Phan Thiet, VN, 1 September 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

It seems like a couple of months since I last wrote but it has only been 4 days.

We have arrived safely here at Phan Thiet and have been ushered to our new lodgings - a grassy sand lot - really! The only things here were grass and sand. We now have tents and permanent type quarters on the way. I have 3 rolls of film to send tomorrow or so. They will explain what was exciting on the trip. I just decided that there was no time like to present to take pictures and took some of anything that looked interesting, water, sky, ship, people, jeep, hatchway, water, unloading, loading, lifting, water, etc. I will take some of our tent city tomorrow. I will write more when the work isn't so pressing.

I am in good health but hot and dirty until the evening shower (they just got it up today). I am writing by the electric lights we got up today.

Take care. God be with you.

He is with me, I can feel it.

Love, John.

Phan Thiet, VN, 2 September 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

Please send the books. If I stay here which it seems I may they won't be in danger of damage.

It rains a little each day but it comes in spurts and bursts so one can avoid getting wet usually. The temps is in the 60s at night but it may reach 90 in the day where the sun is out.

About the drain (if you haven't already got it fixed) that is a faulty brass pipe and I think if you take it to the plumbers where we got it they will replace it. John T can take it out without much fuss.

The enclosed drawings are paper thoughts that I want to save. Look at them if you want and put them where I can find them.

I don't know about the shutoff. Perhaps it needs tightening.

I have been feeling rather low for a few days. I only got one letter in the last week. That's not counting yours today.

Take care and don't let your problems get the best of you.

God be with you,

Love, John.

Phan Thiet, VN, 7 September 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

In answer to your questions; it was Tony's address on the letter but so far I haven't received any reply from that address either. The fellow in Seattle who's girl ran off is the one I met at the info. desk in Seattle when I was looking for Eric's house. I knew his address but I didn't know where that was.

Tell Mr. Byrd hello form me and thanks for his thoughts.

Erin should be getting 5 rolls of film that I took on the trip soon. The ones of the jeep with Andy that look like he is coming off the ramp are really him backing on. I was on the jeep when we came off the ship so I have no pics.

What aircraft parts are you referring to? Some I will sell and some I won't.

How did you like the slides?

I am enclosing a letter from form former Lt. Forbes. I met him at Ft. Lewis and gave a Divine Plan.

I went swimming in the sea yesterday and took pictures of the beach. Lots of fun. I am going in a few days to the forward T.O.C. (?) area, a place where the high officers stay. It should be good but I don't know. We have the bunkers done and tent up so there is more time to write and such.

Andy (the fellow in the jeep) is a nice fellow to know. He doesn't drink or smoke or carry on like the others. I was going to go up to the aid station and write some letters but when I got there Andy was feeling very glum. I quoted a lot of scripture and when I left at 10:30 he was feeling much better.

Where in the bible does it say how old Christ was when he started preaching? When he ended it?

Must go.

God be with you,

Love John.

Phan Thiet, VN, 14 September 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

There really isn't much to report today but I thought you would like a letter.

Thanks for sending those maps and such. I will return them one at a time with something on them. They arrived 20 postage due, but no sweat. If it arrived $5.00 due no one would collect.

We finished the wood floor in our tent today, the aid station yesterday. The aid station is still in a tent but it has a wood frame and walls.

I sent Donna the card and your letter. I hope your instructions in the letter will get the card to you. I did put a stamp on it (my last one).

Kathy sent me a nice long letter and some excerpts from old Watch Towers. The letter and the old letters were wonderful.

Sgt. Trotter is a pain in the neck! Fortunately he leaves in 82 days. Sgt. Trotter's only aim here is to climb every one else for rank and then flaunt it around as if might (rank) makes right (or intelligence).

Andy (Sp/4 Anderson) left 7 days ago for 3 days R&R and just yesterday got a flight to R&R center. My 7 day R&R may take some longer than 7 days.

I hope that you have the rolls of film (or rather Erin) by now that I took on the trip down here. I sent them airmail in a box (5 rolls).

Not much else here worth mentioning &emdash;

God be with you,

Love John.

Phan Thiet, VN, 15 September 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

About the composition that you wrote about: I assume you are referring to the slides. With the 50 mm lens that I now have it is difficult if not at times impossible to exclude a lot of stuff that a longer lens would exclude. It works like this.


As you can see, as the focal length of the lens gets longer you can get a close-up without trampling the subject to death. All these simulated pictures were taken from the same place. If you had come close enough to take the same pics, you would have frightened the horse. Also, when you get close with a short (50 mm) lens, distortion sets in and close things look bigger that they should. The Takumar zoom 70mm to 150 mm will solve a lot of problems. I will get this lens sooner or later. One can set the focus for where one stands, then select the composition with a twist of the lens ring without taking a step.


I have sent a roll of film with some special shots on it home. Please have it developed and send all of the slides back to me as soon as possible. Include a note as to which one you like best for exposure and which one comes closest to those that you have that are overexposed. I can't believe that all of the pictures I have sent are overexposed when you said that some were dark and some were too dark. What gives? I forgot to write on 2 pictures the F stop. The one at ASA 100 is between F8 and F11 and the one at ASA 64 is at F8.

We, the children and I, were having fun romping and acting funny and there were scores of possible pictures that were more natural but every time I would raise the camera to my eye to focus they would start clowning. I shot one from the hip and some of all the kids on the porch and one of the older fellow. How did they come out. Were any of the trip pictures as dark as is best. If I have over exposed more than 300 pictures I am going to be very unhappy especially since I asked and asked how the exposure was and always the answer was nice or some other not too definite answer. Also, I couldn't tell the children word one about how I wanted them to act.

Incidentally, what is the word on the Pentax contest. I may want to enter before its too late.

Has Donna met Kathy?

I may sound a bit upset, I am, but I think with reason. Thanks for the advice but I don't know what to do with it until I know what is going on. When you send the test roll back I will know.

I guess this wraps it up for now.

God be with you,

Love John.

Phan Thiet, VN, 17 September 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

About pictures: they should break down into 5 groups of equal percentages. 20% excellent pictures of outstanding color, composition, and content; 20% textures, beautiful in color and feel, like the chinks of metal (which were replacement tracks for an armored personnel carrier), but just textures; 20% fairly good shots to show V.N.; 20% not-so-good pictures of the same kind; 20% duds. Many of the no-so-good pictures are due to unavoidable causes. Many times I could have improved the composition if I had gone here or there but here or there was outside the barbwire in a mined area in most of the pictures (the 4 boxes). I had to work hard to keep barbwire out of the frame and in all cases I was restricted to the pavement and the shoulders of the road a few other areas (this is for those pictures taken on or around the bridges).

When I learn the camera better and can control the situation better, the last 2 percentages should decrease, ultimately to 0. How did the close-up of granite chunks come out. I am trying to keep the slides on the dense side so they will look good in a bright projector. Am I? Please send them direct. I will mail a letter to Erin at the same time so he will know when Ted gets a can of film. The pic of blondes in pink undershirts was to show the enlightening kind of entertainment we get here. They sang some no-so-great songs with 3 men (traveling entertainers) but the program wasn't photogenic. How was the shot of the spectator at the show? When I get a long lens the small people big foreground situation will clear up right away. With the lens I now have I have to be right on top of the subject before it fills the frame. The red lights aren't lights. They are tracer bullets from a 30-caliber machine-gun.

What do the blue machines look like they could do? What do they look like? Are they bright blue? I don't remember blue machines. I just got some ideas of what the big blue machines are. Were the pictures good? The machines are part of a diesel electric plant at Phu Cat. Others on the same roll were of the air base and surround area taken from a high tower (hence no foreground again) the shots of the power plant were shot at one half sec. or 1 sec. held against a post. How were they?

The little dog is a mascot but there are many dogs here (8 or 10 in our area now). The cross was at a different (I think) memorial service &emdash; brought by the Chaplain. The V.N. people (soldiers and family) offered the green pod for me to eat. It looked like a better subject for photograph. I took its picture and gave it back.

Are there any pics like [PIC] or [PIC] or [PIC] or [PIC] or [PIC] or other mechanical goofs?

I am sad about Audrey Knight's boy.

I am trying to call you again. There is a MARS station here but I have to call when it is day here to make it night there. I can't get away often in the day. I may call you on a weekend when it is night here and day there but don't get your hopes up. Things like this have a way of falling through.

We get all the world radio news and papers and Time etc. but I haven't seen a National Geographic for a long time. I have been noting the world situation and I wonder if I will get back to the U.S. before Israel goes to war again, possibly for the last time.

I bought your Christmas present today; you will get it in 6 to 8 weeks so don't open till Christmas. It will be send directly to you from PACEX, not from here.

As you might well guess, I got your letter of the 10th. Thanks for the description and help.

God be with you,

Love John.

P.S. What do you think of V.N. so far?

Phan Thiet, VN, 28 September 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

When you get this I will only have 6 mos. And days left over here. I will be so glad to go &endash; so glad to get back to Donna. What are your thoughts on Donna? Enclosed is the poem I sent to her in reply to the first of the 2 letters I sent you.

Have you seen any more pictures? Did the pics of the trip get there?

What were you doing when I called? Have you gotten a package that looks like a record? If so, it is. Open it up and listen and tell me if you like what you hear! You should get some other odd packages and stuff which you may open but keep track of them.

What do you do with the $40.00 each mo.?

Has anyone done anything on the house?

Things here kind of lurch on from day to day. I do light repairs on the jeeps and fill a few sandbags each day. Every other afternoon we are off to do what we like. I've been to the beach twice but it isn't much. The biggest waves I've seen in Vietnam was about 20 inches high. It's a dull sea.

Your Christmas present is in a fairly large box coming in the mail to you &emdash; don't open until Christmas it will come from PACEX. Anything else you should open to see if it is okay.

Send me a letter with questions. I can't think of anything to write.

God be with you,

Love John.