots where the pattern of holes was similar; all bunched up like a shotgun blast. The tent was folded and, “just for the Hell of it”, they had set a Claymore mine off about 2 feet in front of it – the pellets went through about 4 layers of that very heavy tent canvas.

We ran a convoy to Cu Chi and waited there for word to go to Bao Trai. Remember the picture of the Recon area at base camp? We have taken that big tent we were storing equipment in and are using that at Bao Trai. Why keep it at Cu Chi, when all the equipment is now in the field? Besides, it doesn’t leak like the other one did. It’s got a liner on the inside, plus a mosquito bar all the way around, so we can roll up the sides and get some air – and no bugs.

We had a flat tire on the way to Bao Trai – that’s the only trouble of any kind we’ve had while on the road. The jack worked fine, but we had to lift the jeep up to fit the jack in under the springs. It jacked the wheels high enough to take the flat off, but we had to lift the jeep again to get the spare on. The jack was as high as it would go. Took us about half an hour.

We don’t get to stay in the same place as before, but we’re right beside it in our tent. There are some officers in our little shed. That’s all right – their shed leaks more than our tent. We had to move a huge trailer, loaded with a generator, about 4 times. The tent wouldn’t fit in the space with the generator, so we had to move it. We managed it halfway out and some captain came over and made us put it back. No authorization to move it. Five minutes later he was back and said it was all right to move it, but he had to put it in the yard behind the tent. There’s a drainage ditch right alongside the tent over which we had to build a bridge to roll the trailer on. This was fine until we rolled it off the other end of the bridge. We hit a spot of dirt, which was covering a septic tank. The trailer sank up to its frame – took three jeeps to pull it out.

We finally got it out and set up our house. They strung lights in it and now we’re all set. Only disagreeable thing is the drainage ditch. It’s full of stagnate water, treated with oil to keep the mosquitoes down. It smells like a sewer when the wind blows right. In the hutch behind us some of the people have a little monkey about the size of a squirrel. He was tied on the drain out in the yard in the afternoon. I took about 5 shots of him – he’d pose and smile every time I shot. A real ham!

Everything is the same here as before, only we have a schedule, so we won’t get in the way of the people who are here all the time. Showers 1 – 5 in the afternoon, plus nighttime after 8 at night; that includes shaving, etc. We now eat in their mess hall instead of driving 2 miles every meal to Gladys’s mess tent. It’s real nice – no chow lies. A gook brings you your dinner and a pitcher of iced tea. Service! We eat 6:15 – 7:15 for breakfast, 12:30 – 1:30 for lunch, and 5:30 – 6 for dinner. At 6 our movie is run an after that they run it again for their people. We can use the club anytime it’s open, as long as no one gets drunk. Wonder how long that’ll last? Speaking of the club, I had a Dr. Pepper last night – it’s all they had – for the first time. Not bad, if you like carbonated cough syrup.

I’m glad they got my slides. It’s the first I’ve heard mention of them. Don’t worry about the small, enclosed places. It’s the only way to get any privacy. Almost like having your own room. They’re not as small as they might look. I have a few of me that I took myself with the delay-action shutter; they should be back soon.

Poor Jeff! He’s better off in the Navy, of course, but four years? Jere better watch out. Buy the GTO for Marlynn – oh, she’s mentioned that already?

Maybe Dale isn’t in Viet Nam – maybe he ran off to Mexico again.

Okay Dave, it’s true there’s not much to basic and AIT. How would you like it for two years? How do you like the army in general? Guess what, because I’m over here, when I ETS (Note added: Expiration of Term of Service), I’ll have no guard or reserve obligation. I’m done after 2 years. You’ll have 6.  If I make it out of here, that’s almost enough to make it worth it.

Can Jere (not Dave) paint fiberglass bodies as in Lotus Elans? I’d like mine to be dark maroon instead of bright red (with a slight metallic flake?)

I’ll try to stay out of the woods whenever possible. After all, look what happened to Little Red Riding Hood. [The part about Little Red Riding Hood was mentioned in a newspaper article about his death.]

62 days, 4 Aug. ’67

We’re back with the ARVN S-2 platoon now, for sure. I found out that four of them, including Number 10, are defected VC from the Chieu Hoi program. They are invaluable in finding VC traps and hiding places.

Something else. The VC that killed Pee Wee, the lieutenant, also got his weapon, an M-16 which Lieutenant Cito had loaned to him, so now Charlie has at least one M-16 against us – ow! I imagine he has ammo, after all we found 16 full magazines. I suppose h has more. I just hope he doesn’t know the importance of cleaning it and has it jam on him – maybe he’ll give it back or throw it away.

We’ve just been lazing around today, doing nothing. It looks like we’ll be out on a night ambush patrol all night tonight. That’s supposed to be the worst way to spend the night in Vietnam. It’s what they were doing when they got hit that one night; more butterflies I hope we don’t see a thing.

I put in the ticket books I said I put in the last latter, but forgot to. Also something my grandparents sent me. Tell you about tonight tomorrow. Back on foot, Bob

64 days, 5 Aug. ’67

They’re right about ambush patrols! Everything was all right until we left the read and started walking through the muck. It was darker than a coal mine – no moon or stars. We kept to the berms, but I’d almost rather walk in the water at night. The berms are only about a foot or less wide, and irregular and slippery; one wrong step and you get our feet wet. Occasionally you run across a little cut in the berm about 2 feet across, that the gooks cut to drain excess water from one section to another. These are no sweat in the day, but at night you can’t see them until you, or if you’re lucky, the guy in front of you, falls into it.

The patrol nearly turned into a disaster. One element of the patrol got separated from the other. The S-2 platoon and one of our squads got ahead of the Pat platoon and one of their squads (my group). They went to the prescribed ambush site and then realized that we weren’t with them. As dark as it was, it was easy to get separated from one another. – get 3 feet behind your man and you couldn’t see him. If the column stopped, you’d bump into the guy in front of you, even knock him into the creek.

We ran around in circles trying to find ourselves until we finally made radio contact and learned where they were. The only trouble was that the men at the ambush site weren’t informed where we were or that we had been separated. (I didn’t know we were lost until after it all happened.)

Apparently we weren’t sure where they were either. In an ambush patrol – when you’ve set up, everything that moves open game.  When the first man in our element stepped out into the road in front of the other element, one of the ARVNs (guess who? Number 10) let his bolt go forward and, thinking that we were VC, opened up on us. As soon as he started, the US beside him cut loose with his ’16, and then another ’16 began firing – automatic.

I was in the rear of the column and it appeared to us that the fire was going out across the rice paddy at VC, and not at the front of our group. We started to move up but an ARVN warned us to stay back. The burst of fire, which only lasted about 45 seconds (actual count fired on that time at about 4 US and 3 ARVNs, who were unlucky enough to be in front).

The one thing that probably saved everyone’s life was the sound of the bolt going forward (which we didn’t hear in the rear). As soon as they heard this, they dropped and the first rounds went over their heads. As the firing grew more intense, they crawled behind berms and under water to get away from the bullets hitting, they said, all around them. (The Lieutenant was among those in the firing area. Said one round singed his nose. Didn’t believe him until we got back to camp, and saw a burn mark on the tip of his nose).

One of our guys got a flesh wound in his thigh from the ARVNs .30 cal. Lucky it wasn’t an M-16 – his leg would have been ripped open instead of just a clean, not-bleeding, hole (actually 2 holes, about an inch apart; in and out). An ARVN was hit in the chest by another .30 caliber slug. The bullet bounced off him! It just hit a glancing blow and at a critical angel and literally bounced off, leaving a shallow gash right about his heart! Needless to say , it’s lucky he was in just the exact position he was in, and not facing the gun. I’d like to learn that position! Also needless to say he’s lucky that it wasn’t an M-16 – it wouldn’t have bounce off. An M-16 is 5 times as powerful as the carbine.

Lieutenant Cito decided that after that, it would be wise if we called off the whole affair and we went back in.

I don’t think you could blame the ARVN and US who started shooting; the blame (it any) would fall on Captain Barkman for not informing his group that we were coming up to their position. And also for not having any form of meeting, briefing, or rehearsal before going out that might have prevented us from getting lost in the first place. We had no idea of where we were going to set up the ambush. (Compare this to Charlie who practices his ambushes for weeks at a time before trying them).

We had a whole afternoon of classes on planning and rehearsing ambush patrols in replacement school. Guess these people forgot or never had that class. We were assured that from now on there would be some preparation before going out. Lucky no one had to die to prove the need for this. As it turned out someone will get a Purple Heart.

Our guy who was hit has only 67 days left in VN.

After we were all back in, we realized how lucky we were that the people being shot at didn’t fire back. Someone would’ve been hurt. Sanchez had his #2 A.W. (antitank weapon – rocket launcher) ready to fire and the M-79 man was lading an H.E. (high explosive) round (one ARVN shot at them with his “79.

We got to bed about 1:30 am only to be woke up at 4. One of the ARVN outposts, which are spaced about every 5 miles along the roads, and on each entrance to each town, had been hit by a company of VC.

We remounted the machine guns on the jeeps and took our .50 cal m.g. on the ¾ ton truck, and the 106 jeeps, and went out to help. By the time we got there, it had been over for about a half-hour. The outpost and a portion of the little village had been pretty well ripped apart by 81-mm mortars, killing a whole family of civilians as they slept, and wounding 21 of the ARVNs manning the outpost.

We set up a security ring around the village for about 2 hours, and watched while nothing happened. Finally the ARVNs came out and started across the fields after Charlie. It looked like the whole Vietnamese army was there. There had to be at least 2 battalions of ARVNs ( approx. 200 men) going after a company of VC who by this time had probably made their way back home, and were asleep or lowing their field like normal civilians.

We left there at 6:30 or &, and got back to bed after breakfast at 8 a.m. So far that night we’d had only 3-4 hours sleep, we slept until 12:30 o1 this afternoon.

We made a floor out of ammo boxes for the tent this afternoon. It’s a mess. My side is nice and even and level. We started at one end and worked to the other, and everything came out ever. On the other side, they started at both ends and worked toward the middle, and were left with a big empty space where the boxes didn’t meet, and they had made it very uneven. The two sections failed to line up by about a foot. Also, by doing both sides separately instead of continuing our side and going toward the other, they left an aisle-way, too wide for the boards at one end and too narrow for a perfect fit at the other.

We wound up laying whole boxes down the center – not neat, but sufficient as long as you don’t slip on the unsteady boxes and trap your ankle in the space between the edge of the floor and side of the box. (The floor is made up of a box foundation with the lumber from boxes we tore apart ailed across them.)

After dinner, we were called out of the movie to go back out to the same outpost; they were hit again. Again we were too late to be any help. I’m beginning to feel like the cavalry in the movies. It was only a small force, and did little or no damage, and we left almost as soon as we got there.

These outposts are sand bag forts about the size of a gas station, surrounded by several strings of barbed wire, and protected by two .30 caliber machine guns, and anywhere for 3 to 30 ARVNs.

I hate to say this, but from the direction of the one we’ve gone to twice already, I hear, at this moment, continuous mortar and/or artillery fire. I can’t tell for sure which; it’s pretty far off, but it sounds as though it’s landing instead of being shot (outgoing rounds go off with a sharp band – incoming rounds go off with more of a “whump” sound.) After listening to it every night, wherever I am, I have learned to give a pretty accurate guess of whether they are incoming or outgoing. Especially that night at Cu Chi \when it got mortared. All night long, the artillery and mortars fired out, but as soon as the first incoming round hit, I knew it was incoming. Maybe I hear thunder right now. It has a sound probably closer to incoming rounds as heard in the distance.

I suppose we’ll go out tomorrow (I just heard some distant machine guns – hope we don’t go out tonight.) But I hope not at night – at least not like last night. Charlie’s bad enough without shooting at your own people, Maybe some on should tell these little guys that by saying we were going to fight with the ARVNs, we didn’t mean…..

Never trust a Chieu, Hoi, Bob

P.S. If you're thinking, "Captain fouls up ambush patrol at Bao Trai" would make an interesting story to print - forget it!

65 days, 6 Aug. ’67

We were supposed to go out last night but the plans were dropped so we had the night off to watch the movie, “After the Fox”, and then go to bed. When I got back to the tent there was a poker game going on at the end opposite form mine. (That’s where the light bulb is.). I finally was able to go to sleep about 3:00; I guess the game went on until 4.

Naturally, all slept late this morning. Everything was quiet and sleepy until the PX chopper came in. Didn’t know they had such animals. He came in and set several boxes on the pad and opened the store. They had a little bit of just about everything; stationery, pens (this one), razor blades, candy, etc. I guess he comes out here about every three weeks. They have a PX out here after all, only you don’t go to it – it goes to you.

After this, we had to clean up some of the junk around the tent, because General H. K. Johnson, Army Chief of Staff (4-star variety – he tells Westmoreland what to do) was coming this evening. They had 4 jeeps for the General and his party (including another one-star general – who, I don’t know). The jeeps were all freshly painted (not to freshly, I hope) and cleaned up with the red tags with stars on the bumpers, indicating “General in Jeep” – salute or you’re an automatic private E-1” All this, plus a number of ARVN and National Police Guards. He didn’t come all afternoon.

 We were all going into the mess hall when we were met by Lt. Cito, who stopped us and said to go back; we were moving in 10 minutes. No dinner tonight! We got our junk together and piled into trucks. I got the impression that we were leaving just so the General wouldn’t see us. One problem – to get our truck out, we had to move the General’s jeeps. Too late to do that – here comes the ****’s choppers!!

Big deal! As soon as the choppers set down, he bounced out and strutted down the walkway to his jeeps. Everybody saluted and took pictures. (Except, guess who didn’t have his camera?) He bounced into his jeep and they all drove off in a cloud of dust – never to be seen at Bao Trai again. When he drove past our truck, we saluted (even me).

The reason they probably didn’t want him to see us? We’re rather unconventional in our dress, etc. Wild bush hats, camouflage fatigues, .30 cal. Carbines. A few of the guys, including Lt. Cito, have traded their m_16s for the .30 calibers with the ARVNs (.30s don’t jam).

Well, he did see us and the report was that as he passed through the compound gate he pointed back at us and asked our first sergeant, “What was the?” The Serge told him, “That’s the rat platoon, Sir.” No more questions.

After he’d seen us, I thought maybe we’d not go out. Xin loi.  I guess they thought we’d better go out anyway. We stumbled through the river paddies and bamboo hedgerows until 9:00, searching houses, dodging artillery rounds (ours) and seeing nothing. It seemed that they knew where the artillery was going to hit and we walked down a strip of fields with artillery about a 1000 meters or so on either side, tearing up the woods. We came back in and had sandwiches in the mess hall and went to bed.

66 days –  7 August ’67
300 to go, the first goal, next is the 200th day –

Make this an anniversary issue! A national holiday! This is still morning, but I thought I’d write a little until something happens, probably this afternoon.

First, I hear an explanation of what we were doing last night. They had reports of 2 battalions of VC in the area and wanted to detain them while the general was around. Fine. Send 2 platoons after 2 battalions. Of course, we did have the artillery and they usually di di mao when the artillery starts coming in. Anyway, we didn’t see a soul.

We did get to bed late last night and had hopes of sleeping late this morning, but they woke us up at 7:30, saying we had to go in 15 minutes. Go where? Everybody got up, got dressed, and was ready to go, but they came in and said to disregard and go back to bed! Dirty #@!&*#

Got your (and Jere’s) letter yesterday. Jere, you’re ‘Beam sound beautifully hairy. 350 hp – how do you think that grabs me? It’s what’s happ’nin’. I’ll bet you run it on the strip, but if you ruin it before I get a chance to see it, I’ll contact local board #43. Your job does sound profitable; better than Hedrick’s anyway. Wish you hadn’t mentioned the mini-skirts (groan – I wanna go home). But if Columbus has any riots, I hope they’re over with by next June. I’d hate to live through a year over here and then find the same thing back in the world.

Did I read right? Marlynn has the car and I haven’t heard from her for two – almost three 0 days? Sounds like somebody pulled a (Jere) Singleton.

Okay, it’s evening now, and, banning an emergency – our day is over – except for another card game, which I hope doesn’t go until 3 a.m., but it surely will.

They seem to have a way of waiting till chow time to send us out. We went out at 4 today, and walked and sloshed and did nothing except test-fire all weapons. I fired one round, and “click” – jammed! The chamber and bore were like a mirror – clean My ammo had dirt on it! You gotta clean every single sound (bullet) regularly or it’ll jam – it would be a beautiful weapon if you were fighting in a vacuum with not dust. Our .50 cal. Machine gun wouldn’t fire either. Only one shot, then had to cock it manually, shoot again – 1 shot – cock it, etc. Capt. Barkman called it a high powered sniper rifle. I guess – it’ll shoot almost a mile and penetrate the heaviest armor.

It has occurred to me that I have never named the guys I’m with. So just in case you’re interested, here’s a list with all  I know about each one:

First is platoon leader 1st Lieutenant Cito (see-toe), first name Al. I think from (?). Likes sports cars, has a Triumph, loves my Alpine pictures, the magazine you sent me, and Lotus Elans. He’s about 20 – 22, I think, and is one of the coolest guys you’d want to meet, especially for an officer. He does what he wants and is definitely not formal as far as the Army is concerned. He wouldn’t think twice about telling a Colonel what to do, and he’d expect the Colonel to di it – probably would, too. Looks like a college kid. He leaves in October.

Next is platoon Staff Sergeant Scott from somewhere in the hills – his accent shows it. He’s about the sorriest person I’ve seen in the Army, and I’ve seen quite a few. A typical career man – a dud. Glad he’s gone. He had a sore foot and is now in Cu Chi and probably will stay there, I hope. He also leaves in October.

The Scout section leader is Buck Sergeant Sammy Beasley from Texas and California. “Rock” really knows his stuff. When sober, he can be a real nice guy, but 75% of the time he’s on the beer and can be hard to get along with. Here at Bao Trai, the rules say, “no one gets drunk or they’re out of the club.” He stays pretty straight here. He’s colored, leaves in October.

The Infantry section leader is Rudy Garcia (Spec. 4) from Fresno, California. He’s a crazy, wild, Mexican – you can imagine it. I don’t really think he’s all fat, just husky and rather strong. A great guy – leaves in October (it’s a habit here).

106 section leader is Spec. 4 Luis Sanchez, form “Spanish Harlem” in New York.  He’s also a crazy Puerto Rican, takes his camera everywhere, along with one L.A.W. rocket, when we go out. Says someday he’ll be able to use it. Guess when he leaves? October.

Now my section. Bruce Esterline, Spec. 4, from Illinois. Was in Recon for six months. Went to mail clerk for two months, went back to Recon and leaves in October. He’s assistant section leader to Rock.

Bruce Howater (hoe-water) Spec 4, carries a machine gun. He’s about 19 – 20, like everybody else so far except Garcia, Scott, and Beasley. Also from Illinois – dreams of a Shelby G.T. 500 when he goes home. He’s going to extend a year in Vietnam to be a gunner on a chopper. Leaves in December (non-conformist) for leave, and then comes back.

Spec. 4 Ed Culver, is from Fresno, California. He and Garcia went to the same high school about 2 years apart – didn’t find out until they started talking about home one night. He’s 24, I think. Leaves in December.

Spec. 4 Stephen Branch. Kind of an idiot, has only his back teeth – no front ones top or bottom. Thinks he’s a general, but really doesn’t know whether to twiddle his watch or wind his thumbs. Everybody picks on him, and kids him about his teeth – he brings it on himself. Leaves in October. 19 years old, but looks 25.

PFC Roy Raye – colored, Mississippi. Rock calls him “Crow”, because that’s how he sounds when he talks, crazy coon! About 10 ½ feet tall and 10 inches at the waist; his legs are 5 feet long themselves. Can’t see him unless he smiles in a dark room. Leaves here in April (me soon afterward).

PFC Eugene Wallace. Colored, 19, Leavenworth, Kansas. Wouldn’t know he was colored unless you saw him. A number one guy. Also leaves in April.
PFC Robert Hughes – we’ve met. Form your own opinions. Leaves in June (groan) 10 months from now.

Infantry: all 19-22 except Garcia. All leave in October.

Spec 4 Burbidge (first name?) from Kentucky. Crazy person.

Spec 4 “Gomer” Jones. Also crazy. He’s the only one in all Recon besides me with a Recon MOS (?). He was at my training company at Knox as a permanent part and left the week I got there for Nam. Leaves in April. North Carolina.

Spec. 4 Russ Hampton (the one who got shot in the leg). A Tennessee Rebel, also crazy – everyone in the infantry is crazy.

PFC Dave Clarke, from our neighborhood – Cincinnati. Our M-74 grenade man. HE can keep 5 rounds in the air at all times (it’s a single shot like a shotgun) and hit the same spot with all of them.

PFC Bobby Vance. Tulsa, Oklahoma – sawed-off midget. “Short Rock” (not really a midget, just short). Leaves in April. The Lieutenant’s radio man. Real buddies without little Number 10. Trade his M-16 for No. 10’s carbine.

Spec. 4 Clayton Farr – colored, 24, drives and fires our ¾ ton truck and .50 caliber machine gun.

106 Jeep section – all around 20-22.

PFC Frank Marabello – Connecticut; Slightly Italian. Leaves 12 days before me.

Spec. 4 “Fuzzy” Felciano – Portuguese. Leaves in October. Commo (?) lineman MOS. What’s he doing in Recon?

PFC Eugene Harris, colored, from ?, leaves I believe, sometime in April or May Always has a pipe.

Here’s the guys I like the best:

PFC Frank [Pete] Sabatino, from ? Leaves in July – next July! Don’t know much about him.

PFC Donald Marlar from Mississippi. Scared to death of being here – don’t blame him, really. Being trained for RTO for the Lieutenant to replace Vance. Also leave in July, ’68.

PFC Jim Clark (how about that – Dave Clark (Dave Clark 5 – ha) and Jim Clark, (world champion Indy winner? – ha) from Tennessee. 24 years old. Been in the Army 4 ½ years (Korea, Germany, and now here). Still a PRC. Leaves before Sabatino and Marlar, but still in July ’68. Exactly one month after me, July 2, ’68.

We have a few more. Out Doc Brooks, colored, real nice guy, leaves in April. 23 years old. Sped. 5 medic. From California.

Our Spec.4 artillery forward observer – e calls in the big stuff. First name? Bellamy, last name. Colored. If he had a goatee he’s pass for Sammy Davis, Jr. – acts like him, a cool guy. From North Carolina. Leaves soon, let’s say October.

Our jeep “combat” mechanic. Here’s a guy with an infantry MOS and is a mechanic. Also a sports car man, from California. “Smitty” Smith, great guy, leaves in October, goes to the field with us and goes out on operations even though technically he’s not supposed to. 23 years old.

That’s it. All real good Joes, except for maybe Branch and Harris and definitely Sgt. Scott.

Oh, I forgot, Captain Barkman, the S-2 ARVN platoon advisor, and the rest of the ARVN mob, including No. 10, or Little Joe, as Vance calls him (I got a friend, too, “Kirby” the B.A.R. man) and of course, “Pee Wee, the Lieutenant who was killed.

How’s that for a long two-volume letter?
Almost out of ink. Bob

67 days, 8 Aug. /67

Whew, What a day! Poker game until 4:30 a.m. last night, then up at 6:30 to go out on an operation. These guys had better cut out this poker game every night. It’s awfully hard trying to sleep while about 8 guys are yelling at each other over a card game, radios and light on full blast.

We left for the chopper pad at 7 and sat there until 11:30, waiting for the choppers, thereby missing both breakfast and lunch.

We went to an area along the Oriental River with the S-2 and “B” company of the 1/27th infantry, searching for Charlie. We walked, if you can sue that word, for 3 hours in a grass, bamboo, and vine mixture about 6 feet tall, and so thick that you couldn’t see 3 feet in front of you. The under grass and vines were worse than the mud. I found myself lifting my feet almost waist high to mash down the grass with each step. It was impossible to drag your foot through the grass and vines; they hold like tentacles of a multi-armed octopus.

To add to the under (and over) growth, there were ditches and holes every now and then – some ankle deep, some chest deep. They were all hidden and you didn’t know they were there until you were in them. The area was scattered with huge, water-filled artillery-made craters; but they weren’t much problem – you could see them.

We walked to the river – about the size of the Scioto – and contemplated crossing it (are they kidding, or what?). but decided to turn around and go back. I think I would have rather swam the river!

We sat in a rainstorm for 15 minutes, waiting for the choppers. Wet, tired, dirty, and now cold. When it rains and you just sit there, it feels like about 20 degrees. Then we got up in the chippers – ice cubes! That wind was like a blizzard on our wet clothes.

We got as far as the Bao Trai airstrip, only to get another group of choppers to Cu Chi, to refuel and then to a wooded area filled with supposedly 100 VC (Only us and the S-2 now, - no infantry). We stumbled around in the woods for a couple of hours, and found only a punji pit. Branch stepped right into it, one step ahead of me. Lucky person – put his foot right in the middle of the stakes, but missed them all! It was camouflaged so well, there was no way of detecting it.  We found 3 others already uncovered.

Number 10 (only 18 years old) saved a number of us. We started into a wooded area, but he stopped us – pointed into the woods, and made an explosive gesture with his hands. “Boom”, he said. Then he took his M-16 and shot 3 grenade booby traps he had spotted along the wood-line. How’s that for a good testimonial for the value of the Chieu Hoi program?

While we were waiting for the choppers along the edge of the woods, the gun-ships killed two VC with M-60s and M-74s out in the rice daddies, as they (the VC) tried to get away from the area.

We had a full 12 hour day in Charlie’s territory, and I’m a very tired and hungry ground grabber.

Think I’ll go to bed (it’s 8:00). Tune in tomorrow.

68 days, 9 Aug. ’67

The laundry woman came today. She comes once a week and does laundry. Every day, she comes into the tent and “makes the beds” – straightens the air mattresses and blankets, and mosquito nets – and sweeps the floor. If you want her to, she’ll shine your shoes. All this for only 500 p ($5.00) a month per man. We have a maid!

I found out by a letter from Biddle’s parents that Mike has gone to Germany to work in a hospital. I don’t know how he got out of Vietnam. They didn’t send any address, so I still can’t write him. I’m sure he’ll end up here soon. Germany is probably just more training and/or experience before he is sent here to be a field medic like he was trained for. I hope he stays in Germany, but he surely won’t.

I went to Cu Chi today on a re-supply run. Right in the middle of the street, in the city of Cu Chi itself, there was a lady rhinoceros – sorry, water buffalo – literally having a cow. All the villagers were gathered around, cheering and laughing – probably making bets on the exact time of birth or something. That’s something you don’t see every day back in the world.

Again, I didn’t have my camera! That makes five times I have wished I had brought it along. The others were when Clark (Dave) rolled the jeep; when General Johnson came; inside the club at Bao Trai (too dark – rats!) and I wanted one of “Pee Wee” but he was killed before I got the chance – too bad.
Little Joe came in today with a couple of his friends for a visit. (Vance calls him Little Joe now instead of Number 10). They were looking at a large 1650 page Sears & Roebuck catalog that Vance got in the mail. They were thrilled to death with it, even though they couldn’t read. Almost like Snuffy Smith, when the mail-order catalog comes in the mail. They got a real kick out of the lingerie section.

We left at 6:30 for a mission going after a village chief and bodyguards – all VC. The little hamlet was located in a clump of jungle and hedgerows. We approached the hedgerows and Lt. Cito sent the scout section around the other side to set up an ambush for any VC (anything not American) that moved, planning on having some run out while they swept through the village and jungle.

We set up and waited until the rest of our men came through the brush – no VC. All were about through when 5 ARVNs started back into the hedgerow. That’s when the nightmare began. The third man thru hit something – anti-personnel, anti-tank mine, Claymore, hand grenade – and when the smoke cleared all 5 were lying in the paddy or in the hedgerow, moaning and bleeding. The fragments missed several US people who were all around the area; I don’t know how – it was a huge explosion.

Doc Brooks used every bandage in the two platoons – everyone carries one, plus about 20 in his aid bag – and still had several wounds left open. It was pretty bad. It began to rain – so hard you could not see 3 feet ahead of you (it was pitch dark by this time). The Med-evac choppers were called, but refused to come because of the rain. We had 5 men very critically wounded and put in an urgent call for help, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t come because it was raining too hard!

Eventually we wound up carrying all five 2000 or maybe 3000 meters through the rain and rice paddies to the nearest road, where they were picked up by choppers (it stopped raining). That 2000 meters was the nightmare. For a while it was impossible to see where you were or who or what was in front of you – stumbling on berms, falling in bottomless wells, trying to carry an injured man on the verge of death, and not injure him any more than he was.

A few guys carried weapons – some had 4 M-16s and a machine gun. The rest helped carry the ARVNs. The mud and water was so deep in spots, and we were trying to move so fast, I thought I’d never make it. There were no stretchers, we just grabbed where we could, trying not to touch any wounds – impossible – it was like carrying a sack of potatoes; the only way to tell if he was still alive was to listen to him moan. We dropped ours head first down a well when the two guys carrying his head and chest fell into it.

I never realized how heavy these little guys could get after about 200 meters, through the water and mud – 800 to go yet. About halfway there, one of the ARVNs died. The other two weren’t too bad, but there were two more – the one I helped with and another – that might not be alive tomorrow.

The choppers really went out of their way, and came about 100 meters or so from the road, and some of the crew carried stretchers out to meet us. What a world of difference a stretcher made! So much easier to carry him with his weight distributed over the stretcher that last 100 meters to the chopper wasn’t too bad.

We waited for about 5 minutes in the cemetery where the chopper landed, and then moved on the last 100 meters to the road and the trucks to take us back. It’s a good thing we didn’t have to carry them the rest of the way – the water and mud got worse – waist deep in places. I don’t think we could have done it.

Three or four of the guys collapsed from exhaustion on the road. I don’t know how I kept form it myself. It was all I could do to stand up so I sat in a puddle – too tired to find a dry spot.

A few after-thoughts. What if there had been US guys hit? Would the choppers have come in? We never could have carried a 150-pound American out; we had a rough enough time with the 85 pound ARVNs. With all our weapons concentrated on about 5 people and the rest carrying the wounded and with the rain, etc., what if Charlie had followed up his booby trap by hitting us on the way back? That’s why we were moving so fast. Even if we had been able to get to our weapons, would they work? They had been dragged down well, rained on, and dropped in the mud. Mine was so clogged when I got it back later, that I couldn’t take it off safety (had to hit it with a rock). I couldn’t pull the lever back to clear the round out of the chamber, and I could see no daylight when I looked through the barrel.

And here’s the big part – yes, there’s more – besides the choppers refusing to come out (that was, in a way, excusable. The rain and especially the wind would make it almost impossible for the pilots to locate us and to even fly. They did come in after the worst of the rain had stopped and we had sent in our new position.) But the ARVNs who weren’t hit were the big letdown. If we hadn’t been there, they would have left the wounded lie there, and have gone back. They didn’t have any desire to help at all.

Our guys had to drag them out of the bushes; our doc did all the work (with help from our own men). The ARVNs were reluctant for a while to even give their first aid packs to Doc to help patch the wounds. When we got back, I saw several that still had theirs. We needed them. One man had at least 15 bandages on his body from head to toe, and still there were several ugly gashes and holes left open to the weather and infection. They wouldn’t even set up a security perimeter around the area while Doc did his work; we had to do that.

Did they help carry their wounded? Not a chance. The ARVNs walked, and offered us no assistance. I tried to get one to carry, at least, my two one hundred round belts of M-60 ammo; he wouldn’t even do that. The ammo kept sliding off my shoulders and getting in the way, besides weighing about 10 extra pounds. Finally Lt. Cito told me to get rid of it. Charlie now has 200 machine gun rounds – if only he had a machine gun (provided he had an aqualung to dive for it at the bottom of the paddies.)

One ARVN refused so much to help I hit him across the face and knocked him off the berm into the water. I’ve never hit too many people like that, but I felt the situation called for it.

Many of the original S-2 platoon had left after Pee Wee was killed, and most of the ones refusing to help were new and typical ARVNs, not the hard corps S-2 we were with before. The old S-2 members did help (there were only 3 out with us at that time). It was like they were afraid of the wounded. They would get nowhere near them until we was the chopper and got the stretchers – then they helped.

Somebody had better straighten these guys out before we go out again. I’m beginning to think the UIS-ARVN experiment might not be such a good idea after all. Also, the choppers should have at least tried to come in and the ARVNs should have helped their own wounded. One of our 11-month veterans said it was the worst experience he’s had in Vietnam. Hope I never see it as rough again.

War is Hell!