An American GI Defends the War in Vietnam

Rodney Baldra had been in country forty-two days, serving with the 5th battalion, 60th Infantry (Mechanized), 9th Infantry Division, out of Bear Cat, when he was wounded by a booby trap on 1 April 1967. He lives in Walnut Creek, California, and is a self employed restaurant consultant. He wrote this letter to the Berkeley (California) Gazette [while he was still recovering from his wounds in a military hospital in Japan].

Dear Editor:

I’m writing this letter to you to help clarify some of the objectives of the United States’ participation in the Vietnam War as I see them.

I was with the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta and we had many missions to accomplish. Search-and-destroy missions were carefully planned to avoid any loss of life to innocent Vietnamese.

Pamphlets were dropped by air in advance to warn the people of our attack…

Every soldier in Vietnam is much more than a fighting man, for on many missions we passed among the villages information concerning the Chieu Hoi ("Open Arms") program which is set up for VC defectors. Defectors that turn themselves in are given the opportunity of starting a new life with the help of the United States and South Vietnam governments.

Many of us were engaged in our own civic action programs on our own time. It might be giving undernourished children C-rations, teaching a teenage boy a little English or helping an old man tie a bag of rice on his bicycle. Wherever we were, we had to win over the people if we wanted to accomplish our assigned mission….

Here also our job is twofold, for we must protect the farmers from VC terrorism, taxation and pillaging of the hard-earned crops. Also, after doing this we have to gain the confidence of the people and make them understand that we don’t intend to take over where the VC left off.

…In closing, I’d like to say that every American should know by now that the war we’re fighting in South Vietnam is a war against communist aggression, which is an ever-present threat to the free world today.

Take a minute now and think about the guys in South Vietnam and the guys that are coming home on stretchers and in pine boxes. They are your countrymen, and, believe it or not, they have been fighting for you.

Sp/4 Rodney D. Baldra

Source | Rodney Baldra, "Rodney Baldra to Editor, Berkeley Gazette," from Bernard Edelman, ed., for the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985), 207-09.
Creator | Rodney Baldra
Rights | Used by permission.
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Rodney Baldra, “An American GI Defends the War in Vietnam,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed August 20, 2014, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/944.