For the American soldiers in Vietnam, correspondence to and from home was an outlet and a refuge. They wrote their letters in base camps or in the jungle, describing what they saw, what they did, and how they felt. The soldiers wrote to their parents, siblings, friends, and lovers. Some would describe a fire fight almost matter of factly, listing KIAs and WIAs (short for “killed in action” and “wounded in action”) while others recounted treks through the jungle or wrote about their loneliness.
Click here to read one of those letters.
25 Nov 66
Hello dear folks,
It’s going to be hard for me to write this, but maybe it will make me feel better.
Yesterday after out big dinner my company was hit out in the field while looking for VC. We got the word that one boy was killed and six wounded. So the doctor, medics and the captain I work for went over to the hospital to see the boys when they came in and see how they were.
The first sergeant came in the tent and told me to go over to the hospital and tell the captain that six more KIAs were coming in. When I got there, they asked if anyone from A Company was there. I just happened to be there, so they told me that they needed someone to identify a boy they just brought in from my company. He was very bad, they said. So I went into the tent. There on the table was the boy. His face was all cut up and blood all over it. His mouth was open, his eyes were both open. He was a mess. I couldn’t really identify him.
So I went outside while they went through his stuff. They found his ID card and dog tags. I went in, and they told me his name – Rankin. I cried, “No God, it can’t be.” But sure enough, after looking at his bloody face again I could see it was him. It really hit me hard because he was one of the nicest guys around. He was one of my good friends. No other KIA or WIA hit me like that. I knew most of them, but his was the first body I ever saw and, being my friend, it was too much. After I left the place, I sat down and cried. I couldn’t stop it. I don’t think I ever cried so much in my life. I can still see his face now. I will never forget it.
Today the heavens cried for him. It started raining at noon today and has now finally just stopped after 10 hours of the hardest rain I have ever seen.
Source: B. Edelman, Dear America: letters home from Vietnam (New York 1985).