(August 1969 to March 1970 - severely wounded on FB Granite)

Summary of letters home to family:

I will try to write what I found in the letters and info Mom had kept for me. She has been gone for 18 years and she kept everything, never threw away much. I guess I saw these when I got out of the hospital but did not remember them. I will try to give you some info from them to use or support your story. Use it anyway you can. I will write most like I wrote it to my folks. My comments are in ( ).

For general info I sent the 1st letter of my Army career from Company C 2nd Battalion, 2d BCT Brigade, United States Army Training Center, Inf. Fort Lewis, WA 98433 on August 16, 1968. I was drafted into the Army on August 6, 1968 in Denver. The letter talks about how the Sgts are so rough on us and that we get up at 5AM and go to bed at 9:30. Food is OK but not enough of it. Basic runs for 9 ½ weeks. I put in for finance and with my college degree I was sure they would put me in finance. (Boy was I stupid!!) I took the OCS test and passed it but did not want to add another year. I wrote a letter home about each weekend. In one letter I said a man was killed on the infiltration course as the machine guns shoot live bullets 40-46” above the ground he must have stood up for some reason. I got out of Basic on Oct. 10th and they sent me to Infantry AIT ajim lee7lso at Ft Lewis. (There went my finance career). AIT was 9 weeks and I went to Co. E, 2nd Battalion, 3 rd Brigade, Ft Lewis. We then got some time off from noon Sat to Sunday evening and some of us would go to Seattle or Tacoma, had a good time. Food was better and we got a lot more to eat in AIT. I then became an E-2. I then made $125/month before taxes. I remember on our bivowac near Mt Rainier in the first part of December, 1968 it started snowing and before it was over there was about 2’ of snow, some way to train for Viet Nam. After AIT they sent me, I did not sign up, to NCOC School in Ft Benning, GA. Good training anyway. Never sent any letters that Mom kept must have called home. Graduated on May 20, 1969 and they sent me back to Ft Lewis WA to be squad leaders for the AIT. I signed up to be in the field on their bivowac and that is what I did for 9 weeks, did not get much harrasment that way and would get back to base Friday afternoon as the AIT companies had to march back in, I would head out to Seattle or Tacoma with a couple of buddies that did the same thing. Not bad duty in the summer.

My first short letter home from VN was Sept 3, 1969 and we were in the A Shau Valley on a firebase and it was raining a lot, not a good place. Sept 10 that we were in a night defensive position on the west side of A Shau valley about 3-4 miles from Laos and had been making platoon size searches and that day had found a cache of arms and TNT. The next day I had to take out a 6 man team on recon by helicopter and be out for 5 days.

Sept 18 we had used a lot of TNT and C-4 that day clearing an LZ, still raining still in A Shau Valley. A firebase about a mile from us was hit 8 times with 122mmrockets fired from Laos yesterday. On the 6 man recon we were out for 5 days and did not see any NVA but saw a lot of monkeys that scared us a couple times. Each man has 2 shifts at night of 1 ½ hr from 9PM to 6AM.

Sept. 25 Hot there and we had a 7 day standdown and were at Evans. We have had classes on various subjects each day. our basic load we carried is 23-25 magazines with 18 rounds each, our M-16 rifle, 4-6 frag grenades or hand grenades, 1 trip flare, 1 jim lee1claymore antipersonal mine, 1 hand flare, a machette and entrenching tool, 5-6 canteens of water, shaving/toothbrush gear, rifle cleaning equipment, air matress, poncho and a light blanket or poncho liner, rain jacket, 4 smoke grenades, gas mask, protective dressing for first aid, repellent. Inside the ruck sack we carry C rations and on the 5 day recon I had 15 meals of C rations. All the gear weighs 80#+.

Sept 28 we load on C-123 transport planes and head for the DMZ and there will be two battalions or eight companies from 60-100 men/company. The 3rd Marine Div is pulling out so our new AO now extends to the DMZ around Khe San and we will be there five weeks. There are 20,000 ARVN troops that are to take over but the 800 or so of us can probably do a better job defending the area. Also there are about 5,000 men from the 5th Mechanized Div in the area and one of my buddies from NCOC is in that Div and had sent a letter to me at my folks. Never got in contact with him. Rumor had it the NVA had 30,000 men in the area of the DMZ. We had 4 platoons in our company and we had 23 in 1st Plt at that time, and I was a squad leader with 11 men. Our plt leader is a Lt and graduated from West Point in 1968 and we really like him (Bill Higgins). Our plt Sgt used to be a drill sgt and just won the Silver Star, I get along good with him (Steve Clegg I guess). We are the best plt in the company and as a result we are usually first in and last out, I’m the old man of the plt at 24 nearly 25, I think.

Oct 12 we had been on a hilltop clearing a firebase to set arty guns on, we would get 40-50 mortar rounds a day plus the NVA sneak up the hill below and fire with rifles, we can see North VN from here as the DMZ is 1-2 miles away and Laos was 9-10 miles so it was a hot area. The last week we made CA by chopper to a hill that was all slide rock, we set up after getting hit as we landed and set on the rocks all night in the rain. We stayed on the rocks for several days and it was full of caves and caches; we found a ten bed hospital cave with cases of medical supplies, a cave with about 3000# rice, over 100 mortar rounds, 40-50 mines, several hundred pounds of dried fish and vegetables, also jim lee2got 4 NVA and 4 rifles. There were 8, 122mm rockets and 90% of this was found by my squad and plt. (When we were down finding all this stuff we found a cave we could not see in and the guy next to me, Phil Stanley says it was him, threw a gas canister into it, it was fine for 30 seconds and then the wind changed and blew it back up on us, we had to run through the slid rocks to get away) We also captured an NVA that gave us good info. He was 17 and his partner we killed was 15 he said. We have a Kit Carson Scout, Sau, as he was 32, had been a VC for 12 years. The VC killed his parents so he took nine men and came over under the Chu Hoy “open arms” program, he can’t speak good English but there is a South Vietnames troop in the 4th plt that talks English so he can talk to Sau. We communicate OK anyway. In one cave we saw written in blood “U.S. go Home”. When we left the rock pile it was reported 300-400 NVA were headed that way. We moved over further east near old Marine fire base as they are pulling out. Two people in our company have shot themselves in the foot last week to get out. It’s not that bad yet! There are a lot of high water falls that drop 200-300’ with small fish 2-3” long that bite you if you stick your hand in the water, but they don’t hurt. The mountains are covered with elephant grass 6-7’ high with blades that can cut you. I bought a Buck knife for $10 from a guy going home. (This was the knife I guess I gave to Buzz as he loaded me on the chopper at FB Granite, I don’t remember that, but he carried it and it was in his pickup years later that was stolen. Lucky knife got 3 of us out alive.)

October 15. There was a Sgt I went to Ft Benning with same NCO and AIT class and I knew him well. He was in our company with 2nd plt and he got hit in the head and lost an eye and was sent home. (This was Neil Brinkerhoff I had asked you to see if you could find something and you gave me a phone # in Las Vegas I will try to call him sometime) have not had any contact in a few days I got my CIB and also got the first jim lee3Combat Air Medal. Real rainy and I have “jungle rot” real bad in the crotch, some guys have it on legs and arms. Asked Mom to send Desenex to put on it. We got in stream today and one guy had soap so we got clean. Little fish were eating on our jungle rot spots.The seat is torn out of my pants so the bugs get in and eat on my rear. The gnats are as bad as the mosquitoes over here. Next week I become platoon Sgt as the one in that position now is going to a rear job, (Clegg I guess) Tomorrow is my 25th birthday.

October 18 We are down around some civilians and are in a valley about ½ mile west of Mai Loc. Last nite we had an ambush set for a NVA commander that had a girlfriend in the village and he would take 5-6 men and go visit her; he must have broken his date as we saw no one. We are set up on a hill and can see them working fields and there is a herd of 40-50 cattle in a field. The Protestant Chaplin just came in and everyone gathered for a sermon. There is a standown tomorrow Oct 19-21 at Eagle Beach 40 miles south of Hue on the China Sea. We go down by Chinook helicopter that carries 45 men. I am ready as I sprained my knee and ankle when they made us jump out on a CA from 10-12’ and rolled for 50’. Going to get a hot meal tonite as it will come from a Special Forces Base Camp at Mai Loc. The Marines aren’t the combat troops I thought they were as they left hand grenades and ammo all over the mountains and they buried several cases of 30 Cal machine gun ammo they didn’t want to pack and the NVA dug it up, they got ahold of a machine gun and ambushed C Co of the 2nd Bn 506 Inf and killed 2 and wounded seven.

October 22 We are back in the boonies after Eagle Beach we are now on FB Victory and must stay awake all nite. We sleep from 7-12 in the morning but its so hot and the big choppers keep blowing over our hooch we don’t get much sleep. I am plt sgt so have to check on our sector of the perimeter all nite. We will be here till Nov 4 or so. It is a high hill and we can see a closed Marine FB below us on clear days we can see the ocean maybe 30-40 miles east. There are two 155 mm guns 6” or so behind us and they about make us deaf. No NVA mortars have come in yet. You can hear them and have 20-25 seconds to find a foxhole.

October 29 Still on FB Victory been socked in for 4 days foggy and rainy getting short of C rations. A recon team saw 40 NVA heading this way and last nite we were awake all nite and they cut the wire on the other side of the perimeter in two places no entry. We will close this FB in next week or so, and head to Evans, We have one NVA popping up on the perimeter and I think he wants to give himself up but the guys fire at him before he can say “Chu Hoi”. Big flying Cranes, can lift 50 ton, and Chinooks are coming in and out to drop ammo. Keep blowing our hooch down. Dad would do well over here as the Pall Malls go begging and the only one to smoke them is Sau. He says they are “number one” which is good, number 10 is bad The B 52’s have really been working at nite out west and you don’t see them but the ground shakes and rumbles and the sky lights up. We got clean socks and our feet smell like horse hooves and when we shoe them, they stink.

November 1, it has been quiet on the FB and we have been out a lot pulling security; have only seen one NVA and I think he was the one trying to give himself up, but didn’t have a chance. We are 10 miles west of Mai Loc and we can see the lights of Quang Tri at night and the ocean on clear days. To the west is a high mountain with a nice waterfall 200-300’ feet and it is really pretty. May leave DMZ day after tomorrow, and will work lowlands around Evans. Has not been too bad on the DMZ as we expected a lot worse. We got low on C rations and had to eat some of the less desirable ones. 12 meals in each box in cans and range from chicken and noodle to beef in spiced sauce, about 4 type of meals that are OK the fruit is good. Have not been hit once on FB Victory with mortars. Have not had a hair cut since September need one bad.

November 9, we went back up to the DMZ today, my plt for the 4th time to police up at the old FB Victory. There had been some NVA on the FB over nite seeing what we left. Tomorrow we CA into the Piedmonts which are low hills about 3-4 miles southwest from Evans and there seem to be more NVA in that area; due back into Evans on the 15th.
November 13 back in Evans for a nite only, tomorrow we go back out on 6 man recon teams for 6 days, had some excitement on the last mission as me made a CA to top of hill and it was straight down, we started to walk down and people slipped and fell all over me. Then yesterday we hit a swarm of bees. There were 28 in the plt, I was Plt Sgt near the rear heard yelling no shooting and no radio contact, I moved up front and guys were in the stream and passed out all over the place, called in medevac chopper to lift them up. Some could not see as their eyes were swollen shut; I got stung 4-5 times only, Our 2nd Lt was passed out so I was in charge of the whole mess and got congratulated by the Battalion Commander on doing a fine job. I am up for Staff Sgt E-6 and got a cluster on the Air Medal for having over 25 CA’s by chopper. Our good 1st Lt got a rear job (Bill Higgins) and we have a 2nd Lt (Bumgarner I guess) but he is in the hospital for bee stings. There are 2 Red Cross gals serving chow today at Evans and it is good to see some real American girls and they are all so friendly they do a lot for the morale over here. I ordered a 101st Abn ring along with a buddy, Gary Stacey; it has 14K gold and a real onyx stone and engraving. It cost $55 but will be nice; also joined the 101st Club for $5 so you will get some newspapers. There was a Navy Seabee in the PX and he saw one of my buddies had an old beat up bush hat he wears in the “boonies” and the Navy guy bought it for a dollar so he could look like he was in combat in the jungle.

November 21, real rainy, just picked up C rations for 4 days, 12 meals and they fill a rucksack. Guess I will be out in the boonies for Thanksgiving but I will open a can of boned turkey. One of my squad leaders is going on RR in 4 days to Bangkok Thailand; I plan on going to Sydney Australia but it will be a few months. The leeches about ate us up on the last mission and I have little red spots all over where they were sucking blood. We saw a lot of wild pigs also.

November 23, Still in Evans as it has been raining so hard we couldn’t get out on our mission. I have 10 men and we are to be CA’d into some place and blow a LZ for future operations. I have used a lot of C-4 and TNT since I got over here. They give me time fuse but I don’t use it as I use electric blasting caps and our firing device off a claymore mine. We had some time fuse but they get wet and it would start to burn and stop, so I would have to go and cut the fuse so that is not too healthy. The C-4 is 1 ½ time more powerful than TNT and is nice to use as we use det cord and make a daisy chain and bjim lee4low several trees at one time. You might get me a Kodak 124 camera and a couple of rolls of film for Christmas. They fit into an ammo pouch so I can wrap it in plastic and carry it with me. They don’t have any here at the PX. Then I can send the pictures back to you. One of my best buddies (Gary Stacey) was with the 82nd Airborne down by Saigon for 4 months but got sent up here as the 82nd went home. He is from Missouri and will come out and go elk hunting with me when we get home. He liked the 82nd as they didn’t do anything like we do; they went into Saigon on weekends on passes and had a lot of fun.

November 25, really rainy; did not get out to blow the LZ but will in a few days, raining in our hooch everything is wet very cold. We have a radio and are listening to a country western music that comes from Saigon up to Quang Tri by transmitter and we really have a bunch of old country boys in this platoon. We are really enjoying it.
December 2, Back on DMZ for a few days, have been on Khe Sahn, on artillery raid on an old Marine FB Shepard, only a few miles from Laos, we secured the base and then they brought in 2 batteries of arty, Six 105 mm and three 155mm guns, they have been shooting a lot of rounds, a chopper spotted a couple of NVA this morning about 300 meters from us and a Cobra gunship shot the area up and arty pounded it also. I have two squads and we are checking the area, there are lots of signs [of enemy] in this area. Raining hard - we are under ponchos, no mortar attack yet; yesterday 2 Cobra gunships shot and killed ten elephants about a mile from here and they went down close and checked them out, some had straps and strap marks on them from NVA pack use. We can see old roads and cement bridges that have fallen into the rivers in the valley; the French must have had a large settlement here years ago but it is deserted now, like a ghost town. We had excitement the day after Thanksgiving as I had a squad out on patrol in the mountains west of Evans and my point man came around a corner in trail and almost stepped on two NVA sitting in the trail under a poncho, it scared him so bad he did not get any shots off as they run away. The guy was a new guy and he was really shook up, then he got disgusted with himself but it happens to all of us. (not in the letter but I remember we found some hoochs not far away made of wood and tin roofs and I threw a hand grenade in two of them but no body in them).

December 4/5? no date on letter, We are still up on the DMZ at Camp Carroll, filling a million sand bags this may be our new area of operation as 101st may take over from ARVN , we will be here till 12/9 and back to Evans to work around there.

December 18, were out in the field since Dec 9 been rainy and cold. A lot of sore throats and stiff necks; guys are not very happy, does not matter to anyone though. Went to Evans yesterday at 3PM but came back out at 5PM so did not have time to do anything. I think the package with the camera is there but did not have time to check as we only had time to get dry clothes, boots and chow before we came back out. I have been put in for a 3 day in country RR at Vung Tau in south VN I hope I get it, I would leave on the Dec 21 and be there 23, 24, 25 and head back up here on 26th get back in Evans on 27th. I made E6 Staff Sgt in Nov. and the pay will be about $400/month. We ambush all nite and set up a hooch in the day to sleep. We are in the lowlands today but were in the mountains yesterday, could not get out or resupplied so we had to walk a long ways to get lifted out yesterday. A lot of VC in the area; they run not fight; got to watch for booby traps.

December 30, I got the RR to Vung Tau and had a great time, hard to come back. Went to a USO show tonite and had some Filipino Band sang mostly western music which was good. I took 2 rolls of film at Vung Tau the first I have taken and will send it to you. I have a bad cold or flu, temp of 102 but have to go back out in the morning. My friend Don Kirby who I graduated from college with just got to VN and is with the Americal Division at Chu Lai below Da Nang. (He got out of VN OK as he was not in infantry but flew in choppers and dropped and monitored sensor devices along trails.)

January 1, 1970 Spent New Year’s Eve on ambush on Song Bo River; it is about 70’ across and runs slow, the VC use it to run sanpans up it to supply others but we have not seen anything; nice cool day like fall as leaves are falling in the cool breeze, I feel better. Want to tell about the trip to Vung Tau I left the 21st went to Da Nang on C-123 transport then got a flight to Saigon by C-130 that landed at Tan Son Nut Airport went downtown and stayed in a good clean hotel that nite, the next day went to Vung Tau and checked into the center and went to eat with a guy that also had the room; the chow is great, the guy with me is a medic from the 9th Inf. Div. and lives on a ranch in Nehi, Utah below Logan so we really get along great; he went to Snow Jr College for 2 years and is 24. We stayed in Vung Tau 22, 23, 24, 25 and left the morning of 26 for Saigon and got a plane to Da Nang stayed there that nite, on the 27th I went to Phu Bai and got a ride on a truck to Camp Evans, went back out to my platoon.
January 6, still out on ambush and the lowlands don’t go back in until the 12th and then we are to have 7 days of training and standdown. It was to be in Dec. but called off until the 12th.. Yesterday the NVA mortared and rocketed a FB near here and also some engineers in the lowlands who were building broads, maybe they are getting ready for Tet fight. To get resupplied today I don’t have a can of C rations so need them bad. Feel back to par now, RR was hard on me I guess. One of my friends is going to Evans today to go on RR at Sydney Aust. and will leave the 11th.

January 14, we are in Evans for five day training where we have classes and fire weapons, good to relax as it rained every day since 12/31 when we were in the field; it was real cold. We had contact with 4-5 NVA in the lowlands but none of my guys got hurt. There are three of my friends who plan to come hunting elk with me after we are out, two from Missouri and one from Iowa, (Gary Stacey, Gary Tarpein and Carroll Shiltz). My 101st Airborne ring is in the mailroom but have not had time to get it.
January 20, I will send 11 pictures with letter, I didn’t take these but a buddy did as they were taken before I had a camera and he gave me copies, I sent 21 pictures the first I have taken to you several day ago. Training is over and I have to take six men out on ambush for the next two weeks or so, about 4 miles out of Evans as there is a lot of activity there for Tet, We got ready to go to the DMZ today as 2,000 NVA have been reported to be heading for DMZ, we got on the airstrip last nite at 11:30 PM to stand by to load Chinooks to go up there but they cancelled as something changed, we were out there all nite, very nervous time.

January 18, Still in training we have had some nite classes so don’t have much time. Try to watch a movie in mess hall at nite they are old and worn out but something different anyway. Real cold and rainy here.

January 25, nice weather sunny not too hot, working the lowlands in 6 man teams have lost some men in the Company to booby traps; VC down here, the area used to be populated as they had churches and big brick houses with roads and bridges, temples and farmed a lot of ground but all abandoned now. We were ambushing in an old cemetery but have moved out of it into the ruins of an old town. This is a pretty place too bad people can’t live here. The area is like a big garden with lots of flowers and parakeets, small goat like deer not very wild and some chickens that survived the war. If I get a letter from you in the field I don’t carry them and burn them so the enemy can’t get them. One of my good friends is going home today from Da Nang, he came into Army one day before I did but came over here after AIT. Lucky guy may be on the “freedom bird” now but he did a good job over here. (Phil Stanley I think) This may be my lucky day as company commander called me a while ago and said I was to go in the 27th for an interview the 28th for a job at Camp Evans, it is the Screaming Eagles Replacement Training School (SERTS) that each guy goes through a week of training and classes before they are assigned to a unit in 101st. I don’t know if I will get it but will try. I got my ring but it is too small and had to send it back. You should have gotten about 30 pictures lately. I have a roll to send of this trip.

January 29, The pictures I am sending are slides as I can’t get film for prints. I didn’t get the job at Evans as there was a mistake and our company was not even supposed to send a man up for the interview so I didn’t know that until I got up there didn’t even get interviewed, the 1st Sgt of our company felt bad about the confusion. I guess my buddies are all in the field so I’m not too disappointed.

February 5, Weather is nice we are on search and destroy missions now so are on the move most of the day so we don’t get to lay around much as we do on an ambush. Tonite is Tet Eve so they may start to make a move on us. Word came down that the 3rd Brigade is to move to Da Nang area in Middle of March, this came from Brigade Commander. However the Army will say something one day and do something else the next so one never knows. We may get a three day standown at Eagle Beach Feb 16 so hope it goes through.

February 18, I got the ring back and it is a beauty and fits good. My initials are inside it. Back in Evans for a day so I got shower and clean clothes. Foggy but not raining. We have had some choppers shot down or malfunctions and an Air Force Jet crashed into a hill on a strike not far from us and we heard the plane and then a loud explosion then quite, did not see it crash.

February 20, In Evans the 1st Sgt wanted an NCO to go with a jeep and driver to Camp Eagle about 15 miles south of Hue. I went down there yesterday a nice day but would have been better off not going, as we were driving through Hue we had to slow down for a truck in front and there are people all over the street and I turned around in the seat to watch behind us and a kid grabbed my watch off my wrist and got away with it. I had a 45 pistol but could not shoot. That watch was a college graduation present and a good one.

March 2, Just came in for the morning to Evans and are leaving in ½ hour. It is getting hotter with contact in the field and we are walking in the mountains a lot.

March 17, We are on a small firebase and will be here several days, Our Lt Plt leader (Bill Higgins) is on RR and I have the platoon. The Lt is the best we have ever had and will be glad to get him back. Some of the others have not been good. This Lt graduated from West Point and knows his stuff. I go on RR to Sydney Aust. the 28th of April to May 5jim lee5. Really looking forward to it. We don’t work much around towns or cities but can see how something like Song Me [Me Lei?] can happen as we carry out orders and just react sometimes. As far as pot smoking goes it is a real problem and a large number of guys in my plt smoke it but not in the field, only back at Evans. I do not allow it out here in the field and have not had much problem. There are some racial problems but mostly seen back at Camp Evans, We have 3-4 real good guys in our platoon so we are lucky. The older career men are a pretty good bunch and they don’t go for the ‘Black Power” either. I am doing fine.

That was the last letter before March 20, 1970 when I was wounded.

Mom kept some other stuff I will describe to you for information. She kept several newspaper articles Denver Post about the attack on Granite and others at that time.
She kept a few letters from when I was in the hospital in Japan. I never knew where I was but this is the place. 249th General Hospital, Box 5555, Ward 814b in Toyko.

March 25, 1970 (Letter dictated and written by Red Cross Volunteer on The American National Red Cross paper. These young ladies along with the nurses in the Hospital never got the recognition or awards they should have it was a very tough place to be and work. I told them I had been wounded on March 20th and received wounds to my legs, butt, right hand, face and left eye which was to be operated on in a few days. Don’t know how long I will be there but won’t have to go back to Viet Nam. Don’t worry about me I’ll be home in a few weeks.

March 27 another letter dictated by Red Cross lady; doing fine, right hand is better now legs are coming along, going to get butt sewed up on Monday, go to eye surgery on Thursday and then complete bedrest for a couple of weeks. There are some of my buddies in the ward and they are coming along good too ( Gary Tarpein was in my ward and visited me every day; I don’t remember that drugged up I guess, Carroll Shiltz was in Ward next door per Tarpein and he visited Carroll everyday). One of the guys next to me is an officer and he really takes good care of me. ( He was a WO from Texas and from a unit down south shot up bad in his lower legs in chopper, wish I could remember more about him we talked a lot not anything else we could do) Weather is cool and windy like spring back home. Getting along pretty good don’t worry.

April 1 (must have written with my left had very poor writing), Getting along good, legs are healing and they sewed up a couple of big holes in my rear. Two fingers on right hand are broke and hurt but can’t put a cast on as they are cut up too bad. Right eye should be OK go into big surgery in the morning on my left eye, will have both eyes taped shut for a couple of weeks maybe a Red Cross lady can write a letter. Don’t worry about me I am so lucky to be alive. After the eye heals they will send me to the states for a period of time so I will pick Fitzsimmons in Denver.

April 9, Written by Red Cross Volunteer, Getting along pretty good, they still have me down on a board and can’t move and my eyes are bandaged, Dr don’t know how long I will be here, My two buddies who were here (Tarpein and Shiltz I think) went back to the States yesterday. I lost my ring and everything I had so I didn’t come out of Viet Nam too much ahead. I am eating well.

April 20, I am healing but the big holes will take some time can’t sit down much, right hand is better, I lost my ring as when I got hit in the hand I put it in my pants pocket and my pants got blown off so lost everything plus bill fold with $60. My left eye may not get any better but have 20/20 in the right eye.

April 27 I just came from eye doctor and he said I am doing as good as possible, The skin grafts did not take as the wounds are still draining they were so full of dirt and powder so it will have to drain and leave big scars, only 2-3 that are real bad, hard to sit but I can go to the mess hall with some help, they are putting in orders to go to States but it takes 10 days or more, yes I was on Firebase Granite that was named in the Denver Post.

April 29, Eye is healing but will take some time, the bullet hole in my thigh will take a long time to close but it does not hurt as bad to treat as before. I walked to PX with some help to get shaving items, and got a haircut and shampoo which made me feel better, The TV programs are in Japanese the Armed Forces have a station but it is off the air most of the time. They have a movie in the next ward some nights and we can go over to that. Well I weight 174# down from 195 before, hope to leave in 10 days.

May 1, I am mending well, the holes don’t drain as much will take a long time on a couple to close. I am getting restless and want to go to the States, The Japs outside the fence are yelling “Yankee Go Home” and calling us murderers over loudspeakers, don’t do much for the morale; got a 124 camera but it was not mine so will get a few pictures of this place and going home. The camera took fuzzy pictures so I know why I got it and someone got my good camera. Hope to be heading to States soon.

That was last letter I sent and left Japan on May 11, 1970 per a DA 8-119 form I have.
Mom kept 4 of the Screaming Eagle papers and on Awards Silver Star, Steven L. Clegg; Soldier’s Medal Michael L. Jones; (I do not know what that medal is) Bronze Star Levering W. Rector in the Sept 15, 1969 issue. In the Feb 16, 1970 issue Awards has Neil Brinkerhoff for Bronze Star, he was my NCOC buddy in 2nd or 3rd Plt who lost an eye in October. Also same date BS for Toby Deal.

Well I have gone on long enough and hope this is of some interest to you.

Letter to the family of Gary Stacey who was killed on FB Granite - provides personal details from Jim Lee


Dear Karen and Gary Stacey Family,

I was happy to make contact and have a phone talk with you. Gary was a good friend of mine while we were with Charlie Company, 1st Platoon, 1st 506 Inf., 101st Airborne Division, in Viet Nam, 1969-1970. I will try to tell a little about me and the night your family suffered a great loss.

I still live on the ranch in Western Colorado that I was born on 64 years ago. Shortly after I graduated from college in spring 1968, I was drafted into the Army. I was sent to Viet Nam in the summer of 1969 as a Sergeant in the infantry. Bill Higgins our 1st Lt had done a great job putting together a story and pictures of our unit from May 1969 and Hamburger Hill through the fall, winter 1969, spring 1970, FB Granite on March 20, and through FB Ripcord in July 1970. He will send you a copy of the story and pictures. We need to thank him for getting us together after almost 40 years.

I am sending a copy of the log the night on Granite so you can see the time frames. Per log, about 02:04 in the morning a flare went off and I saw an NVA sapper running inside the wire from left to right. I opened fire on him and then the NVA infantry outside the wire started heavy rifle fire and RPG (rocket propelled grenade) fire into our position.

Our 1st Platoon was on the Southeast/South side of the firebase. Gary Stacey, Jack Wells, James Davis, I think it was, and I were on the left side of our platoon on a gentle sloping hill that was the harder to defend. Most of the other area around the firebase was much steeper. Fog was also rolling in and out; the only light was from flares so was not good at best. We were engaged in heavy fighting. Jack Wells, James Davis or Ronald Leonard and I ended up in one larger foxhole, and Gary Stacey went to a smaller foxhole to the left and down the hill a little.

After a while I saw a sapper to the right front hiding behind a D8 Cat that the engineers had left down on the wire at dark. This was a bad mistake as it provided good cover for the sappers. The others were firing at the NVA outside the wire; I was throwing grenades at the ones behind the Cat. My right hand and rifle were badly damaged by some kind of fire and I had to throw left- handed and pull the pins with my mouth. I saw a satchel charge come into our foxhole from the right front; I yelled “jump” and started to jump out of the foxhole. It blew me out of the foxhole and killed Jack and James as they didn’t have time to react, but they fought bravely to the last. I heard Gary still fighting to the left, and also Carroll Turpin with his machine gun and others farther to the right side. I have talked to Carroll Turpin. Gary Tarpein and Carroll Shiltz were not in their position to the right of me as they were outside the wire on LP (listening post). They both were badly wounded and somehow got back inside the wire the next morning. I have heard from both.

We continued to defend our position to keep the NVA from blowing the wire and getting inside the perimeter, and to my best knowledge we were successful but at a heavy cost. The fire from outside let up some after a while and I did not hear Gary Stacey so I jim lee6worked my way to his foxhole but it was too late. I never knew what happened to him but he fought a brave battle to the end. At one point, I was looking for weapons to fight with and ran face to face about four feet from two NVA sappers that still had some satchel charges on them. I thought they would jump me but did not and they turned and ran back to the north. They both were wearing American helmets.

I lost the sight in my left eye, was shot in my right leg thigh, had a badly damaged right hand, ear damage, powder burns and shrapnel from foot to head but was very lucky for some reason; spent two months in the hospital in Japan, of which I do not remember much, then four months at Fitzsimmons Hospital in Denver, released around Labor Day, 1970. I will never forget how brave all of the men were that I served with in Viet Nam and am honored.

About me, I was lucky to get a job in 1971 with the Federal Land Bank making loans and appraisals to farmers and ranchers an worked fro them for over 30 years. I was also that year lucky to marry my wife of 37 years, Renee who was a teacher and later theater office manager. We have two children; Jeff is 33 and he and wife Amy, kids Shelbi 14, and Cole 11 live on the ranch not far. We are lucky to see them a lot. Our daughter Aly is 31, single and is a court reporter in Denver. We ran about 240 mother cows on the ranch until a few years ago we sold them as both me and Jeff do farm and ranch appraisals and did not have time or money for them. We still run a few in the summer and put up 300 tons of grass hay to sell.

Thanks to Bill Higgins for getting in touch with some of us and we will continue to look for more buddies and families and maybe we can have a reunion in the future. Feel free to contact me anytime; my memory after 40 years is not so good. I hope I have the names right on the pictures, if not let me know. Thank you.

About Granite: One thing he [Gary Tarpein] told me, and I do not remember, was after he got up to the CP he was sitting by me, I was laying next to the dead men but I was bandaged up not covered, he thought I was dead also, but shook me and I mumbled something so he knew I was alive. Then of course he saw me in Japan Hospital so knew I would make it home. He is right about the satchel charges laying around the fox holes as several thrown at me did not go off I remember, Thank God!  

He [Buzz Buzzell] told me that I told him to take my Buck knife from my rucksack when he loaded me on the chopper at Granite and he got the knife. It was stolen out of his pickup several years ago. I wondered what happened to it.

From a phone conversation with Jim Lee about Granite: A dozer (D8) was left by the engineers down near the wire the night of the attack and was used by the sappers for cover.  They may have been firing AK-47’s and RPG’s from the vicinity of the dozer.

Gary Stacey’s position was forward of Jim Lee.  Jim Lee, Jack Wells and Jim Davis were in a foxhole hit by a satchel charge.  Jack Wells was killed.  Jim Lee was blown out of the foxhole.  The sappers were tossing their charges from about 40-50 feet distance. 

The US used flares to light up the FSB but they only illuminated for seconds.  Jim Lee remembers seeing a sapper inside the wire running across his front.  Jim shot at the sapper and this coincided with the start of the main attack.  RPG and rifle fire began from outside the wire.

Jim’s platoon was on the East and Southeast side of the firebase.  The ground sloped gradually to their front out to a distance of 100 yards.  The other sides of the firebase had steep slopes to their front so the E/SE side may have been more attractive to the enemy.

Carol Turpin was 20 yards to Jim Lee’s right.  Turpin put out a high volume of  fire with his M-60 machine gun.

Gary Tarpein and Carol Schilz were on an LP outside the wire and did not report any activity.

Jim Lee noticed a trip flare going off and says the sappers were already inside the wire when that occurred.  Jim’s position was hit by a satchel charge.  His trousers were blown off and his right hand was disabled by fragments from an RPG.  He resorted to throwing hand grenades with his left hand as his rifle had also been destroyed in the explosions.  There had been a sleeping position behind the foxhole and Jim noticed that the sleeping position had been eradicated by the RPG blast.  It appeared that the enemy had made a reconnaissance and knew where there position had been.

At one point at the height of battle, Jim was standing and saw two sappers wearing US helmets stopping four feet away.  He looked at the sappers and they glanced at him.  They were talking to each other and Jim grabbed the only weapon he had remaining, his combat knife.  Inexplicably, the two NVA ran off, perhaps on other business.

Jim Lee found a new private hunkered down near his position.  The man was frightened and confused.  Jim sent him toward the artillery which was in the center of the firebase, to get help.  Jim Lee was suffering from blood loss at this time and probably was losing a degree of consciousness.  One of his next memories is getting tossed into a medevac helicopter.

He [Wayne Wasilk] got a kick out of the little story I told about the time we were on a CA somewhere and we were going into an LZ and were taking some light rifle fire from the ground; there were three of us sitting on each side and I was in the middle and had my arms around the other two guys and the door gunners were going crazy firing up the area. I felt something hot in my crotch and thought I had been shot in the private parts; I looked down and all the hot spent shells were piling up in my crotch, I was relieved but still had to get them off and had to try to slide forward to scoot them off the edge of the chopper.  Wayne got a kick out ot that. I don't know why I remember that.

Bill, I got your email with David Causey, I will send him a new CD of my pictures and hope it gets through OK. He had some good information but some things may never be known for sure. It does appear he and McGuire were in 3rd Plt which was on the opposite side of Granite from 1st Plt, according to Hickman as he said he was in 3rd Plt with McGuire. That side of the FB was steep hillside as I remember. We did lose a lot of men from our own weapons. Do you remember when we almost got killed by Cobra gunship ARA about the time the LOH went down N. of Granite. I remember several of us had a few small shrapnel hits from that and we had to run like hell to get away from it. It was about the same time Crook was KIA; the more I see, he was in a different platoon and we must have been working with them as we were right in the area at the time.