Anthony W. Pahl

VIETNAM QUESTIONNAIRE

Email Received: December 5, 2006:

Hello, my name is Meredith Byrns and I am a senior at Waukesha West High School. I just want to tell you a little about me, I am 17 years old. I have played softball since I was in the first grade and I still enjoy playing today. I also love to read and be with my family and friends. I play the clarinet and have been in the marching band at school for the past four years.

I am writing to you for my English 12 Literature class. We are reading the novel The Things They Carried. We have an assignment that has to do with the book and about the Vietnam War. What we have to do is interview someone about their experience and write a paper that compares and contrasts the book to your experiences. If you don’t mind I am going to ask a few questions and if you would please answer them for me. I was wondering if you could please have them answered by Thursday December 7th that would be greatly appreciated. My paper is due by Monday December 11th. When I finish my paper, if you would like I can send you a copy of it. I would more than be happy to do that. Thank you for taking time to read and do this for me.

  1. How old were you when you were drafted into the war?
  2. Why did you believe that the war was fair/not fair?
  3. When you got the letter how did you feel?
  4. What kind of thoughts ran through your mind when you got your draft letter?
  5. When you went to war did you rely on your family members and friends to help you get through the war?
  6. What kind of things did you take with you to war from home?
  7. How did these things help you through the war?
  8. When you went to war did you rely on the other soldiers to keep you company or to also help you through the war? Why?
  9. When you met the other soldiers in your troop did you feel like you could become friends? Why?
  10. When and if you got mail did you feel like your family was there to support you and that you could get through the days? What kind of things did they send you?
  11. How did the war effect your education?
  12. Was the trip home hard for you? Why?
  13. When you got home how did the community treat you?
  14. How did your family treat you?
  15. How did you feel when you got home? Why?
  16. When you returned home did you go to school get a job right away or did you just want to relax and be at home?

Again thank you so much! I really do appreciate you answering these questions! When I finish my paper I will send you a copy and I hope you enjoy it. I don’t think I could thank you enough. So, thank you!

My Response
(December 5, 2006)

Vung Tau 1969
Yours truly posing on the main thoroughfare into Vung Tau, SVN
©Copyright September 1969 by Anthony W. Pahl
Dear Meredith,

I’m happy to supply the information you require, but it behoves me to advise that I’m an Australian Vietnam Veteran, not American. Our experiences were very similar, if not the same.

  1. How old were you when you were drafted into the war?
    I enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at age 17, and was sent to Vietnam in June 1969 when I was 19.
  2. Why did you believe that the war was fair/not fair?
    I believed the war WAS fair because the number of refugees that travelled south from the north of Vietnam indicated to me that the Communist regime needed to be stopped, and South Vietnam needed assistance to do that. Also, at that time in history, the threat of Communism was very real in South-East Asia, and the Allied involvement gave countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Laos, time to consolidate a non-communist government in their respective countries. Remember also the Indonesian Communist push into South-East Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Borneo.
  3. When you got the letter how did you feel?
    No letter – just orders (I had already served and trained for 18 months), and I felt very proud to be in the position of fighting for my country and its allies. Remember, Indonesia is closer to Australia than Darwin (the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia) is to Canberra (our National Capital)
  4. What kind of thoughts ran through your mind when you got your draft letter?
    As I mentioned, I was a volunteer – no draft letter for me, although Australia did have a draft system called “Conscription” and was a lottery system based on birthdays.
  5. When you went to war did you rely on your family members and friends to help you get through the war?
    Indeed I did… letters and parcels from home were a huge morale booster and always eagerly anticipated
  6. What kind of things did you take with you to war from home?
    Letters and photographs, but most of all, the knowledge that my family was waiting for met to return.
  7. How did these things help you through the war?
    By providing a sense of belonging and acceptance, and a reminder that there was a real world far removed from the hell of the War
  8. When you went to war did you rely on the other soldiers to keep you company or to also help you through the war? Why?
    No person in a war environment can survive either physically or mentally without the deep and abiding reliance they have in others in the same “boat”. We shared the same doubts, heartache, terror, and were part of a community that can never be fully explained or understood unless experienced first had.
  9. When you met the other soldiers in your troop did you feel like you could become friends? Why?
    Absolutely – but not friends in the “normal” sense of the word. In such environments, friendship is defined in the absolute knowledge that your “mate” would put his life on the line for you just as you would for them. There is no deeper meaning of friendship… anywhere!
  10. When and if you got mail did you feel like your family was there to support you and that you could get through the days? What kind of things did they send you?
    My own family (my wife of 18 months and my daughter of 3 months), and my relations on both sides of the marriage sent voice tapes, letters, and photographs; They were with me every moment I was away.
  11. How did the war effect your education?
    I’d completed my formal education before enlisting in the RAAF but while in-country, I studied business mathematics as a means to pass the time when inordinate boredom was so very much a drain on my morale. The challenge was important, but the results of my study were singularly unimportant to me. It was an interest only. In later years, the war gave me an incentive to do what I do now; write (poetry, short stories etc.) and to create and maintain the single largest website of war/veteran related by contemporary poets and writers.
  12. Was the trip home hard for you? Why?
    The actual trip home was one of eager anticipation. I did feel for my mates who still had time to serve in-country, but I’d done my time and it was my turn to return home… alive!
    13. When you got home how did the community treat you?
    Generally, very badly… perhaps a poem called, “Dare to Mourn”, written in June 2000 may explain a little better.
  13. How did your family treat you?
    Friends and family were proud of my patriotism, and ecstatic that I had returned safely. Of course, the onset of illnesses caused by my war service put a heavy burden on them, but they never deserted me.
  14. How did you feel when you got home? Why?
    Safe… but unsettled. A few nights before my departure from Vietnam saw me doing a “dust-off” (medical evacuation – I was a helicopter gunner). I knew somebody else would have taken my place and they’d be the ones in harm’s way. I was safe – they weren’t!
  15. When you returned home did you go to school get a job right away or did you just want to relax and be at home?
    I served in the Royal Australian Air Force for just over 20 years, electing discharge in January 1988 – so yes, my job was secure and I was back at work after a 6 week vacation that had accumulated while I was in Vietnam. It was too long, and I was glad to get back to work to get my mind active again. Thinking about my service in Vietnam became a morbid and debilitating pastime.

You may be interested in reading a response that I provided to a similar questionnaire back in 2001. It’s on-line at “History Report

Also, please feel free to read and use any of my writings that appear on my IWVPA (International War Veterans Poetry Archives) Index. I would expect that if you do use any of my writings, appropriate credit be clearly annotated.

Good luck, best wishes, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas (even though to wish such may be politically incorrect) and a successful New Year,

Anthony W. Pahl,
IWVPA Webmaster
Vietnam Veteran

PS: Political Incorrectness has been defined as a doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical liberal minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.