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Letters Home from Vietnam – Chapter 4, Rocket City Here I Come

By Steve Crandall, Staff writer

What do chickens, goats and a Caribou have in common? The chickens and goats were my traveling companions and Caribou was our ride to Danang. I was told I had five days to report to Danang and how to get there was up to me. So I hopped a flight out of Cam Ranh Bay on a C-7 Caribou along with one other airman, a few chickens, goats and some Vietnamese farmers. The other airman and I were instructed on how to crank down the landing gear in case there was a hydraulic failure. We each sat in web seats near the landing gears on opposite sides of the plane. We would make just one stop at Chi Lai, a Marine base 56 miles south of Danang.

Farming village near Danang

March 26, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well I’m here in Danang. The water supply here only lasts for a about a day or two then we go without water for two or three days. When we do get it, it smells like sewage and there is no hot water.


I was familiar with guns growing up as a child in Iowa. We lived near a river and I spent many of my summer days toting either a rifle or shotgun and looking for something to shoot. So I was familiar with guns and what they could do but the M-16 I was issued when I arrived at Danang took on a whole other meaning. This weapon was not created for pheasant or rabbit hunting, it was created for killing human beings. It had an eerie feeling in my hands. Was I really going to have to use this rifle to kill another human being or could I find a way to avoid never having to touch it again?

March 29, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

Up here we were issued M-16 rifles. We keep them locked up but we can get them whenever we want. They only issued one ten round clip of ammo but I was able to get another backup clip from one of the Marines in the barracks next to us.


Depending on your condition, being in the hospital is not a bad thing. Also the sandbags are stacked a little higher around the hospital so it feels a little safer too.

April 6, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

Here I am in the hospital with pneumonia. Wait until I get back to work and let the guys know about this place. They will all want to get sick just to stay here. Breakfast in bed and clean sheets and all the orange juice you can drink. This is the life! We’ve been hit with rockets every night since the first of April. We were supposed to be hit pretty hard on Saturday or Sunday but they just landed a few around the base. That makes seven times in five days that we have been hit.

Danang barracks and Fredom Hill

While in the hospital I spent some time watching movies with the grunts that were wounded and going home. One of the grunts I met was hospitalized for malaria. He was not heading home but rather back to the jungle. His plan was to throw away his malaria pills in hopes of getting malaria again so that he would be shipped back to the states. After seeing all the wounded I couldn’t blame him.

We didn’t talk much about what was going on outside the hospital and the news we did get was limited. I didn’t learn until I got out that the guys that were injured had been killed. One had only been in Vietnam a few days the other was getting ready to go home. I remember chatting about it and then dismissing it as bad luck. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time was not a phrase we used in Vietnam because we were all in the wrong place.

April 8, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m still here in the hospital. The doctor said I can leave in a couple more days. We were hit last night and I heard a couple of guys were hurt. I don’t know how bad it was since I was here in the hospital.


I remember feeling really nervous the first few days after being released from the hospital. It was almost like the feeling when I first stepped off the plane at Cam Ranh Bay. I had to find a way to shake this feeling. Maybe a stop off at the Airman’s Club for a few beers would make it better. I was sitting there having a beer when I heard someone call out my name. I couldn’t believe it, it was a classmate from high school. He had been drafted into the Army and was killing time before boarding the Freedom Bird to head back to the World. God, how I envied him going home and wished I could get on the plane with him. But I still had a little over nine months left to go and couldn’t start thinking about going home yet. A few days after getting back to work loading weapons my nervousness had disappeared and I thought everything was right again. But something was bothering me and I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

April 10, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m finally out of the hospital. We haven’t been hit for the last two nights. I guess the VC used up all there quota for the month. Sorry I haven’t written much but our work is heavy and I’m having a problem concentrating when I’m off.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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