Der Phil, Greeting from sunny South Viet Nam (20 Feb 70). I know, I know. I’m a finky creep for not writing sooner, but I had such a riot on leave I didn’t write anybody! Up until now I’ve been too busy, but here it is. Arrived in-country the 28th of January. Took Jungle training until the 12 of February. Already I’ve got a war story fer ya. But that can wait for a minute. I arrived in Bien Hoa on the 28th & moved to Long Binh the same day. They’re both replacement depots. Three days later we flew north to Eagle at Phu Bai. The next day we went north to Camp Evans for Jungle Training which was the un-godliest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. Since the 13th I’ve been up here at Thunder. Just take a wild guess at what is due north of usby five miles. Yer right! The D.M.Z. (demilitarized zone: the border between North and South Vietnam). Anyway back to my spine-chilling war story. I’d been on bunker guard three nights straight when it happened. Here’s the layout: The main bunker has the machine gun & grenade launcher in it. My buddy Haydon was in there. There’s a smaller backup bunker on each side of the big one. My other buddy Kehoe (both guys I knew from A.I.T. advanced infantry training) & myself were in these. I was on the right, him on the left. We were each armed with our M-16’s, 21 clips of ammo apiece, and six fragmentation grenades each. Dig it? I think it was about 2 A.M. when we heard the first noise. Haydon called in for illumination & very shortly we had it. They use parachute flares, which made it as bright as day. Sure as hell, I knew the game was fixed. Twenty-seven gooks came chargin’ out of the rice paddies at us. I mean, that ain’t even fair odds. They were only about a hundred feet away, and that’s not much when they’re spittin’ AK-47 rounds at you. So Haydon opened up with the machine gun. He got about half of ’em in about five seconds. Me & Kehoe started workin’ out with the hand frags & blasted a mess of ’em all over the field. I polished off the last three with my M-16 & a little fancy footwork. Ta da! The whole show only lasted about a minute. If it’d taken any longer I wouldn’t be here rappin’ about it, cause those last three gooks were gettin’ ready to crawl into my bunker & cuddle up real close when I zapped ’em. When it was over, we were scared, but happy that we’d pulled it off. Believe me Phil, it ain’t like on T.V. Nobody stuck their head out any further than necessary, and nobody pulled a John Wayne. To hell with him, it’s a lot safer my way.
So the next day when we got off guard they held a big ceremony and gave each of us a medal. Not quite. You’re still thinking of the T.V. version. That morning we were all called into the C.O.’s (commanding officer) office and busted from Spec 4 to P.F.C. Guess why. Give up? Because we neglected to call in and obtain permission to fire on those gooks. That’s fine with me. They can bust me every day if they want. But I’ll be damned if I’ll spend 5 minutes trying to phone T.O.C. (tactical operations center). Talk when Charlie’s on my doorstep. They can hang it up. I’ll save the formalities for later. So much for that.
You’re probably wondering just where I’m at. So am I! Here ’tis. I’m at Headquarters Company of the 3rd Brigade Aviation Section at Thunder. 101st Airborne Division. Dig it! “Screaming Eagles” is our name. Don’t worry. You don’t have to write all that on the envelope. Ya know, I always used to kid around about that Airborne Ranger stuff, but I never thought I’d be one. Shows you what kind of tricks life will play on you. Oh well. One consolation is that they have a neato keeno unit patch to wear. So now you can tell all yer friends & neighbors that yer brother is a Pukin’ Buzzard. (Rhymes with “Screaming Eagles”). Isn’t that grand. The next time you see me in my monkey suit with all the airborne goodies on it, everyone will look with awe & wonder in their hearts, and say, “Who was that masked man?” … Or you could introduce me as the world’s only living 185 lb. Coors beer bottle. They might believe that.
So anyway I’m finally on the job. Putting to use what it took them six months to teach me. And it goes like this; I’m in charge of the care & feeding of three 7.62mm mini-guns. Five 7.62mm M-60D machine guns. Three M-5 grenade launchers. I load, repair & install these little darlings twice a day. Plus two hours paper work thrown in for laughs. Here’s the story. I work 18 hours one day. The next day I sleep ’til noon & have the night off. So it’s 6AM ’til midnight one day & 1P.M. ’til 5P.M. the next. That means I have every other night off, unless I have guard duty, like tonight. So I guess I’ll live through it.
Well, so much for me, how ya doin’ kid? Did ya ever move into that chicken coop? (note: I was pondering inexpensive housing during college). It’s probably better than the hole in the ground I live in. Do you think you could dig on a pad with wall to wall sandbags & armor plate insulation? Wooden floors, too. The inside looks like an old whaling boat. I’ll send you some pictures when I get another camera. Someone stole mine. Would you send some pics of you & yer bride to be? I think yer a fink fer gettin’ hitched while I’m gone. But that’s life.
Let me know what’s happening back there. Let me know for sure when the wedding is & you better send me a bunch of pictures. If you don’t, you better sell the shithouse, ’cause yer ass is mine when I get back. Dig? Well, gotta play with my guns for a while. More later. Your Hero & Mine, Rog
(next: Helicopter door-gunner)