Letters home. John Bullock's sister.

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Niner Alpha
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Letters home. John Bullock's sister.

Postby Niner Alpha » Tue Feb 12, 2008 2:05 pm

Dear Mr. Stewart,

My brother, John Bullock, from Marion, Iowa said you might be interested in excerpts from his letters to me while he was in Vietnam. Good thing I am a saver. Never thought anyone but John's family would be interested in his experiences. These letters may still be too long for what you need so feel free to chop them down. Everything about what was happening to John is interesting to us so it was hard to delete. I looked at the website. Keep up the good work.
John's sister,

Fay Risner

From John's letters to his sister:

April 3, 1970

Haven't got an address yet... gave us one to use here so we could get the
letter out of the country. It is Friday here I think, I'm already loosing
track. I got here the 1st and both nights I spent on bunker guard so I haven't
had much sleep until today. I laid down .... Didn't wake up until 3:30 this
afternoon.... suppose to be going to classes.... refresher courses in what
we already learned in A.I.T. Got paid while there was a formation, so if I
don't get anything at the next formation at 6:30 p.m. I won't be out all
night. Got $253 this time. It has been pretty hot here except at night....
it cools off and the mosquitoes turn us into a mass of mounds and bumps. ...
bet they are really fun when the monsoons get here in June and July. I'm in
Tan An if you can find it on the map. We are somewhere 15 - 20 miles south
of Saigon. I'm to be assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Inf. Div. When I
get out of the Go Devil Academy. It is the last Brigade of the 9th still
here, and it is due to be pulled out in July. It will probably still be here
when I leave. Been relatively quiet here since the summer months of last
year. Just recently there has been a little stir up but I don't think it
will last. You all be good and don't worry.

April 10, 1970

I don't have much time to write but I can let you know my address. ....takes
about 5 days to get across one way. I'm at Ben Luc....I suppose I'll be on
guard again tonight. Was last night out at F.S.B. Chamberlain.

April 11, 1970

Ben Luc

Leaving today for Fire Support Base Chamberlain....return day after
tomorrow....going to pull security...finally got a bunk in base camp....out
at Chamberlain before for a briefing by the Bn. Commander. When we got back
we got another briefing by the company C.O....didn't have to pull guard...
Went to a movie, had a few beers and got to bed early for once. P.X. is
pretty small in Ben Luc....won't be able to get a camera or radio...will
wait until I go into Tan An. Have to go shortly to get red dog tags made,
(medical warning tags that show I'm allergic to penicillin and sulfa). I
have a feeling we pull guard at Chamberlain while they pull out. Several
fire support bases being closed, and operations in the Plain Of Reeds
restricted....monsoon season about to start. When we walk in that area they
will chopper us out, but we work in areas where we can get fire support from
remaining f.s.b.'s. (mortor and artillary fire). New barracks being built
for the companies when they come back from the f.s.b.'s.

F.S.B. Chamberlain

Going to spend the night in the field and sleep here tomorrow ...go out
tomorrow night. Bunking with Tiger Scout....wrote Mom his name is Pwop.
Guess snow and cold weather must be gone there. Did Corky get the map I sent
him? I sent you all a postcard at each place we stopped along the way.

April 19, 1970

Ben Luc

Finally got a night's sleep on a mattress without mosquitoes humming
anywhere. By now I could go to sleep on a bed of nails. Ben Luc is really
being built up. An air conditioned NCO club going up and several barracks
....plus other buildings. Things pretty quiet. Working in our own area and
the 25th Div. area, too...haven't see a thing. The 25th had lots of its
people up around the Cambodian border. Traveling by chopper the last few
days. Beats walking a whole lot, but trips are short, maybe 5
minutes....have to go over and get a haircut later when P.X.
Opens....suppose to polish my boots, too, but I'm not going to do it. Some
of these idiots want to make this place like back in the states. They are
the people who don't go out. Go out by chopper and work with the ARUN's this
afternoon. Maybe before we leave we can get some decent chow for once. Those
C-rations get old.

April 24, 1970

Ben Luc

Got two of your letters when I got back. I'm beat ...walking around in
swamps for 3 days. Didn't make contact until this morning. Another platoon
got sniper fire. No one got hurt, but they tore up the area the shots came
from....made me mad...it delayed us getting out of there by an hour and a
half...glad Duane was tickled about map. Bn. Chaplain, Capt. Reynolds
....talked to us about going to services....have 3 days op coming up ...will
be in the field Sunday. Chaplains come around on Sun. morning and round
people up. I'm itching and stinking so I better go get a shower. Give
Vietnam back some of its soil.

April 26, 1970

3rd Fld. Hosp.


Thought I would tell you first I got a shrapnel wound and wasn't seriously
hurt. I figured if Mom heard it in a letter she would pass out before she
got far enough to read I'm all right....were in IV Corp area around Dang An
yesterday morning....our squad's pointman, Y, ran into a V.C. Y got
him...our M-79 man lobbed gernades in to any more V.C....a piece of shrapnel
from...grenade hit Y in the leg. We pulled out a little ways to a clearing
(it was real thick brush and trees there) and called a chopper...dusted Y
off....squad moved back to area to check body of dead V.C. My platoon
sergeant, a squad leader and a radioman moved up, an M-16 (American) rifle
went off. We thought someone let their weapon go off. M-16 rounds started
flying around us. We thought another squad moved up in front of us and taken
us for V.C. We yelled and yelled ...they kept firing, so we realized was a
V.C. with M-16. We opened up with grenade rounds and machine gun
fire....took awhile to pin him down...brush so thick couldn't see him...he
was in a bunker. One M-16 round hit the ground near me and splintered. A
piece went through my upper lip and part way into my lower lip, stopping as
it hit my teeth. Another G.I. at the same time got shrapnel in the leg. We
pulled back...called Cobra gunships. They fired rockets and machine
guns..turned the area upside down. Another G.I. got injured then from
shrapnel from a rocket. In a few minutes, they had pounded the area ...3 of
us with shrapnel wounds dusted off by chopper. Guess they got the V.C. Three
of us here together and Y here, too. They shaved my mustache, pulled the
shrapnel from my upper lip and stitched up the hole. A brigadier general
....gave us a purple heart. I got a medal, a ribbon and a miniature ribbon
in a little case....a folder with a certificate and copies of the orders
awarding me the decoration. Lt. Hall, my platoon leader, and Lt. Morgon,
Alpha Co.'s executive officer, came...brought mail...letter from you and Mom
dated the 20th. They are going to get us cigarettes and a radio. Lt. Morgon
left us $20 in case we wanted to buy something. People from the 9th div.
keep coming to check on us. My lip looks like somebody belted me a good one
and knocked a tooth through my lip. Anyway made it to Saigon. Won't get to
see the city. I can walk fine, but they took my clothes. ...don't think I
can sneak past the guards in blue pajamas and white slippers....watching for
infection....be back in Ben Luc in a day or so. A P.X. here, movies, a club
(patients can't buy beer) and a library. Ward has t.v., books and magazines
and games in library...going to listen to recorded tapes...food good and I
get a few days out of the field. Thanks for the calendar. Small pocket
calendar I had...soaked in the Mekong Delta along with my wallet. Found out
we can call from here but costs $14 for first three minutes. Don't figure it
would be worth that. Sending certificate for medal home...going to keep
vest, since I can wear the ribbon on R & R. ...should be getting the C.I.B.
So I have a little color to wear on my uniform. Will send Mom a letter after
you get this first. Tell them I'm fine, no sweat and all that. I walked out
and am still walking.

April 29, 1970

Ben Luc

Got back yesterday from 3rd fld. Hosp.at Tan Son Nhut (Saigon),...stitches
out tomorrow so I'm loafing...threw away my clothes at hospital...got
complete new set including new boots. Just got the 9th Div patch sewed on
other shirt and pants tapered...have to do it all over again. I'll let you
do the camping out when I get back. I'll have had my fill of sleeping out.
Just for old times sake I may go out and sleep in a stream sometime.
..fairly good movie last night "The Longest Day". ..had a little beer and
celebrated....been a month since I left Oakland. Tomorrow I'm going to
celebrate the end of first month in country...don't know what I'll celebrate
tonight, the day in between I guess.

April 30, 1970

Ben Luc

Found an excuse to write. Got into Tan An and got a camera and radio. Camera
cost $30...35mm. Only black and white film at Tan An, so first 5 rolls will
be that. Radio is a Sony Am-Fm, pocket size....more RTO(army) radios than
commercial stations ..getting talk about landing choppers instead of music.
..big antennas around the barracks probably strangle my reception. Had
intended to take camera and radio to the field...probably won't. Hate to
lose them or get them soaked...can listen to the news and know what is going
on. Sometimes I don't even know what is going on here.

May 5, 1970

F.S.B. Chamberlain

...got here this afternoon by chinook from F.S.B. Gettysburg. Rumor has it
we will be here 2 weeks. If they don't get some clothes out here, they won't
be able to stand us for two weeks. You all think it's hot there (Iowa), try
110 - 120 once. At 80 - 90 its cold. Chamberlain is a little more civilized
than Gettysburg though not much...have a Gook shop and barber...might be a
movie get here. At Gettysburg they were selling beer this morning so you
know where everyone headed. We were a little sloppy by the time we got on
the chinook...sitting up ambushes at night and laying around during the day
when it's hot. Didn't make any contact. Gooks don't travel during the
day...we have so many choppers out they would be easily spotted. We set up
at night and wait for them to come through. Usually we see them before they
see us. They come through Laos and Cambodia...try to sneak across the Plain
of Reeds and join up forces with N.V.N. -V.C.

operating in Saigon area. A guide (V.C.) Goes out and picks up (N.V.A.) And
leads them back...sometimes they get V.C. going from Nam into Cambodia. Lip
almost completely healed. Tell Cork I'll help him eat next year's garden.

May 6,1970

F.S.B. Chamberlain

Takes 4 days for a letter to get out....if I'm in the field takes a day or
two more...have to come by chopper with our resupply. Tell Mom that the 9th
Div. Patch is red on top, blue on bottom and white in center. That's the one
we wear on khakis. Patch on fatigues is various shades of green so it won't
show up at a distance out in the boonies. My first roll of film didn't take.
I went through some water and it got wet. Thanks for the calendar. I'll
stick it in my helmet to keep it dry. Suppose most of the guys are married I
went to school with and already out of service. Chuck Johnson (KIA later) is
only one still in and he should be out before long. ...tighten things up in
bunker...looks like it will pour shortly.

May 12,1970

F.S.B. Chamberlain

Goodby Cambodia, hello Nam--boy, I'm glad to be back. We can go back to
fighting 2 or 3 instead of a platoon and company size elements. Got out
without a scratch and got put in for a couple medals so I can't complain,
but I'd sooner I hadn't been there. ...entire U.S. Operations have destroyed
a lot of supplies and stopped a lot of Dicks so things should slack up for a
few months, maybe long enough that I'll be out of here before it starts up
again. Somebody said they will be glad to wade through the swamps again.
Those swamps, by the way, don't have many animals. Insects is about all I've
seen, fire ants, mosquitoes and the like. They don't have so many Dicks in
them so I won't complain about them (the insects) either. Thanks for the
gum. I haven't seen Mutt and Jeff (orphan children) since the first time at
Sugar Mill. Doubt if we ever get up there again.

May 14, 1970


Loafing around out of the rain, trying to keep dry. We walk in mud and sleep
in mud anymore. Guess it will be that way until Dec. If we remain in this
part of the country. The 6/31st of the 9th Div. made the Armed Forces Radio
news here and the Stars and Stripes where we were in Cambodia and the first
to be withdrawn. I don't suppose there was a thing about it back in the
states. We get some news and weather about the states on the radio. The
station plays 24 hours a day and doesn't have commercial ads, just public
interest type ads. Usually 2 or 3 people have radios in the field so we keep
some track of what's going on in the world.

May 18, 1970

F.S.B. Chamberlain

....we leave for F.S.B. Gettysburg. We're tearing the place down and giving
it back to the Plain of Reeds. We've been loafing so much it's getting on
our nerves....isn't much to do but sleep...like to see a movie but doesn't
look like we will go into Ben Luc for awhile. We've been spending days in
here and 2 out of 3 nights in the field. Will do the same at Gettysburg
except we will be tearing stuff down during the day instead of loafing. I've
been carrying all your and Mom's letters since we left Ben Luc in the inside
of my helmet. It's getting so anymore I can't keep it on my head.

May 20, 1970

F.S.B. Gettysburg

Hope this May weather is good in Iowa. It's hot here during the day, and we
don't operate. Mostly because the V.C. don't travel during the day. At night
we set up ambushes. I doubt if the 6/31 will go back to Cambodia before
Nixon's six weeks are up, otherwise Gettysburg wouldn't be closed. We'd need
this F.S.B. to move into Cambodia, since it is the closest. I have no more
desire to go again anymore than I did the first time. Still now that we are
back safe I'm glad we did go. Our platoon had only two casualties, one minor
and one serious. I'm still packing a grenade launcher. I haven't fired it
since Cambodia. I like it mainly because it's easy to keep clean. Things
must be really stirred up on the campuses back in the world. From the
magazines I've read people were pretty critical of Nixon's handling of the
war. Sounds like it will be too dangerous to go to college when I get back.
...two months in and 10 months to go. It has went fairly fast, but it could
go faster. Chances are I could be out of the field in 6 months, but that
could be affected by the 9th pulling out and a lot of other things. Will
write again before we leave here if I can get some paper and envelopes.

May 26, 1970

Ben Luc

We are on alert this morning.....everyone in the 3rd platoon spent last
night in the new NCO-EM club....nice inside for Ben Luc. Kind of nice to be
back in civilization again, around Gettysburg there are no houses or
settlements, just swamps and reeds. Rumors are flying that the 9th is
pulling out in July. Everything from higher seems to point to that. If they
pull out it won't affect me so I don't suppose I care one way or the other.
A duster by the way is a tank. We only have a few, because the terrain is
too marshy for a tank. Usually when they get a tank they leave it set and
use the cannon as if it were artillery. Going to try to get some pictures
again and with any luck keep the camera dry and have them turn out. We get a
new company commander sometime this month. Old one has his time in and
heading back to the states. He deserves to go as much as anyone, because he
was the best C.O. Around.

May 27, 1970

Ben Luc

...loafing the same as yesterday. It would be something if we made it to the
club 3 days in a row. We really deserve a stand down so maybe we're getting
it now. However, as much as I prefer this to the field, the time goes slower
here. ...get pictures back May 31 so I'll send them home. Another G.I.
bought a camera like mine, and it has the light meter broke. Rained
yesterday and water backed up in a few places around camp. Dug a short
trench to let a big pool drain away. Discovered a drainage pipe and routed
the water though that so it only took 30 min. Everything over here has 2
names, an army name and a G.I. Name. The chinook helicopter, the only
chopper here that has two horizontal props is unofficially called the shit
nook. ...seen around here with loads (jeeps, conexes, big guns) dangling
beneath them. The largest chopper over here is the Skycrane, called the
mosquito. It can pick up almost anything. It has one horizontal prop and
looks like the frame of a chopper. ...the only chopper with 6 blade prop.
Cobra choppers are called gunships. They carry rockets and have a mini-gun
(4000 rounds a minute), and look real thin from underneath. They are the
ones that do the job. Operating with them are a LOCH (loach) or
two....smallest choppers operating over here and have mini-guns. The
choppers we ride on are called birds. They usually send 4 to pick up our
platoon, with 7 - 8 riding each bird. ...cover a lot of territory in one day
using choppers, because we hop from one spot to another. Beats walking it.
Take care and don't let your garden wash away.

June 1, 1970

Ben Luc

...better get to work and write. I slowed down somewhere. These people are
trying to make Ben Luc into stateside. Everyday it's something else. First
they said we couldn't keep weapons in the barracks. We have to turn them
into the arms room. Then they said 24 hours after we came in from an op we
have to wear boots (shined) and full uniform. Now they say on stand down we
have to fill sand bags in the afternoon and pull battalion detail in the
morning. We might as well stay in the field, because when we come in we aren't
going to get any time off. Guess they figure they aren't getting their money's
worth out of the grunts. Got the cake Mom sent, cookies and fudge after
that. They stayed fresh through the trip, but Mom sure is spending a lot on
postage. We don't burn the villages in Vietnam as a rule. We burned them in
Cambodia. If we did it here we would be up to our necks in trouble. If a
house got burned the U.S. would have to pay for it and the officer in charge
would be very lucky if he didn't get a court martial. If we kill a water
buffalo we have to pay for that, too. People here are suppose to be
pacified. The higher ups don't like to antagonize the people anymore than
necessary. A truck can go from here to Tan An or Saigon without everyone
being armed or fear of getting hit. Life's almost as unaffected by the war
here as the states. ....certain spots in the boonies where small bands of
enemy hide out. They occasionally motor some place, ....don't have the
strength to give us much trouble anymore. Tell Mom I finally got the
certificate to my purple heart mailed off today. Bob McCoy mailed it in Tan
An. Tried to mail it here, but they couldn't weigh it so said I had to take
it to Tan An. There they mailed it free because it was a certificate for a
medal. Got my C.I.B. (combat infantryman's badge) today. Our C.O. Captain
Lavazzin pinned it on. He's leaving for home before long. The badge we get
for being in a firefight or being in here in a war zone for 1 month.

I got mine for a firefight.

June 5, 1970

Ben Luc

...not going out tonight so will be going on Eagle Flights tomorrow. Last
night boats took us down river south of here, and picked us up this morning.
..saw trails where they had been last night. Tried to get my film from the
camera shop, but the woman wouldn't look for it because the date on the slip
said June 6. Everyone else usually picks up their pictures a day ahead but
she wouldn't look. Who can figure out the oriental mind. Our new C.O. went
out with us last night and got his feet wet. Haven't seen enough of him to
know what he is like. His last tour he was C.O. Of a company in the 101st.
...opening the EM-NCO club between 11 and 1:30 so we will spend a little
time in there when we are here during the day. Missed happy hour at the club
because we left early last night. They make a little profit on the beer and
drinks at the club so after it builds up they give beer a way for a couple
hours one night. That's Happy Hour. It's not a bad little club for Ben Luc.
Ben Luc Naval instillation have a number 1 club. Don't let anyone tell you
different, the Navy and the Air Force have it easy over here. Their living
conditions are almost as good as stateside. P.M.-- Just got off a detail.
..a short one. Put sand in our 3 pet monkeys cages and spread it around. The
oldest one got out of the cage, and I chased her across a few roofs. Maybe I
stayed too long at the EM-NCO club at noon. Last night they had two movies
instead of one at the open theater while we were in the bush so maybe they'll
do it again tonight. Usually we're out when the good stuff is going on. Take
care. Guess you know where I'll be for another 312 days anyway.

June 6, 1970

Ben Luc

We might go to a F.S.B. named Jackson. Haven't the slightest idea where it
is. Supposedly, we will stay there 2 weeks then 2 weeks somewhere else
before returning to Ben Luc. No one here knows for sure. Sometimes I don't
think the Great White Father (Col. Gearin) even knows. Things getting dull
around here. Been chasing a little girl named Sue around. She works at
EM-NCO club and is the prettiest one there, I think. She lit a cigarette for
me today and was acting real shy and everything. Me and Bob McCoy were at
the club all afternoon talking to the girls instead of filling sandbags like
we were suppose to. Me and Bob are going back over before we go out tonight
and drink a few beers and talk to the girls. Tell Mom found a letter to her
I forgot to mail from a few days ago. Has a picture of me in it that Bob
McCoy took in color. Guess I'm up to my usual dumb tricks.

June 15, 1970

F.S.B. Jackson

...APing as usual. Getting to be the usual drag. E-T Sgt. said this morning
we'd be tearing Jackson down in 2-4 days. Will stay here until that's done.
We Aped on the river south of here last night and a little north of Hiep Hoa
(Sugar Mill). That is where the 25th Div. had F.S.B. Houston. That has been
torn down, too. Was a dry night, but the mosquitos were terrible. We stay in
tonight and pull bunker guard. I came in this morning and picked up my water
proof bag full of stuff to move to my bunker where we stay during the day
... felt something like a needle pierce the knuckle of the middle finger of
my right hand. ....found a scorpion. The medic put some salve on it. The
swelling went down but it hurt for quite awhile and still a little sore.
That's the first scorpion I've seen since I've been here. Tell Mom I got the
cake.... I'm saving it for desert after supper tonight. Rumors pouring in
that 3rd brigade will be pulled out in Oct. with all personal going. When
the 1st and 2nd pulled out they took all personnel intact so it's possible.
Lt. thinks they will detach the 6/31 Bn. before the 9th leaves and attach it
to the 25th Div. Our Bn will be just another Bn in the 25th Div. And the 9th
Div. will pull out without us. By Oct. I'll have 6 months in country so I'd
probably request a transfer and stay here so I could E.T.S. Out of army 5
months early (19 mo. service instead of 24). If I went with the 9th I'd get
30 days leave than serve until Sept. If I stay here I get out April 11th. By
Oct. I should be out of the field or close to it so it wouldn't matter if I
stayed. The worse part would be over.

June 16, 1970

F.S.B. Jackson

The third platoon went on Eagle flights today and had to leave a few behind
because they had too many to get on the choppers so I lucked out and stayed
here. Our platoon had bunker guard last night and again tonight. ...a U.S.O.
Show here this afternoon. I got to see that. Too bad I didn't bring my
camera. I could have gotten some real good pictures. Back in the world they
would have called it a strip show. Sgt. Cox (platoon Sgt.) got dusted off.
Not hurt bad but when someone gets a leave injury they get to go home. Takes
too long to heal. Sgt. Cox was an E-6. Our new Sgt. is E-7 and has lifer
written all over him. I don't think he likes me much. We pulled bunker guard
last night and were supposed to keep two people up at all times. We don't.
We'd only get 4 hours sleep if we did. The E-7 (we call him super Sergeant)
knew I was on guard alone and waking someone else up everytime he came
around to check. He asked me if we were pulling two up. I didn't lie to him.
I just said it was an unfair question. He got a little teed off. He tried to
sneak up on our bunker 4 times to catch me pulling guard alone. I spotted
him early every time and woke someone else up. Ha! Anyone who acts the way
he does deserves to be deflated a little. He thought he was so sneaky and
smart. Nobody likes him. Lifers aren't popular with grunts. Don't know what
happened to the letter I sent Mom. Probably got it into the wrong envelope.
If it was from Ben Luc, I probably was a little tight. Guess I'm getting a
little ornery. The way I look at it they have to catch me first. Ha!

June 22, 1970

Just got back this morning. Stayed out last night and sweep a small clump of
trees this morning We made contact yesterday afternoon. Got two kills then
and another kill when a gook ran over one of their own booby traps last
night. In less than a month, we had 11 people dusted off from booby trap
injuries and 2 people and 2 tiger scouts dusted off from frag grenade wounds
yesterday afternoon, so our platoon has been shrinking fast in size. I've
been so damn lucky lately I can't believe it. None of the injuries have been
serious, life or limb type wounds. ...so they get a few days rest. With the
gooks we've been finding we may be staying here another week. I'll be glad
to get out of here. I've never seen so many booby traps. ....we will go and
set up an A.P. tonight. A.P.'s at night are about the safest thing, cause we
don't go into booby trapped areas at night. I haven't see a bush blown on an
S.P. yet. We get more sleep than when we are in bunker guard. You should see
my feet. We slept in water last night and they look like I've been doing
dishes with them. They'll dry out today and probably be wet again tonight.
Oh well, they get me around and they never hurt; just my back where I carry
so much stuff. I should be getting muscles back there.

June 25, 1970

F.S.B. Jackson

They are trying to work us to death tearing Jackson down. Maybe we will be
out of here by the 28th as scheduled. Chow hall has been emptied so we will
be eating C-rations until we leave. Ugh! Nothing has been going on. They are
keeping us too busy to let us get into trouble. Gooks stand around all day
waiting for us to move out so they can pick up stuff. Before we left
Gettysburg, they were sitting out there, and that was in the middle of
nowhere. They'll take everything they can scrounge up. ...going on A.P.
tonight then we shouldn't have to go out again while we are here. ...rains
almost every afternoon so when we go out we can count on getting wet and
sleeping on a wet ground. This will go on until Dec..... I hope to get out
of the field by December. I'll write later when I get out of this hole.

July 2, 1970

Ben Luc

Came in from our A.P. On the river this morning and didn't get breakfast.
...called for them to hold chow, ....somebody got their wires crossed. We
spend the night in then airmobile tomorrow and A.P. tomorrow night. ..get
the day and night of July 4th off. ... A steak fry and beer bust. Everybody
is supposed to be at that. Sue, the girl that works at the EM club is
working at the pizza place until the club reopens. She remembered me.
Figured she wouldn't after all the time away at Jackson. I told her I was
going to take a picture of her. I'm surprised she let me. Usually she won't
let anyone. Guess the old boy hasn't lost his charm. Must not be something I
said cause she doesn't speak much english. The P.X. Truck was here from Tan
An today. Almost bought a cassette player, but couldn't find one small and
cheap enough. No one at home has one so I guess it wouldn't make any
difference. Raining like everything outside. It didn't last night, but we
slept in a soupy place so I got wet anyway. E-7 said they were tearing down
Chamberlain in a couple weeks. He doesn't think we will have to do it. Looks
like Ben Luc's Camp Keaton will be our east base and only one.

July 12, 1970

Ben Luc

...the mosquitoes are trying to drive us mad. We were out in the field last
night. I just couldn't get away from them. I covered up completely with a
poncho, but they found places to get in anyway. We were on a two day op
.....brought us all the way in by boats. Yesterday our new Lt. made me get
into a bomb crater full of water and take swimming lessons. He and another
guy were in the water with me and our platoon sergeant up on the side giving
advice. The platoon sgt. said I should be able to swim by myself with
another 2 or 3 lessons. I could make it a few feet before I ran out of
steam. Before the Lt. gets done he will probably have me swimming. It was
hot so I kept cool anyway though I got a light sunburn.

July 7, 1970

Thought I would start a letter while we were out in the bush. Can you guess
what I am writing on? (toilet paper). It's all the paper I have with me. The
cookies you sent were pretty good. I got them yesterday and they were almost
gone this morning. I had plenty of help. Things are quiet here in Ben Luc so
far. Don't know how much longer we will be here or where we go next. I
suppose in the long run it really doesn't matter. Finally finished a
cassette tape and got it mailed. We can make 3 min. MARS calls from Ben Luc
now so I will try one of these nights when we're in. Usually it's the middle
of the night before a call can get through so it would be toward noon
there.....decided to get a couple of suits from the Viet tailor at Camp
Keaton. For $155 I can get 2 tailored suits, extra pair of pants and 6
shirts....going to try and get a portrait of me, too. They take a picture
and make a painting of it....I clear $120 after taking $100 out for soldiers'
savings. I guess I'll close. I might need to save a little of this paper for
an emergency.

July 18, 1970

Ben Luc

They have been trying to work us to death lately, and our C.O. expects more
of the same to come. I suppose Lt. Col. Gearin wants to leave his mark
before he goes. Officers are suppose to be in command only 6 months so he's
about finished here. If the 9th is pulling out relatively soon, he might be
with us until then. The sooner he leaves the better I'll like it. Looks like
it will be sunny today here so I better ...catch up on the things I have to
do before we go out tonight. It's getting kind of hard at the end of the
month, cause my money has about run out. One thing nice about the first of
the month, it's pay day again. Besides that it is the end of another month.
I was just reading from Holiday Magazine June 70. They had a good article
about Writer's Workshop in Iowa City.

July 25, 1970

Ben Luc

Have another month of operations here before the 9th pulls out. Old Gearin
will probably try to run us into the ground, since it will be his last
chance. I wrote Algie, Steve Rucker and ....Bob Ham....just got news...we're
going on a ten day op so if you don't hear from me don't worry. ...going to
pull security on some barge on the river. Sounds pretty good. Maybe we will
stay on the boat and stay dry. That's a lot better than airmobile or
bushing....taking my camera.

July 30, 1970

Ben Luc

..kept us busy working. We started at 7 a.m... worked until we went on
bunker guard or out to A.P. We finished leveling Jackson.....the civilians
got so heavy that we couldn't keep them out. They carried off everything
they could get their hands on. You wouldn't believe the size of the beams
those little people were packing off. ...feels good to be back to Ben Luc.
The base and the fire base at Chamberlain are all the 6/31 has left. We will
probably stay here for awhile and A.P. or airmoble then go to Chamberlain.
Else we will get stuck in someone elses firebase. The great White Father
(Col. Gearin) leaves in a few weeks so maybe we will luck out and get a
better Bn commander. The next one can't be any worse than Gearin. He's a
slave driver of the worst sort. More later. I'm going to see what its like
to get a full night's sleep.

Aug. 1, 1970

Ben Luc

....have had to go over and help carry tables and things out behind Alpha
Co.'s orderly room. Our company has been in the field for seven days and is
coming in this morning.....having a steak fry and beer bust. We haven't had
one since the Battalion steak fry July 4th. I got out of the last 3 days of
the operation. We were on an airmobile and walking through brush .....I
broke out .....guess allergic to some weed. They took me to Chamberlain on
an S-5 jeep ....saw a medic. ...hitched a ride back to Ben Luc. What ever it
was went away. Wasn't sick, but itched like crazy. Haven't heard too much
more about Zion. We are suppose to have 20 day stand down there before being
shipped to our next unit. Supposedly, a lot of remp jobs are being opened
with all the guys going back to the world. I may stand a chance of getting
one like security guard in Saigon. ...if I have enough time in and can
impress the interviewer. I hope I could get into something a lot more
interesting than being a grunt .... probably won't have enough time in. P.S.
Should get paid today. Hope so, I'm plain broke.

Aug. 8, 1970

Ben Luc

...doing well myself if the mosquitoes don't carry me away. Has been quiet
here...hope it stays that way 20 more days. Then I should leave Lang Sn
province for good. In less than a month I "celebrate" the end of my first
year in the Army. Doesn't seem like I've been in a year. A month after that
I have finished my 6th month in Vietnam ....can say I'm short then because I'm
going down hill. By that time I'll be starting out in another unit - 1 st
Cav or 25th Div probably. If I get 1st Cav. Maybe I'll run into Algie. I
suppose I'll be in the field a while longer but I'll try my best to get out
if I can. ...got enough insertions by chopper to get 2 air medals....been
put in for the first one and should get before we leave here. It is
something to fly over the countryside. In the distance we can see Saigon
from here, Sugar Mill, Duc Hoa and a lot of other places that we work often.
You wouldn't believe all the shell holes and bomb craters over the land.
....makes the countryside look poka dotted. I could return to this country
as an old man and a lot of the scars of this war will still be there. They'll
have to get this war over before I'll ever come back though.

Aug. 21, 1970

F.E.B. Chamberlain

....the main reason I'm catching up on all my mail is that I was promoted to
SPECIALIST 4 and I wanted to brag a little. Still no news about the 9th
pulling out. We are staying out here until they do I imagine. All of Alpha
company is here now. We are bushing at night and pulling bunker guard ever 3
or 4 days. I'm hoping we won't airmoble in the days we have left but it's
still a possibility.

Aug. 24, 1970

FSB Chamberlain

...leaving this morning for Sugar Mill (Heip Hou) for 3 days. We bush
tonight there and the next 2 nights go on a recon in Force (RIF) the last
day and come back here that night. The 3rd platoon will be the only ones
there...may get to spend the days at Sugar Mill and only in the field at
night. The Colonel's been riding everyone into the ground. We don't have
time to breathe. Guess he wants to get his last kicks in before leaving
here. I understand he has been passed over twice for promotion ...if he gets
passed over again he is retired. Should be making $60 more a month as Spec/4
without having to do anything more. I'm going to keep the first and buy a
few things at Zion....month almost over and I still got a little more than
$60 left....I may buy a watch and a few other things. I wanted to get a $150
camera but probably never will. I didn't order the suits or painting from
Ben Luc. Wasn't enough time by the time I saved the money. ...may get them
when I get to Zion or my next unit.

Aug. 31, 1970

F.S.B. Chamberlain

Still here and still operating. ...suppose to go to Heiz Hoa again tonight
and stay there tomorrow. ..been working that area a lot lately. Every time
we leave I think we will never see it again then back we go again. Chances
are if I get in the 25th Div. I could see it again. ...probably be sent to
the 25th or the 1st Air Cav. They are the two closest units. They'll be the
two southern most American units in Vietnam...could be airmobiling down in
this area if the ARVN's can't keep up. The 25th is rumored to be pulling out
in Nov. or Dec. So if I go there I may be moving again. I have no doubt that
I'll spend a full year over here. Yesterday marked the end of my 5th month,
seven to go. I've already got my duffle bag packed. I'm ready to move in a
moment. We got paid today ....haven't gotten my Spec/4 pay raise on there.
...have to go to finance when I get to Xuan Loc ....$64 a month more.

Sept. 3, 1970

F.S.B. Chamberlain

...got in a little bit ago from bush. Plan to make the last tape from here
providing we don't airmobile today. The 6th is our last day of operations so
we could AP that night, but whatever. There will be no operations the 7th.
... probably be pulling bunker guard. ...the 8th we leave for Xuan Loc and
stay there until our shipping date. ...start shipping the 10th, but I won't
go until the 16th. ...been assigned to the 1st Air Cav or 1st Cav. The patch
has a horse and a diagonal bar on it and has to be the largest patch of any
unit I know. I'll have to take the 9th Div. patch off my left shoulder and
put it on the right and put the 1st Cav patch on the left. ..don't know what
Bn co. I'll go to. Probably won't until I get there. Elwin Algie is in the
11th Pathfinders, 11th Avn Pp. Chances are slim I'll get anywhere near him
or see him very often ... I'll go to a line company more than likely. P.S.
They announced on the news here yesterday that the 9th Div. was officially
pulling out. About 2 or 3 from Alpha Co. go home with the colors and
everyone else goes to Xuan Loc for reassignments.

Sept. 6, 1970

F.S.B. Chamberlain

Got your last letter with the note and gum to Mutt and Jeff. They were
tickled to get it ....chewed the gum. I gave them some of the candy Mom
sent, too so guess their teeth aren't that bad. They were going to write you
a letter right back but couldn't think of anything to say. Someone is
suppose to take them to Tan An when we leave here. They said they are going
back to school....been AWOL from school for awhile. Probably the last I see
of them for I don't think the 1st Cav. will ever be as far South as Lang An
province....217 days to go in this country, almost halfway. ...six months in
by the time I go to the field again. It goes a little faster all the time,
but never fast enough. Wrote Algie a letter when I made Sp/4 and he wrote
back he made corporal (same thing) so I guess we are keeping up. ...when I
found out I was going to 1st Cav I wrote him to look for me. Ha! The 1st Cav
is pretty big ...probably never see each other.

Sept 8, 1970

Xuan Loc

...made it to Xuan. ...got a few pictures when we went through Saigon.
People leaving the 10th. I'm suppose to leave the 16th but that could
change. Don't know if I will be happy or not to get to the Cav. At least I'll
have a a little time out of the field. Have to pull guard here once every 3
or 4 nights and probably do some details. I saw Mutt and Jeff as we were
leaving and got a picture of them holding dogs. They were going to Tan An. I
doubt I ever see them again.

Sept. 12, 1970

Bien Hoa

..went though the Academy processing here today so I could ship out any time
from tomorrow on. I'm to go to the 12 Cav regiment, 2nd battalion, company C
... Operating out of a place called Fire Base Sally. ...there's a
possibility I could end up a squad leader, but I'm not planning on it. I saw
the movie tonight they are showing so I've written letters instead. Last
night pulled walking guard around the officer's hooch. Some new guy in
country threw a grenade in the movie audience and wounded 14 people. Guess
it was good thing I was pulling guard. He thought he would throw it on the
roof and scare everyone, but it rolled off and on the ground before it went
off. He turned himself in this afternoon. Was a cook. They were trying to
blame the in-

Country transfers. If an in-country transfer had thrown it, he would have
done it in a lifers hooch, not among his fellow GIs. Just a freak think
really, but it sure makes you mad. He will be in jail for a long time, but
they should hang him. Anyway, my luck seems to be holding up very well and
that makes me feel good. Actually, I would have been sitting with my friends
from the 9th Div and wouldn't have been hurt anyway. No one is going to the
same place that I am .....have no choice but starting out making new
friends. It worries me a little because there is more jungle up here and I'm
used to working the flat, open places of the delta. I'll adjust I guess,
anyway I have too.
Last edited by Niner Alpha on Tue Feb 12, 2008 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Niner Alpha
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Follow up from John's sister, Fay

Postby Niner Alpha » Tue Feb 12, 2008 2:10 pm

(John went to the 1st Air Cav and was wounded walking point.)

As a follow up on John if you want it. Late Oct. 1970, John was wounded and
dusted out. My mother and I kept in touch from then on with friends of his
so the next letter was from Sp/4 Doc Pete F. Boratea. By then he had been
sent to the HHC, 2/501 st inf., 101st Abn. Div.

Nov. 9, 1970

....sorry to hear John has been wounded, especially since it is serious. I
appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending me his address and telling me
about him as I would indeed be concerned if I had not heard from him for
awhile. I'm afraid I would have thought the worse. ..received your letter
this afternoon and I have already dashed off a letter to John to let him
know I'm pulling for a speedy recovery for him. He's a real great guy and a
true friend, and I have a great deal of respect for him. I do hope you will
let me know any information you find on John. I'm not aware of the injuries
but it may be that he is unable to write.

This letter was from John's Sgt. SS6 Dannie L. Cummings. I continued to
write him and Pete while they were in Vietnam. For years we wrote Pete, but
have lost touch, but remain close to Dannie and his family.

Nov. 20, 1970

I was glad to get the letter you sent me today. ....I wasn't sure that I
should write. I want the army to tell you first. I stayed awake all night
worrying about John and what I should do. I prayed and ask the Lord what I
should do then I opened John's bible and read a verse out of it and it was
the word in Paul's letter and I wrote to John's Mom and Algie and told how
it happened. I think an awful lot of John and what I did was what I would do
for any of my men. But John was something special. He was a dear friend and
it hurt deep inside when I saw John hurt. I stayed by John's side and looked
after him until the chopper came. Maybe I should not feel this way but when
we got the V.C. that hurt John I was happy we got them. War is not fun and
more people are hurt from it. I pray to God that this war comes to an end
for us. We are leaving Vietnam that is the 1st Cav around May. I thank you
all for inviting me to your home .......To me medals are no good for it is
not worth getting hurt over but if it does happen the person that was hurt
should get one. I put John in for a silver star for his bronze. He should
get the medals plus another purple heart. .....I talked to our Sgt. Major
and first Sgt. They are going to find out how John is doing and where he is
at. Then they will let me know and I will write you all. ...if it was me and
not John on the ground that day, John would have done the same for me and he
would write my parents for me to let them know what happen. Tell John's mom
I will get John's watch fixed in Hawaii and send it to you to give back to
John. I will send John his bible and note book, ....he wrote things that
happened on that day and months.

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