Anchorage, AK, 6 May 1969 (post card) (c) 2001

Dear Mama,

Arrived in Alaska a little ahead of schedule. Smooth flight. Will send card from Japan if possible.

Love, John

Mount McKinley in Alaska (From the post card above)

Yokota, Japan, 6 May 1969 (post card)

Dear Mama,

Daylight lasted 23 hours today due to our chasing the sun. It's been a smooth flight with some interesting sights of the tundra in Alaska and the Bearing Sea. Will write soon.

Love, John

Mount Fuji in Japan (From the post card above)
An Khe, VN, 7 May 1969

Dear Mama,

I arrived in Cam Rahn Bay about 2 AM Tuesday. Stayed There about 30 hours and then left for An Khe. An Khe is where I am now and it is hot, 90 to 110, but a breeze blows most of the time. This is a training company to train us in jungle tactics of some sort. I still don't know where I will be but it will be somewhere here close to An Khe.

I am fast running out of vitamins C and E and my supply of vitamin A will last about a month or two. Please be prepared to send some (one bottle) of 100 capsules of Setabaid mixed tocopherols plus - available at the Spokane health food store. I will send money as soon as possible. I will be making quite a bit more money over here because it is all tax free.

I don't have an address worth using yet but I will send one when I get one.

Say *HELLO* to Karen for me if I can't (no time). Write soon.

There are swimming facilities here so I hope I can find time to take a dip now and then.

Don't write to the return address on this letter - they say this is very important. If an emergency comes up, contact the Red Cross.

Will write soon,

Love John

To Cam Ranh Bay (188k JPEG)

An Khe, VN, 8 May 1969

Dear Mama,

Here is some info on sending me packages while I am here (Viet Nam).

It's been three days since I slept on a sheet and 36 hours since I've seen a bed. I hope things will get better but my duty last night (CQ Runner) from 7 PM to 7 AM was because I said I couldn't go on guard duty because I was a conscientious objector - the only one that that sergeant had ever seen.

Must write Donna, Diane and Marcia.

So long for now.

Love, John

An Khe, VN, 8 May 1969

Dear Mama,

It's nice to have free paper envelopes and postage. I don't have to arrange trips to the post office. I need another small item, a Papermate Flair pen refill. Send one in a letter when you can.

Our base got mortared 2 days ago at 2 AM. Perhaps you saw in the paper the result - many large oil tanks here at An Khe were burned. No one was killed or hurt here at the school.

I met a nice fellow whom I knew in Texas today - just came into the school. By the way, this (my) class at this school is the last one. What will be the next class will take the school apart and ship it to the coast.

I am writing this on a break between classes. Across the way there is a monkey which is doing many funny things.

How is Aleta?

Will write more soon.

Love John

An Khe, VN, 9 May 1969

Dear Mama,

We got paid today. Also got told where we will be assigned. I got; Co.D, 4th Bn, 50th (M) Infantry Div. This may not be entirely correct so don't use it. The (M) stands for Mechanized so I may not be walking.

Spread the money around on whatever is most pressing. As of June you will get a check each month for $90.00, $50.00 of this MUST go to The Bank of Troy as Payment on my loan. The rest can go for vitamins and such, also postage on packages to me and my bills ... hmmmmm ... Will send further instructions on gas co. bills. Don't pay them out of the $40.00 unless I say to. Well, anyway, put the rest where it is most needed.

File the other things in this letter somewhere so I can find them.

This money thing is a drag!

Next month (end of May) you will probably get another $100.00, $25.00 of which (or however much the gas bills are) will go to pay them (further instructions later).

Send me vitamins E and C with the extra $5.00 this month when you get an address.

WHEW, What a mixed up letter. Hope you can get the message.

I am going to buy a camera (35 mm) the first of next month. I can get a Pentax camera for about $125.00 so I think I will. Anyway, I am going to send Ted Cowin the undeveloped film. Get the slides from him (you may have to pay for the developing) and have uncle John project them so you may see what RVN looks like.

Sorry about the disjointed letter. Will do better when my life gets unkinked.

God be with you,

Love, John

An Khe, VN, ~10 May 1969

Dear Mama,

Here is my address:

Sp/4 John M. Kirkwood
E 123-45-6789
Co D 1st Bn (M) 50th INF
Headquarters 173 Airborne Brigade
APO SF 96250

I am going to try to call you today or tomorrow so this may be old news when you get it. This call will be through a Military Affiliated Radio Station and will cost about 65 cents.

Must send address to others,

Much love, John

An Khe, VN, 16 May 1969 (LZ Uplift)

Dear Mama,

I have asked again about calling on a MARS hookup but I don't know how it will come out.

I am finally at my permanent base out in the sticks. The base is strictly military with no civilian houses or PX here - However the base is quite big, maybe 500 to 800 people here, maybe more. The food is as good as any in the military in the states but you know how good that is. There are helicopters and APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) all over the place and large guns emplaced all around.

When I got here yesterday every one was sleeping in a dirt floor tent. With some help from me, we got the new barracks done enough to move into.

The barracks

is made


like this.

Since it never gets cool enough to be uncomfortable, it is all that is needed. There is a lot of red dust blowing around so if you (I) have a radio or something you have to put it in a plastic bag to keep it from getting ruined. The average maximum temperature during the day is 110 degrees F. and the average minimum temperature during the night is about 65 degrees or so.

Do write now and then so I will know what is going on over there. About calling, there is a 10 hour difference from here to you - if it is noon here it is 10 PM at home. Do also send cookies with B vitamins and lethecin because I don't get any to speak of here.

See you next letter,

God be with you.

Love, John

An Khe, VN, 21 May 1969

Dear Mama,

I have done a couple of things worth noting since I last wrote. We went to the beach at Qui Nhon (Quin Yon) Sunday and swam and such and of course I got sun burned quite badly. I put PABA on it three or four times and I don't think it is going to peel.

Today we went to Phu Cat (Foo Kat). I bought some film for my nonexistent camera, a gold cross on a necklace for Donna's graduation and a thermos to keep water cold.

The rest of this letter is going to be addresses. Put them in a safe place in case I lose my book or it gets stolen.

Love, John

PS, I sent pictures of the beach to Erin. He will give them to you if they turn out.

An Khe, VN, 22 May 1969

Dear Mama,

Got your letter today, the first one I received over here.

I will send $60.00 June first or so - please send some Plus brand mineral tablets (250) and I need some folic acid if you can find some. Don't be too discouraged if you can't find any. Adelle says it is almost impossible to get any.

The phone call situation is complicated and is still pending, so don't expect too much.

I expected my old radio to give out from the way it was sounding, but the one that Marcia gave me is still there. If it has failed also, it probably just needs a battery. To fix the piano situation, have Karen or Reggie drop over some time and work on it or should I say play on it.

Send Rick's address when he gets one.

Have Vern stop by sometime on his way home and look at the phonograph if the things I say here don't fix it.

1. Check the power cord to the turntable - it is plugged into the back of the amplifier. THE AMPLIFIER MUST BE TURNED ON TO GET JUICE TO THE TURNTABLE. To get at the back of the amplifier, pull the amplifier out - careful it's heavy - while feeding all the cords through the hole in the back of the cabinet. You will notice the two outlets in the back of the amplifier, one black and one red, one says "switched" one not. Check this out. If it is unclear what is going on, just unplug the turntable from the amplifier and pug it into the wall. NOTE: Don't set the amplifier down on its front where the controls are.

2. If the speed selector control is between two speeds, it won't work. Check it out - it should click onto a speed when pushed past.

3. Make sure you are pulling the little vertical lever lifting the arm to a position over the record and pushing the main control to start. (manual)

If all this fails call Vern.

The deposit slips are the one I wrote out and the one they wrote out for the same deposit. OK I guess. Yes, send the troy bank stuff here. If you need Vern's help, and the bill comes to more than $9.00 or $11.00, send it to me. Otherwise, I hope the $60.00 will cover it.

Do send some nourishing cookies over here - make them tough and chewy so they will stand the shipping. It's rough. I get hungry between meals when I don't eat all the cake cookies, bread, etc. they have at the mess hall and there is nothing - I repeat NOTHING worth eating at the PX.

Have the Carpathian Walnuts done anything? I hope I get a letter from someone else also.

Love, John

An Khe, VN, 28 May 1969 (LZ Uplift, in the field)

Dear Mama,

I was transferred to to field yesterday and sent on an ambush patrol the first night. We got shot at, but the main unit got all kids of things thrown at them; rockets, explosive charges (satchel charges) bullets, etc. I don't like it here and it doesn't seem right when the men all expect me to carry a weapon to protect them. The officer said " when it comes to the place where you are the last man, I expect you to pick up a weapon and shoot to kill." So this is a non-combat position ... well I'll be darned.

I have written to Brother Jolly and asked if there is anything he can do. Is there anything that you can do? Like write a congressman or something. The situation is very depressing - even the food is enough to kill one.

Speaking of food, please send or have Anne and Don send about 3 or 4 pounds of sunflower seeds and then the same amount a week later. I will have a letter back to you by that time with further instructions. I hope I can get out of this hole before too long. I don't think I could stand 6 months or a year. It isn't the grime, shooting and food so much, though it does add up, but the fact that they SAID that I would NOT be in a combat position, which I AM.

Tell Karen I pray for her and Aleta same.

The man says he wants me to dig a fox hole so I must go.

God be with you,

Love John

An Khe, VN, 28 May 1969 (LZ Uplift, in the field)

Dear Mama,

I am sure I am writing this to you by the grace of God. Today we went on a foot patrol over to the villages by the lake here. We searched through many houses finding mostly old men or women and children or small children. The cruelty and belligerence shown by our troops and the Viet Namese interpreters didn't swing any sympathy to our side.

When everything we did at that part of the place seemed to draw a blank, the Lieutenant said to move on up the trail and search out more houses (The last thing we did at the small group of houses was to burn them. I remember well because I was inside admiring the workmanship of the wood beam structure when someone ignited the house). The column started down the trail with our sergeant (Keith Janke) and a soul brother (Clarence Taylor) in the lead then five men then me. We had moved about 500 feet when a VC blew a Claymore mine. Sergeant Janke and Taylor were killed outright and 3 of the next 4 were injured seriously. I patched up the three wounded and the radio operator got in a heaven sent dustoff (helicopter ambulance) in 8 or 10 minutes. We loaded the living and then the dead sadly on the helicopter and sent them to the hospital in Qui Nhion and then on to Japan.

The wait for the tracks to come pick us up gave us lots of time to count our blessings and pray for the men. The Lt. came around and asked if I would change my mind about being a conscientious objector. I told him no but he didn't understand. When I got back to the others, someone said "Well maybe you still feel that way now but it's 100 to 1 that you won't by the end of 12 months".

Tell Anne and Don the news. Will write again soon. You please do too.

Pray for me and God be with you.

Love, John

25 February 2003;
To honor Sg. Keith Janke, I am posting this poem that he wrote in Viet Nam.
The poem came to me from Keith's brother, Roger Janke.


Homeward Bound

We all wish we were homeward bound,
But we are told to hold our ground.
We all have a big job to do.
As we the soldiers are the chosen few.
In Viet Nam we make our stand
To remove Communism from the land
We fight during the day, We fight at night
To rid the world of this plight.
We are ready to give our life
To help the world in it's strife.
Even if we have but one life to give
And we would rather live.
We sit in foxholes both night and day
And to our great GOD we pray.
Give us the strength that we may need,
To quickly accomplish this mighty deed.
Take care of us Lord we pray.
And see us through another day-
So that we may meet the test,
And rid the world of this pest.
For in the end through our courage
We will rid the world of this scourge.
And make the world a better place
To live and propagate the race.

Keith B. Janke


The following information is from the Viet Nam War Memorial web site:

IDNO: 16978890 SVC: A COMP: R
AGE: 26
CASDATE: 1969-05-28
CAS1: A1 CAS2: G CAS3: 7 BODY: --- CTRY: VS PROV: 07 LSVC: 01
BIRDATE: 1943-02-23
RACE: C REL: PB MAR: M SEX: M CIT: 1 TOURD: 680724 PANL: 23W LINE: 009 REFNO: 22432 PDATE: 6905

IDNO: 67112280 SVC: A COMP: Y
AGE: 25
CASDATE: 1969-05-28
CAS1: A1 CAS2: G CAS3: 7 BODY: --- CTRY: VS PROV: 07 LSVC: 00
BIRDATE: 1944-02-06
RACE: N REL: MT MAR: S SEX: M CIT: 1 TOURD: 690206 PANL: 23W LINE: 011 REFNO: 22430 PDATE: 6905