James Robert Taylor was killed in Vietnam on January 28, 1966. In 2020 his niece, Kim Taylor Farris, found 33 handwritten letters he had sent home. Here are a few excerpts.
9/25/65 – “Last week I was promoted to PFC. That’s $20.00 a month more. If something happens and I am killed, I’ve got $30,000.00 insurance on myself. The government gave me $10,000 for nothing. Or rather for coming over here.”
“The first couple days here we just pulled little details like guard and building bunkers. Then they put us Pathfinders as door gunners for helicopters. The first mission I was on was to pick up the 101st Division. About 3 companies had let the Viet Cong slaughter them. The 117th Airborne Company had put them in and had 4 downed helicopters and all the others hit at least once. We picked them up the day after they were put in and only got 3 helicopters hit, none downed. It’s getting dark so I’ll close for today.”
10/5/65 – “Sometimes I wish I was back so bad, just to be with Martha, but I know things will be better if I wait.”
10/11/65 – “I’ve just about put the Army out of my mind. I’m going to get my high school and some other training then get out.”
10/16/65 – “What you heard on T.V. was right and members of my team were there. A couple were shot at but weren’t hit. The Army better get on the stick with my money. I told Martha she could buy a set of rings if she saw what she wanted.”
10/28/65 – “I guess things are getting pretty bad over here. I dunno. The people get all the news. We get all the noise.”
11/1/65 – “The other day some Vietnamese girl tried to get me to marry her sister while we were operating in a drop zone. The little girl’s sister was 18 years old but looked like she might have been older.”
11/9/65 – “Got in about 16 hours door gunning in the last three days. Tell people not to send me anything for Christmas. I won’t be able to send them anything.”
11/12/65 – “I’m starting to have my doubts about Martha. She is going out with some other guy. I like being free and just don’t want to get married. Maybe I’m just afraid of it. I dunno.”
11/27/65 – “They’re starting to let people go on R&R to Hong Kong. Maybe I’ll go soon. I hope. I dropped Martha. I’m tired of war. Maybe I’ll buy a Harley when I get back.”
12/4/65 – “I won’t be home for Christmas or New Years for the first time in twenty years. Please tell everyone that I miss everybody back home, and no matter where I am Christmas I’ll be thinking of you all, as always.”
12/7/65 – “Two guys got Malaria in Pathfinders. One of them slept next to me. He sure was a good guy.”
12/10/65 – “I gave the Bible to a fellow named Bill Scholl. He’s from Jacksonville.”
12/17/65 – “Just got back off a mission today. It was the first time I spent the night on the top of a mountain. It was both cold and wet. Tomorrow starts another 30 day mission.”
12/21/65 – “My team Sergeant was seriously wounded and another Pathfinder killed that went out with myself and another man. I’ve got a little artifact for Kim if they ever give me enough time to mail it. By that time it will be too small for her if it isn’t already.”
12/24/65 – ”I’m thinking of you and love you very much. I’ve got a thousand things to be thankful for.”
12/31/65 – “Darwin is sitting in here writing letters too. I think he just wrote you all one. Right now all I’m doing is waiting for next year. It’s about 10:30 p.m. Hope you all had a Happy New Year.”
1/2/66 – “I’m going to the memorial services for Louis today.”
1/4/66 – “Most everyone else has gone to Pleiku, but I got to stay back. They think I’ve done too much lately. At times it feels that way. I’m sending a couple of pictures so you can remember what I look like.”
“You all be good. Love, Bobby.”
Oh Neil! This article made me sad! I remember sitting with several other Delta Chi brothers watching the draft lottery. I was so relieved when my birthday July 26 was called in the low 300’s, but I felt guilt about my joy because I knew others my age had low lottery numbers and would probably have to go to Vietnam. Reading the excerpts of these letters brought back those memories of this crazy time and reminded of all the young people who died or were injured in the war. Thanks for sharing!
How touching to read Bobby’s letters home that give an insight into what he was thinking and feeling in Viet Nam. So sad that the last one was right before he died and so good of the family to share them with you and us!
Neil I feel like I need to say something, but what. A sad confusing time for our generation. A life lost; many lives lost.
Neil was James Taylor from Dooly County?
I wasn’t going to read this today bc I am buried in a 100 work emails. However, I am so glad that I did. I have a lot to be thankful for including one James Robert Taylor who gave his life selflessly for not only his country but for me.
GOOD MORNING NEIL JOINER! THANK YOU FOR YOUR EMAILS. THE VIETNAM WAR WAS A HORRIBLE TIME. MY HUSBAND IS A VIETNAM VETERAN. HE NEVER HAD TO GO INTO THE JUNGLES. HE WAS A MARINE HELECOPTOR MECHANIC AND STAYED ON BASE THE WHOLE 13 MONTHS THAT HE WAS THERE. I WENT TO COLLEGE WITH USAF PILOT BEN RINGSDORF WHO SPENT 6 AND 1/2 YEARS IN THE HANOI HILTON PRISON. THE HORRORS THAT HE ENDURED WERE MORE THAN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE CAN EXPLAIN. HIS EX WIFE GLORIA GAYDEN CORONA WROTE A BOOK CALLED”AFTER THE MUSIC STOPS”. SHE MOSTLY WROTED NEGATIVE THINGS ABOUT HER RELATIONSHOP WITH BEN. AFTER RETURNING FROM VIETNAM, BEN WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL AND BECAME A DOCTOR. HE AND GLORIA HAD ONE DAUGHTER, LILLIAN. HE WAS ALSO STEP FATHER TO GLORIA’S CHILDREN. I AM FIRENDS WITH LILLIAN ON FACEBOOK AND SHE SAID THAT HER MOTHER FAILED TO SAY IN THE BOOK THAT HER DAD WAS A WONDERFUL CARING DOCTOR AND WONDERFUL CARING FATHER. HE AND GLORIA DIVORCED. BEN WAS AN ALCOHOLIC AND DIED ALONE AND WAS NOT FOUND FOR ABOUT A WEEK AFTER HE DIED. WHEN WE WERE IN SCHOOL TOGETHER, HE PLAYED THE TROMBONE AND WE TRAVELED IN THE COLLEGE CHOIR TOGETHER. HE WAS A FRIEND.