November 5, 1967
Hello My Darling [Linda],
Here I am setting down to write of my love for you and the horrors of war. Right now I’m pretending that I’m talking to you.
I can picture your face in front of me, and our home and our children. Oh! How much the things we take for granted can mean so much. The smell of cut grass, the wind blowing over the lake and making the trees and grass sway. The smell of autumn, the bareness of the world during winter. All of this means so much. and how little it is appreciated.
In the mornings I put on my fighting gear; web belt with ammo pouches, hand grenades, smoke grenades, first-aid pouch and canteen. Then I put two bandoliers of ammo around my neck so that it crosses my chest.
Then comes my pack containing poncho, poncho liner, five C-ration meals, rain jacket, sweater shirt, extra canteen, extra ammo, gun-cleaning kit, extra smoke grenade, an extra bolt for my rifle, a camera and some cigarettes. Then I pick up my weapon and put on my helmet. With that on, I call my squad leaders and explain what my plan for the day is, based on what the captain passed down to me. Mud, I never knew how much mud I could hate. We live in mud and rain. I’m so sick of rain that it is sometimes unbearable. At night the mosquitoes plague me while I’m lying on the ground with my poncho wrapped around me. The rain drips on me until I go to sleep from exhaustion.
This continues day after day until one wonders how much the human body can stand. . . . And yet it is my job, and I do it willingly, knowing that war is a constant factor in this world and has been since the beginning of man. There is something that keeps us fighting past the time when we feel like quitting.
We go in tomorrow, for sure. Everyone’s morale is high, including mine. I’m looking forward to getting clean and relaxing Most of my men will be drunk as lords by tomorrow night.
There should be some mail for me. I surely hope so. Letters mean a lot.
You know something honey? I love you lots and lots. Only you know how much.
I’ll write when we get in.
With all my love,
2Lt. Frederick Downs, Jr., from Kingman, Indiana, was a platoon leader assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, operating out of Duc Pho, from August 1967 until January 1968, when he was wounded in action. Linda was his wife.
Bernard Edelman, ed., Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002. 60-61.