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
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
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
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
4 April 1970
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
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
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
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
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
We’ve been about five miles haven’t we, Stan? My feet
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
“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.
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