An Khe, VN, 1 June 1969 (LZ Uplift, in the field)
I got 2 of your letters yesterday, one dated the 24th and the other postmarked the 23rd. This is for letters with airmail postage on them. For letters with surface postage, it takes 3 or 4 days longer. I also got a letter from Don T. , a graduation announcement from Donna, and a card - very nice - from Andrew Atkins.
While I am thinking about it, please look at the list of addresses I sent home and send me all the birth dates and other important dates relating to these people, that is all that you can. Donna's birth date is in my files in the envelope with her letters.
We have moved again. This time we only moved 100 yards or so, but each time we move we must dig bunkers, dig fox holes, fill sandbags, etc. However, this time we have the local boys digging bunkers and filling sand bags in trade for our extra "C" rations.
Thanks for the package, though I haven't got it yet.
You are leaving the HQ off my address; which, I am informed is good. The HQ only confuses matters.
Things now are much like camping. We haven't shot at anything except for thin air for testing and at ducks (which they should not).
Tell Aleta I am happy for her and tell Fred congratulations. I may have time to write to him. I expect you are letting Aleta and others read the letters I send. That is why I haven't written Aleta often.
The monsoons will run the temperature down and the humidity up, which I guess is better but I don't know yet.
Take a dollar or two of the $60.00 and buy a sickle.
I am sad about the dead things (trees) but at least we know that things that did make it will take most anything.
I haven't found any place in the world with more beautiful weather than home. It could be warmer more often, but no place beats it for looks.
I will be sending you the letters I receive from time to time. You may read them and then file them away.
Must write to others...God be with you.
When I last wrote I was out in the field and things weren't too good. I guess God saw that enough was enough. So, at this writing, I am on top of a 2103 foot mountain in what is called the Hawk's Nest. The view to 360 degrees is excellent and I am taking pictures of it with the Lieutenant's camera on my film. You will probably see what I am seeing in a couple of weeks. Charlie doesn't bother us up here because it is too difficult to get here (we can ONLY get here by chopper).
The accommodations are not too fancy, but the weather is comfortable because of the altitude. It rained today with us right up in the clouds which blew and flowed all around us.
Looking at the top of us here is what you see.
(Map scanned from back of letter)
I received the package in excellent condition and the plastic jar is now holding my drinking water. Thanks much for the contents - do it again sometime.
I don't know how long I will be here, as usual, at least 7 days. It is comfortable, beautiful and quiet so I don't mind a bit.
Must go now and take more pictures.
God be with you,
Borrowed picture of Cay Giep (Baldy) 1998
These next photos were taken from the Hawk's Nest on Cay Giep (Baldy).
049 Toward the Mounains
050 More Mountains
051 The Sea and the Lake
052 Looking West
053 South China Sea
054 A lot of Dead Bugs on Baldy
I have been thinking about something about the people whom I was with when they were killed, especially Sg. Janke. He and I were talking about a life after death and such just the day before he was killed. He said that he hadn't given it too much thought, but he thought that he would go to Heaven. I explained some things about the thief going to paradise and so on to the effect that paradise was here on Earth and not to be too surprised if he did not go to Heaven.
What I was wondering is; What are the chances I would be present when he is resurrected? What do you think? It would be interesting for him to wake up to a familiar face and remember what I said.
I am still on top of this mountain and will be for 4 or 5 more days. It is beautiful and cool at night and in the evening. When I am down in the rice paddies, my world seems to be about as big as a football field and the heat and dust seem to be the only things that matter, but up here, I realize how big the world is and how small the people are and how stupid war and hate are. If all the time and money that are spent fooling and feuding around were spent on constructive endeavors, Viet Nam would be a wonderful place to be and the people could enjoy the beauty and the blessings that they have.
As it is now, there are no roads and the only railroad that was ever built through this part of the north is blown to uselessness and shows no sign of being fixed. The average papa sahn, that is what all the (local) men are called, has never been beyond his house and field and the market place, at most an infrequent trip by bus to Qui Nhon on the only paved road there is (the main North-South highway).
There are no trails, roads, paths, tramways or anything to the top of this mountain. I would venture that, at most, very few people have been to the top of this mountain before we blasted the top off and put an observation post on it. The scrub forest is too thick to walk through and is 15 to 20 feet high. The Lt. says that the upper part of the mountain was napalmed and defoliated prior to the engineer's work here.
Just before I left Co. A the action for the previous 3 nights had been; on the first night a dog tripped a trip-flare (a bright ground flare that is set off by a wire stretched along the ground) and the whole platoon opened up with M-79 grenade launchers, 50 caliber machine guns, M-16 rifles and hand grenades but missed the dog entirely. The next night someone shot a dozen rounds over our heads and again the unit opened up with everything they had. The outcome: Three children wounded, one old man shot in the leg, and one very small baby killed. All of them were friendly civilians.
This brings me to another subject. Most, but fortunately not all the GIs, feel that all the Viet Namese soldiers and Viet Cong deserve to die on sight and since the farmer by day and the VC by night could be anyone you meet and since the friendly civilians don't all rush out and kill the VC and the VC sympathizers, ALL the people in South Viet Nam are Gooks (which means strange). If we manage to kill one gook by hook or crook it is "just great".
There is "officially" a Chou Hoi program going on. This is the open arms program that welcomes all VC and NVA (North Viet Army) to safety if they will only put up their arms and come to our side. However, the GI's idea is that the gook with his arms in the air yelling "Chou Hoi" is an excellent and deserving target. "Chou Hoi, hell. I'd shoot the (bleep) gook.
Going back to the old man and the children that were injured; we did send them by helicopter to the hospital after I had treated them as best I could. This won't undo the suffering and death.
Another example of the low GI opinion of the Viet Namese populace is a popular expression: "If you can't f--- it, Frag it." (frag being an abbreviation of fragmentation grenade) At least 65% of the GIs have sexual intercourse with the Viet Namese and VD is as common as breakfast.
All of this has only strengthened my low opinion of this useless war.
Fortunately, I am taking a vacation from the war and strife except for what I hear on the radio messages that we relay up here. We pass on or listen to all the communication that the Army generates in this area.
It seems that this letter has degenerated into a complaint sheet, but my feelings funnel into my pen because there is no one here who understands things as I do.
I haven't heard from Chester Lamar or Fred Singleton since the letter that you sent, but I hope to soon. I don't get mail up here often; about once every 5 or 6 days.
Tell Karen I remember her often and Aleta too.
God be with you all as He has with me.
I got 2 of your letters today; one dated the 31st of May, one the 1st of June and a letter from Don dated 1 June.
I hope that the letter that you have in hand by the time you get this made it more clear that the officer said that , but had no power to enforce it and he knew it. He didn't like it , though, and requested that I be sent somewhere else. In the army, the solution to problems which are told to the higher officers are rebounded right back to the Co. commander with a stiff reprimand for the Co. commander for not coming to him first and a complaint is not covered by Army regulations; so it must be a personal problem. Now go away and don't bother me any more.
The senators and people outside of the Army can see an injustice whether it is covered in Army regs. or not and have the power to do something about it.
I am glad things are growing as well as they are and I am especially glad that the Linden tree and the Black Walnut tree (the one on top of the hill above the house) were not hurt.
Tell Mike Allen hello for me and send his address when he gets one.
How is the water situation?
Here is my philosophy on weapons. I am not going to have anything at all to do with weapons of any sort. I don't carry amo or guns. I don't set mines or pass ammunition or anything else remotely connected with killing or wounding etc. In short, the only weapon that I will look twice at is the truth. Whatever happens to me because of this attitude is their fault, not mine because I have a right to these beliefs as part of my religion.
The fact is, as I have found, that when the officer finds out that the first fire fight doesn't scare me out of these beliefs, he will cut out that "dead wood", medic or not, and I will probably end up in the rear area.
Thanks for the mineral tablets. They came through fine.
I did notice the Folic Acid, but as Adelle said, It is a very small amount , by law.
Did you get the check?
God be with you,
I guess in the army one would call this a Sit Rep (Situation Report).
Your letter saying that you were sending a package of some sort is the last one I have gotten to date.
Things haven't changed any, that is, without warning. They said I would stay here another ten days. I wish I could get to the PX and buy a camera and some film. The change of personnel that I thought would replace me, but didn't, brought some people that I went through Jungle School with. One had a TV set, portable type, so we watched some last night. We can get 2 or 3 radio stations in armed forces English and one TV channel also in English.
Please don't give up writing to Senator Church because I am up here. I would still like to know what he thinks. I haven't heard from Bro. Jolly but possibly soon.
I said in one of the letters to you that I would number them. I have lost the sheet that I was keeping track on. I think this is number 8 or so. Enclosed is your letter, an old one, and I shall send you all my mail. The certified card is from the graduation present that I sent Donna (A small gold cross on a gold chain). Haven't had a reply yet.
God be with you.
The mail is really taking a long time! I got a letter dated May 10 from you ??!! I think you mean June 10. I got all 5 letters from you today (2 of May 27, one June 2, one June 6, and one June 10). All together, I got 13 letters and your package. This is due to the fact that they collect my letters and everybody else's till they get a pile for the Hawk's Nest then bring them up here. We had a one star general and a major up here today and I told the major about the mail situation, perhaps something will change .......................................................but I doubt it.
Good news! I will get out 4 days early because the army has to pay $65.00 combat pay if I stay the 4 days in May so they let one go early, the 29th.
Do send the front or back or middle page of the Idahonian, whichever has the local news. I get magazines and the radio has national news so the world (national) news would be stale.
About news of me or my unit in the paper or radio: Our Unit spends most of its time taking pot shots at trees that jump and calling in expensive air strikes about 15 minutes late on VC that are a mile away.
I am awaiting a letter a letter from Kathy Doyle. She sounds like a very interesting person.
I got the book. Very very beautiful! I especially liked the pictures of water on the beach where the toung of water is licking up at your feet, the one of foam floating in six inches of water and the one of fingers of froth in the breakers, very beautiful. I hope I can take pictures equal to them when I get a camera. How did the pictures of the mountains come out?
Did I get a letter from Chester Lamar at Home? If so, where is it? Did Anne mail the book to donna? Donna says she didn't get one so I am going to send her mine.
The cookies haven't arrived yet, but they should be a day or two slower.
That is bad about Don's father. I hope his diet is up to healing it properly.
About the paving: It is a good price and a good idea. If you can't see it through financially, I will.
T_A_Y_L_O_R. Do I know a Taylor? The soul brother that was killed! No I don't know his parent's address and I don't know if the Army would give it to me. At any rate, I can't get it from here.
I think Karen is being tested as I am, but I don't know what advice to give her. If it were mine to do, I would stay in Moscow as I see no duty or other reason to go to Chicago. Perhaps Della could come to Moscow or Seattle for a change of scenery and therapy. You don't loose a husband like a coin. I think that Karen would be spreading herself too thin if she went to Della and I don't see what she could do for Della anyway. As frail as Karen's situation is with other people, God, herself, it seems to me that Della would be an Albatross around Karen's neck if Karen went to Chicago. Perhaps, if Della came to Moscow, the change of pace, people and standards would do her a world of good. Even a signed contract has a 24 hour period before it is binding. NO, Chicago is no good for either of them. What do you mean by "contritely"?
Who found out that you get a smaller refund? Did they send a smaller amount or a letter saying so or what?
Did you get the $60.00 yet?
You could learn enough about a backhoe to do a lot of good for each side of the drive, I think, but one false move near the house could crush a wall.
Tell Aleta "Hi" if you can find her.
Tell Karen that I would like a letter from her, problems and all. Organizing your problems into a letter can give them much perspective. I hope that perspective would help Karen stay home, not home but where wisdom leads.
God be with ALL of you.
Much love, John
Today I got the letter from Chester Lamar and a birthday card from Don, Anne and Galen. With the mail mixed up like it is, it is nice to get a card on the proper day.
Enclosed is a poem that I wrote last night. It hasn't much to do with what went on that day, but some iteas that finally found their way onto paper.
J Kirkwood © 1960-2001
Here are sone things to add to the care package;
Every time they resupply us with water (it comes in a 600 galon rubber bladder) they have to bring it by (under) the big Chinook chopper which is capable of lifting 42,000 pounds. It is a big two rotor job that weighs a lot empty. Anyway, this chopper must hover over the place we have for the bladder to deliver it and the wind from the rotors is exciting in its power. If you stand there without clinging to something, you would be blown off the mountain. It blew the outhouse away and a tent that some fellows were using.
We had hot chow today as a result of the general's visit.
Must write Don and Anne.
God be with you.
Got your letter today and got off the hill a little ahead of schedule by cutting my hand on a steel post. The Medevac chopper came up and "dusted me off" so to speak. The cut is in the thumb side of the palm running from wrist-to- fingers direction. It is about 1 and 1/2 inches long but only about one eighth of an inch deep. Don't worry about it because it is being taken care of well (by me, if no one else) and it will probably keep me out of some bad duty. I say that because that seems to be the way God works.
I am glad you had fun and got to see Spring Valley and please dont worry about not writing untill the next day.
About being pregnant; I heard a good joke today.
Before I forget, please send me another bottle of E. These won't last long at 6 a day for the cut.
I am glad Karen came to study. By the way, what are you studying?
I think John Talbott was away and didn't come. Read Jeanette's letter.
Don't know that Walter whatshisname.
You ask what one does on the mountain besides take pictures. Answer; eat, sleep, read and write.Of course, I do odd clean-up chores on me and the bunkers.
About ados about nothing; 300,000 GIs rotate through here each year. I beleive the hoopla when I see it.
I asked in a previous letter if you got the $60.00 and I hope there is a letter on the way saying yes. But, you should have gotten it before the 15th.
I think that after you read all my mail and the ones I write to you, you should be one of the best informed mothers around. I will send you the other letters when I answer them.
God be with you all.
PS I got a letter from General Motors about schollarships today. Not nuch available. Should hear from Ford soon. Also got a letter from the company I am going to get a camera from. I am sending the order in today and may be taking pictures by 2 or 3 weeks. Also got a letter from Nan.
PPS Almost forgot (have already mailed the letters). Thanks for the cookies that got here in fine shape. The ones in the squat can are the best, the others not far behind.
Thanks for the multivitamins and sunflower seeds. Both are AOK.
(Should Mama be capitalized? Maybe all caps MAMA?)
My hand is almost completely healed and I doubt if there will be any scar at all.
I am back on the mountain, but now they have put me in a bunker by myself. It was a lot of work, but it has its advantages; quiet, no radios, I can fix it whatever way I want because it is made of wood. Here is a floor plan.
A section through the bunker looks like this.
After the clean-up and fix-up.
The rubber rain wear, drain ditches, bunk and window I put in. The first night I didn't have the drains done and it RAINED! Water was about an inch deep in one corner of the bunker. Right now it is a cozy place to live and I may even paint some.
The weather today was beautiful. There were clouds high and very high above us and a layer below us but it was clear all around so we could see out well. Sometimes we get caught in a cloud and then we can't see 20 feet.
I sent off to Hong Kong for the Pentax camera about 3 days ago I guess I told you then). Will send pics. when it comes.
Is there some vitamin A on the way? If not, I need some. I will enclose $4.00 to cover.
Some of the green is coming back to the mountain top; stumps that looked dead for good are sprouting leaves. I think I told you that the army blasted the top with napalm and defoliants before we got here about 6 months ago.
So long for now.
God be with you ALL.
Thanks for the letter of the 18th. I'm glad the $60.00 finally arrived. You should start getting the automatic monthly $90.00 on July 6th or 7th. Please let me know when it does get there and also forward $50.00 on to pay for the VW. You will probably put it all into your account and the write the Troy Bank a check for my payment.
It is the 27th here but it is the 26th where you are so you should have a boss by now. The tax angle sounds like it turned out OK.
You already know about the cookies and packages and such (thanks again for the book) but you may have to change the recipe to make them last longer once they get here - maybe castor oil or something ;-) I ate the last crumbs today. Seriously they were very good and just wierd enough to keep everyone else from eating more than one or two.
Has it rained since the 18th?
Today is very pleasant - a cool wind is blowing in from the ocean with bright sun. I did a wash and it is getting dry very rapidly. Yesterday I got finished with the bunker: 4 shelves for the amo., flares, grenades and such; 5 shelves for my stuff including medical stuff, towel racks made from amo. box latches and cord, clothes bar made from aluminum flare tube, tools hung on the wall and drains & waterproofing on the outside. I think I am ready for the monsoons when they get here.
The letter on the position of conciencious objectors from Bro. Jolly has been very helpful. When people ask why I don't cary a weapon, I show them the letter.
What do you mean by contritely? You have used it twice & it seemed out of context when I put my meaning on it. I got her (Karen) card the same day as your letters.
What did Chester have to say?
I told Karen I would send both card and letter but I think I will send the card later. I'll just look at it a while.
God be with you.
Thanks for he letter of the 18th. I'm glad the $60.00 finally arrived. You should start getting the automatic $90.00 each month on July