Fred Alvis


It was the 3rd week August 1971 and I had been in the beautiful country of Vietnam one month or there about. Entering thru Cham Ron Bay, one of the most beautiful places any country can claim, I had expected to be thrown a rifle and rushed towards some sort of bunker, as mortars/rockets and small arms fire were welcoming us in country.

Instead, we lined up, slowly got on an army bus, and were bused to transit quarters, a place of little comforts. From each group of “newbies”, a handful of lucky young men were gathered, to be attached to the “guard detail”, for a few, very long, boring weeks. We had the distinct honor, of making sure the nurses compound, junkies compound, and our barracks, were safe from the “red horde”.

Sleep by day, or try to between our shifts; and the same for the nights – unending… 3 or 4 weeks of the same old thing. I had been trained as a helicopter mechanic on Hueys, as well as door gunner training… one whole week of that… not much to learn, aim, pull triggers, release triggers. Lighting up a cigarette during flight was by far the most difficult skill to acquire, during door gunner school.

I digress.

I hated my time spent in Cham Ron Bay. We had a real idiot, a gung ho one at that, for a Sergeant of the Guard. That was his only duty for his entire year… making sure FNGs didn’t go to sleep on guard duty (we were new and WAY too scared to drop off into blissful sleep).

Finally the day arrived that I received orders to progress further into Vietnam, to a real unit, to the real war. Facing possible doom was preferred to another week in that hellhole unit.

Ahh, but being new, little did I know! Continuing my adventure towards my final unit, I was shipped, by plane, to Tuy Hoa, an Air force base/ Army base, to be reassigned to my final unit. I was finally sent to 129th assault Helicopter Company, but that’s jumping ahead.

Thinking that most permanent units were like Tuy Hoa, I felt I was making progress towards finally finding my place, finding my war. Little did I know that Anson/Lane (somewhat less than the “jewel of the far east”) held in store for me. Later, the 60th assault helicopter company, where I spent my last 5 or 6 months, was the location for the anus of Vietnam.

Anyway, on vacation last month, when I visited my Mom, she returned 3 letters to me written in Vietnam that I had sent to her – postage free of course.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, innocent cherry boy (not having been under enemy fire yet), this is what I wrote. I have corrected the spelling of the village names. It is amusing to me as well as, I am sure, to other Nam vets, remembering when they were newbies also.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I am not in Cham Ron Bay anymore. I just got shipped out to Tuy; Hoagie will be here for 3 or 4 days, then shipped somewhere else most likely. Anyway, I won’t know till then.

Please excuse all the sloppy handwriting but I find some real odd places to write.

The reason I wrote is to let you know not to worry if you don’t hear from me for a week or so. It sure gets tiring living out of a duffle bag.

It sure is nice here, we have flushing toilets, hot water and an air conditioner. It’s almost like Stateside. I even got to take two showers today!

I sure am glad that I am out of Cham Ron now. I sure did hate that place.

When I get to my new unit, I get paid. How about that? People around here say that a lot of people will be going home by December 31st, but I think I will be here for the full year because of my MOS.

Who knows? Well it’s about time to hit the sack.

Love, Jr

One must remember the Paris Peace talks were going on, and on, and on. I read this letter with surprise, at first. I hadn’t remembered my “stay” at Tuy Hoa, nor writing this letter. I can see, however, a marked contrast between that fellow, and the one that returned home. Free spirited, adventurous, innocent, a boy in a young man’s body. Later letters became much darker, even though I tried to hide that aspect of things, for my mother.