February 28, 1970
Dear Chaplain Miller,

Jim, as I promised in my last letter, I’m going to share with you an experience I had at our brigade briefing.  It was more like a stand up comic session that we had last night at a briefing just before dinner.  I believe it was the Brigade Tactical Briefing.  It took place at 1700 though it was scheduled for 1600.  This ritual of evening briefings has a liturgical form all its own.  It's held in a large room that is half screened around the circumference of the room to let the cool night air blow through.  Most of the time there is no such thing as cool night air.  Humid night air would be more like it.  The entire staff turns out for this nightly show, if they are in base camp.  In firebases, similar briefings go on much in the same manner, but a little less formal.

At 1700 hours, the command sergeant major announced, "Gentlemen, the Brigade Commander."  Chairs clang as the men came to attention.  The scuffling was greeted with "Please be seated."  More scuffling as the men began to try and get comfortable in their hard metal fold-up chairs.  The commander was sitting in a soft, leather desk chair up front, facing a set of panoramic maps and briefing charts that his staff had been preparing most of the afternoon. 

"Good evening, Sir!"  A major-type officer addressed the commander.  He picked up a pointer and approached one of the charts.  There were various color dots of round sticker paper all over the charts and maps.  "At spotter number one," he began, as he pointed to the obvious marker, "1013 this morning Charlie Company, first of the fourteenth, spotted two figures, twenty meters to their north.  Coordinates 35642196.  They were wearing black pajamas, rubber tire sandals, pith helmets, carrying AK-47's, pistol belts and American canteens.  Small arms were employed.  M-79’s were also used, along with 82mm mortars.  Artillery was called in; Bravo battery on the firebase expended fifty rounds of 105 mm.  Ten rounds of 155's mm and ten rounds of 175's mm were fired from Camp Radcliff at precisely 1018 hours.  Charlie Company then swept the area with negative findings and therefore it is assumed that the enemy fled in an unknown direction.  Charlie Company will be extracted from their night location at first light or flyable weather, which ever comes first.  There is no trace or any visible means of finding the trail they were on before the skirmish started."

I was sitting in the rear of the room and I heard some sort of grunting eking out of the soft chair, and the briefer shook his head. "Well, Sir, that's way they gave it to me at higher." I couldn't hear what the commander said.  Then much louder, the commander said, "Go on.”  It sounded more like a sigh than a request.  One of the officers sitting behind me whispered, “The old man hates that s##t about going in an unknown direction."

Pointing at marker number two, the briefer continued.  "At this location, right about here," the wooden finger tapped the map.  "Delta Company, first of the twelfth second platoon, came across a small grass hooch.” The commander said something. "No, Sir, it was a grass hooch, not a hooch filled with grass." The audience gave a polite laugh.  The major went on.  "There were no hostile forces in the area.  Upon searching the camp, our men found one AK 47 round, two M-16 cartridges, three pair of black wearing apparel, four pith helmets, five pongee sticks."  The XO piped up, "And a partridge in a pear tree." There was more laughter.  I thought to myself, eight months till Christmas.

The briefing went on for about twenty minutes.  The commander got up to make a few comments. He started by saying, “We need to get out there and get some damn gooks. They can't keep disappearing in an unknown direction.  G##damn it, we bring the whole f##ing war on the heads of two of those little bastards and nothing happens."

Just as he was about finished, a voice from the rear of the room, said, "F### you!"  "F### you!"  “F### you!"  Everyone in the place began to laugh, not just a polite chuckle like they gave to the commander but deep belly laughter.  The commander himself almost got tickled.  "Christ," he says, "We can't even get rid of those damn lizards."  That's right, Jim.  They have a lizard, native to Vietnam that makes a sound that clearly says, "f### you."  I suppose he learned it from the GI’s.  It was the first time I had encountered the infamous Lizard.  The second time was at dinner after the briefing in the MASH Officer’s club.  It seems that these lizards are drawn to the light and speak their mind at what they think about what is happening to their country.

I'm enclosing a news article from the Stars and Strips newspaper as verification that I'm not just pulling your leg.  I'll quote it in this letter as well, even though I don't have a date that the article was printed.  Father Taddy was the priest that wanted the lizard avenged.


Camp Radcliff, Vietnam (Special)--A 2nd Brigade chaplain assistant is trying to put his outdoorsman's skill to work on a somewhat embarrassing problem at the 4th Inf. Div.'s Highlander Chapel.

The nemesis in this case was the infamous Vietnamese "Insulting Lizard" who lurks in every nook, cranny and bush in Camp Radcliff and emits his limited vocabulary.  From dusk to dark, the lizard would interrupt chapel business nightly with its own version of fire and brimstone.

"It got to be annoying," said Spec 5 Tom Wagner.  "That kind of racket is just not right for our atmosphere here" (at the Highlander Chapel), he explained.

Wagner thought the best way to cope with his antagonist would be to trap and then relocate the noisy reptile.  So he scrounged a few simple materials and began construction of an "Insulting Lizard Trap."

"I used to trap beaver back in Minnesota just for fun.  I'd turn them loose after I caught them,” said Wagner.  In no time, Wagner had finished his trap, made from a few boards, some screening and a coat hanger.  The lizard trap was equipped with a trap door that is triggered by pressure put on the bait hook.  His next problem was how to bait the trap.  The lizard is still on the loose around the Highlander Chapel, still insulting everything in earshot.  Wagner is still trying to come up with a sure-fire lure for the lizard.

The "Insulting Lizard" referred to in the above article was the same species that interrupted the Command Briefing and the same one who, after eating hot cigarettes, expressed his true feeling about the ugly Americans in his country.




February 27, 1970

Dear Chaplain Miller,

This is a continuing part of a very long section about the men in Vietnam. I know I had some flashbacks to the men I worked with in Okinawa. For the most part, they appear to be the same, except the GI's here are in a real war. When I came into Camp Radcliff this morning, I saw one of these men of the bush heading to the chopper pad on his way out to the field. I noticed from a distance that his rucksack must have weighted over 70 pounds. His back was bent over and he was moving or plodding slowly. As he got closer, I could see the sweat running off his face. On closer look, I saw why he was laboring with his load. Strapped under his rucksack was a case of beer. When he looked up and saw me, his free hand gave me the "V" salute. He had his M16 in his right hand. His eyes gave me a big, white-eyed smile and his white teeth were shining out from his dark lips.

"Hi, Chaplain," he called out. "Everything ok out at Tuffy?" he asked, but really not expecting an answer.

"They're getting ready to move, I think. But we still have some mopping up to do." I answered.

"They called me out today, ain't that a bitch?" he responded to my answer.

"You might say that," I laughed as we passed.

As I came up to him, I could read his helmet. Over here, helmets are sort of a billboard for the advertisement of what the wearer is trying to say. This GI had a peace symbol on the front of his steel pot; printed on the washed out camouflage canvas cover in black ink. On the right side there were a couple of cigarettes stuck in the headband and an image of a man and a woman in the act of intercourse. As I was passing him, I looked back and on the backside of the helmet what I saw in bold black lettering was "John 3:16." I was tempted to ask him what he had on the other side of his helmet but I kept on heading back to my hooch.

When I got back to the Headquarters Orderly room, I stopped in to see what had been going on while I was in the field. They told me that Dave called and said he was at the Brigade Chapel, that they called a mandatory meeting of the chaplain's assistants. He told the NCOIC to tell me that Chaplain Honeycutt told him he had to come and that I could get back some other way. I had to laugh. Dave was so conscientious and a very good assistant.

It truly was a blessing to have men working with you that were self-motivated. I did not have to give him a list of things to do when I was in the field. And when I got back,there would be typed letters ready for my signature and appointments scheduled for troops who wanted to talk to me. When he knew I was coming in, my ice chest would be full of iced cokes. Dave was good soldier who was always ready to go to the field if needed. It was indeed a pleasure to have such a competent person around.

I know I started this letter off by talking about the "Men" in Vietnam. As I began to write and get into this chapter, I began to realize that almost all of the chapters written throughout my eleven months were about the men in Vietnam. So I'll bring this portion to a close, knowing full well that the men in Vietnam could be the second title for this book as I talk about blind faith. After all they are the reason for my being here in the first place.

Jim, my eyes are telling me to quit writing for a while and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day. Tonight I can cross off another day in Vietnam on my short timer's calendar. It's a little depressing to do that so early in my tour, because I can see how far I have to go before I can call myself a short-timer. December is such a long way from February.

Good morning Jim, I'm continuing the letter from yesterday. I woke up at three in the morning. I stared into the darkness. Couldn't sleep. I sat up, reached into the ice chest and put a piece of ice in my mouth. I could hear the distant booming noise coming from the perimeter of Radcliff, where they intermediately sent illumination flares into the night. I thought it strange, that I was able to sleep in the field but had difficulty when I got back to base. I'll stop in and see Doc Gold tomorrow; maybe he can give me something.

I got up and opened the door to my hooch. It was pitch black out. You could see some security light across the area. I turned on my light; it is amazing what a light bulb can do to brighten an old tin wall inside small hooch. I opened my journal and started to put down my morning thoughts.

I guess I'll begin with where I stopped in my letter to you last night. That was a long letter I finished before going out last night. Let me see where to begin? I left the HQ and went over to my hooch.

I had moved out of my tent and made my home and office in an unused tin arms shack. It stood alone, outside the mess hall. It was about the size of a small camper trailer. It was ten feet long and six or seven feet wide. I talked the XO into letting me have it since the tent was getting shaggy and was in the middle of the enlisted barracks. He agreed, so Dave and I moved my cot into one side and a field desk in the other and two folding chairs. While I was out in the field the week before, Dave had piled up a large stack of Styrofoam box liners, from field hot boxes next to the door. They were about an inch and a half thick. He left a note saying these might be good insulation materials for the inside of the hooch.

Dave showed up before the mess hall opened for breakfast. He told me that the mandatory meeting was a ridiculous waste of time. The class was a training class on how an altar was to be set up and what vestments needed to go on the rack for the priest. It was his way of apologizing for not picking me up yesterday.

I told him about my experience with Pecker and Joe out at the firebase. He said that more and more troops were using drugs in base camp. That sometimes, the barracks were so fouled up with marijuana smoke that he had to get out so he wouldn't get high on second hand smoke. I told him that when I'm in the field, he might want to start staying in the hooch. We'll call it the Chaplain's office. That way it would not offend the officers who believe in separation of officers and enlisted quarters. Dave laughed at that, but thanked me and started to attach the styrofoam liner to the inside of the office.

It took most of the day to finish the task of lining the new chaplain's office, but it was well worth it. With the old fan I kept from my trip to Pleiku last month, the office was quite comfortable. The mess hall helped shade the building most of the time.

Honeycutt called me and told me I was expected to be at the Brigade briefing at 1600 hours at the HQ. I ragged him about scarfing up Dave for the assistant's meeting in the afternoon, leaving me to walk back from the chopper pad. He laughed, and like a good Baptist, blamed the Division Catholic Chaplain who called the meeting. It seemed that at one of the masses at Division, the assistant that was usually present for the mass was in the field, so a Protestant's assistant covered for him and didn't know where to begin. Thus a refresher course on setting up for a mass was given to all the division assistants. Before he hung up, he told me that Chaplain Bridgman asked him to ask me to give him a call if I came in today.

I called Hugh and we set up a dinner date after the evening briefing. We went to dinner at the officer's club at the MASH unit. We had rib eye steaks and were entertained by lizards that were attracted by the lights in the patio. Some of the other officer's would take a lighted cigarette and give it to a lizard. The lizards were about a foot long. It would take the cigarette and start chewing down to the lit end. When it got to the red-hot end, it would let out a yelp and run back up the tree and start nagging.

At this point in my journal writing, I decided to write a letter to you, Jim, about the briefing I had been in the night before. The lizard was the highlight of the briefing. For now I'll sign off and start a new letter about the lizard that interrupted a command briefing.




The radio broke up our session and Joe had to go to the TOC.

As Joe left, I began to think about my experience with the racial situation in my life. In Morgan Park, Minnesota, where I was born, there was one family of blacks. They were called Negroes back then. The only time I saw one of them was when I went to a high school basketball games to see my brother play; one of the Negroes played on the team. When my family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida when I was eleven, I knew that there was a “colored” town near the city, but since the schools were segregated, I very seldom saw any of those residents; except when I took a bus, then they were seated in the back. In college and seminary, I began to be a little enlightened as to the problems between the races in America, but I didn’t pay a great deal of attention. I was wrapped up in my own life.

I hadn't thought about that happening in Okinawa since I came to Vietnam. I just couldn't grasp the racial problems in our country or in our Army or in my life, for that matter. I guess I was always so involved in my own life and my own activities that I was not aware of the injustice, bigotry and hatred going on between races. I knew that many protesters were saying that Vietnam was a white man’s war to get rid of the blacks; that they were the one fighting the war for whites. After all, many of them couldn't go to college even if they wanted to. Therefore they were subject to the draft more than the whites.

I was in college when Martin Luther King was preaching for equal right for the blacks. I just didn't pay too close attention. I was going to college in Mississippi and for the most part, bought the white party line. I believed the posters that showed Martin with the communists. It was easier for me to say he was a communist and then go on and supply-preach in country churches, run track, and work on campus; after all, I had taken a wife and I was a struggling minister.

All that changed when I was called for jury duty. That began my awareness of the black prejudice going on in the South. I know it's hard to imagine, but I really had no idea of the magnitude of the race problem in America until I was called upon to do my civic duty.

When I reported for jury duty, I was selected. The case we were to try was that of an old Black man that had a small restaurant. He had purchased some equipment and was delinquent on the payments. The company that he owed money to was suing for payment. As I listened to the case unfold the first morning, I head him say he had sent them a dollar or two from time to time as particle payment.

I remembered my Mom telling me to always pay something on a bill no matter what and they can't do anything thing to you. I was thinking that he had tried to pay and that the company accepted the payment he sent. The judge called a recess for lunch and an local business man serving on the jury with me said, "Come on, son, I'll buy you a hamburger before we hang this nigger." I knew I was in trouble.

Like many Americans plagued with indifference at that time, I kept my mouth shut. I just didn't know what to say. After lunch we convened again and I was worried about what I should do. Well, I never found out. The Judge threw the case out, because the fellow had attempted to pay the bill. The company's lawyer apologized to the jury and the case was closed. I left quickly, not aware enough to be embarrassed for my silence. No wonder we had race problems when people like me just did not get it.

Both Black and White men in Vietnam faced death daily. They both were men of courage. 86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians and 12.5 % were Black with about 1.2 % of other races. The percentage of death to me is not important. The fact that any man must die in a war is enough to protest the need for war.

I had just about dozed off after my long story-telling session with Joe. The radio kept breaking the silence in the bunker, but I soon got used to the crackling sound and the occasional voice calling in a common check. Pecker came through the bunker door. He was such a big guy; we had to make the bunker longer than most just so he could stretch out on his cot. "Hi, Chaplain," he called out.

"You off for the night?" I asked.

"Yea, Joe's on the horn and nothing is happening so I'm checking in early," he said.

He began to fumble around in his ruck, grabbed what looked like a bulldrum bag, and said, "I need to step out for a smoke. See you later."

Jim, I know that you have heard that the soldiers in Vietnam are abusing drugs on a daily basis. I came to realize that, indeed, there were a lot of drugs being used here in Nam this year. I was aware that the 4th Infantry Division had executed an amnesty program for Marijuana users. If a troop turned himself in, he would be given amnesty and be forgiven. They would not be given article 15 or a court martial. However, reports indicated that the push of stopping marijuana use, gave rise to the abuse of heroin. Heroin could be used without odor filling the bunker. Thus it was harder to detect, unlike marijuana, which could be detected as the sweet and sour odor lingered in the air.

Some reports given thirty years later would suggest that some companies used drugs at the high rate of 30%. At the close of 1970, one Division reported that draftees in an exit survey reported that 15% had tried heroin and that 7% used it regularly. #4 plastic vials of heroin sold on the streets corners for $4.00 a vial.

I didn’t personally see any of this taking place in An Khe or when I visited Qui Nhon. However, I wasn’t looking for it so I guess, like my not seeing racial problems in my youth, I didn’t see the drug problems in my daily truck in Vietnam because I wasn’t looking for them. I should have been more aware; my hooch maid would ask me every day if I wanted some smoke. I also read in the Stars and Strips newspaper that it was reported in the States that almost every GI was abusing drugs somehow in Vietnam.

The stateside media and war protesters pictured the American GI laying around in opium dens, chain-smoking marijuana, bombing out on heroin, and if they didn't use drugs, then they were juicers, drinking booze until they were mindless. I never saw any thing like that going on. Jim, you must keep in mind that my experience was limited to the Central Highlands for the most part.

I personally knew that drugs were used and abused in Okinawa in 1969. Like the race problem, the command swept as much of it under the rug as possible. CPT Kelly who was the commander of one of my Companies while I was stationed in Naha called me late one afternoon. He told me he had a troop in his office that was out of his mind. He had been taking some kind of drugs and was having hallucinations of some kind. The Captain did know what to do and was asking for help. I told him to give me fifteen minutes and I would be right down.

When I got to his orderly room, the CQ told me that the captain had been in his office with Pvt. Handover for the last hour and a half. I knocked on the office door and called out, "This is the chaplain, and I’m coming in.” The first thing I saw was the Captain sitting on his desk. PVT Handover was in a chair in the corner of the room.

"Good evening, Chaplain," said Captain Kelly.

"What’s happening?” I asked.

"PVT Handover tells me that he took some drugs and now they're after him."

I turned to PVT Handover. "Who's after you?" I asked.

With a look of panic, this wild-eyed young solder mumbled, "They’re out there."

The CO said, "He told me he's not sure who they are, but he knows they are after him. Chaplain, I wanted to call the MP's but I think he needs help, not the stockade. I called the hospital, but they said he needed to come down before I could bring him up to the ER.”

The CO continued talking, “I would call Lieutenant Colonel Noble, but he would tell me to handle it. Handover has no history of drugs, but he said he took something this morning, He wasn't sure what it was and now they’re coming after him."

I went over to Handover, kneeled in front of him. He shied away. "Do you know who I am?” I asked.

"Yea, you're the Chaplain," said Handover.

"That's right, and I can get you some help. Colonel Nelson is a psychologist friend of mine who can help you and maybe get you admitted to the hospital. Would you go with me?" I asked.

"I don't want the CO to come," he answered.

"That's no problem," I said. Then I turned to the CO. "Why don't you go out into the orderly room and let me talk to him." The CO left.

Hanover was shivering and his eyes were glazed and wild-like. "You won't let them get me, will you?" he asked.

"No, but you'll have to go with me. Let me call the Doctor and he will meet us at the clinic," I said.

"No, no phone. I don't want them to get me," said Handover as he began to look around the room.

"Who will get you?" I asked again.

"They’re out there, waiting for me and they want to kill me," he said.

I thought to myself: he is really paranoid. I better just see if I can get him to let me take him up to the clinic. "I'll tell you what we can do. Let's sneak out the back door and get to my car and you hide so they won't see you and I'll take you to the Doctor’s. He’s a good friend of mine and he will help you."

"You want me to go with you now?" he asked.

"Yes, we can leave right now. I'll take you in my little car." I went to the back door, "I'm parked right out there," pointing.

Handover didn't move. I went over to him, took his hand and pulled a little and he got up and went with me to the door. I opened the door and pointed to my car. "Come on, let's run."

We ran to the car. I opened the passenger side and he slid in, and sat low in the seat so he could not be seen. I quickly got in the driver's side and started to drive. Handover reached up and locked his door. I drove out of the parking lot. I didn't call the doctor, nor did I let anyone know I was leaving. We had to drive about ten miles up the Island to the Psych Clinic. I pulled up to the front door, got out and then opened Handover's door. We ran into the reception room and up to the desk. I asked the clerk to get Doctor Nelson. She said he was in a group meeting and could not be disturbed.

Handover was looking around the room. His eyes were scary and he was crouching down. I pointed to him, "Specialist," I said with authority, "you disturb Dr. Nelson right now and tell him Chaplain Fowler needs him now, before he (pointing again to Handover) starts acting out."

In a few minutes Doctor Nelson had us in his office. He wanted to have Handover admitted to the hospital. However, Handover would not let him take him to the hospital. He insisted that I do the honor so [they] wouldn't get him. I agreed, and the Doctor called the hospital and by the time I got there, they had a room ready for him and Doctor Nelson took over.

Later that evening the doctor called me back and I thanked him for his help. His voice became loud and he said, “Chaplain, Handover is stable. You did the right thing; he was the worse case of paranoia I’ve seen in a long time. But, Chaplain, you might be the craziest officer I’ve seen in a long time. That was risky, taking him in your car on the highway. He could have done a lot of damage to you on that highway."

"I know it seemed every time he peeked out the window, there was a cop car cruising by. But I didn't think he was dangerous," I said.

"Well, you were fortunate he knew you, because sometimes a paranoid person will get fearful and attack anyone near them," he said.

"Thanks for taking him in, Doc. What was he on, anyway?”

"I'm not sure. But we have had a lot of guys using LSD lately. He looked like he was probably on LSD,” said the Doctor.

Jim, do you remember that fellow that threatened CPT Ford in his office with a dagger one night in Okinawa? Ford called me one night and asked if I could come over to his office ASAP. SP4 Avery was in his office and wanted to talk to me. His voice was kind of strange but I couldn't make out just what was going on with him. I guess I had some sort of feeling that something was wrong. I couldn't place who Avery was, but since his company commander was calling me, I went right on over.

In the orderly room, there were two MP’s with their guns drawn and their ears to the door. The Duty NCOIC told me that Avery was holding CPT Ford hostage.

"What do you mean by hostage?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said. "CPT. Ford said Avery had dagger at his throat and wanted him to call you."

Again, I didn't think of the danger. I went to the door. It was locked. One of the MP’s whispered, “If he opens the door, step aside and we'll rush him."

"I don't think so, Sergeant," I responded. "You stay put."

I knocked softly on the door. "This is Chaplain Fowler. Can I come in?"

The door clicked. I slowly turned the knob. The door opened. I stepped in.

Behind the door, SP Avery was standing next to CPT. Ford, holding a letter opener that was a miniature bayonet at the neck of the CPT. Ford. Avery was well over six feet tall, a large man with an angry look in his eyes. I stopped in my tracks. I recognized Avery as one of the fellows who attended chapel services regularly. I suggested that we all sit down and talk about what was going on.

It turns out that CPT Ford had a shakedown of the barracks (looked in the lockers of the soldiers) this evening. They found Avery had some drugs hidden in his footlocker. The Captain had called Avery into his office and was reading his charges to him and told him he would be held at the stockade until he had his court martial. Avery yelled out, “No, you won’t!” He jumped up and grabbed the dagger off the captain’s desk and pressed it to his throat. "I'm not going to no stockade," he said. "The captain is against blacks. He don't have to put me in no stockade." He was angry and frightened.

He looked wide-eyed and still angry. "What are you on now?” I asked.

"I don't know. I just know that I ain't going to no stockade tonight," he said.

It was obvious to me that he was high on something and that he was dangerous.

I asked CPT Ford, "Do you have to put him in stockade? Can't he be held here in the area under guard until morning?"

Ford looked at me. "I might have been able to do that but I told these troops that I was going to have a shake down and if I caught anyone with any kind of drugs, I was going to put them in the stockade. Now if I change my mind and let Avery get over, the troops won't believe I will keep my word."

"So we have a stand off,” I suggested.

"I'll push this through his neck,” said Avery, pushing the point until it made an impression in the Captain's neck.

There was a brass trumpet sitting on the captain's desk and Avery picked it up with one hand. He also took this out of my locker.

"Do you play?” I asked.

"I'm learning," said Avery.

I thought to myself. What can I do? This guy is obviously disturbed and angry.

The captain said that he couldn’t keep him in the company or he would lose face by receding or changing his command. Avery might do something foolish. "Seems to me we have a stand-off," I said again. "Avery, how about the three of us going to the hospital. They can treat you for drugs, then they can release you to CPT. Ford or to the stockade and he can go on with this court martial." I said to Avery.

"If that won't work, the MP’s outside will break in here and someone will get hurt. I don't want to get hurt, and I don't want either of you hurt, so,” I said to Avery again, "let me take you to the hospital and get you admitted."

Still holding the dagger to the Captain's throat, "He'll have to go with us."

The captain got up slowly. Avery held the dagger to his neck. Then Avery picked up his trumpet in the other hand and headed toward the back door.

"Ok, chaplain, you drive," he said.

We got in the car and Avery sat in the back seat where he could hold the dagger at the throat of the captain. The hospital was seven or more miles from the office. I drove as safely as the roads in Okinawa would let me, being careful not to hit any big pothole and cause the dagger to injure the captain.

I pulled into the emergency room parking lot and we got out of the car. Avery took the trumpet with him. It was now 2430 hrs. He put the horn to his lips with one hand and began to blow. It was a shrill off-key blast that brought the hospital aides out of the emergency room door into the parking lot.

By now, Avery was acting very paranoid and disturbed. With the help of the emergency room staff, we took him into the emergency room. I reached out my hand very slowly and told him to give me the letter opener. He hesitated a moment and he drew it away from the captain’s neck and gave it to me. Captain Ford smiled at me and winked.

The nurse called the duty doctor to come the ER, “Stat.” When he showed up, he refused to admit Avery to the hospital. His reason was that he was not crazy but drugged and that he needed to be locked up rather than admitted to the hospital.

So there the three of us stood on the ramp to the emergency room. It was now 0145. Avery was coming down from his high. Captain Ford was over his need to have him jailed, but would not give in. He was still determined to have Avery arrested and put in the stockade.

"What happens now?" I asked.

Avery said, "The Captain won't put me in the stockade."

"Ok,” I said. "I guess you could run. I'm too tired to argue with you and I don't think the Captain here will stop you. But we will report that you’re AWOL and have an all points bulletin put out on you. The Island will be crawling with MP’s looking for you. You have threatened an officer and could be armed and dangerous and who knows, they might just shoot you on sight."

"Hey,” said Avery. "What the hell’s going on here? I don't want to be shot."

Then I said, "I'll tell you what we can do. The CO won't let you back in the company. You don't want to run, we can't pretend nothing happened. How about letting me take you to the stockade with CPT. Ford and I'll have them put you in. That way I'll be the one who put you in the stockade and Ford will not be the one to do that to you."

Avery was silent. "It's sure hot this morning,” he said. "Ok, chaplain, it will be cool if you put me in the stockade."

The three of us went to the stockade at 0200. I told them that Avery was coming in on his own and needed to be locked up because he was on some drugs. Avery was acting or putting on an act for the guards. He was acting crazy, saying things, and accusing them of trying to steal his money. He gave them all a really bad time that convinced them he was high on something. They put him behind bars and the captain and I returned to his company.

We were both tired and didn't say much on the way back to his HQ. As I let him out of the car, he leaned in though the window of my car and thanked me. "You know, chaplain, you might have saved my life."

"Mine, too," I answered.

I did not have any kind of experience with drugs like that in Nam. However, I would venture to say that my observation of drug use in Vietnam was limited to my command assignment. I just didn't have the experience like I had in 1969 in Okinawa. I think my view of drugs in Vietnam is like watching an accident happen. It depends from which perspective you view the situation. I'm sure drugs are a problem; it just so happened that I did not see the problems in my view of the accident of Vietnam.

I had just put my journal down when Pecker returned. "Oh, sorry, Chaplain. I didn't mean to wake you."

"I wasn't sleeping. I was writing a letter to a friend," I said.

"Who's the friend? Or is that none of my business?” asked Pecker.

"He's a chaplain friend of mine from Okinawa, Jim Miller. He is a mentor of mine that taught us how to get along with liturgical religious rituals and gave me strong support in the chapel that I was in charge of. I sort of use him as a sounding board, someone to let out my frustration on about this war," I said.

Pecker smiled and slyly commented, "I use a joint."

"Maybe you can help me," I suggested. "I hear a lot of the grunts use drugs, but I haven't seen much abuse myself, at least in our battalion. How many guys do you think are on drugs or use drugs on this firebase?"

Pecker was silent for a moment. "My guess would be about one or two out of five. If you count the amount of scotch used by the officers, it might be higher." He laughed.

"Do you mean that 2/5th of the troops are high out here?" I asked.

"No, they are not all high. Most only smoke when they come in from the bush. The officers know it. But they don't say much if you're sort of quiet with it. The amnesty program isn't working too well. Those who are afraid of getting caught smoking are taking to cigarettes laced with smack. You can’t smell that. Someone told me that the VC in the village were putting heroin in the marijuana they sell so they can get the GI’s addicted. That sort of scares me, but so far I haven't noticed any problems," he told me.

"When did you start using marijuana?" I asked.

"Me,” he laughed. "I was smoking pot since I was in high school. Vietnam has been great for me, in that pot is so cheap over here." He went on. "Most of the users I know all started long before they got to Vietnam. They can just get it so easy over here, and cheap."

"Aren't you afraid that it might cause problems if something happens out here and we're run over, like what happened on Warrior?" I said.

"Not really. I was smoking that night, but my reactions were fine. You guys had been drinking wine and beer all night at the party but everything worked out ok," he said.

"What about in the bush? I'm told that very little is used out there," I said.

"Closer to none, I would say. The guys police themselves. Damn! Our asses are on the line and I won't let anyone use drugs if I can help it. Of course, I don't go out too much anymore. Only when the CO has me go with him on his recon runs to the companies in the field," he said.

"I hope you don't get hooked on anything over here. You don't want to bring home any unwelcome souvenirs," I said.

"I hear you, chaplain. No sweat." He turned off his light and we both went to sleep.

The next morning, I flew back to Radcliff. When I got off the helicopter, Dave was not around and so I had to walk back to the battalion area. I really didn't mind. It was a cool morning for Vietnam and all I had to carry was my chaplain's kit. It was good to get back, even if it was going to be a short visit.

When I got to my hooch I made a pot of coffee and got out my writing material and continued my letter to Jim, about the men in Vietnam.


The only women in our area were the Nurses and the USO workers who were often called Donut Dollies. I had only a passing acquaintance with them. The men I got to know well because I lived with them. I bathed with them. I ate with them. I slept in bunkers with them. I went to the jungle with them. I went to the movies with them. I took malaria pills as they did. I counseled some of them. I prayed for and with them. I preached to them. I cried with them. I laughed with them. I feared as they did. I worked alongside of them. I bitched along with them. As much as they would let me, and as much as I dared let myself, I became one of them.

One of the things I did with the solders in Vietnam, at least for my first six months, was to continually build firebases. I had been in country for just over a month and I was living on my second firebase and was planning to move to another.

Jim, as you are aware, under normal circumstances, military policy officers do not live in the same quarters as enlisted men. On every military installation, there are officer’s quarters and enlisted quarters. There are officer’s mess and enlisted mess. There are officer’s clubs and NCO clubs. Like it or not, there's a military social hierarchy. Chaplains are often able to get around that situation. In a manner of speaking, we were the third sex in the military. We can have social friends that are both enlisted and officers. We are not to flaunt our relationships, but usually not too much is said if a chaplain mingles with all ranks. That’s why I was able to stay with Speedy on Warrior and move into a bunker with Joe and Pecker on firebase Tuffy.

Joe was a specialist five in our S-4 section. He was our radio and telephone operator or RTO. He was one of the most responsible men in our battalion. He was a 23-year-old draftee from the East Coast. His goal was to complete his tour without getting shot or wounded and to get back to his home in New Jersey. He had to drop out of college to earn tuition money for the coming year. Just as he went to work, his draft number came up and three months later, he was tugging through the Jungles of Vietnam. He was an 11-Bravo, infantry, blue leg who served over eight months in the bush and earned his short timer’s assignment as the battalion RTO for the remainder of his tour.

He told me, "I didn't plan to work for the government, but a month after I left college, Uncle Sam hired me."

"You could have gone to Canada," I said.

"I don't think so,” said Joe. "They gave me a job I couldn't refuse. Besides, I needed the money."

Joe took time to teach me about being an infantryman in the bush. "When I first reported to the 1/12, I was an 11-Brovo, infantryman," he told me one night. "I spent over eight months, humping the bush and living in the jungle for weeks at a time. I went for three weeks without a bath after being in country for a month."

"Did you get into any skirmishes?" I asked.

"We tried to avoid Charley as much as possible, but sometimes it was unavoidable. We had four men killed and I don't know how many were wounded, while I was in the squad. I really pushed to get my ass assigned to this job," Joe said, as he pointed to the radio.

"Must have been scary out there?" I suggested.

"I was always afraid," he said. "Hell, all of us were. The only thing that mattered was saving our f***in’ asses.”

I didn't flinch at what I used to consider cuss words. Now they were words of war.

"You had to stay out in the jungle for two weeks?” I said with a rather surprised voice.

"Most of the time. Sometimes we stayed out three weeks. It passed the time but I never got use to smelling like s*** all the time. I never really slept at night and the food was rotten. Except when we were re-supplied. But then Charley would know where we were and they would put in a sniper or lob mortar, anything to f*** us up."

"Joe, did you ever have to kill anyone one?” I asked.

"I don't know for sure, whenever a sniper would let off a few round, our whole company would open up and call in artillery or gun ships and all kinds of s***. No, I don't think I ever killed anyone that I know of, and I'm glad of that," answered Joe.

I said to Joe, "When I was in Okinawa taking some Vietnam training with the Green Berets, they told me that race relations was a problem sometimes in Nam. What's your take about that?"

He told me that the men out in the bush are together, but when they get into the firebase, the blacks gather in their hooches and play their music and the white gather in their hooches and play country western. When they get back to base camp for a stand down, the problems get even worse. In the villages, the blacks have their area and the whites theirs. The other ethnic groups sort of stay to themselves because they don't have the numbers to form their own group. "But in the bush,” continued Joe, “the men know that they have to depend on each other. No one allows drugs or marijuana or alcohol or race s*** to get in the way of protecting our asses."

I had to agree with Joe's analysis of the race situation. I noticed when I went out into the bush to hold religious services that there was a real team spirit among all the men. I usually had two groups come for services. The first group would fall in, close to the command center and the other group would stand guard around the perimeter. When I finished the first service, the other guards would change places and they would come in for services while the others took over the guard duty.

Most of the time the men were shirtless due to the humidity and jungle heat. When they came to my services, sometimes one might put on his shirt. It didn't seem to matter whether they thought I was Protestant or Catholic, Jew or whatever, all stood together, in reverence, black and white side by side. When I gave communion, I used the intention method, that of placing the wafer in a cup of wine and placing it on the tongue of the participant. The one thing I noticed was that they never asked what denomination I was, and I never made a point to tell them. All I ever said to them was to say that they were to take communion in the same manner that they did in the world in their home church. I was sure Catholics took communion along with me. All of them that participated appeared to want something tangible to be a part of their worship in the jungle. There were Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and on one occasion a South Vietnamese scout took part in the service. He could have been a Buddhist as far as I knew.

After the formal part of the service I would talk to the guys about almost everything. They would all gather around and share cigarettes, passing along the butt from person to person, handing it through the group, black to white to whatever. They would pass a canteen of water along in the same matter, not bothering to wipe the rim before taking a long drink. In the bush, they shared almost everything, water, food, smokes, socks, shirts, and even pants. They would have shared underwear except that most didn't wear any because of the sweating. They did not see color; they only saw brothers sharing with each other to make sure they didn't come back in body bags.

However, when they did come back to the firebase, I noticed, as Joe pointed out, the Brothers went their way, to their bunkers and back to their life style and the Whites to their own hooch and way of life. There wasn't any fighting among them that I saw on the firebase. They merely ignored each other. They were civil to one another most of the time. When they did get together, the conversations were about the bush, lifers, women, food, and the numbers of days left before DROUS. There was good-natured kidding within the races most of the time on the firebase.

One step back from the firebase, the distance between the races appeared to get wider. The Black Brothers went to their AO's and the Whites had their areas of operation. They would come together for religious services. However, I noticed that even then, there would be fewer blacks coming to the division services, and brigade services and when they did, they tended to sit together.

On Sundays when I went down to the unit level for services, even at base camp, both races would be just about even in attendance but sitting in their own race groups. I have no personal recollection of any race riots or skirmishes or unrest at base Camp Radcliff.

I did hear of some alterations from time to time between the Brothers and Kickers at our chaplain’s Staff meetings. A “Kicker” was the name given by the Blacks to describe those who were into country western music. Those chaplains who didn't go to the field said that there was a lot of tension among the races in base camp. That was one reason Chaplain Kelly at Division gave in to the chaplains for having character guidance classes, like chaplains had back in the States; to help the command to deal with race relations and tensions.

I have no way to measure the effect of the guidance classes. I do as little of them as possible while I’m here in Vietnam. I feel that having command training for social morality in this country is a sham. The men are marched into the class given by the chaplain, and staff sergeants stand by to make sure they don’t fall asleep. Most of the men could care less about attending these classes when they are standing down from fighting the war.

At one point in my conversation with Joe about the race problem, he asked me, “Chaplain, how bad is it getting in the States? I'm from up north and really never got into any problems with the Brothers. Since being in the Army and over here, I still don't know much about the so-called race riots. They leave me alone and I leave them alone."

"Joe," I answered. “I don't know much about riots either. There seem to be plenty of unrest and unhappy reactions among both the blacks and whites. I was stationed in Okinawa before coming to Vietnam and we had our share of racial problems. The command insisted that chaplains address the issue in character guidance classes. But there were tensions in the barracks and sometimes in the village nudie clubs, fights would break out when a Black showed up in a White club or a Whitey showed up in Black territory."

"As a chaplain, did you ever have any personal knowledge of racial problems?” asked Joe.

"Well, yes, I did get involved in a situation that could have been explosive when I was in Okinawa. It was the only one I got into, but that was enough."

"What happened?" he asked.

"Let me see, where to begin. It was last year, in January.”

Jim, I'm sure you will recall that situation. I remember you helped me write up the after-action report I had to do.

I went on telling Joe my story. “I had just finished an evening service at the Chapel in Machinato, Okinawa. I was in my civvies as I usually dressed for the evening service. I headed home and I noticed the lights were still on at the Youth Center. Since I was on the youth board, I thought I would stop by to see what was going on. The place was almost empty. There were two teenagers playing pool and Sergeant Jones, one of the NCO’s in my battalion, was in charge. As I entered, I called out, "Hey, Sergeant, not much going on tonight."

"Not here,” he said. "But there's a real problem brewing in Naha."

"What's happening down there?" I asked.

"The Brothers at the NCO club are about to explode," he answered.

"Why, what's going on?" I asked.

"I got out of there as soon as I could; some of my friends are threatening to take on Alpha Company across the street and their Commander, CPT Fowler," he answered.

"Sounds serious. What's the problem?" I asked.

"There's a whole bunch of problems,” he said. "The white guys from A-Company across the street from the club are sticking their heads out of the windows and calling us niggers and mother f***ers." He paused, "I'm sorry Chaplain, but you wanted to know.”

“The club is packed with angry brothers and I think a riot might break out. I got the hell out of there. I had to work tonight, and besides I can't afford to get into any trouble. My CO has me up on an article 15 charge for failing to repair as it is. I was an hour late for formation last week. My car broke down on the way in and I had to hitch a ride. Captain Fowler wouldn’t give me a break."

“Who's your CO?" I asked. I had forgotten that there was a new company commander named Fowler. Naha was near the end of the island and he was new to the command. I hadn’t met him yet. I knew A company was loaded with problems. I had visited the area a couple of weeks earlier and felt a lot of tension. I thought most of it came from the work they did in the warehouses and shops. I didn’t realize that there were high racial tensions going in the barracks as well.

"Captain Fowler of A company," he answered.

"Do you think I should go down and check it out?" I asked.

"It wouldn't hurt, but be careful," he paused. "My CO is in the middle it,” he said.

"Well, he's no ken of mine but I might be able to get help," I said.

Joe interrupted me. “Chaplain, wasn't Sergeant Jones Black?"

"Oh, yeah," I said. I opened up a coke, took a drink. "That's the good thing about being a Chaplain. The troops generally accept me and appreciate me no matter of my color. So they generally talk to me before they talk to any other officer."

I went on with my story; "I jumped in my little Mitsubishi car and headed to Naha. I didn't bother going home to get into uniform. I had no idea what to expect so I didn't have a plan. As I pulled up in front of the NCO club, I could see the soldiers in Alpha Company hanging out of the barracks’ windows and yelling derogatory names at the blacks in the club.

There was only about five hundred feet between the barracks and the club. The company was all lit up, there were troops standing by the door, giving the bird to the blacks who were milling about the club. The club was dangerously full of men, others outside were yelling back the A Company troops. I had to push myself through the front door to get into the club.

As I got into the club, one E-8 stopped me and asked, “Who in f*** are you?” One of my battalion NCO’s told him I was the Battalion Chaplain. Then that NCO came over to me and whispered, “Damn, Chaplain, what in the hell are you doing here in civvies?”

I told him I didn't have time to change, that I had met Sgt. Jones in Machinato and he told me that something was going down tonight.

"Chaplain," said the E-8, "this place is going to blow up. Look at the crowd. There must be over three hundred brothers packing this place. Several of us tried to break them up but some are drunk and pissed off with CPT. Fowler for not controlling his men and all hell is about to break loose."

I asked, "Where's the club manger?"

"He locked himself in his office," answered the E-8.

"Let's go and see him," I suggested.

I went to the office and knocked on the door. He came to the peek hole in the door. "Who in the hell are you?” said the manager.

"I'm the Battalion Chaplain." I answered. “Can I come in? We need to talk.

"What the f***,” I heard him mutter as he opened the door.

I told him, "You got a bomb out here, and you better close the club as soon a possible."

"I can't do that unless the General authorizes me to," he said.

"Have you called him?" I asked.

"No," came his terse reply.

"Damn,” I said. "Give me the phone."

I first tried to call my battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Noble. He was at a party at the General's house. I then called our XO but he was in the shower. I told his wife that it was important that I speak with him. He came to the phone and suggested that I call the General quarters and inform the CO what was going on. He said that he would be down as soon as he could get dressed.

I called the General’s house and talked to Lieutenant Colonel Noble and he put the General on the phone. The General asked to speak to the club manger and told him to close the club, “now.” Then he would get the Military Police down there as soon a possible.

Three sergeants from the battalion began to help by taking charge and moved throughout the club, telling the crowd that the MP’s were coming and they needed to get the hell out of there.

Joe broke in again, "Damn Chaplain, you were the only white guy in the club."

"That's right," I said. "But I wasn't even thinking about that.”

“I decided to pay a visit across the street to the barracks to find out what was going on with Alpha Company and Captain Fowler,” I said.

I went on with my story. “The tension was just as hot as it was in the NCO club. The men were mostly drunk or high on drugs and cussing and yelling obscenities to the blacks as they were leaving the club. Some, who didn't recognize me in civvies, wanted to know who the f*** I was. The Duty NCO met me at the door. He knew me and welcomed me. "Damn, Chaplain, this place is dangerous. Everyone is drunk and itching for a fight," he said.

"Where's Captain Fowler, Sergeant?" I asked.

"I'm not sure, Sir. He may be in his office," he answered.

I walked right into the office; I was getting angry and didn't care what the CO might have thought. Fowler was sitting behind his desk. It was obvious to me he was drunk and not in control of himself, let alone his company.

"Captain," I said. "Are you aware of what's going out in the area?"

He stood up and began to stagger around the desk. "Damn right I know. We’re going to kick some these black mother f***er's butt." He slurred as he spoke.

I said, “That’s crazy, captain. The situation, it's getting out of hand. I just had the General close the NCO Club and the XO is on his way down here as I speak."

"I don't give a good g**damn who's coming," said Fowler. He moved over to his safe and began to fumble with the combination. After several starts, he opened the safe. "Chaplain, I'll show you what I'm going to do." He showed me a .45 and a clip of ammo. He pounded the clip into the gun and said, "I'm going to shoot those mother f***in’ niggers. That's the only way to stop this s***."

My anger began to move into fear. What in the blazes was I doing here? I asked myself.

“I went up to the captain, put my hand on his shoulder and with my other hand, led him to put his weapon on the top of the safe. “Come on, let's sit down and cool off a bit,” I suggested to him. He came over to his desk, forgetting the gun. He started babbling incoherent obscenities about the “niggers” and the moral of the battalion. I signaled the NCOIC to take the .45 and lock it in the arms room. He caught my eye, realized what I wanted him to do, and removed the weapon from the office. When the captain realized what had happened, he started to yell and take off to the arms room, but was met in the hall my Major Mattson, the Battalion XO.

Matt stopped him cold. He got right in his face and commanded him to return to the office and to stay there. Fowler mumbled something but turned and retreated to his office. Matt then spotted me. “Chaplain, what going on?” he asked.

I explained as best I could what had transpired since I last spoke to him. He told me that the MP’s had just arrived in the area (two truckloads of them) and Lieutenant Colonel Noble and the Commanding General were on their way down to the area. He then told the NCOIC to make him a list of all the troops that were in the barracks and those who were causing the problems as far as he could tell. “Beginning with your Company Commander,” Matt said.

"That's it, Joe. That's as close to a race riot as I ever want to be."

Joe thought for a minute, then said, "Sure is strange, the way that works. The further away the troops get from the bush, the more likely they are to riot. That's weird."

"I know, I've only been here for a little over a month and haven't really seen any problems between the Blacks and the Whites," I said.

"What happened to that Captain Fowler?" asked Joe.

"I'm not sure, he just disappeared. Within a week, we had a new Alpha Company Commander," I answered.

"What did they do to the troops?" asked Joe.

"Let me see,” I thought for a moment. "Not much as I remember, they sort of swept it under the rug. I know my supervisor Chaplain, COL. Harms tried to get a medal for me for squelching a potential riot. He put me in for a Legion of Merit. He got a packet of letters from those involved suggesting I was responsible for keeping a potential explosive situation from blowing up. He had about twenty letters of commendation from various commanders and NCO’s who were involved. But the 2nd Log Commanding General wouldn't pass on it, because it would mean he had a race problem in his command and he didn't believe there was a problem."

"What did your commander say to you after things cooled off?” asked Joe.

“The next morning they had a barracks shake down. The MP's went through the whole building, checking the entire lockers and beds and everything. They found several stashes of marijuana and some other junk, but what became more important was the amount of weapons, mostly homemade ones that they uncovered. My CO, Lieutenant Colonel Noble called for me to come down to the company HQ the next morning and there he showed me a room full of these inventions of distinction.
They had machetes shaped so sharp you could shave with them. There were lead pipes, brass knuckles, and an assortment of chains. Steel hammers with chains welded to the handle and various sizes of baseball bats. There must have been over a hundred individual weapons; all of them could have killed someone. The Colonel pointed out to me that I was in the middle of a war. We laughed about it and he thanked me and told me that I would be hearing from him.”

“When I started to drive back home, I felt weak and nervous. I got sick to my stomach. It hit me that I could have been killed if that night had erupted. When I left the Battalion for Vietnam, they gave me a hammer with a lead pipe handle and a chain welded to it. The card that came with the weapon said I could use it in Vietnam if they would let me take it into country.”


Monday, February 26, 1970
Dear Chaplain Miller,

Jim, I finally found some time today to write my thoughts and observations to you. The other day I sent you a letter about the women in Vietnam. In this letter, I'll try to talk about some observation about the men in country.

I returned from Pleiku and dropped off the chapel supplies that Chaplain Honeycutt had asked me to pick up from the Pleiku Chapel. Then Dave and I drove over to our Battalion Headquarters to let them know we had returned. At HQ we found that the Battalion firebase had moved to a new location five miles from Warrior and deeper into the jungle countryside. The HQ company commander told me that the new firebase would be called Tuffy. He also said the men would not be coming back for a stand-down until the firebase was operational.

As I was about to leave the HQ and head back to my hooch, the Sergeant Major who had just come back from the firebase stopped me, "Chaplain, you better get out to Tuffy. The troops are really feeling down. They thought they would be coming back here for a stand-down for at least three days. Now, they have to stay out in the field and build another new firebase. They need a break but the Division told The Old Man that we would have to wait until the new base was set up," he said.

I told Dave to get my gear ready for me and I'd check and see if I could get a chopper out in the evening. As luck would have it, I got ride within the hour. The pilot had me sit up front and wear a helmet with radiophone in it. I felt important; it was the first time I flew up front in the co-pilot’s seat. The pilot and I were able to chat as we flew out to the new firebase, Tuffy.

He said that the new LZ was a "hot LZ,” meaning that the landing zone was apt to receive sniper fire. On our flight out, he pointed out some landmarks to me, a small cluster of straw huts, a brown twisting river and a patch of banana trees that he said belonged to the VC. I didn’t ask him how he knew it belonged to them. He said that we were flying low and hugging the jungle canopy of trees to avoid any quick sniper fire before arriving on the firebase. When we were ten minutes out from the base, he radioed into the TOC to let them know we were about to come in for a landing. The S-3 cleared him to land on the new LZ and for him to alert our door gunners to watch for sniper fire.

As we approached closer to the landing area, the pilot called into the TOC again to let them know he was about to land and what he was carrying. I was surprised as I listened over the chopper radio to hear the pilot call in to the command, “This is T-36 with a re-supply and one pack, The Batman."

Specialist Joe Desart, the S-4, was on the other end of the radio. There was a brief pause and then he came back with, “Say again, over."

"I repeat, I have one Batman,” said the pilot.

The radio was silent for several seconds again. Joe came back over the chopper’s radio, "The Man (meaning the CO) wants to know, what in the hell is a Batman?"

"Skypilot," the pilot said.

"I read you. Tell him to report to the TOC when he arrives," said Joe.

"Roger that. Here we are," said the pilot to me over the headset. Giving me a thumbs up sign as he did a quick turn and approached the LZ, lowering the chopper rather quickly.

Because of the sniper warning, the pilot didn't make a normal pass over the base. Since the base was just getting built and many of the GI's had put up poncho tents and shade while they dug their bunkers, the pilot didn't want to blow them away. Also he said to me as we were going down “that a fast landing and fast get-way might keep Charley from opening up on him.”

I had been in country long enough to know that the enemy had many names. There were the politically correct names used in the Command briefing such as the VC, meaning the Viet Cong. NVA or The North Vietnam Army, they also were called the NVL or the North Vietnam Liberation front. There were other less politically correct names for the enemy such as Charley and Gook or LBs, Those Little Bastards.

We landed, unloaded and the chopper was out without a shot being fired. I ran over to the TOC area to report to the CO.

A firebase in its infancy is a sight to behold. The war won't stop for construction and everyone who is not out in the jungle is working their tails off, building bunkers and setting up fields of fire so they can be secure by nightfall. The Recon Platoon and Bravo companies or Infantry companies or Grunts or Troops, or Blue legs or GI's; what ever you want to call them were units of the 1/12. A company and C company were also out in the bush. They were scouting the area for the sniper who was ruining the day for the battalion as it tried to complete the occupation of it’s new firebase, Tuffy.

Lieutenant Colonel Sterling welcomed me to the area. "What's the weather going to be like?" he asked, giving me his big grin. Then he went on and told me that orders came to move the same morning I left for Pleiku. He didn't see any need for me to get involved the first day, but wanted me out here as much as I could. He promised me again that he would see that I got out to the units in the bush at least once or twice a week. I told him that was fine and then I asked if I could be excused to try and dig a hole for myself for the night. "Of course, maybe you can find someone to move in with. You'll have to help them build a bunker though; most of the troops are still on top of the ground. “They won't get my damn TOC in a hole until tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I'm not going anywhere,” said the CO as I was leaving.

Specialist Joe Desart, the S-4 who operated the command radio, looked up as I was leaving the area. "Say Batman, I got a place started but I can't get away from the horn with the action out in the bush. I started a hole but had to leave it so I could cover the radio.” Pointing eastward he said, “It’s just over there by that tree. Pecker's there now, digging and filling sandbags. If you want to help out, we can make it big enough for three."

"Pecker?” I asked.

"I'm sorry, Captain. I mean Specialist Peter Murphy; he pulls the night shift on the horn," said Joe with a sheepish grin on his bearded face.

"I'll call you Joe, if you'll call me Chaplain or Chap or even Batman."

Joe laughed. "No problem, Chap."

Lieutenant Colonel Sterling heard our conversation. "That will be fine out here, Chaplain, but in base camp you need to stay with the officers. This damn war has some protocol.” He laughed. “By the way, what in the hell was the code word, Batman, all about?"

"I have no idea. That was something the sky man called me," I answered.

Joe was laughing. "I asked the pilot where he came up with Batman and he said he couldn't think of Skypilot at the time, so he said Batman, because the chaplain is always swooping in on the troops to say a prayer."

Sterling smiled, "You better get to digging. There are a couple of hours of daylight left."

I worked my butt off that evening. Pecker and I got the bunker halfway finished. Joe came over a little later and the three of us got with the program. We humped timbers from around the area to put over the hole so we could put sandbags on them for overhead protection when we were finished. Joe insisted that we build a large bunker so the three of us could sleep and play cards and relax under three layers of sandbags. He needed extra room for a radio. If he had a radio in his hooch, he wouldn't have to stay up all night at the TOC. So we worked until chow time and didn’t quite finish. That night I slept under the stars in a large hole with only several timbers overhead, cuddled up in a sleeping bag.

The next morning I got up early, made a canteen of chocolate milk, put in three or four extra cremates and opened a can of peaches from the C rations for breakfast. The mess hall wouldn’t be set up until the evening. The rest of the day, I spent digging and filling sandbags and by the close of day, we had safe and secure hooch with radio and three layers of sandbags overhead. What I didn't expect was that the hooch was not only safe from enemy mortars; it was also an ideal place for a little "pot smoking."

It seemed that Pecker had a little unauthorized habit. Joe said he only smoked a little and he never smoked on duty. I sat down with Pecker and suggested to him that he needed to wait until I went into base camp, or to at least smoke when I was not in the hooch.

"No problem," he said. Then he asked me. "Chap, you won't say anything to the CO, will you?”

"Not unless he asks," I said.

"Thanks, Chap. That's cool."

That evening, HQ at base camp flew in some "hots" (Meals in thermo cans) because the mess hall still wasn't ready to start cooking. Sterling called me up to TOC to eat supper with him. We got to know each other quickly over the short time we were both in country. We shared our families, philosophy and religious view and from time to time, what we thought of the war. He was Protestant, but not of any particular denomination. During our conversation he asked, "How's your bunker coming along. You and the S-4 getting along all right?"

"The bunker’s fine and I like having the radio there. I can keep up with what's going on out in the field." I answered.

"You like that funny weed that Pecker smokes?" he asked with a weary smile.

"I haven't seen him smoking anything but Luck's," I said.

"Now, Chaplain," said the CO, “I know he smokes marijuana, but he and Joe are the best damn troops on this base. I would rather have one or both of them out here with me than any other GI in the Battalion. I know he smokes a little. I told him to keep it to himself or I would bust his ass. They both told me that they only do it a little."

"I haven't had a problem with them smoking," I said.

"Good, just let me know if they get carried away." That was the last word the Colonel said about the matter to me.

After dinner, there were a couple of hours of daylight left. It was a cool evening in the jungle mountains. The sniper had been quiet for the day, so I sat down on the bunker, took out my journal and stationary and continued to put my thoughts down in this letter to you to let you know what was happening to me so far in the war.

[The good thing about waiting thirty years to rewrite this letter is that I can give some data that I didn't have available to me in 1970. When I use statistics in this writing, they are open for criticism as most statistics are. Those who opposed our action in Vietnam had one interruption and those who were pro Vietnam War have their rendition. I will merely provide them as a matter of interest.]

Jim, I can't help but ask myself, "Just what kind of men are in this war?” Some are so young that to call them men is an error in judgment. I was thirty-five by the time I got to Vietnam, so anyone younger is a youngster, a lad, a kid, and many are still teenagers. However, no matter the age, some were reported to be as young 16 years old. A day or two in the bush, out in the jungle or rice patty with a heavy rucksack and a M16 in their hand, trudging hour after hour through monsoons and humidity that suffocates the very air one breathes, made them men. They may cry like a baby. They will do childish things. They have fears, anxiety, anger, hostility, love, commitment, and devotion - all a mark of the solider-man.

They call some of their senior Sergeants, Pop, Big Daddy, Top. The Commanding officers are referred to as the Old man or just The Man. There are titles or names given to the various units within the Army itself. Names for such fighting men are, Blue legs, or Red legs depending whether your Infantry or Artillery. They answer to GI, Dogface, Grunt, Troop, Bushman Specialist, and Sarge, PFC, or Hey You. One wounded man told me that the bullet that wounded him didn't know what color he was, what age he was, what rank he was or what sex he happened to be.

The men and women who were part of the 543,300 in country at the peak of U.S. commitment in Vietnam in 1969 were not all aware of what was happening to themselves or to the United States. The soldiers, who were facing the enemy and dodging the bullets that may be looking for them, were not fearing the political battles that were stirring the inside of the Belt-Way in D.C. The men I lived with on the firebase in the Central Highlands were on a mission. That mission was primarily to stay alive for 365 days and then take the freedom bird home.

They had no idea the war would leave behind such statistics as 58,148 of their fellow soldiers killed in action. When they returned to the homeland and the freedom bird landed in Washington State, they listened to President Nixon's tape recording welcome them home. They had little interest in the statistic that five men killed in Vietnam were only sixteen years old. That the oldest soldier killed was sixty-five years old. When they headed home, they were not aware of the statistics that said 11,465 of their commanders killed in action were less than 20 years old. No one I talked to in December 1970 while I was on my way home, mentioned that the average age of the 11- Bravos killed in Vietnam was 22 years old.

Those KIA’s in Vietnam all seemed to die before their time. There is nothing fair in war. The men and women who die in war are all cheated equally as far as death was concerned. It mattered not to any of us returning home that approximately 70% of those killed in Vietnam were volunteers. None of them that I knew before they were killed joined the military to die. They joined to fight. They joined to avoid the draft. They joined to serve their country. They chose Vietnam rather then Canada or jail. There may be as many reasons for a person to join the military, as are persons. None of them joined to die.

Those 58,148 KIA’s who came into the military understood that they were risking their lives. Most of them I suspect, if we knew their reason for coming into the military, thought that in 365 days they, too, would be hearing President Nixon's recorded voice. "Welcome home, the American people are proud of you for serving your country."

I'm sorry, Jim; I'm getting ahead of myself in this letter. The men I served with in 1970 were a part of the statistics in some way. My observation of these men was limited in scope to the men of the Fourth Infantry Division and Supportive Units in the Central Highlands at An Khe's Camp Radcliff and later at Camp Granite near Qui Nhon Nhon.


Doug entered and took a seat. I knew he had gone on R & R for some rest and recreation earlier and had just gotten back. He looked worried as he took a seat. I poured him a cup of black coffee. "Sorry, no sugar or milk" I apologized.

"I take it black, Chaplain, that's the way we have it in the bush."

"Did you have a good time on R&R?” I asked.

"That's what I want to talk to you about." He stared at his coffee cup.

"Where did you end up going?”

"I went over to Taiwan. Vic from A Company went with me."

"Well, how was it? What happened? You don't seem too excited about the trip. Or is it having to come back here that's got you down this morning?" I wondered why he wasn’t looking at me.

"We went to Taiwan.” He went on talking. “You know, Chaplain, I got married just before I came to Vietnam. Cathy and I had planned to meet on R&R, but I couldn't get enough money together. Besides, she couldn't get off of work. Anyway, I ended up going alone."

I began to catch on. "You got into some trouble in Taiwan?”

"Yeah,” he said, hanging his head. He couldn't look me in the eye. He paused for a moment and continued. "I really didn't want to commit adultery. I told Vic that I was going to keep straight. You know, like you said about cussing. I was going to be different. At least I thought I could be different."

I knew the answer but asked anyway. "What happened? Can you tell me?"

He began to tell me. He arrived in Taiwan and he and Vic took a cab to their hotel. It was plush and cool and everything looked exciting. When he registered, the desk clerk asked him if he wanted a girl. Doug refused. The clerk couldn't understand. He asked him if he wanted a boy. Doug laughed at him and said no. “I want a hot bath and clean sheets and a steak dinner.” The bellboy took his bag and led him up to his room. It was a wonderful room, with complimentary fruit and wine. He tipped the bellboy and closed the door.

Soon there was a knock at the door. He opened the door and there stood a beautiful woman wearing a see-through gown. "You like?" she said.

“No,” said Doug and closed the door. When he got out of the shower, there was another knock on the door. Again another attractive almost nude woman stood before him with a cart of lotions and fresh towels.

"Maybe you want massage?” she asked.

Doug said. "I finally gave in. I thought a message would be nice and that would be it." She came in and I lay on the bed and before I knew it, I was unfaithful and it was over with."

"It's tough trying to resist temptation." I comforted.

"Yeah, I gave up fighting it and now I'm miserable and afraid I may bring something back to Cathy."

"You can go see Doc and he can check you out." I said.

"I'm going to do that. I wrote Cathy and told her all about it and how sorry I am that I messed up our marriage."

I was shocked. "You wrote Cathy already?"

"Yes, just as soon as I got back. Mailed it this morning. Do you think that was a mistake?” Doug asked.

"Well,” I started out. "Now she has to make a decision. Too bad, now you laid a trip on her. It's your sin and your guilt, but now she has to deal with it, too."

"I know,” said Doug, tears filling his eyes. "I thought she had a right to know."

"I'm not sure about the right business," I suggested. "Your punishment will be that you have to live with what you did. You can't go back and repair the damage. You could have asked God to forgive you and you know he would, but you still have to live all your life knowing you broke your marriage vows. That's a heavy load," I told him.

"What can I do now? I won't get home for another five months.”

I thought for a moment. Took a drink of cold coffee, sat silent for several minutes and finally I said to him, "Look, give me Cathy's address at home and I'll try to write her a letter explaining what you just told me. It may not help, but if it's ok with you, I'll try to help her understand what happened to you."

"I'm not sure it will help, Chaplain, but I don't think it can hurt anything either."

He wrote out the address, took the Kleenex I handed him, dried his eyes and went out the door saying, "Thanks again, Chaplain. Thanks."

The rest of the afternoon I attempted to compose a letter to Cathy. I suggested to her that Doug was very sorry for his actions. I told her about his tears and his genuine sorrow. I pointed out how his fellow grunts talked of nothing else but sex when they were back in the camp and in the jungle. Even in the field and at base camps, the bunkers are wallpapered with Playboy centerfolds. I explained to her about the pressure that he faced when he went to Taiwan. How they thought nothing of sex and that it was on every street corner and that was the way of life in the hotels. I told her I was sorry that they couldn't afford to be together. I told her of my previous experience with Doug and how faithful he had been to attend services and try to keep from being as foul mouthed as his buddies. I suggested that she had every reason distrust him now, but that I felt he would stay straight. He was heart broken for what he did. I didn't make a copy of the letter, but now I wish I had.

Two weeks after I sent the letter, I got an answer from Cathy. She told me that she had gotten both letters on the same day and she opened Doug’s first. It broke her heart and made her so angry that she didn’t read my letter until later. She took off her rings and wrapped them, getting ready to mail to him when she opened my letter to her. She said she didn’t know what to do after she read what I wrote.

She wept all night and asked the Lord what she should do. "Chaplain," she said, "This morning I decided to put the rings back on. I wrote Doug and told him I would try to forgive him this time, and we could talk about it when he got home. I do appreciate you taking the time to write to me. I guess I deserve some of the blame. I told Doug that it would cost too much for me to meet him in Hawaii. We could have borrowed the money. I'm sorry it happened but I do understand his needs and my own for that matter." She signed the letter. “Thanks again. Please pray for Doug and me.”

I guess what I'm learning alone in Vietnam is that women, the war within men, are not only the women here in Vietnam. However, as they represent the sexual thoughts of most men, they indeed are with the men in the field and at war.

The other day a young man came into my office and said, "Chaplain, I'm horny as hell."

"Ain't we all,” I responded.

"If that's true, what do you do about it?” he asked.

"Me?” I answered. Trying to shift the question back to him. "What do you think I do?”

"I have no idea. That's why I asked,” he said. "Do you get a boom-boom girl or do you beat your meat?"
I tried laughing. "You’re serious, aren't you?” I asked.

"I'm going crazy,” he said. "I don't think I can wait till I get my R & R."

"Ok. I'll tell you what I do. I don't beat my meat. But I do masturbate. I find relief in that way. It's not the same as making love to my wife, but it's a whole lot better and safer than poking it in a boom-boom girl."

He was stunned. He looked at me and repeated, "You masturbate?”

"Yes, I do sometimes. Now don't go blabbing to the other troops. I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I don't want to stir up any problems for the command. I just happen to think it beats the alternative. Please excuse the pun."

He laughed. "I guess most of us do the same thing. But no one talks about it. I've always been told it was a sin and that it could harm me."

"To tell you the truth, it won't hurt you or me and I'm not even sure it's a sin,” I said. "But if it is, I'm sure the Lord will forgive me for my weakness."

I would be amiss if I did not confess my experience of pushing the temptation envelope to the edge on a hot, sticky, sweaty afternoon. I had gone to Qui Nhon with Hugh, a chaplain friend from a sister battalion, to visit the hospital. His battalion had a jeep that they allowed him to drive. So two Baptist Chaplains were on their own in an evil city. We had spent a couple of hours in the hospital and another hour sitting in traffic on Highway Nineteen. My friend was a little more adventurous than I was. When he spotted a "massage parlor," he suggested we take a hot bath and get a massage. I agreed to the idea. After all, I was sweaty and hot. We had done our ministry and I was ready for the adventure.

Several military vehicles were parked in the makeshift parking lot. We looked around the area, half expecting to see a Baptist deacon or a woman missionary society member standing by watching who went into this parlor. It was a rundown building with orange, blue and yellow painted sides. One wall was made out of split beer cans. When we opened the door, a little bell rang and a Vietnamese man in a grubby dirty white shirt came to the front desk. “You want massage? Got two girls ready now. Five dollars American. You pay me now. Tip girls if you like.” He spoke through large yellow, front teeth.

I looked at Hugh. "Are you sure this is a good idea?' I asked.

"I need a shower and so do you,” he said.

"Come this way, gentlemen,” said the Vietnamese manager.

We went through a door that led out of the reception area into a long hallway with rooms running along both sides. My heavens, I thought to myself, what am I getting into? My last massage experience was in Tokyo at the officers club three years ago when Gwen and I went there for a vacation from Okinawa. Maybe the stories about these places in the city are true.

A very tiny young girl, wearing a loose-fitting T-shirt interrupted my thoughts. She was wearing short shorts. She took my hand and led me into one of the little rooms and said, "Take off uniform.” Too late to back out now, I thought.

Hugh was ushered into the next room.

She handed me large, white, clean towel. I went to the corner of the room and pulled back a curtain. She pointed to a shower. I got the message. I must confess the shower was hot and refreshing. As I stepped out of the shower, I started to dry myself with the towel. She gave a giggle and began to dry me off. Now what do I do? I thought to myself.

"Come.” She led me to a waist high table that for some reason I noticed for the first time since coming into the room. How did that get here? I thought. She took my towel away from me and left me standing naked and confused. It's true. I was confused. I couldn't speak Vietnamese, and she couldn't speak English very well. I remembered the two teenagers in Pleiku. The little masseuse laid the towel on the table and patted it, indicating she wanted me to lie down on the table.

Her hands were soft and light as they worked the muscles in my back and legs, working the pleasantly scented oil into my fresh-cleaned skin. I decided to allow her to do her thing and began to relax. I remembered that I had only three weeks to go before my R & R came up and I would be in Hawaii with Gwen. The girl’s small hands worked my stiff neck muscles and than down to my backside. She took each toe and rubbed them softly, massaged the bottom of my feet and worked her way up to my inner thigh. Then she tapped my side and turned me over. There I was, at half-mast and wondering what next.

"Ho! Ho!" She said. "You say good morning." She moved her hand along my thigh. "I give you special massage, you tip five dollars." She told me.

"No, I no tip,” I said.

"I do for three," She held her hands out in a pleading manner.

"No, I don't need it today." Who was I trying to convince?

Then she said, "You want more, special?”

I was afraid to ask what that might be. "No, no, just massage." I tried to say.

I believe she got the message. The flag went down and she handed me a dry towel and went out the back door. I got dressed, feeling good about several things. I was clean, I was relaxed and I had no guilt. Well, not as much guilt as I could have had.

I went out to the reception area, a little fearful that a GI might see the cross on my uniform. Hugh came out right after me. I looked at my watch. "Thirty minutes." I said as I pointed to a sign that advertised one-hour massage. Hugh started to complain to the man of the house. He smiled and shrugged his shoulder. Hugh leaned on the desk and looked him in the eye and said, "We should get a refund. We didn't get a whole hour. You owe us thirty minutes," Hugh argued.

The man shrugged again, reached in the drawer and handed us printed card that said, "Next massage half price." We both began to laugh and walked out. I never asked Hugh if he got the special and he never asked me if I gave in and got the special. All I could think about on our trip home was how anxious I was getting to get through the next three weeks so I could take my R & R.

As I keep saying, “Women are the war within man. Especially when man is at war.” One way that the Army attempted to negate the women war within men at war was the concept of R&R, rest and relaxation. It was good for the grunts and it was great for this chaplain. Rest and relaxation in the midst of war. What a concept! "America,” what a country! I wonder if the United States would have been victorious in WWI and WWII if it allowed the men to stop fighting for a week and go off to a romantic island with their spouses or with their significant others.

Women followed men in other wars and waited behind the lines or around the campfires to provide comfort for the soldiers. In Vietnam the men had excused absences to go to their women.

I chose to go to Hawaii where I planned to spend five loving days on R & R with my wife. It was the hope and the plan of that meeting that kept my morale up and my libido in check.

The chaplains in Hawaii were in charge of setting up the program for mates to meet. We had a plush suite on the beach at a reduced cost. Planned tours were available for those who wanted to go on them, but only the waiting wives attended them before their warriors arrived on the island.

Sex was implied in the programming for the week. When the wives’ husbands got off the plane from Vietnam, there was one place they wanted to go, a wonderful motel on the beach.

However, not all R & R's are successful. Every month or two I heard of GI's being stood up when they arrived in Hawaii. It seemed to me a new form of a Dear John letter. It was a Dear-John-I'm-sorry-but-I-just-couldn't-make-it-to-Hawaii, enclosed-is-your-ring. Have a nice war. Personal relationships cannot always be put on hold and even in the middle of a tour of war; a soldier fights a war on two battlefields simultaneously, in Vietnam and Home.

Sorry for the rambling letter. A woman in a war zone is an important combat factor. Men are often battling both war and women. The human urges of men and their moral duty are fighting battles that they don't always understand.

Jim, keep me in your prayers.




(This letter has been edited to include later experiences I had with women while I was in Vietnam and how they affected the men and women fighting the war. This is an attempt to pull thoughts and experiences together without regard to dates.)

Monday, February 23, 1970
Dear Chaplain Miller,

I have been in country for a month now. I have seen action, and I have slept in a bunker on a firebase. I have had religious services in the jungle, I have flown in helicopters, I have seen sniper fire, I've tasted new wine, and I've seen dead enemies and dead friends. Most of my association has been with men, boys who had to grow up and become men in order to survive. However, as has been true since Adam and Eve in the garden, women play an important part in man’s actions. Women can be a war within the man.

I read of wars and see movies about wars and there is often only a passing view of the problem of sex in a war. Women are either depicted as playing a large part or a passive roll in conflict with countries at war. My experience in Vietnam was limited when it came to women in war. Women were the subjects of GI conversations and thoughts. However, most of the thoughts were internal and the conversations were couched in four letter words that debased the act of love. When I hear a grunt, a sergeant, or an officer talk about "This f###ing war,” I hear them saying they've been screwed. There is no love involved in the act they are talking about. I don’t even see an image of women in their language.

Whether spoken or not, women are, at times, a war within the soldier. Since I have no way of understanding the inner thoughts of the women soldiers nor can I speak to their experience in a war zone as a fighting person, I venture to guess that men might be the war within the women as well. I will not attempt to speak for the females in the military. I leave that to future writers and historians. I want to share with you my limited experience, with the women I happened meet on my journey in blind faith.

Dave and I made it home from Qui Nhon without any event worth writing about. When I arrived in camp, I got word that I was wanted out on the firebase. I figured the CO wanted a report on the wounded, so made arrangements to get out to the base as soon as possible. I was fortunate to catch a re-supply bird quickly and reported to the TOC and to Lieutenant Colonel Sterling.

Indeed the CO was concerned about the wounded. He had been writing letters to their families and wanted the latest information. I gave him my report and he took some notes.

I then told him the Division Chaplain told me that the Commanding General wanted the Division Chaplains to conduct Character Guidance classes not only at base camp, but also on the firebase as well. I told the CO that I didn't think much of the idea of gathering the men on a firebase to a mandatory class of race relations, drugs, sex, and such.

His comment gave me the answer I was looking for. "Damn it, Chaplain, every time you talk to a troop out here, it had better be character guidance."

"Thank you, sir," I said.

Then after a moment of thought, he offered a compromise. "Maybe you better get some classes together for the units back at Radcliff."

"Good idea, sir," I said.

"By the way, Chaplain,” asked the CO, "how often do you plan to bring services to the guys in the bush?'

"As often as I can, sir. It gets difficult sometimes for me to get on a supply chopper.”

"I can fix that. I'll see that you get out on the supply runs. That would be about every third day or so, depending on the weather."

"Thank you, sir. The men look forward to the service, especially in the bush. I like going out there. It makes me feel like I'm doing what I came to Vietnam to do."

"That you are, Chaplain, that you are."

Out on a mission in the bush, A-Company broke through on the radio. "In coming, in coming."

Sterling shouted out, "Coordinates! Get the damn coordinates!”

The XO was on the horn. "Artillery ready! Pop smoke when ready!"

"Alert mortars!” commanded Sterling. "What's happening out there? How many? Any hits? Get me in contact with the CO," he continued to yell.

"Yes, sir!" replied the S-4, Sp. 5 Dausset. “He just got on the horn.”

"No sweat" said the RTO. "Only one sniper, no hits, I sent out a squad to flush the bastard out. Over."

"Good job," said Sterling. “Keep us informed."

The commotion died down and the TOC became quiet and normal. "Sir, is there anything else you need from me? I’m going to have service in ten minutes on the base,” I said.

Smiling, he asked, "Damn, is it Sunday all ready? No, go on ahead. I have nothing at this time - except to be ready to move to a new firebase this week. Just as things get hot, it seems we are ordered to move,” said the CO.

"Sir, speaking of moving. I need to go to Pleiku to Camp Anarie to pick up some Chaplain's equipment that was left there when the Battalion moved to An Khe. I'm not sure what it might be, but the Brigade Chaplain asked me to pick it up if possible."

"Go right ahead. Be careful. Highway nineteen can be tricky through the mountains. You can go tomorrow; it will be day or two before the new firebase will be open. We’re all headed back to base camp tomorrow or the day after. Have a good service, Chaplain. One of these days I'll attend."

"You're always welcome, sir," I said as I went to the door.

As I was about to leave, he stopped me and asked, "What’s the weather going be like tomorrow?"

Again, I smiled. "I checked with our HQ’s before I came out and they said, "Same-o, same-o."”

"Good," said the commander.

By now, my friend Jim, you may be wondering what all this has to do with women in the war. Well, my little experience in Pleiku when I got there the next day is an interesting adventure and story that speaks to my naiveté and my lack of experience with women in a time and place of war.


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