Letters Home from Vietnam – Chapter 6, Four Dead in Ohio

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Chapter 6, Four Dead in Ohio

By Steve Crandall, Staff Writer

Bullet riddled planes are returning to base at an alarming rate. Until now the planes have returned without incident but whatever is happening out there it seems to be heating up. I’ve also been talking to guys that are flying the gunships and they too are catching more ground fire. Some of the Marines are leaving and the Vietnamese Army is starting to take over some of the guard post positions. Is it possible that the war is drawing to a close? But how could that be when our planes are taking more ground fire? I’m getting more confused about the war as well as my participation in it.

April 24, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,
 
 

Lock and Load

A plane came back in on an emergency landing. It had a two foot hole in the wing from ground fire. The pilot jettisoned all the missiles and bombs and the plane behind was hit by one of the missiles. He also came in on emergency landing. When they say they are going to pull 150,000 troops out of Vietnam they are probably figuring the guys that will be leaving anyway because our time is up.

 

I’m enjoying the lull of not getting hit night after night but I can’t stop wondering if all hell might break loose any minute. Sometimes the silence can wear on you just as much as the attacks. Something I have learned since I’ve been here is the how to tell when the danger is really close or something off in the distance by the sound of the explosions.

April 27, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I got the day off and I’m listening to the radio to some good stateside hits. When we get hit and the rockets make a boom sound you know you’re ok. It’s when they make a cracking boom sound and the wood barracks rattles that they are getting way too close. Usually less than 100 yards. We haven’t been hit since the 15th so we’ve had some time to relax. We have some new lifers running the shop but they are really good to us. They will come by in the line truck and bring us water while we are making a bomb load. That’s a change for us.

 

I can never figure out the seasons here. It rains but doesn’t feel like winter. It’s hot but doesn’t feel like summer. It can get foggy but never feels like spring and the trees never loose their leaves so it must not be fall.

April 29, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well the war was rained out tonight.  It wasn’t so much so much the rain as it was the lighting. We can’t load weapons during a lighting storm for obvious reasons. We even have to be careful loading the rockets for fear of static electricity even when the weather is good. This rain really brings out the mosquitoes.

I’ve been in country for awhile and I’m starting to loose some of the fear I experienced during the first two months. I guess it’s a level of numbness that occurs when you have been exposed over and over again to the attacks. Maybe it’s some sort of mental survival instinct that occurs in your brain. Some guys stay rattled all the time and never seem to have that switch that puts you into a level of numbness.

April 30, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

We got hit tonight around 10:30. The rockets came a lot closer this time. I heard a loud boom and the walls of our weapons shop shook. A lifer that drives the line truck came running into the shop and boy was he scared. He always gets shaken up when ever we have rocket attacks. It’s close to the first of May and the rumor is that we might get hit pretty hard. It’s the first of May when the communists parade all their fire power in Russia and China.

There’s a different feeling in the air and I can’t figure out exactly which way things are going. We are now heavily involved in bombing Cambodia and we’re told the reason was to create a diversion while our POWs are rescued. I want to believe but something in my mind is telling me this is all bullshit. I can’t help feeling that it is nothing more than a fabricated lie to motivate us to endure the long hours of nonstop bomb loading. Because we’re young we can endure the long hours and still find time for social sharing activities. The social activities help us survive the mental and physical stress of war.

May 3, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

We just got off of 18 hour shifts. We are bombing Cambodia. We load the planes, they take off drop the bombs and as soon as they return we load them up again. I talked with one of the pilots and he said it looked like the whole world was on fire where they were dropping the bombs. We flew 72 missions in 24 hours. We were all told it was a diversion to help rescue POWs. One of the guys in the barracks got a package that was pretty good. It had Underwood meats in these small cans with crackers and cheese that comes in these little triangles individually wrapped. We went to the club on our day off and I got a drink called a Singapore Sling. It’s gin, cherry juice and something else. I like them pretty well.

 
 

Fusing Napalm

 

My thoughts about the war were rapidly changing. I realized that we had been lied to about the diversion to save the POWs and that this was just an invasion of another country. I also read that four students were killed at Kent State by our own National Guard. Why are we being lied to and why are students being killed by the National Guard? Now the face of the old Vietnamese man that stared at me when I arrived at Cam Ranh Bay is coming back to haunt me. He had seen war before with the occupation of the French and understood what destruction it could bring. It’s clear now; this war isn’t going to end anytime soon.

May 4, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I just got off a 20 hour shift. We flew 45 missions in about a half an hour. I just finished my wash and hung everything up. We hang up our wet clothes to dry where ever we can but they never seem to get completely dry.

May 5, 1970

I think I finally have time to finish this letter. Things have really been a mess over here. We are now being told we are bombing North Vietnam. On the 3rd we worked from 12:00 noon to 2:00 am the 4th. Then they woke us up at 4:00 am to work until 8:00 am. We came back in at 12:00 midnight, then cancelled all flights and said they weren’t going to bomb the North anymore. Honestly, I don’t know who we are bombing.

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