Letters from Vietnam
Life Looks Different From
A Mud Filled Foxhole:
- You just can’t imagine how miserable a person can be, trying to sleep, propped in the corner of a wet, muddy, sometimes water-filled bunker.
- I think I’m older in many ways than most people my age. You grow old mighty fast in a war. Maybe much too fast.
- The days get all mixed up and sometimes I’m not even sure what day it is. Time and days mean nothing. It’s all the same.
- The most important thing to me is just trying to stay alive. If you aren’t alive, nothing means anything. If everyone had to live under the conditions we have for the past month, even the smallest things they take for granted would be luxuries. I think everything is going to look a lot different to me, after this year.
- Also heard from the folks that a neighbor girl I used to go with just returned from a trip to Europe over the summer. She told them she really had a great time and saw all kinds of nice things. Over here we see nothing, but bad sights. Torn, mangled bodies, dead friends, and have a miserable time. There’s quite a difference. I guess some people are supposed to see the good side and some the bad side of life.
- I have a mustache now. Since we rarely shave anyway, it got rather long and I decided to keep it. Us medics have a contest going. The one with the best mustache by the end of the month gets a fifth of brandy. So, we all look like a bunch of grizzled old combat vets now. But then I guess we are.
- Poisoned booze was a common “booby-trap” that took its toll on many GI’s.
- I had really been depressed and pissed off at the world and I guess I didn’t care what I drank as long as it made me drunk. Pappy found me lying in the mud outside our tents, wrenching my guts out.
- They finally got us on stretchers and got us to the aid station, where they gave us shots to relax our muscles and pumped my stomach. The next thing I remember is waking up a day later, strapped to a litter in the aid station. But it sure hadn’t solved any problems. It had just given me a whole new set of them. Now, I felt even worse than I did the day before, and things hadn’t changed a bit. I was just lucky to still be alive and not on my way home in a body bag, brought down not by bullets, but by poisoning. There’s no Purple Heart for the folks back home for that one either.
- Yesterday, was a bad day all the way around. I spent the night on the perimeter. It was raining, cold, and miserable. We just sit down in a corner of the bunker on a wet sandbag and try to think of things to get our mind off how miserable we are.
- When I came back in the morning, I found out that Curtis, our medical clerk in the aid station, had gone over the edge last night and tried to kill himself.
- The worst part is when something happens to your friends over here. You get to be so close living under these conditions, you’re all like part of a family. Then we found out today that we lost one of our medics, Richardson, on an operation near the border (Cambodia) yesterday. So, it was really a bad day for us medics.
- I was really tired last night, both physically and mentally and even more tired tonight. A person wonders how much more he can take.
- Seems to me like the Combat Engineers do as much infantry work as they do engineer work around here. I heard this morning that they encountered some action up there last night.
- One thing that helped today is that I got about seven letters. Guess the folks had put a story about my being here in the local paper and some people had seen it and wrote to me.
- I didn’t realize that it has been almost five years since high school already. I’m getting old.
- One thing we all miss is music. It would really be nice to hear music again. We don’t have any radio around here. The world could end, and we wouldn’t know it.
- I’ve never been so miserable and depressed. I never believed I could ever live like this. This isn’t living. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
- It’s scary to have reached such a state of mind in which the killing and death around us mean so little anymore. Even the possibility of our own death, at times seems like the only way out of this cesspool called Vietnam.
(Looking Back . . .. Those were really depressing times. The rain pounded us every day. We fought the mud constantly. It was everywhere. The wetness and dampness seemed to go right through you. You lost friends. Some to the enemy and some to the tension and frustration. You saw friends crack. The whole situation got everyone down and really played havoc with our minds. Those were rough times for everyone. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they got worse. It’s surprising that any of us made it through this period without cracking. We came very near the brink of going over.
In the accounts you have just read, you can see the disillusionment, frustration, and depression have set in. A person can’t do, see, and feel what a soldier does in war and come away unchanged. Everything is seen in a different light. Life will never be quite the same again.
We lay in a foxhole or sit on a wet sandbag in our bunker. The rain falls in torrents. The land becomes a quagmire of mud. We live, eat, and sleep in the mud. We can’t stay dry. With wetness comes misery. You never believed that life could be this way. Then on top of all the miserable living conditions, you add an enemy that’s shooting at you and trying to kill you. When mortars come in, you don’t seem to notice or mind the mud as you keep trying to press deeper into it.
Friends are wounded, maimed, and killed and everything seems so random. There is no apparent reason why one dies and one beside him lives. Life seems cruel, dirty, and unfair. War has a way of clouding and twisting the minds of otherwise sane men.
For the men who are doing the fighting and dying in a war, life looks very different from a mud-filled foxhole.