Friday, May 27, 2011

Vietnam -- Mail Call

Next to "In Coming", "Mail Call" got the attention of the troops. While both found them crowding around each other, the later was reacting to the threat of death.  The former was the mail room clerk reacting to the threat of death.

I don’t think a single man didn’t expect his name to be called while letters started pouring out of the U.S. Mail mailbags.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like if every piece of mail was actually addressed to the mail room clerk and no one else.

Stars and Stripes:

The men of B Battery the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery (AFA) acted like bulls in a china closet when they stuffed the mail room clerk into a US Mail mailbag and stamped the bag with ‘return to sender’.  

Half frozen, the mail room clerk was holding 20 pieces of mail.  They were all addressed to him.

These same men then proceeded to blow the orderly room into smithereens and used the ashes to roasting marshmallows.

When the CO asked what happened and found out the mail was only for the mail clerk, he grabbed a stick and started roasting marshmallows with the rest of his men.

Guess they don't cal it the Bull Pen for nothing.

My point is, the one thing you didn’t do if you were a mail clerk is mess with the mail. Most never did.

There were also some other rules you learned but were never written. You never read over a soldier’s shoulders, never asked to see his girls and never, ever laughed at a guy who got a Dear John letter.

Not everyone would go to mail call. The other 10% were so cherry – so new to being stationed in Nam -- the mail hadn't caught up to them yet.

For some reason mail clerks were either very tall or very short. Most were shot. Why that was the case, I can’t say. My guess is when the tunnel rats were going home the last 90 days had them doing the mail. Otherwise, I don’t believe the height of a mail room clerk was legal.

These guys were so small they made short timer -- a combat hat on pair of jungle boots -- look tall.

Okay, maybe not that small but I'm willing to bet the guy doing the mail had wished he was that small on days when one or two pieces of mail came in for himself and no one else.

And when Kentucky didn’t get any mail, you didn’t have to be in the same building with him to know he was going off on the poor mail clerk.

"Whhaat you mean their ain't no wa mail for me, boy, I'm going to kick youur aaass," he would wail.  The men got a good laugh out of that and headed for the mess hall.

Mail Clerks also had to deal with something even more insidious than the female snake in an envelope.  In fact, this kind of snake was a real, cold blooded and had fangs. So, placing ones hand into a seemingly empty mailbag could be hazardous to one's health.

Too, these mail room guys, I swear, were from a different planet. Or at least a different country. English was a second language and they were proud of that fact, too.

Four very specific kinds of mail came out of those mail bags. Letters from moms, care packages from moms, letters from future moms, and mental letter bombs fused by dear Johns.

The rest was men's magazines and pure, cheap and rude sex scandals made shows like MASH look like a baby in diapers. The kind of stuff that the tabloids cringe trying to report on.

Most of that material headed for the out houses where a little more than pee and feces was being deposited in the shittier.

I harbor the belief that spamming became an art form way before the birth of Christ. A system of making money from someone else's ledger only got better over time.

As soon as you come to realize that major magazines were selling their mailing addresses to a wide variety of companies throughout the world, the easier it will be for you to realize that soliders in Vietnam were not only hot property for the US military. 

They were also lucrative gold mines for what we now call spam. Only, it was sexual and filthy.

I'm all for a good does of sexy and fillthy.

And from this where on girl could talk to hundreds of guys per week, the better you are at understanding where $2,500,000 per month was going.

The first letter was an introduction. If the soldier responded back, images of a girl were sent with a tease letter which said, basically, send me $50 and all show you all of me. Then came the strip show followed up with $100 will get you some pink. It wasn't that straight on. But that's the jest of it.

Playboy was cheaper.

Then there were the supposedly "legitimate girls" but they were after the $40,000. 

These black widows would fly to Japan or Australia, get hitched, make sure the guy was the type that would go nuts with a dear John letter and send him a picture of herself being sexed up by another guy and then tell the soldier goodbye.

Of course, the reverse was true, the guys knew how to play the women the same way. Assumming they wer actually chatting to real women. I knew of three married guys with 12 girls writing to him once a week.

Personally, I liked the TastyKakes my mom sent me. The Butter Scotch ones hit the spot. That plus the homemade fudge brought home to my Vietnam cot. I lived for these once a month care packages.

Scented letters made the hooch smell better than the smell of men, brasso, and weapon cleaning fluid.

I don't know if that was a new thing for the Vietnam conflict or not but those perfumed letter sure smelled good. Only thing better would have been the physical presence of the soft, warm skin wearing it up close and personal.

When a quiet one got a Dear John, we all went on 24 hour alert.

It was the quiet one that would take you with him if he decided to go.

No comments: