Excerpts taken from letters

home while in Vietnam



3 March 1967

            “Dear Folks, So far so good.  I’m in Cam Ranh.  Not too bad, but there’s sand everywhere.  The water’s not too bad, but the heat and humidity after being in that cold, is a little hard to take at the moment.  We made two stops.  One in Tokyo, the other in Okinawa.  Should be shipping out to my permanent duty station tomorrow.  Probably in Pleiku.  I’ll write when I get there if I get the time.”



5 March 1967

            “Well, I’m here finally.  Been stationed in An Khe with the 1st Cav.  It’s pretty nice.  Everything’s built up real fine.  Only problem is it’s a little over crowed.  A few rats and mosquitoes.  But outside of that, it’s the best place I’ve been so far.”

            “We flew from Cam Ranh to Qui Nhon, then over to Pleiku.  Stayed the night in Pleiku then left for An Khe by truck convoy.  Something like 60 trucks.  Nice ride.  All the kids came out to wave at us along the way.  There were tanks spread out all over the road along the way.  So, it was actually a pretty safe trip.”

            “I’ve got an orientation at 9:15 by the Company Commander.  So, I’ll write more as soon as I have time and can get some envelopes.”


APO 96294

12 March 1967

            “...some plane just didn’t make the short runway, and is on fire down at the far end.  We’ve got today off.  So far about all I’ve been doing is digging ditches.  Surprisingly, it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be.  I’m not nearly as tired as I figured I’d be in the evening. It’s quite cool here in the evenings and early mornings, but it’s gonna get real hot soon.  So far, it’s only rained once, and that was only a mist at night.”

            “This is the nicest place I’ve been since I’ve been in Vietnam.  Cam Ranh was too sandy, and Pleiku was too dusty.  At least this place has grass and trees, and it’s pretty well built up here.  The camp’s really big and I haven’t seen much of it at all. There are two air fields, and a 3rd one for jet airliners is under construction.  It’s supposed to be built before I leave and that means I’ll be able to fly directly out of here.  It’ll be 3 miles long, about 75 ft. wide and 6 ft. deep.  Helluva lot of concrete to pour, Right?”

            In reference to An Khe, “...after all this is the safest place in Vietnam. To show you how safe it is here now (or how stupid they are) we’ve got our weapons & ammunition under lock and key.”

            “We worked late one night until 11:00 o’clock and surprise! They brought us out some beer to drink on the job, so I guess the Army’s not all that bad.”

            “PSS.  I’ll be a PFC shortly in about another week, but don’t start putting that on my letters yet.”



26 March 1967

            “I’m not gonna tell you about getting into Supply and what my chances are.  Since it isn’t definite, so don’t go spreading it around.  If I do make it, then I’ll let you know and you can put it in the paper.  As of yesterday, I’m in charge of armor, the weapons, so , so far, the first part has come true.”

            “Well, it’s time for chow, and I’m in charge of ‘head count’ which is actually stupid.  All I do is make sure the mess hall don’t get over crowded, or no one eats there who isn’t supposed to, or goes back for a second time, who’d want this slop, anyway.”



5 April 1967

            “Sorry I haven’t written. First real chance tonight…. Letters take about 4 to 5 days over and 6 to 7 days to get here. The mail’s starting to catch up.”

            “Everything is fine here.  It’s hot and humid, and dusty!  The chow’s lousy and for an engineer outfit, we’re the only ones that lose their generator power about every night.  Sometimes for the whole night. ‘No mud, no mosquitoes’, either! Mainly, no rain yet! And what few mosquitoes I’ve seen, so far, aren’t too bad, thanks to the spray.”

            “Here’s my first order.  About 10 pair of wool work socks.  Can’t get any over here.  Also, some Cracker Jacks or caramel corn, OK?!”

            “PS. Easter Sunday. 2 dogs got hung up out in front of the mess hall. Thought of Shirley and Mary Ellen.”



14 April 1967

            “Don’t bother asking me about the attack and the mortar hits on the camp!  Why? Well, you see, I had a few too many.  We were all celebrating.  About 50% of the company was “wiped out”, on liquor, that is.  And I didn’t even hear the mortar rounds hit, even though they were right down the road about a mile.  The Sgt. Didn’t think I’d be much use to him, so he didn’t bother to wake me up.  Besides, we never do anything anyway.  Just sit around waiting to be called up to plug a hole, or in case they ever manage to sneak into the camp.”

            “That’s me and my boys in the picture. Whenever somebody brings out a camera, they’re right there.  The kids are pretty hard workers and do a fairly good job. They get paid 80 “P” a day which amounts to 80 cents.  We usually buy them a couple cans of pop.”

            “Nothing much happening here. The time’s going pretty fast. Would you believe, I’ve only got 318 more days to go?  I’ll be glad when I’m out of the 300s, then I won’t think much about it until I get down into the 100s.”

            “Learning all sorts of things about weapons.  I can take the 45 and M-14 all apart.  What’s so remarkable? I can put them back together again.  I can do fairly well on the M-60 machine gun and since there really isn’t much to the M-79 grenade launcher or the 3.5 rocket launcher, that leave only the 50 caliber machine gun, which is supposed to be a real cuss to get back together. The big problem is setting the timing and the trigger mechanism assembly.”

            “….the mail situation here is fine. Got that!?  The next time I get a call from the Red Cross asking me what the problem is, I’m gonna scream. The story got a little carried away by the time it got over here.  The man said it usually does, so we’ll let it go.  Just wanted you to know that the Postal Service, Red Cross, and Army are on the ball.”

            “Does Aunt Lizzie still get the Springfield paper? If so, if you ever see any Carlinville news in it, send it along. I’ve got a Sgt. Over here from there.  Went to high school in the early 50s and played against Ridley.”

            “...might even call sometime.  It’s cheap.  Same as a stateside call.”



21 April 1967

            “I told you about the bombing. When they say outside of An Khe, that’s where we are, Camp Radcliff, just outside the city.”

            “Next package, send me some flash cubes and some black & white and color print film.  126 film for my camera. All they have over here is slides. Mark on the outside of the package, “Do Not Xray”, contains film.”

            “ That’s Lamonica, commo man. We have the biggest noses in the company.  See what wearing a cap all day does to my hair?  All my old mail finally caught up!”



25 April 1967

            “Got your package yesterday. Everything arrived intact. The Cracker Jacks were fresh.  No need to send Kool Ade.  They’ve got plenty of that here.  In fact, a kid gave me about 30 packages he had brought from home.”

            “It’s raining.  It’s been raining off and on for the last few days.  But the sun dries things up pretty good.  So no mud (no mosquitoes either).”

            “The time’s going pretty fast, and if conditions stay the same, I’ll probably come back for 6 mos.  You see, I’ve got it all figured out. After my year is up over here, I’ll still have 7 mos. Left in the Army, so, why shouldn’t I work it this way.  Put in 9 mos. Here, take a month leave, and come back for 9 more.  Which actually means that (here’s the big reason why), I’ll be home for Christmas and New Years.

            “Besides that, it’ll come during the monsoon season.  Then, too, I’ll have an R&R which is 5 days leave to anywhere I want to go.  And believe you me, I’m gonna wait until they open up Australia.  Five days there sounds greast.  That 5 days doesn’t start until you check into the R&R station when you get there.”

            “The socks were just what I needed.  The color doesn’t make much difference since they’re always covered up.  Would you believe, I only had about 7 pair that were half way decent and you’ve almost got to change them every other day, if not every day.  So they sure help out.”

            “There’s really not too much I need, but here is a small list of things that are hard to get over here:

            String; extension cords; lined tablets; writing paper (stationery); stainless steel razor blades; lighter fluid (you can’t send that); flints; outlets that screw into light fixtures; Viceroy & Kool cigarettes (usually sell out fast); potato chips; and candy of any kind.”

            “Don’t bother about sending sport clippings. We get a paper about every other day and I’m up on them.”



27 April 1967

            “Time’s going fast for me too, especially since we put in about 7 days a week (can’t put in much more than that) 12 hours a day.  It’s not bad.  It gets a little boring though.”

            “No, Mom, I’m not becoming an alcoholic.  In fact, I drink less now than I did at home.  I don’t smoke as much now either than when I first came over.”

            “We get pretty much fruit over here.  Mostly apples and oranges.  Not bad either.  Stateside, I think.”

            “...tell Mr. Marblestone that I can get a tailor made silk suit over here for $60. Ask him what the going price is in T-ville. “

            “Can I trust all them boys?  Would you believe I was carrying a .45 and a magazine just to keep them straight.  This I know you’ll never believe.  One of them is named Zeke and another one’s name was O’Malley.  That’s what they went by.”



6 May 1967

            “Worked all day in supply, then went out and helped the 2nd platoon pour cement until 11:30.  Came back and moved all the ammunition out of the bunker and up to the top of the hill until 4:30 in the morning.  We really had that 3/4 ton truck overloaded, but it made it.  Talk about tired.  Went to bed about 5 when everyone else was getting up.  Slept until 11:30.  Talk about sweat.  Soaked 2 shirts and one T-shirt.  You could have wringed the water out of them.”

            “I can’t believe it.  Instead of getting better, the cooks are getting worse.  It’s unbelievable some of the slop they pass off for food.  And they only know one way to fix potatoes, boiled.  Meat, burnt.  Salad, sour.  Eggs, tasteless.  Bacon, greasy.  Beans, hard.  Corn, watered down.  Carrots, half cooked.  There’s not one thing they can make right.  Nothing else has changed.  It’s still hot and humid.”

            “Aunt Maggie sent me the clipping out of the paper… here’s a clipping out of ours.”

            “PS.  Got a letter from Marybeth.  Picture of the baby.  One of them while he was naked.  Showed the guys.  Said, “see the pornographic picture I got in the mail.  The 1st Sgt got a kick out of it.”



17 May 1967

            “Got the package today.  It arrived in good shape.  Hope they didn’t X-ray the box. Will soon find out when I have the film developed.  Sgt. Seago enjoyed the clippings on his home town.”

            “Same ole grind here.  I’m not doing anything.  Just sitting.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m serving my purpose.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  Just feel a little guilty.  I did fix an M-60 machine gun today.  Stupid people took it apart to clean it, then put it back together wrong.”

            “Barrier Guard was okay, but all those little things went wrong.  First off, it rained, well, sprinkled.  Enough to annoy you.  Then when I blew my air mattress up, which is like blowing up a hundred balloons, it evidently had a leak in it and went flat.  So I had to sleep on the hard ground.  The only time I did get any sleep was when all the action was. They shot some kind of cat that was inside the barbwire entanglement. Made it through the night nice and clean.  But got all muddy in the back of the 5 ton going in. (they’d been hauling dirt).”

            “Been playing cards mostly during the evening.  Wrote quite a few letters… my ole buddy Bowers from Ft. Leonard Wood.  You think it takes mail a long time to get here from the states?  Well it took 18 days for a letter to come up from Pleiku—75 miles away.”

            “Thanks for all the goodies.”



6 June 1967

            “It seems I’ve neglected you, as I have so many times in the past. There comes many times in my life when I just don’t feel like writing. Not because I’m busy, or haven’t the time, but because I can’t get in a writing mood.  I figured I’d better write, though, since I haven’t written anyone in about 2 1/2 weeks.”

            “First off, got your package.  Thanks very much.  Everyone enjoyed everything.  No need to send potato chips, as they’ve been getting them in now.  Could use some flints.  That seems like an almost impossibility here in An Khe.”

            “Been doing lots lately.  Went to Quin Nhon last Monday.  Then went on a “Search and Destroy Mission”.  A ten mile hike through jungle, rice paddies, ploughed fields, streams, and over hills. Didn’t find anything.  No snakes, but about a half mile out from this village, I ran into a 10 year old (about 10, maybe 8 or 9) girl.  Guess what she was doing! Better yet, guess the first thing she said to me!  “You buy Coke?”  Yep!  Those “coke girls” are all over the place.”

            “Thursday I pulled Quarry Guard and it rained.  Didn’t get too wet, but I about froze to death.  Then we played Pinochle.  Sgt Seago and PFC Young against Sgt Lapp and I.  We played for a case of coke & a case of beer from 7 to 1.  We won the best 2 out of 3; but stupidity is bliss, and from 1 to 7 we succeeded in losing 2 out of 3.  So we broke even.  Seems like a waste to play all night and break even.  But it was fun. Sgt Seago, the Sgt from Carlinville and acting 1st Sgt gave us the day off.  Mainly me, since I had to pull Barrier Guard from 6 to 6 Sunday.  Guess what? It rained and we had 30 mph winds.  Besides being cold, I had to sleep in a cramped up bunker on a cold hard ground.  But I was so tired I rested pretty good.”

            “Today, Tuesday, on the weekly sheet run, the truck broke down at the laundry. We had to be towed in.  It’s been an unusual past week or so.”



19 June 1967

            “Don’t talk to me about rain.  It rained every day here for about 11 days.  Not much in the day, but at night.  And two of those nights, I was out on guard.  It’s been fairly nice again and I’ve got Quarry Guard tonight.”

            “You’ll probably read about the freak accident we had here.  Plane wrecked on take-off.  Last total I heard was 28 dead.  We lose more by accident than we do by VC.”



30 June 1967

            “Been busy hauling buildings in the prefab stage.  It won’t be long and we’ll have a roof over our head.”



26 July 1967

            “Nothing’s been happening, been busy.  The only big thing that’s happened is I’m now a Specialist 4th Class.  So start writing SP/4 in front of my name instead of PFC.”

            “Everything’s the same here. Lousy!  Today marked my anniversary. Ten months in the Army and 5 months in Nam.  I will say one thing, conditions here seem better than over there with all the race riots going on.  In fact, I think it’s safer here, than there.”

            “I’m looking forward to the last of December since If I don’t come home, I’m going on R&R to Australia with Doug Young.  He’s the Company clerk, 24 yrs old, went to Kansas State for 3 1/2 years.”



28 August 1967

            “Received your package today. Everything was in good shape, except the crackers.  They were all broken up but fresh.  I was a little disappointed that Dad didn’t enclose a pack of those Bull Durham cigarettes. I thought for sure he’d want me to sample them!”

            “Well, it’s another miserable, rainy, muddy, damp, humid day here.  Things are pretty hectic still.  Last Friday we packed everything we owned and moved out from good ole dusty, windy An Khe (just before the rains started to set in) and convoyed up to this hell hole of a place, Pleiku.”

            “I guess it’s really not too bad here.  One thing, it’s been raining here for 3 or 4 months and it’s supposed to be all over in 2 or 3 more weeks which might mean I won’t have to put up with too much of the monsoon season.”

            “We moved into wooden barracks formerly occupied by “B” Co. of the 299th and there are quite a few of my old buddies from AIT here. (My little Phillipino buddy is here.)”

            “The camp’s not as near as safe as the one in An Khe, but they say we aren’t bothered too much, ‘cause there’s nothing here ‘Charlie’ wants.  Besides, we’re the ones who take care of his roads for him.”

            “It has a few nice advantages. No more K.P. for the guys.  We’re allowed Vietnamese laborers.  E-6s and below are authorized houseboys.  E-7s and above are authorized house girls.  The EM Club is fabulous compared to ours and they have some cute little Vietnamese gals tending bar and waiting on tables.  They’re allowed in camp until all hours of the night. The big thing that bothers me is the barrier is so close.  When you walk our the back of the EM Club to go to the latrine, you’re abut 50 ft. from the barrier.”

            “Did I tell you that they made me get a drivers license without having ever driven any of the vehicles before?  They forged a card (well, they lied a lot) and now I’m qualified to drive a 1/4 ton (jeep), 3/4 ton truck and 2 1/2 ton truck.  I’ll never make a truck driver.  I don’t like backing up with a trailer.  Especially when I can’t see out the back.”

            “More fun is pulling ‘motor stables’ every morning.  I get to check water in the radiator, the oil, the panel accessories, the tires, the batteries, and any other minor defect.  I guess the Army wants to make me feel at home.”

            “Well, we finally got paid again.  I’m getting up in the big time now.  My base pay is $168.60, as compared to the $121.90 that it was before.  And my foreign duty pay goes up from $9 to $13.  So now every month I’ll be making $246.60 minus $141 worth of allotments and minus social security, I’ll be clearing about $98 every month.”

            “My good friend, Sgt Seago went home.  He said he’ll try and get in touch with you sometime in the near future.”

            “This sure has been a long day.  It’s spanned three or four days.  It’s now 1 September 1967.  I think I’d better mail this before it’s October.”

            “The only thing that changes on my address is the zip code.  It becomes 96318, okay!”



10 October 1967

            Stayin’ up to listen to the ballgame so thought I’d write.  Glad to hear everyone’s okay or as well as can be expected.  I received a letter and package from youse today.  Thanks very much.  Quite a few guys were wantin to try out those Bull Durham cigarettes.  Was a little surprised too at those ‘lettuce leaf’ Bravos.  I don’t think I’d want to smoke them regularly.  Most of the guys think the Bull Durhams are okay, but wouldn’t smoke them regularly.”

            “Well, only 139 days or less until I’m due to leave here.  If you remember, last 26 September was my anniversary of one year in the Army.  The time in Vietnam’s going fast; but I thought that first year would never end.  I guess maybe this move has helped make the time go faster.”

            “Whoever said Vietnam is hot, is crazy, or has never been in Pleiku.  It’s cold and damp here.  If the monsoon is supposed to be getting over, it sure isn’t acting like it.  It rains about everyday yet.  It’s usually always overcast, but when the sun does manage to peep through, it does a fairly good job of drying up the mud.”

            “As for the temperature, as of late, it’s been in the 60s. With a cool breeze and rain, it seems colder.”

            “This place is really crazy over here.  I’ve got no complaints, but it seems ridiculous at times.  For instance, we made a run to Qui Nhon which is 105 miles from Pleiku (get out the map) down Hwy 19 through Mang Yang Pass to An Khe, through An Khe Pass and down to the South China Sea.  It’s an easy ride down, all down hill, and you can make good time even on the winding road through the Pass.”

            “And when you get on this asphalted Hwy part of 19, complete with a white line down the middle, it’s great.  We picked up the supplies in Qui Nhon. I got to go down to the Sea.  Even had an ice cream sundae.  They’ve got everything there just about.  Pave sidewalks, decent barracks, sinks and urinals in the latrine.  We stayed overnight Friday, loaded Saturday and stayed there that night and left at 6:30 Sunday morn.  Got back at 11:30 with a half an hour stop in An Khe.  That’s good considering coming back up through the passes your top speed is 15 mph.”

            “Coming down we were in a big convoy as far as An Khe.  Then 2 of us went on to Qui Nhon.  Top speed going down, 65 mph, coming back 40 mph.  A big difference. There were 6 trucks coming back, and since we were loaded down with (of all things, Tide, in the bed of the truck and Spray Starch in the trailer we were pulling), we became the last truck.  The other trucks carried Christmas trees and decorations.  Santa Claus and all.”

            “That was last week.  I road shotgun, Jones drove.  There wasn’t any sign of trouble.  This week, it’s different. They’re fighting all through the pass. The trucks are making it through just fine though.”

            “Like I say, it’s funny.  There’s a war going on over here, but you couldn’t prove it.  Especially when you go over to the Club and drink pink champagne.  Or eat an ice cream sundae, or like now, listen to a direct broadcast of the World Series and hear it as clear as if you were in the States.”



27 November 1967

            “Received your package and everything was A okay and good.  Thanks for all the pictures.  Just think, I’ll be home in a few days.  Only 91.  That’s not even 3 months.”

            “Sure hope everyone is fine and doing alright.  Things here are a little hectic.  I’m in charge of Supply, and so far, there isn’t anything that’s come up that I couldn’t handle.”



30 December 1967

            “I received all my packages A OK.  We had a real nice Christmas here.  Christmas trees.  We even built a snowman out of sandbags, screen wire, cement and white paint.  Christmas lights and all kinds of decorations.  Thanks for sending me the nativity set.”

            “It won’t be long now and it’ll be another year.  It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here 10 months.  It feels almost like I left a couple of weeks ago.  I’m not for sure when I’ll be coming home. Probably wait until March, although I could probably leave in January.  But I still have an R&R coming, and I definitely plan on taking it.  Besides, I’m supposed to go up before the E-5 board for Sgt in January.”



17 January 1968

            “Well, it won’t be long and I’ll be home for a little leave.  It sure don’t seem like I’ve been here that long, almost 11 months.  The time has gone by pretty darn fast, and I’ve met and made a lot of good friends.  I’ll be going on R&R in February.  Just before I come home, so the time’ll go even quicker.”

            “I’ve spent a lot more money than need be over here, but when I get home, I’ll have quite a lot saved up. Both in cash and bonds.  I take it you’ve been receiving all those bonds, huh?  I never thought to ask you about that before.”

            “I received the check for $300 the other day, but haven’t got around to cashing it yet.  I’ll wait and to that the last of this month and put the money in the Company safe until I’m ready to leave.”

            “Received a letter from the Christian County Young Democrats and answered it promptly.  You shouldn’t be having too many more phone calls from them, as the letter was pretty self-explanatory.”

            “This seems funny, but in a way, I’m a little afraid to come home.  I mean, I can write pretty convincing letters, the way I feel, but to get up in front of people, well that’s a different subject all together.”

            “Anyway, I’ll probably be spending sometime in California with the kids the last half, and I must visit PSgt Seago, and my old buddy, Sgt (Mister, now) Lindstrom.  So don’t be too surprised if I’m pretty much on the go when I get home.”



1 March 1968

            “Short!  Only 14 days until my flight.  Really not a thing to write about.  Just wrote the ‘kids’ and thought I’d drop you a line to let you know I’m A OK.  Had a wonderful time in Sydney, Australia.  Did get to celebrate the 1st 8 hours of my birthday there.  The hotel I stayed at was very nice and the girls that worked there got me a birthday cake with 24 candles on it.”

            “It won’t be long and I’ll be home.  So, I’ll tell you all about it then.  I made Sgt the day after I left for Cam Ranh.  Got my stripes when I got back.”



25 April 1968

            “Well, I’m back.  Got back to the Company Sunday morning.  Tried to call you before I left Ft. Lewis, but the operators were on strike and I couldn’t even get a direct dial through.”

            “Boy! These last five days have flown by.  It don’t seem like I’ve even been gone, let alone home.  The rains are just starting here and while I was home, we moved to Engineer Hill.  And now, I’ve got a leaky old canvas roof for a barracks.”

            “Not only that, but the whole Company is in the field with the exception of a few of us who are remaining back for supply purposes.  When Sgt Nolte leaves, I’ll be in charge of the rear detachment.”

            “Nothing much happening.  Had a real nice stay with the kids.  Disneyland & Easter were real nice.  Met my buddy, Marchewka, out there.”



20 May 1968

            “Just a few lines to let you know I’m still okay. The whole company is together again.  Except for a few casualties, we’re doing fine.  The guys got hit up north, no one killed, luckily; but several wounded.  So with the company back, everything’s back to normal again.”

            “The rains have slacked off and it’s hot and humid.  At least, no mud.  The bugs are getting bad again. And the rats!  We had one guy (while the guys were up north) get bit by a rat.  It just broke the skin, but that was enough to subject him to those shots in the belly.  He said they don’t hurt very much, but sure made him drowsy.”

            “...I’ll probably be home in about 4 1/2 months.”



6 June 1968

            “I’ll be going to Bangkok on R&R in July.  Then, home in October. It don’t seem possible.  Just wrote a letter to Aunt Margo and one to one of my old Sergeants.”

            “I got my income tax check.  Haven’t cashed it yet.  I guess I better before long.  It seems like such a waste of time though.”

            “Say, what’s going on back there. Can’t you people get along.  If everybody’s so kill crazy, why don’t you send them over here where they can do some good.  I’m a little leery about coming home.  It sounds safer over here.”

            “...I’ll be home soon, not much to write about.  At least we’ve got the holes pretty well patched up.  And the rain’s drowning most of the bugs.  Even our little rat buddy hasn’t been around the last few nights.  Maybe he drowned too.”

            “Well, haven’t been doing much.  Watching TV and drinking a couple of beers at night.  Going to bed around 10. Trying to keep dry.”



11 July 1968

            “Well, it’s letter writin’ time again.  Seeing how I owe just about everyboday a letter.  Nothing happening here.  It’s all quiet on the front.  I’ve got my orders for R&R.  Going about the 28th to Cam Ranh.  Then R&R to Bangkok from the 29th to the 3rd of August. Is there anything you’d like for me to get for you””

            “Well, the rains for some reason aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.  So far, the weather has been quite nice.  Hot in the day, cool in the night and enough rain to keep down the dust.  Every time it looks like it’s going to keep raining, it stops and the sun comes out.  If it’ll only keep up like this for a little while longer…”



29 July 1968

            “Here’s where I’ll be spending my next 5 days.  We’re still in the air.  Starting to descend at the airport in Bangkok.  See you all soon.  Just 54 more days.  Give my love to all.”



19 August 1968

            “Well, I did it.  I’ve thought it over a whole lot and I’ve decided that it’s for the best.  Did what, you ask? Well, would you believe, I extended over here for 6 more months.  Instead of coming home, I’m going to Bangkok for 30 days.  I’ve made up my mind that I’d like to see a little of this world and that’s what I intend to do.  I’ll have another R&R when I come back off my leave.  Maybe I’ll go to Singapore or Manila this next time.”

            “If everything goes the way I plan, I’ll probably re-up for 3 years, 2 of which will be for Vietnam, so that I can continue to see the world.”

            “So that’s the big news.  Hope you aren’t too angry, but it’s my chance of a lifetime, and there really ain’t too much for me to do at home.”

            “You should be getting a couple of packages in the mail pretty soon.  At least in the next 4 weeks.  It’s some bronze ware…. I really had a nice time in Bangkok.  That’s why I want to go back there.  It’s a fabulous place and the food is delicious.  It’s a rather clean place, much cleaner than one would expect.  And it’s really spread out all over.  The people are very friendly and helpful.  They really like Americans and are proud of their country and try to model themselves and country after us.”

            “Well, that’s about it.  Just wanted you to know not to expect me.  Say hello to everyone.”



20 August 1968

            “Dear Mr. Durbin: This letter is to inform you that your son has voluntarily extended his foreign service tour in the Republic of Vietnam for a period of six (6) months.  A copy of his extension is enclosed with this letter.  With his six month extension he has also requested to be granted a 30 day Special Leave to Bangkok, Thailand.  Let me assure you that your son was not forced or coerced in any way to extend his tour in the Republic of Vietnam.”

            “With this six month extension, you son’s new expected date of rotation from Vietnam to the United States should be on or about 1 May 1969.”

            “If you have any questions about your son’s extension, feel free to write me at the following address: Commanding Officer; Co. A, 70th Engr Bn (Cbt)(A); APO San Francisco 96318.  Sincerely Yours, James G. Lehner, 1Lt, CE Acting Commander”



14 September 1968

            “It won’t be long and I’ll be on my way to Bangkok for a 30 day leave. Then 6 months back in Vietnam and probably home.  I know you people worry about me.  That was my biggest consideration before I extended again, but it is my life and I am thinking of my future.”

            “This will probably be my last letter from Pleiku to you.  I’ll write while I’m on leave, but as of the 20th of September, we are moving to Ban Me Thout.  It’s about 140 miles south of Pleiku.  So when you write again in November when I’m back off leave, address my letter with 2 changes (1) change US 56… to ER 56… and change the APO from 96318 to APO 96297.”

            “If at all possible, try to get Bob’s address for me.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to see him.  I’ll only be about 120 miles from where he’s at. “



13 October 1968

            “Here it is almost the middle of October and I’m still here.  Haven’t even left on leave yet.  Unless I go to Saigon, it don’t look like I’ll leave until sometime in November.  Either way, it doesn’t matter to me.  I’m anxious to go, but the longer I stay here now, the less time I’ll have to do when I come back.”

            “I’m sorry for not having written for so long, but for me, I expected to have been gone along time ago.  And too, we’ve been really busy.  Hardly any free time.  Besides, there’s no lights to speak of.  By the time we’re off duty, it’s starting to get dark.  Only flashlights, candlelight and a few lanterns. The only electrical appliance in operation right now is our refrigerators (this is in the platoon areas, not the company) Got to keep that beer cold.”

            “Ban Me Thout is really nice compared to the other places I’ve been over here.  It’s a lot more cleaner and more modern.  It’s the Montagnard capital of South Vietnam.  The roads are better and the land looks much greener and prettier. There seem to be quite a few rubber plantations here.  Also, if there wasn’t a war, this wouldn't be too bad a place to visit.”



10 November 1968

            “I’m still here!  Same old Vietnam.  Nothing ever seems to change over here. The rains have stopped. The dust on the roads is already about an inch thick.  It’s still cold at night and getting hotter everyday.”

            “Send a few pictures like last year for Christmas.  That’s all I really want and need.  If you want to send something else, like chow, some of your fudge, some stuffed olives, some hot peppers, some mushroom soup, some bits & pieces mushrooms.  That’s about it.”

            “There’s really not much to write about.  Since we’ve moved, it’s about the same, only less work.  Most of our jobs are busy work jobs.”

            “Got a letter from Bob.  Doesn’t seem too pleased with his choice of assignment.”

            “The beer situation here is lousy.  It’s pretty hard to get. Even the club runs out. The nearest PX is about seven miles away.  Only have 164 days left, of which, 134 are over here.”



25 December 1968

            “Happy Birthday, Mom!  Well, here it is, another Christmas almost gone.  All things considering, it’s been a pretty good day.  Last night was wild.  I slept most of today.”

            “We had a real nice dinner.  Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, radishes, olives, nuts, peas, buns, apple, pumpkin and minced meat pie.  All the things it takes to make a Christmas merry.  Beer, bourbon, soda.  As close to being home as possible.”

            “All kinds of Christmas music on the radio. We aren’t doing much here.  Just building up our new area and have started working on the road.  This is a pretty nice place except we keep getting all the lousy weather blowing off the coast.  Just about the time everything dries out, we get a coastal shower and instead of watering down the dust, it makes a 3 or 4 day supply of mud.”

            “Well, now for the 3rd time, it won’t be long now.  Haven’t had my 30 day leave yet.  Probably won’t even take it.  It’ll save me a lot of money, but that wasn’t the important thing.  I think I’ll take just a 7 day leave and also take my R&R to Singapore.”



16 January 1969

            “Well, would you believe, we moved again.  This time about 2 miles down the road.  It seems the Colonel didn’t like our old spot ‘cause there wasn’t any grass, just mud.  So now, we’re set up in an old Montagnard graveyard.  There’s an old grave right outside my tent.  Think maybe we’ll do a little excavating.”

            “So now here we are building up our area and it’s raining.  We’ve still got some mud, but just where the vehicles drive. Mostly we have weeds, mosquitoes, and all kinds of weird bugs I’ve never seen before.  So far, no snakes.”

            “Sorry abut not sending you a picture.  I promise to send one as soon as I can get a hold of some more Polaroid film for my camera.  I guess I didn’t tell you I bought a camera.  It’s a Polaroid 250.  I’ve always wanted one.”

            “I shave off my moustache tonight.  When everybody asked why, I told them my Daddy told me too.”



8 February 1969

            “You’ll never guess where I’ve been.  Just got back the 4th.  Had a five day leave to Bangkok.  The 17th of this month starts my R&R to Singapore.  So, actually, only back long enough to get my clothes washed up.”

            “I know I’ll probably be pretty miserable when I get home this time.  I’ve seen too much.  Been too many places.  And enjoy a more exciting life at an outstanding low price.  It’s just not gonna be the same for awhile until I settle down again.  In a lot of ways, I’m gonna miss the Army and what I’ve done and where I’ve been.”

            “The 1st thing I’m gonna do when I get home is rest… then buy a car… then get a job… then, guess what, move out on my own.  Hope to be living in a trailer by mid-summer.”

            “So much for now.  I’m on Sgt of the Guard.  It’s 2:35 and time to check my guards.”

            “PS.  “Have some cold Falstaff in the frige for me when I come home.  Bottles please.”

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