Turns out student teaching takes a lot of time.
For the first time, I'm reading hundreds of letters that my father sent to my mother before, during, and after his tour in Vietnam. I don't know what they say and I don't know where this is going, so we'll be finding out at the same time. He passed away in 1992 when he was 44 years old, but they began when he was 19. She was 17...
Turns out student teaching takes a lot of time.
Student teaching begins.
I received two letters from you last night while I was on guard. I had to read them by cigarette lighter, but I sure was glad to get them. The mail has been screwed up over here lately, so it’s been awhile since I got one. Hope mine are getting to you okay.
I’m glad you’re finally getting some action on our wedding pictures. I figured it had something to do with trouble between Arlyn and the company. I would say let me know when you get them, but I’m sure you wouldn’t forget that.
Hey, you misunderstood me — our hooch didn’t get hit, it was two hooches around us. And there’s no reason to be worried — we weren’t. We were just wanting to go back to sleep.
You asked about Skip and Sergeant Reyes. Skip just put a Band-Aid on his chest and forgot about it. Sergeant Reyes it turned out, broke his arm. I guess he’s going stateside because it chipped a bone and they’ll have to do some work on it back in the world. Clay is leaving. He’s getting transferred to a unit near Phu Bai. He’s going to be last because it’s a strictly maintenance unit, and all he’s ever done is crewed. I’m sorry to see him go, but I guess it can’t be helped. He supposed to leave this afternoon sometime.
Before I forget, I better tell you that my serial number has changed. Our Social Security number is now our service number, and mine is XXX-XX-XXXX. I’ve known about the change for a long time but kept forgetting to tell you.
Tonight my team starts working nights. We’ll be on for a month then switch back to days. I don’t particularly care for nights, but it does get the NCOs off our backs, and we don’t have to bother with formations. Sleeping during the heat of the day is hard though.
You asked about the number of days I have left, so I whipped out my handy little pocket calendar and started counting. I figure 258 days left today (after today). I may have messed up on my counting in some of my letters though since I just count in my head sometimes. My DEROS date (day I leave RVN) is 19 March, but I’ve been counting up to the 21st since our record arrival in country is the 22nd. I’ll try to be more accurate after this.
I’m glad to hear all our bills are pretty well out of the way. You have been doing a real good job — I figured it would take longer to clear them up. Now the savings account should really grow.
I don’t know if I told you or not but I’ve got a couple hundred saved over here. I was going to send it to you once but decided not to since we need at least $200 on us before we leave here on R&R. So I’ll just hang onto it. I hope to have about $150 more before October, if possible.
You talk about flying to LA and then on to Hawaii, but wouldn’t it be smarter to fly from Minneapolis? That way you have a round-trip to the cities and wouldn’t have to run the risk of being bumped between home and LA (if you’re flying standby that is). It only costs $11 to fly from Brookings to the cities if I remember correctly. I have to go to work now so I’ll try to finish this tomorrow. I love you!
Back again — this is Monday afternoon now. I’m tired and plan on getting some more sleep this afternoon, but I want to finish this letter first. They’re expecting an attack on our perimeter sometime in the next week, so right after noon chow today we had to set up a secondary perimeter around our battery area. Each section is getting a machine gun too, so they must think there’s a good chance of something happening. The chance of them getting through to us is pretty slim though.
Our CO just got his ship shot up this morning. He was lucky to make it back here. Another one had its rocket pods shot to pieces. More work.
Now we have only two Charlie models left. I guess we’re going to keep one for a passenger carrier, and that’s all. We’ve done a lot of work on the Cobras lately and I still don’t like them any better than I did before, maybe less.
I’m going to close this up and grab a few winks now. As you can tell, I really don’t have much more to say, except that I love you. I could tell you that all day and mean it every time. I love you Rita!
Since I just mailed a tape to you this morning, I really don’t have too much to say. But I feel like writing, so I will. I’m sure you won’t mind too much.
One highlight today — we get a refrigerator in our hooch! A guy just happened to be at the PX at the right time. It cost $85, but eight or nine of us are all going in on it so no one will be hurt too bad. Now maybe we’ll be able to have a cold Coke when we feel like one.
I paid Spargo off for our TV set finally. I’ve forgotten about it the last two paydays and he never mentioned it. So when I did remember I gave him the whole $20 that was left. Now what about 11 bucks for the fridge, I’m going to be hurting before the month is out, but what the heck. It’s out of the way.
Say, I just now noticed that on these little maps down here in the corner they don’t have Hue marked. They do have Phu Bai though, and that’s where Hue is too. Did you get a hold of that map you wanted? I still haven’t seen any here but I’ll keep looking.
By the time you get this you have probably heard about Doug and Judy’s baby, so let me know! Where’s Doug stationed now? Last I remember he was still down in Mississippi. I’m glad things are working out so well for them.
So you and Carol are getting along now, huh? I’m really glad — maybe she’s come to her senses. I hope it stays that way too. She can be quite nice when she wants to, but if she doesn’t want to — oh brother!
Say, I’m quite well known around here now, but not for anything good. A little over a week ago I caught a bad cold — real bad. I’m over it now, but it looks like I did a good job of spreading it. So everyone is running around with “my” cold. You know how miserable summer colds are, but it’s all good natured kidding (I hope!)
Honey, this might sound a little weird, but I want a yo-yo. Could you send me one? I don’t know why, but lately I just feel like playing with one. One of those heavy plastic ones would be real nice — I used to be pretty good with them. Also, I’m out of sunflower seeds, so if you could sense the more of them I would really appreciate it. Thanks hon.
Correction — send two yo-yos. Kim said he would like one too. He said to be sure to get “sleepers,” but that’s what all the good ones are anyway. He also says “hi.”
I got a package from the folks just the other day, full of my favorite cookies — gingersnaps. Plus a lot of other goodies. They said a can of cheese too, but no crackers to put it on. I guess I can’t have everything.
I just saw the most interesting book last night. It’s written by a doctor and a psychologist about sex — kind of a sex manual. Anyway, did you know there are over seventy-seven different positions illustrated in it? Some of them I couldn’t believe, they looked more like a form of torture to me. Others looked kind of interesting, but I think I still would prefer the old-fashioned way. In fact I know I would, if I could still remember how. It’s been a long time!
You know something honey? I love you! More than anything in the whole world I wish I could tell you that in person. But until I can I want you to know I love you more and more each day. And that’s a lot of love!
PS. If you see Bob, tell him to write! I refuse to write him again until I get one from him.
Dearest Rita –
I received two letters and a tape from you yesterday, and they really made my day. They took longer than usual though, and I don’t know why. The oldest one took better than a week, so all week I didn’t get any from you. I was beginning to wonder, but I figured either school kept you busy or it was the mail service. A little bit of both I guess.
I really wanted to tape you a letter today, but the batteries in our recorder are low again and I figured you could do without another “Mickey Mouse” tape. I could plug it in, but there are so many people in the hooch. Like you said, it’s nice to be alone for taping, especially when it’s to your wife. I’ll try to get that done in the next couple of days. Most of what’s on your tape I’ll answer then.
We had to work today — just the team I’m on. Didn’t really mind though. We didn’t have all the NCOs running around giving us a hard time. We get a lot of work done and enjoy it when they leave us alone. We only worked until three o’clock, which wasn’t bad.
I was surprised that both you and mom mentioned getting that funny feeling about me that Sunday morning. That would have been Sunday night over here, the night we were told we were going out to Currahee the next day. No big deal then. At first I thought that was the night we got hit so hard here, but that was a week later.
We moved into our new hangar last night and today. It’s really nice, especially having so much room. I guess our old tent hangar is going to be taken over by motor pool for their shop.
Tonight, for a change, I feel like taking in a movie. So of course tonight there isn’t one. I guess the projectionist got a hold of some skin flicks that he’s going to show though. I don’t know how he managed that! I think I’d best skip them — I’m horny enough the way it is. Sure wish you could do something about that. I have a feeling I’ll be in pretty bad shape when R&R rolls around. You’ll fix me up in a hurry though, I’m sure. Or else wear me out!
Really, honey, I do miss you and miss our love making an awful lot. And even more so, I miss your little winks across the dinner table. And our showers together. And sitting around watching TV. I’d give anything to have all that back again. I know that when it is possible again it will mean all the more to us.
I love you Rita, with all my heart.
Your Love is My Life!
PS. You’re jumping the gun again on that Sp5 bit. I said I’m up for it. It didn’t come through this month, and may not for two or three more — or tomorrow. More in the tape.
Didn’t have a work formation tonight so it’s still early. Maybe I’ll even take in the flick tonight if I finish this in time, although I should write the folks to before I do. We’ll see. I really don’t have much to say tonight — same old thing around here. We work, eat, and sleep, and that’s all. I guess the camp was mortared again last night, but not in our area so I slept through it.
I told you that I got a letter from Jeannie, didn’t I? Last night I finally got a quick one off to her. I think I’ll blow her mind with my P.S. I asked her “Who is John Galt?” Which is a question in “Atlas Shrugged.” She told me about that book 3 years ago and told me to read it. As soon as I get it back from Clay I’m going to send it to you.
Did you get that tape you promised me in the mail? I can’t wait until I can hear your voice again. Just remember that you’re not getting another one until I’ve got a tape to put it on.
Gene W.’s brother is here now. He stationed about thirty miles north of here, right on the DMZ. One of them can go home since two brothers can’t be here at the same time unless they want to. Anyway, his brother is going back and Gene’s staying. Gene has only six months left in the Army, and his brother has three years. They figure this will keep his brother from pulling two full tours.
Right now I’m waiting for mail call, hoping to get a letter from you. I don’t even have a letter to answer now, which makes it kind of hard.
How is your school coming? I hope you’re finding time to get your studying done and are keeping your grades up. I hope you are — it’s pretty important.
This is Friday now. I’m going out on guard in a few minutes, so I’m going to get this sent now. Sorry for the abrupt ending, but…
I love you honey.
Boy, am I tired tonight! We worked like the devil all day and this evening. It’s after eight thirty now, and we just got off a little while ago. I’m so tired that it’s hard to lift this pen.
Part of it is that we didn’t get much sleep last night. We got hit and hit hard about midnight last night. I woke up with explosions all around our hooch. All we could do was roll onto the floor — not a chance to get to the bunker. The hooch right in front of us was hit once in the corner, which is about 10 feet from ours. Luckily the guy who slept there was out flying (Donnie S., already has a Silver Star — I was gunning for him). Another one tore into the hooch right beside us and smashed into some wooden gun racks without exploding. Coming in it and missed one guy’s head by about two inches while he was still in bed.
All told we must’ve taken forty rounds. A lot of them were air bursts, so the only ones who got hit were the ones who tried to get to the bunkers. A couple of officers got some shrapnel, but not too serious. Sergeant Reyes & Skip both caught some too. Skip’s okay — just a scratch on his chest. Sergeant Reyes was a little worse off with a broken arm. He’ll be spending some time in the hospital at Da Nang.
Anyway, we didn’t come out too bad. They didn’t hit any of the ships, which is what they were probably most interested in getting. However, some of our officers did that. In a hurry to get the ships off the ground two of them collided, destroying the main rotor of one and the tail rotor of the other. Then another one hit the second ship. So now we have two sets of main and two tail rotors to change. That knocks the hell out of our percent of flyable aircraft which was so high.
So that was the excitement around here. I’m not going to tell the folks about it in such detail, ’cause mom would have kittens and they have enough now. I hope it doesn’t bother you — it’s really nothing to worry about. The worst part is losing the sleep.
Enough war stories for now.
I got a couple of letters from Brenda tonight and one from the folks. I don’t know what the deal is, but I received about four letters from them in about five days. I guess it’s because mom has more free time and is feeling a little better. And I also got a letter from Jeannie that was real nice. I’m really happy for her and Virg. I was kind of concerned for a while, but her letter took care of that. I hope I can find time to write her occasionally now. Sure wish I could be there for her wedding.
Must go now, honey, I’m very tired. But not so tired I won’t dream of you. I love you Rita, with all my heart.
I will now try to make up for not writing much this last week. I’ve got all day so I’ll try to make it good.
Here’s something that is a big deal for us and I’ve never mentioned it before — we are getting a hangar built. It’s real nice, big enough for six aircraft with room to spare. It should be done in a couple of weeks. Up to now we’ve had a tent hangar that could only hold one ship and even that was crowded. The rest of the work we did out on the flight line.
Guess that’s all to tell you about what’s going on here. It’s been a dull but busy week, if that makes any sense. Oh, it’s Gene W.’s birthday today, so Kim, Dave and I went to the gook shop and bought him a lawn chair. We sang to him when we gave him the gift. It was really touching.
I decided not to go to the beach today. I have a ball there, but a full day is too much, and the flights back don’t start until late in the afternoon. Besides, I wanted to go to church today, and all flights out go before church. So I’ll just relax and enjoy doing nothing today.
Now onto your last couple of letters. Since you finally have some flash bulbs I’ll expect some pictures before long, right? And don’t take forever to finish the roll, just take a whole roll of yourself and get them developed. I’ll take them all.
You sound pretty serious about this weight bit. You asked me not to ask how much you’ve gained, so I won’t — but I am curious. If it does get too bad, go to a doctor like you said you would. Still, if I know you, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
I’ve been thinking for a long time that I should write the Sizemore’s and Duane & Judy. But like so many other things, I never get around to it. Be sure to let me know what they have to say.
No, I didn’t have much choice of gifts over here. As I said in one of my last letters, the PX facilities we have here are quite limited. If I can get a hold of a PX order catalog, I should be able to do a little better, but they’re hard to find. You can start looking for your china around Christmas or for our anniversary. But you will get some, I promise you that. Send the patterns you like, so I get some idea of what to get. I don’t know a thing about it myself.
Oh yeah, here’s something Colonel Henderson, our battalion CO told us the other day — C Battery he has the most kills, the most flying hours, and the largest percentage of ships available of any battery in our battalion, and we’ve been here the shortest time. Not bad, huh?
I’m down to 274 days left Reet. Quite a bit better than what I started out with. Only it won’t go fast enough for me. If I could be with you tomorrow it wouldn’t be soon enough. Really though, R&R isn’t that far away — 4 months or less and I’m looking forward to that more and more each day. It will be a ball.
I’m going to close now and write the folks. The last letter I wrote them I told them I was going out to Currahee in the A Shau. They’re (mom anyway) is probably worried sick about not hearing from me since.
Don’t worry about not being able to write me as much as you used to. With school and work I’m surprised I get as many as I do. I’m looking forward to the tape you said you were going to make — I imagine it’s on the way by now.
Remember that I love you Rita. I’m sending the 13th card with this letter — one fourth of the way through the deck. Before you know it ace of spades will be coming, and I’ll be with it. I love you!
I’m sorry I missed writing the last two days, but I’ve been kind of busy doing nothing. I haven’t had time to sit down even, yet I haven’t really accomplished a thing. But I’ll get something done now — this letter.
Remember in my last letter telling you about Currahee getting hit just before we were out there? Well, it got hit after we left too, and every day and night since. In the past two weeks the only day it wasn’t hit we were there. The bunker we built took a direct hit with six guys in it that same night and held up beautifully.
We were hit here at Evans last night by rockets. Everyone in our hooch slept right through it. Most the others were down in their bunkers. Needless to say they weren’t hitting on our side of the camp.
I just got back another role of slides yesterday. A lot of them are run-of-the-mill, but I took a few through the barrel of an M-79 grenade launcher that are pretty good. I’ll send them to the folks as usual.
Oh yes, I meant to mention this in my last several letters but forgot — I’m out of sunflower seeds. I rationed those you sent me so they lasted a long time, but I ran out about a week ago. Sure would like some more (hint).
I dropped my prescription sunglasses the other day and broke one of the lenses. Really made me mad. They were in the case too. They’ve been thrown all over and no problem, but a 2 foot fall and wham — it’s all over. Now I’m trying to get some more made up but it’ll take a while.
We just had an aircraft go down since I wrote the last sentence. I don’t know what happened, but they made a forced landing right behind our hooch. Looks like more work for us.
This is Saturday noon now. I slept all morning because I had guard last night. I just realized that the last letter I sent was written Monday night, so I’ll try to get this finished in a hurry. I hope there won’t be any more lapses like that.
I’ve got a little more information on R&R. My name is on the list for Hawaii in October. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get it then — it depends on the number authorized for that month — but there’s a pretty good chance.
In a pamphlet I read the other day it said that round-trip fares for wives from Minneapolis to Hawaii was $304 — and it costs about $11 to fly to the cities from Brookings. So you can figure about $325 for flying. That should be about the only expenses you’ll have to save for. I think I’ll be able to handle the rest.
I’m going to get this in the mail now Reet, so it won’t be any longer than it has been between letters. I’ll get another longer one off tomorrow — promise.
I love you!
I received two letters from you today which I’ll try to answer, but first I’ve got a lot to tell you about today. I spent the day in the A Shau at fire base Currahee. And it was beautiful. I’d like to be sent out there for a while. None of the BS we get around here.
We spent all day building a bunker, a huge one. It’s about 30 feet long and 12 wide. Only about 2 feet of it shows above ground. The whole place looks that way — like a tiny town of those basement houses. The best part was that we knew it was necessary, and we worked like dogs to get it done in one day. Back here we would have stretched it to a week or more.
Now to a more gruesome part. I was walking along the perimeter out there this morning. I was just taking a step when I saw an arm — just an arm — lying on the ground. It really startled me. It had been cut off at the shoulder. The gooks had nearly overrun the place a couple days ago, and that was part of one. And three toes a few feet away. That was a beautiful way to start the day.
Later on we were talking to an officer that had been there during the attack. He said most of the gooks they pulled off the wire the next morning (60 some) were just kids 12 to 14 years old. They were either naked or wore just something like tight swimming trunks (to get through the barbed wire easier). Very few had weapons — just satchel charges strapped to their bodies. In other words, they went too when the charge went off. I guess they took a few of our guys with them though. We had one sergeant from our unit wounded out there, so we were pretty lucky.
Then this afternoon a chopper went to pick up a member of a long range patrol who had hurt his hand somehow and had to be sent back. He was fine until they started hauling him up from the trees. Then an automatic weapon opened up and stitched him from one hip to the opposite shoulder. The chopper was hit five times but not seriously. They brought him back to the fire base hanging from 100 feet of cable below the ship because the winch had been shot up. He looked like he was dead when they brought him in, but I guess he was still alive. I don’t know how long they’ll stay that way though.
Anyway, today is the first time I have really known there was a war on. Even when I was flying and getting shot at it didn’t seem real. Today it was, for some reason. I wish I could have got some pictures, but I’m out of film. Well, I hope that I’ll get another chance.
Okay, enough war stories. Now I get down to answering your letters.
First of all, Bill came back today. I think I told you that he wasn’t home, but the orderly room still expected him to get a medical discharge. And now the doctors aren’t sure what his problem was. He said all the time he was in the hospital he wrote Shirley just once, but spent one hundred and twenty six bucks to call her — once. I couldn’t believe it. At any rate he’s back and looking good. He says to say hi for him.
I sympathize with you about your sunburn. I know exactly how you feel. The first week over here was hell for that. Now I work out in the sun all day with no problem. I’m nearly as dark as some of the lighter skinned colored guys in the unit. It’ll be a kick coming back next March with an almost black tan and white bleached hair while everyone else is white. If your burn keeps you from wearing clothes though, I’m all for it. I hope you’ll have a better reason when I get home though.
Your schedule with summer school and work really does sound rough, honey. But I know you can do it, though it won’t be easy. Always remember that school comes first — if you have to cut down on your work hours go ahead and do it. We don’t need the money as bad as that.
I guess I may as well answer your questions on money now. First of all, I’m sorry for that letter in which I yelled at you about it. The trouble is that I don’t know all the facts about it, and I guess I jumped to conclusions. It won’t happen again — I promise. I do trust you, Rita, and there is nothing I can complain about when you told me where it all went. Except maybe the loans to Marcy and Bob. I hope you’ll be sure to collect on them as soon as possible. A loan is fine as long as it is paid back promptly.
To tell you the truth Reet, I can’t picture you with streaked hair, unless it was a real natural looking streak. Even then, I don’t know… Try it if you have to, but I’m a little skeptical. Just be sure you get those pictures I want before you do, then another one (or two) after, okay?
Why are you so surprised that people still notice your rings? After all, they are the most beautiful rings in the world, with the wearer to match. It’s only natural they should notice.
Only 273 days left, Rita, before a hold you in my arms again and never have to leave. And less than four months until I’ll see you on R&R. But I’m with you every night in my dreams, so I’ll see you there shortly.
I love you Rita.
PS. Say “Hi” to your folks and Dean for me.
So I’m looking to get back on some kind of schedule with this thing. We’re still looking at Mondays and Thursdays from here on out. I’m going to try to get about six months of letters in the bag since I have student teaching coming up in starting in the middle of January, at which point my extra time will again become scarce.
… so instead of a letter I present this, pretty darn funny, Bob Hope special from 1967.
…classes almost done…
…but cannot be helped.
…with classes…bear with me…