Memorial Day

My oldest brother, who fought in Vietnam, passed away a few years ago. He didn’t say much about his time there.

This is the text of a letter he sent our late father, who himself fought in World War Two and Korea, in November 1966.

This is Memorial Day.

What I am going to say will be most unpleasant, but we just spent a hell of a night up here at Tai Ninh. Here’s what happened.

At 9:00, the Viet Cong hit our position with heavy mortar, recoilless rifle, and rifle grenade fire. We hit the bunker and stayed until 10:15 when the attack was over. A flare ship started illuminating the sky, but one was a dud. It hit the aviation section tent, but it hit a man who had been in Vietnam less than a month. The force practically scalped him, and the flare ignited. The man was killed instantly. I ran over there, just after the attack with a jug of water to help put out the fire caused by the flare. Quite a bit of damage was done to the inside of the tent. Men with fire extinguishers and me with my water jug (which had just been filled) tried to put out the flare (which is next to impossible.) The flare started exploding, so we hit the ground. After that, somebody said that a man was hurt badly. I went over to see if he needed some water, but he was dead when I got there. The sight was unnerving.

We finally hit the sack after midnight. Then at two o’clock in the morning, they really mortared us. We lost twelve men, WIA, two seriously (Both should live.) A mortar round landed three feet from our communications tent and RTT van. The attack lasted until three-thirty. After the attack, I was detailed to wash the blood from the inside of the RTT van. I won’t go into any gory details of either event.

I came out without a scratch. I did not panic nor was there any extreme fear on my part. One never knows how he will react to an emergency.

Our battery suffered 25% casualties during the attack. I am all right, and they moved heavy artillery in this morning, 155mm SP howitzers, to protect against another attack tonight. We should get some sleep tonight. I hope that I never have to write another letter like this again. The danger has passed, so be thankful that I pulled through OK, and go to Aunt Beth & Hazel’s house for Thanksgiving. You have a lot to be thankful for.

My brother was a classical music buff, who reluctantly accepted I was Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll. One day, he asked me if Billy Joel had served in Vietnam, to which I replied he hadn’t, asking my brother why he asked. He replied because this song so perfectly captured what it was like there.