| U.S.S. LST 1096
C/O FLEET POST OFFICE
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
29 September 
I have missed the last few days and
have been unable to get a letter off. I often wonder how you are keeping
up with all this. Do you get my letters frequently, and do they make much
sense? They are always written in such a hurry, while waiting for a boat
to take me ashore, while rushing in some business in the morning, or other
things like that. You know I am trying to keep the mail coming home, because
I realize what it means to you.
Through no fault of yours, I've received
no mail whatsoever since I came on the new job. It is simply due to the
fact that our outfit is such an illigitemate group, and none of the regular
mail service ever gets to us. I have wired weeks ago, to Yokosuka post
office to have my mail sent to the embassy at Saigon. When nothing came
through for two weeks I sent them another message, and they answered saying
that they had been doing that. I checked with Saigon and they had sent
it to a ship, so now it is on the way back. I am going to fly to Saigon
the day after tomorrow on business for a day, and I'll get a personal
check in on it then.
The epidemiological end of the job
here is going well. We have collected hundreds of stools specimens, hundreds
of photographs of diseased eyes etc, blood specimens and many other things.
I go out daily to the Dien Bien Phy
Hospital where all the returned prisoners go. The exchange is still taking
place you know, the last group of 30 came about eight days ago. These
boys are Dachau all over again. Horribly undernourished, enormous swollen
bellies, knees and ankles. They have had no shoes for months, and have
had to have forced marches etc. They have lived on a handful of rice and
a peanut a day. They are racked with dysentery, all types of intestinal
parasites, and of course the haunting recurring malaria falciparum, the
scourage of this part of this part of the world. They boys are a wealth
of medical information, and although I feel like a heel sticking the end
of their fingers for malaria slides, I know it is for the protection of
my own brothers. The French have good medical equipment here, but they
have no Terramycin, one of the bulwarks of treatment for amoeba. As a
consequence my coming with a box of 1000 bottles was a panacea for the
French; and a door opener for me. Now I have full run of the hospital.
This particular hospital is way out
in the country, in the middle of a beautiful calm rice field, really about
ten square miles of rice fields, and it sets up high on a hill ( above
5he smell ) with a gentle breeze at all times. There are about 20 small
buildings, all with French type doors, so that when they are opened, as
they are all day, the room with about 20 beds is well ventilated ( it
needs it as all the boys have fecal incontinence ) bright, cheerful and
pleasant. The mental attitude of these men is strange and requires such
things a peace and serenity.
A great number are French foreign
legionnaires who are german. Ages are averaging about 21, and they are
really not fighting for anything, no country particular, no group of people,
no idea, just fighting.
As a consequence of this strange mental
attitude, when they are taken prison and tortured, and starved, and neglected,
and marched, they seems to be no reason. It is better and easier to endure
something when you understand firmly and believe whole heartedly for the
cause, whatever it may be. These legionnaries have no cause. So their
general mental attitude how is, what? why? who.? confusion and anguish.
I don't know if I told you yet, but
we have a new boss. The doctor amberson that I admired so very much was
promoted, and sent to Yokosuka to give a first hand personal account to
the Assistant Secretary of Defense on the medical problems involved in
the evacuation, and in the caring of the refugees of Tonkin. It was a
great assignment, and a great promotion, he is now captain. However, he
hated to leave this infant organization which was just starting to get
productive. I have seen COs come and go, but it hurt to see him depart.
Mal will get a kick out of how he
left. The orders came from the admiral abruptly, and he had to leave as
soon as possible. Not the army, not the navy, not the airforce, not the
French, not the Vietman, not all the military might of the pacific fleet
was able to get him out. He had to take a civilian airplane from C.A.T.
to get a hop to Taipai, and from there he hoped he could get a Navy plane.
Our new boss just arrived two days
ago from Washington. Although he is pleasant, and agreeable, he is not
the dynamo that Commander amberson was, nor is he full of the knowledge
of the field that Doctor Amberson had. He has been in a desk job, of importance,
in D.C. for five years. He doesn't know how to go out to the refugee camps
and dig in. But he is pleasant enough. His name is Doctor Britton, also
a commander, previously the head of the Preventive Medicine Section of
the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Perhaps Doctor McMahon knows him.
The other fact of my job, medical
intelligence is taking a good deal of my time. For example yesterday I
spent much of the day finding out where all the french and civilian hospitals
are, the number of beds that they have, and whether or not they could
be utilized as hospitals in case the americans ever landed on this area.
Also I have met a great many of the Viet officers, who have things, information
of intelligence type, that they want passed on to the U.S. but that they
have no way of getting to the right people. I take it, usually at night,
and then with everything except a cloak and dagger, give it to the nearest
ship for coading and forwarding to the command ship. Right now there is
a sort of revolution brewing in Saigon between the fine and independent
Priem Diem, and two army generals who are refusing to recognize his authority.
These two generals are both pawns of the french, who do not want Viet
Nam to have full independence. They are causing all sorts of strikes and
the like. The news today was that they city was surrounded by French troops
who would not permit people to enter or leave without certain papers.
Part of my job here is to get the papers that certain military people
need to get down there......and many other things, too numerous to mention.
I am using french all day, so much
that I actually think in it. With the reading of the newspapers and the
translating of statistics and medical journals, I am getting quite proficient
in it. It is an invaluable tool. I am so grateful that you and Dad were
willing to give me that time in Paris. Little did I ever realize in what
good stead it would stand me.
Enough for now, it is time to get
the ten o'clock boat into the lab. Love to all,