Thursday’s post on Lance Corporal Tim Barmmer — the Staples grad killed in Vietnam — brought an email from Mary Gai.
She remembers Al Hofacker. A member of Staples’ Class of 1969, he too served in Vietnam.
Al was more fortunate than Tim. He made it home.
Like Tim, Al’s letters home are available online (at Military.com). Here are some excerpts:
April 1, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad,
Well, the party’s over. They’re sending me back out to the bush tomorrow. I’ll be at CAP 2-7-6. Lt. Grebenstein called me up on top of a bunker this morning and had me test fire a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. He wants me to take it out to CAP 6 and add some firepower.
The thing weighs a ton. You carry it in front of your chest held by a sling. It’s got a magazine that holds 12 HE (high explosive) grenades and you can fire it semi or auto. The Lieutenant’s sending a guy named Cooper out with me to carry my ammo. He’s REAL happy about that.
I’m not real crazy about going back out but I’ll take care of myself. Thanks for the care package with the stuff from Joyce in it. Tell her thanks. Remember staring tomorrow my address is CAP 2-7-6.
April 4, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad,
Here we go again. We got hit by a couple of RPG rounds last night walking down this trail they call “Frag Alley”. The rounds went right through our column and exploded behind us, but we all turned and opened up on the trees. You couldn’t see anything, it was almost dark. I fired off two rounds from the auto-bloop and got tree bursts and had to cease-fire and just sit it out because I don’t have a sidearm.
Nobody got hurt and we never found the dinks. But I got on the radio to 7th Company this morning and told them I wanted a rifle because the auto-bloop ain’t worth a damn anywhere there are trees. So they came and picked it up and now I’ve got a 16 again. There’s just too much bamboo out here.
Most of the guys here are pretty cool. I’m hanging in there. Would really like a hamburger right now. Take care, I’ll write soon.
Al The Kat
April 10, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad,
This afternoon we were out on patrol with Sgt. Tingen and we spotted 3 people sitting on a rice paddy dyke in green uniforms, two men and a woman. Our PF’s told us they were VC so we got behind them in a treeline without them seeing us.
Then Sgt. Tingen stood up and opened fire and we all opened up and killed all three. It kind of made me sick. They didn’t have weapons. Joe Nielson was with me and he’s been low all day. There was a lot of horsing around and joking about the whole thing that didn’t sit right with me. But when the PFs say they’re VC, you gotta take them at their word, cuz we sure as hell don’t know. And if they don’t have weapons on them right then, that doesn’t mean they won’t be shooting at you later.
There sure is a lot of B.S. over here. I hope 2nd CAG gets pulled out soon. Tell Jeff Hunn I appreciate the letters and I’m glad he’s been coming over to visit. He’s the only friend I have who hasn’t written me off as a dead guy.
April 23, 1971
Dear Mom and Dad
I’M OKAY! I’M FINE! I don’t know what you have heard or what you haven’t heard but I’M GOING TO BE OKAY! I’m at the Army 95th Evac Hospital in Danang with a small grenade fragment in my face, had a piece taken out of my scalp, and a few pieces in my leg, but I’m okay. I don’t want you to worry. I’m not crippled, I didn’t lose anything important. I didn’t lose anything period. I don’t know and nobody can seem to tell me if they notify next of kin when you get wounded, so I wanted to write and let you know I’m fine.
We got hit bad on frag alley 2 nights ago and we got our asses WAXED by about 4 or 5 VC who’d got into the bamboo around us when we were sitting around at our Charlie Pappa 1 (check point one) and they just started lobbing grenades in on us over the trees. Just handfuls of frags that kept going off. It was unbelievable. Just about everybody got hit. I got hit, Ward got hit, the Corpsman was running around with a piece in his stomach, Henkle got hit bad, one of the PF’s got his eye blown out. It was insane. We had about 4 walking wounded (including me) and about 4 stretcher cases and we had to go about a click to get up to Hiway 1 where they could bring choppers down to get us out. Sgt. Tingen wasn’t with us. He was with the Alpha team who ran a react for us. We got up there finally and two Hueys came down on the road about 20 minutes later and they had some Cobra gunships work over the place with miniguns.
So anyway, I’ve been probed and X-rayed and picked at and had my trousers cut off, but I’ll be out of here in a week or so. PLEASE DON’T WORRY. I’m just fine and the food sucks. I’ll write again soon.
Al The Kat
(To read all of Al Hofacker’s letters on Military.com, click here.)