Peace Corps Writers
War and Peace Corps — Two Corps (page 2)
War and Peace Corps — Two Corps
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All the time I was in India there was a cloud over my head as two attempts were made to draft me into the armed forces. FDR had appointed the chairman of my local draft board during World War II and he took the position that the war in Vietnam was not just against Communism but also against the international Jewish conspiracy. I have no idea what he thought about the Peace Corps. Following my return to the U.S. from India, and a job helping train India-51, a family planning project for Bihar State, I was drafted.
     I had considered leaving the U.S., as many draft dodgers did, and relocating to Canada, or even Europe. There were several reasons why I did not. Leaving would have driven a wedge between me and my family. And once a person left the U.S. there was no coming back. In effect, you renounced your citizenship and faced imprisonment if you returned. I figured probability was on my side, that if I went to Vietnam, chances were mathematically good that I would survive and return.
     I also considered the future. I had successfully taken the Foreign Service exams and looked forward to that as a career. I believed I could have a positive influence on U.S. foreign policy, perhaps keeping us out of future situations such as the one in Vietnam.
     But my choice was not clear and I was not sure I was doing the right thing. What if I came back maimed or in a body bag? What if I had to kill Vietnamese? I did not want to, but if it were kill or be killed, I might not have a choice. I had to choose, but for years afterwards I second-guessed my decision.
OCS = Officer's Candidate School      After I was drafted, my company’s first sergeant tried to talk me into going to OCS because I had a college degree, but OCS meant additional time in the army, and I decided not to apply. What a stroke of luck! Later in Vietnam I learned that many OCS grads were infantry platoon leaders, commonly known as canon fodder.
At Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airport my incoming group of replacements passed G.I.s on their way out who began to scream and curse us. They acted deranged, brought on by the relief of surviving. Again and again they shouted “you’ll be sorry!”
E.M. = Enlisted Men’s Club      I was assigned to the Headquarters of the 79th Engineer Group at Long Binh, a large U.S. Army base about 20 miles from Saigon. On my first day after processing and orientation, I retired with new acquaintances to a nearby E.M. for a beer. A movie was being shown outside, so we got drinks and walked over to the screen. The movie was “The Green Berets” starring John Wayne. I thought “This can’t be happening! How can they be showing that movie?”
        After the film began, suddenly there was WHUMP! WHUMP! WHUMP! and cries of “Incoming!” Rockets were detonating inside the compound and everyone scrambled into nearby trenches. I landed prone with my arms outstretched, my two beer cans upright and unspilled. “This is a little more serious than I thought it would be,” I said to myself, “At least I didn’t spill the beer.” One person in the company next to us had been killed and two wounded.
  hooches = barracks

P.X. = post exchange (store)

     I worked in the personnel section of group headquarters, a desk job that was not too hard. I carried with me my helmet, flack jacket, M-14 rifle and web belt with ammunition. Usually, I just went from the “hooches” (barracks) where I lived to work and to guard posts. Occasionally, we made trips to the P.X. (post exchange), or to Saigon, and very occasionally we went to one of the group’s battalions in Cu Chi or Tay Ninh. From time to time we patrolled areas around the base. Nights were for the E.M and a movie if you didn’t have guard duty.
REMF = rear-echelon motherfucker
(from the "
Glossary of Military Terms & Slang from the Vietnam War" of The Sixties Project
     My situation was like being on another planet compared to the grunts who humped the boonies and who referred to me and troopers similarly situated as REMFs. Most of them would have given anything to trade places. As scared as I was, I was in a relatively safe place.

APC = armored personnel carrier

Our southern hemisphere allies
For a while Australian combat engineers were stationed next to my company. In the morning they left in APCs and at night they came roaring back at full throttle, racing each other to the nearest E.M. Club.
After a while at the club our southern hemisphere allies would take a few cases of beer and head back to their tents. Since our guard positions overlapped, they would drop by, hauling the beer with them and climbing onto the roof of our bunker, where they serenaded all within earshot, including V.C. They usually offered us some beer as they shouted their greetings.
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