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June 24, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Hi Rita!

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.

Love,

Jeff

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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 26, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Hi Reet

I’m sitting here on my cot being eaten alive by bugs and I ran out of bug spray.  I hope you appreciate the utter agony I’m enduring to write you this letter.  I guess it would be the same if I wasn’t writing, except then I would have both hands free to slap them.

I just got back from visiting Clay.  He’s feeling fine and wants to come back to the unit.  Of course he wouldn’t be able to do much for a while, but at least he’d feel more at home.  He’s awfully bored there.

Kim went to see the doctor today too.  He figured out he has athletes foot — on his ear.  It could only happen to Kim.  It bothers him a lot though, and seems to be spreading.  He’s been getting a lot of crap about it too.

Our battery seems to collect casualties right here at Evans, without ever going to the field.  Bill, Clay, and Kim I told you about.  Another guy had a piece of burning match fly in his eye .  Another one went to Da Nang for a day — 2 weeks ago.  He hasn’t been heard from since.  Still another split his foot open stumbling around in the dark going to the showers.  At this rate, who needs Charlie?

Things have slowed up a bit this week.  All the ships are flying and we’ve only had minor maintenance to pull.  We still have to fill sandbags in the evening, but we keep running out.  Funny thing.  It seems that three or four empty bags accidentally get shoved in every one we fill.  Can’t figure out how that happens.

I got your last package the other day, so now I’m busy munching sunflower seeds.  The fudge is real good, although a little gooey.  I put it in the refrigerator next door, so it’s better now.

I also received the pictures you sent.  Boy do they make me homesick for you and our trailer.  They really brought back the memories.  When I saw them it hit me harder than ever how much I miss you.  I love you Rita, and I want everything to be just like it was then — just the two of us in our own home again.  But it won’t even take that to make me happy.  Just as soon as you are my arms again I’ll be the happiest man in the world.

Must close now and get some sleep.  I’ll be dreaming about you honey.  I love you!

Forever,

Jeff

PS.  Get that picture taken of you in your négligée.  Immediately!  Take a whole roll so I won’t have to wait.

PS again — only 299 days to go!

May 21, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Hi Honey —

I’m starting this during the noon hour.  The way things have been going lately it’s the only time I have.

That last letter I sent you — I can’t remember what I said or anything but I remember it was short and that I couldn’t even read it.  Sorry about that one.

I’m not flying anymore.  They quit using gunners.  The ships didn’t have enough power to carry that big a load in this heat.  So I’m back in maintenance again.  Between KP, guard duty, IG inspections, and working until midnight, I haven’t had time to blow my nose.  I hope that changes in a hurry, but I don’t think it’s going to.

I’ve been going to get another tape off to you too, but it’s the same story.  So don’t look for one until it gets there.  The questions you asked in your last letter (a nice long one) I’ll answer in this.

Back again and it’s now 8:15 p.m. I’m all showered in cleaned up and read a letter and listened to a tape from you.  I really should make a tape to send you but I figured since I already started this I’ll just keep going.  The next one will be a tape, okay?

I really can’t believe I’m off this early.  It’s the first time in about three weeks that I can remember.  They should start improving though.  Tomorrow we start working three shifts around the clock.  I’ll be on the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift to start out.  That means we’ll be off from 2 p.m. until 6 at night.  Then there is a detail formation — usually end up filling sandbags for a couple hours.  But it will give me the afternoon for writing and maybe I can even get to the PX once for a change.

I read the letter I got tonight before I listen to the tape.  In it you mentioned your ankle without any explanation.  I don’t know what the heck you were talking about.  Had me a little worried.  I hope it’s okay by the time you get this.  The tape made it a little clearer though.  Okay, I’ll answer your often asked question about the guys in my hooch.  Nick V., Dave D., Kim, Mike E., Pete V., Gene W., Ed K., Larry R., Gordon C., a guy named Washington (new) and me.

The guys I underlined are the ones I hang around with and may mention in my letters.  Clay is in the barracks in front of us.  Skip is on one side and Spargo is on the other.  Bill is two hooches down, but it still in the hospital somewhere or other.  No word at all how he is.

Now, a question for you — what do you mean by the notation at the end of your letter “And I don’t do things backwards”?  I take it to be an answer to something I said but I can’t remember what.

That island you mentioned in the slides was actually a peninsula and a Vietnamese fishing village.  I took it mainly because of the mountains and clouds in the background.  If it weren’t for that knee in the corner it would have been an outstanding shot, I think.  Of course I haven’t seen it on the screen.

Why don’t we have sandbags all the way around the hooches?  We do — now.  Remember, those were taken shortly after we got here, and there weren’t any around them then.  The “sidewalks” you mentioned are entrances to the bunkers.

No, I haven’t seen the rat since I mentioned it on tape, we put some poison out the next day and I hope that took care of them.  The worst thing about rats around here is that they carry bubonic plague.

I’m drawing $60 a month over here and letting the rest ride the books.  I’ve been a little short towards the end of the month (like now) but that’s because of things like cameras, film, and a trip to Da Nang.  This month I’m paying off Spargo for the TV and then that should be more than enough.  I figure I got pretty close to fifty a month riding the books.  I’m not sure of the exact amount.

What’s the bit with Dutchess?  You keep saying she looks like she’s pregnant, but you’ve never actually said she was.  I take it she is though, huh?

Tomorrow I’ll listen to your tape again and takes notes.  I’ll try to get one on the way back tomorrow too.  Right now I’ve got to write a letter to the folks — I can’t recall when the last one was.  I imagine they’ve been letting you hear about it, huh?

I love you Reet.  I can understand exactly what that poem meant.  I hope you can get out of “I love you” everything I put into it.  I love you with all my heart.

Forever,

Jeff

May 1, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


24min 12sec

I remember dad getting malted milk balls every time we went to the movies, and somehow over the years I picked up a similar habit.  I still horde them every Easter when I get a chance.

Ethan

April 29, 1969.  Da Nang, Vietnam.


Hi Beautiful!

Guess where I am now?  Back at Da Nang.  I really get around, don’t I?  I’m in the hospital down here — they still haven’t let me out.  They’ve been taking blood and x-rays and making all kinds of tests and can’t find anything wrong with me.  I don’t see why they don’t admit that I’m healthy and let me go.  One of the doctors here said he couldn’t understand why I was sent here in the first place, and neither do I.

I’m not griping though.  I like it here.  The hospital is right by the ocean, I have free run of the hospital and there are lots of good looking nurses running around.  The chow is good and it’s great to sleep on a real mattress.  They have a nice PX here too, but I don’t have any money along.  And if I don’t get back tomorrow I’ll miss payday.  War is hell.

I got your tape the other day — Sunday I guess it was.  Dave D., Gene W. and Greg T. came to the hospital and brought the recorder along so I could play it.  It was really great Reet!  I hope you’ll start sending them as fast as you can turn them out.  I also got one from the folks.  They really made my day for me.

You asked about my getting shipped out of the unit.  Well I’m not going to this month anyway.  But a good number of my friends are going.  Clay is as I’ve already told you, and so is Kim and Rich S.  Kim is the one that really hurts the worst, since he was in our hooch and we got along so well.  That place will really be dull without him.  They’ll probably be gone by the time I get back to the unit.  Kim came to the hospital the other day to say goodbye in case this happened.

I’m glad to hear you’re looking for a job, and pretty hard it sounds like.  I hope you find a good one.

Honey, about not going to summer school this summer — I’m against it all the way.  I want you to go.  Remember, that was one of the conditions of going back to North Carolina with me.  I figured something would come up like this, but you assured me over and over that you would be back in school this summer.  I will be very disappointed if you’re not.  I know it would help Steve and Gail but I’m sure they can make other arrangements.  Please go back Rita.

It’s time for me to hit the sack.  This lying around all day really gets me down.  I’ll write again real soon.

I love you Rita.  I sure wish when I went to bed at night it was with you in my arms.  I’ll dream about it anyway, like I always do —

All My Love,

Jeff

April 10, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam

 

Dearest Rita,

I just remembered that I forgot to send you one of that deck of cards last weekend, so I’m sending to along with this letter — if I don’t forget when I go to mail it.

Really not much going on around here lately. Changed a rotor blade on the ship yesterday, and that’s the extent of the maintenance I’ve done since we got here other than putting them together at Da Nang. Should really get going on it before too long though.

Kim came down to the motor pool last night while I was on guard there. Remember I told you his fiancée was PG?* Well he talked to the chaplain who said he would arrange a leave for him if he wanted to get married in Hawaii. Kim was all for that and wrote and told her so. Then yesterday he got a letter from her saying she was getting the abortion yesterday. She didn’t have time to get his letter. Now he’s worried about her, both for her physical safety and also how it will affect her mentally. He’s afraid she’ll blame him, or that it will affect their relationship later. It’s really getting him down, and it’s pretty bad when anything can get Kim down. And believe me, it’s getting everyone else down too.

I’m looking forward to getting a picture of you in your négligée. And now that you’ve mentioned it you have to be sure and do it. Send any picture you take of yourself — I never have enough. Sure wish I had you right here with me instead of just pictures. No, I take that back — I wish I was there with you. Then we could say to hell with the négligée, right?

Mail call in a few minutes. Sure hope there is a letter from my wife! I’ll mail this at the same time. I love you Rita, with all my heart!

Your Hubby,

Jeff

 

Quick note on the “deck of cards.” Dad started with a full deck and sent one to mom every week, starting with the twos, then the threes, and so on, with the idea being that he’s going to bring home the ace of spades himself.  It was a popular way that GI’s counted down to their coming home with their loved ones.

Ethan

*pregnant

 

April 3, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.


Hi beautiful,

We just broke for noon chow so I thought I’d write a few lines before I eat.  Seems like it’s about the only time I can find during the day.

This morning they were dropping propaganda leaflets around the area and some blew into our area.  I’ll send a few long for you to see.  They call on the V.C. to defect and tell him how good they’ll be treated.  They also make a mess for us to pick up

We spent all morning filling sandbags again, and probably will do the same this afternoon.  I’m surprised I don’t dream about them at night.  I probably would if I wasn’t always too tired to do any dreaming.

I’ve been trying to get over to the PX to get those pictures I took developed, but I just can’t make it.  In fact, I haven’t been to the PX here at all.  I guess it takes two weeks to be developed so it’ll be a while before you get any.  I sent of some the slides for developing and the folks should get those a week or so after you get this probably.

Must go eat now.  I love you Rita, and wish I had time to write you more than just a short note.  And I’ll write you a long one as soon as I get a chance.

All my love,

Jeff

March 29, 1969.  Camp Tien Sha, Vietnam.


Dearest Rita,

I just finished a quick letter to my folks — first one since I’ve been here.  I just haven’t had time for any more.  I’m sorry my last letter to you was so abruptly ended, but I figured I’d best get it sent, otherwise you’d still be waiting.

I’m at camp Tien Sha at Da Nang now.  We’ve been here since Thursday — thirteen of us.  It’s like an R&R center compared to Evens.  I would have written before this, but I had to guard the ships Thursday night, so last night I was too tired to think straight.  Tonight I’ll get this done though, and that’s a promise.

You’re going to have to tell me all about your trip to S.D.  And by now, the one to California.  In fact this will probably reach Brookings while you’re gone, huh?  So let me hear about it when you get back, okay?

Say — any word from Roe on our pictures?  You said something about sending them over, but best you don’t.  It probably wouldn’t survive the trip.  The picture of you (senior) just about didn’t make it.  The glass was broken, but the frame and picture are still okay.  I’m trying to get the glass replaced now, but without much luck.

I bought a little instamatic camera, and will be sending you some pictures before long.  I have some slide film too, but I’ll send that to my folks and they’ll show you.

You know something honey?  I miss you.  And I’m thankful that I don’t have much time to think about it or it would be a lot harder.  The best part is knowing that this will be the last time in our lives we’ll be separated like this.  I love you Rita, and I hope this year will go as fast for you as I think it will for me.

Your husband,

Jeff

March 25, 1969.  Camp Evens, Vietnam.


Dear Rita,

This is the first chance I’ve had to write, and would you believe it’s by cigarette lighter light?  It’s the only light I’ve got, except during the day when we’re too busy.

We got to Nam Sunday night around 11:00.  Spent that night sleeping on the cement apron by the runways.  We get hit by rockets and mortars about 5:30 the next morning.  I found out I can wake up and find a bunker real fast like though.

We got to Evans Monday afternoon.  I wish I could send some pictures.  It’s a fair sized place, but looks like hell.  Nothing but red dirt and sand bags.  Last night (this is Wednesday now) I got a shower for the first time since I left.  Felt dirty again right away though.  It’s not really so hot here, just real muggy.  Summers coming though and I can imagine what that will be like.

This is Wednesday noon now.  We were making bunkers and filling sandbags all morning again and will this afternoon too.  I’m sick of it.  Have to start again now so I’ll try finish this tonight.

Back again, but not for long.  Looks like I’ll be going to Da Nang for a couple of days starting today.  So I’m just going to send it like it is.  At least you’ll know I made it.  I’ll write again as soon as I can, and tell the folks the same, will you?  I love you Rita, and wish we could be together again.  I’ve had enough of Nam, I just want my wife now.

All my love,

Jeff


Quick synopsis as to what happened between the wedding and now:

1. Honeymoon

2. Mom went to Fort Eustis for 7 weeks with dad.

3. Dad went to Vietnam and mom went back to South Dakota

Also, check out the Evans link.  Interesting look from someone else who was stationed there.

-Ethan

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

Photobucket

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