Letters Home from Vietnam – Chapter 13, So You Don’t Believe in War but . .

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by Steve Crandall

 

Rocket City continues to earn its name as usual. It was on September 1st that eight rockets hit the base sending two guys to the hospital. One passed over our barracks and woke me up out of a dead sleep. It was like the sound of a road flare passing over my head. I guess it was instinctive or conditioning to the many rocket attacks before but I rolled out of the top bunk and hit the floor with a thud. It was then that Dick, my bunkmate, said I must be the “fastest man alive” because I hit the floor before the rocket hit the ground. Instantly we both scrambled down the stairs to the first floor where the four foot concrete foundation walls might provide us some added protection. I looked to my left and then my right to see several of us sitting with our backs against the hallway wall partitions and our legs pulled up tight to our chests. We lined both sides of the narrow hallway that ran down the middle of the barracks. Suddenly the door at the end of the hallway flew open and I could see the silhouette of a somewhat large person. He was panting so hard that he could barely get the words out to explain why he was seeking shelter in our barracks “I saw the rockets hitting on both sides of the road so I jumped from my deuce and a half (2-1/2 ton cargo truck) and ran into the first barracks I saw”. We all looked at each other and then burst into laughter. Then we informed him that our barracks was actually the second barracks from the road and not the first.

September 2, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I received your care
package yesterday. Thanks a lot!

We got hit pretty hard the other night but everyone in our barracks is ok. We stayed up until the sun came up in the morning waiting for another round of attacks but it never happened. Once the dawn rolls around it is easier to sleep because they never attack during the daylight.

It would be great to go back to Iowa for awhile but I’m mostly just looking forward to going home.

I’m trying to talk my bunkmate into going to Australia with me in Nov. but so far he’s not interested.

 

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I’m not missing the rocket attacks but I am missing the adrenalin rush that comes with them. It’s hard to explain and clearly it’s not something I can share with Mom and Dad. Dad is already worried that I’m going to come home from Vietnam hooked on drugs like our next door neighbor. The adrenalin rush comes from having the crap scared out of you when the rockets hit the base. Sometimes the rush starts with the ire scream of the base sirens as the alert is sounded by the guards that man the outposts. More often than not the rockets hit the base before they get a chance to sound the alarm. It’s not long after I realize that we are all safe that I find myself missing the rush. I also miss the action of loading the bombs and stuffing rockets, but on the other hand I don’t believe in this war. Things are all stirred up in my mind and I know it sounds crazy but so is this war.

Ready for the Rush

September 4, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

It’s me again. We haven’t had any rocket attacks since the one we had at the first of the month. I don’t know what happened, maybe the VC were out of rockets or something. We expected to get hit last night because it was cloudy and all.

I don’t know if you heard about the F-4 blowing up or not. It was a Marine F-4 but the three guys that were killed were AF firemen. One of the missiles exploded as they were trying to put out the fire. I saw the thing blowing up but wasn’t sure what it was because it was on the other end of the airfield.

By the way, I didn’t care much for that sausage. I guess you have to fry it to get any taste out of it. It was all moldy by the time it got here. I washed it off and it was just like new.

Nothing else much has happened. We start working from six in the morning to six in the evening until the other lead crew gets off from R&R.

 

During WWII the aircraft crews painted the planes with what they called “Nose Art”. Typically these were paintings of scantily clad women with names such as “Heavenly Body” or “The Avenging Angel”. Unlike the WWII aviators we aren’t allowed such freedoms but then again this was a different war. This war is an unpopular war and the folks back home are watching so we have to be cool about what we are doing. However we still couldn’t resist the urge to put our own tag on the planes and this war. We are the “rock and roll” generation so the names that we discreetly painted on our planes were names like Iron Butterfly and Led Zeppelin.

September 5, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

There’s not much happening around here as usual. I guess that’s a good sign though. It sure was hard getting up at six o’clock this morning. I finished the door on my room the other night. The roughest thing was to find some wood screws to put the hinges on with.

We hear songs a little later than you would hear in the States. What I really miss is the albums. A lot of groups have a lot of good songs on albums that you never hear on the radio. Led Zeppelin has two albums out that I have never heard. I sure am anxious to get home. I get my orders in another 40 days or so.

I just talked to a guy in the shop and he’s leaving for Australia R&R on the first of Nov. so I guess I’ll put in for R&R then. Dick, my bunkmate, said he didn’t want to go. I guess I’ll have to have you send me some of my dress clothes.

 

My mother’s side of the family is much more supportive of me being over here than my dad’s side. I guess I shouldn’t care but it does make a difference to me. We are all over here doing something that we would rather not be doing in the name of the good old US of A but some don’t care. And it’s not that I believe they should support the war it’s just that it would be nice to know that they support me.

September 6, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I received a letter Sis wrote in the 2nd of Sep. I don’t suppose any of the kids will remember me.

When I go back to Iowa I’m not too interested in seeing all the relatives. You know none of the Crandalls write me. Aunt Marg wrote me once and that was all. I’ll want to visit most everyone else that’s written, if I have the time.

Boy they sure did a lot of bombing last night. We sat out on the stairs and listened to it.

I got a lock on my door but it was a day too late. Somebody stole three pairs of my socks. I think it was probably the new mama-san. I don’t know anyone else that would want them.

The Ever Vigilant Outpost

Finally we see the sun again. I didn’t know it but this has been the worst monsoon rain season since 1964. Nearly 300 Vietnamese died and 200,000 were made homeless. This is a very interesting country, if it’s not the searing heat it’s the non-stop rains or both at the same time. The steam coming off the ground gets trapped under my poncho creating a sweatbox of sorts.

September 12, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I went out on the flightline and walked around today. It feels good to get some sun for a change. I also watched the Green Bay and Oakland game on TV today. The Packers walked all over the Raiders.

I’m getting the Fullerton paper I started getting it the day after you said you were going to have it sent.

I’ve been feeling pretty good lately. Getting short you know. 133 days to go. We start getting orders anywhere between 120 to 100 days.

September 14, 1970 –

I started this but couldn’t think of anything I wanted to say. They are going to start some kind of push this week so we’ll probably be working in the flightline.

I ordered my turntable the other day so it should be getting home about the end of Oct. There should be a set of stereo headphones getting there about the same time.

 

Our rice at the chow hall has small gnat like bugs in it. I can only assume that they must have been in the rice prior to cooking so my guess is that they too must be cooked. Cooked or not cooked I’ve come to accept it. There’s not much I could say or do anyway, so I just need to suck it up. Besides what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger, right?

I’ve also learned to live without taking baths for days and living in the same jungle fatigues day after day. So it doesn’t surprise me that I would ask for only one pair of pants and a couple of shirts to last for seven days. Over here everything is related to how fast or slow the time goes. If I feel seven days is going to go by fast then it doesn’t make any difference if I need one or two pairs of pants for R&R. One pair will do just fine.

September 18, 1970 Danang, VN

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m sorry I haven’t written for awhile but I have been sick with something. I woke up Tuesday morning and felt a little dizzy. I had the dry heaves then went to chow and threw up everything I ate. Jack took me down to the hospital. They gave me a shot to keep me from throwing up and some pills. I stayed in the barracks and rested up for three days. So today is my first day back to work and I’m feeling pretty good. I wouldn’t doubt it if I had food poisoning or something. This place is really sorry.

The clothes I wanted for R&R are one pair of green flares with the light green stripes in them. Also that light green shirt, long sleeves and green scarf. I’ll need a pair of brown leather shoes. I guess I’ll need socks to go with them too. Don’t forget the ring that goes with that scarf. Seven days go by pretty fast on R&R so I don’t think I will need anymore than that.

I have a package of clothes I want to send home this week, stateside fatigues. I want to get them in the mail before the Christmas rush.

I got a letter from Susan last week and wrote her back. I heard that Denver really turned to trash since I was there. All the hippies from San Francisco went to Denver.

Melanie getting married doesn’t bother me at all. Right now I’m looking straight ahead for going places and better times. I’m not pushing wanting to get married for some time yet.

There’s nothing else I can think of right now but I’ll let you know if anything comes up.

September 17, 1970

Paris Peace Talks –
The People’s Revolutionary Government demanded the purge of South Vietnam’s top three leaders in exchange for a promise to refrain from attacking departing troops and promissed immediate negotiations for the release of POWs related to a proposed June 30, 1971 withdrawal date for US troops. The negotiations broke down when the United States refused to abandon President Nguyen Van Thieu.

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