Cam Ranh Bay Vietnam – First Duty Station [1971]

In a war zone, –a combat zone that is, or for that matter, in a support unit that is in a war zone, there are very few flags flopping out in the wind, or for that matter, finding soldiers standing erect with dressed greens, gloriously waiting for combat around the bend [like in the movies], sorry, just squads of the military marching, trampling through the rain and mud, dodging bullets, rockets. http://www.japnudes.com/

The soldiers in Vietnam, for the most part young men, were a little frazzled in the nerves trying to figure out where they fit in, in the scheme of all things that is. Having said that, what was the objective [that is what we all asked ourselves sooner or later]: –to win, stabilize, or contain? Nothing was clear except one thing, or so I found out soon after I arrived in Vietnam, it was not to be won, that is the war, that is, won in the sense of a straight out victory.

Whatever was on the political minds of the decision makers in Washington D.C., the soldiers didn’t know, but it was not to win the war. For we all knew it was or could have been a simple task. But then we did not want to incite Russia, did we, that was our way of avoiding a nuclear confrontation I suppose; likewise, in Korea, we did not want to incite China, and face a nuclear stand off in that area, that is to say, we’d have had to use those big bombs to stop the horde of oncoming enemy soldiers. Or at least that was the way our decision makers were thinking, or so I think.

Back to Vietnam, again, I do not think it would have been a hard war to win [had we not put limitations on ourselves, and overlooked targets for the sake of getting other nations mad at us], but then you had your negative forces working against you/or us, such as Jane Fonda’s [see also Last Words] in addition to the indecisive political minds in Washington D.C., and throughout the states… that made it harder. [As in many wars, you get your wild radicals, even in the Persian Gulf II War, such as Sean Penn, and a few like him.] All wanting to arouse our emotions to go see their movies, and side with them on a protest march, but when you protest against them, they get emotional unstable, they don’t like it [like President George W. Bush, said, “…it’s a two way street…”]. And in most cases the protesters such as they are, have never seen a day of combat, but there is not lack of wisdom with them.

My way of protesting would be when I got home out of Vietnam, I would not go see their movies, although I did see one, and purchased another, but it was very hard for me to watch them. I guess big movie stars have an edge they can get on stage and can give their opinion to millions of people in a matter of minutes, someone like me, well, my only way is, or was, saying it by not supporting them in whatever way possible. Some people feel this way is not the right way to respond, but it’s the only I know, and a non-violent way I knew, and it’s a good old American style way of protesting, I know.

And from what I’ve seen of such times and events, most people couldn’t tell the difference between being assertive, which I think is healthy in protesting one’s view in war or peace, and aggressiveness, which I think is hypocritical at best. But that’s the way it always is. You go on a peace march, and create a war. To me a peace march should be peaceful and so on and so on, but we see the creation of hysteria; exactly what are they protesting, should it not be their own behavior? But that was the way I was thinking at the time.

Life in general in Vietnam [in a support group environment as I was in] had its regular duties as back home, or in Germany, you were cleaning rifles, washing socks, grabbing the warm rain and using it for a shower. The married men were trying not to feel the pain of missing wives; I got a Dear John Letter, saying, my gal from Augsburg, Germany, was no longer going to write me: –as I expected, but I did my grieving on leave in St. Paul, Minnesota, a tear, a river destroyed, or was it two rivers, whatever, I can’t remember anymore, it was too long ago. In war it is best you leave the love letters behind.

But it was over [the relationship in Augsburg], and I was glad, I didn’t want to end up doing like the other guys, —that is, you hurry up and wait for the mail bag to arrive hoping you get a letter or two, day after day you give power and control of your life to that person to decide what and when to write you, –this all plugs up your mind. You think ‘…do I go to war today, die and go to hell, or do you think I’ll make it home.’ This begs the question, who wants to live, for surely Charlie, the enemy does, and as I always said, I do, and I said I’d go home all together, or not at all, and if Charlie got in my way, we’d both go to hell together. But the married men always wanted to go home; were thinking about home. And you knew what was on their mind most of the time: especially if they were, or had been married a short time, they always seemed preoccupied. In a combat zone this can be dangerous.

I didn’t want dark foot steps to awaken me in my sleep, while in Vietnam, so with one eye open I slept all the time while in Vietnam, and if a shadow crossed my path, he would die, or wish he had.

On other occasions, some of my comrades would say,

“Why do you keep your rifle always locked and loaded…?” meaning ready to shoot, “…even when you know Charlie is up in the hills, two miles away, somewhat harmless, if only he stays there.” My response was always,

“I liked it loaded, –it makes me feel good, like I’m in control, the way I want it to be.” It would worry some of my friends, that being, afraid I’d shoot them by accident. And I suppose anything was possible.