Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oct 24 - Oct 31 1967

144 days, 24 Oct/67 Tues,


Here’s a new wrinkle; only seven of us went on a mission this morning. The rest stayed in Bao Trai, supposedly for reactionary force in case the 7 US, 7 ARVN patrol ran into something. As it turned out, we were also called out to follow a Cheiu Hoi to a place where the VC had some mines stored. So much for the reaction force.

We walked nearly 4 clicks to the objective, and searched it carefully, uncovering 2 30-pound anti-vehicle mines – good Cheiu Hoi for a change. Also, Lt. Straub was with the other group and Sgt. Scott (old timer) was in charge and we searched the area instead of just walking through like the new Lt. does. When we got back we learned that the 14-man mission only 1 click and come back (typical of Straub’s operations) and I really thought I was getting out of something when they said I didn’t have to go with them. As it was, the operation I was on was rougher.

Also got another new guy today – been in country 14 days. Guess they’re getting school quicker now.

145 days, 25 Oct/67, Wed.

‘Twas a day of long waits, and extreme heat, and an occasional stray bullet. We waited nearly 2 hours for shoppers at the strip. At our LZ, the gunners, in firing some security rounds into the hedge rows on wither side, wounded 3 civilians and killed a pregnant woman. That’s war, I guess. It was purely accidental. They also, for the second day in a row, pushed a couple of the ARVNs out of the choppers as they came in, about 15 feet up. One twisted his ankle pretty bad. There is no explanation why they were pushed off; must be someone’s idea of a joke, but we don’t think it’s too funny.

We searched our objective pretty thoroughly and then waited another 2 hours for the choppers to come and pick us up. They came, and dropped us off again in a woods outside Cu Chi base camp. We swept through a large area, and found nothing but bees. As we broke out of the thicket, we heard some firing going on in the wood line, about 800 meters across the rice, to our right.

We weren’t too concerned, because we knew there was an ARVN element near by – it must be them apparently they had contact, but no rounds were coming our way, so why sweat? Whissh – thap; whissh – thap. Panic button; eat diet; sweat a little. It was only 4 or 5 rounds, but they were uncomfortably close. Those are friendlies over there, aren’t the? Let’s head over that way. Fifty meters – whish – thap! More dirt, more sweat.

The first 4 rounds were up near Albrecht, but his one had been at my feet – water form the paddy sprayed me. Look! Over there! At about 1000 meters, there ran 5 or 6 white shirts, and a couple black pajamas – VC! Marlar emptied two magazines and I burned up a 50-round belt. I swear those tracers went right through two of them, but they disappeared into the woods, and even after a long search, were never found.

There had been a friendly force in the woods, and apparently the VC we saw running had been in contact with them. I don’t know if the rounds that came our way were strays from the friendly force, or a few “slow down” rounds from the VC, as we surprised them (and ourselves) by coming up on their rear.  I believe it was the latter. They seemed awfully well aimed to be strays.

As the ARVNs searched the area the VC ere hiding in, we sat outside as security, and the heat finally got me. The sun had been out all day and it had to be at least 120 degrees (the dry season rapidly approaches). I got a splitting headache, was dizzy and nauseous. I crawled under a shade tree and Doc gave me a pill. Neither things did much good. I suffered for an hour, and then we started for the road, 200 meters away

I was shaky, but I made it and we sat by the road and waited for transportation. The sun went under some heavy overcast, and a cool breeze replaced the oven-like heat. In 10 minutes I felt as good as ever. It must have been the heat and/or sun.

Well, we came close to getting a body count, but actually spent 10 hours of the day doing nothing. “Close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

146 days, 26 Oct/67, Thurs.

Another 10-man mission this morning, and again I lucked out, and stayed back. Only this time there wasn’t any other mission for us – a day off. The guys that went out had a field day – about time.  Three VC captured, plus 2 weapons, a burlap sack full of hand grenades, and 200 rounds of ammo.

The 5 VC were all platoon leaders, etc. there is now a bounty of VC. Any VC killed, other than normal privates (big wheels, officers etc. only) have any where form 5000 to 10,000 piasters (50-100 dollars) to the individual in reward. I don’t know how much we got today, but all we do get is going to be put in a kitty for a party whenever we get enough to have one.

Sorry I cant’ give more details, but I wasn’t there. This was the first mission I’ve missed since CRIP began July 23rd. Not many others in the platoon can say that.

I’d like to miss a few more, please,

147 days, 27 Oct/67, Fri.

Day off today – almost. There were no missions planned and it was even cool enough that we slept nearly all morning, and laid around splaying cards – and drawing pictures – all afternoon.

Then, at 4:30, suddenly we were at the airstrip. No need to go into the mission – it was a normal operation. We did get fired on by a friendly ARVN element. That’s two missions in a row that I’ve had rounds whiz by me.

We had the new Huey Cobra helicopters escorting the Eagle Flight, instead of the old Huey gunships. I suppose you’ve seen the new Cobras on TV or somewhere, so I’ll save a description of them until I can get some pictures. I can say they are sleek, beautiful, and fast comparing them to the other Hueys would be like comparing a Corvette to a V.W.

Got a Road & Track yesterday, with the road test of the Sunbeam Tiger II. Would you believe the Ford 289 is now standard in the Tiger? If  Jere doesn’t know by now, you’d better not mention it  - he’d cry after all the time, trouble, and money he’s put into his Alpine. In case you haven’t  guessed already, I’m thinking less of Lotus Elans and more of Sunbeam Tiger 289s.

Also got a letter from Paul . . .Paul . . . .Paul Addington. You know, that boy next door . . . yeah, that’s right; the one in Oklahoma. He tells about his car – Dodge – Linda, and the baby whom he doesn’t name. he ways he misses everybody back home (meaning Westerville) and he hopes I make it back home and don’t get stuck somewhere else like he did. Sounds like he was kinda homesick when he wrote. He signed, “Your local ice cream salesman, Paul, Linda, and Little Paul (guess he named the baby after all). Here’s the picture he sent in case you’re interested.

148 days, 28 Oct/67, Sat.

Today was same – same as yesterday, except instead of a 5:00 mission, we watched Notre Dame and USC and played some basketball.

My parents bought a lot on Lake Huron while they were up in Michigan.  It’s 100’ of white sand beach and the rest forest. They plan to build on it next year, I guess. They say it’s something they’ve always wanted – that goes for me too. I cant’ wait to see it. it sounds like Paradise.

Two days off is a rarity. We’re bound to out tomorrow.

149 days, 29 Oct/67, Sun.

We were standing in the got sun, on a bank infested with those cannibal red ants. I must have been looking pretty sour.

“What’s the matter, Hughes?” asked Lt. Straub.

Well, the guys had been playing cards most of the night. I finally began to dose off at about 3:00 a.m. The first mortar rounds bit in downtown Bao Trai at 3:20, and we spent 2 hours on the bunker line. We left Bao Trai at 5:30 in search of the VC – without breakfast.

We played around till 8:30, then got on choppers, and headed for the river, and the swamps, and after a short roll in the mud, here we were at 1:00 p.m., waiting for the choppers again. That was the situation – up at 3:30, no chow since last night’s dinner, out in the worst possible place in the whole Province, in the hot sun, waiting for choppers to take us to a hot LZ (landing zone) in which the VC were already in contact with the gunships. And it was then 1:00 p.m.; and this clown asks me, “what’s the matter”?

We could’ve bee mom the shade, but the ants were so bad, we decided to stay out in that at least 120 degree sun for 3 hours or more, while the gunships tried to soften our LZ for us. To keep cool, I used my hat for a bucket and drenched myself with that nasty swamp water – it was crawlin’, and It stunk, but it was cool. After 5 minutes I was dry again in that heat, and had to re-drench.

Well, Straub did get us some C-rations, so when we finally got to our LZ – now very “cold”, VC-wise, anyway – we finally had lunch. He says he’ll get Cs for us from now on – it’s about time someone decided to do that. All our second LZ amounted to in fact was a lunch break.

All the action before we got there involved ARVNs and gunships (new Cobras) and ended up with 14 VC killed, 5 mortars and several rifles captured, and 7 sampans sunk. Our “go home” ships arrived and nearly smashed one group by nearly landing on top of them with one of the choppers, barely missing one man with the tail blade – close call!

We rode backing the rain to the steak dinner. Here I learned that hoppers are very frightening things to be in when flying through a rain storm. I’ve been up since 3:30 this morning (actually since 6:30 yesterday morning). It’s now 9:30 at night – my eyes are heavy. They really know how to follow up two days off. I’m going to take a shower, then sleep till lunch time tomorrow – if we don’t get attacked again.

Curse you, Ho Chi Minh,

150 days, 30 Oct/67, Mon.


Got off easy today – well, it was better than usual. Our first Lt. was down by the river near the Trang Bang area. I’ve never crossed so many streams since I’ve been in this swamp, than we did today – the day I decided to take my camera out. All were at least navel deep. Ooooh, and cold! I kept the camera high although I didn’t take any pictures in the swamps; we ere always on the move.

We flew to another LZ, and walked home and had chow on time! At 3, we went out again for a couple of hours with a Cheiu Hoi, blew up a couple of empty holes, and killed a couple of ducks – they were unarmed.

Back to dinner, on time! Then out to the basketball court and back to my old form. The last couple of nights I’d been doing real well, but tonight … I think I do better when I were my jungle boots instead of the all leather ones.

151 days, 31 Oct/67, Tues.

Pay day - $82.95 – felt nice to get paid after two months of nothing; my fifth pay day already, and seven to go.

The whole platoon spent the morning in Cu Chi getting paid etc and we’ve had all day off. It’s holiday time again. National Day celebration today, and tomorrow. National Day is Vietnam’s 4th of July. There’s a parade, swimming meet, bicycle race (girls) and volleyball in the town school yard. Fireworks at night. Hope they’re not VC fireworks.

Interesting facts department: the four busiest airports in the world are 1) Thon San Nhut 2) Bien Hoa 3) Da Nang and 4) O’Hare Field, Chicago.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oct 18 - Oct 23, 1967

138 days, 18 Oct/67 Wed.


Glory be, I fell asleep as my head hit the pillow, if not before; I must have been more tired than I thought. I didn’t wake till 8:30 – unusual. Today was another vacation day – we’ve had too few of those this month. Can you imagine having all your meals on time in one day? I sat in the club drawing cars and things (threw them all away) most of the day.

The flash attachment came in the mail today, but still no camera. Mom and Dad are on vacation, so I don’t guess I’ll be getting much mail for a couple of weeks. Mother expressed some concern over all the waiting we do at times, and the seemingly useless missions we have 75% of the time.

When we wait in Bao Trai or get a day off as today, it’s simply because we have no intelligence reports, and there fore no missions. We always operate only on direct intelligence, or as a reactionary force.

The useless missions are common. Our reports may be 3-4 days old as to where there are weapons, 4 VC in a village, etc., so all we can do is go out on what information we have, and usually the reported situation has changed by then. It’s a problem encountered fighting such an elusive enemy – encountered every where in Vietnam – but if we never went out, we’d never know if the reports were accurate, would we? We’ve killed 68 VC in just under 3 months. That’s more than 1/27 or 2/27 combined, and they are out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so actually we do all right.

It may sound funny, but we get discouraged when we go out and don’t get anything. No one likes to get shot at, but no one likes to walk and hump all day for nothing, either. 9f she was talking about waiting at the chopper pad – that’s just good ol’ Army organization.

139 days, 19 Oct/67 Thurs.

Talking about worthless missions, we followed a Cheiu Hoi all over half of South Vietnam today, and found only an 80 year old man with an infected leg.

The Cheiu Hoe had never been in this area before. He was from the Duc Hoa area. He had heard there were 5 VC around here, but even he was going on only a rumor. Oh well, they all have to be checked out. I just wonder why the Cheiu Hois wait till just before chow time to talk, making us miss lunch.

Not much else to say, except maybe to explain about this stationery. The supply is short, so when the PX ran out, I used these sheets of Kleenex dipped in starch. The supply of Kleenex is also short, so to save what I con, I have to use both sides. I know it’s hard to read, because the sheets are so thin. Read each sheet separately on a dark surface, such as your dining room table. It’s easier.

140 days, 20 Oct/67 Fri.

Camera came finally – already shot half a roll – count on some slides in a few weeks. We had an unusual rain today. Just a light drizzle, but lasted for an hour and there was not one single cloud in the sky – anywhere. Not even a little white puff, or darkness on the horizon. Imagine – getting sunburned in the rain!

This afternoon we played basket ball from 2:30 – 5:30, then at 6:30 after chow we played volley ball till dark (8:30). Guess that’s enough exercise for one day. Tonight I’ll be taking some flash pictures in the club.

There are some congressional elections or some such thing this weekend, so MACV is all upset – doubling guards, etc. we once again are the reaction force and are expecting to be called out quite often. The MACV people kill me (Military Assistance Command –Vietnam). They’re mostly administrative or radio commo people and really get excited when they hear a round fired within a mile of the compound. I mean, they panic of a jeep backfires. All of them are volunteering for extra guard duty – at the front gate, where there’s a huge street light, and the main street – not out on the bunker line berm overlooking )no-man’s land”.

I hate being reactionary force – too hairy for me. I hope the VC leave this election alone. They have a different motto than ours: Stamp out the vote.


141 days, 21 Oct/67, Sat.


Had a little bit of election excitement last night. Some little insignificant town got a few rounds of mortar fire, and MACV got excited, woke us up, had us on the vehicles ready to roll, and then called it off. They said we were on alert, and muse us sleep with boots and all on.

Shot lots of slides last night in the club, but overexposed all of them – hope they don’t come out too bad. I took some more in downtown Bao Trai (non-flash).

Had a mission today at 1:00, during which we saw several running from us, but we were out of range even for the M-60. If we’d come by chopper, we could have got them by surprise.

Here’s the big complaint of the day, and it’s about the 15th time it’s happened. We were done and on the vehicles, ready to come back, when Lt. Troub  called in and said we were on the way. It was 4:00. “The man” called back and said, “No, you have to stay out till 6:00”.

No explanation, no mission; we sat in a hutch and on the road in jeeps, for two hours, while dinner got cold. For no reason! We got backing at 7:00 for some cold cuts and warm ice tea. At one time, they were talking of keeping us out all night, without eating at all!

This has happened several times lately – we sit at an area for hours, missing chow, because a big officer somewhere said we have to stay out till a certain time. They give us 5 hours to do a 3-hour mission, and when we’ve gone through he objective, we can’t return because the 5 hours aren’t up – so we sit and get hungry. Why?

142 days, 22 Oct/67, Sun.

Election Day means a day off. No military traffic at all. Saw the last World Series game, played about eleventy-dozen games of basketball, and had barbeque spare ribs. Sounds nice – but wait. At 8:00, somebody got word from somewhere that a company of guess-who was waiting in a village near here, with 3 mortar tubes aimed toward Bao Trai. So, suddenly there we were – one platoon against one company.

That all sounded pretty sincere, so I carried an extra 100 bullets – so did everyone else. There’s a new policy now – everybody uses nothing but tracer rounds. Fine for daytime; you can see how close you come and  you don’t really worry if the VC see you or not during the day. At night, however, tracers give away your position instantly. Sure, there’s muzzle flash, but after 100 meters you can’t see that. Tracers show up for literally miles and you can tell exactly where they come from. So here I am with a machine gun and about 800 pretty red bullets. And for what? VC don’t use tracer, so how do I know where they are? How do tracers help me any at night, when I can’t see what I’m shooting at, anyway?

Well, breathe easy, there were no mortars, and no Charlie (according to the Lt., our objective was out of mortar range to Bao Trai, anyway). I also know that 200 rounds plus an M-60 just don’t get it. Too heavy! Next time I try to carry those extra 100 rounds and we’re going after anything less than a regiment, I hope some one hits me with a brick, because I’m bound to be asleep.

143 days, 23 Oct/67, Mon.

Could it be our new Lt.? Again all afternoon, and nothing to show for it. We don’t even try anymore. Today the choppers dropped us – we walked through the objective (a large hedge complex) in single file on a road – we didn’t search one hutch – and then called for choppers.

They dropped us a second time, and all we did was form up in our usual 3 file movement, and walked to the road. Didn’t even enter any hedge complexes; stayed on the berms. We used to spend at least 2 hours searching every objective; now we just walk right through them, with Lt Straub. Today, by the way, our 2nd objective was exactly the same spot we were the day of the 27 body count. I jumped out of the chopper on exactly the same spot. I took the picture of the dead one.

We’re not getting shot at this way, but we’re not helping CRIP, either. If we don’t do something soon, they might figure it doesn’t work and dissolve it. Don’t know what I'd get into then.

Got two new people today. They are new, only 2 weeks in country; I feel like a veteran. Forty more days and I’ll be at the top of the hill – halfway done.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 1 - October 14 1967

121 days, 1 Oct/67, Sunday

If I sound tired, it’s because I am. we were out all day today, way up north in Tay Ninh (?) Province, along the river. It was in the area near where Little Joe got 3 VC on my second day out.

The area was full of canals, running from the river through the woods. The only way across them were bridges built by the people living in that area. Ridiculous little log affairs, about 3” in diameter. Some others were planks, sawed logs, anything. I think they had a contest to see who could build the weakest, most unstable, bridge. No one fell in, but a couple bridges broke. Every 2 minutes, we’d come to one and I’d have to balance myself, with the gun, on a 3-inch log, using a vine as a hand hold.

We walked from 9:30 till 1:00, when we reached the Trang Bang-Cu Chi read. Here we waited for 1 ½ hours for transportation back to Bao Trai. A couple ARVNs picked up some sling shots (really) in the hutches along the river and we spent the time shooting at C-ration cans in the rice paddy. I guess I’d better say we had no VC contact all day, just plenty of water, knee-deep mud, and walking.

On the way back (1 ½ hrs by truck – 30 minutes going out by chopper – we met an ARVN on the truck who spoke the best English I’ve heard from a Vietnamese. He hardly had an accent – sounded truly American – said he learned in Saigon.

We had an exciting incident between Trang Bang and Cu Chi. Out truck blew a tire on the rear, with a loud bang. For a split second, I thought we had hit a mine. Trang Bang is a bad area, and that road is lined with buses, etc, that have been blown up. I guess mines were on my mind.

One interesting incident today was in Trang Bang itself. It’s a pretty good sized town – larger than Cu Chi, and a few wealthy gooks had American cars. Most were 1939 Mercury’s, and similar junk heaps, but there was one immaculate ’58 Chevy Impala that made me homesick for a moment. I’ve seen worse on car lots in Columbus (Farber’s). it really looked good to see a decent American car after 4 months of jeeps, trucks, and Lambrettas. That was the only good part about the whole day, and I’m tired and wore (plus my cold) tonight.  Think I’ll go to bed, Bob

122 days, 2 Oct/67 Monday

Woke up nearly as tired as I was last night, and I found it was my turn to go to the S-2 compound and build the sandbag wall again. I really appreciated that after being out all day yesterday. It seems the Lt. Colonel didn’t like the way the wall was going, so now we’re tearing it down, emptying all the sandbags and placing two rows of 55 gallon drums all along the sides of the building. We then take the dirt from the sandbags and fill the drums. Brilliant.

It’s all right, though; a convoy came up and we all had to leave after 15 minutes of work. The convoy took all day. First into Cu Chi to pick it up – 7 trucks full of 105 Howitzer shells – then on to Duc Hoa, the long way, through Cu Chi – about ½ way to Saigon, then back up to Duc Hoa. The road trip took about on hour and a half; at least it was a different way to go.

We passed a large area of swamps – all tall grass and what appeared to be waist-deep or deeper water. As far as the eye could see on both sides of the road – it looked like an ocean of weeds. There were water buffalo quite a-ways out with water up to their shoulders. Hope we never have to walk out here.

We waited for about 2 ½ hours in Duc Hoa while they unloaded the trucks, and then ran them back on the same road. Got back just in time for dinner. I found out that running convoys can be tiring, but that’s not all; we had a night mission tonight. It was really senseless. Walked out about 2000 meters, set up on a road until 12:00, and when we walked back we got separated again, but had no incidents.

We got to bed at 1:00 a.m., very bushed. It didn’t take me long to get to sleep. It was all I could do to stay awake out in the field. Out there, at night though, you can’t sleep I’ve never tried so hard to stay awake since the night I stayed up to see Santa Claus.

123 days, 3 Oct/67 Tues.

I don’t believe any of it and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t either. They knocked us out of bed at 6:00 this morning – after 5 hours of sleep and a night ambush – for another mission up in Trang Bang. Don’t like Trang Bang; too many VC stories come from up there – it’s a bad area.

We drove out in trucks to a spot about ½ way between Cu Chi and T.B. we passed a convoy of tanks going the other direction, one of which had been blown up pretty bad, but somehow managed to roll. A little farther down the road in a village, there was a huge crowd gathered around the body of a gook and a motorcycle – both badly crushed and mutilated victims of a 48 ton tank. Quite a mess. They hadn’t been shot by the tank; simply run over. He was a friendly civilian, but now his family have probably turned VC.

We were out till 11:00, got one body count when one tried to run. He was about 300 meters away, but it took at least 100 round before someone - who knows who – brought him down (he was ht about 3 times). My ’60 fired one shot and quit. I refused to carry it on any other operations until they fix it. It goes to Cu Chi tomorrow.

We got done with our objective a little early and the colonel at Bao Trai called and said we had to stay out there a little longer, because Gen Westmoreland was at Bao Trai and they didn’t want us in. we had already returned tour trucks, so Cito told the colonel we’d stay at the objective, but actually we sat in the village and relaxed in the shade, drank Coke, and harassed the natives. Those 3 hours were quite enjoyable (even though we missed lunch). I can imagine the things we would have had to do if we were there while Westey was there.

I’m tired again – it’s 11:00 p.m. now. I’m afraid this business of writing when I’m beat is making for dull letters, but that’s the way I feel, so . . . , Maybe soon when my mind is fresh I can add some things to make them worthwhile. Until then, “Good night, David, Good night, Chet.”

And good night for NBC News,

PS. I know the stationery is rather thin, but the PX is out, so I have to use Kleenex dipped in starch.

124 days 4 Oct/67 Wed.

We were up at 4:00 to run a convoy this mo ring, but the convoy didn’t leave till 6:30, so we sat out in the jeeps for 2 1/1 hours, wondering why they got us up.

Convoy over, back to bed – mission at 9:30. We took a Chieu Hoi out with us who said he knew were there were some VC and weapons. He led us right to a hole in the side of a small river bank and uncovered a VC hiding there. The ARVNs beat the VC and nearly drowned him before he agreed to lead us to the other positions there in the woods.

The VC took us to another hole with a VC inside; only this one had a carbine and shot back. Everyone scatted at first, but then realized that he was trapped in the hole. Joe crawled up to the edge of the hole, and fired several rounds down it – no reply.

They hauled the guy out – a typical “Little Joe” job. Head blown away like a smashed coconut. That M-16 is terror. The round goes in, shatters the skull into dust, and takes all the brains out a hole the size of both fists at the rear, and the skin etc. collapses like a deflated balloon.

He had, besides his carbine (which was ruined when a ’16 slug ripped a hole in the side of the barrel) a U.S. made pistol belt with full ammo clips, and a bundle of spare clothes. In all the confusion, the captured VC got away into the woods.

We went on to search another area, and soon were fired on from a tree line. We returned fire, but hit nothing. We approached the area, but were fired on again; this time we could see that the VC was in another hole. We fired into the hole from a distance, but weren’t effective. The ARVNs tried throwing grenades, but were too scared to get close to the hole, and drop them in. instead, they tried to throw them through the thick hedgerows. I doubt it any of the 8 they threw hit the hole; I know some of them bounced back into the rice paddy.

In throwing the grenades, they hit one of their own men, who was in the woods. Doc went in after him, and got him out while they kept tossing grenades. They didn’t think it was an ARVN in there moaning; they thought it was a VC. The guy wasn’t hit that bad, just a couple of shrapnel pieces in the shoulder. The VC were still in the hole, so Joe took two grenades and snuck up on the hole, and dropped them in like some one should have done in the first place.

I’ve seen messed up gooks before, but . . .  the man had no feet, only one leg and one hand, plus half his head was hone. The rest of him was so full of holes, he whistled when the wind blew. His one remaining leg was smashed so bad it was like a limp dish rag. The woman, yes, a woman, had her whole back side blown from her head to her tail they picked her up to carry her to the road, and half of her insides remained beside the hole.

We called a chopper for the wounded man, and called in our body counts. The chopper came in five minutes – much better than the last time we needed one. Our body count call was answered with news that Col. Nanh, the Vietnamese Province Chief for Hau Nghia, was coming out to see our operation. The chopper brought him out and he went around and shook everyone’s hand, and said, “Good job, good job”.

He told Doc that he was going to put him in for some kind of medical award for pulling that guy out with all those grenades going off and all. He deserves it. It not for today, then for the night the 5 ARVNs hit the booby trap. The colonel spoke almost perfect English.

We got back, had a late (2:30) lunch, and then had an hour rest before we were called out on another mission!!!

This one wasn’t much, but it still was the third time I had been out today. Another ARVN unit was sweeping an area, and we were simply a blocking force in case they chased any VC our way. As it was, a sniper opened up on the ARVNs, and they all ran out of the woods, hollering for our help. The lieutenant sent Joe and 5 other S-2 boys in alone and in 10 minutes they came back dragging the body of the sniper that routed the other ARVN unit.

This time we went back and stayed back. If you’re keeping score, the body count is now 64 in 2 months. Add one more to the wounded list – ARVN.

125 days, 5 Oct/67, Thurs.

The extra page is from the last letter. I forgot to mail it. Didn’t do a thing today – actually slept for a whole, it was so cool. I wasn’t really that tired after yesterday, because I carried a ’16 instead of the ’60 (it’s in Cu Chi being operated on for the next 3 days). I sent it a get well card.

This evening we did take a captain in the jeep up to Sugar Mill and back. We saw a Voodoo jet making an air strike out over the swamp, on the way back. Fantastic. He was doing about 10,000 mph, dropping napalm and shooting rockets.

Marlynn, will you forgive me – I’ve forgotten to say congratulations and good luck in your Miss Teenage America contest. Haven’t all your brothers told you for a long time that you should have done this before? I’m sure if they judge solely on beauty, personality, and talent, you’ll make it easy.

If they go by physical strength, mechanical ability, or kite flying (or letter writing) you might as well hang it up. Bake ‘em a lemon cake; that ought to just about cinch it for you. I’d be awfully proud of you if you should make it to Dallas. I am anyway, just for being in the top twenty. Just be glad that you’re not in the top 20 on the VC list, like we are (we’re #1 – we try harder).

The [enclosed] weed is the little devil that grows in thick clumps along the berms. Sometimes they’re so thick we have to get wet and go around. They catch on clothes and rip them and tear your arms. I got scratched so bad one day, I had to take rabies shots (it was foaming when it attacked). My clothes have so many sewn-up three-corner tears; they look like a patchwork quilt.

Can you tell me what it is? If you can’t, take it to a biologist; if he can’t help, maybe a dentist? [It’s a saw-toothed grass or something.]


(Hope you didn’t cut yourself – if you did >> [He stuck a small bandage on the page.]

126 days, 6 Odt/67 Fri. (34 weeks left)

Had another one of those one paragraph missions today. It was enough o miss lunch, though. Only incident was when the ARVNs thought they saw some VC run into a clump of those weeds I sent home. We waded out to it and filled it with grenades and gunfire – nothing there but we shot the hell out of those nasty weeds.

Right now we’re having another flood. Some of the guys are out running a convoy in this – hope the jeeps float. Little Joe just left after helping us eat some popcorn (Jiffy-Pop) that Phil S. sent me. It was the first time Joe had seen popcorn. You should have seen his eyes when the foil began to rise. He loved it.

127 days, 7 Odt/67 Sat.

Filled sand barrels today again. I guess it was just to limber us up for our mission this afternoon. The mission was simple enough; out to the swamps in choppers for an hour, choppers out to another objective, and walked back to Bao Trai. Just walked around and acted like we were expecting something.

Most of the harassment, etc. has subsided now. It’s either that, or I’m just getting used to it. But now we got a new lieutenant being broken in; wonder what new misery that will bring?

One of the new replacements got his guitar in the mail today (huge envelope). Every body has thought this guy was pretty weird – now they’re sure, but I think he’s all right. Just because he’s taught himself in five months to play a guitar – very well – and know almost every Bob Dylan song by heart, doesn’t make him weird.

I hear him play, and it revives my love for folk music. He taught himself to play, maybe he can show me. He sounds exactly like Dylan when he sings – he even thinks like him (well, maybe he is a little weird).

128 days, 8 Odt/67 Sunday

The sandbag detail is not more. We all went down today and finished the job in one morning’s work. Thank God! Another one of those night missions tonight; should’ve known – we didn’t do a thing today, except watch the Packers beat the Bears on TV. So, what’s left for the night? Rice paddies and Charlie.

129 days 9 Oct/67, Monday

We were supposed to only walk 800 meters, search a couple houses, and go back in at 11:00 that night. Actually we walked about 3000 meters to get to the objective, about 800 meters from our starting point. I don’t care how often we gout at night, it’s still very hairy, being out there at night. I guess it always will be. Daytime operations aren’t bad, but I’m (everybody’s) scared to death at night.

We hit the jackpot in VC. We came upon the houses to find a meeting going on. We captured 5 VC, their weapons, and their platoon leader. I guess the ARVNs charged in on them and took them completely by surprise – no shots were fired. I don’t’ know what happened to the platoon leader, but I do know he never made it back to Bao Trai with the other five. They executed one on another occasion, but if they did this last night, they did it without shooting him.

We wound up spending the night in the came little village (7 houses, an ARVN outpost, and a crossroad) that we stayed at another night (Sept. 21). I wish some one would explain to me why we can’t come back in instead of staying out there all night. At least we slept under a roof instead of on the wet road this time. There are several little merchandise stands – something like a fruit stand along the highway – which are cleared every night, leaving the tables bare. We slept on the tables – hard, but dry. I known, also, that a canteen makes a terrible pillow.

We got little sleep, so slept late this morning and have had no missions all day. Next time we go out however, I’ll be back on the M-60. It came back from Cu Chi today “guaranteed to fire: - hope so. I wish they’d hurry up and let the new guy take it. I’ve learned to appreciate the light weight M-16 during the past 4 or 5 days.

Vance, Raye, and a new guy, Murphy (new to Recon – 6 mos. in VN) got Spec. t today – all been here 6 months. I guess that makes me next on the list. If it comes by December, and if I raise my allotment to $150 at that time, I’ll have $1,500 in the piggy bank when I leave (take $300 away for R&R). Only 54 more days, and I’ll have 6 months.

Bye for now,

130 days, 10 Oct/67 Tuesday (9 months in the Army)


Sometimes the days go by like those first days in Cu Chi – absolutely nothing to do except lie in bed and swat. That’s the way it was today. You can’t sleep in the day time, because of the heat. All there is to do is sprawl out on your air mattress (you don’t need an air mattress, you need a sponge). We managed enough energy to start a basketball game, but that only lasted an hour before they called a practice alert, which wasn’t over till after dark.

131 days, 11 Oct/67, Wed.

This morning was like yesterday; so let’s go on to this afternoon. We were supposed to catch our chopper “Eagle Flight”, at 1:00, but there were millions (would you believe thousands? Hundreds?) of ARVNs scheduled before us and we didn’t get off till 4:00. We endured a driving rain on the airstrip, while we waited. Being soaked, we really froze once we got up in the air, with the open doors and all.

We checked our objective while the gunships chased a VC into a hole in a hedgerow in the middle of an open field. The S-2 went out and got body count number 67. I don’t really know how the gunship missed him. For about 10 minutes, all we heard was machine guns and mini-guns (we were in the woods and couldn’t see what was happening). It sounded like they had a battalion pinned down, but it was only one clown running across the field – unarmed, xin loi.

The machine gun was heavy after about 5 missions with my ’16. Wish they’d quit playing games and give it to someone else, as was promised.

132 days, 12 Oct/67, Thursday

The artillery ha been pounding all day, shaking the tent apart. The guns are only a stone’s throw from our hutches, and were firing directly over the tent at the swamps near Sugar Mill. An ARVN regiment (one of the other groups that went out before us yesterday at the air strip) ran into a battalion of VC and were calling in the heavy stuff.

About an hour before dinner we were called out to got to Rung Dao (we’ve slept there a couple of times) to secure some guns they moved in to get closer shots on the swamp. We got the word after a few hours that we were supposed to stay there all night. Groan! Artillery and rifle fire not far away, and they wanted us to stay out. They had the 1/27 and part of 2/27 between us and the swamps, so there wasn’t much point in us staying out there. If the VC decided to come our way, they’d have to go through 2 US battalions, and if they got through them, we might as well hang it up.

After we missed dinner by about 4 hours, it was finally decided we weren’t needed, and they let us go back. Never did get dinner.

133 days, 13 Oct/67 Friday               

Oh, boy! Friday the thirteenth! Glad it’s the only one I’ll have while I’m over here. They had the nerve to get us up at 5 o’clock for a mission. Back out to Rung Dao, only this time we dismounted and walked nearly 5 kilometers (5,000 meters) to a hedge complex where we took a rest while the ARVNs searched, for 2 hours. It wouldn’t have been bed if it wasn’t for the long walk. We chased pigs all over the area, played hopscotch – really – and hypnotized chickens.

How do you hypnotize a chicken? One of the farm boys showed us. He took the chicken and held him (her) on the ground with its head sideways, and drew a line in the dirt straight out to his front from his eyes. As you slowly remove our hand, the chicken will stay there with his eye fixed on the line, thinking he’s tied to it! It laid there for 15 minutes, “tied” to the line. We made noise, ran circles around it, and it just lay there, staring at that line. Finally this guy got up and rubbed the line out. The chicken got up! It’s really funny. Try it next time you’re on the farm.

We went to another objective and did the same thing, only this time there weren’t any pigs or hypnotized chickens. The ARVNs killed a chicken and went into the house and cooked it. They came out later, with a big pot of rice and the chicken – cooked Vietnamese style. I took a large bowl of rice and a pair of chop sticks. A fifteen-minute lesson on how to eat with the chop sticks, and I was enjoying some very delicious rice; Uncle Ben never had it so good.

They opened the pot of chicken, and it was really disgusting. When they chop up a chicken, they do just that – like a carrot with an axe. Everything was in the pot; head, feet, everything! all in bite size pieces, mixed in with some spices and a few vegetables (or something) and an occasional feather. There was no such thing as a drumstick or wing – they were there, but all chopped up, bone and all.

Every one else “chickened out”, but I decided to try a piece. After all, the rice was delicious. Would you believe, so was the chicken? If I closed my eyes and grabbed a piece, the flavor was really out of this world. We topped off the meal with a cup of coconut milk and bananas.

We got back in Bao Trai at about 3:30 and they have us a small lunch, although I wasn’t too hungry after the chicken barbeque. We only had an hour’s rest when “the man” came over with another mission! It was a short do-nothing sort of thing, but we were late for dinner by an hour and a half. The only meal we ever get on time is breakfast. We almost missed that this morning.

134 days, 14 Oct/67, Saturday

Made I t through Friday 13th okay, but for a while today was wondering about Saturday 14th. I tried to get into Cu Chi to cash the $60 M.O. Dad sent me for my camera, but there were too many already going in. True to form, as soon as the jeeps disappeared around the corner, we got the word we were going out; just about 12 or us left. The S-2 went to add to our strength – we were going after a squad of VC, according to the agent’s report.

Don’t worry, my scare didn’t come from VC – there weren’t any there – it was the helicopter ride out that bothered me. In an attempt to fool the VC, so they wouldn’t know we were coming after them, the choppers flew at tree top level where there were threes, but at head level over the paddies! At 90 knots! 103 mph!

At first I thought our chopper was having trouble getting up, but finally I saw they were all doing it. We couldn’t have been higher than 10 feet over the rice paddies. They approached tree lines without slowing and waited till the last minute to climb steeply to clear them by a foot or two, then drop back down, leaving my stomach up in a bird’s nest somewhere. You should have seen the buffalo and the gooks run. What would you do if you saw five armed helicopters coming at you 10 feet off the ground, doing 103 mph or better?

I couldn’t measure our height, but I know the grass was blowing as the chopper ahead of us flew over and that the altimeters where reading “0” feet. Brrr!

We didn’t do much of anything once we got off the choppers, except thank God for our deliverance. No VC in the area, so we went in an hour late for lunch. It’s getting to be a bad habit, having us go out a half-hour before lunch, and then giving us table scraps 3 hours late. The MACV captain in charge of the mess hall even tried to make some of us wash the dishes! Lt. Straub (new platoon leader – seems real good) told him that none of his men were going to pull KP after coming in form a mission and that settled that.

There are a lot of miscellaneous things I want to say, but after all, this letter’s getting pretty fat. We’re due for another day off soon. Maybe I can fill in then. Besides, I’m tired again. . . .

Good night,

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sept 25 - 30, 1967

115 days, 25 Sept/67, Monday

Spent the greater part of the day in CU Chi today hunting down some of the short-timers who were out in the field when we got the 27 VC and I took the pictures of our trophy. They ordered copies of the slides, but are now in Cu Chi getting ready to go home.

With Burbidge, Esterline, Hampton, Garcia, Branch, Felciano, Culver and Clark gone, there isn’t much of the old group left out here. Cito got a loner for the tent; I suppose we’ll have to tear the tent down again to put it in! why couldn’t they get together an do all of these things at once?

We got to Cu Chi to find that they have made the movie room into a conference room and are now going to show movies in the TV/bar side. Makes for crowded conditions with a bar and a movie in about half the space. To make room, they had to take the pool table out; there goes our only daytime diversion from boredom when we don’t go out (no operations since the night of the 21st). I guess the change will only be for a few weeks (7-8).

116 days, 26 Sept/67, Tuesday

Hooray! Will wonders never cease? The liner went in without taking the tent down. I don’t know how – I was in town washing a jeep. Now it’s a little cooler, and there’s a mosquito bar, and we can roll down the sides of the liner from the inside when it rains. We also got special bed mounts for our nets so there’s no commo wire stretched from end to end to choke ourselves on if we forget to duck our heads. The liner is white, so it’s much brighter inside also.

The day really went slow without a pool table and there’s no TV until 6:30 on week days. Too hot to write, even sleep. I dread the thought of hot season. Coming back from Cu Chi yesterday, I got a taste of it. It hasn’t rained since our little flood (which only lasted that night) and the roads are so dusty it’s unbelievable. When I got back after driving behind the lieutenant, eating dust from him and one convoy of deuce-and-a-halves, and another of 7 armored tracks, I looked like I’d just finished the Indy 500 – black, well dark brown – except where my glasses and beret were. My arms had a marvelous tan, till I took a shower.

“Look, Hoss! He’s not an Indian; he’s a white man”!

We went on a ridiculous little mission this evening. Same as always except we drove out to where we were to start in the jeep instead of leading 500 people in the ¾. We walked about 300 meters or so, checked a few houses, and then Mahoe (Ma-hoy) found a C-ration can that he thought was a booby trap. The idiot spent an hour trying to blow it up. First he took a ¼ lb. block of C-4 (plastic explosive) only the blasting cap went – phht. Next, after waiting 10 minutes before inspecting the C-4, a ¼ stick of dynamite – phht went the blasting cap. Then he took a grenade and removed the original fuse and put in a blasting cap – don’t ask why – the cap fit loosely and went “phht.” He finally got the idea and simply said a grenade beside the C-4, TNT, and the other grenade, and, oh, yes the C-ration “booby trap” -  pulled the pin and di di mao(ed) BOOM!

It left a hole in the ground about the size of a garbage can, and who knows what happened to the C-ration can. I’m sure there was nothing dangerous about it. I think he only wanted to justify his bringing (having someone carry) the 20 pound demo kit out with us. He did play around long enough for us to be caught in a 15 minute cloud burst, in which it rained enough o fill Hoover Dam. Like to find the GI who dropped his can of Ham and Eggs – chopped.

117 days, 27 Sept/67, Wednesday

The S-2 platoon is building a new radio control center and someone decided that recon should fill the sandbags for the protective wall. Today my turn came and I spent the whole day with 5 other guys filling and building a sandbag wall. What else can I say, except I didn’t have much trouble sleeping? In fact, I’m so tired I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to draw the line. [Line between sections of letter]

The morning went the way I hoped it would. Nobody bothered us and I relaxed. The sandbag detail is now simply building the wall – the filled bags are now brought out from Cu Chi. They should have it done by the time my turn comes again. The wall is similar, but not as exact, as some of the bunkers, etc. in the Cu Chi base camp pictures. It surrounds the building to protect from mortar bursts.

I’m still dizzy. I’ve had a cold and Doc gave me some mysterious little black capsules to knock it out. They don’t knock out your cold; they just take your mind off it with dizzy spells and diarrhea. I was pretty bad last night, but so tired I didn’t notice it. This morning I was a little light-headed, but now I’m all right. But my cold is back. I don’t think I’ll take any more pills either.

This afternoon we had a mission. We drove out in jeeps clear into Cu Chi, and then farther on, about ½ way to Trang Bang. Quite a long dusty ride. We were out on Chieu Hoi advice (they were with us). They led us to a clump of old dead bamboo, etc. where they said they had come two days before to hide 3 weapons.

They rummaged through the dead shrubbery for a while trying to find the spot and finally located a tunnel. The weapons were gone, but 25 magazines full of .30 caliber ammo were still there. Also a whole bundle of clothes, 300 meters of Claymore detonating wire, two Chi-com (Chinese communist) blasting caps, and 3 US-made Claymore mines.

Disregarding the distance we had to come, it was a good mission. Only lasted 3 hours, two of which were on the road. It was the first time Chieu Hoi information proved worthwhile.

You can add this to the Chieu Hoi pamphlet collection. [Perhaps an enclosure] The map of our Province is what I like. This is Hau Nghia Province – Tinh (?) Hau Nghia. The “X” near Cu Chi is the 25th Div. base camp. I’ve drawn a line along the roads we usually travel form Cu Chi to Bao Trai, Duc Hoa, and Duc Hue (duc way) Hiep Hoa (hep wa, better known as Sugar Mill). “X” is where we were at Sugar Mill, and also at Trai. The “O” just below Bao Trai is Gladys artillery site.

We usually are on Highway (Lo So) 8 or 10. Today we turned left in Cu Chi unto Lo So 1, toward Trang Bang. Red spot was done by Lt. Than, and represents were this was found and where we were today. I’m not sure what the “++++” lines are, but I don’t know that each Province is divided into districts; maybe that’s what they are.

Why aren’t there any roads or towns west of the Oriental River? (Song Vam Co Dong). It’s all swamp; even the Rat Pack can’t go in there. The VC can, and do, however. And the only thing that can touch them there is the 105 Howitzers at Cu Chi, Bao Trai, Duc Hoa, and Duc Hue (and, I suppose Trang Bang).

We operate anywhere on the east side of the river (including the bank of the river). We’ve gone as far north as Duc Hue (since coming to Bao Trai) and the red spot, but usually I think we stay pretty well within the “++++” line surrounding Bao Trai, north and east, and the river on the west. South, we’ve only gone about halfway to Duc Hoa.

These are our airborne and foot operations. Number 1 is where we ambushed ourselves and the road just N.E. of the number right at the edge of Bao Trai, is where the ARVN captain got blown up the other night. Number 2 is where we got the 27 body count that one day (the pictures of the dead VC) approximately. Number 3 is where the 5 ARVNs hit the booby trap.

One last bit. The names outside Hau Nghia are other Provinces (I’m sure you’ve heard of Tay Ninh). Saigon is S.W. of Lo So 1. so much for geography; tomorrow, children, we’ll study something else. Yes, you may leave the room now, Bob

119 days, 29 Sept/67, Friday

They sent some more people to fill sandbags this morning. It only took about a half-hour, but when we got back we found we had an operation in the afternoon.

We went out by chopper for the first time in a long time. I saw from the air that the artillery has pulled out of Gladys. All that’s left is a mud hole with only the ruts of the guns to indicate it had ever been there. The sandbag bunkers, barbed wire, everything, is gone. I don’t know when they pulled out; we haven’t been past there in quite a while.

We did nothing at our first L2 for about 2 hours, and then were airlifted to a second L2 – this one in the swamps. Again, nothing but water and red ants. Cito called for the choppers, but was told they couldn’t come and we’d have to walk back to Bao Trai. It’s a 15 minute chopper flight to the swamps – imagine how long it is to walk!

Cito gave us a chance to test fire, since no on lives in the swamps (actually it’s more like a huge marsh than a swamp). My machine gun again failed to function. I want my ’16 back. It was a long, wet, tiring walk home – one of the more tiring walks we’ve had. I went to bed at 8:00, which has to be a record.

120 days, 30 Sept/67, Saturday

Pay day! Everyone went to Cu Chi this morning for shots and money. Somehow I managed to get by without shots today. My time will surely come next month. Some people got as many as six today.

I even came out pretty good in the pay line – better than expected, anyway. All the mistakes in pay have been corrected now, and I still came out with $5 this month. I hope that will last until Dad sends me the $60. he’s buying my beautiful camera for $60, plus his 35 mm camera, so I can have one over here. Just before I leave, or when I go on R&R, I’ll buy another like mine, or even better.

My camera which was ruined is now gone. I had taken it into my locker in Cu Chi, but since then someone has broken into it, and taken a new pair of jungle boots I had planned to save for R&R and my trip home, and $5 beret I was also saving. All my brass, etc. that I ware on my khakis, and of course my camera, which by now they realize is no good anyway.

They went to a lot of work to get into it – it was under another locker, and behind about 15 duffel bags, with two locks on it, which were beaten off. I feel a little sick tonight. We got back in time to see Texas A&M play SMU. Another game won in the last 9 seconds (by SMU).

I wasn’t kidding about feeling a little sick tonight. The effects of Doc’s cold pills have worn off, but now my cold’s back just as bad as before, along with stomach cramps at times. My right ear is, it seems, almost deaf from yesterday when the chopper gunners opened up right beside me. They’re loud! Add to it all a badly bruised bicep on the right arm from unloading cases of beer and Coke for the club this afternoon. They threw the cases off the truck and I was the one catching them. Every time I caught them, I stopped them with my left hand and cradled them in my right arm; now it’s sore.

Poker games tonight, pay night. Only this time they’re in the mess hall so I guess I’ll get some sleep. Marlar has already lost his whole pay check this is the third time in as many day days (his first 3 in VN) that he’s done this. Maybe next month he’ll learn. If this happens every month, I don’t know what to say.