Marsha (Dell) Thaler 5th Grade Class 1966

Posted on July 4, 2013


While these are not the children whom were the recipients of the letters on this blog they also wrote letters.

While these are not the children whom were the recipients of the letters on this blog they also wrote letters.

Marsha Thaler, her husband and five Grand ChildrenI went onto the 1st Cavalry ( website and found a post in the Guestbook by a Marsha Thaler. Marsha was a 5th Grade teacher at Milnes Elementary School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey in 1966. She gave her class an assignment to write letters to Service Men in Vietnam. Eventually the letters ended up with the 15th Admin 2D BDE and B Company 2nd of the 5th Cavalry. Marsha has given me permission to add her story as well A the children’s stories to this Blog. Today, Marsha is trying to get in touch with any of the men who answered those letters. Marsha had dated a Vietnam Veteran and he suggested that she has her class to write to the men. Marsha continued to do this for several years.

Here are the letters that the men sent back to the class. We don’t have the letters that the students sent but you can assume what they asked by the answers. At the end you will see a letter from one of the mothers talking about how this affected her son and how both families became friends.



Miss Dell’s (Thaler) class wrote letters to American soldiers in Vietnam.
Some of us got replies. We hope we get more. We sent Polaroid snapshots of ourselves to
some of the soldiers. We also sent group pictures to Barry Young, our Class Hero.
This booklet is a reproduction of the letters we received.

TO: Miss Dell
From: PFC Rich Biever
l5th Admin Comp (PIO)
1st Air Cavalry Div.
APO San Francisco 96490

Dear Miss Dell,
We here at the office received your kind letter today and it is our duty and our privilege to answer requests of this type. We received many letters similar to yours and the men of the division enjoy answering them.
I work for the Division Public Information Office and the Armed Forces Radio Am/FM in An Khe. An Khe is where we are located here in Viet Nam.

Our job at the office is writing news stories for stateside newspapers and wire services. I have written a few stories but by trade and at heart I am a disc jockey. I have a 4 hour “rock” show every afternoon seven days a week.

We have 22,000 men here at camp and this is their only form of entertainment. My work is so rewarding it is really hard to explain. I spend a lot of time out with the infantry troops and the remarks that they make about the work we are doing at the station makes it all worth while serving in Viet Nam. I was a radio announcer in Minneapolis, Minnesota for almost three years before entering the Army. Somehow, even -though the money is a lot less here the reward is far greater.

The work that those men are doing, it just makes you feel great to be a small part of the unit. They are Americana to be proud of.

I have been in Viet Nam six months and in my work have had a chance to travel throughout the country. Many odd experiences have arisen, but my most cherished was delivering a baby.

If your class would still like to write to some of the men of the Armed Forces in Viet Ham they can do so. They can address their letters to:

Operation Mail Call Viet Nam
Washington; D.C.

Their letters will be distributed throughout the country. They can then make a comparison among the different divisions that we have in this country .

If you have any questions in regard to the people or climate, terrain and general make-up of Viet Nam you can write me personally and I would be more than happy to answer them for you.

I want to thank you and your class once again for remembering us, we are still Americans!’

The men of the “First Team, the 1st Air Cavalry Div.

Rich Biever
October 11, 1966

RE: Miss Dell
FROM: Major Wallace O. Hitchcock
15th Admin Comp (PIO) 1st Cavalry Division APO San Francisco 96490

Dear Miss Dell,

Thank you for your letter of October 2, 1966 and your interest in the American soldier in Vietnam.

Your idea to adopt a class “hero“ is an excellent one and will certainly be appreciated by the lucky soldier who is “adopted”.

I have located a soldier who can serve as the class “hero”. He is Sp4 Barry Young, address as follows:

Sp4 Barry Young 15th Admin Co (PIO)
1st Cavalry Division
APO San Francisco96490

Barry Young is a military war correspondent for radio and he is constantly in battle with the soldiers, recording the action as he sees it. He is from New York City. Right now he is with one of the Cavalry companies on the east coast of Vietnam. He has his tape recorder with him and we expect to hear some real sounds of battle he returns.

I am sure Barry Young will appreciate being selected class “hero” by the Milnes School 5th graders.

Best of luck in your project.

Major Wallace O. Hitchcock

APO San Francisco 96490

Dear Miss Dell,

Today I received from the Division PIO Section (1st Air cavalry Division) some letters written by your students with enclosed polaroid snapshots. These latter were given to the troopers in the 2/5 Cavalry Battalion in hopes that they will return a letter to the children

Whereas this is a wonderful gesture on your part and the part of the children, I just wanted to tell you not to be disappointed or disheartened if you receive little or no response from the men.

It isn’t that the men don’t appreciate the trouble and good will that went into a project of this nature, but for several reasons, the men just don’t think they can write to a youngsters. It seems to them to be extra work and they are forced to do this. Of course there are those who have trouble with just writing home to their folks once a week.

The men lead a very hard life and are near death more often than not and they find it difficult to take the time out to be polite enough to return the letters. They feel the children cannot understand what it’s really all about and it would be a waste of time attempting to explain.

To tell you how tough it is we even find it difficult for the men to write to young girls who send in their addresses.

I don’t know whether I’ve explained this to you so that you can understand it because it is a difficult subject to put on paper. I don’t mean to say that the effort is not appreciated, but I”m just letting you know that you shouldn’t feel like your work was in vain if the response is meagre*

If you want to know more about this subject or you have any other questions, I’ll be more than glad to be of help.

Paul F. Stabile
October 25, 1966

October 11 ,1966

FROM: SP 4 Barry Young
15th Admin CO (PIO)

Dearest Miss Dell,
(And David S., Debbie B., Ellen G., Cindy B., David P., David R., Amy N., Brad B., Carol S., Louis B., Lynn K. Lynn S., Chad B., Joseph W., Jules S., Estelle C., Gary M., Jill W., Richard E., Myna, Phyllis, Sherry, Mitchell, Mike and last but not least Melinda,)

Well group, all I can say is that I was really thrilled that the whole class drew pictures and wrote letters. I think you “guys and gals” are great.

Enclosed is a picture of yours truly in the First Air Cavalry’s Public Information Office. (Please excuse my typing .. it is horrible.) I know that with kids like you behind us here in Vietnam we can’t lose.

There are a lot of dedicated people here who believe strongly in what they are doing.

We realize out here that the protestors and the draft card burners are a few little drops in a big ocean that is behind us. This fact has been emphasized by people like yourselves all over our great nation who have sent us letters and candy and various luxuries. (DON’T TAKE LUXURT PART TO HEART.. WE HAVE ENOUGH!)

Well before I ramble on I guess I’ll start my little “presidential press conference” and answer all of your questions.

Before I answer your letter, I think your picture of Soupy Sales is just grand. To answer your questions, SP4 stands for Specialist Fourth Class. I’ve in the Republic of Vietnam for 6 months which means I have reached the halfway point. A tour of duty is a year though some Skytroopers of the First Air Cavalry have extended their tour of duty. As far as the weather is concerned Davey, It depends on where on is stationed. I am in An Khe which is in the Central Highlands. We are up high so it isn’t to hot. It is very hot and humid in Saigon and the Mekong Delta Region. There are two seasons in Vietnam. Hot and dry and hot and wet.

Well Louis, as far as the surroundings are concerned in the Base camp, I can’t say that it is like home but compared to the conditions the First Air Cav first arrived, tremendous progress has been made. We are in the process of transferring from tents to permanent buildings. The Skytroopers have done wonders as far as constructing living quarters are concerned. One of the two main raw materials used for construction are used ammunition crates used for 105 and 155MM , shells. The Cav does a lot of shooting at Charlie or the Vietcong, so that means an awful lot of ammunition boxes.

Well Mike old boy, I guess I’ll give you the rundown on my family tree. My parents are named Rena and Izzy Young. They came from Europe in 1921 because they realized that our great nation is a land of opportunity free from oppression which is the very thing we are fighting against over here. My brother Mel who is going to be 29 yrs. old is presently a doctor in the Navy.

He and his wife Barbara live in Staten Island, N.Y. They have 2 little girls: Lisa and Bonnie.
Both are beautiful little blonds, Lisa is going to be 4 yrs old and Bonnie is 2 and a half. My sister Shirley is 32 yrs. Old. She is married to a World War II veteran and they have two children Mitchell is going to be 10 yrs. old and Wendy is starting Kindergarten,

Though you haven’t asked me any questions, I’ll match my hobbies and education with yours. My hobby before going into the service last year was airplanes. A few weeks before I took Basic Training at Fort Dix9 N.J. I built a model plane out of balsa wood, tooth picks, and ice cream sticks. The the balsa wood was running into a bit of money, so I went through the streets picking up ice cream sticks and cutting them down. My model had a wing span of eight feet. You could imagine how my mother liked that. Glue on the rug and scraps of wood all over the place.
As far as taking music lessons is concerned, I think you are very fortunate. I say this because Music is a wonderful way of expressing oneself. I wish I knew how to play a musical instrument. All I do is sing … believe me if you heard me sing you would rather have me play an instrument. As far as your class is concerned, pay attention to Miss Dell’s lessons … the education always comes in handy.

Well Brad, you asked me what I do. You might say that I am just a guy like thousands of others who have a job to do and see it to the end. The title of the job is Broadcast Specialists. We have a radio station in a converted sand bag bunker at the foot of Hong Kong Mountain. There are four of us, Corporal Jim Pruett from Oklahoma City (who is the head of the sections) Jimmy Boyd from Bends Oregon, and PFC Richie Biever… he hates to be called “Richie”. Our mission or job is to turn out home town releases for local radio stations across the US. A “home towner” consists of a taped interview where we ask Skytroopers of Cav men about their job, what operations or combat they have participated in against the Communists and such things as what he misses about home. The main mission is to broadcast 2 newscasts on “Big Valley” radio, about events and happenings at Camp Radcliffe. Other times we go out into the field to cover radio stories with our tape recorders in the field. The news is pre-taped in our own homemade radio station and then sent up to our make-shift but vastly improved radio station. There is regular broadcasting in programmed music handled by PFC Frank Rhodes •.. hopefully SP4 Rhodes soon!
Just about everybody in the Radio section has had professional experience except for myself. I took some broadcasting when I went to New York University. I also took a courses for Broadcast Specialist when I attended the Defense Information School at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.
Before coming to the First Air Cavalry Division, which we call the “First Team”, I was in Pleiku at the II Corps Office of Information. I transferred to the Cav because I wanted to go into radio.

Well Ricky, you said that you hope I like New York City. After being away from New York all these months, all I can say is that I Love it… or any other place in the good old USA – whether it be San Francisco or Kansas City.
I am, as you might know, a native New Yorker. I live in the borough of Queens. My duty will end in May and of course 1’11 be tickled pink to return to the States.

Though you haven’t asked me any questions, I’ll match my hobbies and education with yours. My hobby before going into the service last year was airplanes. A few weeks before I took Basic Training at Fort Dix9 N.J. I built a model plane out of balsa wood, tooth picks, and ice cream sticks. The the balsa wood was running into a bit of money, so I went through the streets picking up ice cream sticks and cutting them down. My model had a wing span of eight feet. You could imagine how my mother liked that. Glue on the rug and scraps of wood all over the place.
As far as taking music lessons is concerned, I think you are very fortunate. I say this because Music is a wonderful way of expressing oneself. I wish I knew how to play a musical instrument. All I do is sing … believe me if you heard me sing you would rather have me play an instrument. As far as your class is concerned, pay attention to Miss Dell’s lessons … the education always comes in handy.


As far as liking soldiering, I can say like anything it has its good end bad points. It is a wonderful opportunity to travel and broaden your horizons. Yet though you see many new and exciting things, you do get a bit homesick. I do like what I am doing. When one over here enjoys his work, it makes the time pass fast. I also think that I am getting valuable experience in this field since I have always been interested in broadcasting.

Well Myrna, your Dad went to the same school I went to. I graduated NYU June,1965. I am certainly glad that you like school and that you are finding education interesting and broadening your horizons. Writing poetry and reading good books I feel is a wonderful experience and a constructive past time. Mystery books are really good to read because they develop your sense of logic.

So Gary, you like playing Touch Tackle. I remember when that “old gang of mine* was doing the same thing. We used to play sewer to sewer… they were the goal posts. We used to play in the streets which was not a wise thing to do because there were cars going back and forth and we had to stop our scrimmage frequently. My goodness, where have the years gone? I remember those good old days when I was in 9th, 10th and llth grade, I’m sure your band will be a big hit just like Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.

Well Jill, I answered all your questions which wore also asked by your classmates. Yet that doesn’t mean you won’t get your fair share of space! I can tell you that we do get a chance to meet some famous people who come to entertain the Cav. We met Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans who entertained the troops.

Yes Jules, I know Rich Biever. How do you know him? Richie is a graduate of Browns School of Broadcasting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My work takes me to the field occasionally, but so far I haven’t run into any serious trouble.

I guess I answered all your questions previously for the other students. As far as your dog*s name goes, I once knew a dog by the name of Taffy. Speaking of animals, we have a monkey by the name of Oscar. He is a very “naughty monkey”. He always grabs my wallet from my pocket, smokes cigarettes and chews on pencils. It may be bad for his teeth but he is a good pencil sharpener!

Well as far as being pen pals is concerned, I think I can go a step further and send some tapes. It’s the biggest form of correspondence out here. Many Skytroopors have tape recorders and they exchange tapes with their loved ones
back home. Also we can take R and R, which stands for “rest and recreation, to countries such as Japan, Thailand and the Phillipines. There the rates are very cheap and one can buy tape recorders, radios and cameras. That picture
of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is quite impressive. Did you know that Da Vinci was not only a great artist but also an inventor? He conceived the helicopter hundreds of years before Sikorsky made his first helicopter in 1939. The reason
I bring up the subject of helicopters is because it is our principle weapon in the war against the VC’s. There are several choppers used by the CAV. The main chopper is the UH-1 B and D models. They are turbine powered and can
perform a variety of tasks as simply carrying troops into a Landing zone carrying supplies to carrying aerial rocket artillery. Aerial rocket artillery is a devastating weapon. These ships can carry 48 rockets. Each rocket has the power of a 105 MM Howitzer shell.The other choppers we have are experimental Flying Cranes. There are only 3 in the world and theCav has them. They can wreck equipment including artillery pieces. The other helicopters are Chinooks. They are 2-engined choppers and they can carry quite a bit. One time a Chinook chopper flew with 132 refugees and their pigs and goats. The other chopper is on OH-1J which is a glass bubbled observation helicopter. It is in the process of being phased out by the L.O.H.

Well David, I am sure that there are better days ahead for Taffy. There will be other dogs shows. All that counts is that you love your dog and he has a home. The 2 green ribbons I’m sure are quite decorative. Out here, as far as Archery goes the Mountainard or mountain people make bows and arrows for the soldiers as souveniers. They are quite beautiful.

Hey Chad, I used to go to camp during the summer. I went to camp for 15 seasons. One time, I was a counselor. I used to play ball, go fishing and do all those good old things a growing boy does. I am glad you are playing an instrument. It’s really enjoyable and constructive. When I was in the 5th and 6th grades I played Catcher for my class! I wasn’t the best in the world, but I got my licks in like hitting the fence, although I never had a good one that was an out-of-the-park home run. Send my best to “Lassie.

Well Phyllis, I Love to write. Unfortunately, my busy schedule does not enable me to write as frequently as I would like to my relatives and loved ones. I like Art. Unfortunately, I cannot draw as well as I would like to. I love to draw cartoons with my Magic Marker. I used to draw many and send them home but I just don’t have as much spare time as I would like. As far as liking to receive letters from children I do not know, I am delighted! I am glad that kids like you,our future leaders, care. I feel great.

Well Lynn, It’s no sweat carrying a tape recorder around because we have portable tape recorders. They are small Japanese Sony’s which have a special detachable speaker. When we record and play back in the field, we have an ear plug which we hear the whole thing back with. To be very frank, I haven’t been shot at yet. One time while I was walking in the jungle we heard a few shots while walking in the rice paddies during Operation Irving. We hit the banks of the paddies but there was nothing more so we advanced forward. As far as taking pictures, I never did until I went on a helicopter assault during Operation Golden Bee conducted by members of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry’s, Co A. I carried a Nikon camera and took some pictures. It was the first time I had ever used a camera.
Well, I’ll see what I can do for you as far as tape is concerned. Don’t fret, I’m the youngest is my family too. I am just as proud as you because you are on my side.

Well Poodle, that makes both of us since I have a married brother by the name of Melvin. He is a doctor. He is married to a girl named Roberta and they have 2 girls, Ilisa and Bonnie. My sister has 2 kids, Wendy and Mitchell. When Wendy was first born she was very fat but she has thinned out quite a bit.
No thank heavens, I haven’t been worried. The climate is warm and I like my job very much. It is
rewarding and I realize I am also serving my country the best way I know how and it makes me very proud.


We have shifts as far as different jobs go. There are four basic jobs. One man goes out in the field and gets interviews for the radio news shows; one calls up and gathers news and acts as commentator; another gets the interviews in base camp; and another does the home-town radio releases which are sent to local radio stations of the interviewee. Each week we alternate these duties. It is very practical because each person gets to know the other man’s job. I have written a few stories about some of our First Air Cavalry’s Skytroopers.

Well Richie, I do not do that much fishing. When we used to go to camp we USE to do a bit of fishing but I don’t do that much any more. I never had a dog but I guess that’s the breaks of the game. My brother-in-law who was in the American Army during WWII had a small dog by the name of Schnapps – he is a Dasch-hunt. Do you teach your dog other tricks like retrieving sticks? We have some dogs here that are trained sentry and scout dogs. They respond to the orders of their masters. They spot mines and smell out the enemy. One dog died after he saved an entire company from a communist ambush. Another dog was treated after he received a Punji Stake wound. A Punji Stake is a sharp piece of wood with poison at the end. The dog was treated and cured.

Well Debbie my tape recorder is not that heavy because it is a small tape recorder. Many of your questions have been answered by my previous comments. As far as being thrilled to write to me, it’s not half as much as I am thrilled to write to you. Please keep up with your piano lessons. They come in handy. Soon that time will come when I’ll get off that plane and be in the good old USA.

Well Estelle, your good wishes and the good wishes of your classmates are certainly working in my favor. I like your drawing. It looks like a cross section of the human heart. I don’t know if I will come home with a great victory. There will be no decisive victory in this war since it is one of small skirmishes and actions. It is probably the longest war in American history but one of the least costly in human lives. It is a tedious long war but our troops are determined to see it to the end.


Well Joe, I see you are quite an animal lover. I used to have a canary by the name of Timothy. Unfortunately, Timothy went to that big Golden Cage up there in the clouds. I then got another bird by the name of Timothy II. One time a friend of mine in the Army had a parakeet but believe it or not the bird died from the cold during the night in the Highlands. I guess it’s not as hot here as everyone thinks! A lot of people here have monkeys. They go to the veternarian to get shots for the pets. I once saw a monkey get his rabies shots. After getting those shots he couldn’t wait to leave the office! My cousin has a bird house he built. It is a very beautiful bird house.


Thanks very much dear for your beautiful letter. I, my parents and all
loved ones join you in this prayer. We have a Red Cross girl here by the name
of Nancy Kelly. She is a wonderful person – any relation? I guess your
brother will have about 4 years in the Navy. He will probably receive his
training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. When I do go home, I -,
wish very much to see my girl, Rita Axelrod. She is very intelligent and goes to Bellvue Medical School. She won a $25 prize in Chemistry and made Phi Beta seriously though, I dream to see her again very soon.

Well Ellie, I guess I answered many of your questions previously so I will just ask you which part of Germany is your cousin stationed at and how does he like it. I have an Army friend named Merrill W.W. Plaskow II. He is stationed in Heidelberg, perhaps you have heard of him. He is from Philadelphia and lost 140 pounds to get into the Army. He was on “To Tell The Truth” and took a bow on the Ed Sullivan Show. We went to the Defense Information School together at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.

Well Amy, you are quite an athlete. My favorite sport is Bicylce riding. I use to ride all over New York City when I was a youngster. Of Course my -parents worried greatly because I rode in the streets. Well, I guess I must be on my way.

Your good Buddy,

Specialist Four Barry Young- US Army- Active

APO SAN Francisco 96490

Dear Chad,
Got you letter today so I thought I better write you back so we could get to know each other matters. First of all I have to tell you I won’t always be able to write and answer you right away. But I will answer because I think that’s really great of you kids to write. We really appreciate it.

My name is Dan Watson. I’m from California and right now I am in An Khe in a mortar Platoon guarding the perimeter around the First Cavalry’s Division base camp. I like you, like baseball and started out in Little league and played Pony league and then in high school and then 2 years at college. Then I played for the Downey Reds that’s a semi-pro league that plays teams like the Dodgers Rookies and the Angel Rookies. I was a catcher and coached a senior little team for a season. So , if you have any questions about catching and if I could help, I’d be glad to.

Almost like you 1 have two sisters; one is 11 and the other is 17. Write and tell me what you think of your sister and what you think about school. I’ve probably not a good idea. But school is good and you should go as long as you could and study as hard as possible. Because it’s getting so you can’t even find a job without a little college.

Weite and tell me what you want to be when you grow up and what your dad does for a living.

I’ll close for now. Have a “Happy Halloween” and remember, follow that ball until you see it hit the bat.

Your friend,
October 25, 1965


Dear Lynn, Thank you and your friends for writing to us men in Viet nam. I am happy that the 40 men in the 3d platoon which 1 lead were reminded in such a nice way that the the people at home have not forgotten them.
Part of the reason we are here is so that all children will someday have the chance to be in the fifth grade when they are your age. The children here are friendly and the boys are handsome and the girls are pretty. But they cannot read or write because the Viet Cong burned down their school and killed the teacher. We build new schools and help teach the children. We also kill Viet Cong when we have to kill, but we capture and catch them alive when we can. We have found that they are, many times not as bad as one would believe; they have only had bad men teach them the wrong things about how to live? What to live for, and how the rest of the world really is. When we catch them we teach them the truth; we feed them and show them that Americans really would rather help all people and kill no one. Many times these men who once tried to hurt people go out and help talk other Viet Cong into surrendering and living the better way we teach. When that happens, it is really fun to be a soldier.
Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.

Frank Arnall
October 27 1966

B 2/5 1ST CAV

My name is Steve Fehlberg Specialist 4th class. I am now stationed at Fort Ratcliff near An Khe, South Viet Nam.
I am including 5 slides. One is of Viet Nam taken from the top of a mountain facing the South China Sea.
I play the guitar as a hobby and I am twenty years old. I have been in Viet Nam eleven months and will be coming home the U.S on November 27, 1966. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing.
October 26, 1966

BC 2ND Bn 5th CAV

Dear Jill,
I am very happy now that I have received your letter. I would like to thank you very much for taking time to write us serving in the service over here. Also thank Miss Dell. It is very thoughtful of you and your classmates to write to us.
Before I entered the Army I lived in Manville. New Jersey. I have been in the Army for 5 years and have been in Viet Nam for 4 months. I am a Squad Leader in the B Company 2nd Battalion 5th Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division. I hope that you can understand all that “army talk”.
I have two sisters; one lives in Verona, New Jersey and the other one lives in Somerville, New Jersey.

How are you doing in school.. I hope you are doing fine! Remember it is very important that you study hard and get a good education.

I, too, wish that we can come home soon. Say *Hi* to all your classmates for me and thank them and Miss Dell for me. Also, all the men in my squad thank you very such for thinking of us.

Sincerely yours,
Edward Walsh
October 26, 1966


First let me thank you for the letters from yourself and your olassmates. There is nothing a soldier likes better than a letter from the U.S,A.

My name is Aaron Scott Browm and I have always been called Scott. Right now I am with the B Company 2nd Battalion 5th Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division {Airmobile} stationed at An Khe South Viet Nam. That sounds, like a pretty long address, doesn’t it? We shorten it by saying B Company, second of the fifth, First Cav.

We usually do not get to spend much time in An Khe base camp except maybe 2 or 3 days at a time to clean up, change clothes and get haircuts. Most of the time we spend out on operations like “Paul Revere” and “Irving^ We fly in helicopters a lot, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week.

The weather is hot all year like it is there in the summer but we get quite a bit of rain. During the “monsoon rains” it rains almost every day.

The kids over here have to pay to go to school. If they are lucky enough to go they usually have to work half a year in the rice fields so they can make enough money to go school the other half. They find time sometimes though to play. I have seen them often playing kickball in the evening and having a good time.

Sometimes we have to fight the Viet Cong. The VC can be awfully cruel to the people and it is our job to protect the people and either kill or capture the VC’s. First we try to capture them if we can. Sometimes when we do they find out that what the North Vietnamese Communists told them was not true. Then they see that what we are trying to do is help South Viet Nam!

Brad, you should be proud of the job that the soldiers are doing over here. Sometimes it can get pretty dangerous and uncomfortable but there are not too many complaints from the men.

Thanks again fcr the letter. I would like to hear from you again. I would like you to remember one thing and that is that you are very lucky to an American, to live in a free land, and not to be growing up in the middle of a war.

Good luck in school Brad.

Your new friend,

TO: Joseph Wagner
2/5 1st AIR CAV DIV

Dear Joseph,
I received your letter yesterday and was very glad to hear from you. I don’t know exactly what to say to you except that I like sports too.

I’ve only been over here in Vietnam for a month and a half. I live in California near San Francisco in a town called San Jose. I’m 20 years old and am in a mortar platoon of the First Air Cavalry Division.

Believe it or not, my real name is Santo, but ail my friends call me Sonny. It’s s just a nickname that stuck with me all my life.

In your picture, you look like a pretty smart boy. Well keep up to your school work and try to stay out of places like this. Well, write again and be good.

Sincerely yours,
Sonny Arena
October 26, 1966


Dear Mike,
My fellow soldier, Barry Young, received a packet of letters from your wonderful class at school. I was surprised to see your name among them. My name is also Michael King. I am 21, married and from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From your letter, which I hope you don’t mind that I read, I see that you are in the 5th grade and you like football. Good show Mike, it’s a great sport and after 4 years of it, I still enjoy playing. I am 6’2″ and weigh 195 pounds and played guard. Be sure your sister cheers for you -when you play.

My job here is very simple. I write a few stories and drive a jeep. The driving being ay major job. I transport news people from landing zone to landing zone so they can get their stories.

I also have another thing in common with you. My dog’s name is Charlie also. It’s part beagle and part cocker spaniel. Very playful.

Well Mike, just thought you might be interested to hear from another Mike. We enjoyed your letters and I think you’re a fine young man. Good luck to you.

Sincerely yours,
Michael T. King
November 5, 1966

Included with the letters was a handwritten note from Marsha to Mr. Guyre. It said:

Mr. Guyre,
I received this note this morning from Joseph Wagner’s mother. I was unaware of the growing friendship between the Wagner’s and Joseph’s pen-pal family.
Jan. 9, 1967

The following is the letter from Mrs. Eleanor Wagner to Miss Dell (Thaler):

Monday, Jan. 9, 1967

Dear Miss Dell,

I thought you would like to know that your thoughtfulness of the boys in Vietnam has been the cause of a friendship forming between two families.

When Joseph first wrote to the serviceman, whose name you gave to him, he was thrilled to receive an amiable reply. Correspondence passed between them a few times; and, shortly before Christmas, we thought an appropriate gift for Santo (Sunny) Arena would be a remembrance in a special series of Masses, since he is of our faith, a Catholic. We made arrangements for this Novena of Masses, and sent him an especially selected card with the spiritual gift. I sent, also, what I thought might be a morals-building letter along with it.

On Saturday, my husband and I received such a warm, gracefull letter full of thanks from “Sunny”. He had been in the hospital for a month with malaria, but is now back with his group. He seemed so grateful for the letter and said It arrived at a time when he really needed it most. For this, we are the ones who are grateful.

In addition to this, I received a call from Campbell, California yesterday, from his mother. She said that her son was so impressed with our letter that he forwarded it on to her. She called to thank us, also. As a mother of a boy in Vietnam, she is so pleased that there are people who do their bit to cheer up boys like her son. You can see, therefore, that this is all due to your fine generous spirit. If you could have listened to the tremor in this mother’s voice as she said that more than anything, those boys need morale-building, and knowing that the people back home are thinking of them, you could realize how much our letters mean to them.

As a result of our conversation, she will be seeing us in the near future. She has relatives in Brooklyn, and anticipates a visit with them soon. When she comes East, she is getting in touch with me, and we plan on getting together. In the meantime, she gave me her address, and now we, too, are going to correspond. She also extended an invitation to our family to visit with them if we ever get out to California.

If your other students and their families are as fortunate as we have been in receiving such gracious letters from the servicemen to whom they have written, we know that they, too, are experiencing that inner-glow of happiness in bringing a little joy to those who need it so much.

I want to thank you sincerely for getting “Jay” started on such a worthwhile venture.

(Signed) Mrs. Eleanor Wagner

I want to take this opportunity to Thank Miss Dell/Mrs. Thaler for her support to our Troopers and for her Service as a Teacher.

I would also like to extend an invitation to any other teacher who has/had her/his students write to our Service men and women to share the letters here on this blog.