February 15, 1968
Dear Kathy (Love),
So how's my fiancée today? Fine I hope.
Yesterday, we came off the operation and went to battalion hill for two hours which gave me enough time to send you a valentine present. Why??
Because I love you.
After we left battalion we went to Hill 47 to man their lines while they went on operation. Believe me, I'm glad to get out of the field. I received
your letter which informed me that you'd like to know exactly what's happening over here. So, I've decided to do something against my better
judgment and tell you about the last of Operation "Nutcracker".
February 13, 1968:
6:30 a.m. - Woke up after a night ambush which gave me only four hours of sleep. They told my squad that we had no activity duty during the
7:00 a.m. - Ate chow -- meatballs and beans. After chow, Wise, Johnson and I sat by a fire drying our wet feet because it rained all night.
8:00 a.m. - A helicopter came in and dropped off food, water and mail. Wise and I got mail and so did Johnson. He got one from his pen pal.
After reading your letter I felt pretty good so we three started talking about my favorite subject, --- you.
9:30 a.m. - Second and Third Squad started out on their daytime patrol. You see the day before, our squad went out so like I said, it was our
day to rest. A full squad has 14 Marines not counting the machine gun team. After the squads leave the base camp, they go separate ways. The
squad staying behind, which was my squad, has to watch the gear, like packs, etc. My squad was also the reactionary squad which simply means
that we were to go out in case one of the other two squads needed help.
10:30 a.m. - At this time, it is quite hot. In fact, too hot to sleep, so I decided to write to you.
11:30 a.m. - I stopped writing to take care of some personal business behind a clump of bushes (smile).
12 noon - I put my writing papers away because it was just too hot to write and I was getting hungry. So I went to my pack to get some chow.
At the same time, Cpl Hastings, my squad leader, told our squad to put on our fighting gear because Second Squad had run into an ambush. I was
mad because I hadn't eaten. The radio report said two guys had been hurt pretty bad. So, the first thing I thought about was Skinner because he's
the hero type and I thought he was one of the guys hit.
12:30 p.m. - Johnson walked point and I was the next in line in our squad. It was a four mile walk to where Second Squad was. It was so hot, I
left my shirt and only wore my flak jacket. (jacket which weighs about ten pounds. It's supposed to protect you from shrapnel)
1:00 p.m. - Almost to the spot where Second Squad walked into a NVA ambush. We could hear firing.
1:30 p.m. - We could see Second Squad. That is, Johnson and I could see them. Everybody else was too far back. When I saw Skinner, he was
about 100 yards away. He was yelling for us to get down because the NVA had spotted us and were shooting mortar rounds at us. As soon as we got
down, one mortar round hit right in front of us. Too close for me.
1:45 p.m. - Airplanes started dropping bombs on the NVA positions. The NVA were shooting from fortified positions and the air strikes weren't
doing much good.
2:00 p.m. - My squad had to move toward Second Squad to help with the casualties. When we got to them, we found one Marine dead and five
shot up real bad. That's about the time I started saying my prayers.
3:00 p.m. - After an hour of waiting for a medivac helicopter to take the bodies away, one finally came down. As soon as it hit the ground, the
NVA opened up again. Under fire, a helicopter can't take too many bullets and fly so it left, picking up nobody. All those poor guys with no medical
aid, only a corpsman.
5;00 p.m. - I'm starved!! Another copter came this time taking all the wounded and one dead away. The word was that they all might make
6:00 p.m. - Radio call said that Third Squad was pinned down somewhere on their way to help us. Oh no!!! We were all hungry and beat and I
was out of water because I gave most of it to the wounded guys. So away we went to take on more NVA (huh?)
6:30 p.m. - We reached Third Squad's position. When we got there, we found out that an enemy machine gun was at the beginning of the trail.
He was cutting down anybody that moved. He was well hidden by the thick weeds and elephant grass. Two Marines at the beginning of the trail
were shot so four Marines behind me went to get them. At the time, everything was real quiet. When the four Marines got to the wounded, they
picked them up and turned to carry them to safety. They were almost back when the machine gun opened up on them. What a mess, but they
were still alive.
7:30 p.m. - Dark and cold. Me with no shirt on. One of my best friends was still at the beginning of the trail, hurt and needed help. I asked
the corpsman if he was going to help the poor guy. He said there was no way to get to him without getting shot himself. That made me so mad I started to shoot him myself. Instead, I said Anthony and I would go with him to get Joliet and Sierra. He agreed. We crawled to Joliet and Sierra who were both in a lot of pain. It was too late for Sierra. He died as we were trying to pull him out of the trench. But Joliet was still alive. He was shot three times, twice in the arm and once in the chest. We pulled him out and the machine gun opened up again but missed. Too close again! We stayed in that position, pinned down until 9:00 p.m. In all, there was about 150 NVA against 75 Marines. We had 3 Marines killed and 11 seriously wounded.
10:00 p.m. - Helicopter came and took dead and wounded away.
10:30 p.m. - We all started walking back to the base camp.
12:30 p.m. - Arrived back at the base camp -- tired, wet, and hungry. We got wet because we had to wade in a pond chest deep.
1:00 a.m. - Too sick to eat. I was thanking God for letting me make it back safe. Everybody lost a good buddy that night. You see love,
this is just one day of the operation. You don't want to hear this stuff, it only makes you worry. so, O.K. read this and forget it. It's all over
now and I'm in a pretty safe area. Just get used to cheerful letters because writing stuff like this doesn't help. Even after I get home, I don't
want to talk about this hell they call Vietnam. I hope I didn't scare you too bad but I even left out a few horrible details. Tell the family hello for me
and have my future mother-in-law write sometimes. Well love, I have to end this letter and hit the rack. We have patrol tomorrow and I need the rest.
I love you and I'll dream of you if you don't mind. (I do anyway)
NOTE: This letter was written during the Tet Offensive of 1968 by Raymond S., a Marine rifleman with Mike 3/7. This battle
occurred in the area known as Dodge City in I Corp, Vietnam. The names of the wounded and dead Marines have been changed to spare
their families the details of their deaths.
In July, 1968, Raymond S. lost his left foot from a land mine. He returned home and married the woman he wrote this letter to.
They have now been married for almost 30 years and have 2 children. Today, Raymond is a successful executive with a major manufacturing
corporation on the East Coast.