Letters from Robin – Fire in the Hole – 9/28/69

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On this Eve of Memorial Day, I am taking time to once again share on of Robin’s letters. I had put the project on hold, and like so many things, never got back to it. I have about 23 that I have yet to share. It is a time consuming process, and uninterrupted time is something I have lacked for too long.

The weather forecast is not looking too good for tomorrow morning. I hope that the rain breaks or holds of for before noon. This is one day that my family looks forward to each year. Gathering together, and joining with others who too have lost a loved one. The one ceremony, honoring the high school alumni that lost their lives in Vietnam and the Gulf is a smaller more intimate ceremony that is conducted by our high school Key Club, along with the ROTC, band and choir members. These teens give up a few hours of their holiday weekend to help us celebrate our fallen heroes.

I had hoped to take a drive to the Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge today. I wanted to take my mother to see the Gold Star Family monument. The weather was far too hot to have her out too long. At 92, she tires quickly, and I would rather her be feeling her best for tomorrow.

Instead I ran and errand with Tara, cooked a nice dinner and worked on my blog. I do not blog often these days, but find I just can’t cut ties with it. I actually have two, which today I merged into one, so how I have some cleaning up to do due to the import process. Sometime in the near future when I figure out how, this blog with change to my other domain, www.marthakasper.com, which currently is mostly just a photography blog.

Ok, on to what most of you are hear to read, another installment of “Letters from Robin”. I believe this is the 2nd or 3rd letter once he got to Vietnam. I have already shared one, and the other was just a quick note.

 

Saturday, 28 Sept 68

Dear Mom & Dad,
I received your letter last night I was very happy to hear from you. We only get mail up here about every other day or sometimes every three days.

You asked in your letter how I got from Bien Hoa to Chu-Lai, I flew up on a military transport. Also I flew from california on a Northwest-Orient 707. We had stewardess’ and the works. We had about 5 or six meals during the flight. (I was just re-reading the letter I got, it’s the one from Dad, and you ask me if mother told me you went camping? This is the only letter I have received from home. Did you write one before?)

The unity I am in is not exactly a long range recon unit. It is the battalion recon platoon. Every batalion has one. Most of the time they use us almost like a line company, but I haven’t been here long enough to really say. The recon unit itself is only a platoon size. The rest of the company is made up of a 42 inch mortar platoon and a ground surveillance platoon (radar).

Since I wrote last we have had about 5 missions. The night I wrote the last letter we went on an ambush patrol. the only thing that happened was about 42 guys getting soaking wet, it rained all night. I though the day would never come. The next day we had off, I slept most of the day. The day after that we got another mission. We had to recon a valley where a comany was going to make a sweep through. They wanted to know very simply if a company could move through it easily. The next day we had a CA (Combat Assualt) into a valley sight near here. That’s a helicopter assault. Then we joined in on a sweep with another company . We just got on a line, and every village and hooch we cam to we rounded up all the people and took them with us, and searched the place real quick. By the end of the day there were over 500 people. It was near the beach so wee took them all out there near a little fishing village. The village was on the beach. When we got there we found a bunch of South Vietnamese soldiers already there. They had gone into the village and found three NVSA and killed them. I saw the bodies. It wasn’t a very pretty sight, but it didn’t really bother me. One was shot through the head and one had a couple holes in him, I don’t know which one killed him. The third was hit by a grenade launcher, it hit him in the shoulder and the shrapnel was all over the upper part of is body. They got another one while we were sitting on the beach waiting for the work to go back to Thunder. They dug up a tunnel and found him down there, they shot some grenades down the hole and wounded him. The ARVN soldiers are very brutal, they have no respect for life. Another thing out of all the people we herded out of their houses there was not one single middle aged man or woman. They oldest kid you see is about 13 yrs old, the rest old people.

Yesterday and today the platoon went out, I didn’t go. I’m not exactly sure why, they leave behind about 3 guys from each squad. One reason might be because they got work that a few people are going to be sent to the other units because we are over sized right now. The word was that the new E-5’s would be leaving but the platoon is trying to keep us. So far there has been no definite word either way. I hope I stay because that would really mess up my mailing address, I might lose some mail in the change. Until I find out for sure don’t send any packages or anything valuable. I suppose you already sent my rain jacket.

The loss of my records might create a little problem, especially in the financial section. Come pay day, I am liable not to get paid. But everything will work itself out.

The place is really pretty nice. They have a mess hall that serves good chow, the only time we eat C’s is when we go out and then we usually are back by supper time. They show a movie every night too, so the place isn’t too bad.

Well, write soon and often, mail doesn’t come often and I like to get alot.

Love,
Robin

 

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Letters from Robin – Happy Birthday – 12/6/1968

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Dec 6, 1968

Dear Mom & Dad,

Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote last but we’ve been mighty busy. We’ve been running alot of night ambushes and out in the day looking for Charlie around Thunder. The other day we worked on APC (armored personalle carriers, or better known as tracks) for the first time since I was over here. Linda has a picture of Bud sitting on a track. They are really neat to work on. instead of walking we rode and they go through anything. They knock down trees and go through water and through mud. Not much can stop them.

Well I’m 19 now. I’m getting old and this army isn’t helping any. Not really, I don’t feel any older than I ever did. It was really some birthday. I walked all day with a full pack, up hills, down hills and through bush so thick we could barely make it through.

Tomorrow we have another CA. This will make about a dozen for me, and the platoon had about 11 when I came. That’s the way they work it, who ever is in the platoon when they get to 25 gets an air medal even if they didn’t participate in all 25.

You won’t believe it, but I lost Bill’s address before I got a chance to write him. I guess he’s home now so tell him I said hi. If he wants to write give him my address, but I don’t expect he will ever write me, he is usually too busy.

I’m sending a couple of pictures of myself, one of the guys has a Polaroid. The one where I’m sitting down was taken the day we worked with the tracks.

Well it’s getting dark and I can’t think of much to write about. Write whenever you can.

Love,

Rob

 

Our local paper has been doing a series on the heroes from our area who lost their lives iy Vietnam. This was prompted by the visit of the Moving Wall later this month at a local American Legion Post. Today Robin’s story was on the front page. My mother, sister and myself were interviewed a few weeks ago. It was that interview that prompted my project to share these letters on my blog. They got his name wrong in the title of the article. I love our local paper and how community oriented many of the staff are, but they need better proof readers!

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Letters from Robin – Better in the Boonies – 11/19/1969

Another Monday off, and more rain! I’m glad I like rainy days! They make it easier to stay home and get things done! Unfortunately even with staying home I didn’t accomplish too much! I did get a couple more letters transcribe for future posts! I worked this past weekend, so I only have three days of work this week, and then I am off for FOUR! Tara is doing homebound instruction to finish out the school year, so it almost feels like summer has already started since I don’t have to get her up and drive her to school every day!

 

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This letter was about 2 1/2 months into Robin’s time in Vietnam. I did not remember reading this one before. He writes about looking forward to getting out of the Army and what he would do with his life. I have no doubt, had he been given the chance, he would have done something good with his life! Not in the monetary sense, but I am sure he would have made an impact on many lives. He never had that chance!

I normally include a scanned copy of the original letter. Robin wrote this one and one other in red ink and I am having trouble getting a good copy! Wi

19 Nov 68

Dear Mom & Dad,

How are you? Sorry I haven’t written sooner, but we’ve been on the move alot. I got a letter yesterday from you, the one with the pictures. They came out pretty good. I’m trying to keep them from getting wet. it hasn’t rained much lately.

This morning we chalked up another CA. We’ve been flying so much lately we just about know the pilots and door gunners by name. If we keep going at this rate I’ll have about 2 air medals by the time I go home, 25 CAs and I get an air medal. I’m getting so flying is almost second nature, but we still do our share of walking.

We’re back on Thunder now and doing the same things as before. Actually I liked it better out in the boonies. Out there your on your own, there’s no brass around to bother you and they’re not always thinking of little annoying things for us to do.

I understand that now the Army will pay for 4 years of college education, $130 a month is what it is I think. That’s a good deal, I just hope I can get accepted somewhere. You know my grades weren’t too great in high school. Even if I can’t get into college I’ll find something to do. There’s a million opportunities in life and there’s no excuse for anybody being a bum. I’ll always look back on my army life and be glad I served. I’ve learned more about life and people and now have a completely different outlook on the world.

You know that whenever somebody asks me how old I am, I ask them how old they think I am. Would you believe that they all say 20 or 21. I tell them I’m 19, there’s not a soul here that knows I’m only 18. It is pretty funny a 18 year old running a squad of guys anywhere from 19 to 24 yrs. old. Even Fred used to tell me I acted older than my age, even more so than Bill, he said. I guess this year over here will just about make me an old man. (ha, ha)

I hope you send plenty of film with the camera. I’m going to take a lot of pictures.

Well it’s getting dark, so I have to close now. Oh, by the way   the instamatic will be just fine. Another thing, if you can find a picture album send it to me. you know something small to keep these pictures I have in.

Love,

Robin

Speaking of medals, we have Robin’s medals framed and hanging in our living room. These were very challenging to photograph, so please don’t judge my photography!


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Letters from Robin – LZ Buff – 02/10/1969

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10 Feb 1969

Dear Mom and Dad, Well as of yesterday we moved off of LZ South, and once again the LZ is just another hill where we have been. W are now working off of LZ Buff, it’s a couple miles west of LZ South. It’s a much smaller hill but it has been here alot longer. Recon was working off this hill last August and early September before I joined the unit.

We are no longer part of Russell Beach. The 198th and ARVNs are staying in the area. I had to stop for awhile and now I’m back. Us squad leaders just got our rear ends chewed by our E-7 platoon leader. (Our ? is on R&R). He has talks with us quite often and tells us what he doesn’t like and what he wants changed or corrected. Now I’m sitting up on the hill waiting to get a haircut. B Co. is on Buff with us and they have two barbers. They’re pretty good too. I haven’t had a haircut in quite a while and it’s starting to get long and it’s even starting to curl in the back.

I’m glad to hear you got the other roll of film. I have my doubts about it turning out good though. Are you sending a copy of those 19 pictures from the other roll? There are some pictures in there I want to see.

Tomorrow we are going off the hill just north of here to work the area. The only way to find out if Charlie is out there is to walk around and look for him. I have a real good squad, they aren’t afraid to get shot at but like me they won’t take any unnecessary chances. I do have one guy I am ashamed of, he acts like a baby but talks real big. If we ever run into trouble I don’t think I can count on him to help much.

The weather finally cleared up. The sun is shining and it’s just the right temperature. One night last week the temp. went down in the high 40s, and last night it was really cold. When I went out on guard I was only out of my tent a couple seconds and I was sneezing. The weather is really weird. Well I’ll close for now. Can’t think of much to say.

Take care and right often. Love, Rob

I wanted to share couple letters to the Editor of our local paper. now called The Reporter. The first letter was written the day of Robin’s funeral by his boss, mentor and friend Fred Seipt. Fred was and still is the owner of the farm on which Robin worked. We are still friends of the family. They have a flag pole in the parking lot of their dairy store/entertainment center that is now part of the farm business. This is in memory of Robin.The original flag that flew there was the one from Robin’s casket,it was stolen. The flagpole in the photo below is actually the second one as well. Superstorm Sandy brought the flagpole down under the weight of a very wet flag. I wonder what Robin would have thought of all the changes at the farm that have enabled them to stay in business as a family farm! (click on the photo to see a larger view.)

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This letter was written by my cousin Dean. Dean is a sergeant in our local police department. It was written in 1990 during the first war in Iraq. Dean was sitting near the park in which the Memorial Day ceremonies took place last week.

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Dean’s brother Kenny enlisted in the Air Force the same day as Robin enlisted in the Army. We spoke of Robin for the first time in years on Memorial Day. He still struggles with Robin’s death and his time in Vietnam.

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Letters from Robin – Final Words – 03-07-1969

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Today’s letter is the last letter my family received from Robin. I felt it fitting to share this letter on Memorial Day. In a short while, I will head out with my mother to meet up with several family members to attend the Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in our town, Lansdale, PA. After the parade there is a Memorial Day service in Memorial Park and after that a small ceremony that is hosted by North Penn High School’s Key Club. The ceremony honors the fallen alumni from Vietnam and the Middle East.

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March 7, 1969

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Dear Mom & Dad,

I’m sitting in my bunker here on Buff writing this letter by flashlight. I never get too tired until around ten o’clock so I figured I’d write a few letters.

I go on guard duty around 3:30 so I’ll get enough sleep before then. I find I can go with less sleep now than ever. We haven’t run a patrol off the hill in about 5 days. I don’t doubt a bit that we’ll go out tomorrow for a few hours.

I’m getting a real dark tan now that its so nice out all the time. It still hasn’t rained, I believe the monsoons are definitely over.

You know I read the Stars & Stripes all the time and some of the news from the world astonishes me. For one thing the Navy is trying to place all the blame for the Pueblo incident completely on Bucher. It isn’t working too good though because all his men are sticking up for him. If they don’t lay off Bucher is going to crack up. All those men have been through too much already and those stupid investigators are making it worse.

Another thing that I just heard on the radio today, that deserter tried at Fort Dix got off with 4 yrs and a dishonorable discharge. He should have gotten alot more than that, the only reason he didn’t was because the trail was highly publicized and the army was afraid what the public would say. It’s hard to believe that not long ago deserters were shot. Deserting in the face of the enemy didn’t even require a trial, the man was shot on the spot no questions asked.

Not much else in the news is out of the ordinary. College students are still acting like they know everything and run around picketing and rioting and the peace talks are still a big farce.

I was surprised to hear Randy Boltz is in the Air Force. That article about the narcotics raid was real interesting. It didn’t suprise me it was the Owens family. They’re nothing but white trash anyway.

As of now I have 182 days left. If I get a five day drop I have 177 days to go. I’m getting short.

You know Mike came home Feb 17th by surprise. I hope by now he has paid you a visit. Mrs. Krause said he really looked good.

What’s Linda hear from her guy. I hope he isn’t the kind of guy that makes up war stories like some rear area guys I’ve seen. I don’t envy them though. I haven’t been to the rear in over 2 months, but I know its a hassle back there. Its almost like back in the states in Chu-Lai. When one of our guys goes to the rear to take care of a problem or go to the dentist or something the guys back there try to put them on details and stuff. They don’t have any consideration for the guy out in the field. You couldn’t pay me to take a job in the rear.

Well I’ve run out of stuff to say for now. Take care and tell everybody I said Hi.

Love,

Robin

Two days later, on March 9th, 1969, Robin and two others in his squad were killed when they were met by hostile forces. The casualties were Ralph Mayers and John Petrie. We have been told that although mortally wounded himself he continued to give aid and encouragement to his men before he succumbed to his wounds. For this Robin was awarded the Bronze Star.

In addition, two other soldiers were captured as POWs. One, Arthur Lindsey, was found dead the next day of wounds he received. Coy Tinsley was held as a POW until October 24, 1969. From the report that I read, he was liberated on that day with two other POWs that had been held almost two year and they walked for days until they arrived at an allied compound and were repatriated on 5 Nov 1969

Mr. Tinsley from all that I can find on the internet is still living in Tennessee. I found a photo of him when he was name Veteran of the Year 2009 for a Fraternal Order of Eagles post. I would love to speak with this gentleman, he was one of the last people to be with Robin alive.

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In the end Robin served 180 days of his tour in Vietnam.

We his family and friends miss him each and every day.You have to wonder what Robin and the rest of the soldiers who have paid for our freedom in all of our countries wars and conflicts with their lives could have done in the world if given the chance..

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You can click on the individual photo to see a larger version.

I had originally thought I would do this series for the week leading up until today, Memorial Day. I however, think I will continue, most likely not every day. The research I do as I read each letter has brought to me so much information from both my Google searches, as well as the brothers of the 11th Light Inf Brigade FB page.

 Sacrifce for Me – Oak Ridge Boys – The ORB have to be one of the most patriotic vocal groups in our country. They are a personal favorite of my mother’s and myself. I feel honored that Joe Bonsall read my blog posts about Robin!

Many of shared patriotic music today at Monday’s Music Moves me!

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Letters from Robin – 12 Tons of Rice

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Today’s letter is from 4 January 1969. I love that when you read the P.S. page that this letter went on ambush with Robin! This letter was written three weeks before the previous two letters I had posted.

He also speaks of the Christmas tree we sent him. I have included pictures of that tree and some of the guys. (You can click on the photo to see a larger view.)

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4 Jan 69

Dear Mom & Dad,

How are things with you? Fine I hope. As for me things are as usual. There’s not much happening. We go out in the day and return to Thunder for the night. We haven’t run any ambushes in about a week and a half. I think that’s a record.

The 2nd of Jan. we had a big sweep near LZ Lowboy which is further south than Charlie Brown. I guess t 10 or 15 miles south of Thunder. It’s the southern most OZ in the 11th Bde. AO (area of operation). Just below Lowboy is the line seperating our AO from the 173rd airborne Bde AO. From what I heard not much goes on around there because the 11th Bde sasys it’s the 173rd’s job and they say it’s our job to work there so nobody does much of anything around .

Lowboy is a big LZ and is occupied by engineers, about 2 or 3 companies of them. They treated us real nice, they let us use their clubs which had plenty of beer and soda, and get this, their First Sgt. apologized to us because they didn’t have hot water in the shower at the time. We stayed on Lowboy that one night and left early in the morning to set up our blocking force for the sweep. The sweep netted 3 VC suspects, one weapon and 3 M-16 magazines. I hope the VC don’t have the rifle to go with the magazines.

Dec 31, we found part of a rice cache just off Thunder. the VC had split it up among all the villagers in the area and they hid it and kept it for them. The next day we had to go to Lowboy so Charlie Co. went out and started bagging it up. In the afternoon of the 2nd they got fired on by a couple VC. We came back to Thunder that afternoon and yesterday we went out to help Charlie Co. find and bag the rice. Our platoon found six hootches with rice hidden in and around them. In about 3 of the places it was buried in the floor. Our platoon alone found and bagged at least a ton of rice and altogether 12 tons was carried out by chinook that day. We really put a hurting on the VC by taking all their chow. the village chief that told us about the rice said NVA carrying parties were supposed to come down from the hills sometime this week and collect all the rice and take it away. We beat them to it.

Tomorrow we’re going into the hills southwest of here for a few days. I think we will be working with Bravo Co. We get CA’ed out in the morning

Linda told me about her new boyfriend. She said you like him more than you did Bud. I can’t really say I am surprised she got engaged though.

These pictures I am sending were taken awhile ago. The one of me was taken before we went on that big operation when we found that NVA base camp adn those weapons. The other was taken a couple days before Christmas. Those two guys in front aren’t Sgs. They just picked up those shirts out of the clean cloths we got. It was probably more wishful thinking than anything. A couple days later our CO made them tear the stripes off. That’s the Christmas tree you sent me, and that’s the bunker I live in, its a new bunker because the other one that was there burned down.

I close now, write soon.

Love,
Rob

PS

I really pulled a stupid one with this letter. I forgot to mail it the day I wrote it and that night we went on an ambush. I had it in my pocket. As you can see the letter got slightly wet the one picture of the tree and the other guys was all messed up. The one I’m sending is still a little good.

 

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Letters from Robin – Operation Russell Beach #2 – 1/27/69

 

 

 

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Memorial Day weekend is here. The unofficial beginning of summer. The very warm weather we enjoyed for several days last week has turned very chilly and windy! I feel like we are back in March. “Selfishly” I am happy that Memorial Day itself is forcasted to have high of 74 and sunny. We attend a parade and ceremony in town and last year was very hot, making it uncomfortable for all those participants and spectators alike.

This letter mentions Rob’s RTO, John Stiver, he was the one person that knew Robin in Vietnam that contacted us after Robin’s death. John was on R&R the day of the ambush that killed Robin as well as three others, as well as resulted in taking one prisoner.

John and his new wife visited us on their honeymoon shortly after he returned to the states, and we visited them in Fort Wayne, Indiana on at least one occasion. John told my parents he felt guilty for Robin’s death, that maybe if he would have been there things would have been different.

Robin also mentions the red-headed reporter. I guess they probably didn’t see too many women will out in the field!

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27 Jan 69

Dear Mom & Dad,

We finally came back to LZ South. We spent 12 nights and 13 days out there in the field. I have to admit it was a fast 13 days.

That coron is really a big deal. We tightened it quite a bit but still not much action. Just before we left this afternoon to come back here some TV people from ABC were at our location. Myself and my squad were on a patrol when they got there and I missed a chance to be on TV. My RTO got his picture taken by a photographer though and he told him to write home and tell his parents to start watching the newspapers. His name is John Stiver so if you happen to see the picture cut it out and keep it!

This operation must be a pretty important because the last 4 days or so we have had all sorts of reporters and photographers with us, including a red-headed woman free-lance reporter. I’d say right now this is the biggest operation in progress in Vietnam. But don’t believe everything you hear on the news. Like today I watched the TV guys film a “on the spot report” for the news. What a bunch of B.S. This one guy went into this bomb shelter. Every family in Vietnam has one. They mound up a bunch of dirt and dig a tunnel through it. I’ve been down in a few of them and all they keep in them is valuable things. Well anyway this guy went into the entrance of one they put a mat of straw on the entrance and then the guy in the hole comes out with his microphone making it look like he crawled through it, and he starts talking about the numerous bunkers and tunnel complexes in the area and how we have such a hard time searching them all. Well anyway it sounds neat I guess. They probably won’t mention the fact that as we tighten the cordon we sweep the area and completely tear down every hooch we come to. That’s what we were doing on the patrol when the TV people got there. How we work it is we set up in a certain spot and the platoon leader and plt sgt stay in that spot, you could call it a base of operations, and he sends each squad out in different directions to search and destroy. We drop our ruck-sacks in the perimeter and go out with just our ammo adn then we come back and if we are going to remain there that night we set up in our platoon perimeter. Anyway it’s really neat being on an operation that is making the news. I’m not even sure what our part of the operation is named. I’ve heard it is Task Force Cooksey (he’s the 11th Bde CO) The Marines have a different name for their part of operations and the 198th has one too.

Well I’ve rattled on enough I guess. I’ll close for now. If there is anything you don’t understand about what I just wrote, let me know and I’ll try to explain. Take care and write whenever possible.

Love,

Robin

 

I received the flag that was flown over the US Capitol from Bruce Flaherty a veteran from the 4/3rd 11th who served in Vietnam. Bruce was wounded during his tour. This flag means so much to our family! Linda (my sister) asked today if we can share “custody” of it!

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Letters from – Battalion Recon

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The letter I am sharing today was written about three weeks after Robin arrived in Vietnam. I found this letter interesting as he writes details on a mission. .

I’m including a link to the Alpha Company 4/3 Sitreps for Sept 1968. Sitreps are situation reports for every day. I am not sure exactly what day Robin was on the above mission, I’d have to go back and look at the order of his letters and today I have no time for that! These Sitreps were obtained by Bruce, the gentleman who contacted me about the flag I mentioned in my last post, by going to archives in College Park, MD.

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28 Sept 68

Dear Mom & Dad,

I received your letter last night. I was very happy to hear from you. We only get mail up here about every other day or sometimes every three days.

You asked in your letter how I got from Bien Hoa to Chu-Lai, I flew up on a military transport. Also I flew from California on a Northwest-Orient 707. We had stewardess’s and the works. We had about 5 or 6 meals during the flight. (I was just re-reading the letter I got, it’s the one from Dad, and you (Dad) ask me if mother told me you went camping? This is the only letter I have received from home. Did you write one before?)

The unit I am in is not exactly a long range recon unit. It is the battalion recon platoon. Every batallion has one. Most of the time they use us almost like line company, but I haven’t been here long enough to really say. The recon unit itself is only a platoon size. The rest of the company is made up of a 4.2 inch mortar platoon and a ground surveillance platoon (radar).

Since I wrote last we have had about 5 missions. The night I wrote the last letter we went on an ambush patrol. The only thin that happened was about 42 guys getting soaking wet, it rained all night. I thought the day would never come. The next day we had off, I slept most of the day. The day after that we got another mission. We had to recon a valley where a company was going to make a sweep through. They wanted to know very simply if a company could move through it easily. The next day we had a CA (Combat Assualt) into a valley right near here. That’s a helicopter assult. The we joined in a sweep with another company. We just got on line and every village and hooch we came to we rounded up all the people and took them with us, and searched the place real quick. By the end of the day there were over 500 people. It was near the beach so we took them all out there near a little fishing village. The village was on the beach. When we got there we found a bunch of South Vietnamese soldiers already there. They had gone into the village and found three NVA and killed them. I saw the bodies. It wasn’t a very pretty site but it didn’t really bother me. One was shot through the head and one had a couple holes in him, I don’t know which one killed him. The third was hit by a grenade launcher, it hit him in the shoulder and the shrapnel was all over the upper part of his body. They got another one while we were sitting on the beach waiting for word to go back to Thunder. They dug up a tunnel and found him down there, they shot some grenades down the hole and wounded him. Then they brought him out and killed him. The ARVN (note: Army of the Republic of Vietnam) soldiers are very brutal, they have no respect for life. Another thing out of all the people we herded out of their houses there was not one single middle-aged man or woman. The oldest kid you see is about 13 yrs old, the rest are old people.

Yesterday and today the platoon went out. I didn’t go. I’m not exactly sure why, they leave behind about 3 guys from each squad. One reason might be because they got word that a few people are going to be sent to other units because we are over-sized right now. The word was that the new E-5s would be leaving but the platoon is trying to keep us. So far there has been no definite word either way. I hope I stay because that would really mess up my mailing address, I might lose some mail in the change. Until I find out for sure don’t send any packages or anything valuable. I suppose you already sent my rain jacket.

The loss of my records might create a little problem, especially in the financial section. Come pay day I might not get paid. But everything will work itself out.

This place is really pretty nice. They have a mess hall that serves good chow, the only time we eat C’s is when we go out and then we are usually back  by supper time. They show a movie every night too, so this place isn’t too bad.

Well write soon and often, mail doesn’t come often and I like to get alot.

Love,

Robin

This photo is from sometime later, Robin did not have a camera as of this time, but I wanted to share a photo or two in each post!

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Letters From Robin – Thunder Mountain – 9/23/1968

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Today’s letter was written on Robin’s first full day at his new “home” LZ (Landing Zone) Thunder. Even in the midst of war, Robin saw the beauty of the land.

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I’ve included this map from the Buff Grunt website to show you were the places Robin talks about are located.

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23 Sept 68

Dear Mom & Dad,

I’m writing to you from my new home. LZ THUNDER is it’s name. It’s up on top of a hill not far from Duc Pho. Its beautiful up here. It’s right near the coast and the side of the hill my bunker is on overlooks a big valley. It must be more than a mile across to the next mountain range. I wish I had a camera that could take a picture of it. All day there is a wind blowing across the hill. I can look down and see the peasants working in the fields, they look like ants from up here.

I got here yesterday afternoon about 1500 hrs. We flew from Chu Lai to Duc Pho on a Chinook helicopter. Then we went to the base camp where we met our First Sergeant and got our ruck-sacks and weapons, put all the necessary equipment in the packs and rode up here to Thunder.

They gave us a real nice reception. They’re always glad to get replacements. I’m the assistant squad leader of the 3rd squad. The funny thing is the squad leader is also an E-5 from NCO school who just got her the day before I did. I’ve never heard of 2 E-5s to one squad but I’m not going to argue. Two heads are better than one. Most everybody up here is new, and they have plenty of men. There are only 3 squads in the Recon platoon and each has 12 or 13 men apiece. We are also going to get a new platoon leader today or tomorrow.

I don’t know how long it will be before we go on an operation. All we do right now is pull bunker guard at night. There was 4 of us last night so it broke down to 2 1/2 hrs apiece. The good thing about it is we don’t do a thing in the day, not a thing. Just lay around and sleep or write or read books or anything. I could do this for a whole year because it is really nice on this hill.

The rains are going to start soon so send me that jacket I bought.

One other thing before I left Chu Lai we had to fill out a Hometown News Release paper, everybody in the Division has to fill it out and at the bottom they ask if you want it sent to the newspapers and I signed it yes. They guy said that it is sent to every newspaper within a hundred mile radius. So keep your eyes open it should take a week or more. They keep that paper at Chu-Lai and if somebody in the Division does something heroic they just get the paper and somebody does a story on it and sends it to the states.

Take Care, tell Nana Buehler and Miller I said Hit! Write often and don’t worry.

Love,

Robin

 

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I had something pretty cool come out of my research yesterday!

I had sent an email to one  a webmaster of one of the sites I found that was requesting photos of grave markers, which I had in my files. She contacted me, but also posted on a closed FB group that I was looking for information on Robin. A gentleman, Bruce Flahery, who was in country during the same time Robin was, but did not serve alongside him, then contacted me via FB.

Bruce is part of a group that requests flags for the fallen servicemen from their unit to be flown over the US Capital. A flag for Robin had been flown last Memorial Day, but they did not have a way of contacting us in order to present us with that very flag.

We exchanged and email and a few minutes later I was on the phone with Bruce. What a nice man. He spends his own time making sure that those who lost their lives in Vietnam are never forgotten!

I will share more on this in another post.

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Letters from Robin – Destination Chu Lai – 9/12/1968

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Today I am sharing the first letter Robin sent home once he arrived in Vietnam. It amazes me that at 18 years old he did not seem afraid. He has chosen this as his path in life after high school and in reading all of the letters he seemed “at ease”, with that choice. I may add  a link or two into Robin’s letters, that if you are interested might provide some additional information. (It is also a help for me to keep information I am finding organized!) I wonder what he would have thought of the internet, and mobile phones. The world has changed so much in the 44 years he has been gone!

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12 Sept 1968

Dear Mom & Dad,

How are you doing? I suppose by now your wondering where I am and what I am doing. Well I will start from the beginning.

We landed in Vietnam on Saturday night about 8 o’clock which is 12 hrs ahead of your time. On the plane ride over we stopped in Seattle, Japan and Okinowa. We landed at the Bien Hoa Air Force Base and from there were taken to the 90th Replacement Battalion at Long Bien about 7 miles away. (If you remember before I left there was a thing in the paper about a riot at the stockade at Long Bien.)

It was dark when we go there but they have plenty of electricity. We got a place to sleep and were told we would be there for 2-3 days before our orders came down assigning us to a unit. I was there all day Sunday and Monday at the evening formation (they hold three a day, one in the morning, at noon and before evening chow) on Monday my name was called to go to Chu Lai, and that’s where I am now.

I am now in the Americal Division. This place should sound familiar to you because this is where Bud was at, and there is a good chance I’ll get into the 198th Light Inf. Bde. When you get assigned to the Americal Division, you come here to this base camp where they figure out which one of the three brigades that make up the division to send you to. So it will be either the 196th, 198th, or the 11th Inf Bde. Then when you get your assignment we have to go through a 7 day course which is much like AIT except condensed a lot more. (Note: AIT is advanced individual trainining)

This is the second day I’ve been here, so I should get my assignment tomorrow then I can send you my mailing address and by the time I finish that 7 day course, I should have some mail waiting for me at my company.

The place where I am now is right on the beach. There’s nothing but sand here, but there’s a cool breeze coming off the ocean most of the time. There are helicopters and jets flying over all the time. It isn’t as hot over here as everybody makes it out to be. It might be a little hotter in the jungles but so far I haven’t seen a really hot day.

The Vietnamese people are nice but you can never really tell what they think or say. I don’t trust any of them.

I didn’t have time to finish this yesterday. Last night I went swimming in the Pacific Ocean. The water was very warm. I went with a new friend Sgt. Behe. He graduated from NCO school a week ahead of me. the mosquitoes almost ate us alive last night.

This morning we got assignments. Sgt. Behe and I are going to the same place. E Co. 4 BN 3rd Inf. 11th Lgt. Inf Bde. So now you can write to me. By the time I finish the course here and get to my unit I can have mail waiting for me. Behe asked one of the Sgts. that’s been here awhile what kind of unit it was. He said it is a Long Range Recon which is a pretty good deal. I hope that’s what it is, I’ll find out I guess.

Lee is going into the army today. I hope everything works out for him.

One other thing, while I was at Long Bien somebody stole my bag and my camera was in it along with my health and financial records. I’ll be able to get new records made but it makes me mad about the camera. Well that’s the way it goes, and think some people make a career of this Army.

I hope everything goes well at home. Don’t worry about me.

Love,

Robin

chulai This map shows Chu Lai, where Robin was when he wrote this letter. You can tell by reading this that letters from home were very important to Robin. I honestly don’t recall how often I wrote, but it is apparent that my parents wrote often. After days of traveling to a whole new world, there is not one complaint in this letter. (Well, about his stolen camera, but even that was taken in stride!)

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I am finding so much information on the internet about Robin’s division, and even websites on which he is mentioned, I’m a bit on information overload at the moment. I will end for today. Check back tomorrow for another Letter from Robin.   signature

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