Writing about writing a book – Day 21

I’m back to writing Bill’s backstory, and how he got mixed up in the war, and a few other details which will play out later on.

This will be some of it, in his own words:

I think I volunteered for active duty in Vietnam.

It was either that, or I had been volunteered by my prospective father in law.  I was serving under his command in an Army Camp for some time, and unbeknownst to me for a time, I had been dating his daughter.

The daughter of a General.  It was like that old adage, ‘marrying the bosses daughter’.  Only this boss was the bastard of all bastards.  When he found out, my life became hell.  He told me, as a Corporal, I was far beneath his expectations of the right man for his daughter.  He thought she would be better off with a Colonel.

Then I got my orders.  I was to join the latest batch of nashos on their way to the latest theatre of war.  But before that, Ellen, a woman with a mind of her own, and sometimes daring enough to defy her father, said we should get married, and I being the young fool I did, in a registry office, the day before I left for the war.

I promised to be faithful, as all newly married men did, and that I would come back to her.  We had all heard the stories coming out of South East Asia, where the war was not going so well, for us, or the Americans, and that this was a last-ditch effort.

When we landed, we were greeted by the men leaving.  They were glad to be going home.  And some of the stories, I chose not to believe them.  Nothing could be as bad as they painted it.

Could it?


I’d been trained for war.  I could handle a weapon, several actually, and or I could if I had to kill the enemy.  After all, it was my job.  I was defending Queen and country.

I was a regular soldier, not a nasho.  Not one of the mostly terrified boys who’d hardly reached anything approaching manhood, some all gung-ho, others frightened out of their minds.  As a regular soldier, this was where I was supposed to be.

But being sent to a war to fight, and having to fight, I soon discovered were two very different things.  On the training ground, even training with live ammunition, being shot at, mortared, and chased through the jungles of North Queensland, it was not the same, on the ground in Saigon.

It was relentlessly hot, steamy, raining, and fine.  Or dry and dusty.  But in any of the conditions, it was uncomfortable being hot all the time.  During the day, and during the night.

Then we were sent out to join various units.  Mine was north, where, I wasn’t quite sure, where the motley remains of the group were bolstered by us, new people.  Morale was not good, as we arrived in the torrential rain in an air transport that had seen better days, and notable for two events, the fact we were shot at several times and taking out the first casualty before we arrived, and the near-crash landing when we did.

I soon learned the value of the statement, ‘any landing you walk away from is a good one’.


Yes, seems like a good start to a bad end.  More on this tomorrow while I’m in the mood.

© Charles Heath 2016-2023

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