Randy Barnes – Letter #2 – Nov. 4, 1968

Dear Richard & Carla,

MON NOV 4

I write to you as my K.C. spokesman. I trust you will pass on my correspondence to the entire “tribe”. I will, in the future attempt to write to everyone but as of now I am so damn busy that it is next to impossible. However, I already crave letters so please ask everyone to write to me even though they haven’t heard from me personally.

How can I explain Viet Nam to you? It is impossible! One must be here and experience the stench, the poverty, the disease, and most of all the FEAR! I will try explaining all of my first impressions as well as my assignment & job. I know however, that words are not adequate, you will not be able to comprehend because it is so much different. At home it’s some hurried film clips on T.V. or a radio broadcast; here its Real – its your life & your job to save your life, your own life as well as others. As someone said as we disembarked the plane at Bien Hoa and heard the small arms fire & the choppers firing rockets at a nearby field, “GODDAMN this was for real” – That was the hardest shock – the war is real – I just couldn’t believe I was here & someone might try & kill me or I might have to Kill in the near future.

I arrived in V N at 11:30 PM Wed nite at Bien Hoa airport. We spent about 2 hrs at the airport waiting for trucks to convoy us to the Replacement camp at Long Binh about 16 miles away.

The busses arrived with screened windows and M-60 machine guns at front and back They told us we were in a very secure area & the road was clear but that due to a recent event they were taking no chances. We had to pass through the town of Bien Hoa and the night before some VC had hit a whore house there & machine gunned 4 G I’s & all the whores. One of the GI’s was shot right on top of the chick & they found them like that both shot to shit.

We arrived at the Replacement Depot & stayed there until Friday night. I wasn’t allowed to sleep the whole time I was there. Since I slept very little on the 18 hr plane ride here, & didn’t sleep from Tues nite (when I had 3 hrs) until Friday nite – Goddamn I was ready to drop – so tired I didn’t give a shit whether I was alive or dead. The whole time I was there I filled sandbags & helped build machine gun bunkers, with some formations & a few rest periods.

Friday evening I was told to report to a big shed called the shipping point. I had already received alot of my field equipment steel pot, canteen, mess kit, field pack etc – so I had a bitch toting all that, my duffel bag & 2 small suitcases. I was told I was going to 2nd Field Forces Headquarters & I thought “shit Randy you’re going to end up a fucking field medic.” I then got really scared for the first time.

When I got to 2nd FF HQ I found out this was a support unit for all the Infantry Units in the III & IV Corps areas. (Including 1st Infantry Div, 25th, 9th, 4th, 101st Airborne & Special Forces at different jungle camps.)

However I also found that these support units were also all mechanized – (armored artillery) – I was told that although these infantry units go out “on the hump” ( GI talk for chasing “Charlie through the jungles” the support units usually set up a fortified perimeter for their big guns. Since these support units have so much firepower Charlie very seldom “hits” them – he’d be a dead “gook” if he did. So now I know I’ll be a field medic but I also know I’ll be relatively safe – However Charlie hit C Battery at Cou Chi the last three nights.

On with the narrative – After I arrived 2nd Field HQ I was sent out to Headquarters battery for the 5th Battalion 2nd Artillery Division ( a battery in Artillery is the same as a Company in the infantry) – I will remain here until I’ve received my “in-country” tactical (war) training – then I will be sent to the field to one of 4 batteries. These batteries are the support units I spoke of. Our 4 support batteries support the 1st Div (which you’ve heard alot about, the “Big Red One” from Fort Riley) – the 25th infantry & 101st Airborne – the 9th Infantry in the Mekong Delta & another hush-hush unit at Lock Ninh which was in all the papers before I left – Charlie tried to take it for two weeks & lost close to a thousand men.

Now I’ll explain what my war training is & will be. (It will last 1 to 2 months) First I must master all the basic weapons used here. That will take about a week

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A quick timeout right now – I’m sitting on some sand bags outside my tent & a chopper gunship just now sw– (that “sw–” was caused by some heavy artillery that just went off & they’re blasting the hell out of the field just outside the perimeter – don’t know what it is but I’m getting the fuck down in the bunker.

Back again 45 minutes later and shaky as hell. As I was writing to you all hell broke loose – first this chopper started blasting the ground about 400 yards outside the perimeter & then the big guns opened up & the machine guns – still don’t what it was but the siren blew all clear – I’ll find out later. Probably some VC reported outside the perimeter – Goddamn that’s the first real taste of war I’ve had & it happened as I was writing Goddamn – I’m not shitting you – Goddamn – ??

I quit writing for awhile again – damn I was really, really scared – A guy inside the tent “puked his – guts up” he was so scared.

Anyhow, back to my war training – I’ll learn to fire & clean the following weapons. M-60 light machine gun, 50 cal. heavy machine gun, M-79 grenade launcher, & a weapon called the LAW (It has replaced the bazooka – its only about 4 feet long & when it’s fired you just throw away the tube. I’ll also learn the different type grenades & how to use them, flares, & assorted “weird” weapons – I’ll explain more in another letter but for now I’ll just say I never knew we had some of the weird “Flash – Gordon” type weapons we have here.

After my “war” training I’ll work here at headquarters in the dispensary and be observed. If the doctors & senior medics (medics who have served 6 months of combat field duty) think “I know my shit” (GI talk) then I’ll go out to the field & one of those 4 support units I talked about. If they think I need more training I may stay here a little longer – “anyhow I’ll be in the field at least 2 months – I’ll be there 6 months & then I’ll have served my combat time & get to come back to Headquarters Dispensary to train a replacement. – Damn Richard – I’m still scared – those damn choppers are still flying around that field out there but they’re not firing.

I’ve tried to explain to you what’s what. I ‘m sure this letter is mixed-up but the Army way is complicated & if you haven’t been in It’s hard to explain – that’s why in my pitiful way I tried to explain what all I’m doing & what the different units are – Let me know if this letter was very clear.

I meant to tell you more about VN but I’m tired & I think I’ll wait till I’ve been here longer – Just for now l tell you it’s the hottest place in the world – 107 degrees today with close to 90% humidity (Monsoons are just about over)

I was issued my M-16 today & must be on perimeter guard tonight in my steel pot, flack jacket & rifle – Damn I hope today wasn’t an example of what’s up for tonight If Charlie hit us tonight I’d just stand there and shit – just kidding, I’ve already heard enough that I’m sure I’ll have no trouble killing if I have too.

I still love peace. I love you all & miss you all – Don’t worry I’ll be home soon Please write soon Tell EVERYONE to write as often as possible. God I’m lonely.

Your peace Rep. in V.N. PFC Barnes

PS If you ever see my mom don’t let her know I’m in any danger. If you go to Topeka you might take this letter along for everyone to read as I’m so very, very busy I probably won’t be able to write the Goose for awhile Peace Brother peace sign

Tell Bob, B A, Paul, Dick, Waddie Maggot, Bro all my friends I love them all – I never knew – I’m almost crying I guess I’m still scared.

PPS Don’t forget to send all the KU clippings – I already have “Kansas University No. “1”.” on the front of my helmut & “Love will Bring me Home” on the back.

PPPS Would love to have any new snaps from any of the gang, I plan to buy a camera & will send you some. THE Definate END

PFC Randy Barnes

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