By announcing the withdrawal of 150,000 additional U.S. troops from South Vietnam on April 20, President Nixon rekindled the hopes of millions of Americans for an end to the war, now entering its ninth year. The troop reduction, scheduled for completion by May 1971, “means that we finally have in sight the just peace we are seeking,” he said.

Within days of Nixon’s announcement, and even as troops withdrew, the war seeped into Cambodia, South Vietnam’s neighbor to the west and once a part of French-ruled Indochina, following a political coup there. Nixon called the April campaign an “incursion” and within three months it ended, but the maneuver further roiled anti-war demonstrators in America.

Hours after the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, students at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4 protested the involvement of their country in the war. Empowered to restore order, the state’s National Guard shot and killed four students and wounded 11 others before the violence ended.

A national outrage over the Kent State shootings erupted May 5 and students coast to coast staged a strike supported by a majority of campuses in the country. The undeclared war in Vietnam continued to polarize Americans….

According to data from the National Archives and Records Administration, war casualties in 1970 totaled 6,081, the fewest since 1966. Delaware bore 10 losses, a figure also significantly less than in past years. Despite the lower death toll and increased troop withdrawals, the war still conflicted Americans at home and in the combat zone.

Delawareans serving in Vietnam continued to see the conflict in the starkest black and white. Shades of gray seldom entered their opinions.

“It’s a futile war and what are we going to be able to claim as a winning factor? It sure won’t be the [47,000] young men who have put down their lives on something which their country has only declared as a police action,” Army Spc. John P. “Pat” Little of Greenville wrote to the Jan. 22 Vietnam Mailbag.

Voices from the War

Two of the most compelling letters received by the Mailbag in 1970 were addressed to the family members of servicemen. Army Capt. James D. Rawlins Jr. of Seaford, a dentist assigned to the 326th Medical Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, wrote a letter to his 7˝-year-old daughter and asked that it be published in The Morning News. An 18-year-old Marine, Lance Cpl. Stanley F. Pienkos of Glen Berne Estates, between Newport and Stanton, addressed his letter to his parents after having served in Vietnam for about three months.

4 April 1970
Dear Monica,
Granny wrote and told me that you asked her why your daddy went to Vietnam. I am sorry, sweetheart, that I did not tell you before I left the United States to come here.
The reason I did not tell you, I suppose, was because I thought you might be too young to understand. But now I realize that you are a very bright little girl who will try to understand her daddy.
First of all, Monica, I want you to know that the Army did not make me come here. I asked to come here for one year. I asked because I am a patriot and I felt it was my duty. A patriot is someone who loves his country and helps his country’s leaders protect it from danger.
There are good people and there are bad people in this world. The good people work very hard to feed and clothe their families and themselves. The bad people make the good ones give them their hard-earned money and if they don’t, the good people are put in jail or killed.
Our country, the United States of America, is ruled by good people. We are a very strong country but some of our friends are little countries and not very strong.
South Vietnam is a very small country ruled by good people. North Vietnam is also a small country but it is ruled by bad people. These bad people wanted to take over South Vietnam and make them give up their money and food. North Vietnam sent their soldiers into South Vietnam to force the people to give up. But the good rulers of South Vietnam asked our country, the United States, to please help them because they are our friends.
Therefore, our country sent many American soldiers to help protect our friends in South Vietnam. Our soldiers have never tried to take over North Vietnam. They have only stayed in South Vietnam to fight off the invading enemy soldiers from the North.
Every day some more American soldiers are killed trying to protect our friends in South Vietnam. Our rulers think that we should continue to help our friends until they have been trained and supplied well enough to take care of themselves.
If we do not help our friends when they ask for it, they will be destroyed by the enemy. That would only make the enemy want to take over another country and then another and another until finally we would have no more friends. Then the enemy would try to take over our country and we would have to fight them in our streets.
If this ever happened, Monica, your life, your sister’s and your mother’s would all be in danger.
When I was a little boy growing up, I never had to be afraid for my life because our soldiers were keeping the bad people away. They did this because they loved our country and little ones like me who lived in it.
Now, I am old enough to take my turn and help protect you and the others because I love you and our wonderful country.
So, whenever anybody asks why your daddy went to Vietnam, you just hold your head up high and tell them, “He went there because he loves me, my family and our country.”

Love,
Daddy


1/26/1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
I want to tell you a story about a great man. If at first you don’t think him great, read on and you will understand.
We’ve been about five miles haven’t we, Stan? My feet are dead.
No, kid, just two instead.
Then a booby trap that the point man didn’t see, a grenade with a tripwire tied to a tree. The 18-year-old trustingly walked forward, looking all around. Then a sudden explosion and three hit the ground.
The radio man is up on the frequency, calling a medic. The eighteen-year-old tells the corpsman, “Doc, I don’t think I’ll make it back. I don’t think I’ll ever see my homeland.
“You know, Doc, my father always called me a boy, he never called me a man.” The corpsman was working diligently doing his very best. Then the eighteen-year-old said, “Doc, go look after the rest.” Then the eighteen-year-old felt a sudden cringing pain and the corpsman knew he had been working in vain.
America’s hardest-fighting men stand there in a daze. Each with a tear in his eye and a prayer beneath his breath. You ask me who he is, but I’ll tell you no name.
He’s your son, or the boy next door. He’s the great man who never gained fame. He’s the boy who can’t drink with his Pop or vote in his own country.
And the man who died to keep everyone home free. Well, Mom and Pop, I love you both so dearly. I am going into a hot, hot area tomorrow but don’t worry, I’ll write as soon as I get back.
Stan

Both men returned safely to their families. Jim still practices dentistry and operates his own clinic, Dental World, near Orlando, Fla. Stan owns a carpentry subcontracting business, Pienkos & Son, in Bear, Del.
 

 
 

 
  Content Copyright Vietnam Mailbag.
All Rights Reserved.