IT'S REALLY A WAR OUT THERE: FINALLY!
CU-Chi, Thursday, March 27, 6:30 pm:
I got another letter today so it was a good day, slow, but good.
I got hold of a Polaroid camera for a few minutes today and took some pictures for you. My other ones won't be back till next Wed. or so.
It was a real hot, humid day today and I must have lost 10 lbs of water. I missed breakfast this morning because I was counting my money and couldn’t take time to eat. Lunch was spaghetti and it was pretty good but when I got down to the peach cobbler there was a roach in the crust, which I just picked out and kept on eating. But when the guy across from me found a little worm in his I gave it up. I’ve been sustaining myself on your cookies the rest of the day. They’re the only things that are guaranteed not to have bugs. And besides that, they taste fantastic.
Tonight's M.I.A. so I can't go to the movie that is unless "Thoroughly Modern Millie” is playing. I still don't know what to talk about Sunday in church but I'll think of something before then.
I guess the pictures will have to take the place of words tonight because I just don't have much to say.
Take care and don't let anyone but Dada throw little Jonette around. She's too precious to have hurt by someone else. I just wish I could whistle in writing so she would smile for you.
p.s. I'll send that china off the first of the week for Larry and Barbara so don't worry about giving them anything.
Cu-Chi, Friday, March 28, l0:30 pm:
I just got back from the movie. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" was really good and now Laugh-in is on TV here in the hootch. I move into my barber hootch tomorrow because the other barber goes home in the morning. He's really getting jumpy his last few hours worrying that Charlie is going to hit tonight. I won't lose any sleep waiting since it at least would be exciting. I had something exciting to write you but I forgot what it was.
Thanks for the pictures. Seeing Jonette smile really made me sad that I'm not home. And that toe shot! It's clear you're becoming a professional. Keep those photos coming. They mean a lot to me.
Ah yes, I remember what it was that was important. Could you send me my barber box, full of my stuff. Just wrap the box and send it to me. There's some clipper oil in the box or you can also buy it at Sears, Thrifty or lots of other places.
I went out looking for some of my home teaching people tonight and walked all over this place. It's pretty big.
There was a lot of action today. A convoy on the way to Tay-Ninh got ambushed and killed 70 VC before they finished. I don't know how many of our men got it but it couldn't have been too bad. There were 3 or 4 other firefights going on at the same time in our area. There are supposed to be 60,000 NVA and VC troops in our area and 7,000 around Cu-Chi. But they can be around all they want as long as they mind their own business.
Cu-Chi, Saturday, March 29, 10,00 pm:
Hurrah! Today was exciting so I have something to write about.
This morning at 0600 I was lying on my bed trying to get another hours sleep before I got up. I wasn't really asleep because someone had just turned on their radio and the six o'clock news was coming on when all of a sudden -CRASH! BOOM! KERTHUNK! POW!
All hell broke loose. As soon as the first round had hit I rolled instinctively to the floor below the sandbag level to seek protection. The rounds (l07mm rockets) came in so fast and close I didn't dare run to the bunker for fear of getting hit on the way. So I stayed crouched near the door at the foot of my bed, waiting for a pause between volleys. When I was sure the rounds had quit I dashed over to and climbed down into the bunker where I stayed for maybe a minute.
The initial volley was all we got and that could have been from 11-25 rounds depending on who you believe. However, I do know that within 100 meters in any direction of my bed, about four rounds hit. I even have the fragments of one that hit nearby. It looks like a half peeled steel banana. Anyway I got all excited and my whole day went fast even though I was slow at the shop.
We had four light casualties from guys running to the bunkers during the barrage and one from a guy crawling (he hurt his knee on the rocks). So that makes me a full-fledged veteran now that I've survived my first rocket attack.
There're 60,000 troops headed for Saigon and we're in their way, so they stop and pay their respects before they leave. This division has really been busy the past few days and weeks. The gooks are massing for an attack on Saigon here in the Michelin rubber plantation and Hobo woods near Tay-Ninh and Dau-Tieng. All the action west to northwest of Saigon is ours. Things should pick up and we expect another rocket attack tonight.
That all happened at 6:00 o'clock and at 7:00 am the old barber said his good-bys and left. So I am now in charge of my own hootch. At 8:00 am I opened for business, at 9:00 am my girl Lan Ngan came to clean up for me. I took everything out of the little sleeping part and cleaned it real good. I plan to rebuild it tomorrow if I get the chance.
At noon I went to the PX snack bar for lunch because breakfast at the mess hall gave me the GI's. Afterward, I spent $35 on stuff, including some perma press slacks and shirt to wear to church, a plastic floor mat and other small items for the barbershop and me. It was fun spending money but I hate to see it go I'm making so much. I sure am cleaning up the money. $13.30 today for a total of $153.70 for two weeks. Of course I don't have that much anymore but that's $153.70 I would never have made in the field. And with the prospect of eight and a half more months ahead - we ought to get out of debt completely. The most I can send home without raising suspicion is ~ a month. So next month I'll send you it and spend the rest. Sounds fair doesn't it? I'll even send home my combat pay, since I don't need it anyway.
Money is the least of my worries here. I only worry about my honey back home and how much I miss her and her children. My talk tomorrow is on Job, not good but interesting.
I have a rifle now and I'm terribly anxious to shoot somebody, preferably a gook!
One of the guys is going to get me an AK 47 tomorrow, I hope. Then I have to figure a way to get it home.
p.s. Keep those pictures coming, you big beautiful photog you.
p.s.s. How about one or two with you in it?
P.s.s.s. Pix sends his love.
Cu-Chi, Sunday, March 30, 9:00 pm:
Wow! Another exciting and fun filled day here in the war capital of the world. No, we didn't get rocketed or mortared or anything like that, it was just a groovy day.
First of all I got up early and ate breakfast and then worked an $8.00 half day, getting off at noon. I took a shower and put on my new civvies! Ta da! A new pair of scotch plaid slacks and an arrow taper shirt! Man, I was groovy looking, I tell you. And to top it off I had a new pair of thongs to go with my pants and shirt. I was really living - big time!
So I cruised on over to church and gave my talk on Job and his difficulties, which made mine seem minor. Then after church I came back and tore the back end off my bedroom so I can extend it out a foot further. Well I just got it tore apart and went out and reconnoitered some wood to build it with, came back and ate (corned beef and cherry pie -with bugs) and was going to start back to work on my hootch when a LRRP (Lurp) or should I say a former LRRP came by and asked me if I wanted to tour the bunker line and look at the perimeter. Of course I did, so I grabbed my rifle and went. I was amazed at how close the trees and jungle come to the edge of this place. There's no more than ~ meters between the tree line and some of the bunkers and all that's in between is five rows of barbed wire. I'm sure glad I'm exempt from bunker guard. I'll take some pictures and send you as soon as they get any film (color prints) in the stupid PX.
As we toured around he showed me the different spots that Charlie broke in because the guards were sleeping and where the choppers were blown up, among various other points of interest. I saw some water buffalo out by some pond and Vietnamese working in the fields, etc. It was very interesting just looking around since I haven't been anywhere since I got here.
Anyway, back to the excitement. My LRRP friend was taking me over to look at an APC that had been hit by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) and machine gun fire, when we stopped at the helicopter pad to look at a helicopter with one of the new mini-guns on it. As we were there visiting with some of his LRRP buddies, a LRRP patrol came in and landed. They had gone out this morning and ambushed two gooks that turned out to be NVA soldiers. They took their wallets and I watched as they went through them. One had a picture of his wife and some letter of commendation for bravery against US soldiers and an NVA ID card that put his age -at 18-19. The other wallet was all bloody but contained lots of North Vietnam stamps and some North Vietnamese money with Ho Chi Minh's picture on it, plus some other little junk items like you find in any man's wallet. It was interesting just to watch and all the time I wanted to grab something and send it to you for a souvenir for my scrapbook. They got some Chi-com (Chinese Communist) grenades and some other junk that they carried. One guy even cut off an ear and had it on a string around his neck. It was a little ear and I felt it to make sure it was real, it was, still soft even. Then we went to the LRRP club and had another Coke and listened as they told how they killed the gooks.
After that I had to come home and put some screen up on my back wall to keep the mosquitoes out for the night. I did that, took a shower and then sat down to read my mail. Two letters from you and one from Jonette. The two you sent regular mail were postmarked March 24th and the Airmail, March 26th. So Airmail does come faster, at least it did this time.
The reason my letters take so song I explained in a letter on it's way, but here goes again. This letter that I write tonight is picked up tomorrow afternoon and will leave Cu-Chi Tuesday morning for Bien-Hoa where it waits another day to go. So three and a half days are spent before it ever leaves the country. But don't worry, I write every night so you should get a letter every day, and two on Mondays.
So another chapter comes to a close in the life and loves of Sgt Jake, hero of Cu-Chi, barber to the commanding General, nice guy and all that other garbage. As I lay here on my bed, under which I put a board to save my back, with just the screen between me and the stars, I dream of the past and long for the future when we can lie together in bed and call this year a bad dream. Someday, God willing, we'll do just that.
p.s. The guns are booming in the distance and the crickets are trying to drown them out. We'll see who wins.
p.s.s. I still don't know how I manage to write so many pages every night.
Cu-Chi, Monday, March 31, 9:45 pm:
Today's letter was postmarked the 25th and the 26th you sent airmail and it came yesterday, so I don't expect any tomorrow. I'm just laying here waiting for the water truck to fill up the shower tank so I can go wash the hair off. I can hear them doing that now - thank goodness.
Today was another exciting day but not for any great reason. - The day went fast for me and kicked in $18.55 to boot. It seems that I make a fortune but spend just about as much as I make. I have bought some clothes, etc. but most of my money goes for petty stuff. Don't panic. I still need the ones you're sending me. And anyway, I love you.
I picked up my pictures today and they seem a little washed out but better than nothing I guess. One of my friends from the 1/18th came by to visit me today and I've been visiting with him all evening. I'm trying to get him out of the field and into Cu-Chi.
I also got a letter from Marlene but I could hardly read it. Her writing was so small and messy that I really had to think to guess what she wrote. Anyway, tell her thanks.
Pix called tonight to say hi and tell me I can't get my air conditioner right away. He seems the same as always except he's getting to like this slanted stuff. I don't think I'll get that horny ever.
I've decided to send Larry and Barbara's china to you so you can give it to them. I'll go and buy it in a couple of days. The men got paid today and the PX was a real mad house.
I didn't work on my hootch tonight because I was visiting but one of these days I'm going to get it fixed.
(l0 minutes later) Well I just went and showered. What a great feeling. It's one of those balmy nights, 75-80 degrees, slight breeze and just really groovy. Too bad it's wasted on Vietnam.
Oh yes, if you think of it, next time you pass a beauty and barber supply store get me a couple of tubes of lather soap for a hot lather machine. It mixes with water and turns to lather in the machine. OK? No hurry as yet.
I still can't think of what to send you but I stopped by the Siberian fur dealer at the PX and he has some real cute mink hats. I still can't decide.
Cu-Chi, Tuesday, April fools day, ll:00 pm:
It's me again and I'm happy as a cockroach baked in a pie. I got three letters today, dated 27,28,29 March. I just wish the mails were always that fast. I think the reason the 29th of March letter got here so fast is because the stamp says "I love you" and besides that the flag is upside down which means distress or help needed. I only wish I could come and help you.
I'm in the process of remodeling my hootch and making it a little harder on the roaches to hide. I'm making my room a little bigger and building shelves and a closet, plus a trap door to the bunker just in case. I just finished working on it and now I'm waiting for the water truck to fill up the shower. Pix called today and said he's coming up for a few days. It'll be nice to have him here to visit.
Oh yes, I'm going to Saigon Sunday to get my clippers sharpened and look for a lens for your camera if I get the chance. I hate to miss church but I have to get my blades sharpened.
It's so late and I'm so tired I just can't think straight. I sure wish the water truck would hurry up.
The time is going fast because everyday is busy although I do get lonesome for you. I wish I had Jonette here to take care of but it's too scary.
I have to go now. I’m falling asleep writing. guess I'll have to shower in the morning. Happy Easter.