by Bruce Carlson
With names changed -- this is how I remember it!
For my first flight with the Scouts, the good Captain assigned me to fly
as the observer with Lieutenant Simmonds in Red One-Two. If you should be
interested, this would make my call-sign of the day Red One-Eight X-ray.
In Army aviation, it is normal procedure for the copilot to use the
pilot's call sign with x-ray added to the end. Anyway, our job was to fly
the wing off Red One-Six flown by CW-2 Jones. Both Simmonds and Jones had
been in country for a long time and were very experienced. Jones had been
in country for ten months, and Simmonds for six months. The two of them
had been flying daily missions as a team for over three months. With this
level of experience, they had developed a very smooth working
relationship. Oh yes, both of these scouts had configured their aircraft
as I described earlier. All in all, I considered myself very fortunate to
be "in training" with this experienced and smooth working team. The best
description of my feelings is that I have now become their semi-accepted
foster-child. The two of them have now become my mommy and daddy in my
transition process of becoming a scout pilot. Mind you, I doubt that I'll
call them mommy and daddy.
Since I was to be flying as Simmonds' observer he gave me a CAR-15 and
about twenty-five magazines filled with tracer ammunition. Wisely, he
was not going to trust me with an M-60 and all the damage it could do.
Stepping outside myself and taking a good look, I am forced to admit that
I was quite the sight as I began strapping into the left seat. Before
climbing into the helicopter, I put on my "chicken plate." The chicken
plate is a piece of ceramic body armor with a vest of sorts supporting
it. In theory, the chicken plate will stop a thirty-caliber bullet from
direct ninety degree shot. The manufacturer also claims that it will stop
a glancing fifty caliber shot. Personally I will be quite pleased to
never test the manufacturer's claim! Think about the problem this claim
presents. If it doesn't live to its guarantee, I'll be unable to issue a
complaint or to bring a civil suit against the manufacturer. I wonder. Do
you think it is one of those strange"Catch 22" situations that the
military is so good at creating?
All the Scout pilots also carried a Colt model Nineteen-eleven,
forty-five caliber, automatic pistol. Tigers that we are, we jauntily
hung this pistol on a standard Army issue web belt. In truth, most of the
pilots couldn't hit the inside wall of a barn with the forty-five. Yes, I
mean exactly what I just said. We couldn't hit it even if someone locked
us in the barn with the doors closed. Still, we carried our issued
forty-five's. Lt. Simmonds showed me that the forty-five did have one
useful aspect beyond its ability to shoot. He told me to twist the
holster in front of me. That way, I could use it as additional "body
armor" for my more private and personal parts. Laughing, he said that it
was a little heavier than a protective cup in a jock strap. In truth, I'm
not sure that the pistol would be a lot of protection for that tender
area of my anatomy. Nevertheless, the presence of all that metal as a
shield of sorts was sure good for my morale.
Suited up, I looked far more like a fat waddling little teddy bear than a
dashing John Wayne type figure. Nevertheless, I was prepared to win the
war single handedly. At last, I was set to fly. With the help of
Lieutenant Simmonds' normal observer, I scrunched myself into the
observer's/copilot's seat. As a side note, Lieutenant Simmonds had not
seen fit to speak to this newbe as of yet. Looking in front of me, I
noted that a full set of flight controls was available to me. The
controls were left in place just in case the pilot was to get killed or
wounded. The thought was that having these controls would give the
enlisted observer a fighting chance of crash landing the helicopter if he
had to. I was told that some of the crewchiefs and observers could fly
However, I quickly discovered a serious problem. When I swaddled myself
in all of this equipment, there just didn't seem to be enough space to
move in the cockpit. It was really cramped. Oh, by the way, did I mention
the survival vest? They also required us to wear one of them. The vest
had many pockets, all of which the Cav had filled goodies like fishing
lines, flares, mirrors and an emergency radio. So I wondered, if one
can't move about to fly the aircraft, how in the bloody blue blazes could
one land it even in an emergency? I also discovered that getting into a
combat loaded Red Bird, with all my personal gear strapped on and about
my body took on the farcical quality of a Three Stooges building project.
To further complicate my life, I still had to manage the CAR-15, act as
an observer, and not shoot us down if I needed to return fire on the bad
guys. The process of "mounting up" had been a lot easier yesterday. All
that I had to do was to get in and out of my little bird and fly the
traffic pattern. This flight was a vastly different proposition with all
this stuff hanging all over my body and getting in my way.
It did not take the proverbial rocket scientist to note that being an
observer, was rapidly taking on the foreboding feeling of being an awful
big job. Sitting quietly, I was getting the distinct feeling that the
enlisted observer was not window dressing who was just tagging along for
the ride. Thinking about it, I was beginning to uncomfortably wonder if
it might be the pilot who was the one who was tagging along for the ride.
I am beginning to raise this question because it appears to me that the
observer needs someone to fly the aircraft and act as his driver. In
turn, I think that the pilot is too busy flying to do any observing. I'll
know more and better as time passes.
I have honestly struggled to play my role, Pastor Bill. However, a pro
active guy like me doesn't like being the know nothing, do nothing,
faceless nobody, stupid new guy! Yet, that is exactly what I was during
my first scout flight. Both my mission knowledge and my flying usefulness
was perfectly reflected during the mission which I flew with Captain Jack
a couple of weeks ago. This state of affairs does not fill me with a
brimming cup of self confidence. My first Red Bird mission quickly became
another reinforcement that I was just a stupid know nothing new guy. Like
Captain Jack, the first thing that Lieutenant Simmonds did was to briskly
put me in my place.
"Hey newbe, strap yourself in, don't touch anything, don't do anything,
and keep your mouth shut."
I don't know if all new guys get this treatment. All I can do is pray
that I am not just considered any stupider than most of the new guys that
come here. If I am, well . . . I'm getting painfully accustomed to the
After giving the question of my abilities as a new guy serious
consideration, I kept my big mouth shut. I decided that I wouldn't risk
asking anyone where I rate on the stupid new guy scale. I fear that
someone might volunteer an answer which I would prefer not to hear. They
have another name for new guys in Vietnam. Believe me, it is quite a bit
less complimentary than being called a newbe. Forgive my secrets, but
since you are my pastor, I won't share this obscene name with you.
Sometimes it is more politely expressed when someone calls you the
military acronym, FNG.
I suppose that I can only hope and pray that I am only getting the
standard U.S. Army/Air Cav issue new guy treatment. The thought of being
considered exceptionally stupid brings me no pleasure. With a little
luck, I am getting the standard new guy treatment. I never thought that I
would hope and pray that I am only average "new guy" stupid. Honestly,
this treatment is enough to make you feel stupid even if you are not!
As hard as it may be for those who know and love me to believe, I did
exactly what Lt. Simmonds told me. Without a single comment or wise
crack, ole Kev obediently put on his flight helmet and plugged in the
radio cord. Then, I strapped myself into the four point crash harness. Of
course, I didn't touch anything in the cockpit. Here's a news flash. I
even managed to keep my mouth totally shut through the whole process. (I
knew that you wouldn't believe that outrageous claim!)
Like Captain Jack, Lieutenant Simmonds' hands quickly, quietly, and
efficiently flew about the cockpit of the helicopter, in their
preparation for takeoff. Before I knew it, the engine was lit off, we
were up at flight idle, and we had told Red One-Six that we were ready to
talkative either. In either case, up to that time, he did not deem it
necessary to address my lowly person. Well . . . he did tell me to keep
quiet and mind my place.
Whatever the case may be, it was becoming clear, to me, that these guys
in this Cav unit knew exactly what they were doing when it comes to this
flying business. Now that this first mission is safely under my belt, my
situation is becoming clearer. I am beginning to understand that there
might be some very good reasons why Scout Pilots are the tightly closed
society I have seen. It kinda scares me Pastor Bill, I secretly wonder if
I will ever be able to act, look, or be near as competent. I mean these
pilots look, sound, and act confident even before the aircraft leaves the
ground. This may not make any sense, but, they swagger without
Maybe the old hands are correct, this training time is beginning to look
like a good time to keep my mouth shut and learn all that I can. Do you
think that my mom was correct when she used to tell me time and time
again that it was not a bad thing to keep my mouth shut? I clearly
remember dear Mom's words. Heck, I should remember, I heard them often
"Kevin Paul Johnson, sometimes it is a whole lot better to keep your
mouth shut and let people think you are stupid. It is much better, than
opening your mouth and proving to one and all that you are truly stupid."
A few minutes after we were airborne and heading out to our AO, area of
operations, Lieutenant "the silent" Simmonds spoke. Somewhere in flight,
he developed a new found kindness and deemed to speak to a distinctly
lower life form such as myself.
"Ok Johnson. You've got the helicopter."
That meant that I was to take the controls and fly the bird. As I took
the controls into my greedy little hands, the Lt continued.
"Just keep your distance from One-Six and fly this thing in a real loosy
goosy wing. By the way Johnson, please try not to crash and kill me."
If I had been confused about it, my station in life was beginning to
become clearer. The Lieutenant did not, in any way shape or form, feel
required to build up my self confidence as a pilot or as a Scout. As far
as he was concerned, confidence building and emotional support were not
part of his job description. After stretching himself a bit and lighting
up a cigarette, Lieutenant Simmonds saw fit to speak to me on the
"Given that you are a stupid newbe, I'll keep this really simple,
Johnson. You just keep flying the wing on One-Six, and I will tell you
the straightforward facts of life. For the time being you are to remember
that you are positively the stupidest creature that God ever put on this
good green earth. You are not to do anything without my permission,
period. That means that you even need my permission to take a leak! You
are to do exactly what I tell you to do, and, you are to do it at the
exact moment that I tell you to do it."
If Lt. Simmonds wanted me to feel warmly welcomed, this was not the way
to do it! Thinking carefully about his approach, I felt it best not to
point out his nurturing omission. Seemingly without pausing for breath,
he continued my briefing.
"Now, these are what our jobs are. First, my whole purpose in being here
today, as a wing man, is to keep One-Six alive and well. That, my young
friend, is the only reason you and I are in this helicopter. Furthermore,
from this minute on, the only reason that we were born, is to keep
One-Six alive and well! If One-Six calls 'taking fire,' I will turn the
helicopter and fire the mini-gun directly underneath his aircraft hoping
to make the bad guys stop shooting. If I get lucky, maybe I will even
kill a couple of them. Perchance you should see any muzzle flashes, you
are to call them out to me. Then, and only if I tell you to, you are to
shoot at them with that little pea shooter they handed you on the ground.
Whatever you manage to do, for God's sakes, don't hit the rotors or the
mini-gun. I sure as heck don't need to be shot down in the middle of bad
guy country by some stupid butt new guy! Always remember my young friend,
our purpose here is to keep One-Six alive and well. The United States
Army, in its great collective wisdom, created us for nothing more and
nothing less. He is doing the recon. We are not doing the recon!"
Following his overwhelming torrent of words, he again became silent and
withdrawn. The Lieutenant was blankly staring at the passing countryside
as I was flying the little helicopter. His stare seemed to be what all
the paper back novels call the one-hundred-mile stare. After a bit,
Lieutenant Simmonds seemed to return. He continued.
"Now, you Johnson, have but two things to do, and hopefully even a dumb
new guy like you can remember them. First, your mission is to keep me
alive! However, I do not delude myself in thinking you will have any
idea what is going on if things get noisy and the bad guys come out to
play. Nevertheless, that is your job as the observer in the wing bird, to
keep me, the pilot alive. Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut unless
you see we are taking fire. If you see someone shooting at us, holler out
loud and clear on the intercom. Tell me where they are and what they are
shooting. Always remember that you are not a trained observer! Today,
you're just along for the ride! These enlisted observers see far more
than you ever will see. Even if you fly these things for a year, you will
never be able to see as much as they do."
Once again he paused as if to gather his thoughts.
"The second thing that you have to learn is how the wing man flies his
mission. The wing man's only mission, as you hopefully still remember, is
to keep the lead bird alive. You do remember after the passing of all
this time since I last told you? As far as I am concerned, you had better
learn it really well. If my worst fears come to life, one of these days,
it might be my wing that you are flying. You had better be planning on
keeping me alive! Today, though, the monkey is firmly on my back. I have
to keep One-Six alive. Then, I have to keep myself alive. Further adding
to my mounting woes, I have to keep you alive. Enough said, keep your
mouth shut, your eyes open, and the good Lord willing you just might even
That Pastor Bill was the most that I had heard Lieutenant Simmonds say
the three or four weeks I had been with the Cav.
We flew along silently for about another ten minutes. The whole time I
was sweating profusely while vainly trying to fly mostly straight and
level. At last, I heard One-Six tell command and control that he was
descending. I looked questioningly at Lieutenant Simmonds not knowing
what was to come next. As much as it pains me to admit it, he was totally
correct. I was just a stupid new guy. Furthermore, I had no idea what was
going on. Simmonds then grunted over the intercom, informing me that he
had the aircraft.
Spiraling down to the left, we moved a little further away from One-Six
as we descended into a small valley traveling at about ninety knots. With
just a small touch of his normal compassionate kindness, which he
generously showers upon us new guys, Lt. Simmonds suggested that I lock
and load my CAR-15. The good Lieutenant had not forgotten my stupidity.
Reinforcing his earlier lecture, again, he sternly warned me not to shoot
us down in my stupidity. As he was speaking to me, he turned on his
master arm switch for the mini-gun, lifted the trigger guard on the
cyclic stick, and put his finger on the trigger. Reaching up with his
thumb, he clicked the radio on and curtly made his radio call.
"One-Eight is ready to rock and roll."
The way we flew was like nothing I had ever done before. In fact, it was
nothing like my first mission with Captain Jack and I thought that was
something else. The feeling of speed totally mesmerized me. The
excitement of possible combat, and my own exhilarating response to it,
left me breathless. What we were doing was nothing like flight school. It
was . . . Well . . . it was incredible.
Racing down the valley at ninety knots, we were only about ten feet above
the towering trees. My pulse was pounding like a trip-hammer as we raced
one behind the other down the valley. Ninety knots is close to
one-hundred miles per hour and I thought I could reach out and touch the
trees! Not having any idea what else to do or what I was supposed to do,
I pointed my CAR-15 out the door. Struggling to be useful, I tried to
look deeply into the flashing green blur of the jungle canopy. However, I
could see nothing in that sea of green which was passing just scant feet
below the skids of the speeding helicopter. I also tried not to think
what would happen if we hit the trees racing past us.
That's right. I didn't see and couldn't see a thing. All that presented
itself to my untrained eyes was just a confusing blur of endless green
stuff. This strange sea of green was flashing by faster than my untrained
brain could process what the eyes really never saw. Then again, I didn't
know for sure what I was suppose to look for. In truth, my "observing"
didn't make any difference given that I had yet to learn how to see like
a real observer. Something else was happening that was taking me by
surprise. I was also trying not to acknowledge the quickly increasingly
strong taste of fear that was rising like a bitter sour bile to the back
of my throat. My response to this first recon was unacceptable. I
believed that all Scout pilots are fearless. Chocking back the bile, I
couldn't decide if I was afraid of the flying or of the unseen bad guys.
Constantly flying a highly irregular pattern through the valley, Red
One-Six was slowly reducing his speed by gradual increments after making
his first pass. Lieutenant Simmonds told me on the intercom that they
usually made the first pass at high speed to see if we would draw any
fire from the bad guys. He calmly informed me that being shot at while
flying fast was better than to be shot at while flying slowly. Fast, he
said, was a much more difficult target. That declarative statement made
good sense to me, and who was I to question his wisdom?
As One-Six continued to reduce his airspeed we also were slowing, though
not as much as he. Covering him, we would continually weave back and
forth behind One-Six. Maintaining our higher speed, we were always facing
him, always alert, and always ready to respond if someone started
shooting at him. In time, One-Six slowed to a near walking speed as he
was doing his recon. It was all new to me and I caught myself looking at
his Loach. One-Six was opening up the tops of the trees with his rotor
wash so that his observers could look behind and below into the trees.
You wouldn't believe it unless you were there Pastor Bill. The guy in the
back seat was standing on the skid looking straight down into the rotor
wash with his M-60 pointed down into the wash. Yes, he was calmly
standing totally exposed on that helicopter skid. Staring into the trees,
he seemed to be a naked statue before God and the world. The intent
enlisted observer was a perfect target for anyone who happened to be
looking. I couldn't decide if I was watching was guts and gumption, or,
if it was sheer stupidity. Whatever the case, he was standing exposed on
that skid. It looked like he was presenting himself as a perfect target
for the bad guys.
Surprise -- Surprise. Mental musing about the back seat observer became
the center of stupid Kev's attention. Forgetting my own job, I asked
myself which was the predominate aspect of the observer's personality,
his guts or his stupidity? Suddenly, I heard a very angry and unhappy
voice resounding through the intercom. Unexpectedly it came crashing
painfully into my consciousness.
"Hey stupid! Stop watching One-Six and get your eyes back where they
belong! In case I failed to tell you, I'm planning to go home alive. That
means that I am not going to allow some stupid new guy to get me killed!"
With a guilty start, I tried to jump ten feet in the air. Fortunately, my
safety harness restrained me. Feeling like the damn fool which I was, I
got back to business of trying to be an observer. Properly chastised, I
refocused my eyes on the jungle passing beneath and to my side. Just as I
had been earlier, I was looking and looking for the bad guys. Blind Kev
was looking, looking for the NVA, looking for the Viet Cong, looking and
looking, yet not knowing what I was looking at.
As we protected the lead ship, Lt. Simmonds gracefully turned, weaved,
and wove the little helicopter from side to side. Moving at forty knots,
we drifted from the right to the left, and from left to right. It might
have appeared that we drifted aimlessly. However, we always kept One-Six
in front of us in case he took fire. Without warning and much to my
embarrassment, the would be Scout pilot began to become a little queasy.
For the first time in my short aviation career I was rapidly becoming
motion-sick. Desperately hanging onto my aviators pride, I said and did
nothing to indicate my distress. I was not going to let anybody know just
how quickly and how horribly sick I was becoming. In fear and trembling I
cried to myself.
"This is just what this stupid new guy needs. If I become airsick,
boy-o-boy would everybody have had fun with that."
As I came closer and closer to a miserable death by air sickness, a
fleeting thought brought a snide and sick smile to my face.
"Somehow, it would be an act of justice that if despite my best efforts
not to get sick, I vomited my breakfast all over Lt. Simmonds. He has
earned it since he has been so kind to me."
Finally the inevitable was at hand. I knew that the end of my life as a
military pilot was but scant seconds away. Dying a little bit at a time,
I knew that no hope remained for me. It was but just a matter of fleeting
seconds and I was going to barf everything I had ever eaten in my whole
life all over myself and all over the aircraft. No doubt about it, I was
going to disgrace myself. To my horror, I was going to be nothing more
than another funny story told throughout the Army Aviation Community.
Undoubtedly, they would call it the story of "the barfing new guy."
Seconds remained before I became another pathetic tale told at the
Officer's Club till the end of all human history. After we landed, I
would never be able to face the guys in the Scout platoon. They were
going to laugh me right out of the troop. Worse yet, if I survived after
barfing my guts out, I was going to enjoy the questionable privilege of
cleaning the helicopter under the laughing supervision of its crewchief.
Closing my eyes I could see a horrid picture. That pathetic picture was
forcing tears of shame and horror to freely flow from my eyes. Every
enlisted man on the whole base was going to be down on the flight line.
Smoking and joking, they would be pulling up chairs, popping a cold one,
and settling back to enjoy this pilot's final humiliation.
With no other choice left to me, I patiently suffered the coming of a
gruesome slow death. Carefully listening to my vivid imagination, I could
hear the laughter resounding bitterly in my ears. When I walked into the
club tonight, they all would chant my story in perfect harmony.
"There he is, Red One-Five the worlds greatest -- Barfing Scout Pilot."
In desperation I prayed.
Maybe, if I had a little luck, I might just quietly discontinue my human
existence and drift into quiet oblivion of death. Just maybe, I would
just peacefully expire without anyone noticing my final demise. Possibly
God would be gracious and the bad guys would give me a break. Hopefully,
they would shoot me dead and short-circuit this coming misery. Life
wasn't fair. Nothing had prepared me for this humiliation. How come John
Wayne never barfed his guts up all over the patrons of the movie theater?
How come none of the heros in all the paperback novels I had ever read
ever barfed up their guts? Like all young men, I had occasionally drunk
too much and been sick as a dog. (Please don't mention the drinking part
to my folks.) However, this, was ten times worse!
My dying thoughts were neither glorious nor heroic. They were just
overwhelming. Nevertheless, my misery was the canter of the world.
Seeking death, I had ceased to care what was happening with or to
One-Six. If he had been shot down and crashed into a towering inferno, I
doubt I would have even noticed the smoke and flames. Had the world, as
we knew it, ended, I would have been oblivious to the smoke and flames of
the final conflagration. Unless my own situation of nauseous distress
drastically changed for the better, I would have been totally oblivious
to any change. My extreme distress centered my complete concentration
upon me and my suffering. All my efforts were an increasingly vain
attempt of trying not to make a total fool out of myself.
Suddenly, as if it had been by Divine providence, Command and Control
came to my rescue. The radio rang out with some of the most beautiful
words ever uttered in all of recorded human history. These were the
finest life saving words ever uttered by any human being. They called us
to check out a small village about twenty klicks away.
Not a moment too soon, we began to make a wonderful stable, calm, and
smooth climb to altitude. As we climbed, I came to my own understanding
of heaven. It wasn't quite like I learned in Sunday School. Speaking
quietly, Lieutenant Simmonds then reminded me to put the safety on my
CAR-15. Then, totally astonishing me, he spoke his first kind words to me
since I had arrived in Viet Nam. Looking directly at me, he seemingly
compassionately asked an obviously stupid question.
"How are you doing Kev?"
Apparently he had noticed the bright shade of lime green radiated from my
sweaty skin. I believe that the bilious shade was mostly centered near my
gill slits. Or, I suppose that it is possibly that it could have been the
stark vision of the pasty white face of death that he looked at. I know
that he was looking at the face of a man who with all his heart and soul
was hoping to die quietly and unnoticed. Whatever it was that he saw,
something had reached deeply into Simmonds vast store room of human
compassion. Much to my surprise, Lieutenant Simmonds, noticed something
that was sufficient to make him ask his almost tender question.
To his question of my well-being, I murmured weakly.
"I've felt better, Sir."
Looking back, I must have passed a secret scout platoon initiation by not
losing my breakfast and the previous fifty meals. For at the onset of my,
well . . . at least it felt that way to me, last dying gasps, he began to
gently laugh. I began to get angry at his laughter. Cutting off my anger,
he told me not to feel too bad about being air sick. Still chuckling, he
kindly assured me that every one of the scouts on their first ride as an
observer had felt the same vivid death wishes. Pausing a moment, as if to
think, he then added a postscript.
"And, to be honest with you, I almost lost my cookies on my first flight
as an observer."
After a bit, I gathered one or two of my wits and had gotten my
long-suffering stomach back into its proper position below my throat.
Life almost seemed worth living. A few moments into my reprieve we
crested a hill. On the other side was the village C&C said we were
supposed to check out. Lieutenant Simmonds informed me that this was a
friendly village and not to take the safety off my CAR-15. He didn't want
me to make any mistakes. Taking up out covering position, we followed
One-Six in a quick pass over the village. All was quiet and we returned
the way we came. Though I had seen nothing, One-Six said that something
didn't feel right to him.
Lieutenant Simmonds must also have felt the same unease. With his voice
reflecting his increasing tension, he then told me to release the safety
of the CAR-15. At the same time, he slipped his finger under the trigger
guard on his control stick. Unconsciously, he began lightly caressing the
trigger for the mini-gun just as he did during a recon. As had become the
norm for me, I was disoriented, confused, and had no conception of what
was going on. The setting spread out beneath me looked so pastoral, so
very peaceful, and so delightfully calm. With both Scouts keeping our
speed up, we began to circle around the whole village and surrounding
area. One-Six said that he was nervous about the presence of hostile
forces. As far as I could see, nothing stirred and nothing caused us any
threat from the surrounding area. Finally satisfied, One-Six began
returning to the village.
Given everyone's, except mine, uncomfortable gut feelings, we then made
another cautious pass or two. Having decided that doing it was safe,
One-Six came to a standing hover over part of the village. Hovering over
what I thought was a peaceful scene, he made his horrific report to C&C.
While he was reporting to C&C, we continued to circle the area at slow
speed protecting the lead bird. When One-Six began his report, I couldn't
believe my ears. I also fear that you will not believe me. However, it is
as true as it is tragic.
They were all dead Pastor Bill. Every one of them was dead. The NVA or VC
had murdered all the women. They had murdered all the men. They had
murdered all the children. Even the chickens, and pigs, and dogs, they
had butchered them too! I don't pretend to fully understand what is going
on over here. Whatever is happening here concerning the rightness of this
war, I doubt that the answers are as simple as you might have me believe.
Seeing such a sight makes it impossible to believe that this was the
compassionate action of a group of benevolent people from North Viet Nam
seeking to remove the presence of American imperialism from the South.
Eventually, C&C called up the slicks and inserted the blue platoon. To
our collective horror, they cryptically confirmed the torture and
execution of every living being. Let me make myself clear. Every man,
woman, child, and animal in the village had been butchered. I'll spare
you all the ghastly details. It is sufficient to say they did not die
peacefully and gently of old age in their sleep. From what the ground
troops later described to us, most of the villagers probably welcomed
death as a gift from God when it finally embraced them. I am not sure
what else I can tell you, except that Lieutenant Simmonds said that
sometimes this happens to friendly villages. This mindless butchery is
supposed to serve as a warning from the Viet Cong and the North
Vietnamese about what happens to those who do not see things their way
and support them.
I know that this undoubtedly is the longest letter I have ever written in
my whole life. Nevertheless, I felt that sharing with you some of my
feelings and observations was important. After all, if nothing else, we
have always been honest with each other. I also know that I need to get
this letter in the outgoing mail because it is getting late and I want to
get some sleep. However, you have got to believe me when I tell you that
those "valiant freedom fighters" are killing innocent civilians. These
are the same people whom some of your friends are calling benevolent
Wow! I have never spent a night and a whole day writing one letter.
Until my next note, I remain your friend.