Bob O. from The BoBo Files has honored Blind Faith with the prestigious Arte y Pico award.  It means a lot to me that someone appreciates my dad's diary of this trying time in his life.  A diary that also shares a glimpse of history during a painful war for our country.

The Arte y Pico award was created and to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their creativity and their talents, also for contributing to the blogging world in whatever medium. When you receive this award it is considered a "special honor". Once you have received this award, you are to pass it on to 5 others.

"What a great way to show some love and appreciation to your fellow bloggers!!!

The rules for passing this honor on:

1) Pick 5 blogs that you would like to award this honor to.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

Here is my list of recipients:

A Second Cup - This is great parenting blog that's probably not really intended as a parenting blog. However, since my kids have not hit the teen-age years yet, I read these stories to get a glimpse of my own future.

Time for a Smile - Awesome photography blog. You have to check out these smiles - they're contagious.

Obscure History - I love  "This Day in History" facts and trivia. Obscure History is great combination with daily "obscure" history facts.  Sign up for a daily feed and learn a little history trivia each day.

Life Quest - Another great photography blog. However, in addition to some awesome photographs, this blogger sprinkles in worthy campaigns such as praying for other bloggers.

Sillybear Inc. - A great Christian humor blog. Proof that you can be really funny and still be wholesome.


We made our way toward the pad, and Top pointed out Speedy's bunker. “Drop your pack and stuff off here and I'll take you over to the TOC so you can meet the CO's. You are planning to come to the party tonight, aren't you?"

"You bet. I wouldn't miss a steak dinner in Vietnam on a bet."

"I'll see that we sit together.” Top nodded “I can't believe the Division Band is coming out in the morning. This is a real crazy war. A far cry from what it was like a couple of years ago."

We came up to the wall of sandbags that surrounded the large hole with the two-conx container one at each end. We came to the steps leading down, with the flag and warrior feather guarding the entrance way. "This is where the TOC is located. The CO and XO bunk in the containers with the operations. They have a cot for a bed and a bottle for comfort."

The door was open to the TOC. The CO's were sitting on the cot and the XO was on talking on the radio. They both stood. I attempted to salute, but they reached out their hands for me to shake.

"Welcome, I'm LTC. Anderson and this is LTC. Sterling, my replacement."

Sterling grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously. "Welcome to the Red Warriors, Chaplain. I'm looking forward to getting to know you. What's the weather going to be like tomorrow?" He let out a little laugh and the others laughed with him.

That question threw me. I had no idea why he asked me and I gave him an “I’m not sure answer”.

Later I asked Top what was behind the question. He reminded me about the new movie, “Patton,” that had just made its way to Vietnam and was being shown on every firebase and compound through out the country. In the movie General Patton had an encounter with his Chaplain. Patton ordered the Chaplain to pray for the weather to assist his plans for the invasion. Top couldn't remember if Patton wanted it to rain or to stop raining but it really didn't really matter. The Chaplain said a prayer and the weather suited the General’s plan of attack. So he gave the Chaplain a medal.

Now, for the first month or two every time I reported to Colonel Sterling, he would kid me by asking, "What's the weather going to be like?”

"I have no idea Sir,” I would answer. He would smile and go on with his mission.

Looking to the SGM, LTC. Sterling asked, "You have a place for the chaplain for the night?”

"Yes sir." There was twinkle in his eye and a bright smile on his face. "He's bunking down in "Speedy's Hooch.”"

The CO laughed. "That will be an experience. We'll see you tonight Chaplain, at dinner. Plan to give the invocation."

"Right sir!” The SGM and I turned and left the TOC.

To make conversation as we walked back towards Speedy's hooch, I mentioned that I had heard a rumor at base camp was that we were going to be moving in a couple of days. "Is that true, SGM?”

Top let out a curse. "Damn, not again. Who told you that?”

“I heard it at the brigade briefing last night."

"Don't mind my cussing. It doesn't mean anything. It's just that all we do in this f###ing battalion is build firebase after firebase. We just get comfortable and s##t; we have to move. My back is killing me; I've dug so many holes in this damn country that I feel like a gopher."

We stopped at Speedy’s hooch. "Chaplain, I'll see you tonight at the dinner." He turned to leave.

I stopped him. "Wait minute, Top. I was planning on having a service later this evening before the dinner. How do I get the word out?”

"No sweat, Chap. I'll take care of it. How about four thirty, just before chow?”

"Sounds great. I'll hold it in the Artillery section, next to Blind Faith." I told him.

Speedy was not around when I got to his bunker. He had put up a makeshift shade, using his poncho liner. He had attached it to the side of the bunker and used two more stakes or poles to give it enough height to sit under. I got down in the hole that led into the bunker, and pulled away the door that was made from a sandbag that was split open.

Inside a foot-wide trench that was even with the entranceway ran down the middle. On either side, about two feet higher than the bottom of the trench was space for an air mattress. The top of the bunker was lined with logs holding two layers of sandbags on top of them, leaving a space about three-feet above the two shelves. It was dark and musty smelling inside, so I chose to sit out under the makeshift shade, planned my first service and prepared an invocation for a dinner party in the jungle of Vietnam.

Sitting in the shade, I felt a cool breeze blowing. It felt cool because my fatigues were soaking wet. Just as I sat down, Speedy came up to hooch. "Can I get you a beer or a coke?” he asked me.

"A coke would be just fine."

He went to the far side of his bunker and opened the ice chest under his poncho. He threw me a coke and laughed, "It don't matter, coke or beer they both cost only a dime at the PX."

"Thanks," I said. “I owe you one.”

“No sweat chaplain. I hear you’re going to hold service up at Blind Faith at four- thirty. I'll see you there. I have to get down to the pad. Another chopper coming with some FNG’s."

"What are FNG's?” I asked.

An odd expression passed over Speedy's face. It was as if he was trying to figure out if he should answer me. Finally he said, "Well, I guess for you, it could mean Fine New Guys." He laughed and went on down to the pad.

It didn't take me too long to figure out that the "F" stood not for "fine" but for that four-letter word that echoed though Vietnam. “F###ing New Guys."

Jim, I won’t try to clean up my letters from the four letter words that fill the air over here. I hope you and anyone who reads these letters will understand that I am resolved to try not to use them myself, but it seems that cussing over here is the normal language of war.

One of the chaplains I met at base camp who had only a month left in country told me that after a couple on months in this country, he found that he used curse words in his dreams. He sometimes began to think in four letter words when he was preparing his sermons.

I closed my eyes and laid back in the makeshift shade with my paper and pen resting on a full sandbag and went off into my dream world again, remembering how I got into this nightmare here in Vietnam and Firebase Warrior.

There it is, Jim, not a normal letter. What’s the weather like? I hate it here or it’s not too bad here. I miss my family. What’s happening where you are? Blah, blah and laugh, laugh. I would like these letters to let you in on my inner feelings, fears, dreams and hopes. I hope they make sense to you. I will try to continue to keep you informed as to what is happening to me in the year ahead.




February 13. Middle afternoon
Dear Chaplain Miller,

Firebase Warrior was a clearing about the length of two football fields cut out of the dense jungle. It had a perimeter of twisted barbwire with thirty feet of clearing to the bush and jungle.

I was talking to a solider at base camp who was assigned to the 4th Engineer support battalion while waiting to get in to see a movie. He was telling me how firebases were established and the amount of involvement it takes to build one of these places.

He told me that there are three commands involved in the establishment of firebases and their location, depending on the division’s mission. The purpose for the establishment of firebases is to protect our soldiers in the jungle area so they can receive “fire” support from the artillery command and the infantry can provide rapid response to any action. In the planning for such operations and the establishment of firebase, three commands must coordinate the action: they are the infantry, artillery and the engineers.

The Engineers assist in finding a location in the jungles that they can clear. They have to take into consideration the location, time and place of the operation. The biggest consideration is the size of the area to be cleared as well as the composition of the unit that will occupy the area. All of this recon takes extensive map study, aerial photographs of the area and recon information from previous recon inserts.

Before attempting any clearing, the engineers must involve the artillery to assure fields of fire, where it is needed and how they might get their weapons into place to accomplish support for the infantry. The third part of the team, the Infantry, then reviews the plan to see if it meets their goal of being able to carry out search and destroy missions in the surrounding jungle.

Once the area has been selected, the three commands, Infantry, Artillery and Engineers, arrange for a visual recon together. In that recon, they determine if the area is suitable for helicopters to have a proper, safe landing zone. They will determine what kind of foliage, brush and undergrowth will have to be removed as well as the approximate number and average diameter of trees that are in the area.

The standard quantities of explosive supplies necessary to establish a firebase are 1000 lbs. of composition C-4; 10 cases of bangalore torpedoes; 5,000 ft of detonation cord; 500 ft. of time fuse; 300 non-electric blasting caps and 100 M-60 fuse lighters. The engineer went on to tell me that all of the above plus the artillery big guns and bulldozers, sandbags and timbers and conx container are part of the firebase planning.

I guess the engineer fellow wanted to impress me with the contributions the engineers made to the war effort. Now looking down on Firebase Warrior, I was indeed impressed.

As we circled the base I could see the bunkers scattered about. Some were still being built; others were covered with dark green plastic sacks filled with sand. I would become well acquainted with sandbags. Some of the men used to say that, "Lady Bird Johnson owned a sandbag manufacturing company in Texas."

There were tents made from ponchos and a few small trees that were spared being cut down by machetes, saws and bangalore torpedoes that were used to clear out the jungles. The larger trees were cut into logs long enough to go over the bunkers and strong enough to hold two or three layers of sand bags. At each end of the firebase, the artillery had set up their 105 howitzers and from one end to the other around along both sides were four or five mortar pits with the mortar team bunkers next to them.

We circled once more and I spotted two conx containers sitting in a deep hole just off to the left of center on the base. There was one container on each end of the crevasse. An American flag flew next to the wall of sandbags and barbwire circled the hole with the containers. Alongside was a large, red, eight-foot wooden feather with the words, "Red Warriors" painted on it; next to the steps leading down to what I was to learn was the TOC or Tactical Operation Center.

GI's were scattered and scurrying about, grabbing loose towels, shirts, soft hats and what ever else the blades of the whirling chopper were stirring up. Several, close to the helipad, covered their faces as the dust and dirt began to form a cloud filled with miscellaneous pieces of paper, wood chips and whatever else was not tied down.

The chopper slowly lowered itself downward guided by the pilot; until the runners under its body touched the soil as gently as a lady puts her foot into a swimming pool to test the temperature of the water. The door gunners were off before we touched completely to the ground. I jumped right out. Before I could turn around and get my bearings, the slick was emptied. The gunners were back in their alert defensive position as the Huey, lifting off the firebase, blew dust once more as it soared off to a new mission.

"Major, I'm Sergeant Henderson with S1. The CO wants you down at the TOC ASAP. Chaplain, he said to get yourself settled in and report to him when you're finished. Right this way, Major."

Off they went and I stood alone, except for the pad man, Speedy, who was pouring a canteen of water over his head to get rid of the dust and dirt. He looked up,

"Chaplain, Sir, the Sergeant Major, TOP, told me to send you up to his bunker when you arrived." He pointed up a little rise to a large bunker with an antenna sticking out of the top. "He wants to show you around. I think you're bunking with me for the night. See you later."

I made my way toward the bunker. Several GI’s stepped up to greet me. One shirtless sweating guy called out, "Father, are you going to have services today?"

“I am a father,” I said laughing, "and I have children to prove it. I understand Father Taddy plans to be here tomorrow to hold Catholic services. You're welcome to attend mine today if you want to. I'll let you know when they are just as soon as I get settled."

Father Taddy had told me it was ok to invite any GI to my services no matter what their denomination because they need all the help they could find. I learned since being in the Army that being called "Father" didn't matter. It was a term for the Catholic Chaplains, but I found it endearing, and I never made a big deal about correcting anyone who called me by that title.

I came up to the Sergeant Major’s unfinished bunker. He was squatting oriental style on his haunches holding a sand bag open while another Sergeant filled the bag with dirt from a bunker they were building. The SMG was shirtless. I could count his ribs he was so thin. His hair, what there was of it, was sticking straight up. His glasses were hanging at the end of his nose. When I came up to him, he looked up with his eyes not moving in his head. I was a little taken back when I saw he had the smoldering butt of a cigarette sticking out of his right ear.

He spoke before I had a chance to introduce myself. "I'm Top Roundtree. You can just call me Top, everyone else does," he said. He pointed to the fellow holding a shovel of sand wearing an olive drab undershirt that was soaked through with sweat. "That's Sgt. McVay, just call him Mac. Glad you could make it out today. I understand you just got to the unit a week ago. Your predecessor, Chaplain Iverson, liked it out here. We were good friends."

Top stood up, took the butt from his ear and hung it on his bottom lip. He was about five six and even looked thinner than when he was in squatting position. He put out his hand to shake mine.

"Top, I hope we can be good friends, too. This is all new to me, and I have no idea where to start."

Putting on his fatigue shirt, he said, "Come on, I need a break. I'll show you around." We made our way across the base. "I asked PFC. Speedy if you could bunk with him tonight. He built a pretty good hooch and has extra room."

"I met him at the pad.” I said. “He told me he was expecting me.”

“Good,” replied Top. “Out here it won't matter too much where you stay. But I'll get you a bunk with one of the officers tomorrow. Right now they're finishing up their hooch and there's no extra room.” Then he asked,

“Did you get set up at base camp?”

“Yeah, I set up a tent at base camp. Dave, my assistant, stayed back to finish getting it settled. I think I’ll like it. It seems roomy enough." I answered.

"Good.” Top pointed out the artillery area. "That's the 42nd Artillery. They support our firebase with three 105 Howitzers. They give us 360 degree support."

We came up to the howitzer and I noticed it had a name painted on it. "Blind Faith."

"Do they name all the guns?" I asked.

"It would seem so,” he pointing to the other 105. "There's Amazing Grace. The other one at the other end of the base is named Blind Hope." Top laughed. "Sounds like a preacher named them.”

He went on to give me a bit of information about howitzers. He said that they were used in WWII and they are modified in Vietnam so they can be more mobile. Some 105's are towed behind a 6x6 truck, but most of them are carried into position by helicopters.

The gun requires an eight-man crew to fire about three to six rounds per minute. They can handle a variety of ammunition, including high explosive shrapnel shells and "beehive" cartridges, which contained thousands of small, sharpened darts. The reason, he said, for having at least two batteries on each firebase when possible was that they had a range of about 12,500 yards. So having two to three 105mm at each end of the firebase covered a large area for the troops in the field to have fire support when needed.

TOP pointed out the plastic seat on the privy that was just off from the Artillery helicopter pad. "Since you'll be covering the 42nd while you're out here, you probably can use their can. They have a better supply system than the grunts and have plastic toilet seats."

That bit of information was a comfort to me, in the months ahead.

"Since I'm on the subject," he went on to say. "There are piss tubes scattered across the base." Pointing to a three-inch pipe protruding about three feet from the ground on a slight angle. "I believe there's one by the dump close to Speedy's hooch."

"That's good to know,” I responded.


February 13, Early Morning
Dear Chaplain Miller,

In my mind I could see the white oblong shades that cover the wooden window frames that were painted shut by years and years of white trim paint. Glass panes were ornately shaped in half-hexagon fashion, letting ample light that filtered through with a soft white hue that cast shadows across the bedroom furniture, hiding its true finish. The antiquated dresser that I was able to resurrect from the dusty tenement basement, using a handy home-do-it-yourself, inexpensive, new-type antique kit, stood at proud sentry-like attention at the foot of the bed.

The dresser was guarded by the sewing machine resting on the table that I had made. The machine was intended to make it easy for my Gwen, my wife of ten years to keep busy while I was off fighting the war. The center and predominate area in the small apartment bedroom was taken up by the large, king-sized bed. My chaplain’s assistant, who first saw the bed in our home in Colorado Springs where I was first stationed, called it "an adult playpen." The golden spread on the bed gave the room a stately air of adventure. It was our kingdom, our throne. I had one hour left before I had to go into exile for the next three hundred, sixty-five days.

I had secret thoughts way back in my mind that maybe I would make it home before next Christmas. Even while sitting in this chopper it still was a prayer, a hope and a dream within this dream that I was experiencing at the moment.

"Honey, when is Grandma bringing back the boys?”

"She said to come by her place to say goodbye before you leave. You can say goodbye to her and your dad and the boys. Your brother Tom will be there, too. He doesn't have to report to his Guard unit until the end of the month."

"Well, sweetheart, we've only an hour to ourselves. Come on over here, I'm already missing you"

Tears were in her eyes, "Oh, Don." That was all she was able to say.

"Hey, don't start crying. Remember, I get R and R in six months." I tried to comfort her.

The chopper droned on. So did my dreams and memory. I took my last look around the dim shadows of the bedroom. My heart began to beat as I remembered the last touch. The full long passionate kiss, the feel of her warm body, soft, sensually pressed against me. I had only one hour to be with my love, my lover, and my wife. The question echoed in my dream-like thoughts of the hour. Why in God's name did I ever join the army?

"Good-bye, boys. Come on, Tony, Mike, give daddy a big kiss and promise to be good and take care of mummy for me." I made no attempt to wipe my own tears as I held these two dear gifts from God. They didn’t answer me. What can a two and six-year-old understand about daddy going to war? What does a child feel about that which they have not experienced? My feelings were bewilderment, frustration, anxiety, fear, or, were those only emotions belonging to a daddy when he was doing childish adventures?

"Come on, Gwen, we better get going. Now, Mom, don't you start. I'll be just fine."

Dad took my hand and pulled me into a hug, "Take care of yourself."

Tom shook my hand, "I'll write you from Georgia when I get there. They do let you write in boot camp, don't they?”

"I think so. I never went to boot camp, only a week of training at New Jersey."

He smiled. "Take care of yourself, brother.”

"No sweat,” I said in my dream-like stupor, while my mind said, “I hope."

I felt a tap on my shoulder; the left door gunner handed me a cold coke. He smiled, closed his ice chest and returned to his gunnery post. Never has a coke tasted so good. I felt refreshed but continued to drift back into recording my dream. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll want to write a book. At any rate, my kids might want to know what happened when their daddy went to war.

I sipped my coke and began to write. In a confused turmoil I remembered the evening I left. I was standing in a dream-like vapor, in Oakland Army base, in a long line of other GI’s all waiting in the "space available line,” trying to get on the next flight to Vietnam. It was indeed very dream-like and strange standing in line trying to get a flight to war.

The first two flights that night were filled. Gwen and I went out to eat and talk a little about how to handle our correspondence, expenses and plans for R and R in Hawaii, sometime in July or August. We were planning to make the first part of my tour longer than the last part after R and R. It seemed that we were trying to keep the inevitable from happening.

Finally I said, "Honey, you go on home. It looks like I'll get out on the next flight this morning. The boys will need you. Hurry now; go before I start to cry again. Remember, I love you." I said in a soft quiet voice.

We kissed one last time, a long lingering kiss, both of us with tears in our eyes.

"Bye, write soon," she said while wiping her eyes.

I remember thinking I must be going out of my mind as she drove off. Here I was hurrying off to war. No! I was only hurrying to get this over with, so I could wake up from this nightmare.

I put my journal down and looked over the side of the chopper. They don't always close the doors when flying low. The jungles were filled with trees that formed a lush green canopy. Every once in a while I could see a hut or two. We flew along a small river and then along a road, just over the treetops. All in all, it was a beautiful day for a helicopter ride.

Randy had turned around from his co-pilot seat and tapped me, as he pointed downward. There it was, Firebase Warrior?
Jim, I hope I won't bore you with my rambling thoughts and emotions that I will be facing in the year ahead. I thank you for being willing to be a sounding board for me as I face this adventure with fear and tribulation.




I had gone to Qui Nhon with Chaplain Father Taddy to visit the men from our divisions that were in the hospital. Four men had been hit with a fragment grenade. As I talked to each one and had prayer with them, I began to believe I was in a war, not just a dream. When we returned to Camp Radcliff, we found out that four more men had been wounded when their jeep hit a land mine.

That evening when I was cleaning up my hooch, (a hooch is the home where you rest your head in a war zone) I was still in a daze from the day’s events and feeling like I was watching myself in a dream, someone knocked on the side of my tent.

"Knock, knock," said a soft, low voice.

"Come on in," I said.

"Hi,” came a voice that I recognized as Father Taddy’s. He was a very soft spoken and dedicated Catholic Chaplain. I had spent most of the day with him and was surprised to see him again so soon.

Turning around, I greeted him. "Hi, yourself. Did you stop by to get a little Baptist blessing?"

"I think I may need one."

"What's happening?” I asked.

"I came by to see if you would like to go with me to the morgue."

"It’s not my favorite place to visit. What's up?"

"Division called me. They brought in four LRRP’s (long-range reconnaissance patrols). They're the guys that go out into the jungle and spy on the VC and bring back reports about their movement. These men didn't make it back alive. Do you want to go with me?”

"I don't know about wanting to go, but sure, I'll go with you. Let me close up here and I'll be with you in a minute."

We walked toward the casualty branch office near the MASH unit. Father Taddy began to tell me how understaffed the Catholic's were in the division and how the two priests assigned to the fourth had to cover the whole division. I felt fortunate to have only a battalion to cover and the brigade to support when I was at base camp.

We came to the morgue, and a specialist met us at the door. "Hi Father, hi Chaplain. You're here to give the last rites to the guys they just brought in, right?"

"Yes," said Father Taddy very softly. I was too nervous to say anything. I remember thinking: These will be the first men I have seen that were killed in action. KIA. Looking across the room I saw four gurneys with long black bags, one on each gurney.

"Do you mind letting us take a look?" asked Father Taddy. The young man began to unzip the bags. Father Taddy began calmly to give the sacrament for the dead. I really didn't know what Protestant chaplains should do on an occasion like this. They never taught us about this situation in seminary.

I couldn't help but look at the faces of these young men, who were eighteen or nineteen years old, eyes closed in a restful, at-peace expression. Their faces were painted with camouflage in black and dark green streaks. Each had a bullet hole right between those closed unseeing eyes. The VC had found them sleeping and shot them once through the head, giving them the eerie appearance of having a third black eye between the two closed eyes.

The bodies were discovered together after they missed their radio contact, except for the one that was on watch. He was found about twenty-five feet farther in the jungle. He too, must have fallen asleep, never to be awakened on this earth again. I prayed to myself, "Lord God, what a tragic mess this war is. Please be with the families when they hear that their boys have been killed. Somehow help those loved ones make it through the days ahead."

That was a strange day for me. I was beginning to believe that casualties came in groups of four. Twenty-two days later, I was waiting on this lonely helipad for a helicopter to pick me up and fly me with the cache of supplies to the battalion firebase, called, "Firebase Warrior." Our battalion-fighting name was "Red Warriors."

Sitting on a helipad is a boring, hot, and sweaty part of a chaplain's duties. I was to find myself having many of my 8,240-plus Vietnam hours waiting as I attempted to fly out into the field to visit my troops and conduct worship services. I heard a jeep pull up behind me. I turned around and a major jumped out, grabbed his duffel bag, returned the salute of the driver and approached where I was sitting. I stood and started to salute, but he waved it off.

"Morning, Major," I said, dropping my hand.

"Hi, Chaplain. Are you on your way to the firebase?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. So am I." He reached out his hand and offered a handshake. "I'm Randy, the new Battalion Executive Officer (XO). I arrived in the country five days ago and I'm just now getting here."

"Welcome. I'm Don, the new Battalion Chaplain. I've been in the country a month now, but I just reported to the battalion last week. They put chaplains through a lot of crazy training before assigning them."

"This is my second tour, so I guess I didn't need the training. Besides, the XO I'm replacing has already gone home."

"Major Butler. I met him just before he left. He seemed happy to be getting out of Radcliff."

"Don't blame him. Once you're on your way out, you get anxious to leave before something happens. Have you met the new CO?" he asked me.

"No, I haven't met either one. LTC Anderson was in the field when I arrived and LTC Sterling came into HQ and was out at the firebase in an hour. This will be the first time for me to meet them both."

"I understand there are plans for a change of command tomorrow morning, with the Division Band on the firebase," commented Randy.

"I guess so; LTC Sterling sent word in that he wanted me there for the ceremony and for the dinner party tonight."

"Dinner party! I didn't hear anything about a party,” said the major. "Things have really changed since my last tour. Back then, in sixty-eight, there would be no parties on any firebase. The biggest party was the war party of Tet."

"Yeah, I've heard about that. The brigade sergeant who helped me to in-process told me that he was stationed in Pleiku when the VC overran the base, back then," I said.

The major appeared to be giving me the once over. I thought that I might have had my cross on crooked or something else was wrong with my uniform.

"Chaplain, can I ask you a personal question?"

"You just did, but go ahead, ask away." I laughed at my attempt at humor.

The major smiled, "What in the hell are you doing in Vietnam, anyway?"

"That's a good question. I've asked myself that question for a month now. I didn't have to join the army, but the young men in my church congregation were being drafted, and when the Chaplain's Office asked me to join, I felt it was like a draft notice. To answer your question, I'm here because you're here."

It was an answer that I would be giving over and over again in response to this most-asked question on my tour.

"Good answer," said the major and gave me a pat on my shoulder. "How long have you been waiting?”

I looked at my watch. "Just over an hour."

"Damn! I hope it won't be much longer." Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he said, "Jesus, I forgot how humid this country could get." Then he looked at me to see what my expression might be. "I'm sorry, Chaplain, I didn't mean to cuss."

I smiled. "I understand. I've been in the Army over four years, and I'm lucky I guess, no one has used my name in vain, yet. (Man, I hoped he had a sense of humor.) I just spent over two years in Okinawa so I'm sort of used to the military vocabulary as well as this humidity and muggy hot weather."

"You know, Chaplain, when I'm back in the world, I'm pretty straight. I go to the Methodist Church and for the most part, my language is usually clean. But the minute I arrived here, it was f### this and f### that and who gives a f###. I use God's name from time to time as well. It doesn't mean anything, it just seems to happen."

Just as he said that, there was, what became over the years, a familiar "whap-whap-whap" sound of the Huey Helicopter. They were the workhorses of the Vietnam War. Most often they were cleared of back seats so supplies could be easily thrown in and the Packs, referring to passengers, could just jump in and find a place to sit.

They called these Hueys, slicks. It's been over thirty years now since I spent those hours waiting for that sound of helicopters. Whenever one flies over the house, I can close my eyes, and I'm back in Nam, seeing those welcome buggies of supplies and replacements.

A GI appeared out of nowhere and began to throw in the supplies. The right door gunner jumped off and reported to the Major. He saluted and told the major to get in the front, that the CO was waiting for him at the firebase. I jumped into the back and found a space among the supplies. The left door gunner, grinning at me, gave the peace sign with his fingers in a V. Better than holding up only one finger, I thought to myself.

The other door gunner jumped in and took his place behind the 50-caliber, signaled the pilot with the all-clear sign and the chopper began to rev-up. The blades began to make an assertive whirling, whipping sound and we were off over the golf course and departing Radcliff.

For some reason, whenever I got into a helicopter I felt like I was floating, not flying. I can't explain the feeling; it was different from flying in a fixed wing. I remember walking in Saigon on my way to Japan for an R and R with a scout pilot who flew a fixed wing.

We went by a group of choppers in the compound and he said, "I just don't believe those damn things can get off the ground. They must do it with mirrors. God didn't make boxcars to fly straight up."

I was the only "Pack" to be going out, other than the major. So I was alone with my thoughts and the cokes, beer and ammo. I thought over the Major’s question that he had asked me, “Chaplain, what are you doing in Vietnam?” I thought of my family in Alameda, California.

Only four weeks ago I was with my wife, "back in the world," an expression often used by soldiers in Vietnam. I dug in my pack and took out my journal. I leaned back against the metal cargo wall and began to write.


It was Valentines Day, Saturday, February fourteenth, 1970, the day of love in Vietnam. I was waiting on what was called the "Golf Course." No U.S. Open would be played here, no Riders Cup competition, no Masters Tournament. This was no Cypress Point or Pebble Beach. I was not there to play golf. It was the name given to the helicopter landing area at Camp Radcliff in An Khe, South Vietnam, 277 miles north-northeast of Saigon.

Brigadier General Jack Wright, who decreed that the landing area would be cleared by hand, instead of using heavy equipment, which would strip the area of its protective grasses and bushes, named the landing strip, the Golf Course. Without the grass and bushes to anchor the soil, the area would be a dust bowl during the dry season when the helicopters landed and a quagmire during the monsoon season. General Wright declared that by cleaning the area by hand it would be "as clean as a golf course." The name stuck and even appears on topographic maps of the facility. It was a grand idea. Too bad he didn't have an air-conditioned clubhouse to go along with the course.

I was sitting in the hot Vietnam sunshine breathing the heavy humidity, sweating profusely as I rested on several cases of beer with my feet on one of the half dozen or so wooden ammunition boxes. There were several cases of coke, two full bags of mail, and various other supplies to be forwarded to Firebase Warrior, where my Infantry Battalion Commander LTC. Anderson was to have his change of command ceremony on Sunday.

I was alone, except for the guard that was sitting in a little tin-sided shake at the far end of the dozen or so helipads. Even at a distance I could see a big, boldly painted "peace symbol" on the open door. Next to one of large gas fuel tanks nearby was another hand painted sign in bright red letters that read: "Super Shell with Platfermate will get you places you don't even want to go." I thought to myself, right on!

I took off my steel pot with its camouflage cover and adjusted the little black cross on the front. The cross was a symbol that told the soldiers that I was an army chaplain. I remembered being kidded by one of the officers in our base camp, that I should have my captain’s bars on the helmet, that way the VC wouldn’t think it was a sloppy x to mark the spot.

I took another look into my chaplain’s kit, to make sure, for the tenth time, that I had all my necessary supplies. The silver crucifix to place on any makeshift alter I could find while conducting services. My communion kit, a chalice that came in two pieces and screwed together to form a cup with a heavy base, and my little container, about the size of a snuffbox, that held the wafers. And of course, my little vial of wine, in which I dipped the wafers before placing them on the participants’ out-stretched tongues when giving the Lords Supper.

I thought as I looked over the kit: my, oh my, what if my Baptist friends could see me now, calling the Lord's Supper, communion, and dipping the unleavened wafer into real wine, not grape juice! I wondered what they would think? I was not sure what the long piece of black cloth with some holy words inscribed on each end symbolized. A shawl, you were supposed to put it around your neck when conducting services. I decided to just ignore it as too formal and priest-like.

I grabbed up my rucksack. A far cry from the seventy pounds that the average grunts took to the field. Mine contained a rubber air mattress, a change of underwear and a jungle uniform. There were two or three cans of sardines. I had packed three pairs of socks, my soft hat, my Bible and Stars and Stripes Newspaper, writing supplies, and of course, shaving gear and deodorant. I also had my daily log and notebook to keep track of the number of services I held each day and a head count of the number of attendees. Nixon wanted a Viet Cong body count for the record and the Chief of Chaplains wanted a GI head count for the religious record. I was beginning to understand that this conflict was a war of numbers.

This was to be my first visit to a firebase since I was in the country and assigned to my battalion, the 1/12 Infantry, the Red Warriors. It was a unit of the Fourth Infantry Division. A forward firebase was one step behind what served as the front line in the Vietnam War. Only there were no lines. It was more like circles. All throughout the II Corps and other U.S. Corps in South Vietnam, they used the same basic configuration. Base camp was where the division was located with all its various brigades and battalions.

Radcliff was such a base camp. It was named in honor of Major Donald Radcliff who was the first man killed in action when the 1st Cavalry Division arrived in the area around 1966. It was a sprawling base surrounded by a perimeter defense known as the Green Line.

The firebase was also subject to mortar attacks or infiltration by the VC. From the base camps battalions would go out into the jungle and clear a round area of two or three acres and set up a perimeter of defense similar to base camp, but on a far lesser scale. When the firebase was set up, the various battalion companies would go into the jungle and bush to carry out search and destroy missions. That was as forward as you could get unless you were on a long-range reconnaissance patrol called (LURRP's) or a squad point man "breaking bush."

Since 1969, the Fourth Infantry Division was in the midst of a new operation and policy, called "Vietnamization." It was an attempt to turn over the major fighting of the Viet Cong known as the VC to the Republic of Vietnam Army. The RVNA's were the South Vietnam army. The concept gave some hope that the combat troops were heading for the real world, home in the U.S.A.

In the meantime the war had to continue. The battalion would build a firebase that offered support for the various battalion combat companies to go out into the jungle to fight, if they could find the enemy. Firebases such as Warrior's, where I was headed were closer to population areas around Radcliff to protect them from the VC.

So far my first month in Vietnam had been rather peaceful, with the exception of Thursday, January 23.


Vietnam, how could this small Indochina country that I never heard of in any of my high school history classes come to affect my life and millions of other lives throughout the world? This strange country so far away from my world had it’s beginning in the same timeframe as the beginnings of Christianity, over 2,000 years ago.

Vietnam's country is an "S" shaped landmass, slithering like a two-headed snake in the heart of Indochina. One of the snakeheads is located in the North Country centered in the city of Hanoi. The other end with its head in the South, has its power center in the city of Saigon. These two heads are connected by a spinal cord of twisting mountain ranges. This connecting backbone is eighty per cent jungle and deep bush that offers a geographical protection to both the Western Vietnam border and the Eastern Cambodia border. It runs from the North and South along its' twelve thousand miles of snake-like body. The South China Sea protects its coastline along the Eastern Shore line.

I recall when I first arrived in Vietnam. Several planeloads of other military personnel and I were marched into a briefing room to hear a lecture on Vietnam's history and culture. The instructor was a 1st Lieutenant information officer. He described Vietnam as two baskets of rice at opposite ends of a bamboo pole, carried on the back of a peasant farmer. The baskets of rice represent the two deltas of Vietnam (two snakes head's one at each end). The Red River in the north and the Mekong River in the south of the country form them. The bamboo pole is represented by the mountain range with its' high peaks and its' vast jungles and undergrowth.

The instructor pointed out that rice was the major factor for the civil wars that plagued the country for over 2,000 years. The northern basket was the industrial power and the southern basket was the agricultural power. Each pulled against the other in attempting to try and control the other country.

In that lecture, the instructor gave the party line of course, claiming that the North took advantage of the South and repressed them in any manner possible. I had heard similar stories from my Southern friends in Mississippi who explained the Civil War of the United States in the same power struggle terms.

Our instructor stressed the party line of former presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and President Nixon. He hammered home that the United States and its allies were in Vietnam to prevent a hostile takeover by Ho Chi Minh and the evil empire of Hanoi, which was aligned with communist Russia. He spent a great deal of time describing the domino theory. That was the political idea that smaller countries were lined up like a wall of dominoes. If one were pushed over, all of them would fall in a chain reaction. He stressed the point that the area of Indochina was a line of nations like dominos. If the United States allowed one to fall toward the communists then all the others countries would fall with it. Our reason for being in Vietnam was to prevent the United States from losing the global domino game. I remember thinking to myself as I looked over the sea of young faces, some who had not even began to shave, I’m here only because you have to be here.

The instructor failed to mention the problem the French had with Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. How in 1954 the French lost their war with Hanoi at Dienbienphu in spite of their military might and assistance with finances from the United States.

Most of the participants in that information briefing had little or no idea who the players were in the Vietnam conflict.  They certainly had no idea what was causing them to have to sit there and listen to a Second Lieutenant tell them why it was necessary for them to leave their families. Why should they have to be the ones risking their lives to keep the dominoes from falling across the world?

No one asked: "Who is Ho Chi Minh?” (North Vietnam’s president, and for the most part, its spiritual leader.) No one asked: "What was the Vietminh?” (North Vietnam) No one asked: "Who is Vo Nguyen Giap?” (The General in command of North Vietnam Army.) Not one participant asked: "Who is Ngo Dinh Diem?” (He was a South Vietnam leader). Not one participating asked: "What did the Gulf of Tonkin have to do with the war?" (It was President Johnson's excuse for the United States Army buildup in South Vietnam.)

The list of questions could go on and on. In retrospect, most of the troops I met in Vietnam were like me. They did not know about the background of the war that they were asked and commanded to fight. They did not know enough about the political situation to even ask questions. They were there in Vietnam relying on blind faith. Their country said, “go,” and  like thousands over the years have done for our country, they went.

On my way out of the lecture briefing on the history and culture of Vietnam, I began to reflect on my own reasons for joining the Army and becoming an Army Chaplain.

Early in January 1966, I was a pastoring my first full-time church. I was paid the salary of one hundred dollars a week and provided a parsonage for my family. The church was located in the suburbs of Fresno, California and was named the Calwa First Baptist Church of Calwa, California.

Calwa was a two-hundred member church set in the suburbs of blue color workers on the South Side of Fresno. The church ministered to an aging sub-division of first time homeowners. Its growth and potential was at a stand still. The once-young families were aging or moving out to larger homes to accommodate their growing families.

I was starting to wake up to the world around me. I had finished seminary; I had my first son and my first full time pastorate. I was a hopeful minister on my way into my calling from God.

The year of hope for the United States offensive in the Republic of South Vietnam was 1966. General Westmoreland had placed the American Army forces in Vietnam on the offensive for the first time. On New Year's Day, the 173rd Airborne Brigade rolled into the plains of Reeds, just South of Saigon. They were the first American forces to operate west of the Oriental River, taking over the Bao Trai airstrip.

One of America’s staunchest allies, the Australians, sent the First Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment into the battle. They took their position on the East Side of the Oriental River. The river was therefore cut off from the use by the Viet Cong who had used the river freely for some time in their invading the South through that passageway.

In mid January 1966, the allied forces began what was known as their search and destroy missions between Chu Lai and Qui Nhon by both the Marines and 1st Cavalry Divisions. They uncovered heavy enemy concentrations of Viet Cong in the area. They were, for the first time taking the war to the VC.

My third year as pastor of the Calwa Church began in 1966. I had no idea what this entire hubbub going on in Vietnam would mean to me. I preached to my congregation twice on Sunday and once in the middle of the week. I was aware that several families of my parishioners had children drafted who were serving somewhere in Vietnam. We had prayer for them on a regular basis in our Sunday services and in our prayer meetings on Wednesday evenings.

The newspaper reported in late January or early February that after six weeks of hard fighting the enemy was finally on the run. The United States was winning the war. The VC had left 2,389 bodies behind. America and its allies were harassing the enemy day and night on the ground and in the air. The headlines in the newspaper were filled with hope for an early victory in the war.

In late February, one of my church families received a telegram stating that their son was missing in action in Vietnam. The war had come to Calwa, to the First Baptist Church, to someone I knew and had to minister to. The newspapers played down the fact that Americans were losing lives in the war. A few war protesters were out there somewhere. Every once in a while the TV would show a college student burning his draft card before running off to Canada.

In February 1966, the press and news stations made a big deal out of President Johnson’s flying to Honolulu to hold a military conference. He met with South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky and his military advisors. There he pledged continued support to South Vietnam, as long as it maintained a democratic effort. It was at this meeting that Johnson told the Vietnamese, "It was time to nail the coonskins to the wall."

General Westmoreland, feeling that victory was at hand, knew what it would take to nail those coonskins. He requested additional troops be sent to mop up the coons. He wanted the President to request thirty-one more combat battalions, bringing the total American troop strength to 429,000. He did not get his request in full, but the American troop involvement in the war soared to 385,000. I did not know at the time, but I would be one of those additional new troops.

In March of 1966, I received a letter in the mail from the Sixth Army Chaplains Office in the Presidio of San Francisco. The Staff Chaplain was requesting that I consider applying for a commission in the Army Chaplaincy Corps. He pointed out the spiritual needs of our 385,000 men serving in the Vietnam War and how they were keeping that country from falling into godless communist control.

The letter read like a draft notice to me. It pointed out my qualifications. I was of the right age to receive a commission. I had over two years experience pastoring churches. I was a seminary graduate. My denomination had given them my name; thus assuring an endorsement would be forthcoming. My wife joked that one of my deacons must have suggested my name to the Sixth Army. It did indeed read like a draft notice. The only way Chaplains entered the Armed Forces was by volunteering.

Two days after the letter arrived, I received a large packet of enlistment forms from the Chief of Chaplains in Washington D.C, requesting that I fill them out immediately so they could be quickly processed. My wife and I looked over the stack of forms. They were almost overwhelming with so much paper work to be filled out. I put them in a folder and took them over to my office and laid them on my desk.

A week or so later, on a Fresno hot and humid day as I was going home for lunch, I grabbed the folder from the desk and took it on to the parsonage. As I entered the kitchen through the back door, I commented to my wife that since we had the parking lot black topped it burned my feet coming home for lunch. I threw the file on the kitchen table. Gwen, my dear wife, was doing the ironing and watching the news on TV. The attic humidifier fan was cranked up full strength. I sat down at the table. "What should I do about these forms?" I asked. Continuing to iron and watching the news, she said, "Send them in, or burn your draft card, I guess." That was it. We filled the forms out, and sent them to the Chaplains’ office. I remember thinking; maybe I won't pass the physical. My back kept me from playing football in high school.

Two weeks later I received a telegram from the Department of the Army, Chaplains branch. It was written in some sort of military code or jargon. I wasn't sure what it said. Was I in the Army or not? I took the telegram to the Army recruiter in Fresno. The Captain looked it over, stuck out his hand and said, "Congratulations, you are now a First Lieutenant in the United States Chaplains Army Corps." Then he added. "If you pass your physical."

He escorted me right to the military enlistment center where I was given a military physical on the spot. I kept thinking, I wonder if my back will keep me out? The exam is funny now. The doctor checked to see if I was breathing and passed me back to the recruiter who said, "Chaplain, you are to report to Chaplain’s Officers’ basic course sometime in October. I called your branch and you will receive orders in two weeks.”

Four years later, in January 1970, I finally arrived in Vietnam. What is to follow, is a record of that experience gleaned from diaries, and copies of letters I sent to a mentor chaplain friend, Chaplain (LTC) Jim Miller, who was stationed in Okinawa.

I hope someday my two boys will sit down and read this effort of love for them and for my country. I truly entered the military relying on blind faith and my God.


Blind Faith, is a chronicle of my personal letters written from January to December 1970 to my friend and ecclesiastical mentor Chaplain LTC James Miller, stationed in Okinawa. He was my senior chaplain prior to my receiving orders to Vietnam. Time has past since I first wrote these letters and they have taken on an era of embellishment.

On reviewing the first manuscript, which was rejected by six of the best publishers in the country, my friend and English Literature professor, Academic Vice President and Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, Dr. J. V. McCrory suggested that the book needed some embellishment. Therefore, the embellishment has taken place in novel form at times. The main structure of the original book has not changed. Some additions to the content have been added to the letters to enhance and to better explain my changing point of view concerning my personal thoughts at the time.

I have taken liberty to include in these letters some of my past memories, retrospective actions and experiences while serving as an army chaplain. Names have been changed to protect various soldiers and commanders. Some have not been changed because I felt there was no reason to change them. Many names were changed because over time I have forgotten the names, but remember their faces and personalities.


This book is written to fill the gap of separation that occurred in January 1970 to December 1970 between me and my two boys and my wife. My hope is that my sons Tony and Mike will have an understanding of why their daddy chose to be away from them their mom for a year. Not because he wanted too, but because God’s mission for him was to be a minister to others who had no choice but to be separated from their family because of the military draft. To you my boys, I dedicate this story of Blind Faith.

A special expression of love and gratitude to my niece who spent considerable time helping to edit these thoughts of mine and to assist in restricting some of my rambling. She has been a mother solider, fighting for the welfare of her son who was born with cerebral palsy.  She has served as an inspiration to me whenever I tended to feel sorry for myself and wanted to give up this book-writing endeavor.



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