Phan Thiet, VN, 4 October 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,


What about the exposure on the slides? Are they all over or just some or what? Perhaps it is only at high noon they are over!? Ask John to do something. I don't want to ruin any more! I can set the exposure meter on the A.S.A of the film to get darker pictures but I can't until I know exactly what is going on exposures wise. The pictures of the water should have come out better. Perhaps the film is faster that 64A.S.A. They were shot at 1/500, F8 or 1/250, F8. I shoot normal outdoors midmorning bright sun at 1/250 F8. Is this OK. Ask John T. Perhaps the film has lost contrast from being old.

About the focus situation; if there is anything in focus in the picture, preferably an important part, it is in focus. You will find that those pics shot in dim light are the one with not much in focus. This is because of F1.4 there is a very small depth of field. At 2 feet it only amounts to about 1/2 inch. If one roll of pics is consistently out of focus and others not, it is because I loaded the film wrong. But, if only an occasional one, it is due to F1.4.

Please reply as soon as you get this so I can take corrective action. John T. will be able to help.

Much love,


P.S. There was part of one roll that should have been under (exposed). How was it?

Phan Thiet, VN, 5 October 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

I got your letter about the record player and the storm and it reminded me of some things that happened to me yesterday.

I couldn't stand what was on the radio so I turned it to a V.N. station. Myer, whose radio it is, said to change it back but that station was about the only good one so it played on. I was reading while laying on the bunk and into my reading came an excerpt from Dr. Zhivago over the V.N. station. Even though it was distorted and papery over the small radio it was the first good music. I had hear since I left home. I lay there in the heat shivering with goose bumps all over just hearing it.

Another thing that happens when I am thanking God for things, for food, shelter, safety, Donna, a promise, yes a future, without which, all else would be small and meaningless. It sends a shudder through me each time I think how important that is.

Has Erin brought the B&W prints yet? When he does there should be 2 of each. Please send me 1 of each.

I read a very interesting magazine article on traveling at the speed of light and beyond. They said that matter couldn't travel at the speed of light (could slightly slower though) but that particle of certain characteristics could travel from just faster that the speed of light to infinity. Could be how God gets around. No?

A particle like this would violate none of the laws of physics that we know of. Perhaps some day people can be changed into particles such as these and transnavigate the universe in 2 or 3 days. Take a month's vacation and visit a couple of other universes. It is very exciting even just to scratch the surface.

Awaiting that day also.

Much Love,


P.S. 2 rolls of film to send but who to send them to?

Phan Thiet, VN, 12 October 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

Lots has happened &emdash; so much I haven't had a chance to write.

4 days ago, the day before I went to Cam Rhan Bay, we, 5 medics, were down at the amo dump filling sand bags when we all heard a B-R-R-R-R-R-P and looked up to see a chopper with a lot of shredded OD aluminum falling away from the tail rotor. Andy said "That chopper is going to crash." The helicopter was a bit unsteady for about 20 or 30 seconds. And then started to spin faster and faster. It was spinning very rapidly when it slammed into the ground. I felt pretty helpless as I watched it bounce up about 5' and tilt over, catch the dirt with its rotor and tear itself to bits. Andy and I were the first to get there but there wasn't much we could do &endash; the pilot had climbed out as had the crew chief, the door gunner was thrown out or jumped (he doesn't know which) and was OK but the copilot was pinned under and inside the overturned aircraft. In 2 min. everybody and his dog was there, including Dr. Dossy, who incidentally has gone home, M.P.s, etc. They got the copilot out and found him bruised here and there and cut on the knee cap but otherwise OK. All of them (4) got on the dustoff copter and went to the hospital.

It's a wonder that no one was hurt worse, and, if the copilot isn't lucky, no one is! There was a 6 foot chunk of rotor where his head usually was in the cockpit. I took pictures of the wreckage afterwards and got one of the door gunner looking at it with a patch on his head.

The next day I flew to Cam Rhan Bay to have my finances adjusted. They have been carrying forward my pay but I have it set so that they pay my bank account, one I took out over here which pays 5% interest on a checking account.

I took some pictures that should turn out good. One of the pale sunset over brushy dunes. Another of the sea at almost dark, one of the lights of Cam Rhan.

Please DON'T send the Troy bank $50.00 the first of Nov. I will tell that that I will double a payment after Jan. SAVE the $50.00 to pay the duty on the tape recorder I am ordering from PACEX. The duty will be about $35.00 and will have to be paid at the P.O. before you or Erin can pick up the recorder. It will be there sometime in Dec. or so.

Will write more later.

God be with you,

Love John.

Phan Thiet, VN, 16 October 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

I got your letters (4) tonight and I feel like the news of home had been piling up like slush behind a slush dam. Suddenly breaking through and reality flooding into V.N. I will write some comments on the back of the pictures. I hope that's OK.

As of today, I paid the 1970 dues to the National Geo. So if any more notices come, you needn't send them over here.

The nameplate was interesting with its smear but was that intentional? If it was perhaps it would be better if it were smeared at about a 45° angle? I don't know. Don't worry at all about the little record just throw it away. I figured something might happen to a record so I had the good one sent straight to you and the cheap sample sent here. It's no loss at all &emdash; it was free.

I also have the feeling that I will be home OK. I can think of many, many times over here that people have injured or killed but I was somewhere else, thank God.

There is some flat aluminum sheet, some streamlined tubing, and one spar that I can think of. You may sell any of them and if someone wants something else specific write and ask. The streamlined tubing is worth on the order of $1.00 a foot so sell it for what it is worth. I knew that engine (Kinner 5 cylinder radial aircraft engine) was worth a lot more that what we paid for it and I was unhappy that we couldn't make a better sale.

Thanks for Ted's address.

I guess coming can get along with only one "m" but wonderful is such a good word it deserves another "l".

I will (God willing) take R&R in Tokyo in the middle of Jan. I hope to get the camera situation straightened out before that. There are rumors, but don't get your hopes up, that the unit may go back to the states in Jan. and also that those whose getting out on or after May 1 could get a 2 month drop, that is, get out early.

I believe that route means the way or path taken. In the poem I intended rout, (a defeat of the enemy) as a restatement of the victory in the line above.

I can and will buy a slide copier with which I can crop and duplicate my slides with an appropriate improvement.

I won't take pictures of people against the sky.

The trees here are a little, but just a little bit, lavender, but mostly gray brown. I am beginning to suspect the film. When I get back the film (test roll) that I sent you I will know.

I must come home through S.F. or Ft. Lewis as the army sends me.

I am well supplied with vitamin A, B, C, D, E and minerals thanks to you and the Raymond's fast service.

How is the water pipe that was leaking?

May God be with you,

Love John.

Phan Thiet, VN, 22 October 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Mama,

I got your letter yesterday that had the clippings and announcement of Don T's partial partnership.

I sent 2 more rolls of film tonight. One should have some good shots of a sunset.

Not much happening here. The days go by one by one.

Chester, as you will note, has only about 40 more days to go in the army.

Tell Erin to stay out of the ARMY if at all possible. I am sure the Air National Guard will be a better deal for him.

If you haven't sent them already, please send the B&W prints over here. I, and everyone else here, want to see what the Pentax is doing. Don't forget to send the test roll on over here also.

Sorry to hear about John T's pickup. Has he heard anything? What will his insurance do if he hears nothing? Keep me posed on what Erin is doing because I sent the tape recorded to him. John T. can take care of it if Erin can't.

What is Aleta's address?

Got a letter from Mary but it didn't say much of anything. Will send it when I answer it.

All for now.

Much Love,


Phan Thiet, VN, 22 October 69 (LZ Betty)

Dear Donna,

I love you, Donna; when things go badly here I think of what you feel for me and it gives me a lot to look forward to.

That old word love; what does it really mean? ... to me. Loving means being and doing together the little things and the important ... sensing a great sadness in injustices to the human race whether Vietnamese, Russian, Indian, or whatever; feeling great soul filling joy with truth and honesty, with sincere and honest people who will tell you a very sad thing, not to make you sad, but because it's true; knowing that we are not perfect and can and do make mistakes and, in all humility before God and others, ask forgiveness.

&emdash; forgive even as they are forgiven;

&emdash; loving with an open trusting love that asks nothing in return but accepts that love which is offered with kindness and understanding;

&emdash; crying for joy and sorrow;

&emdash; thinking about all the multitudes of gifts that God has given us; the best of which is love.


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

Dear Mama,

You say that 2 rolls that were shot with the Lt.'s camera were better. There are 2 reasons that could account for that. 1: the film was better (probably) and 2: it was late evening. After those 2 rolls I bought 10 rolls of film should have been good but I suspect they were damaged by heat and were reduced in price for that reason but there was no notice to that effect. The next 10 rolls (of which I am still using) were also reduced in price and also had no explanation except that they would be outdated in a month which should not bother the film. However, if the film had been in a hot warehouse, as there are many over here, until close to its outdated time, it would probably be damaged. I have set my camera on A.S.A 100 to compensate for the overexposure but it can't compensate for heat damage. Since all pictures, whether shot at noon or dusk, were over exposed I don't think it is the camera.

Don't worry about telling me about things that you may only suspect are wrong with the pictures. I can do something about it then. I don't even have any grounds for suspicion.

I am glad they found John T's pickup. I think you will have kept me informed on what happened to it when you get this letter.

It seems to me that there was potential vices trying to get into everyone and only Jesus kept them all out.

I have already mailed the letter to Troy and am waiting for a reply so don't worry about that. I will just double up a payment after R&R.

I have a letter here from PACEX that says your Christmas present is on its way; I also ordered a slide projector for you to use till I get back. It should be there in 30 to 45 days. When it gets there, use it and tell me how you like it. Also have John T. make a critical examination of it. If it is good enough I may get another for special effect projections. Tell you more about that when I get there.

I do appreciate your efforts toward evaluation of the pictures and I hope things got better. I may want you or Ted to send all of the film I use over here. The exposure is the main thing. If isn't right, other things don't matter. I can deal with composition when I get home. I have tried to get away from [---] type pictures. Have I?

I haven't mailed any letters out of sequence that I know of…???

All for now.

May we understand as we are understood,

Love John.

Cam Rhan, VN, 31 October 69

Dear Mama,

Yesterday, at 2:00 in the afternoon Sgt. Trotter came into the aid station and said "Kirkwood, pack everything you own and be over at S4 by 9:00. You are going to Cam Rhan Bay to be our medic liaison." So here I am at the air-conditioned USO in Cam Rhan writing to you.

I found a place to sleep at the transient barracks (first time between sheets in 6 mos. by the way) and a place to eat (better food and all you want). I also found a place for you to send my mail (c/o 39th BPO, A.P.O. S.F. 96379) it amounts to a P.O. Box where I pick it up when I can. I have my pay being sent directly to the bank where I can write checks on it so I don't need the services of any Co or something else to be attached to.

When we left Phan Thiet on the chopper they, the crew, had a couple of errands to do before going to C.R.B. I shot up a roll of film at various settings so there should be some good shots. I will wrap the film here tonight but I may not get it sent till tomorrow some time.

This whole deal of being sent to C.R.B. was a complete surprise coming amid rumblings from Sgt. Trotter that I would be sent out with A Co. again. I think the new Sgt. And Dr. had some, or a lot, to do with it.

I will stop here and write Chester to tell him I am here and not in Phan Thiet. I had invited him to come see me there.

God be with you all,

Love John.