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Letters Home from Vietnam – Chapter 10, The Red (heat rash), White (searing heat) and Blue (longing for home)

Runway duty can really be boring until the rats come out at night. I was lying on a wooden bench inside the sandbag bunker and just about to doze off when something got my attention. In the moonlight I could see the silhouette of a rat in the opening of the bunker. I felt around on the floor looking for something to throw but before I could find anything the rat was gone. I wasn’t going to let the rat deter me from my sleep. I just crossed my arms over my chest so that my hands would not be dangling on the dirt floor until the roar and bright lights of the next plane taxied up to the bunker to be de-armed.

 

July 2, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I had runway duty yesterday and wanted to write but between the heat and the flies I couldn’t stand to sit still. We won load crew of the month. We get three days off this month. We went to the Freedom Hill PX to buy cokes for the shop. I saw a mama-san picking lice out of her daughters hair. This place is really groovy. They say this place really gets lit up on the 4th of July. Every kind of flare is shot up in the air. I guess you could send me some more baby powder. I’m laying here in my bed and out the screen wall I just saw a Freedom Bird take off. I wish I was on it. I put some bleach in with my jungle fatigues and now I have white stripes and name tag instead of black. I’ll mail this letter when I go to chow.

 

Everything that goes up must come down and so did the rounds. The barrack’s roof was made of corrugated tin and one round pierced the tin and into the shoulder of one of the guys on the top floor. I remember my uncle having a similar experience during WWII. He said the closest he every came to being shot was when a round came through his tent and lodged itself in the wooden rail of his cot. I guess that’s just one more form of friendly fire.

July 4, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well happy 4th. I just got off work. This place is really lit up. Red, blue, green, white just about every color of flare there is. Plus all the tracers through the air. Right now I’m cooking up a can of beanie weenies. They’re playing the top 300 songs in pop music. I think I’ll get the Dual 1219 turntable instead of the Sansui turntable. The Dual 1219 is the best turntable ever made. I might as well get the best then I will never be dissatisfied. I’m going to the doctor tomorrow about this heat rash. I went ahead and ordered the Sansui 500A receiver. I can always sell the 2000A to some G.I. at the next base. They’re still playing the top 300 hits. That will go on until 12:00 tonight. 204 days to go.

New Load from the Bomb Dump

 

The MK 84 2000 lb. bomb can cause lethal fragmentation up to a radius of 400 yds. Sometimes we would configure this bomb with a three foot long fuse extension. This allowed the bomb to go off at ground level. It then became a lethal anti-personnel bomb we called a “daisy cutter”. We had names for all the different weapons we loaded. I guess it was our way of desensitizing our involvement in the war.

July 6, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I received the cookies yesterday, thanks. That open locker inspection was just for the AF as far as I know. I guess they were looking for something we weren’t supposed to have. Yes the prices in the PACEX catalog are real. I will have to order for you since you have to be in the military and stationed overseas. I just start getting involved in a letter then they put me to work. We had to down load a MK 84 2,000 lb. bomb. I bet I’ll get out of the service and there will still be guys my age worrying about the draft. From what I heard about the monsoon season August is the worst. Other than that I don’t know much about it. We just got two new guys in from Holloman AFB. They were in other squadrons but there were 40 orders cut to come here.

 

I’m never quite sure how stories travel but I remember being told that I would get to see the weapons we load dropped in the hills and valleys outside of Danang. To my amazement the stories proved to be true. I’m also amazed that I can get in trouble for being in a “hot seat” then find myself being advanced to the lead crew. This is a strange place indeed.

July 10, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I just got off work and its 1:00 am. I got the care package from Sharon. Crackers, Underwood deviled ham and dried beef. We watched our own planes make air strikes on the nearby valley. Last night we watched the Navy bomb the same valley. Our NCOIC said they are going to breakup our crew. My bunkmate and I are going on the lead crew. The lead crew trains other new crews. We had an F-100 came in on emergency and had to de-arm it. I had panels off all over it and finally found the panel to the rear of the guns and disconnected the firing leads. I knew where the guns were and it was just a matter of getting to them. I don’t know why I am in such a good writing mood. I guess it’s because I’m under 200 days. When I get to 100 days I know the time is really going to drag. Can you get me some more white socks? Mine seem to be disappearing. My clothes have to hang out for two days to dry and since the barracks is open bay it’s hard to keep anything. Well time to hit the sack.

 

Weapons Drop near Freedom Hill

The heat and humidity in Vietnam made wearing a poncho like being in a sweat box. The steam would rise up off the ground and then get trapped between me and my poncho. At times getting wet was better than wearing a poncho.

July 13, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

You think its hot back home, it was 100 degrees here yesterday with 85 % humidity. That’s why you can sweat in a rain storm. It’s so humid the stamps fall off your letters.

I went to the doctor the other day and they gave me some cream for my rash. It’s starting to go away now. I’m getting off tomorrow and looking forward to just relaxing.

 

We always had a free pass to the chow hall but it was more fun making do on our own. Sharing food in the barracks created camaraderie that you didn’t get eating at the chow hall. There was one guy in our outfit that was better than most at bartering. I wanted to know but again didn’t want to know exactly what it was that he traded for the pork roast that we enjoyed so much after slow roasting it with beer for hours. Some things are best just enjoyed without knowing all the details.

July 14, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today is my day off. Its 12 noon and I haven’t done anything yet except take a shower. I got your package yesterday. It was the only mail that came in yesterday afternoon. Too bad we didn’t have that salt two nights ago. We had corn on the cob but no salt or butter. We bought six cobs in a can with water. We just heated them up with our burners. Its 7:30 pm. I went to the BX and then the club. I bought a slide projector for you and shipped it home. I’m sitting here in the barracks writing this letter and the sweat is just rolling off of me. All I have on is a pair of undershorts. They’re already soaked. Don’t be surprised if when I come home I don’t do anything but sit and relax for awhile. I never feel like I can completely relax over here.

P.S. The slide projector is a gift just for being swell parents.

My new job on the lead team will be training FNGs (F’g New Guys) as well as certifying crews. I’ll retain my same crew position, as a number two man, but this time I’ll be looking over the shoulder of the trainee. I’m looking forward to working in an air-conditioned office but I can’t say it was something I really pursued. It just came my way and I still find myself resenting authority.

July 20, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner but time has really flown. I’ve been real busy at work, then come back to the barracks and sleep. My heat rash is gone for now. I guess that stuff the doctor gave me did the trick. I lost my day off yesterday because I have to train for the new lead team. The problem is that we work for the Wing now and not the Squadron (the people that gave us the three days off). The Wing can’t tell us when we will get another day off. I’ve been pushed to the extent that I’m going to hit someone. There’s a lifer training us tomorrow that I have already had a run in with. If he pushes me I swear I’ll put his head into the revetment wall. I’ve lost all respect for anyone who re-ups in the service. It makes me tired and irritates me just to talk about it.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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