Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam

By Bernard Edelman | Go to book overview
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4

Base Camp:
War at the Rear

In Vietnam, not everybody humped Most GIs, in fact, worked in rear areas as support personnel They were a significant part of the American presence in Southeast Asia. In the bloated military bureaucracy, some did jobs that were as wasteful as they were frivolous. Others performed necessary and vital tasks, as doctors and nurses, postal clerks and paymasters, intelligence analysts and graves-registration personnel.

Some lived in relative comfort, even plushness, with air-conditioned offices and hot meals; they lived, especially in the latter stages of the war, in comparative safety in such secure complexes as Long Binh and Cam Ranh Bay. Others occupied 6re bases, camps, and fire support bases, where they risked nightly mortar and rocket attacks, and faced the ever-present threat of ground assault.

During the day, many support personnel ventured into the field to perform their assignments, subject to the dangers posed by snipers, mortars, and mines that others in the boonies dealt with every day. But for the "rear-echelon types, " the possibility of swift and violent death was real, if not constant. As Sergeant Tom Fitzharris wrote about a mortar attack on his base, "The little men struck again last night. Just as [the movie] was ending, boom, boom. Everyone hit the concrete. Picture stopped The lights were put out. And then a hundred people tried to get into the one bunker nearby. It holds about 30 people normally. This is really insane. ... Somebody might get hurt. "

____________________
Photograph by Mark Jury © Mark Jury

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