Letters tell of war experience 50 years ago

Friday, July 6, 2018

April 7, 1968

Dear Mom and Dad,

It is 6:25 Sunday morning and we just left Okinawa. It is 3:25 Saturday afternoon Central Standard Time.

Friday afternoon the band played for us and we left by bus for McCord AFB at 5:30 .p.m. McCord is between Ft. Lewis (Wash.) and Tacoma and at 7 p.m. we boarded Braniff International. The plane is made especially for overseas travel, with flotation seat cushions and individual life jackets. The plane is carrying l85 aboard and it has no first class, only coach.

From Washington, five hours and 16 minutes later we landed at Honolulu. The time was 10:30 p.m. Friday night, 12:30 a.m. Seattle time Saturday morning, and 2:30 a.m. Saturday your time. We stayed in Honolulu for an hour just walking around the airport, the temperature was about 80 degrees and very humid. It is so different from Kansas City because a person can walk into the airport and walk out the other side because there arenít any walls or doors, and palm trees and vines are growing everywhere. Around the freeway exits and parking lots there is no gravel, but all kinds of plants growing.

Men wear short and sometimes no shirts and women wear low tops, but almost floor-length silky dresses and some younger girls wear much shorter dresses. Everyone has dark skin and citizens drive almost all American cars.

We left Honolulu at 11:30, then shortly crossing the International Date Line and flew to Okinawa, landing at 9:30 a.m. Hawaii time Saturday morning, but 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning in Okinawa and 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon you time. There is 15 hours difference in Okinawa and your time, but I think only 14 hours between you and Vietnam. Therefore, when it is 3 p.m. at home, it is 5 a.m. the next morning here. It was really a shame because we left at 7 p.m. as it was getting dark and kept up with the night until Okinawa. The moon shone some, but after it went down, it was do dark I couldnít even see the end of the wing.

We left Okinawa a 6 a.m. as it turned light, so the sun has been shining bright ever since and it is never cloudy above 20,000 feet ó day or night, the sky is always clear. At each stop, the entire crew and stewardesses changed, but we have kept the same plane for the entire trip. The tail shadow on the wing outside my window looks like a building because it never moves except when the pilot makes a curve. I just looked out my window and saw another jet flying to our right and several thousand feet below us. All along the ocean there are small islands, some smaller than Kansas City, and they are populated with towns, fields and roads. I was very surprised to see that anyone lived out in the middle of the ocean like that.

We were given four meals on the plane, but no drinks other then coffee, tea, and milk were served. Now I can see what looks like a large sand bar maybe 5,000 acres in size, but down the center of the island was a lake of much deeper depth. I am sending an article from April ď68 Readers Digest concerning the time around the earth.

As I understand, we were supposed to land in Ben Hoa, then they changed it to Chu Lai, and now finally Saigon, but how we get to Chu Lai from Saigon I am wondering.

By the way, I donít believe I told you how long it took us from Hawaii to Okinawa. We left at 11:30 p.m. and landed at 10 a.m. Hawaii time, but as I said, it was 5 a.m. Okinawa time, so actual flying time was 10 Ĺ hours, but mean time was something like 17 hours.

We landed in Saigon at 10 a.m. Okinawa time, but 9 a.m. Saigon time. We just got back from finance at 12:30 p.m., that would be 2:30 Sunday p.m. at home, so I guess you finished eating dinner. . . I tried to get money sent to Sedalia, but they wouldnít send it to a company like that for some reason. However, they would send it to a bank or relative and I hate it because it will cause you more trouble, but I put it in your name so donít make any extra trips to Sedalia just for me. You will get $175 starting on Mayís salary so you would get it the first of June. As for April, I will have to send a money order for that month, it takes that long to process.

Another part of bad news is that my address is changed again and instead of sending us to Chu Lai, we are in Saigon. . . I suppose we will be moving in a few months again. I know thatís going to cause a lot of trouble moving around and changing addresses. Iíd better close now and get to bed, Iíll tell you more in my next letter.

We are also with the 9th Infantry, instead of the 196th Infantry, so you see they sort of gave us a raw deal.

I donít know why I didnít leave my driverís license and Social Security card and some of the things I carry in my billfold because if I lose them it will be a lot of trouble renewing everything again. I may send some of those cards in later letters. Will write the next chance I get.

Love, Richard