Jan (Sigurdson) McMullen
by: George Slook, WS LM-42
© Copyright 2000
During the decade of the 1960s many of
America's young men and women turned to public service in an expression of
social consciousness. We are all familiar with President John F. Kennedy's
call for the "best and brightest to fill the ranks of the Peace
Corps." We are also aware of the men and women who served in the
Armed Forces during that time. But little is known of the bright young
women who joined the American Red Cross and went to Vietnam to support the
troops. These women, affectionately known as Donut Dollies, were single,
college-educated and committed to the welfare of the men at war. Jan
Sigurdson was one of these women.
After five months in Phan Rang with the 101st Airborne, Jan Sigurdson was
reassigned to the base camp at Qui Nhon. It seemed like so long ago when
Jan arrived in country. From day one, she faithfully recorded her
experiences in a diary, reflecting the pulse of the war and the emotion of
the times. This is her story, in her words.
April 13, 1968: Men
from the 173rd Airborne have been sent down here since Qui Nhon is
supposed to be overrun this week according to intelligence reports. We
visited with them on Red Beach and the other girls thought them dirty,
weird and uncivilized. To me they were just normal boonie rats, but
everyone else seemed to be just a little frightened of them.
I wish they could have seen the 101st fellows. I
miss them and it just killed me to take off my screaming eagle patch.
November 7, 1967: After
a night lasting 24 hours our plane landed in Saigon. From the air Vietnam
is just beautiful with all of its lush greenness, but once inside, many
depressing things hit you all at once. The city itself is dirty, but all
the people are so tiny that you feel as if you should care for them as you
would a child. There are beggars on every corner and it hurts to have to
say no piastras to them. The exotic scent of the orient is a myth. It's
the smell of decay and unwashed people. I still can't fathom that I'm
here...not even the intensive military control of the city has had any
effect on my impressions. Perhaps tomorrow I'll wake up and believe that
I'm really, really in the orient.
November 9, 1967: On
the way to the base we passed through a typical housing development. The
homes were built on sticks over what at one time must have been a lake.
Today it is just a slimy mud hole and a breeding spot for mosquitoes. For
a lawn, the people have a garbage dump. What is so depressing is that the
small children (3 to 6 years old) play in the garbage as if it were a
sandbox. Steve was right about the Vietnamese children. They are beautiful
and it's not right that they should live this way. Saigon has another
face...a mask of military control. Until this evening when I saw light
flashes from the outskirts of Saigon, which were being mortared, I felt
that this military buildup was a movie set. It was almost as if I was
expecting John Wayne to walk up, front stage and center.
November 10, 1967: We received our travel
orders finally. I'm going to the 1st Brigade of the 101 Airborne at Phan
Rang. Liz Ann Malleson, who is a terrific girl, is going with me and I'm excited
about that. The unit at Phan Rang mostly deals with a center program. Liz
Ann and I make up the 3rd and 4th members of the team, which is already
staffed by two women, 25 and 27. God, am I excited.
November 14, 1967: We
finally made it to Phan Rang. Luckily we were met by Beto, our driver,
since neither of the Red Cross girls came. Our new home is actually rather
nice. It has a little sitting room with a bar and each of us has our own
room. I swear that the rooms hadn't been cleaned in years. Liz Ann and I
slept on the covers rather than crawl under the sheets.
November 15, 1967: Today
was my first day of work. The center is a nice building and has great
facilities: ping pong, pool, games, cards and darts. You name it, they've
got it. The fellows are really very nice and they're very considerate
about every possible thing. They even come in every morning to help clean
up the center. Three Australian female singers from Queensland are staying
with us because they are here to entertain the troops. Warrant Officer
Martin, who helped us on the plane, was promoted and we went to his party.
I got my master blaster wings and a Warrant Officer 4 ribbon.
November 22, 1967: Charlotte came home crying
because a man propositioned her. He was crude about it and wouldn't let
her alone. There seems to be a rumor going around that it only costs $50
to get a Red Cross girl. It seems to be a common thought among the men. It
really irritates me that perhaps only one in a 110 has lowered her morals
and since we are all judged first by the organization and second as
individuals, we are all believed to be hustlers. I knew that I'd grow up
over here, but I was hoping that my idealism wouldn't be shattered so
November 23, 1967: Today
was Thanksgiving and it was celebrated with a nice dinner for all the men
on the base. Some of the forward brigades have started to move in. It's
surprising to find that the majority would prefer to still be in the
field. Most of the fellows seem to feel that the war is a necessary evil,
but there are some that have learned to enjoy killing and stay to play
God. Atrocities work both ways, but it bothers me to find that Americans
are mutilating VC bodies so they will wander the earth restlessly forever
if they are followers of Buddha.
November 24, 1967: The war seems to have
either one or two effects on the men as far as religion goes. Either the
men put more faith into god and put their well being into his hands or
they just become agnostics and say to hell with everything. It's very
common to see rosary beads and the cross on both catholic and Protestant
fellows. They are worn round the neck, wrists and even hung on helmets. It
is the soldier, who denies everything so he won't be disappointed, who is
the saddest. It's common to find a negative attitude and there seems to be
no way to soften the emotion.
November 28, 1967: We
served at the different units and all the fellows had at least one good
meal. The men left to go out to Chu Lai again today. They started to pull
out about 7:00; a.m.. At the center, so many of them seemed to be like
playful boys, but today brought my perspective into focus. These are not
boys, but men who have proven themselves. They carry at least 100 pounds
of supplies with them every time they go out. Even though these men
realize that they might not be coming back, they keep up their humor.
Their helmets reflect this attitude with drawings...everything from Snoopy
and an Indian to a hand giving the finger. They have all sorts of
crudities also from "fu__ you" to "the balls of the
eagle". What I find so amazing is that the men can joke so openly
about death. Probably it's a defense against fear within themselves, but
you've got to admire them for their courage.
November 30, 1967: I
learned a lesson today and it is that scout dogs are not pets. I forgot to
approach the handler with caution and the German Shepherd named Artis took
a chunk out of my arm. It hurt, but mainly I was just surprised and
frightened. At least I was lucky that it was a scout dog that bit me
because they are all up to date on their rabies shots. To even out the
day, the MARS station connected me with Mom and Dad. It was 4:30; their
time and even though the connection was fuzzy, it was great.
December 4, 1967: For
the first time, everything today was on time. Liz Ann flew to Cameron Bay
to have her eyes examined. Today was my first real taste of a dirty old
man. It wasn't exactly a proposition, but it was crude and if he had any
respect for me, he would not have spoken in such a manner. I know that I
didn't do anything to warrant his actions.
December 6, 1967: Brad
is back from the front because of a foot infection and we went to dinner
at the Air Force. Last night two guards were killed at the perimeter. Then
today the Marines were pulled in and Phan Rang is inviting an attack so
they can find the VC and wipe them out. Jean Dixon, the mystic, has
predicted that Phan Rang will be hit on either the 7th or 14th of this
month. At any rate more sturdy bunkers are being built by the minute. If
we are mortared I hope I don't sleep through it. Our visit to the scout
dogs was nerve racking for me. I was on edge the whole time. The dogs
can't bark, but they lunge against the fenced enclosure snarling and
barking with no noise.
December 7, 1967: One
month in country today. Today was a dull day for me and a trying one for
Charlotte. Some middle-aged sergeant phoned the center so he could talk to
some American girl about the fact that his brother was having an affair
with his wife. Then he asked Charlotte, sight unseen, if she would love
him. Of course she said "no" and as the day progressed, he said
he would kill himself. Eventually the military intelligence (his unit) got
wind of this and they have taken him to the psychiatric ward. It's awful
how a loss of faith in someone can affect a mind that's already troubled
and confused by battle.
December 8, 1967: Today
all of us joined up with Pat and Kay from the Air Force to give a fashion
show of the latest stateside clothes. The reception that we received was
remarkable. About 300 men (3x the usual amount) came to the center and
they all carried on about the clothes. It was a bit embarrassing for us to
parade up and down, but it was worth it since the fellows seemed to enjoy
it. They were all complementary and the favorite question was "Why
don't you wear your civvies all the time?"
December 11, 1967: Sometimes
the men try to spruce up and wear their freshest fatigues. The fellows are
so helpful. They're even willing to lug the large coffeepot around, sort
books, pick up cups, etc. I'm bound to be terribly spoiled by the time I
get home. It wasn't hard to adjust to all the male attention, but it will
probably be hard to accept the lack of it at home.
December 16, 1967: More
news about moving. We'll be here for quite awhile, but because most of the
men are forward, we'll fly up by helicopter. That would be great since we
could see the fellows and still live in Phan Rang. Liz Ann and I put our
heads together and thought of all the places we'd like to visit when we
leave Vietnam and are on our way home.
December 24, 1967: We
flew up to Bao Lac today. The first helicopter ride was fun, but it seemed
strange to see two gunners on each side of me. We landed and went directly
to visit the men on the distant hill that could be reached only by
chopper. The men are living in bunkers and they've dug themselves in and
are ready to fight. Later we donned our Santa Claus miniskirt outfits and
the reactions were spontaneous and really made us feel good. We're staying
at the MACV compound in town and are expecting a VC attack.
December 25, 1967: Christmas
day and all of us went out into the field. I went with the two chaplains
and we went everywhere on the helicopter named Jinx. It had a pink panther
painted on the front. The boonies were absolutely beautiful and except for
the men themselves, it was hard to imagine that a war was going on. The
men always had a tree even if it was a bamboo tree with shaving cream for
snow and beer can lids and life savers for ornaments. Services were held
jointly for caroling and then were divided into catholic and Protestant
for religious services. At one spot we held services in a VC village which
had been taken control of only a week before. All the men came to church
with machine guns and the services were held with 20 men on guard the
entire time. I picked up a knife, a basket rucksack and a flute.
December 30, 1967: New
Years is close at hand and we've been working on decorations frantically.
We've made party hats, confetti, streamers and even noisemakers from
evaporated milk cans. The 19-year-old fellow with his 36-year-old wife is
still trying to hustle Charlotte. Poor Charlotte. She's so nice to these
fellows with problems that she ends up having a problem with them
bothering her. Perhaps it is good that one of us shows so much concern,
but it would be hard to remain sane for 12 months if you did it all the
January 7, 1968: Another
day at the beach. The ride to the beach is something in itself. There is
always something new and unique. As soon as you leave the Air Base, which
is actually a "Little America", a whole new world opens up to
you. In a space of less than 15 miles the landscape varies from flat, lush
green rice paddies to scrub brush land, which rises to form small dense
foothills. The people that you pass are most interesting of all. The old
people here have such character in their faces. They are lined and
wrinkled from the intense sun and never ending winds, which are common to
this area. The clothes are always loose fitting and never seem to be quite
clean. Usually these people are never going just for a stroll, they always
seem to be transporting something to a distinct destination. The amount of
weight that they can carry is fantastic.
There are always
people working in the rice paddies, but generally speaking, the women seem
to do most of the fieldwork. The living system here is similar to a German
village. The people live in a small community and go out to their fields
every morning. On each tract of land you can see small mud and thatched
structures, which are used for the two daily nap periods. The water
buffalo seem to graze pretty much on their own. Often after a rice crop
has been harvested, the buffalo are allowed to graze on anything that is
left. This also serves to fertilize the crops. It's also interesting to
see flocks of 300 to 400 ducks being herded along the road to the fields.
Once again the ducks fertilize the fields, but upon maturity, they are
used for duck dinner.
The children always
wave and since American women are a definite minority, we are something
completely unique to them. If you stop, you'll be surrounded immediately
and they will touch you to see what you are like. The blonde hair and blue
eyes seem to fascinate them the most. Since these people have probably
never been out of their village in their lives, they know nothing of
makeup. Blue eye shadow really confuses the children because they seem to
wonder if the blue eyes have stained my skin. They also find dresses
different and every now and then, one will become bold and lift up your
skirt a bit to see just what we wear underneath. One has to take all of
this with a grain of salt. Also on the way to the beach you pass an
irrigation ditch where the people bathe and wash their clothes. Speaking
of clothes, children lack for them. Small children wear tops, but no
bottoms. At least mothers avoid a problem of diapers and diaper rash.
Usually when we come back, the Koreans are out doing their daily drill.
These fellows are definitely hard core and the majority could win against
a larger man at any time. Because the Koreans are merciless with
prisoners, the VC stay away from the perimeter.
January 12, 1968: Today
we had a snake show from the Air Force Serpentarium. The show was centered
around the poisonous snakes found in the immediate area ranging from the
cobra to the bamboo viper. During the demonstration one of the snake
handlers was bitten. He was rushed to the dispensary to be treated. During
the show one fellow dropped a plastic chord on my neck and because I was
thinking about snakes, I mistook the chord as a snake and nearly passed
out. Everyone got a chuckle out of it, but I had to work at being a good
sport. This job can build character at times.
January 15, 1968: Liz
Ann and I went into Phan Rang today. We hitchhiked both in and back.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that this country is at war. The market
place is huge in Phan Rang and reasonably clean. What seemed to shock me
the most was the meat market. The meat just lies on the counter or hangs
from a hook in the open air and is covered with flies. Dogs wander around
constantly and two were asleep on the counter next to the meat. I'll never
eat in a Vietnamese restaurant now.
January 18, 1968: Tonight
was photography night at the center. Sgt. Campbell taught everyone how to
work the enlarger and develop pictures. The way people barter with one
another is fantastic. In exchange for film, Peter promised to drive Sgt.
Campbell around to take photos in Australia. Sgt. Campbell had one photo
of the true gore of war; a Vietnamese soldier had been stabbed and then
had had his throat slit and one of his ears cut off. War atrocities seem
to work both ways.
January 19, 1968: I
received a second proposition; not me actually, but he asked which one of
us was available for a date. At first I didn't understand and I laughed
and told him that it was a silly question since all of us date, but who we
dated was a matter of personal preference. He persisted and he said that
for money a Red Cross girl would go on a date. Being dense I didn't
understand yet. Finally he became blunt and just asked which one of us
would go down for $50. I was insulted, but instead of breaking down in
tears as I did with the last one, I explained that the rumor was false. I
further explained that if the Red Cross verifies these rumors with fact,
the girl is sent home immediately. I also asked him to judge us as
individuals, which we are. I was even bold enough to ask if we had
conducted ourselves in a manner, which might invite such a response. He
assured me that we hadn't, but he had heard that the rumor was true. He
apologized and said that he was glad that I had set him straight as he
would declare the rumor false if he heard anyone say it. I was surprised
that he'd ask such a thing to begin with.
Airborne in Vietnam
by: Richard Luttrell
The 101st in Vietnam today
Humping a rucksack night and day.
Fighting Charlie off this land
And always holding the upper hand.
We sight him in down our bore
The shot cries out
"We are hard core".
We are not navy, leg or marine,
But Airborne, the supreme.
Airborne Infantry, we're the best,
Ask our leader, he's General West (moreland).
Extraction tomorrow is what I hear,
Time for a shower and a cold beer.
But most honor our dead
And recognition for the blood they shed.
Now the taps are beginning to sigh.
I feel my eyes begin to cry
One of these men I used to know
Hopkins was his name, our RTO (radio telephone operator).
But he won't be forgotten,
You wait and see.
He'll go down in the paratrooper's history.
The enemy will continue to take lives,
But never will they take our Airborne's pride.
Christmas in Vietnam
by: Richard Luttrell
As we walk through this jungle,
cold, rainy and wet
'Cross this lonely valley, tired, beat and sweat.
Walk this paddy dike in a very lonely way,
Knowing coming daylight is a very special day.
Yes Christmas for some is presents, food and toys,
But for the infantry in Vietnam, it's lonely nights, fire fights and
But we will go on fighting and with faith in Christ, we will end this war.
Let's Grow Up by Richard Luttrell
Twelve months we are away from home,
Sent from America, these jungles to roam.
The communists we fight to maintain the peace,
And hoping soon, this war will cease.
You protesters and demonstrators waving your signs,
Have you ever personally had to fight to keep alive?
What do you know about this war?
You're tearing down everything
we're fighting for.
So open your eyes and realize at least,
We're not here for land, but to maintain peace!
So put down your signs and throw them away,
This American soldier is here to stay.
Even though my idealism is shattered
once in awhile by men like the propositioner, it's rebuilt by young men
such as Richard Luttrell, who gave me these poems. He is a sensitive,
humane person. It's for men like him that I'm glad to be here. I hope God
watches over him and the others.
was an 18 year-old trooper with the 2/327th, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne.
At the end of the day in the bush, while his comrades would gather to
recount their tales, Luttrell would sit off by himself and express his
feelings in the form of poetry. These poems reflect an infantryman's views
on Airborne, Christmas and Protesters. They were given to Jan, whom he did
not know, because she was someone from back home who cared. Neither one
expected their paths to cross again. [See
Americans dropped leaflets telling the VC to come over to their side.
Likewise the VC have leaflets for us telling the men to refuse to go the
battlefront and to demand repatriation. We saw a group of the Robin Hood
fighting helicopter squad leave on a raid. When all twelve were in the
air, they looked like dragonflies winging off into the distance. Some of
the men were in the hospital and the 2/327 has been hit hard in the Song
Bai area. One fellow had been on patrol with five others on an LRRP (long
range reconnaissance patrol) and they had been attacked. He told me that
they had been gunned down and while his buddy was burning, he tried to
save him, but his arm was broken and useless. He still didn't know how he
got out. Then he told me that he hated all the people over here and broke
down. All I could say was that everything was OK and that he should be
thankful to be here at all. Yet that wasn't necessarily true and we both
knew it. It's frustrating not to be able to help when they need it the
most. Song Bai seems to be a hard core area so if the 101st does move out,
there's no telling where we will be sent.
1968: I get to
paint a silly drawing of a man holding a flower and a crossbow on one of
the gunships (armed helicopter). The 173rd call themselves the Crossbows
and are members of the Robin Hood squadron. The pilot, TC, wanted the
drawing to look like him. The gunship will be named Flower Power. Every
once in awhile I become disgusted as I am now. Some man locked our mamasan
in the TV room and molested her. We sent fellows after him, but he got
away. I can't understand why this man didn't carry his stateside standards
with him while here. I assume he would not have done that at home, but
maybe that's not true. Why can't people always know that the Vietnamese
are people too? I've just been through my first mortar attack. The whole
thing seemed unreal. The ground shook, but until the sirens went off I
didn't know that it was incoming. They say they sound different from
outgoing, but I can't tell. We rushed to the bunker, but it all seemed so
unreal. Maybe because I was so frightened. Every time a gun went off,
theirs or ours, it didn't seem to matter since it felt as if someone had
put pressure on your stomach. The sirens wailed for six minutes and then
stopped. Now that it's over, we can come out. The air reeks of phosphorus
and the sky is lighted with flares and the fires of the buildings, which
were hit. It makes me nervous.
still in Lai Khe and the previous night's destruction has been cleaned up.
There were 17 dead and 19 wounded. The damage was not all done by mortars,
but also RPG or rocket propelled grenades. We visited the men in the
hospital and no matter how hard I try, I can't keep it from bothering me.
The moans are bad enough, but some fellow, who had tubes in his stomach,
arms, nose and mouth, started to gag because of the one in his nose. I had
to leave. It was terrible of me, but if I had stayed one moment longer I
would have gotten sick or passed out. Life seems even more precious when
you see others barely holding on to it.
back in Phan Rang. At Cam Ranh Bay I picked up a stray. For once it wasn't
a dog, but a Vietnamese nun and an orphan, who couldn't speak English.
After about five tries at hitchhiking, I got them where they had to go. My
only clue was an address on her baggage. Tonight Phan Rang is expecting to
be mortared. The center is closed and we're observing a blackout. It's
slipped out that of the three designated targets, one is the center where
we usually have a crowd and our house since we're a morale-boosting
factor. Lovely! It's a backhanded compliment that they consider us
important. Also Cam Ranh Bay is being quarantined due to the bubonic
plague. It's not a good day here at all.
I was very tired and all day this one fellow told me to smile. Now if I
had a smile frozen on my face, it would be phony. Just like a sorority
rush party. At any rate, a smile should be spontaneous and heartfelt. I
refuse to turn into an emotionless robot. Excitement came this morning
when Liz Ann went to see the scout dog company off. She was bushwhacked
for about an hour's time. Her only problem -- keeping her pink sweater
clean! We're having another blackout security night and people are
carrying weapons with them at all times. They've even built three bunkers
for machine guns in case we have a land attack.
1968: It seems to take
all types to make up this world. One of the men gave one of the girls a
douche kit in a brown paper sack. To me, that man showed the lowest form
of intelligence. On the other end of the spectrum are the men who will
help you cut out paper letters for a bulletin board or volunteer to carry
the cups for you. Today for instance, one fellow brought me a sandwich,
because he thought I looked skinny. Another fellow left an ice pack at the
door with a note saying, "Thanks for just talking with me". When
people are like that, it makes your day and the little inconveniences
worthwhile and easy to take.
1968: The 101st has a
new commanding general (Barsanti) and he has put everything off limits to
the men. This includes Thap Chan, Phan Rang, the beach and even the strip.
The strip should be explained further. It looks like an old frontier town
with the fake fronts on the buildings. The strip is composed of bars and
houses of ill repute only. At one time the girls were given shots once a
week for VD, but wind of that got back to the states. It seemed as though
the Army was condoning the strip and it was ordered by Congress to be
stopped. At any rate our attendance at the center will go up, but I hope
trouble doesn't come with it, as we'll have the wild ones visit us too.
we learned that there is a reward of $100 for a man's head and the 101st
patch being offered by the VC. The VC have started a terrorism campaign on
the civilians. One IVS worker from north of Phan Rang was kidnapped,
tortured and then killed. It seems so senseless to kill a man, who is
helping the people, but then that is exactly what the VC don't want. The
VC can be terribly cruel. They will kill a GI and let his death work on
his comrades. For instance a man will be found hanging from a tree but his
head will have been chopped off and it will be between his legs. For
instance, bamboo when watered will grow 4" in a day. They'll strap a
man an inch above the ground, but underneath him they'll have a hundred
bamboo plants sharpened to needle point. They'll water the bamboo and by
the end of two days the man will be a pincushion. They also have ways to
keep men alive until he has been almost completely skinned. Women
prisoners are raped, then tortured and then finally killed. It's
impossible for me to imagine these atrocities being carried out as I still
try to believe that all men are basically good. How can one endure a man's
screams of pain I'll never understand. Why in heaven's name can't all men
be kind? It seems so simple.
1968: At the beach
they have a salt developing field. The seawater is channeled into small,
flat rectangular pools and then the sun goes to work and evaporates the
water and leaves the salt. The salt is then scrapped up with long poles,
which have flat heads. The salt is then put into piles where it is dried
for shipping and later sold. How it is cleaned, I have no idea. I also saw
the fields being worked or tilled. The people use water buffalo and it
took an entire afternoon for one small area of land to be worked. The
patience of these people is remarkable.
1968: Tonight we had
our first real trouble at the center. One man propositioned Liz Ann three
times and when she told him to leave the center, he got nasty. He asked
her in a loud voice for everyone to hear if he could get "a piece of
ass for $75". Anyway Dominic told him she wasn't like that and to lay
off. Liz Ann just told him to get out. He became angry and one of his
friends came over. The one man lunged at Liz Ann with a knife, but Dominic
sidestepped in his way. Dominic was about to get it when another man tried
to help him. Dominic got his wrist slashed. Finally the military police
arrived and the place was cleared. Dominic will be all right, but it made
me realize what a precarious situation we are in. It's beginning to hit me
hard that perhaps the world isn't just sunshine and flowers like I've
always thought. Perhaps people are basically evil, but I'm still hanging
on to the idealistic belief in the goodness of people as long as I can. I
wish too that people would stop expecting the worst of us until we prove
15, 1968: This
afternoon a man went berserk at the center and yelled, "this is God's
country" and started swinging. They caught him and he's now in the
hospital. I wonder what set him off, but it's surprising that more men
don't go off the deep end. I bought Dad an ivory fisherman to match the
one I sent to Mom earlier.
20, 1968: At the beach I saw a
small Amerasian child named Bob. He was named after his American father.
What is sad about the situation is that the mother is Vietnamese with a
daughter by another American and she is still unmarried. It's deplorable
that this sort of thing is taken so lightly. Part of the child's heritage
is American yet he'll never know any of the benefits, which are rightfully
his. As it is, he'll grow up in poverty. Even worse, Amerasians are less
accepted in Oriental societies than our own.
24, 1968: Cece asked my preference
for a new assignment. I said I liked the center. I also arranged to go on
R&R to Japan the last week in April.
28, 1968: Charlotte's mother wrote
some very good points about the propositioning problem. She felt that we
shouldn't be overly harsh as we are the only females around and that the
fellows are feeling certain urges at their ages. All this is true of
course, but it would be nice if everyone could remain a gentleman. At any
rate I shouldn't let it bother me as much as it does. Col. Kupow sent a
message to the troops that they are no longer supposed to bother the Red
Cross girls under penalty of court martial. This was the 1st Sgt.'s
announcement at all company formations at 6:00; p.m. this evening.
I called Pat in Lai Khe about R&R and we're going to go together. Now
I'm really looking forward to it, as I'll have a good friend to share it
with. Tonight at the center we're having a hootenanny and it should be
fun. We've popped popcorn for the occasion and it will be well received,
as popcorn for the troops is a very rare event indeed. I'm becoming hard
core, as the meagerness of my surroundings doesn't affect me any longer.
Nor do I notice the odor of the outdoor latrine.
quote from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand:" I swear by my life and my
love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask
another man to live for me". She seems to have something very basic
there. I'm going to try very hard to stop worrying about what other people
think. It's time I realized that my life actually is of no meaning to
people other than myself and my family. I must do only what I think is
best for me, as only I can know my innermost feelings. I just can't hurt
others in the process.
we had hot water!!! One has no idea of just what a luxury that can be.
Until today I haven't stepped completely into the shower for ages. I've
taken baths in a bowl of water, which has been heated up by the sun. We
have another dog. It's so tiny that it can easily fit into one's hand or
shoe. It's a brat dog though and is a problem since it's rather goofy as
far as Doofy, the other dog, goes. Tiger (Colonel Kupow's dog before he
went home) was sent to Lai Khe to Col. Waldrop. Tiger had been recently
neglected with the change in personnel next door where he lives. We are
definitely getting one of the new girls in country. She should be here
this Saturday. We hope she likes us and the dogs.
I worked on my program for the clubmobile run. It is a program on
cartoons. It has several main parts. One is a flashcard game with famous
quotes like "What's up doc?" Naturally that's Bugs Bunny. A
matching board (one for each team) with people featured in cartoon strips.
Another activity shows trademarks, for instance, a GE lightbulb stands for
Mr. Magoo. The main activity is a jigsaw puzzle. To earn a puzzle piece
one must answer a question on cartoons. The first team to completely
assemble the puzzle is the winner.
and potato chips for the first time. What luxuries. Today Diana and I went
on the Bear Cat run. We served Kool-Aid in several places, served lunch
and did a program on history at four stops. I wrote home and hope someone
will send over the yellow marshmallow Peeps for Easter. There are so many
inconsequential items at home that are taken for granted, but would be
worth their weight in gold over here.
up at 5:45; AM to go to Ben Phuoc. We visited all the fellows,
programmed and served. It was a long, hot day. Some fellow came by tonight
and was very insulted that I wouldn't visit with him. I was just too tired
and after work, my time is my own. I didn't mean to be rude and I just
hope he won't hate all Red Cross girls now. Coming back from Ben Phuoc we
caught a ride which took us to Vung Tau and then here. Vung Tau is the
center of supply for the southern region as well as the in-country R&R
center. One more run tomorrow morning and then I'm off for Phan Rang or
what's left of it.
I wonder if the center is too much like grade school. For instance for St.
Patrick's day I drew a huge leprechaun and shamrocks in the background and
decorated the center. At any rate I conned several fellows into helping me
paint. It was fun, but it seemed like decorating a classroom for a
holiday. Every once in awhile some fellow will ask how we take all the
noise, confusion etc. One guy summed it up so beautifully when he said
that we do a good job of humoring the troops. Sometimes, it is that
indeed, but I'm also learning to not judge too harshly without considering
the why of a situation or attitude first.
received word that I'll be going to Qui Nhon along the coast with
Charlotte. I'm very glad that we both get to go. Aretha was spayed today
and it turned out that she was pregnant with five puppies. At the center
tonight we were busy with sculpture made from melting plastic spoons. We
had Americans and Koreans alike working on the project. It was silly, but
I learned that Bob died in action. It's hard to realize that he's not here
any longer. He was such a wonderful man and had what can best be termed as
human dignity. He has five beautiful children with no mother, so what will
happen to them?
1968: Today was our last day at the center. Quite a few fellows came up and told
us that we would be missed and that they appreciated our coming here to
help make things easier for them. It made us all feel good. I received my sayonara
Photo: January 24, 1968 publication of
"The Screaming Eagle," the 101st Airborne newspaper.
Upon her return to the
States, Jan worked as a high school teacher for one semester in
Jan left the teaching job to join Pan
Am as a stewardess. She hoped to fly the R & R flights so she could,
in some sense, continue her support of the men in Vietnam. However, Pan Am
had other plans for her. She was assigned to Chicago as a home base to fly
the European circuit and was never able to work the R & R routes. She
spent thirteen years with Pan Am, including a three-month leave of absence
to do volunteer work with the Thomas Dooley Foundation in Laos. In Laos,
she made daily runs to the villages along the Mekong River and assisted
the medical teams who provided public health instruction and services.
Photo: 1969 article written by Jan in
the Pan Am flight crew magazine.
It features Jan in the field with a squad of airborne troopers.
McMullen is married, has a twenty-six year old stepdaughter, and
serves as an administrative law judge in the State of Washington.
American Red Cross initiated a recreation program known as
Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO) during WW II. It was
during the Korean War that the connection with donuts first emerged. The
SRAO units planned and presented recreation programs, usually set up in
company mess halls where coffee and donuts were served. The young women
who staffed these programs naturally became known as "Donut
Dollies". With the landing of the Marines at DaNang in 1965, the US
Military Assistance Command requested that the American Red Cross provide
SRAO clubmobile service in Vietnam. These clubmobiles were set up to reach
isolated company and battalion-size units throughout the theater of
operations. The first clubmobile unit opened in DaNang in September 1965.
By mid-1967, the U.S. military buildup had reached half a million men. By
that time, the Red Cross had 20 clubmobile units, 12 with recreation
Luttrell survived the war and resides in Rochester, Illinois today.
He serves as the Public Information Officer for the State Department Of
Veteran Affairs. When made aware that his poems were recorded in Jan's
diary, he sent her the following note.r
in searching for the seven year old daughter o
Reading your Diary took me back to a time of
laughter, and tears. You are more familiar with the 1st Brigade, 101st
Airborne than any media source; or anyone else, unless they served with
us. You are one of us for sure, No Slack! Trooper Jan. We all thought we
were invincible, you know well, Balls of the Eagle
is my prayer that your journal will serve as an important tool in
letting the world know how proud, brave and innocent we boys of Company A,
2/327th, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne were. We fought, bled and died for
one another. When I was last wounded I cried out for my Mother, yes brave
paratrooper wanting his Mom. I truly believe thanks to you many of us were
as close to Mom as we could have been. Thank you for being there and thank
you for your service
You are truly a member of our No Slack
Richard A. Luttrell