Letters From Vietnam Third Letter

Dong Tam after being hit by mortars post Tet offense
Dong Tam after being hit by mortars post Tet offense

During the time I wrote this letter I had been In Country for six months. When you read it, compared to my early letters, I think you will be able to tell that my morale had taken a nose dive. At the time of this letter we were going through the pre-Tet offense. Because of the peace talks going on in Paris, North Vietnam had promised a cease fire but it did not last long. All major bases in the South were being hit. It was at this turning point when I started re-thinking whether I would get out of Nam alive.

The only real news that we got was either from The Stars & Stripes, the military newspaper, or radio broadcasts from mostly Saigon. I was surprised to read and hear that there were such minor losses on our side. I remember having to help with the 9th medical battalion and being on the tarmac when choppers were flying in with wounded GI’s. There were cots set up all over, some guys were in so much pain they were screaming. I think a few guys were getting in reports from the BBC and those reports were saying we were losing thousands of GI’s. So I think a lot of us guys were thinking “what in the hell is going on here, why are we not winning this war?” (sorry Military Action).

Why was this called a “military action” after such a long conflict? I believed that one big reason was the USA was scared that Russia would declare war against us because they were backing the north. They were aiding the north, not just with weapons etc, but medical supplies, food and clothing. And the U.S. feared the spread of communism was growing through out the world.

In this letter I described how the VC were able to hit major sites on the base and make direct hits. At the time we had a few Vietnamese civilians working on the base and some of them were giving information to the VC. This did not help with morale, just knowing you could not trust even the South Vietnamese. I believe that a large majority of the South Vietnamese just wanted to end this terrible nightmare, and stop the bloodshed. The poor Vietnamese had been occupied by foreign countries for over 400 years.

Thank you all for taking the time to go on this journey with me.

© copywrite April 28, 2010, Richard D. Patterson, Jr. All rights reserved by author.

 

Mekong Delta, Vietnamese vendors

Typed version of Letter 3

Dear Mom, Dad, Sherry                                       Tuesday 25, 1969 Feb

 

  I am sure sorry for not writing to your folks but I have been really busy.  I don’t know if you folks have heard on the news our in the papers but we have been hit by Charlie for the past 3 days.  Charlie has finally hit what he’s always been trying to and that’s are POL point (Petroleum).  On Saturday 22, of Feb around 2:30 am the alarm went off and we all got in the bunker and as soon as we were in Charlie started to sock it to us.  He threw 230 rockets into Dong Tam that night, the first three rockets hit are JP4 tank this tank holds over 125,000.00 gallons of fuel, JP4 is used for choppers and planes.  The tanks are across the street from us and when, that tank blew up it shock the whole company area.  The next tank was are other JP4 tank it was hit by two rockets but didn’t ignite, than are Mogas tank was hit right square on the top it started burning like a big candle it was put out about 3 hours later.  Than are diesel tank was hit right square in the side but the was not

 

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  Very much diesel in it so it did not ignite but we lost over 30,000.00 gallons o diesel it all ran out of the tank and into the ditch.  We all had to sit in the bunkers until Charlie stopped throwing them in on us and we felt pretty helpless because we new are POL point was probably going up in smoke and we could not do anything, finally around 3:15 am are Cpt. Came in the bunker, we have a new Co. commander his name is Cpt. Guarnerie he is a neat guy, and said the needed 5 people so me St. Angelo, Fritz, Guisa & Harman took off with him, we still had are flack jackets and steel pot’s (helmets) and we could hear the rockets coming in on the other side of the base, we were still on red alert.  We went over to the tanks and the JP4 was burning like hell, I have never seen a fire that big before.  We had to get a hold of some foam, foam is the only stuff that will put out a fuel fire, and if you put water on it all it does is float on top of the water.  Finally the Navy brought all there boats over and the gave us barrels of foam, on Sunday we had to have 3 loads of foam sent from Saigon and Cam Ranh Bay to put out the fire. We fought

 

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the fire from 3:30 am Saturday till 3:00 pm Sunday afternoon.  My feet were burnt but not bad, the JP4 was all over the ground and when it gets on your feet its just like acid, are Captain made us go to 9th Medical battalion and get some stuff put on it.  About 4:30 pm Sunday we were all pooped out from fighting the fire all night and day, and what should happen but Charlie started throwing them in on us again so we hit the bunker he is getting pretty brave to hit us during the day most of the time he hits us a night.  He kept us up Sunday night threw a couple rockets in us Monday during the day last night, Monday night, around 6:30 pm we were all eating in the mess hall and Charlie started throwing them in again he did not hit are area but he hit the Bod Hope bunker.  You should have seen what that mess hall looked like when about 70 guys tried to get out at once, it was a mess.

 

  It was quit an experience I was not as scarred as I should have been but now I know that Charlie is not playing games, and he is a lot stronger than most of us think he is.  But he got himself into a mess now; we killed

 

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way over 2,000.00 VC just in the past 3 days.  Only one GI was killed out of all the fighting.  We are pretty sure that this is one of his major offenses since last years Tet.  We are expected to be hit again but I don’t think Charlie will be able to get back on his feet.  We know now that there must be a lot of  VC working on post because when he can seat out there in the middle of the rice paddies and hit all four of are fuel tanks, direct hits, he must have got information from someone.  Well were prepared for him and theres no way in hell that he could over run Dong Tam.  We carry are flack jackets and steel pots around all the time now.

 

  Besides all of the action not much more has happened, except that it still is as hot as ever, I wish the monsoon season would hurry up and get here.  I am writing this letter around 11:30 am in the morning we don’t have much time to write during the night.  I have not heard from you folks for quit awhile your probably pretty busy at home.  I don’t know if I have told you about my friends I have, got two pretty good buddies and we run around together quit a bit.  Ones name is

 

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St. Angelo and he is from California he works in the orderly room too, were pretty good buddies, another ones name is Fritz and he lives in TacomaWashington. (neat)  he’s been to Astoria, Seaside, his girlfriend lives in Portland.  All three of us are trying to get are R&R at the same time, to Australia.  Mom if I need $50.00 would you send it to me, we will not be going until around April.  Fritz drives the jeep for the Captain.  There’s a lot of cool heads around here and were all pretty good buddies, we got a new 1st Sergeant, (top left) we don’t like him a bit, but we sure like the Captain, you should have seen him fighting the fire he was right out there with us.

 

  I sure wish it did not cost so much our I would send my tape deck home and my amplifier but it would cost around $60.00 and that to much, when I can send it in hole baggage for nothing.  Dad are you still driving truck for Skip?  I got another letter from Clayton an he said that he has not been hit once since he’s been in Vietnam that’s because he is up in Long Bien and that’s almost as safe as Cam Ranh Bay

 

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but the past few days Long Bien has been hit just like us, and even Cam Ranh Bay has been hit it has not been hit for almost a year and half.

 

  Well its 12:30 pm and we just had a red alert only 4 rockets came in.  Sherry I got your letter I sure was glad to get it, Every Day People is the No. 1 song over here too.  That cream crab sure sounded good, can not wait to eat some good old salmon and seafood.  Mom I heard you bought a new sewing machine sounds pretty good especially the good buy you got on it.  The job that Sherry is getting really sounds good and the money sounds better she will be making more than me, HaHa.  I hear Judy & Larry have got a new house well I think it will be better.  Sherry & Judy have there rounds once and awhile.  I hope my room is still there and my bed, I am use too sleeping in the funniest places.  Well Id better try to get some sleep maybe Charlie wont monkey with us anymore tonight.  I miss you folks a lot, sometimes I even have to shed a tear or two. Haha But time is going by fast.

                                          Love Always Dick Jr

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Comments 27 comments

mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago

These letters keep making me cry! I really ignored the details of that war, except for the monkey business about it over here. You were so clear and descriptive and it is a lucky thing you are sharing these letters with us. You should get another medal! Well done!


Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

Keep em coming Dick, Great Job!!


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Meg, thank you, your comments mean so much to me. This Hub was difficult for me to post, I was feeling depressed, it was a hard time and seemed to get worse as I got closer to leaving Vietnam. I had hoped that are country would never again find itself in a situation like Vietnam but I quess it was just to much to hope for.


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Hmrjmr1, thank you sir, I will do my best.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

NamVetRich- Dude it's really nice to read this. It does choke me up. But keep putting it out there! Thank you Sir!


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Micky, yeah its pretty heavy stuff, after all these years bringing back these memories, thanks for your encouragment.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Write book. To keep doing the same thing and expect different result is being "crazy." Perhaps lessons to learn. I am writing a book about my personal experiences in regard to leaders taking advantage of the "Need-to-Know" security philosophy. I have personal knowledge of scary, mind numbing experiences and observations. I am writing as a novel and embellish some parts for my own peace-of-mind. My book: Eyes Wide Shut: An Enigma - Hiding in Plain Sight....


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Dallas, I appreciate your advise and encouraging words, I will keep going forward, and good luck with your book sounds facinating


George 6 years ago

Reading your Vietnam letter Hub is like, how can I say it, a diamond in the rough if you compose it into a book it will shine, keep up the good work.


Sherry Mullins (little sister) 6 years ago

You know at the time when you were sending these letters I was so young I did not understand the full weight of the danger you were in everyday, the terrible things you were going through and witnessing. Now as I read them I cry for that young man who was going through an unspeakable war. For some reason I guess I always thought that since you were a supply clerk that it was not so bad for you. Now I realize how awful it truely was. I Love You my Dear Brother


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Sherry

Thanks for your support, and love.


Mary K. 6 years ago

Enjoy reading your letters; it gives a real picture of what things were like. So sorry anybody has to go through times like that. Unfortunately there will always be wars & rumors of wars. I honor you in your service to our country!


SoftCornHippo profile image

SoftCornHippo 6 years ago

Congratulations! Rich, you are brave still! I know this must be hard for you to do. But you are very, very appreciated!


Ron W 6 years ago

I did not think you could do better or touch my heart more than you did on your first letter, but you have. Thank you for sharing your life with us. and I hope there is more to come.


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

SoftCornHippo

Believe me it is comments like yours that gives me the strength and courage to continue, to bad us GIs never received this when we came home, thank you so much, I have been reading a few of your Hubs, they are great.


Bev & Chuck 6 years ago

Reading your hubs and seeing what you went through really stirs up the emotions. We're so proud of you for doing these letters and so sorry that you had to go through it all. We love you a bunch...keep going with this!!


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Bev & Chuck,

I have a whole lot of Love for the both of you, you have embrassed me for who I am. Its been a struggle but its also been so rewarding. HUG's to you both. And Aloha!!!!


vietnamvet68 profile image

vietnamvet68 6 years ago from New York State

Awsome reading NamVetRich, they sure stir memories for me also.Keep them coming i truly enjoy them.


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

vietnamvet, your comment means alot to me just being able to connect with another fellow vet who can read these letters and knowing what I went through is awesome. I may post another letter, but I have been busy putting together a book it has not been easy but I sure have had alot of good support, thanks for your comment.


KatyWhoWaited profile image

KatyWhoWaited 5 years ago

Rich, (May I call you Rich?)

Your letters touched me on a deep level. The reference to 'Mom's sewing machine' in contrast to the casual mention of your burned feet after "Charlie's" rocket attack on the JP4 tanks left me in tears. I hesitate to connect with other people connected with that war because being merely on the periphery of that experience as the wife of a VN soldier I sometimes feel frivolous in posting "Tim's" love letters from Viet Nam. He was on base in Quang Tri repairing radios in the tower and didn't see action, or if he did, never told me. Our letters are only about us - two people in love in war. I feel I need to add my "radicalized" perspective on war to those letters, but I understand that that everyone comes to their own views from their own experiences. I felt safe in writing to you because of your choice in video, and want you to know that as I try, even at this late stage of life, to figure out what that all was supposed to mean to all of us and what I want to pass on to those younger than I am, I found in your letters a deeper connection and meaning to my own experience. "Thanks" is not enough to say.


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 5 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Katy,

Please forgive me for not posting this comment sooner my

world kinda turned upside down last September and I have not been on Hub Pages for a long time. Your comment brought tears to my eyes its hard to put into words how much I appreciate this feed back. As you can read in my letters I was trying so hard to stay in touch with the normal world because where I was it was anything but normal. Looking forward to reading your Hubs


mega1 profile image

mega1 5 years ago

Hi - I just want to encourage you some more to keep up the work with putting your letters into a book - and I wish you were still in the next town so I could come over and help you - but anyway I will help you whenever you want - I will come there and help you next time I get some vacation and meantime I hope you will take some time for yourself to do it, even though you are very busy with everyone else right now, because there I know there is a lot more to your Nam story. And also, thanks for being such a great friend to me!


Steve 2 years ago

Theses letters are great!! My father in law was stationed at Dong Tam with the Navy 68-70 and used to tell me about the base getting hit and when the fuel tanks were hit. I know it has been a long time since anyone has posted on here. I hope all is well.


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 2 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Dear Katy,

I am sorry for not replying sooner, I have had ups and downs in the last three years and finally coming back to Hub Pages. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a wonderful message you sent me, it is people like you that have helped me to cope with my past. It has been a long road but with the help of the VA, and folks like you there is a light a the end.


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 2 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Can you believe it almost 3 years and not a peep out of me, well it is about time to get back on track. I have missed you of course and Hub Pages, I hope that now, that I am back, you will still be my editor in Chief. Miss you sweet heart!!!!!


mega1 profile image

mega1 2 years ago

Great! We can get this book going! Love


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 2 years ago from Springfield Oregon Author

Just keep harping at me, thanks mega1

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