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June 22, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Dear Rita,

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!

Forever,

Jeff

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June 16, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Hi Lover,

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.

Your Husband,

Jeff

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.

Ethan

May 29, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Dear Rita,

I’m writing this while on guard duty.  May not be very long because it won’t stay light, but I do my best.

Since I just mailed a letter this evening and it won’t go out until the morning, you’ll get both of these at the same time probably.  That should make you happy.  It’ll be different anyway.

I picked up those pictures I’ve been promising you.  I’ll try to get them on the way tomorrow.  I had forgotten how long ago I had taken them.  They were taken when I was down at Da Nang when our ships came in.  You can see from the pictures how soft they have it compared to us.

It’s raining now, I have a feeling it’s going to be a thoroughly miserable night.

Honey, send me any clippings you see about the fighting in the Ashaw.  We only hear about our part of the fighting, and never get the whole picture.  It sure would be appreciated.

It’s getting too dark to write now, so I’ll finish tomorrow.  Guess you won’t get two the same day after all.

Back again — late Friday afternoon now.  I slept all morning but I’m still dead tired.  I’ve got to get to bed early tonight, since I had KP tomorrow which means getting up at 4:30.  I’m not looking forward to that at all.

You mentioned Dean’s mustache — that I ever tell you I was growing one too?  That is, I was.  I cut it off about a week ago.  It was nice and long but so darn blonde that it didn’t show up.  Maybe I’ll try again one of these days.

I just got a letter from Curt tonight.  He yelled and screamed at me as I called him a lifer.  He said he had 92 days left, and that was the 14th.  Now it’s down around 80.  He said that he hasn’t taken his R&R yet — it was his seven-day leave.  And he went to Manila, not Japan like I thought.

Mom mentioned something in her last letter about the change in Becki’s wedding date.  I guess she’d been talking to Sonny’s wife (can’t recall her name).  She wasn’t sure about it though.  It’s a shame they can’t have a double wedding like they planned.  It was getting so close it’s too bad they had to blow it.

I told you that Clay is back, didn’t I?  He’s going to have a real cool scar now.  It’s a perfect “T” in the middle of his chest.  It’s about 6 inches long and three across.  He has to go back tomorrow for a check and may get some of the stitches removed.

Still no word at all on Bill.  I wish I had Shirley’s address so I could find out from her what the hell is going on.

Clay was just here.  He was looking through my photo album and said to tell you that you definitely look better with long hair.  (By the way, how’s your hair coming?)  He also saw that one of you in bed, which he seen before but couldn’t remember.  Of course he had to give me a hard time about it.  Then Kim joined in, claiming he hadn’t seen it before either.  Needless to say I was on the losing end of the deal.

Must go hit the sack now.  Seems that’s how I end all my letters but that’s how it goes.

I love you Rita.  And I’m waiting for the day I can have you in my arms again, forever.

All My Love,

Jeff

PS.  Sending more pics with next letter — 294 days to go!

May 15, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Dearest Rita,

I finally got two letters from you today after a lapse of about six days.  Lousy service.  But they were worth the wait.  Now I’ve got a lot of answering to do.  And I promise this is going to be a long one for a change.

First of all, I still think that you’re not getting all my letters.  You keep telling me to write and I keep writing and writing,.  And then you tell me to write again.  I’ve been writing just about every other day, so I don’t know what the deal is.

You asked about your package again too.  I think I told you in my last tape that I had received four of them.  So unless you sent another one I’m all caught up.  As far as the dresses you spoke of, you know I’d have to see them to be able to tell.  However, I can definitely say I like the T-shirts.  You really turn me on when you wear them.  Wish I could be there to get turned on.

No, I don’t think you’d best send any civilian clothes.  I have very little chance and no place to wear them.  Maybe before R&R, but not just now.  Thanks anyway honey.

I’d best tell you now before I forget that one of the letters I got from you had our marriage license in it.  As soon as I can I’ll get to finance and try to get the ball rolling on that extra money.

So, my wife is turning into a booze hound, huh?  Seriously, I’m glad you had a good time.  And I know all too well how depressed and lonely you can get after a few beers.  It’s happened to me many many times.  Keep on flashing that ring too.  Cut ‘em down cold.

About Dale now — I know how you feel when you say you want to be friends, and I’m all for it — as long as he realizes that’s the way it must be.  I’m glad you don’t go out alone with him.  I know that you wouldn’t do anything I wouldn’t want you to.  I believe in you, I trust you, and I love you.  Yes, it did bother me when you went out to dinner and drinking with him, even if some others were along.  But you and I have always been too honest with each other to hurt the other one if it can be helped.  I love you Rita.

Those pictures I talked about are being developed now.  They should be ready in a couple of days.  When I’ll get a chance to pick them up is another story.  I’ll send them to you as soon as I do.  I think I told you that it’s almost impossible to find print film over here.  There’s something you could send me.  It’s 126 film I used, color.  Then I could send some more your way.

You asked about those big guns on the tape.  I think I said there are 155 howitzers, but I found out they moved some 8 inch guns in and that’s what you heard.  They are out on the perimeter about 400 yards from here.  They shake our hooches whenever they fire.

No, I haven’t replaced the glass on your picture.  I can get it here, but just can’t get over to the place to get it.  But I’ll keep trying.

Okay, okay, I’m sorry about my nagging.  Won’t even mention school again.  Just let me know how you’re doing once in a while, okay?  I sure don’t want to sound like mom!  I do want to say one more thing about money though.  Now that you’re working, please try to put all you can of your allotment into the bank.  Take out for Wink’s and our pictures (if and when) of course.  And keep me posted as to how much we have in the bank, okay?  Now, I’ll try not to mention it again.

Nope, I don’t have that nickel anymore.  I lost it out on perimeter guard a week or so ago.  Piss me off!

Yeah, I wish I could’ve been there to help you take that shower.  They’re much more interesting that way.  And if you want to back me into a closet while we’re on R&R go right ahead.  I won’t fight it.  In fact, I kind of like the idea, but wouldn’t the bed be better?

I think I’ve answered just about everything in your letters, so I’ll let you know what’s happening around here.

I told you that I’m flying as a gunner now.  I really enjoy it, but the hours are awful long.  We’ve been flying in the A Shaw Valley a lot, but haven’t run into much ground fire.  A couple of medevacs got it in there this week though.

Tomorrow we have to go in there and clean a landing zone.  I don’t care for that at all, it’s too much like hard work.

We had two ships go down this week, but no one was hurt and both ships were recovered and are flying again.

The crew chief of the ship I’ve been flying on is a great guy — Danny is his name.  He was crewing the ship that went down and killed that pilot about three weeks ago.  He got a Silver Star as well as a Purple Heart out of the deal for saving the other pilots life.

Bill L. has been sick for about a week, and they finally sent them out to a hospital ship.  They didn’t know what was wrong and if they found out yet we haven’t heard.  He was pretty bad off so he may be in for a while.  I guess I forgot to tell you that he’s been gunning for a couple of weeks now.

Clay just told me to say “Hi” and tell you he loves you.  He’s not so sure you appreciate him now, since he helped me get into the flying game.  He and I are in the same hooch now since I came into flight platoon.  Before this I didn’t get to see him very often.  Our jobs kept us busy at the wrong times.

I have to hit the sack now hon.  It’s close to midnight in I had to get up early.  I guess I managed to make a fairly long letter out of this.  I wish I could do it more often.  I’ll sure try.

I love you Rita.  I think about you and us all the time, and pray for our safe reunion every night.  When the time comes when we can be together again I’ll be the happiest guy in the world.

Goodnight, Mrs. Johnson.

I love you!

Jeff

PS.  Sending 8th card.  Have you received all the others?

May 9, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

17min

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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