Randy Barnes – Letter #5 – Nov. 22,1968
Dear Bro and assorted “Goosers”,
16 Nov – Sat.
I have now been in V.N. two weeks and 3 days. I like V.N. about as well as I’d like to have Syphills or Cancer. It’s hot, humid and it stinks. All the women have V.D. you can’t be on the roads at night without risking being shot, and you can’t sleep too well for fear of being mortared. Other than that, its a paradise.
Due to the heat, I’ve already lost 16 pounds – only 30 to go. Since the Monsoon season is just about over, the heat & dust are really setting in. Although it has only gotten up to 105 degrees since I’ve been here, I am assured it will get into the high 120’s.
Somehow when I came here I didn’t think I would be lucky enough to be in a hospital – and I’m not. It looks as though I’m going to end up as a good old Combat Medic in the field.
I’ve been assigned to the 5th Battalion, 2nd Artillery – Self-propelled. I know you, Larry, are familiar with self-propelled Arty but may be not the type I’m with. Our Battalion has only two main types of vehicles. First, our main weapon is a “DUSTER”. This is a small track vehicle, like an APC, that carries two 40mm. cannons (rapid firing) and three M-60 machine guns. Our other weapon is a “Quad 50”. This is an armored 2&1/2 ton truck with four 50 Cal machine guns mounted in a square. Damn can that thing put out the rounds.
I am stationed with Headquarters Battery right now. I’ll stay here four approximately another month for observation. The doctor and senior medics must make sure you know your stuff before you’re sent to the field, as you’re your own boss out there – no doctors. Right now I’m working in the Dispensary. G.I. sick-call is only about 4 guys a day; the majority of the day is spent giving MEDCAP. This stands for Medical Civil Action Program and amounts to giving medical aid to Vietnamese civilians. Believe me – you all don’t know how well off you are. These people live on nothing. They are all anemic, have worms, V.D. jungle rot and the majority have sores of some sort on their body. The average life span is 40 years, so by their late 20s they all have rheumatism. We treat between 150 – 200 per day. Although I get mad because they stink and they sometimes don’t listen to what the medics say, they’re still hard working sensitive people.
Example: An old man brought his grandson in with a badly burned leg and we dressed it & told him to come back. When he came back the leg was so infected we thought we would have to amputate. His grandmother had taken him to the Chinese “Mediceman” Medicine Man in the village and he had removed our dressing and put tobacco juice on it.
As I said I’m here at the Aid Station of Headquarters for observation. In 2 – 4 weeks I’ll be sent out to one of our four field batteries. Our field batteries work as support units to all the Infantry Units in our Corps area. The field batteries main job is to keep the roads open and free of “Charlies”. The field units, locations of base camps and the units they support are as follows. 1. A Battery at Phu Loy supports the 1st Division (Bloody Red One) 2. B Battery at Cou Cu Chi supports the 1st Air Cav 3. C Battery at Dong Tam supports the 9th Inf. Div. 4. D Battery at Bear Car Cat supports the 25th Inf. Div.
As you can see we are pretty well spread out and support some pretty “Salty” infantry units. They’ve all seen one hell-ova-lot of action. You’ve most likely read about some of these units.
I have been told I’ll be going to C Battery. This is in the Mekong Delta. I’m not really looking forward to that. Nothing but swamps, jungles & rice paddies. At least I’ll get to ride – a “Duster” or a “Quad 50” – it could be worse – I could be a “leg” (Infantryman)
My Sargent tells me I’ll see my share of action at C. He also cheered me up by telling me they have only lost 4 medics in all the batteries during the past year.
Here at headquarters I haven’t seen much action. The 3rd night I was here we received my first rocket attack. About 2:30 A.M. I awoke to a whistling noise & earth-shaking KA-BOOMB. I grabbed my flack jacket, my steel pot and M-16 and crawled to the nearest bunker. Goddamn was I scared. I thought Charlie was all around us. We received only 3 rounds but spent about 1&1/2 hours in the bunker.
A couple of days after this I was sitting on the sandbags around my tent when all of a sudden 3 Huey Cobras (chopper Gun Ships) flew in and started spraying the field right outside our perimeter – about 100 yards away. I was writing a letter to Richard Sallman at the time – ask him what that part of the letter sounded like – I dove for the ground. Found out later that they had spotted some movement down there. A patrol went out and found 5 dead VC.
All night long we hear small arms fire & artillery fire. At first I couldn’t sleep but I’m used to it now. It seems there are alot of V.C. in our area but they never really hit our base camp. Nothing here really they want.
The other night I watched “Charlie” & B battery go at it. Since B is only about 10 miles away we could hear the machine guns chatter and see the choppers strafing Charlie. There must have been a thousand flares up in the air. It looked like the 4th but everyone was pretty serious. Especially us new medics as we knew we were going to be out there before long.
The base camp here looks like something out of a John Wayne movie. (I can imagine what the field batteries look like) – All the buildings are sandbagged up to shoulder high. Our perimeter has 4 different barbed-wire intanglements. Inside each barbed-wire are claymore mines every 20 feet. Every 50 yards is a machine-gun bunker and on each corner of our base there are tall observation towers. (4)
The water is always cold and the dust thick. The water tastes like a swimming pool; the latrines I don’t even want to talk about (stench & flies) But I guess I’ll be yearning for even this when I get to the field.
Actually I’m kind of looking forward to seeing some real action. One always wonders what it will be like to be shot at.
I fire my M-16 everyday as we get all the ammo we need. Just flip it on full-automatic and suddenly you’re John Wayne in “Sands of Iwo Jima”.
I’m still against the war but what can I do. I’m here and I intend to come home – ALIVE.
Just think of ol’ Randall with service ribbons on his chest and a Combat Medics Badge on his chest. A real fucking hero. “Bullshit”! FTA
Remember me at Xmas as I’ll be so lonely at that time. I hope I get to see the Bob Hope show.
Please ask everyone to write to me as I crave letters. You, my friends, do write to me now as often as possible.
Tell Goose I’m already craving those cool ones and those dogs. By the time I get home (only 244 days), I’ll be able to drain a keg and eat a gross of dogs.
Please write and if anyone takes any pictures, I’d love to see some. You know, the gang at the Goose. Tell Dick to send me his address and tell Maggot I miss his “lily-white” body. Tell Haynes that Wallace is a “FAG” and Don that black is where its at – and tell everyone that Viet Nam “Zonk” is more than I hoped it would be. Please show Mike Davis my letter as well as everyone else & tell him to write.
Your Peace Missionary in SE Asia
PS Larry – did you pass the English Pro.
PPS If you see my mom don’t say anything about my being in any kind of dangerous area. She thinks I’m just going to sit it out over here & I don’t want her to know different. I am hoping I will just sit it out.