Sunday, June 21, 2020

Letters to Mike 9

 January 15, 1968 letter to Mike

Dear Private Biddle,

Yes, new year’s resolutions:

1.      To stop going to Paris on weekends
2.      To help raise money for a new ice rink so people can use their new ice skates sent to them In a CARE package originally intended for Greenland’s Olympic team
3.      To have a heart transplant just because it’s the “in” thing to do
4.      Start a safety campaign against speeding buffalo carts
5.      To have a map of Viet Nam tattooed on my ear drum
6.      To give the mess hall a cookbook and, in case they can’t follow directions, a first aid kit and a good lawyer
7.      Let’s add: to buy a pen that doesn’t skip

Do you realize that we will be civilians next Christmas? What a wild two years. It’ll seem like one. Two winter months, 3 spring months, 15 summer months and one long winter month again. 24 months; one winter, spring fall, and one LONG summer.

If you have to postpone your wedding another two weeks, I’ll be there. There’s a remote chance that I could make it the 18th; there’s also a remote chance that the moon is made of blue cheese.

Christmas brought a 24 hour truce, but Bob Hope came to Cu Chi on the 28th – we were in the swamps that day.

Which brings me to our latest action. It’s dry now and the VC are here in regimental force. Can’t find them during the day other than in small groups now and then. At night they multiply like rabbits.

We had 700 hit Bao Trai the night of the 8th (If you hear about it, it’ll be called Khien Cuong, which is another name for Bao Trai). We fought them off for 4 ½ hours. Some got into the town and nearly made the compound. Recon had 7 men with mild shrapnel wounds – there were 300 rounds of mortar, rocket and recoilless rifle fire dropped on the town. 3 American GIs were killed (not Recon) by a rocket.

I’ll be glad when my R&R gets here in 33 days, in Hong Kong. Things are getting hot here. We’re earning our $65 hostile fire pay. We even had to call USAF to get air strikes (napalm and 900 pound bombs) to bail us out of some shit last week. Still no casualties! (Other than the shrapnel cuts). Someone up there likes us.

By the way, the gunships (choppers) and our small unit (mostly the choppers) killed 184 VC that night.

Gain weight?! Not here. A canary would starve here. I’m so skinny now I have to move around in the shower to get wet. I haven’t weighed myself but I weighed 158 when I came here. I tried my khakis on the other day to see how they would fit for R&R, DAMN! Two of me could have fit in them.

One thing I have gained is a bird on my arm (full colonel?) [He’s joking here.] Would you believe Spec 4? [This is the “bird” insignia he’s talking about.]  Our platoon sergeant is trying to get as much rank for us as he can before he leaves. 9 guys made Spec 4 this month (4 last month). Most of the 4s have been here 4 or 5 months. I have been here 7, but under a sarge who didn’t put anybody in for rank. 4 or 5 months means that they were Sec 4s after 9 or 10 months in the Army! Get this: two of the ones who made Spec 4 last month will get Spec 5 next month after only 2 month time grade on their Spec 4!! Both of them have less time in country and Army than I do; not to mention time in grade. There is a REMOTE chance that I might make 5 before I leave here; there’s also a remote chance that the moon ‘s made of… we’ve gone over this before.

I don’t know where I’ll be when I get out of the war. I hope Ft. Knox. (Remember Ft. Knox?) After your sixth month here you fill out a “dream sheet” where you ask for your next station and tell how many days leave you want. The Army owes me 17 (only got 13 out of my “authorized” 30 days before VN) plus the 30 automatically given VN returnees. So I asked for 47 days leave and Ft. Knox.

Do you think you’ll go back to Ft. Sam? Try to get --- I forgot; you’ll probably spend all your time in Hitler-land. How many days off do you get for your wedding. If your leave goes as much as a week into June, I’ll see you then.

My What?

Spec 4 Bob

P.S. I’ll send a picture soon

Letters to Mike 8

 December 16, 1967 letter to Mike

Hi Bac Si (Vietnamese doctor),

I thought you said you were in the field; French fries, bowling (142?), playing cards – gee, I wish I had it rough. Have you found anyone who plays Euchre? I haven’t come across anyone who’s even HEARD of the game since basic. (We were unbeatable).

Sorry about the $75 extra but that’s war. You’d better make Spec 4 before Jan. 19th or I’ll beat you to that too. (I’ve been told). You see, I’ll have $1,400 saved if I don’t go on R&R, but I can’t pass up an opportunity like Hong Kong so I guess I’ll have to settle for a measly $1,200.

Talk about all the Columbus boys from Basic. There’s a guy here in the platoon who took his basic at Knox (different company) and then went to Polk. He knew Rich (what’s his name) McKinney, Bill Kucher, and Bob Hoover, who were in his SIT company. (He’s from Kentucky).

I see you’re figuring on a drop on your ETs before Christmas. I thought of that myself. If you can’t count it that way, I can see that – 20 days.

Things have been lively here lately. The dry season is enabling easier movement by the Cong and therefore increased activity. We had a guy wounded pretty bad in the arm and stomach and an ARVN (one of the best and a personal friend of mine) was killed at the same time.

Broton, Anh, our squad leader – Sgt. Howerten, and I, were chasing an UNARMED VC. He ran up to a hedgerow and we all stopped and fired at him and saw him drop. They ran to the spot where he fell only to be surprised by him. He had merely jumped into his hole and grabbed his AK-47 (Chinese-Communist rifle) and waited silently for them. When they got about 30 feet away from him he popped up and let a 40 round burst (auto) fly. Anh was in front and hit in his abdomen and groin; he took 12 hits. Broton was hit in the right arm, shattering the bone and through the gall bladder. The Sarge made it to cover.

I saw the whole thing from about 50 meters away and immediately fired heavy fire at the hole – my only thought being to keep the VC down and prevent him from shooting any more. It all happened in a split second and I don’t think I actually thought of killing him.

I fired a whole 20 round magazine right at the spot he was in.  (With tracers I knew it was all going to the same spot.) When the clip was emptied, the VC jumped up, unhurt, and ran into the bushes and disappeared. I couldn’t do anything: with no time to change clips and no one there to fire beside me, he got away clean. If I had shot only 15 rounds and stopped I’m willing to bet he still would have run only I would have had 5 more bullet with his name on them.

Two nights later we had a mortar attack – no rounds in our compound. Four nights after that we had intel that we were going to be mortared again so we went out to try to stop it before it happened.  (At night).

We had searched our objectives and found nothing when, just as we were getting ready to go back in, all hell broke loose. We were about 1,500 meters from Bao Trai and we saw it all.

It started with automatic weapons fire followed immediately by mortar rounds We could see the tube flashes from the mortars and estimated their position to the ARVN artillery. I have never yet seen a heavier volume of fire from the automatic weapons and rifle on the bunker surrounding the town and from the 3 artillery locations (one 105 battery and 2 mortar sites). The night was lit up with tracers and exploding shell both going in and coming out of Bao Trai. It looked to us like the whole town was being overrun. In addition to the mortars we saw at least 3 rockets - something like our LAWs [light anti-tank weapons] fired in the town’s direction. Hairy night.

There was supposed to be an ARVN element – the 49th Recon Company – with whom we’ve worked before in the area, as well as us. We saw no signs of them or VC during the sweep, but on our return we received sniper fire 4 different times. The 49th is a trigger happy group and have shot at us before not realizing it was us. We figured this to be the case so we never returned fire – just dove into the paddies and hugged mother earth ‘till it stopped and silently cursed the 49th.

When we got to the road the curses changed to prayer of thanks. The 49th was there waiting for us. “What was all the shooting about?” the US advisor wanted to know. It seemed the 49th had moved out of the area when the mortar attack started, and had been on the road ever since. Who WAS shooting at us???

We learned the next day that an estimated 100 - 200 man VC force was sighted in the area later on that night. Chances are good they were our snipers. Can you imagine what would have happened if our humble 90 man unit had opened up on that force? Actually the snipers were probably in small groups and only shooting because they didn’t know for sure who it was walking in front of them. If we’d fired back we would have given ourselves away and the large force would have gathered upon us in no time.

So it goes here in hell. It’s nearly Christmas and still 100 in the shade – the hot summer. The move to Trang Bang has been cancelled indefinitely so there’s still a chance we might see Bob Hope! Christmas would be better if we could.

Well take care of the Third Reich and keep counting our days.

Peace on Earth,


Letters to Mike 7

 December 27, 1967 Letter to Mike’s parents


It was good to hear from you on Christmas. Thanks so much for the thought.

Everything here is fine, considering the situation We had a welcome 24 hour truce but we were right back in it as soon as it was over – it was nice while it lasted.

There had been talk – even promises – that we would go to see Bob Hope when he hit Cu Chi, but that’s all off now – we’ll be out after the VC or somebody on the day he comes (tomorrow). It’s really a big let down.

I’ve been writing to Mike every once in a while. It sounds like he’s having quite a decent tour. Wish I was there with him. I’m glad he didn’t get sent over here.

When you see him at the wedding, give him - no, give THEM – my best wishes and sorry I can’t be there. Be sure to have him write and tell me about it. I have a little surprise for him, but I’ll have to know when he gets married before I can send it.

Thanks again for the thought at Christmas and here’s hoping that next Christmas both Mike and I can be home.

As Always,


Letters to Mike 6

6) November 27, 1967 Letter to Mike

Back again,

I’ve got a few more facts about CRIP before I go into our record.

First let me tell you a little about the VC.

They are always moving but never in large groups. Large groups would be selected by the many spotter-planes and choppers that fly 24 hours a day. (This is in our area where the land it open -no dense jungle). They mingle with the population – anybody could be a VC One night on an ambush near Cu Chi they killed one of the post barbers – a Vietnamese. Whenever you enter a hedgerow to search houses there are always women and kids but never any men – they all hide. That’s why whenever we SEE one run we shoot. It’s also why 90% of our mission are “0s”. Intel can become old overnight.

Charlie [VC] shoots and runs – you never see him shooting at you. When he mortars the ARVN compounds outside Bai Trai – our place has never been hit – he drops about 5 rounds in then picks up and leaves before we can react and go after him.

Okay, another way we get our body count. The first time I saw this was the day after we killed 27. We went out to the same area to search for weapons. We found a VC platoon leader. They didn’t even question him, just took him out on the berm, made him kneel down, and then filled him with about 40 30 cal. Rounds at point blank range. Since then, the ARVN – not the US, we can be tried for murder if we do it other than a direct order from an AMERICAN officer – have executed 7 or 8 other “prisoners” that won’t talk. To get the prisoners to talk they nearly drown them in wells or nearly beat them to death with rifle butts. – they might as well be dead.

Well, we have fucked up two times I know of, for sure. The first was on our first night mission. One half of the platoon got separated from the other, and in trying to find the one half our group wandered in front of them unknowing to both groups. The saw us come out of the woodline in the shadows, and at night – “if it moves open up with everything you’ve got”. They did. The first 5 guys in our column (I was at the rear) were met with several little red tracers from M-16s and carbines for about a half a minute that seemed like an eternity. They were down in the water and mud, and couldn’t even breathe the rounds were so close overhead.

Somebody was alert and called a cease fire before our group returned fire – it could have been bad. As it was, a US got a minor leg wound (he walked out under his own power) and an ARVN was hit in the chest above the heart with a carbine, but the bullet hit at such an angle the BOUNCED OFF leaving only a bruise!! It could have been worse also had it not been for someone who let his bolt go forward to chamber a round just before he opened fire. The noise of the bolt tipped off the front of the column and they were able to get the jump on the firing, and get started on the way down before it began. They were only 50 or maybe 25 meters away.

We were out in search of some mines reported to be stored in the area. Well, 5 ARVNs found one, not stored, as they started through some bushes. There was an ear-splitting bang and then ominous silence broken only by the low moans of the wounded. One of them never had a chance to moan. With tragic timing a huge rainstorm, worse that I had ever seen or have seen since, washed over us, making it impossible for the medivac choppers to even take off from Cu Chi to come and “dust off” the 4 wounded. We had to carry them, bodily, including the one who died instantly, nearly 8,000 meters (or about 5 miles) through a driving rain, in the dark, across rain swelled rice paddies, knee deep in water. It took nearly all night – some carrying weapons, others carrying the wounded. The ARNVs refused to help! Something that never has been explained. The US GIs had to do ALL the carrying. When we reached the road, two GIs collapsed from exhaustion and I wasn’t feeling well. One ARVN died while we carried him and another died two days later. As far as I know the other two are okay. Even the “old two timers” said it was the hardest night they had ever put in in Viet Nam. One had been here 11 months at the time. Really a dramatic night.

As for our record, I can say I’ve been fired at – close by the VC, 3 times. All three times I was forced under water to get away from the bullets. I’ve been fired at remotely by the VC about 2 other times.

On numerous occasions, I’d say 6 or 7 anyway, the ARVNs not S-2 but other ARVN units in the area, have shot at us, sometimes rather close, not knowing who we were. One time our own gunship helicopter saw us in a hedge complex and mistook us for VC. One pass with the M-60s brought a rain of lead and a bullet in the ankle for one of us. Thank God we made radio contact before they made a second pass, probably with mini-guns!

I’ve shot at several VC, but don’t have any confirmed kills. The guys I’ve shot at were all killed but only because the rest of the platoon was shooting at the same time. Like a huge firing squad you kill a guy but nobody knows who actually did it (they’re usually 300 meters away and running, for one thing) so nobody feels bad. “You get a point for your target if someone in the next lane shoots it”.

All right, CRIP is the first and so far only combined VN and US unit (US and VN working as one unit with integrated squads) in Viet Nam.

(2 star) General Mearns has told us in person that we have the best body count record of any unit our size in ALL of Viet Nam and better body count record than many large BATTALIONS in our short existence!! Our size: About 20 men.

In 4 months we have killed a total of 78 VC and captured several suspects, weapons, and mines, etc. All this with a loss of only 3 ARVNs killed and 4 ARVNs and 3 US wounded, none of the wounded have been serious enough for a trip home.  That makes our kill ratio something like 26:1 in favor of our side. We kill VC but we don’t take casualties. The brass loves it and all try to take credit for forming us. Even Westmoreland came to see us one day. All he did is walk through our hutches (barracks) and then had a briefing by Lt. Cito. When he arrived at first we were out in the field and he was in the radio control room when we called in a body count. He was really impressed by the “black berets of Bao Trai” – the Rat Pack. I’m pretty proud and fortunate to be a part of it myself. I have been on EVERY mission from the very first to yesterday’s. Of the seven left out of the original group (the rest have gone home) I’m the only one who can make that statement.

A new chapter is now beginning and it breaks my heart. We’re leaving Bao Trai soon due to the lack of intelligence reports in the area, and moving to Trang Gang where the VC are thick and the terrain favors their type of fighting. It’s a bad place to be, and it scares me some, besides the fact that our easy living is ended and we’ll be living in the dust, mud, and “cat holes” for a while. The stupid part is that it is only 20 minutes by road and 5 minutes by chopper to the area from Bao Trai. We’ve had several successful missions there. Why leave a secure comfortable compound tor a dangerous vulnerable and primitive camp? The S-2 (Intelligence) boys don’t like it either, as their families are here in Bao Trai. It might not last. We’re on a 7 day trial when we move. If it doesn’t work out we might return here: I hope, hope, hope!

That’s it: my first six months in VN in a rather large nutshell. Any more Questions?

Form the lower intestine of Asia,


P.S. Write me a book about Germany. Achtung!

Letters to Mike 5

November 26, 1967 Letter to Mike
Dear Mike,

I’ve forgotten the chapter numbers; what’s this no. 6?

Let me first explain about our “Rat Pack” and our Lt. Cito.

Like I said before, the Recon platoon mostly ran convoy security, etc., and therefore operated on their own and were in the base camp very seldom. They got the name “Rat Patrol” from the jeeps similar to the TV show.

Recon got quite a good reputation in the field, but in base camp they were accused, always, of stealing spare tires, tools, and cases of beer, etc., whenever they were in camp. Not all, in fact, probably very few of the accusations were false. It was (and still is to some extent) a platoon of con-men and rogues.

Some of the old-timers when I got here had been on some of last year’s big operations with the battalion’s infantry line companies, but mostly as a security force. Their contact with the VC [Viet Cong] was very limited, but the few times they saw VC the result was good. The record shows in three years of existence, the recon platoon hadn’t lost a man except for the rotation back home.

Part of the success for 7 months was due to Lt. Cito. He really knew his business and wouldn’t take orders from anybody if he disagreed with them. He’d tell a colonel to get fucked in such a way that the “Bird” would be apologizing for being such an asshole. He’s definitely a cool mother fucker.

Well, they pulled us out of Sugar Mill to go to Bao Trai to work with a platoon of ARVNs [Army of the Republic of Viet Nam].

Bao Trai is the capitol of Hau Nghia province, and the ARVN platoon was a special handpicked group specially put together to react to direct intelligence reports from the province S-2 office. Hence the name S-2 platoon.

In the NINE months they operated before we got there, they – 25 little ARVNs and their US captain – had killed 300 VC, with no loss of life on their side, and only 3 wounded!! This at first sounded unbelievable, but later I understood how it was done. The S-2 went out on direct intelligence from secret agents among the VC (real 007 type) and Chieu Hois [defected VCs]. Their missions - as well as ours – were all short two or three hour jobs, with targets such as three VC tax collectors. Almost an assassination team. They had large contacts but always came out on top. The S-2 is an outstanding unit.

We were there to add our fire power and knowhow to train their force. We became C.R.I.P. – Combined Reconnaissance and Intelligence Platoon.

We are for the most part free of any brigade or battalion control. We wear what we want in the field, and carry not only the M-16, but some people who don’t trust the thing, carry US 30 cal. carbines, M-1s, M-14s, Thompson submachine guns, grease guns (an actual gun) and one guy who has left, used to carry a Chinese AK-47 assault rifle he had taken during a large battalion operation last (1966) August.
Some of the weird weapons have disappeared with the people who have gone home, but we still wear non-issued camouflaged fatigues of various designs, bush hats, and there are a few tennis shoes worn in the swamps. We don’t carry the normal ammo pouches and web gear and steel pots (helmets). Mostly it’s bush hats, bandoliers, or specially tailored magazine vests we have made in town. We travel light as possible. Just recently the commander of the 29th division authorized CRIP members to wear black berets as an award for our record.

We stay in an advisory team compound which is nearly as nice as Duc Hoa – trees, grass, indoor plumbing, showers, club, bar, movies. It’s small but quite comfortable, compared to a line company we have it made – I wouldn’t trade it for anything except a ticket to Columbus, Ohio.

Our operation is the same as the S-2’s before. Direct intelligence and short, quick, effective missions. When there is no intel, we relax and live, but intel comes at any time – usually, it seems just before chow, and we grab our guns and bullets and move out by foot, jeep, or chopper.

Our first mission we really learned to appreciate the ARVN. I learned that several of them are former VC!! They are tremendous at finding booby traps before they find you, and VC hiding places for weapons and shit. They’re really fine. A few speak English, but even without it, after a while language was no barrier to communication and understanding.

The land we operate on is all flat rice paddies waffled by small foot high, more or less, dikes which we walk on whenever possible. It’s wet and rough going at times, but now they’re beginning to dry up with the coming of dry season. The land is dotted with wooded areas – hedge rows, where the people build their homes. Here is where the action takes place, in these hedge complexes. They usually are our objectives.

Then there is the swamp by the Oriental River (size of the Sciota River). Two or three miles on each side of the river is marsh waist deep and tangled with grass, scrub bush, and even jungle. Fierce biting ants, leeches, artillery – water is a haven for hiding VC. I hate the swamp – give me rice paddies any day.

We walk I would guess nearly, on average, 3 miles a day. We go out nearly every day, but there are times when we have say, eight days straight with no operations.

Don’t get the idea we get shot at every time we go out. 90% of our missions have negative results. Booby trap, etc., are not an everyday thing. Maybe even rare. It’s not as hairy as some places in this country.

Day missions don’t bother me anymore – it’s night missions that scare the hell out of me. The whole place is different at night. There’s a VC in every shadow. You can’t see where you’re going or where to hide if someone starts shooting. It’s just plain damn scary. Thank God night missions are relatively few.

Our first body count (VC killed) was on the second operation. We were after 4 VC officials in a hedge complex by the swamp. We were sweeping through the area searching houses and had found some ammo boxes with U.S. M-16 magazines – loaded! They were under a pile of hay. Our Chieu Hoi guide led us right to them. – he had put them there a week before he gave up!!

The ARVNs uncovered all 4 VC in holes along the riverbank, and shot them where they hid. U.S. troops would never have found the well-concealed holes.

Since then we’ve done well. Our best was on August 17 when we flew after a squad of VC and ran into 27 which we killed as they were running away from us. It wasn’t 27 all running in a group, but as we entered a hedge row a couple would run out. We’re taught if it runs, it’s VC. Some had weapons but were so surprised by our airborne (helicopters) assault they had no time to fire back. It was like a turkey shoot. The gun ship accounted for 10 as they tried to run for the swamp.

The night before, we received word that according to a captured document we were in third place on a list of people or groups to be eliminated by the VC in this area. The first two were individuals they wanted to kill and three was “to inflict heavy casualties on the “the Rat Platoon”. After we killed 27 in 3 hours work, I’m sure we moved up to number 1.

The gunships I mentioned are nothing but the same helicopters we ride in, only armed with rockets, mini-guns, and grenade launchers. I’m sure you’re familiar with rockets and grenade launchers, but that mini-gun is something else. It shoots 7.62 mm  ammo (M-16 & M-60) but at a rate of 6000 rounds per minute, through six rotating barrels!! The M-60 shoots 800 rpm as a comparison. This mini-gun sounds more like a model airplane engine or a 2-cycle lawn mower when it fires, instead of a gun. It’ll cover a football field completely in 3 seconds, with every round only a foot apart!!

While we’re on weapons, I’ll tell you what CRIP has. Every man except for the machine gunners (4 M-60s) and grenade launchers (3 in Recon and several others in S-2) carry M-16s, including the S-2 – the first and only ARVN unit in VN to be so equipped. Except for a few who would rather carry dependable carbines. One guy carries two anti-tank rockets. Every man in Recon carries grenades, his basic ammo load of 9 M-16 magazines, or 30 M-79 (grenade launcher) rounds. Or 150 M-60 rounds. The rest of the M-60 ammo is divided among the other men, 100 round belt to each until there are 600 rounds per each of the 4 guns. One of which I used to carry.

Some interesting M-16 facts, then this goes into an envelope and I’ll have to start a third letter. This one’s getting too big. I’ll have to put postage on it if it gets much heavier. How many pages counting both sides was the first? These three together will have to be the longest letter I’ve ever written.

You’ve heard stories about the jamming characteristics of the M-16 – believe them. It’s a real piece of shit on that account. It jams after carbon or dust builds up in the chamber and the round expands with the explosion when fired, and jams in the chamber. The bolt fails to eject it. You need a bore rod to pound it out. That’s too close tolerances in the chamber and a powder that burns too hot and expands the cartridge too much.

Any failing of the round in chamber is caused by poor magazines, not the weapon.

I’ve heard that the gas ports are too small and build up carbon and the bolt is not pushed back. Bull shit! There is too much pressure in that gas tube for anything to build up – it is blown out. When fired in automatic, the gun operates TOO fast and sometimes the face of the bolt does not contact the cartridge before it is fired, and the cartridge is not ejected and the gun jams. The firing pin gets ahead of the bolt, it fires so fast. It fires 1 magazine of 20 rounds in 1 second!

Keeping the gun clean is fine, but after about 2 or 3 magazines, the carbon buildup in the chamber is enough to cause jamming.

But here’s the beauty of the thing. Its power! For only a .223 caliber round, it will ruin your arm if it hits you there. It travels at 32,000 f.p.s. The impact will shatter every bone in your arm if not tear it off completely.

At close range the speed is the primary destroyer. One round will LITERALLY blow out a man’s brain. I’ve seen VC heads only half there, looking like a smashed watermelon with absolutely no brains – or even pieces of skull – anywhere to be seen. This is at close range.

At about 100 meters or so it slows down some, but it is so light that after it slows, if it hits something, it tumbles immediately, tearing a huge hole as it leaves the other side of a person. After 300 meters with tracers - that’s all we shoot – you can see the bullet slow considerably and fall quickly. It’s accurate as hell up to 300 meters – for V.N. that’s plenty distance. All the shooting is close (the purpose of a power shell). Anywhere under 300 meters you don’t have to worry about arc; just aim “center mass” from 2 feet to 300 meters and you’ll hit! It’s beautiful – how it works. It’s made for this war.

I’ve got more to say, but I’ll have to put it in another envelope. Maybe you’ve been wondering about this great record of ours – wait a few more days – you’ll know.

Ain’t I Awful,


Letters to Mike 4

November 23, 1967 Letter to Mike

Dear Mike,         Happy Thanksgiving

I’m glad we finally got the mail situation straightened out. I don’t know what happened but let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.

About that “combat” picture – they’re guys in our platoon, all of which have, by now, completed their year and have returned to the land of the round eyes, known as “the world”. I took the picture.

I agree about Westerville. How come when we go to school they can’t even get the league recognition? Now, after we’re out and on two different sides of the world, they decide to beat some ass.

I remember we used to go to the games and at least one clown would get hurt during the warm-ups. By the end of the first quarter they would be calling for volunteers from the stands. “Would anyone 6/5” and weighing 259 or more please report to the Westerville (Ohio State) bench?”

I heard about Bob Hyatt but not about Alice Roberts. Lets you and me try to keep out of the news, okay?

My Spec 4 should come the first of December, or at the latest, January. I asked our medic fi he knew where “Graff” was. (He served two tours in Germany). He said it’s a hell-hole there. Cheer up - they’ll be using blanks up there.

(27 weeks)

I’ve got 192 days left in Viet Nam – and 414 Army. How do you figure 407 since we came in on the same day? Know something I don’t? Sorry no way could I make it back in time for the wedding, unless I get zapped or get a bad wound. Believe I’ll pass it up if you don’t mind.

I’m sorry to hear about Jann – really. He put up a good fight though he deserves credit for that.

Well you asked a million questions and you also said you had little to no idea of what I was doing here. (Neither do I really.)

Okay, ready for a book? Here is a summary of the first six months in Viet Nam.

I’ll call Chapter 1: “Oakland” or “There’s Rain in Them There Clouds”.

My reporting station was the Army terminal at Oakland, Calif.

There is where your orders are checked and processed and where you’re assigned your flight (or ship).

It was a ridiculous two days. 3 times a day we had mandatory formations where they called out names of those shipping out. The people left over were methodically put on details. In the two and a half days I spent in sunny California I never saw the sun once. In fact it never got above rainy 50 degrees. I was glad to leave in a way. My flight left from Travis AFB (commercial jet) and flew to Seattle. Then on to Tokyo, Okinawa, and finally after 23 hours Bien Hoa, Viet Nam at 2:00 a.m. I left the US at 2:30 p.m. on the 2nd of June and arrived in VN on the 5th of June (date line).

Chapter 2 “Bien Hoa” or “Oakland Revisited”

My arrival, at night, was weird. The whole atmosphere, smell, etc., was weird. We were escorted in an armored bus to the 90th Replacement Battery near Bien Hoa (“ben wa”). The operation at Bien Hoa was same as Oakland only hotter and sunny.

The monsoons were already beginning and it rained every day on schedule. It was a mud-hole. I hid from the ”detail” formations but not so far away I couldn’t hear my name called for shipping. I still had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. I thought of all the bad places - a sniper near the DMZ, etc.

My first impression of Viet Nam has lasted. It’s hot, dirty, and poverty stricken. A disgusting place.

I got the word on the 3rd day that I was going to the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi. I still didn’t know my job nor had I ever heard of the 25th or of Cu Chi. They did tell me it was about 25miles NW of Saigon. That made me feel better.

Chapter 3 “Cu Chi” or “a month and a half of boredom”

I arrived at Cu Chi base camp and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 25th Infantry – the “Wolfhounds”.

Cu Chi is really big – the base camp – about the size of Ft. Knox main post, and BCT and AIT barracks area. There is a large service club and of course the outdoor theater, where Bob Hope and other USO shows perform (I saw Jonathon Winters and Miss America).

Cu Chi is about 35 miles NW of Saigon in Hau Nghia Province (“hi nee-a”) but we never got to Saigon.

Just outside of camp, even before you get to the town of Cu Chi, there is a town called Bac Ha (“buckeye”). This is where the whores are. They stand out in front of the buildings begging you to come in – like in the movies – some aren’t bad at all, however, I haven’t touched any yet. Those girls get fucked 20-30 times a day!!! (Proven fact). You can imagine the clap, etc., that goes around. There is one guy that got clap the first day he went there. And every day when they took him to Cu Chi to get shots, he’d stop in “buckeye” and get a couple of shots of leg and then spread the shit. That’s just one guy in our platoon! No thanks. I’ll stay horny and wait for R&R in February (Hong Kong) where the whores are twice as good looking you rent on contract for 7 days and they’re required by law to take regular penicillin shots.

My platoon is the Recon platoon of the Headquarters Company of the 2/27th, made up of about 30 people, 3 sections – scouts, infantry and 106mm recoilless rifles, 10 to a section.

When I first got here they ran convoy security with their 4 gun jeeps, and 1 ¾ ton truck with a .50 cal.  mounted. Really a pretty simple job since the roads in the Saigon area are pretty secure.

I say a month and a half of boredom because for that period of time from 9 June to 14 July I waited for a special 3-day replacement school. Without the school no new replacement is allowed outside the perimeter of base camp, Bac Ha included. I lay in bed or went to the service club all day for nearly a month and a half, while the platoon went out with Battalion or was on a convoy or was on all night ambush patrols just outside Cu Chi. We were only mortared once while I was there – unusually low activity I was told. The rounds came nowhere near our area, but scared the hell out of me anyway.

I finally was sent to school. The most interesting 3 days of instruction I’ve had in the Army, and then to the field with the Rat Patrol – Recon!

Chapter 4 “The Field” or “It Was Nice Until…”

At the time I went out Recon was securing by day an area being excavated by a company of engineers. We set our vehicles up in strategic spots forming a perimeter and low in the shade if possible, and buy Cokes and junk from the little kids.

At night we’d go further down the road to an artillery site (1 battery) near a town named Bao Trai (“bo try”). The artillery camp was called Gladys. We ate there and then set up security around it and pulled guard all night. Twice we received sniper fire. (1 or 2 rounds).

This lasted for about 4 days then we went to “Sugar Mill” another town nearby named Hiep Hoa (hep wa). Here it was the same as at Glady except we were there all day and night in bunkers in the middle of a rice paddy. We got soaked knee high just walking to chow. It was a hot, muddy, wet, hole. We had plans to stay there for 4 months but it only lasted 4 days when we were called back to Bao Trai.

Chapter 5 “Duc Hoa” or “What Happened to Bao Trai”

Bao Trai lasted for only 7 days (during which we killed 4 VC) before we went to Duc Hoa (du qua). We did however come back to Bao Trai after 7 days at Duc Hoa and that’s where we’ve been the past 4 months; follow me? So here’s what we did at Duc Hoa, then in a second letter I’ll tell you about the activity at Bao Trai – including the first 7 days before D.H.

Duc Hoa has a Special Forces compound where we stayed.  (Special Forces in VN don’t do shit! Fuck Barry Sadler.) The place was a paradise! Sidewalks, grass, permanent building – not tents and tropical huts as Cu Chi. Warm showers – not rain water collected in 50 gal. drums; flush toilets – not shit houses where the shit isn’t buried but BURNED every day in diesel oil!! (as in Cu Chi). They have a club and a bar that rivals some in the USA. A PX that is as well stocked as the small PXs at Know. (the large one in Cu Chi is as good – nearly – as the Ft. Knox main PX).

All the Special Forces do is sit around under their God damned Green Berets and somehow get a reputation they don’t deserve. They’re strictly advisors. Maybe when the war first started they did something, but now they’re resting on their laurels. (maybe they do deserve it).

I shouldn’t talk. All we did was sponge off them and run convoys the whole time. It was heaven. That’s all from Bao Trai - no VC, no shots fired, no real evident danger – Bao Trai may make your hair stand on end – it did mine, at first.

Cont. soon,



[pay] $182 after taxes that’s base pay for PFC + $65 hostile fire pay + $9 overseas pay. I have a $100 allotment going to the bank each month plus the $6.25 bond.

Food’s not bad but we don’t get served much here – sometimes we’re “out” and miss a meal. Native food, some good – majority un-edible as far as I’m concerned.

They x-ray package to see it you’re sending or receiving any unauthorized weapons, bombs, etc.

EM, officers, and NCOs are mixed here. At Cu Chi they have separate clubs.

We were issued 4 sets real light weight jungle fatigues, and canvas top boots with ripple soles, and spike protective sole, at Bao Trai we wear these plus camouflage fatigues, bush hats (no steel pots) and black berets – authorized while we are in VN (can’t wear them in the US).

Letters to Mike 3

November 3, 1967 Letter to Mike

Sgt. Mike,

Don’t blame me, blame the mail service. I did answer your last letter (whenever that way) almost immediately. I think I fucked up though. Normal mail to stateside leaves Viet Nam postage free, all we do is write “free” up where the stamp normally is. The first letter I sent (I presume you got that one, didn’t you?) I put an 8-cent air mail stamp up there because of the fact you were in Germany, not in the states. The second letter I absent-mindedly wrote “free” instead of the stamp and didn’t realize it until it was well on its way to the bottom of the mail box.

Well, maybe neither of them got there because I found out that when sending a letter to another serviceman in RVN (Republic of Viet Nam) or any other foreign duty station we weren’t supposed to put nuthin’ up there at all. So tell me if you don’t get this ‘cause I’m gonna leave the whole damned envelope blank.

No, I haven’t been wounded. I haven’t even seen the VC in about a month (not complaining though). It’s been fairly slow around here lately. It may sound strange, but I wish we’d get a few of those bastards again soon.

I mean, I sure hope your rumors are like they were in basic – totally fiction. Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.

It’s been my opinion all along that soon, somehow, you would be given the wonderful opportunity to come over here, but I hope like hell I’m wrong – I wouldn’t wish that for my worst enemy (actually, I guess my worst enemies are already here. They live here – if you can call this living).

No way in hell I can be home by April 27th, in one healthy piece anyway. I’d love to but the war won’t be over till June 2, 1967.

My orders for SP4 are in, but the allocation haven’t come down yet. I expect anytime from tomorrow to next month or later. There’s a good chance I might be a buck sergeant when I leave here. There’s an equally good chance I won’t be, too.

I hate to chop it off, but I really don’t know what I said in the letter I don’t know if you received, so instead of repeating myself I’ll just say “sit down tonight and write back and tell me what you know about me and Viet Nam and maybe we can get our shit together and begin some kind of orderly correspondence”. (Besides it’ll seem like we’re getting more letters this way).

The Army sucks and Viet Nam is worse,