With the ebb of the Self-Absorbed Sixties, a new tide of politics washed over the country in the last year of the decade. Richard M. Nixon … was inaugurated on Jan. 20 as the nation’s 37th president. His triumph over Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey, the vice president under President Johnson, repudiated Johnson’s massive troop buildup in Vietnam….

Nixon’s inauguration would prove perhaps the most predictable of the headlines that would be bannered across the nation’s newspapers in 1969. In July, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, younger brother of slain President John F. Kennedy and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island off Massachusetts, causing the death of one of Robert Kennedy’s former secretaries.

Just two days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong took a giant leap for mankind, becoming the first human to walk on the moon. In August, Woodstock rocked the Catskills, as more than 400,000 rock fans converged on a farm near the small upstate New York town for a four-day music festival. Earth Day debuted in April, the New York Mets improbably won the World Series, and the first reports of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam surfaced….

The war droned on for everyone. Within months of being sworn in, Nixon announced the first troop withdrawals in Vietnam: 25,000 by August 1969, and another 65,000 by year’s end, scarcely a dent in the muster of more than 540,000 troops. “Vietnamization” became the new administration’s buzzword for increased shouldering by the South Vietnamese of responsibility for the war in their country.

Regardless, Americans were becoming increasingly restless. On Oct. 15, Vietnam Moratorium Day, millions collectively demonstrated against the conflict in their hometowns, a stunning display of curbside democracy. A month later, more than 250,000 assembled in Washington, D.C., to protest a war that now was claiming an average of 40 American lives a day, a war that robbed them of their husbands, sons, brothers and boyfriends.

Now in its eighth year, the war wrought a significant attitudinal shift among Delaware servicemen. Doubt, pessimism and frustration eroded the once gung-ho certainty about America’s ability to achieve victory in Vietnam.

A Voice from the War

Army Pfc. Robert S. Baker, a resident of Ardentown, Del., wrote this letter to the Mailbag, but needed his parents’ help to have it delivered. He had carried the newspaper’s address with him on his last combat mission but the paper “got so wet and cruddy” that he couldn’t read it. So he sent the letter to his parents, who forwarded it to The Morning News.

Sept. 18, 1969
What We Go Through

The infantry GI in Vietnam [goes] on a mission which usually lasts between seven to 14 days. We fight our way through the jungles trying to locate the enemy. All the time we are in the jungle, we have to go without washing for we have to conserve our water for drinking purposes only. We are always wet from head to toe and just covered from filth from the swamps and canals we have to cross. We are very susceptible to diseases such as impetigo, ringworm, malaria, hepatitis, typhoid and many others.
We go night after night with very little sleep with the thought on our mind, are they going to find us or are we going to find them? When we do make contact with the VC or NVA troops after a killing spree is over, we have to try to find humor in what we have done. We can’t think that these people had families to go back to and people who loved them as we are loved or we would probably go insane. Instead, we have to think of these people as animals and we are hunters.
After our missions are over with, we are just filthy and usually covered with leeches and our feet are so swollen from being wet we can hardly walk. We live in a very barbarous way and we don’t act like rational human beings. We, the majority, say we’ve had enough, we want to come home, and it’s not too late for peace. Please help us.

Army Pfc. Robert S. Baker
 

 
 

 
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