When I returned from Vietnam back in December 1970, my mother packaged up all the letters I wrote, and gave them to me.
Because I wrote at least one per week, and I wrote to all members of my close family when I could, there were plenty of letters - over 350 in fact.
I'm making a feature of occasionally posting the contents of these on this blog.
History buffs may be interested, and the insights provided by this primary source material are, gentle reader, revealing, both of the conduct of the war, and my attitude to it.
27 - 3 - 70
5 Pl, B Coy,
Dear Mum and Dad
I'll start this now (at 7pm) in the vain hope that I'll finish it tonight. I'll get a fair bit done because it doesn't get dark until about 7:30pm. We are harboured up just outside fire support patrol base "Anne".
Today we completed Operation "Finschhafen" and moved into the F.S.P.B. by A.P.Cs. At the base, we showered, ate, and went to Mass (unique on Good Friday, I suppose). Tomorrow we move into a new A.O. North of here. There's been no word of R and C yet, so I'll assume it's not until after the next Op at least.
Now, the summary of Operation "Finschhafen" -
The battalion had no "kills", which is apparently the basis on which the success (or otherwise) of an operation is judged. Therefore, the operation was, in the eyes of our commanders, a failure, and our C.O. had a dressing-down from the American commander of III Corps about this. To me, this is a lot of nonsense, but then the Yanks have always taken themselves too seriously, when it comes to statistics. I can't imagine it upsetting our C.O. very much, anyway.
Well, it's now 24 hrs since I began this letter. I'm now about 10 miles north of F.S.P.B. "Anne", near the border with Long Khanh Province, and on the banks of the Song Rai again. Major Warland has decided upon a new approach - we split up into half-platoon groups and sit in ambush for days at a time on as wide a front as possible. As you can imagine, I approve wholeheartedly of this. For all their plans, we covered a lot of ground today (not 10 miles of course - the first 8 were in helicopters) and I'm feeling pretty tired now. There shouldn't be far to go tomorrow, though. As has been the case of late, no sign of the enemy. Our intelligence thinks that they're waiting until the Yanks and we withdraw before they try to regroup again. I hope so.
Because of injuries, one section of the platoon is down to five men, and I'm helping them out with night sentry on the gun. I don't mind, though it does relieve the boredom.
You've probably read of 7 RAR having five blokes wounded in an accident with mortars. They were "Pogos" (base wallahs in normal language) who went outside the wire at F.S.P.B. "Anne" and directed mortar fire on themselves. God knows how they managed it. Anyway, they're OK now, although one is going back to Australia. Another bloke got sick of the scrub and shot himself in the foot, although they listed him as W.I.A. I don't know what will happen to him. Dishonourable discharge, I suppose.
Although I'm not getting any papers, please keep sending them. When my turn comes for L.O.B. (left on base defence) they will be handy. Also when we go back to Nui Dat in preparation for R and C, I will have a chance to read them.
I've been taking plenty of photos of the things we've been doing, but they probably won't get home for you for ages. At the moment, I aim to take a fair library of slides, and buy a good projector when I'm on R and R. I'll send it straight home.
Speaking of buying, I haven't spent a cent since we began Ops three weeks ago. So every cloud has a silver lining. Well, I'll finish this now, Mum and Dad, so I'll be able to give it to the Sarge (he looks after the mail). I'm sorry for poor old Anne. She writes me stacks of really interesting spontaneous letters, and I haven't been answering them. My excuse again is lack of envelopes and paper, but I'll make up for it when I get some. Helen has also been good with mail, and Neil is obviously making a great effort, because I've heard from him three times now, I think.
I think about you all quite a bit, and it's really good to hear about all the little things that happen.
Lots of love,