Vietnam War

11 August, 1969

Hi Carl,

Carl, I learned a lot of things since I came over here, one is HOME is a beautiful place and most of all the parents. I called home a couple of times and I talked to my mom and father and their voices sounded nice. It made us all feel a lot better inside to hear our voices.

-- Sp.4 Carl Brauer, Co. C 86th Engineering Battalion (writing to Carl Bell)


2/4/69

Dear Betty,

I want to thank you and the cubs for making me an honorary Cub Scout. Please tell my fellow Cub Scouts I will wear the Bob Cat pin with pride and as soon as I do a good deed I will wear it right side up.

God Bless,

Joey

P.S. Being a nut about chocolate cake is bad but when it has chocolate frosting, LOOK OUT!

2/17/69

Dear Betty,

In your letter, Betty, you mentioned to tell you what I really want for Easter. I think I can speak for everyone here. Next month the rainy season starts. That means we will all need something to put our cameras in, paper ID, pictures, etc. I think they call them “baggies” plastic or cellophane bags that hold things inside and is watertight. Actually, this is all anyone needs. One box can supply a platoon—two bags per man. Its hard to believe but when you come in from the field and go into your pocket for your girl’s picture (those who have one) its pretty demoralizing to see your girl all wet and cracked and can hardly make out what she looks like.

4/16/69

Dear Betty,

You certainly can read between the lines. One more incident and I would have probably cracked and come close to breaking. There are so many things, Betty. The company is brand new, they haven't learned to stick together, they don’t seem to care about anyone. The old company and especially the Third Herd lived as a close company, fought the same and just was completely different—the last two weeks I realized that our family is no longer a family, just a bunch of people who think this war is just a game.

4/28/69

Everyone knows unity is strength but there are too many kids in Vietnam. They’re too lazy and don’t want to work for that unity. Its beyond my help and sorry to say but also beyond John Sperry’s help. What we need is a miracle and a few dozen courts martial. I’ll have to drop the subject before I get nasty.

6/16/69

Just got word that we are supposed to leave or at least be on the plane back to the states July 5th. I will let you know for sure when I find out for sure.
I will have to go back into the field. I’m so shaking that I feel like I’m going to crack. Our last operation is supposed to be the 26th of this month. I’ll have to get used to it all over again. I cant write that, I’m so tense. I can hardly hold the pen. I hope God’s still with me. I cant make it alone.

6/25/69

Might as well get down to the nitty gritty. The dreams I have are not dreams, they are nightmares. I am not concerned or embarrassed about them. Its just that if I’m having these dreams and someone tries to wake me, they’ll have a fat lip or broken jaw. If no one wakes me, I’ll just get up all of a sudden with an urge to strike, shaking like a leaf and in a cold sweat. They have eased up and come less frequent. Think I’m getting nuts. Ha ha. Well, another little secret no one knows but you.
(unsure of date and the punctuation and spacing below is largely my own)
Please God…

Oh God, why is it that when we want to be good and share love, we are forced to be hard and cold to survive? There comes a time when you want to cry because you realize what you have and what you left and what is there.
But there is always something, isn't there God? To spoil it all. To take away those tears of joy that you were never able to shed and instead there are tears of sorrow on our loved ones’ part. We could never shed tears of sorrow. We have forgotten how. Instead, our minds become warped and our hearts heavy and our souls full of hate.
One short year in 21 years we have changed.
Please, God, stay with me, help me never to forget that you are here with me—that there is always a chance—always hope and somehow, Dear Lord, to overcome the things that oppress us and the changes that have taken place. Never let me forget, God, and never let me go through this again.

I want my life. I want to live no matter what I must face. Where there is life, God, there is hope and a chance for things to get better. If things are that bad where you do not want to live—do not have life, things cant get worse. They could only get better with time. Give me the time and my life, God. Give me the chance and stay with me. That’s all I ask. It’s a big request. But when you realize what the meaning of this request is, it can only mean it is sacred and everyone deserves that chance. Please bring me home alive.
I am sick at what I see and I am scared.
Give me the courage and confidence needed to make it, God. You understand—I don’t have to go on and on. You know what I am on the inside,

And God, if I have to die at such a young age, let me die in my country. Please bring me home alive and watch over me.
Thank you, God, for everything you have done and for making my chances look good. And I know if I keep my escaping faith, I will make it.

Please, God, please,

Sgt. Joe Cardone
Mekong Delta, South Vietnam 1968-69


-- Pfc. Joe Cardone from Bronx, writing to Betty Bell, 20 years old, 5 feet 7”, 130 lbs, curly hair, worked NYSE as a senior gateman before army, Co. B 3/60 9th Infantry Divi.


January 9, 1969

Dear Betty,

My wife doesn’t know anything about what I am trying to do for the boys here. I don’t exactly know why I do not tell her but I just don’t. I do not tell her very much that happens over here. When I go home, I shall forget everything but my boys.

-- Sgt. John Sperry, writing to Betty Bell

25 April 1969

Why have I been in Vietnam so long? That’s a hard question to answer. Many reasons wrapped up in a lot of little ones. Maybe your reason isn't so selfish. I’m a parent myself. My little girl will be one year in May the 1st. She lives with my ex-wife and her parents in North Carolina. That’s one of my reasons for extending again.

I hope by the time your son will be old enough to be qualified for the armed forces, this will all be a thing of the past. But then there will always be some other unrest over in Korea or somewhere. There always has and most likely will.

That’s the hardest thing to understand for a 17, 18, 19 year old kid over here believe me. I know Ray (Reardon from Chicago) is a good example. He has no more business being in the army than the man in the moon shall we say.

He’s still just a baby in more ways than one. Ray is sorta my favorite. He was just a RTO with one of the line companies when I first seen him. I had just got out of the hospital and they gave this LVO team to me until my leg healed. He had been sent back to be a skin infection taken care of. Ray’s just like he sounds, a frail, shy kid. He’s a good RTO—a little high strung and emotional but not the type to be out on the line getting shot at. I’ve put a lot of time, work and patience in that boy. Soon he’ll be out and it will be over. I’ve had to work my tail off to get him almost everything. I have but he’s well worth it. He’s hard to handle at times and for a quick tempered person like myself that’s not easy. But then again what is in this world?

Sorry I got carried away there for a while. You’ve got quite a family—7 house apes as my mother would say. It will be quite a while before I take that step again. 2 years was too short of a marriage. Maybe its just my generation but this war is a little different when it comes to wives and sweethearts etc. war and love just don’t mix like they used to.

14 October 1969

This war’s sorta hard to take for a lot of kids it’s a real mixed up one. But the majority of the kids who are involved and have seen action know what’s going on. Like you said, people are getting harder and harder to give a hoot. People don’t really take the time to understand what is actually going on over here. But believe me if they could spend one day where its rough over here they would never forget it. Especially when they see 18 year old kids do that job that everyone else is so damned scared to do.

That’s why when you have spent your time over here not in the rear but up on the line you, if you’re still alive, appreciate so much more when you know you not only spent your time but you did your job. Then when someone let’s you know they care that you’re not risking your life just cause you have nothing to do better with it.

But you’re defending the way of life that was given to you! Now someone asks for you to make a little payment on it. For some, it’s the complete payment they can give. 40,000 have paid that price. They are even paying it for that jerk back home in the states so he can carry his sign and burn his draft card.

-- Sgt. Dusty Behrman, on 3rd tour, now with LVO or LNO team HDQ Co. 1st of the 503rd Inf.

March 18, 1972

Mrs. Bell,

I received your card today. You seem to have a special talent for dropping in at the right time. I had all but given up all hopes of getting any mail when just in time your card was right there to save the day.
I don’t think I told you in my last letter that I found out (the Philippine girl) that I was going to marry has gotten married and is now in the States. And that she left our baby in the Philippines with her mother. If you knew how much I loved that woman then and only then would you know how much it hurt me to fine (sic) out these things.

There has been a lot of change in me since I returned from my leave. I have taken a new look at the world and I don’t like what I see. And I fine myself trying to get as far away from it as I can. There is only one good thing. I have not started using drugs or alcohol as a means of my escape, thank god.

But I do fine myself not really caring about anything any more. When I got there (the P.I.) and found out all these things I found myself doing things I never would have done before. I spented $800 and I don’t know where or on what.
The thing is I realize what my problem is but I don’t know what or how to do something about it. I guess you don’t want to hear any more about my problems. So here is good luck to you and yours. Take care. Yours, CW. PS Write soon. I would like to hear any advice you have. I am a good listener.

-- Charles W. Bell (writing to the Bell family in Greece)The previous letters are from a collection of letters sent to Bob and Betty Bell who lived at 174 California Drive, Greece. Donated 580 letters from servicemen all over Vietnam.

Sat. Jan. 31, 1970

Love Grandma very much,

………I suppose I should get a little transistor radio. I always seem to miss the early morning newscast which the other officers report at the breakfast table. Big item of last night: somebody planted a bomb in the ladies john in a movie theater next to the REX Hotel BOQ…….which did some damage to that building…..and get this: two MEN apparently were blown out of that john! Figure that out! I wonder how it was reported in the stateside papers?!

Monday afternoon 1500 2 Feb. 1970

An American doctor with USAID invited us for lunch today aboard a floating Chinese restaurant way downtown on the river. Has been bombed about 3 times already, they say. Recall Cecil saying that the usual VC practice is to set off ONE detonation—when everyone scurries ashore to see what’s happening, they set off the “real” one for full effect. But anyways, the weather was really nice, slight breeze on the river and food very good.

-- from 300 letters donated to U of R by alum Frederick W. Meyer, Jr., Capt. In USN, lived in 1980 at 5217 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA. 804-464-9406. Was Deputy Command Surgeon in 1970 on staff of Gen. Abrams. Referred to wife as Grandma


Monday, July 12, 1971
Well, the VC have been moving a little closer these past few days. They blew up a bridge about a mile down the road and I tell you they did a mighty fine job on it too. There been some heavy fighting up the river a little ways too with casualties on both sides.

-- radioman Joe Almeter


March 5, 1971

I’ve been on land and in a few firefights with Charlie and I’ve seen his handywork. It isn't pretty. I don’t really agree with war but I’m glad its there than home. Knowing you people care helps 1000%.

June 10, 1971

My favorite division officer wanted to know today why I was tired when I got up at 0530 for quarters.
I was told he was to be part of our landing force party. I’m already a member. If I have my way this 20 year old hoot of an ensign wont make it back off our first patrol. I’m not going to do it because I know I could never shoot anyone in the back but he made me so mad I felt like throwing him overboard.

Ron Bottoni

October 1, 1971

Hi, Well, here we are in Sunny Da Nang. Not really, we left yesterday. Today we are 20 miles SE of DMZ and 2-4 miles out. Firing at Charlie. One round yesterday and one today cost you lovely people $310,000. Isn't that nice. I earned me $220 more next pay day.
We got a few sayings we picked up over here such as
Withdrawal was something Nixon’s father should have done 58 years ago
Or
Fighting for Freedom in Vietnam is like having Intercourse for Virginity
We are a tired and bitter crew. I’d hate to be the guys ashore. I don’t think I could take it. I got 6 hours sleep in two days. We stand 6 and 6 and have to work the 6 we’re off. Great isn’t it? 6 and carry on.
Sit down. I got married. Now you’ve flipped, right? Well, not really married. Just common law. It cost 50p (less $10) and it saves time and money of buying her out every night. She’s kinda cute. She’s part Indian, American style. You think you’re bad (Bell’s had 8 kids). One guy got this gal who had 14 yes 14 kids. He took her out. So there’s always hope.
Well, I’m on watch so I guess I’d better watch. Something anyway.

Always, Ron

-- Ron Bottoni (USN aboard the USS Goldsborough)


March 6, 1971

Dear “Mom” and Crew
Last night the artillery caught approximately 90-100 VC guerillas in an open rice paddy and dropped 12-149# projectiles in their lap. We don’t know the results yet and when we do, I’ll let you know!

We’re going on a night ambush and boy do those things get hairy at times! You never know if you’ll get contact and then if you do you don’t know how large an enemy force you’ve got till you step on your head.

March 4, 1971

Dear “Mom” and Crew,

Yesterday, we medivac’d a pair of young girls for multiple fragmentation wounds of the body. One of them was hit in the legs, abdomen, arms and feet! She was 19. The other girl was about 12 years old and had frag wounds in the head, neck, chest, and abdomen. We got them out of here alive but found out today the younger one died on the operating table. All of us on the team (MAT 56) prayed for her but I guess it was her time. I feel bad because I couldn’t do anything to help her.
The wounds were from a booby trap.

We found a boobytrap constructed from a mortar tonight. The Lt. And I dismantled the trap and found a grenade attached so we blew it up in place! Another inch of movement and I would have gone home in a box or on a stretcher in very bad shape I think.
You know sometimes its rather ironic that I can say things to you that I couldn’t ever say to my friends and sometimes my wife……….I’ve always kept things bottled up inside and you are the first person I don’t know, never met, know very little about that I can write freely and feel well relieved.

I guess I just feel kinda homesick and rather alone at times. I already wrote my wife and told her all was well and I’m sorry if I’m crying on your shoulder but I just feel so frustrated about the whole mess at times. Just this war seems so futile at times, when children are the hapless, hopeless victims of war.

Good night, sweet dreams and may God bless you all.

Love always,
John

June 20, 1971

Dear Mom,

Well, actually there has been some problems over here. I made a mistake or two and got reduced to the rank of Sergeant E5, fined $150 and am about to be released from the service. The discharge was asked for by a psychologist at the hospital after I had sort of a nervous breakdown…….in 21-60 days I will be given a general discharge under honorable conditions and allowed to live with less tension.
At present, I am taking 300 mgs of tranquilizer a day to keep from going bananas. At this time I am looking forward to my release and I don’t know what kind of job I will look for as yet.

Maybe, mom, its for the better as the Army is getting to be a complete farce at this time. I guess after my stint on a nut ward for a week and talking out my frustrations with a psychiatrist and a psychologist, a whole lot of tests, it appears I need help. I sort of through (sic) in the towel and I quit. All I want now is OUT!!!!

June 2, 1971

I hate this way of expressing myself but I am beginning to hate a militant way of life! All I want to do is settle down to a halfway decent job, raise my family and be a decent proud American. If I ever put on a uniform again it will be in a total war. Love always, John
(got f-d up on Vietnamese “White Lightning”, twice impersonated an officer, incidents he didn’t remember, was in a “fugue like” state for a week on a “nut ward”, was told he had a schizoid personality with a paranoid manifestation, not adaptable to military servitude)

-- John Capano (writing to the Bell family. Was on Mobile Advisory Team in Mekong Delta, on 4th tour of duty. Born 11/24/45, stood 6’5’, raised in Illinois, entered army 21st of January 1963 after quitting high school, served in Korea 1963-64, Thailand 64-65, married to Linda, son John Jr., hobbies: art and commercial art and industrial engineering, called Galveston, Texas home then)

Friday afternoon 1610 6 March, 1970

We went over to their main military hospital opposite Cue Quan y—“Cong Hoa” hospital. Again, may I say “don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Vietnamese haven’t suffered in defense of their country. Several times, tears came to my eyes as I went through the paraplegic ward, the amputee ward, etc. I stopped by many beds to chat with the aid of some interpreter---what’s the problem? How long you been here? Where you from? Etc. By their standards, it is about the best they could expect to do—and not bad by our standards either—quiet, clean, ventilate, some TV sets here and there, etc. Used to be French, of course. They all seemed to respond to my interest, no matter how bad off—a cheerful word, a good luck sign (thumbs up), a salute, sign language. One of these days, I’ll drag a newsman through and see what they say then! If I can get them out of the bars in their hotels (my suspicion).

29 November 1970

I’m literally risking my neck out here in Vietnam because I believe in Freedom—and they’re too damn many people back home NOT worth risking my neck for!

-- Capt. Frederick Meyer

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