Letter from a soldier: – Vietnam, 1969
November 11, 2020
Editor’s note: A reader sent us this letter, which appeared in the Aug. 7, 1969 edition of The New Era. It was from her then-20-year-old brother, who wanted to remain anonymous (and who will remain so), but wanted to convey his views about the Army and the situation he was in at the time. He was also interested in what Sweet Home residents were thinking of the war. The writer, who’d dropped out of high school and “bummed around for a while” before joining the Army, had been in the service for a year and a half, with less than four months to serve in Vietnam. We’re reprinting it because it provides a window into the realities of service in a difficult combat.
Here’s are thoughts the G.I. wanted to share:
“Whenever one of the guys I knew in the world or one of the guys out here in the field are killed, it really tears me up.
“Yesterday we were out in the swamps, checking the hedgerows for V. C. and blowing up their bunkers. The g–-s set off a command-detonated booby trap. We dusted off nine guys. I helped to carry them out to the chopper. It really shakes a person up.
“This morning we got word that one of them died. The guy was doing great, but the doctors told him they were going to have to take one of his legs off. He then went into shock and died. I knew the guy. He’d been in the country only 80 days.
“I used to think we should be in Vietnam. But after being here for eight months, I have definitely changed my mind. I don’t see how we can win this war or what we are fighting for any more. This is certainly a different type of war and fighting than we had 25 years ago.
“I know there are business people back in the world who do not want this war to end. The reason is because they are making large amounts of money. The same goes for some Vietnamese government officials and certainly for the civilians.
“When we go out on road security or as a blocking force, for example, the civilians will follow us. When we stop, they’re on us like locusts. If there was a walking P.X., this is it. They have Cokes and beer which sell for fifty cents a can. They also have radios, watches, whiskey, mirrors, love beads, peace symbols, lighters, lighter fluid and a thousand other things.
“Since people are out in the field and never see a P.X., they buy this stuff at outrageous prices. The g–-s love to get their hands on our money. They can get anywhere from $25 to $30 out of our $20. It is really a racket over here.
“Most of the guys over here are damned hard workers and are really doing a good job. The thing they want most is to get out of here alive and return to civilian life in the world.
“If you have time, I’d appreciate a reply to this letter. I would like to find out what you think of the war, what people in S. H. think of it, and what the opinion of it is in general back in the world.”