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Letters from the Front – Correspondence Spanning Two Centuries of American War

By Andrew Carroll
10/31/2008 • Military History

On Nov. 27, we went into a new position. That night everything was quiet until about two o’clock the next morning. Then Hell broke loose. They charged the Infantry, went thru their lines and came right down into the Artillery position.…

We ran for it. My feet were numb from the extreme cold and I fell down. Three bullets hit a yard from me. I jumped to my feet, fired once and killed one and then ran back to “B” Battery. Five hours later we came back and took our position back.

Three days and nights of bitter fighting went on with heavy losses on both sides. We were outnumbered 10 to 1. We were also trapped and surrounded. We had over 200 wounded guys. I watched a good buddy of mine die of wounds and lack of medicine. I cried, I felt so utterly helpless. On Dec. 1, 1950, we were ordered to fight our way back.…We went about 2 miles and suddenly a slug ripped thru my knee and chipped the bone. I got into an ambulance which had 16 men in it.

We moved slowly and passed a few roadblocks and before I knew it, it was dark. They were on all sides of us and we were masecured. Our driver got killed and the ambulance crashed into a ditch. Machine gun slugs tore thru the ambulance killing a G.I. and a Capt. sitting across from me. He slumped on me and I shoved him back in order to get the rear door open. It was jammed, but I jarred it open in a few minutes and fell out.

Pain shot thru my leg, but I crawled into a ditch and then got up and ran. I ran about 3/4 mile and then slowed down to a fast walk.…We then went over a few more mountains and saw the 1st Marine Division. I felt tears come into my eyes, and I realized we were safe now. My pants leg was ripped wide open and I saw my leg was a mass of dried blood. I could hardly walk by then, and a couple of Marines came out and carried me in. The wounded were taken to a plane and flown back to a hospital in Japan. I stayed there two days and then took a train ride to Osaka Army Hospital, the one I’m in now. For the first week I was on my back, but in a while I could walk on crutches. Now they put me back to bed and put a traction on my leg to straighten it out.

But, I’m okay now and I feel great. Don’t worry about me.…Well, take care of yourself Happy New Year.

Your Son, Bob

“Dear Folks,” 29-year-old Chaplain Ray Stubbe wrote to his parents back in Milwaukee on Jan. 21, 1968, from the Marine Corps base at Khe Sanh. “First, I’m okay, not even a scratch. The casualties have been comparatively small. So don’t worry.…” Unbeknownst to Stubbe, January 21 marked the beginning of an 11-week siege that would leave hundreds of Americans dead and 1,500 to 2,500 wounded. On March 5, having been safely transferred from the base, Stubbe told his parents how harrowing the attack turned out to be.

Dear Folks:

Goodness, it seems like ages since I’ve written.…

So many things happened at Khe Sanh—it’s good I didn’t write earlier—practically anything I might write would either sicken or scare you. But that’s all past now. I must say the good Lord was very merciful and gracious. I didn’t even receive a cut or bruise. But there for a while I was having very close calls every day. One noon, while eating brunch in my hooch, an incoming round went into my wall—through four feet of dirt, 3 feet of sandbags, and bent my steel walls held up by u-shaped engineering stakes—it was a dud!

One evening at midnight, a rocket round—100 pounds—exploded just 2 feet from my hooch entrance.

One day I was walking through an excavated trench about 10 feet deep, a mortar round exploded on the top edge, just above. I’ve been pinned down on the perimeter by automatic sniper fire—and so on.…

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