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The Members of Delta Company Write to President Nixon

This letter to President Nixon was written by the members of Company D, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army to complain about what they saw as an unfair burden of combat duty that they and other infantrymen bore in Vietnam. The letter paints a vivid picture of life "in the field," which the soldiers contrast with the relatively easy life in the rear, in secure areas like Saigon. Although the company did get some responses from congressmen, President Nixon never replied to their letter, nor were they transferred out of the field.

April 20, 1969

 

TO: THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES

We are members of Delta Company 3/21, 196th Light Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division currently serving our tours in Vietnam. We are a group of dedicated individuals who have done our best to serve our country in this conflict. We have been here long enough to know how things should be done, and are deeply disturbed at operations on the company and battlefield level because of their unfair treatment of the combat infantryman…

Our first and major complaint is that we are spending more than we feel is our fair share of time in the field… We feel that after spending a reasonable amount of time in the field, we should be given the opportunity to work in rear or secure area for the remainder of our tour. This is a standard operating procedure in most units here in Vietnam. 

In order to clarify the matter, I think it is necessary to explain to you that basically there are two different wars here in Vietnam. While we are out in the field living like animals, putting our lives on the line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the guy in the rear’s biggest problem is that he can only receive one television station… The man in the rear doesn’t know what it is like to burn a leech off his body with a cigarette; to go unbathed for months at a time; to sleep without an air mattress, let alone in a fox hole; to walk all day on feet raw from immersion foot; or to wake up to the sound of incoming mortar rounds and the cry of your buddy screaming “Medic!”

We feel that there should be a system set up that allows men to obtain jobs in rear areas for the last three or four months of their tour. Officers and medics only spend half of their tour in the field. We have men with 11 months and days in the field who have seen five platoon leaders come and go. Why can’t we get the breaks that officers do? After all, we are all men…

We have sought help from the lower levels of the chain of command, but have had negative results. Being our commander-in-chief, we would appreciate anything you might be able to do for us to resolve our problem. We anxiously await your reply. 

Your fighting men in Vietnam:

Sgt. Edward F. Noonan
Sgt. Alfred D. Seaman
Sp/4 Frederick R. Bagwell
Sp/4 Steve Ivey
Sp/4 William H. Tross
Sp/4 Bruce Joel Dunham
Sp/4 Charles P. Harang
PFC Raymond L. Williams
PFC James J. Lindsay
Sgt. Phillip J. Boyenga
Sp/4 David W. Campbell
PFC Andrew Norton
PFC William I. Purnell, Jr.
PFC David A. Bild
PFC Gary H. Thole
PFC Charles W. Fletcher
PFC Jay William Rech
PFC Gary L. Stull
PFC David F. Ney
PFC Clark Williams
PFC David B. Anderson
PFC Bruce Applegate
PFC Clyde Beckham, Jr.
PFC Daniel T. Erickson
PFC Thomas J. Hatte
PFC Thomas J. Jordan
PFC Glenn E. Holland
PFC Gary C. Schneider
Sgt. Robert R. Rudesill
PFC Dennis G. Foell

Source | Bernard Edelman, ed., for the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985), 144.
Creator | Various
Rights | Used by permission.
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Various, “The Members of Delta Company Write to President Nixon,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 10, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/719.

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