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Keeping in Touch

Older people today remember how infrequently they could communicate with their soldiers in World War II and the Korean War. Younger people can’t imagine what it was like to go weeks or months without a letter or a phone call.

Today almost everyone can be in daily contact with a military family member via cell phones, e-mail, and the internet. The media also send reports almost hourly from far-away deployments.

It was during the Vietnam era that rapid communications systems were born for use between every day citizens. Television could broadcast live footage of battle. Soldiers in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia became able to talk directly to viewers back home. Sometimes, telephone calls could be made back to families.

But it also meant that the individual in danger could report his or her circumstances which often were at odds with what commanders were reporting to the public. Keeping in touch helped fuel public opposition to the war and give soldiers reason to doubt how much the nation would really support them.

Ernest Garcia and Jimmy Herrera in December 1970. Ernst says that he hitchhiked from northern Vietnam to southern Vietnam just to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Jimmy, his high school buddy.

“I was 8 when Daddy left for his first tour, and 11 the second time. Mama dedicated a spot with a map, stationery and the recorder so she could send him tapes. The first time he left I was wearing a pink dress and hiding in a phone booth so no one would see me crying

Jacquelyn Mccormick, Army Brat

“When our son was born, we sent telegrams, we called the Red Cross and I wrote letters. Jim only found out  when my letter finally came–he never got the telegrams or Red Cross messages. They were in 45 days of radio silence. I kept writing to him about the baby and never got anything back–it was really hard…I didn’t know what was going on. In the 8 months he was gone, he only called home once.”

Carol Wallace, Navy wife. Her husband Jim did 4 tours of Vietnam 1965-1967 and in 1972 and 1973

“When you were young and put in command of troopers your father’s age, it was not easy sending them on combat patrols, knowing that they may not come back and then you had to write the dreaded letter to a wife and children.”

Julio Caratini, US Army

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