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Letters Home from Vietnam – Chapter 5, Adapt or Loose It

By Steve Crandall, Staff writer

Self medicating wasn’t going to work for me. My hospital stay was over and I’m not going anywhere for the next nine months. This was the turning point in which I realized I have to either adapt to my surroundings or I’m going to loose it. Keeping myself busy and making my surroundings more suitable is my answer to the long stay.

 April 15, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

They say the most loads to be made by a crew in a single shift was seven. We have been doing seven loads every shift for the last three nights. My old bunkmate from Cam Ranh Bay moved in with me so maybe we can make this place a little more personal. Scrounging around to find stuff to fix up our space is going to be fun.


Rice Paddies at Danang Perimeter

The hospital gave me Red Cross envelops and stationary for writing home. I was really concerned about my parents receiving a Red Cross envelop and I was hoping one of my buddies would drop by the hospital so I could have them get me some different stationary for writing home but no one came by to see me. We tried to keep ourselves connected to the stateside happenings but news was somewhat limited.

April 16, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

Sorry about sending the last few letters in the Red Cross envelopes but that’s all they had at the hospital. It’s funny to read about bad news back home when you are over here. Somehow the problems at home don’t seem that bad. We all do our best to keep up on the stateside news. All I have is a flashlight so I do most of my writing in the daytime when I have time.


Like all the other guys, I looked forward to getting care packages from home. It’s a piece of our home life we can share with others and was part of our buddy culture. I even found myself sharing mine with the Vietnamese, something I would have never done when I first got here. Remember, I called them gooks and didn’t understand why they weren’t thrilled to have us here. My attitude was changing and I was starting to open up my eyes to what was really going on here.

April 17, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I got stuck doing duty at the end of the runway and the cookies you sent couldn’t have come at a better time. They forgot to deliver box meals to us so the cookies really hit the spot. I gave some of the cookies to one of the Vietnamese boys. They are here with us at the end of the runway doing the same thing we do. He really enjoyed them and said thanks.

Rock Formations and Rice Paddies

Now that I have opened my eyes to my surroundings, I realized the countryside is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Since I had been a student of architecture in high school I had an attraction to the old structures not only built by the French but also the Vietnamese.

April 18, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

The countryside is really pretty around here. Their green fields aren’t squared off in sections like the ones in Iowa but rather they kind of flow and wind. Every morning I pass by rice paddies and the water buffalo. The older buildings on base were built by the French. They are white cement with rounded corners and they typically have green shutters. No glass in the windows just shutters. They look like those buildings you see in the French foreign legion flicks. I’ll get some pictures and send them home so you can see what I mean.


Buildings on Road to Danang

Danang was the closest air base to North Vietnam so we had fighter planes loaded with missiles, rockets and guns ready to intercept any MIG fighters that might cross over the DMZ. Working the alert pad was the best job you could get if you were chosen to do so but you have to be ever vigilant when you are working with weapons, especially when there is so much activity around you.

April 20, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I didn’t get a chance to finish my letter yesterday. I got alert pad duty today. I thought end of runway was easy now this is the best. The building we are in is air conditioned. They even have TV and magazines to read. There are four planes here ready to take off and have to be in the air in 5 minutes. They scramble them if MIG jets come into the area. You have to be careful because a lot is going on. The engines are starting up while we are pulling safety pins on the rockets and missiles. The planes are armed in the revetments and have total clearance to the runway. We heard one guy lost his arm by pulling the pin on the missile closest to him and they reaching across that missile to pull the pin on the next and the missile he was reaching across launched. The missile never got a chance to arm before it hit a sand bag bunker.

 Yes, I actually read the Playboys my parents sent me. I became more interested in why we were here and what others were saying about the war. I started questioning the orders we were given and wondered if the weapons we loaded were being indiscriminately dispersed on villages throughout the countryside.

April 23, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I get burned too about the rich and the way they are making money off this war. I read an article in Playboy where a guy in the service, not an American citizen, was refused his naturalization papers because he was wearing a peace symbol. The military considers a peace medal as anti-American.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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